Pope Francis ‘Evangelii Gaudium’ Calls For Renewal Of Roman Catholic Church, Attacks ‘Idolatry Of Money’

By Naomi O’Leary,  Reuters Posted on HuffingtonPost.com: 11/26/2013

Excerpt

Pope Francis called for renewal of the Roman Catholic Church and attacked unfettered capitalism as “a new tyranny”, urging global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality in the first major work he has authored alone as pontiff…In it, Francis went further than previous comments criticizing the global economic system, attacking the “idolatry of money” and beseeching politicians to guarantee all citizens “dignified work, education and healthcare”. He also called on rich people to share their wealth. “Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills,” Francis wrote in the document issued on Tuesday…Denying this was simple populism, he called for action “beyond a simple welfare mentality” and added: “I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor.”…Stressing cooperation among religionsHe praised cooperation with Jews and Muslims and urged Islamic countries to guarantee their Christian minorities the same religious freedom as Muslims enjoy in the West.

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(Reuters) – Pope Francis called for renewal of the Roman Catholic Church and attacked unfettered capitalism as “a new tyranny”, urging global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality in the first major work he has authored alone as pontiff.

The 84-page document, known as an apostolic exhortation, amounted to an official platform for his papacy, building on views he has aired in sermons and remarks since he became the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years in March.

In it, Francis went further than previous comments criticizing the global economic system, attacking the “idolatry of money” and beseeching politicians to guarantee all citizens “dignified work, education and healthcare”.

He also called on rich people to share their wealth. “Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills,” Francis wrote in the document issued on Tuesday.

“How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses 2 points?”

The pope said renewal of the Church could not be put off and said the Vatican and its entrenched hierarchy “also need to hear the call to pastoral conversion”.

“I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security,” he wrote.

In July, Francis finished an encyclical begun by Pope Benedict but he made clear that it was largely the work of his predecessor, who resigned in February.

Called “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel), the exhortation is presented in Francis’ simple and warm preaching style, distinct from the more academic writings of former popes, and stresses the Church’s central mission of preaching “the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ”.

In it, he reiterated earlier statements that the Church cannot ordain women or accept abortion. The male-only priesthood, he said, “is not a question open to discussion” but women must have more influence in Church leadership.

POVERTY

A meditation on how to revitalize a Church suffering from encroaching secularization in Western countries, the exhortation echoed the missionary zeal more often heard from the evangelical Protestants who have won over many disaffected Catholics in the pope’s native Latin America.

In it, economic inequality features as one of the issues Francis is most concerned about, and the 76-year-old pontiff calls for an overhaul of the financial system and warns that unequal distribution of wealth inevitably leads to violence.

“As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems,” he wrote.

Denying this was simple populism, he called for action “beyond a simple welfare mentality” and added: “I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor.”

Since his election, Francis has set an example for austerity in the Church, living in a Vatican guest house rather than the ornate Apostolic Palace, travelling in a Ford Focus, and last month suspending a bishop who spent millions of euros on his luxurious residence.

He chose to be called “Francis” after the medieval Italian saint of the same name famed for choosing a life of poverty.

Stressing cooperation among religions, Francis quoted the late Pope John Paul II’s idea that the papacy might be reshaped to promote closer ties with other Christian churches and noted lessons Rome could learn from the Orthodox such as “synodality” or decentralized leadership.

He praised cooperation with Jews and Muslims and urged Islamic countries to guarantee their Christian minorities the same religious freedom as Muslims enjoy in the West.

(Editing by Tom Heneghan and Alison Williams)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/26/pope-francis-evangelii-gaudium_n_4342964.html

Are We Being Ruled by Self-Centered Jerks? What New Studies Reveals About the Ultra Wealthy

By Joshua HollandBillMoyers.com, posted on Alternet.org, August 29, 2013

Two studies released last week confirmed what most of us already knew: the ultra-wealthy tend to be narcissistic and have a greater sense of entitlement than the rest of us, and Congress only pays attention to their interests. Both studies are consistent with earlier research….“higher social class is associated with increased entitlement and narcissism”… “upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lower-class individuals.” This included being more likely to “display unethical decision-making,” steal, lie during a negotiation and cheat in order to win a contest… upper-class individuals also “showed reduced sensitivity to others’ suffering” as compared with working- and middle-class people. Lower-class individuals are more likely to spend time taking care of others, and they are more embedded in social networks that depend on mutual aid. By contrast, upper-class individuals prioritize independence from others: They are less motivated than lower-class individuals to build social relationships and instead seek to differentiate themselves from others…U.S. senators respond almost exclusively to the interests of their wealthiest constituents …From 2007 through 2010, U.S. senators were somewhat responsive to the interests of the middle class, but hadn’t been for the first 6 years Hayes studied. The views of the poor didn’t factor into legislators’ voting tendencies at all...Democrats were not any more responsive to the poor than Republicans.” …analysis “suggests oligarchic tendencies in the American system, a finding echoed in other research.”…this kind of political inequality is a product of widening economic disparities. “It’s a general pattern throughout history…When economic inequality increases, the people who have become economically more powerful will often attempt to use that power in order to gain even more political power. And once they are able to monopolize political power, they will start using that for changing the rules in their favor. And that sort of political inequality is the real danger that’s facing the United States.”

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Two studies released last week confirmed what most of us already knew: the ultra-wealthy tend to be narcissistic and have a greater sense of entitlement than the rest of us, and Congress only pays attention to their interests. Both studies are consistent with earlier research.

In the first study [3], published in the current Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Paul Piff of UC Berkeley conducted five experiments which demonstrated that “higher social class is associated with increased entitlement and narcissism.” Given the opportunity, Piff also found that they were more likely to check themselves out in a mirror than were those of lesser means.

Piff looked at how participants scored on a standard scale of “psychological entitlement,” and found that those of a high social class — based on income levels, education and occupational prestige — were more likely to say “I honestly feel I’m just more deserving than others,” while people further down the social ladder were likelier to respond, “I do not necessarily deserve special treatment.”

In an earlier study [4], published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Piff and four researchers from the University of Toronto conducted a series of experiments which found that “upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lower-class individuals.” This included being more likely to “display unethical decision-making,” steal, lie during a negotiation and cheat in order to win a contest.

In one telling experiment, the researchers observed a busy intersection, and found that drivers of luxury cars were more likely to cut off other drivers and less likely to stop for pedestrians crossing the street than those behind the wheels of more modest vehicles. “In our crosswalk study, none of the cars in the beater-car category drove through the crosswalk,” Piff told The New York Times [5]. “But you see this huge boost in a driver’s likelihood to commit infractions in more expensive cars.” He added: “BMW drivers are the worst.”

Summing up previous research on the topic, Piff notes that upper-class individuals also “showed reduced sensitivity to others’ suffering” as compared with working- and middle-class people.

Lower-class individuals are more likely to spend time taking care of others, and they are more embedded in social networks that depend on mutual aid. By contrast, upper-class individuals prioritize independence from others: They are less motivated than lower-class individuals to build social relationships and instead seek to differentiate themselves from others.

These findings may appear to represent a bit of psychological trivia, but a study [6] to be published in Political Science Quarterly by Thomas Hayes, a scholar at Trinity University, finds that U.S. senators respond almost exclusively to the interests of their wealthiest constituents – those more likely to be unethical and less sensitive to the suffering of others, according to Piff.

Hayes took data from the Annenberg Election Survey — a massive database of public opinion representing the views of 90,000 voters — and compared them with their senators’ voting records from 2001 through 2010. From 2007 through 2010, U.S. senators were somewhat responsive to the interests of the middle class, but hadn’t been for the first 6 years Hayes studied. The views of the poor didn’t factor into legislators’ voting tendencies at all.

As Eric Dolan noted for The Raw Story [7], “The neglect of lower income groups was a bipartisan affair. Democrats were not any more responsive to the poor than Republicans.” Hayes wrote that his analysis “suggests oligarchic tendencies in the American system, a finding echoed in other research.”

Hayes’ study is consistent with earlier research, including Princeton University scholar Larry Bartels’ 2005 study [8] of “Economic Inequality and Political Representation.”

There are a few of ways of looking at these findings. They could be the result of genuinely held ideological beliefs which happen to justify inequality and privilege.

According to OpenSecrets [9], the average net worth of senators in 2011 was $11.9 million, so it could be a matter of legislators advancing their own interests and those of the people with whom they socialize and associate.

But MIT economist Daron Acemoglu, who co-authored Why Nations Fail [10] with Harvard’s James Robinson, says that this kind of political inequality is a product of widening economic disparities. “It’s a general pattern throughout history,” he told Think Progress [11]. “When economic inequality increases, the people who have become economically more powerful will often attempt to use that power in order to gain even more political power. And once they are able to monopolize political power, they will start using that for changing the rules in their favor. And that sort of political inequality is the real danger that’s facing the United States.”

http://www.alternet.org/economy/are-we-being-ruled-self-centered-jerks-what-new-studies-reveals-about-ultra-wealthy

Links:

The Death of Honesty

defining ideas

by William Damon (Senior Fellow and member of the Virtues of a Free Society Task Force), Hoover.org, January 12, 2012 Editor’s note: The essay below is from the online volume Endangered Virtues, a publication of the Hoover Institution’s Task Force on the Virtues of a Free Society.

Excerpt

The failure to cultivate virtue in citizens can be a lethal threat to any democracy…Honesty is not a wholly detached moral virtue demanding strict allegiance at all times. Compassion, diplomacy, and life-threatening circumstances sometimes require a departure from the entire unadulterated truth. Some vocations seem to demand occasional deception for success or survival.….A basic intent to be truthful, along with an assumption that people can be generally taken at their word, is required for all sustained civilized dealings…No civilization can tolerate a fixed expectation of dishonest communications without falling apart from a breakdown in mutual trust…. Our serious problem today is not simply that many people routinely tell lies. As I have noted, people have departed from the truth for one reason or another all throughout human history. The problem now is that we seem to be reaching a dysfunctional tipping point in which an essential commitment to truthfulness no longer seems to be assumed in our society. If this is indeed the case, the danger is that the bonds of trust important in any society, and essential for a free and democratic one, will dissolve so that the kinds of discourse required to self-govern will become impossible. A basic intent to be truthful is required for all sustained civilized dealings…In former days, there was not much hesitancy in our society about using a moral language to teach children essential virtues such as honesty. For us today, it can be a culture shock to leaf through old editions of the McGuffey Readers, used in most American schools until the mid-twentieth century, to see how readily educators once dispensed unambiguous moral lessons to students. Nowadays, when cheating is considered by some teachers to be an excusable response to a difficult assignment, or even a form of pro-social activity, our society risks a future of moral numbness brought on by a decline of honesty and all the virtues that rely on it. As the Founders of our republic warned, the failure to cultivate virtue in citizens can be a lethal threat to any democracy.

Full text

For a number of reasons, people do not always stick to the truth when they speak. Some of the reasons are justifiable—for example, humane considerations such as tact and the avoidance of greater harm. Reassuring an ungainly teenager that he or she looks great may be a kind embroidery of the truth. In a more consequential instance, misinforming storm troopers about the whereabouts of a hidden family during the Nazi occupation of Europe was an honorable and courageous deception.

Honesty is not a wholly detached moral virtue demanding strict allegiance at all times. Compassion, diplomacy, and life-threatening circumstances sometimes require a departure from the entire unadulterated truth. Some vocations seem to demand occasional deception for success or survival. Politicians, for example, are especially hard-pressed to tell the truth consistently. Perhaps this is because, as George Orwell once observed, the very function of political speech is to hide, soften, or misrepresent difficult truths. Orwell was clearly skeptical about any expectation to the contrary. In “Politics and the English Language,” he put it this way: “Political language—and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists—is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

Although in this case Orwell himself may have been guilty of overstatement for purposes of rhetorical effect, his claim cannot be totally dismissed. It would be naïve (or cynical) for anyone in today’s world to act shocked whenever a politician tries to hide the real truth from the public. For ordinary citizens, keeping up with the daily news means a constant process of speculating about what the politicians really meant by what they said and what they actually believe. It certainly does not mean taking what any of them say at face value.

Yet to recognize that honesty is not an absolute standard demanded for every life circumstance—and that we can expect a certain amount of deceit from even our respected public figures—is not to say that the virtue of honesty can be disregarded with impunity. A basic intent to be truthful, along with an assumption that people can be generally taken at their word, is required for all sustained civilized dealings.

Teaching honesty is no longer a priority in our schools.

No civilization can tolerate a fixed expectation of dishonest communications without falling apart from a breakdown in mutual trust. All human relations rely upon confidence that those in the relations will, as a rule, tell the truth. Honesty builds and solidifies a relationship with trust; and too many breaches in honesty can corrode relations beyond repair. Friendships, family, work, and civic relations all suffer whenever dishonesty comes to light. The main reason that no one wants to be known as a liar is that people shun liars because they can’t be trusted.

Honesty’s vital role in human society has been observed and celebrated for all of recorded history. The Romans considered the goddess Veritas to be the “mother of virtue”; Confucius considered honesty to be the essential source of love, communication, and fairness between people; and of course, the Bible’s Old Testament prohibited bearing false witness. It is also noteworthy that the two most universally heralded U. S. presidents (George Washington, who “could not tell a lie,” and Abraham Lincoln, who was known as “Honest Abe”) were widely acclaimed for their trustworthiness.

In a similar vein, religious leader Gordon Hinckley has written that, “where there is honesty, other virtues will follow”—indicating, as did the Romans, the pivotal role of truthfulness in all moral behavior and development. Hinckley’s comment was made in the context of his alarm-sounding book on “neglected virtues,” and it points to the problematic status of honesty in our society today. Although truthfulness is essential for good human relationships and personal integrity, it is often abandoned in pursuit of other life priorities.

Indeed, there may be a perception in many key areas of contemporary life—law, business, politics, among others—that expecting honesty on a regular basis is a naïve and foolish attitude, a “loser’s” way of operating. Such a perception is practically a mandate for personal dishonesty and a concession to interpersonal distrust. When we no longer assume that those who communicate with us are at least trying to tell the truth, we give up on them as trustworthy persons and deal with them only in a strictly instrumental manner. The bounds of mutual moral obligation dissolve, and the laws of the jungle reemerge.

Our serious problem today is not simply that many people routinely tell lies. As I have noted, people have departed from the truth for one reason or another all throughout human history. The problem now is that we seem to be reaching a dysfunctional tipping point in which an essential commitment to truthfulness no longer seems to be assumed in our society. If this is indeed the case, the danger is that the bonds of trust important in any society, and essential for a free and democratic one, will dissolve so that the kinds of discourse required to self-govern will become impossible.

A basic intent to be truthful is required for all sustained civilized dealings.

What are the signs of this in contemporary society? In professional and business circles, a now-familiar complaint is, “It used to be your word was good, but those days are gone.” In print, broadcast, and online news coverage, journalism has lost credibility with much of the public for its perceived biases in representing the facts. In civic affairs, political discourse is no longer considered to be a source of genuine information. Rather, it is assumed that leaders make statements merely to posture for effect, and not to engage in discussion or debate. In such an environment, facts may be manipulated or made up in service of a predetermined interest, not presented accurately and then examined in good faith. This is troubling, because civic leaders set the tone for communications throughout the public sphere.

Most troubling of all is that honesty is no longer a priority in many of the settings where young people are educated. The future of every society depends upon the character development of its young. It is in the early years of life—the first two decades especially—when basic virtues that shape character are acquired. Although people can learn, grow, and reform themselves at any age, this kind of learning becomes increasingly difficult as habits solidify over time. Honesty is a prime example of a virtue that becomes habitual over the years if practiced consistently—and the same can be said about dishonesty.

Honesty is the character virtue most closely linked to every school’s academic mission. In matters of “academic integrity,” which generally revolve around cheating, schools have a primary responsibility to convey to students the importance of honesty as a practical and ethical virtue. Unfortunately, many of our schools today are failing this responsibility.

Of all the breeches that can tear deeply into the moral fabric of a school, cheating is among the most damaging, because it throws in doubt the school’s allegiance to truth and fairness. Cheating in school is unethical for at least four reasons: 1) it gives students who cheat an unfair advantage over those who do not cheat; 2) it is an act of dishonesty in a setting dedicated to a quest for truthful knowledge, 3) it is a violation of trust between student and teacher; and 4) it disrespects the code of conduct and the social order of the school.  As such, one would expect that cheating would provide educators with an ideal platform for imparting the key moral standards of honesty, integrity, trust, and fairness.

Incredibly, some teachers have actually encouraged students to cheat.

For educators looking for opportunities to help students learn from their mistakes, there is plenty of material to work with: research has shown that almost three-quarters of American college students (that is, students who have made it through high school) admit to having cheated at least once in their pre-college academic work. Donald McCabe, the most prominent contemporary researcher on school cheating, has concluded that “Cheating is prevalent, and…some forms of cheating have increased dramatically in the last 30 years.”

Yet many teachers, in order to avoid legal action and other contention, look the other way if their students copy test answers or hand in plagiarized papers. Some teachers excuse students because they believe that “sharing” schoolwork is motivated by loyalty to friends. Some teachers sympathize with student cheaters because they consider the tests that students take to be flawed, unfair, or too difficult. Such sympathy can be taken to extremes, as in the case of one teacher, observed by an educational writer, who held that “it was the teacher who was immoral for having given the students such a burdensome assignment…” when a group of students was caught cheating.

Incredibly, some teachers actually have encouraged students to cheat; and some have even cheated themselves when reporting student test scores. In July 2011, a widely-reported cheating scandal erupted in school systems in and around Atlanta, Georgia. State investigators found a pattern of “organized and systemic misconduct” dating back for over ten years. One-hundred-and-seventy-eight teachers, and the principals of half of the system’s schools, aided and abetted students who were cheating on their tests. Top administrators ignored news reports of this cheating: a New York Times story described “a culture of fear and intimidation that prevented many teachers from speaking out.”

Nor was this an isolated incident. In a feature on school testing, CBS News reported the following: “New York education officials found 21 proven cases of teacher cheating. Teachers have read off answers during a test, sent students back to correct wrong answers, photocopied secure tests for use in class, inflated scores, and peeked at questions then drilled those topics in class before the test.”

With such prominent and recent instances of cheating among students and teachers today, one would expect a concerted effort to articulate and promote the value of honesty in our schools. Yet school programs regarding academic integrity consist of little more than a patchwork of vaguely-stated prohibitions and half-hearted responses. Our schools vacillate between routine neglect and a circle-the wagons reaction if the problem boils over into a public media scandal. There is little consistency, coherence, or transparency in many school policies.

It is practically impossible to find a school that treats academic integrity as a moral issue by employing revealed incidents of cheating to communicate to its student body values such as honesty, respect for rules, and trust. In my own observations, I have noticed a palpable lack of interest among teachers and staff in discussing the moral significance of cheating with students. The problem here is the low priority of honesty in our agenda for schooling specifically and child-rearing in general.

In former days, there was not much hesitancy in our society about using a moral language to teach children essential virtues such as honesty. For us today, it can be a culture shock to leaf through old editions of the McGuffey Readers, used in most American schools until the mid-twentieth century, to see how readily educators once dispensed unambiguous moral lessons to students. Nowadays, when cheating is considered by some teachers to be an excusable response to a difficult assignment, or even a form of pro-social activity, our society risks a future of moral numbness brought on by a decline of honesty and all the virtues that rely on it. As the Founders of our republic warned, the failure to cultivate virtue in citizens can be a lethal threat to any democracy.


William Damon is a professor of education at Stanford University, director of the Stanford Center on Adolescence, and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. For the past twenty-five years, Damon has written on character development at all stages of life. Damon’s recent books include Failing Liberty 101 (Hoover Press, 2011); The Path to Purpose: How Young People Find their Calling in Life (2008); and The Moral Advantage: How to Succeed in Business by Doing the Right Thing (2004). Damon was founding editor of New Direction for Child and Adolescent Development and is editor in chief of The Handbook of Child Psychology (1998 and 2006 editions). He is an elected member of the National Academy of Education and a fellow of the American Educational Research Association.

 

http://www.hoover.org/publications/defining-ideas/article/104721

A Vote for Historic Christianity at Election Time

by Dr. David P. Gushee, Professor of Christian Ethics, Huffington Post, 1/02/2012

It was perhaps inevitable that as the final weekend of the election campaign loomed, appeals on the basis of religion would intensify. On the very day I write this article I can report receiving an open appeal to join a Christian leaders’ letter endorsing Barack Obama for re-election. Meanwhile, I have received or learned of numerous appeals to endorse Mitt Romney openly, or to support “candidates” who share “Christian values” on the three most important issues in the election, which happen to be abortion, gay marriage and a particular understanding of religious liberty.

I am a Christian ethicist. My work takes me into the public square on a regular basis. I have edited three books on faith and American politics, most recently “A New Evangelical Manifesto” (Chalice, 2012). One would think I would join the parade toward either Democrat-Christianity or Republican-Christianity and just be done with it. It would be so much simpler. All I would need to do would be to go ahead and join seemingly everyone else in collapsing the distinction between the Christian faith and its moral values, on the one hand, and the agenda of one of the major American political parties, on the other.

In my 2008 book, “The Future of Faith in American Politics” (Baylor Univ. Press), I dealt with this issue mainly by saying that no single political party holds a monopoly on Christian values. Positioning myself as an independent-minded centrist, I argued that the best Christian approach to American politics is something like a both/and evangelical centrism that takes the best concerns of the right and puts them together with the best concerns of the left insofar as both reflect biblical principles. Thus Christians should care about both abortion and the environment, both marriage and poverty, both euthanasia and war, and so on. This is an old, familiar trope in center-left Christian public engagement. I Iearned it at least 25 years ago.

It is not bad, as far as it goes. One could do worse for a values agenda in American politics. But it does not do anything to address what I am beginning to think of as the most important issue, from a Christian perspective. That issue is the erosion of historically recognizable Christian identity in American religious life, and a concomitant erosion of the distinctive mission of the church and the particular role of the Christian minister.

Sidney Mead said long ago thatAmericawas a nation with the soul of a church. It has also been true that the American Christian Church is a church with the soul of a nation. Perhaps because of the long informal establishment of (Protestant) Christianity asAmerica’s culture-religion, long ago theAmericanChurchbecame confused about what exactly it means to be the Church. We don’t know what the Church is, or what it is to do, or what its ministers do that might be different from what other people do.

I have made a turn in recent years toward a deeper immersion in historic Christianity. For a new Christian prayer book edited with my wife — “Yours is the Day, Lord, Yours is the Night” (Thomas Nelson) — we collected more than 700 great morning and evening prayers from every era and nearly every communion in the great international Christian family. So the Te Deum mingles with John Wesley and the Orthodox liturgy with the prayers of Augustine. Immersing in 20 centuries and seven continents of Christian prayer has retrained my ear for what it means to be Christian, what the historic Church has yearned for, prayed about and sought to achieve. It has also shown me how Christian leaders of old addressed God, their congregants and the world.

Thinking and praying with the ecumenical, global Church in this way makes it seem unthinkably vulgar for men and women of the cloth to use their sacred offices to endorse or quasi-endorse candidates for public office in our particular nation. Such endorsements stand at odds with the historic Gospel ministry of the Christian Church, with the care of souls in a politically divided nation, and with the recognition in Christian tradition that no earthly political party or agenda can represent the agenda of God for a redeemed world.

I will vote, certainly. I have my own opinions as to which of the available candidates might do a better job in addressing severe governance challenges in our nation for the next stage of its history. But I do not confuse the significance of my vote, or the outcome of the election, with the mission of Christ’s Church in the world. And I hope to devote the rest of my career to helping the Christian Church recover its identity by connecting with its historic traditions and convictions, and by taking a much more measured approach to political engagement. I vote for historic Christianity at election time this year.

David P. Gushee is distinguished university professor of Christian ethics and director of the Center for Theology and Public Life at Mercer University.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-david-p-gushee/a-vote-for-historic-christianity-at-election-time_b_2064980.html

The campaign’s moral hole

By E.J. Dionne Jr., New York Times, October 7 2012

Does our presidential campaign lack a moral core?

The question arises in the wake of last week’s presidential debate. However you analyze it in electoral terms, the exchange between President Obama and Mitt Romney was most striking as a festival of technocratic mush — dueling studies mashed in with competing statistics. In many ways, the encounter offered voters the worst of all worlds: a great deal of indecipherable wonkery and remarkably little clarity about where each would lead the country.

But there are forces working to make the campaign about something more than a suffocating battle to influence tiny slivers of the electorate. One of my favorite pressure groups, Nuns on the Bus, will be launching a five-day tour on Wednesday through the red, blue and purple parts ofOhio.

Who better than a group of women who have consecrated their lives to the Almighty to remind us that our decisions in November have ethical consequences? Those who serve the impoverished, the sick and the dying know rather a lot about what matters — in life, and in elections.

If some of the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops often give the impression that they constitute the Republican Party at prayer, the activist nuns often seem like Democrats at the barricades. And it’s quite true that a struggle is on for the political soul of American Catholicism. Those among the faithful who see the abortion issue as trumping all others are in a quarrel with their brethren who place more emphasis on the church’s long-standing commitment to social justice.

Nuns on the Bus, led by Sister Simone Campbell, are very much players in this dialogue, and Sister Simone addressed the Democratic National Convention last month. Yet she was careful in her speech to emphasize that what she has been saying about government’s obligation to the poor — and about the problems with Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget — reflected what the bishops have been saying, too.

She also noted in an interview last week that she had laid down some conditions before she spoke in Charlotte. “I would talk if I could say that I was pro-life, that I could lift up the people who live in poverty and that the Democrats have a big tent,” she said.

The nuns’ message on poverty got some reinforcement in a statement late last month from Cardinal Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn. “There are very dark clouds,” they wrote. “Too much rhetoric in the country portrays poor people in a very negative way.”

They argued that the economy is not only failing to “provide sufficient jobs for poor people to earn a decent living to support themselves,” but is also offering fewer “resources for government to do its part for Americans in need.” The situation, they concluded, is “devastating to struggling families throughout the country.”

It’s no accident that the nuns are waging their Ohiocampaign against the Ryan budget during the week of the vice presidential debate. One would like to hope that Thursday’s tussle between Ryan and Vice President Joe Biden will be less a parade of numbers and obfuscating talk of “baselines” and concentrate instead on why voters should actually care about what’s in the federal budget.

Sister Simone points to a study from Bread for the World, a genuinely nonpartisan group that advocates on hunger issues, to suggest one useful line of questioning. To make up for the food-stamp cuts in Ryan’s budget, the group found, “every church in the country would have to come up with approximately $50,000 dedicated to feeding people — every year for the next 10 years.” Can government walk away like this? Can we realistically expect our houses of worship to pick up such a tab?

In all the dissections of Obama’s performance in the first debate, not enough attention has been paid to the real problem with his self-presentation: his failure to convey passion for the purposes of government, the requirements of justice and the point of his presidency. “The president,” says Sister Simone, “has gotten disconnected from the people he cares about.”

Nuns on the Bus will no doubt be criticized from the right for intervening in a political campaign, something that doesn’t bother conservatives when religious figures engage on their side. But the nuns’ most important message is to Obama and Biden: Don’t be afraid of reminding voters that budgets and elections have moral consequences. Doing so just might keep debate-watchers from changing the channel.

ejdionne@washpost.com  

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ej-dionne-jr-the-campaigns-moral-hole/2012/10/07/07df4db4-0f1f-11e2-bd1a-b868e65d57eb_story.html?wpisrc=nl_headlines