Progressive Christian leaders including former Democratic congressman Floyd Flake and Sojourners President Jim Wallis held a press conference today near the World Trade Center site to announce that they are adding their voices to the conservative chorus of religious leaders (Richard Land, Tony Perkins, Pat Robertson) that has criticized New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision to exclude clergy from Sunday’s 9/11 memorial dedication at ground zero, CNN reported.
“But there’s a twist. In addition to criticizing Bloomberg, progressive religious leaders are also taking aim at prominent conservatives who have blasted Bloomberg in recent days, alleging that those critics are stoking division at a time that calls for national unity,” the article said.
Surprised and Disappointed
“Utterly disappointed and surprised” was the response of Fernando Cabrera, a New York City councilman and the pastor of New Life Outreach International church in the Bronx to Bloomberg’s decision, CNN reported.
“There’s certain things that government cannot do, and answering questions of meaning of ‘Why are we going through this?’ and ‘Where am I going to get strength from?’ – those are existential questions that can only be answered from a spiritual aspect,” Cabrera said.
Cabrera and the Family Research Council have collected over 62,000 signatures asking the mayor to allow clergy, prayer and first responders (who have also been excluded) at the city’s 9/11 memorial ceremony Sunday, The Christian Post reported.
The Microphone Won’t Melt
Among Bloomberg’s critics is former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani was widely praised for his handling of the 9/11 crisis when he was mayor. He echoed the recommendation of Southern Baptist Richard Land, who said there should be a priest, a minister, a rabbi, and an imam at the event.
“Say a little prayer. The microphone will not melt,” said Giuliani before launching into a brief lesson at the National Press Club on what the constitution says about church/state separation.
But clergy have never been an official part of the 10 remembrance ceremonies at ground zero; moments of silence have and will be again, The Huffington Post reported.
The ceremony was designed in coordination with 9/11 families with a mixture of readings that are spiritual, historical and personal in nature and this year’s six moments of silence allow every individual a time for personal and religious introspection, a spokeswoman for the mayor told HuffPost.
An Uphill Battle
Critics “face an uphill battle,” Religion News Service’s David Gibson said, because “Bloomberg is not one to second-guess himself” and “tends to get what he wants.” Besides, Bloomberg defended religious freedom when he “championed Muslims’ right to build an Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero” and when he “rejected the advice of secular critics and defended the inclusion of a cross made of girders from the fallen towers in the new 9/11 Memorial.”
Protesting a Call to Compassion
Meanwhile, protests are being lobbed by some Christians because Evangelicals won’t be represented at the Washington National Cathedral’s “A Call to Compassion” on September 11, the Daily Caller reported. The commemoration will include a bishop, a rabbi, a Tibetan lama, a Buddhist nun, representatives of the Hindu and Jain faiths, an imam and an Islamic musician, but no evangelicals.
The idea that a group that represents at least 35 percent of the population has been excluded “is difficult to comprehend, much less to defend,” said Southern Baptist Richard Land.
What do you think?
Are these egregious omissions or much ado about nothing?
Representative Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) deserves the colorful language prize of the week for describing the federal debt deal that President Obama signed into law Tuesday as a “Satan sandwich.” “There is nothing inside this sandwich that the major religions of the world will say deals with protection for the poor, the widows, the children,” Cleaver told ABC News.
But a group calling itself Christians for a Sustainable Economy (CASE) sent a letter to President Obama Monday urging him not to protect programs for the poor, as Circle of Protection signatories had recommended, but instead to protect those in need from programs that it says “demean the poor, undermine their family structures and trap them in poverty, dependency and despair for generations.”
Timothy Dalrymple, managing editor of the Evangelical portal at Patheos.com and a drafter of the CASE letter, said in a phone interview today that the early CASE signatories are a primarily white, religiously diverse group that came together at a conference about environmental issues. Dalrmyple said he would welcome more ethnic diversity.
“We referenced [Jim] Wallis and the Circle of Protection because, while we agree that the budget is a moral document, we believe that many other moral imperatives are being left out of the conversation. The Circle of Protection was rightly emphasizing the moral imperative to care for the poor … but we felt they were leaving out the moral imperative against the kind of severe, chronic crippling debt that we have, and leaving out the moral imperative of wise stewardship of resources. There are numerous moral imperatives involved here,” said Dalrymple.
“We don’t feel that drawing a circle of protection around one party’s argument is the best way to go,” he said, but pointed out that there are “broad areas of agreement” between the two groups.
“We’re certainly in agreement on the importance of caring for the poor. They are willing to acknowledge the importance of getting our fiscal house in order. There are differences in emphasis, but there is also, on our part, an effort to foster a broader and more nuanced conversation over the moral imperatives at play, and a challenging of the assumption that the measure of your compassion is the amount of money you devote toward ostensibly anti-poverty programs,” said Dalrymple.
At the Washington PostOn Faith blog, Lisa Miller asked a handful of Christian ministers and scholars, including CASE member Eric Teetsel, what Jesus would cut from the federal budget. “All deferred an answer. Instead, they raised the same old liberal-conservative political debate that has raged at least since the Reagan years. Left-leaning Christians insisted that the way out of the debt crisis was to raise taxes. Those on the right supported slashing entitlements,” said Miller.
In a NewsOne/BlackPlanet poll conducted Tuesday, African Americans were divided when asked if they thought President Obama gave up too much to Republicans in the deal. Fifty-one percent said no; 46 percent said yes,” News One reported.
At The Huffington Post’s Black Voices, which launched today, Peter S. Goodman revisited a conversation he had last year with an economist who told him most Americans didn’t “get screwed” in the Great Recession. In light of depressing statistics about its impact on minorities, Goodman said, “Black and Hispanic households together comprise 28 percent of the American population. In other words, great numbers of Americans have indeed gotten screwed. And anyone who missed that essentially missed what was wrong with the American economy writ large.”
As to solutions, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is launching cross country job fairs, town hall meetings, job readiness programs, and seminars as part of its “For The People” jobs initiative resolution, News One reported. And concern about hiring discrimination against the long-term unemployed prompted Democrats in both houses of Congress to introduce legislation that would ban employment discrimination, according to Colorlines.
In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced plans to contribute $30 million of his own money to a $130 million initiative that will address the needs of the city’s minority populations. The program “would overhaul how the government interacts with a population of about 315,000 New Yorkers who are disproportionately undereducated, incarcerated and unemployed,” The New York Times reported.
In what may or may not be a pursuit of solutions, talk show host Tavis Smiley and Princeton University professor Cornel West are taking their “anti-poverty tour” to Chicago this weekend, The Chicago Tribune reported. The tour will shine “a spotlight on economic hardships in the president’s hometown” at a time when his former chief of staff and current Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration is, according to Chicago News Cooperative, shutting down its overnight emergency services shift for the homeless and laying off 24 employees in the city’s Department of Family and Support Services.
One can only speculate what the strain will be on affluent African and Hispanic Americans who are more likely to live in poor neighborhoods than low income whites, according to a new study by Brown University sociologist John Logan that was reported in The Wall Street Journal.
Well, it’s been a tumultuous couple of weeks talking about money, a subject financial adviser Dave Ramsey says the Bible mentions more than 800 times. Among those verses is Mathew 6:24: “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” As we debate these issues, perhaps we can remember too that 1 John 4:20 says we can’t love God and hate those with whom we disagree about causes and solutions to our nation’s economic problems.
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