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Social Justice, the Good Samaritan and Outsourcing Charity

One of the most common arguments I hear against “social justice” is this:

Many Christians believe the Gospel calls us to get personally involved in doing charity. They argue that we shouldn’t work to improve economic and political systems because that would be outsourcing our Christian responsibilities to a third party, such as the government. For example, they would say Jesus calls us to personally feed the hungry (Matthew 25:31-46), not to pay taxes so that the government can do that for us.

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On the 50th Anniversary of Thomas Merton’s Death

Monday, December 10th marks the 50th anniversary of Thomas Merton’s death—which has now been confirmed as a martyr’s death by the recent solid and important investigative study, The Martyrdom of Thomas Merton by Hugh Turley and David Marin (as well as by my own encounters over the years with three CIA agents who were in Southeast Asia at the time).

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A Secular and Spiritual Examination of the Soul of America

The Presidency is not merely an administrative office. That’s the least of it. It is more than an engineering job, efficient or inefficient. It is pre-eminently a place of moral leadership. All our great Presidents were leaders …

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One People Living in Two Worlds

My family and I participated in an interfaith prayer and march for immigrant families last night.I had some fear when we started out. Were we putting ourselves at risk? What if some random people saw the march and decided to get violent? Events like this are seldom dangerous as they are in fact protected speech in the Constitution. However, tensions are building in this country and threats are rapidly becoming much more common. It’s worth pondering whether the rules still apply anymore.

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All Christians are Asylum-Seekers

  A Christian IS an asylum-seeker. All of us. Each of us. By definition. As refugees, don’t we need to flee from the sin of this world? Don’t we come to the proverbial Gates of God’s Kingdom …

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The Words of Jesus We Ignore

Imagine a person praying at bedtime. He is confused. Unsure of what to do in life. What are his next steps, he wonders? He prays fervently to God for direction.

Amazingly enough, God answers!

Love God
Love one another

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The End of Capitalism

Since the end of the Cold War, there has been a consensus among the political and media mainstream that “There Is No Alternative” to Capitalism, particularly the form of capitalism one finds in the context of globalization. “The Free Market”, it is said, will solve all our problems, and become the organizing principle the world over. The conflation of Capitalism and freedom itself has muted any debate that would suggest otherwise. At the same time, recent economic crises coupled with a growing clarity that unlimited growth is destroying the biosphere may suggest that the Capitalist era is coming to an end.

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In the Walking, Talking and Breaking of Bread: The Road to Emmaus and Immigration

  I usually like to have things all figured out before I do something. I don’t support charities without researching them nor vote for politicians without applying the same scrutiny. You can get burned if you don’t …

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Right and Wrong Times and Places

Those who believe there is a right and wrong time and place to protest injustices are those whose privilege keeps them from the injustices. Those who with Rev. Dr. M.L. King, Jr., live by the principle that the right time to do the right thing is now, privileged or not, remind us of the immorality of acquiescence, apathy, indifference, denial, negligence, and procrastination in confronting injustice and evil.

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Celebrate and Defend Real Religious Freedom

Every day at my job, I witness and celebrate America’s religious freedom in action. Through our Office of Religious Life, over 70 religious clubs from all the world’s faiths, including a secular humanist club, practice their traditions in harmony with each other. They compete with each other openly in the “marketplace” of ideas and practices on campus, with respect for each other and gratitude for the liberty they all enjoy. None of them complain to us that they are in any way oppressed or stifled. We’re a private campus, so we could impose all sorts of restrictions on them that would not be possible in the wider public sphere. But they have all the rights they’d have at a publicly-owned university, as well as many extra benefits for all of them – without any one faith tradition getting special privileges. What happens at the University Religious Center at USC is what real religious freedom looks like in America, and it’s a beautiful thing.

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“We’re a Nation of Laws…”

I often hear the retort “we’re a nation of laws.” Usually, it is given by someone justifying the exclusion of immigrants and a lack of compassion for their very difficult, often mind-numbingly horrific circumstances.

But what these folks probably don’t realize is that they are saying more about who they are than about immigrants. When you say “we’re a nation of laws,” you are setting a standard for yourself–and a good one.

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Presbyterian Church USA takes stand on political issues

A denomination not known for controversy is taking stances on issues such as assault weapons, universal health care and President Donald Trump’s border wall.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) adopted a declaration during a meeting of the denominations leaders in St. Louis to stake out positions on several social issues, leaving it up to the church’s 10,000 congregations and 1.7 million members to decide whether to stand behind the declaration.

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Responding to Those Who Persecute

What if I simply do my job, even if it requires abhorrent treatment of asylum-seekers and their children, because I am told that law or a new policy requires it. What if I make statements to the press or in court that I know are false because superiors have ordered me to do it? What if I am near retirement and stand to lose my pension by refusing to knowingly traumatize children. Choosing to follow Jesus by refusing to participate in acts of persecution calls for extraordinary heroism in Trump’s America.

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Discrimination or Discernment in the name of Religious Expression

Postscript of an Independence Day Observance

What happens when the discernment of one citizen’s religious beliefs are deemed to be discriminatory; infringing upon the civil liberties and rights of another citizen? In fact, what constitutes any set of beliefs as “religious,” with the constitutional protections accorded it?

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An American Creed

There have been visionary voices in America throughout our history (Jefferson, Paine, Whitman, Emerson, Sojourner Truth, Douglas, Thoreau) who described America in terms of equality, freedom, justice, and civil rights, and even though the vision has never been entirely realized we have made a lot of progress on many fronts, progress that is, very regrettably, presently at grave risk of being lost. Now is no time for progressive thinkers to consider international escape or domestic surrender. Now is a time when people who are spiritually awake must stand and fight (through voting, demonstrations, protests, and possibly . . . revolution) to defend a vision of America about which we can be honestly patriotic.

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Independence Day Celebration for Whom?

When patriotism is narrowly defined, as it is today, it can only be accepted and exhibited within the constraints of its own intolerance, and narrow worldview, like Trump’s travel ban (a.ka. Muslim Ban), upheld last week by SCOTUS in a 5-4 decision.

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Secure Borders in a Christian Contest

Jesus commanded us to “love one another.” A lot of Christians today talk about having “secure borders” in response to immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

Loving one another and having secure borders are not necessarily opposites—but they can be.

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Central America and the U.S. Immigration Mess

Many Christians like to think of themselves as political realists, people who separate their religious beliefs from their political positions. Religion is about salvation. Politics is about attaining economic and ideological gains.

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