A New Day in Washington
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June 2007 - Oct. 14, 2008
What are your thoughts
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Hopes and concerns?
Suggestions for the new President?
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The Courage of our
by Senator John Marty
Webweaver's note: John Marty is a
strong, progressive Minnesota state senator; his thoughtful
views seem to reflect in part the scholarship and
convictions of his father, Prof. Martin Marty.
Sen. Marty's blog >>
What do you think about
progressive pragmatism today?
A necessary way of doing politics,
or a betrayal of progressive values?
Please send a note, to be share here!
November 30, 2009 — If 21st Century
Progressives led the 19th Century Abolition Movement,
we'd still have slavery, but we'd have limited it to 40 hour
work weeks, and we'd be so proud of the progress we'd made.
In earlier eras of U.S. history, progressives
believed they could fight injustice and move society forward,
and they did so. Today however, many progressives have lost
faith in their ability to affect significant change. Many are
content simply to tinker with problems, whether the issue is
getting living wages for work, ending poverty, or removing
toxins from our food supply.
For example, consider universal health care.
All progressives claim to support this, but many aren't willing
to fight for it – not because they believe it's bad policy, but
because they believe it is "politically unrealistic." When our
proposed Minnesota Health Plan is offered as a way to deliver
universal health care, some dismiss it as legislation that can't
happen for decades. They talk about universal health care but
offer and support proposals that are mere band-aids.
It is instructive to look back to the past.
Despite the reality that men were the only ones who held office
and the only ones who could vote, suffragettes fought and won
the seemingly impossible goal of gaining the right to vote. In
the 1960's civil rights activists believed they could get rid of
segregation laws and get equal rights under the law. When told
they were expecting change to occur too rapidly, Martin Luther
King wrote a book explaining, "Why We Can't Wait."
Today, however, regardless of the speed of
other changes in society, many progressives have lost hope. For
them, such a book would now be titled, "Why We Need to be
Pragmatic and Accept Token Change."
This timidity can be explained by decades of
defeat at the hands of right wing politicians like Newt Gingrich
and Karl Rove, which caused many progressives to retreat from a
"Politics of Principle" to a supposed "Politics of Pragmatism"
that is not only lacking in courage, but also has been highly
Under the politics of principle, the
progressive movement would fight for the goal, using pragmatic
politics only to figure out how to promote the message.
But with the current politics of misguided
pragmatism, some progressives calculate what is politically
acceptable, and then determine what they will stand for. For
example, using this "pragmatism," President Obama decided to
push for health insurance for more instead of health care for
One cannot totally fault the President for
failing to push for comprehensive reform. He shied away from
principle-based reform because he knows that members of Congress
working on health reform take big campaign contributions from
the health insurance lobby and other powerful interests. He
knows that they are afraid of nasty campaign attacks and believe
they need the big money to win reelection.
"Pragmatically," Democrats in Washington are
pushing for "universal" health care that isn't universal. They
are pushing for reforms that cost more, not less, and policies
that focus more on their sense of pragmatism than on real public
health and prevention.
It's time for progressives to have the courage
of our convictions. If we claim to believe in universal health
care, we need to fight for it. The MN Health Plan – which covers
everyone for all their medical needs, and costs less than we are
spending now – is on the table. Those who are not willing to
take on the powerful insurance lobby, ought to be honest and
admit that reelection and other priorities matter more.
Refusing to fight for it because it is "not
politically realistic" becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Likewise, dismissing it as something that will take decades to
pass means leaving the problem to the next generation.
Whether the issue is living wages for workers,
environmental protection, or LGBT equality, many progressives
have lost courage. They fight to raise the minimum wage by fifty
cents for every dollar that inflation takes away. Even in
victory, we accomplish little.
It is time to move beyond fear and stand up
for the principles we say we believe in. Minnesotans deserve
Nobel Peace Prize 2009 –
decided by a “left-leaning” panel?
Bill Peach [10-14-09]
There have been
120 recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize – 97 individuals and 23
organizations. The selection is made by a member panel appointed
by the Norwegian Parliament. Several news stories referred to
the panel as “left-leaning.”
I would encourage
you to read the history of the Nobel Peace Prize. The first
irony is that it is named after the person who invented
dynamite. Go figure. One of the most interesting recipients was
in 1960 when the Albert John Lutuli, a Zulu Warrior, won the
prize, for his peaceful resistance to apartheid. Consider 1973,
when Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho shared the prize, and the
Vietnamese negotiator refused. Americans have fared well
historically: George C. Marshall, Teddy Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter,
Woodrow Wilson, and Al Gore.
Stalin was one of
the nominees in 1945 and 1948 for his efforts “to end World War
II.” Mahatma Ghandi was nominated four times, but never won.
George W. Bush and Tony Blair were nominees in 2004. Anyone
could easily question the selection of Shimon Peres, Menachem
Begin, or Kofi Annan. We all probably applaud the honor being
bestowed upon FW de Klerk and Desmond Tutu.
Most nominees are
either political activists, pacifists, humanitarians, or relief
organizations. The Red Cross and Doctors without Borders are
exemplary. This year there were 205 nominees – a Vietnamese
Buddhist monk, the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, a Chechen, a
Russian, and a Senator from Colombia. From what I have read,
Sima Simar, from Afghanistan has been a tireless advocate for
Afghan women. Just from all the resumes I might have leaned
toward her had I been on the panel.
The Nobel panel
avows that their choice was based on what he had accomplished,
specifically easing relations between the West and the Muslim
world, the removal of missiles from Europe, and lessening
tension and making the world safer. I don’t question President
Obama’s credentials or content of his heart. I do have concerns
that the award may be premature. Until our military involvement
in Iraq and Afghanistan is resolved, this seems to be a vision
rather than an accomplishment. The award is now more of a
challenge to live up to his image in the world.
reference to the panel as being “left-leaning” is more or less
an obvious one. The criteria for nomination include pacifists,
activists, advocates for humanitarian efforts, democratic
reform, and peaceful resolution of conflicts. All of this makes
you wonder if perhaps there should be a “right-leaning” panel to
select a Nobel War Prize.
Bill Peach lives in Franklin, Tennessee, where he has been
in the men’s clothing business for most of his working life.
But he also describes himself as a politician, preacher, and
philosopher, who received his Bachelor’s degree at the age
of 51. He has authored a number of books, including
Politics, Preaching & Philosophy, published in 2009 by
Nobel Peace Prize to Obama – an honor, an error, or maybe
The selection of President
Barack Obama as the recipient of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize
seems to have surprised almost everybody, even in the White
House. It’s interesting that there have been few responses of
enthusiastic approval, even from people and groups that are
strong supporters of Obama and his policies.
Reuters news service has compiled
helpful survey of brief comments from around the world,
ranging from praise to outrage. Here’s a sample of three of
In Indonesia, Masdar Mas'udi, deputy head
of Indonesia's largest Muslim organization Nahdatul Ulama,
said: "I think it's a good thing. I think it's appropriate
because he is the only American president who has reached
out to us in peace. On the issues of race, religion, skin
color, he has an open attitude."
In Pakistan, Liaqat Baluch, a senior leader of
the Jamaat-e-Islami, a conservative religious party, said: "It's
a joke. How embarrassing for those who awarded it to him because
he's done nothing for peace. What change has he brought in Iraq,
the Middle East or Afghanistan?"
South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu, awarded
the prize himself in 1984, hailed the award as "a magnificent
endorsement for the first African American president in
Glenn Greenwald, writing for Salon, offers a nicely balanced
When I saw this
morning's top New York Times headline – "Barack Obama
Wins Nobel Peace Prize" – I had the same immediate reaction
which I'm certain many others had: this was some kind of bizarre
Onion gag that got accidentally transposed onto the wrong
website, that it was just some sort of strange joke someone was
playing. Upon further reflection, that isn't all that far from
the reaction I still have. And I say that despite my belief that
– as critical as I've been of the Obama presidency regarding
civil liberties and Terrorism – foreign affairs is actually one
area where he's shown genuine potential for some constructive
"change" and has, on occasion, merited real praise for taking
steps in the general "peace" direction which this Prize is meant
He lists some
examples: Obama’s changing the tone of U.S. dealings with other
nations, and especially with the Muslim world; his efforts to
deal with Iran by negotiation rather than threat; his break from
George Bush’s “full-scale subservience to Israel,” and more. For
all these shifts, there are few concrete accomplishments so far
– but the shifts are certainly welcome.
Greenwald voices serious concerns: Obama’s continuing escalation
of the war in Afghanistan – with the possibility of much more to
come; increasing U.S. airstrikes that have killed more hundreds
of Afghan civilians; little if any reduction in the U.S.
military presence in Iraq; no criticism of Israel’s invasion of
the Gaza territory early this year ... and much more.
was a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York,
and is now a writer, including two New York Times
bestselling books: How Would a Patriot Act?, a critique
of the Bush administration's use of executive power, and A
Tragic Legacy, which examines the Bush legacy.
One Presbyterian writes to the President:
are responding to the award by communicating with the White
House just what it might mean for the President to follow the
high calling which seems to be implied by the Peace Prize.
For instance, the
Rev. Dr. Ralph Clingan has sent this letter to the President:
on receiving the Nobel Prize for Peace. The nomination and
selection, like your election, grew out of the positions you
took during your campaign. I travel to Korea sometimes twice a
year and know how optimistic they were about your help in
bringing about Korean reconciliation. I am involved as a
Theologian in West Asian Peace efforts and thank you for
opposing illegal Israeli settlements and the terror war they
waged in Gaza.
care also was one of your often stated hopes for the nation and
now, with Senator Baucus' Senate Bill, it is about to go down to
ignominious defeat. The profiteers of Wall Street who control
all banking will control all health care except that of old
people on Medicare like me. What a shame. As Mark Twain used to
say, "We have the best Congress money can buy."
The people who
profit from illness spent $380 million to buy Baucus and his
pals who will not make a lack of buying a Wall Street
profiteering policy a crime. That is pure, simple
Fascism/Nazism. I have supported and will continue to support
universal health care through the Single Payer Option, which
would make Medicare/Medicaid available to all on the same basis
as it is made available to you, your family and the people and
families who work for the people in our Nation's Capitol.
May God bless and
keep you as you strive every day to fulfill the promises you
made in your book and speeches which motivated the Nobel
Committee to give you the privilege, task and duty of making
peace on Earth. If I can be of help, just call me.
Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Ralph G.
Dr. Clingan is a Presbyterian minister, now
retired. From 1980 to 1988 he taught preaching in The
Interdenominational Theological Center, Atlanta, Georgia, and
later at Princeton's Continuing Education Center in Ontario. He
has written an intellectual biography of Clayton Powell and
An Action Preaching Manual, in Korean.
What do you think?
If you'd like to share your thoughts
about this remarkable development,
send a note,
to posted here.
A very positive comment on Obama's
"Obama’s words, his calm, his vision, his
integrity, his smile, his brilliance, his good heart
unleashed something in the world that is loose among us."
The Rev. Michael E. Livingston,
Executive Director of the International Council of
Community Churches, has written this for the ICCC
newspaper. He is also a past president of the
National Council of Churches, and is a Presbyterian
minister and a former member of the
Witherspoon Society board. He read our earlier
post, and immediately offered to share his thoughts
with us here. [10-10-09]
DONE IN LOVE
Why is it
that there is always something momentous happening when I
sit down to write “Done in Love” for The Christian
Community? Coincidence? Serendipity?
Providence? I think it is the
very nature of God’s creation: wonder is ordinary, the
miraculous is available for those with eyes to see, ears to
hear, hands to touch, hearts to feel, and minds to ponder
the daily feast upon our senses. Today
for me it is the startlingly unexpected announcement of the
selection of President Barack Obama as winner of the Nobel
Peace Prize. And yet it feels right and
inhabit an alternate universe if this were not
controversial, so I pause to respect the many who for their
own reasons think the prize premature and Obama undeserving:
What has he done? The critics
lament (some bark). My first instinct is
joy, celebration, confirmation. Forgive
me if that is three instincts. No I am
not fully satisfied with what he has accomplished in these
first months. I am even concerned about
hints of a too generous caution, backtracking on earlier
promises, and unearned accommodation with unreasonable
commentary from the prize committee transported me back to
candidate Obama, that amazing fellow whose audacious hope
ignited not just a dormant spirit and populace in this
country, young and old, gay and straight, and all the colors
of the human rainbow—but a whole planet of people starving
for a reason to hope, a hand to grab hold of against a slide
into a deeper malaise. Candidate Obama
electrified the whole world. We are a
different people today. We are a people
today, the world over, unlike at any time in our recent
There is a
universal dimension to Obama Nobel Peace Prize.
It’s my prize too. And yours.
And refugees in Rwanda, internally displaced persons
in New Orleans or in the Sudan, Muslims in Paris and London,
prisoners in Guantanamo, Palestinians and Israelis staring
at one another across dangerous checkpoints, closeted gay
teenagers in Kansas, 47 million uninsured Americans.
The Prize committee in Oslo gets it, even if many in
this country cannot or will not see it.
Obama’s selection is both personal and communal; it is for
who he is today and our potential in the future.
words, his calm, his vision, his integrity, his smile, his
brilliance, his good heart unleashed something in the world
that is loose among us. We elected him
in the United States. The world welcomed
him as their leader too. Not to replace
others, rather because it is clear his will is to work
together to address and solve problems no one leader, no one
nation can overcome alone. Let the
naysayers naysay. It is too late.
The game has changed, the rules seem fair, the deck
this is too much to place upon his one thin frame.
There are wars to end and deadly environmental
conditions to reverse, poverty and disease of staggering
proportion, parched throats and bloated bellies aching for
clean water and daily bread, too many guns waiting to wreak
too much havoc.
Obama is not alone, we are with him.
Prize in hand, we face these challenges together.
Hoping and working for the brighter day we can
Michael E. Livingston
Rev. Michael E. Livingston
|From Rabbi Michael Lerner —
“Obama needs to be pushed from the progressive world in order
to be able to be who he wants to be.”
Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun
magazine, and founder of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, has
just published an article on the
Politico.com website in which he calls on progressives to press
President Obama to get past his current efforts at pragmatic
compromise, and return to the strength of his progressive
Without this, he warns, Obama “will not be able to
gain mass support for a coherent worldview that can form the basis
for an alternative to ‘let the marketplace decide,’ which has been
the guiding principle for American domestic politics, and ‘let our
power shape the world,’ which has been our primary approach to
full article >>
We welcome your comments!
to be shared here.
new faith-based council
President Barack Obama has
announced that the office established by President George W. Bush,
for providing government support for religiously based social
programs, will be continued – but apparently changed in some
significant ways. While Bush’s program was primarily a grant-making
body, Obama is going beyond that, creating a new board of advisers
whose recommendations will be woven directly into his policy-making
The New York Times reports today:
President Obama signed an executive order Thursday to create a new
White House office for faith-based programs and neighborhood
partnerships, building upon the initiatives started by the Bush
administration to administer social services to people “no matter
their religious or political beliefs.”
The rest of the story >>
ABC News reports on the naming of Josh DuBois to head the
revamped White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood
Partnerships, which was created by an executive order signed by
President Obama this morning. DuBois, a 26-year-old Pentecostal
minister, directed religious outreach for the Obama campaign.
Previously, he was an associate pastor at a Pentecostal church in
Massachusetts and received a master's degree in public affairs from
The Rev. Jim Wallis
of Sojourners said DuBois represents a "new generation of faith
leaders.” Wallis added: “He's very bright and very hardworking. ...
He's a good relationship builder, and he's reached out across the
political spectrum and cares about policy."
The ABC report
continues: “The Obama administration will seek to expand the role of
this office as it relates to policy issues where religious and local
leaders can be effective. DuBois will coordinate with faith-based
and community organizations on social service outreach and will work
to utilize these organizations' efforts to advance the
administration's policies, with a primary focus on poverty.”
The legal standing of
the new agency will be given serious consideration, given Obama’s
statement during the campaign that he disagreed with the Bush policy
that allowed religious groups that receive government money to take
faith into account when make hiring decisions. Also of concern under
Bush was the politicization of the office.
a report from the Washington Post, Obama is also naming a
advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which
will include Jim Wallis, along with the Rev. Joel Hunter, senior
pastor of the megachurch Northland Church in Florida; Rabbi David
Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform
Judaism; the Rev. Frank Page, former president of the conservative
Southern Baptist Convention; and Judith Vredenburgh, president of
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. The council will eventually
have about 20 to 25 members, and about a dozen are expected to be
named tomorrow, and will operate under the Office of Faith-Based and
U. S. News provides a
full list of those named to the Council,
with details about a few of them >>
quotes Joe Conn, spokesman for Americans United for the Separation
of Church and State, as saying that the existence of the advisory
council is neither good nor bad. "For us, the problem is correcting
these civil liberties violations. ... We want to see some actions on
executive orders," he said.
The Miami Herald details more of the objections raised by
Americans United >>
An article by Carrie Budoff Brown, published first on
politico.com, and also posted by
CommonDreams, goes into more depth about the policy-shaping
role that may be expected of the new Council, and some of the
concerns that are being expressed by various observers.
talked in some depth about his understanding of faith and its role
in the civic life of the nation, in his remarks to the National
Prayer Breakfast this morning.
A brief summary, plus
the full text of his remarks, is
posted on the White House website >>
What are your
thoughts about this potentially significant development?
Please send a note, so your hopes and concerns can be
|Obama to the Nation: “Grow
In his inaugural address,
President Obama had a lot to say, most of it pretty sober. There
have been many commentaries on his speech, but E. J. Dionne of the
Washington Post has given one that I find very helpful.
(That’s partly because it’s close to what I’ve been thinking
myself.) He begins:
President Obama intends to use conservative values for progressive
ends. He will cast extreme individualism as an infantile approach to
politics that must be supplanted by a more adult sense of personal
and collective responsibility. He will honor government's role in
our democracy and not degrade it. He wants America to lead the
world, but as much by example as by force.
And in trying to do all these things, he will confuse a lot of
One of the wondrous aspects of Obama's inaugural address is the
extent to which those on the left and those on the right both
claimed our new president as their own.
He goes on to list the values that Obama
proclaimed: "honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance
and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism." Nothing very far out there,
is there? (Well, tolerance and curiosity might be a little on the
edge.) But there’s nothing about the radical “I’ll get mine” ethic
that has undergirded much of the economic and social individualism
of recent decades; nothing about the superiority of U.S. interests
over other nations’.
This is more than just a break from the presidency
of George W. Bush. Dionne suggests that Obama is making a
sharp break with the “Reagan revolution” which held that government
is bad, or at least dangerous unless strictly limited. In its stead,
Obama is calling this nation (which he refers to, bless him, as “the
United States,” rather than “America”) to recover our commitment to
the common welfare, the community, which is a part of our
traditional values that has been sorely missed over the past few
years. And that is not something to blame on Bush; he used our
radical individualism for his own purposes, but he did not create
it. We asked for it. We got it. And now we the people seem to have
decided it’s time for a change.
But the real change, as Obama keeps reminding us,
must come from all of us. Obama and Washington can’t do that big a
job. But Yes, just maybe, we can.
Dionne’s article >>
[You may be asked to register to access this on
the Washington Post website -- but it's free.]
Journal: Scattered Thoughts Over Four Days of History -- by Jim
Wallis of Sojourners
It’s a better
country than I thought it was. I honestly wouldn’t have thought this
possible. I guess I would have agreed with the older generation of
African Americans in my neighborhood: This day would never come in
our lifetimes—but here it is.
For four decades, I’ve been fighting against all
the bad stuff in America—the poverty, the racism, the human rights
violations, and always the wars. At a deeper level, the arrogance,
self-righteousness, materialism, and ignorance of the rest of the
world, the habitual ignoring of the ones that God says we can’t, the
ones Jesus calls the least of these.
From the time I got kicked out of my little white
evangelical church as a young teenager, and plunged into the student
movements of my generation, the issue that drove me was racism. Now
the son of an African immigrant and a Kansas white woman has become
president. I keep pinching myself.
And he talks differently—about almost everything.
I’ve known him for a decade, but I watched him
grow as a leader all through this campaign, and now each day. I have
never met a more self-disciplined political leader, with one
exception—Nelson Mandela. And Mandela had the advantage of 27 years
of spiritual formation in a South African prison.
I am used to White Houses who want to arrest me—22
times over 40 years. This White House wants our advice. Leaders from
the faith community have been virtually inhabiting the offices of
the Transition Team over the last weeks, with our advice being
sought on global and domestic poverty, human rights, criminal
justice, torture, faith-based offices, foreign policy, Gaza and the
Middle East. A staffer joked one day, “We should have just gotten
all of you bunks here.”
I took my two boys to the Opening Ceremony at the
Lincoln Memorial, which I thought was just going to be “a concert.”
But it turned out to be a wonderfully musical civic lesson about the
best of America, the history that has been a shining light to the
world at our best, and one that has attracted the most diverse
population on the earth. I watched my boys watch and listen, and
even felt proud of my country for the first time in a very long
time. Bono and Springsteen weren’t bad either, and Tom Hanks’
reading of Lincoln might have been the high point for me. Everybody
was very happy and even hopeful.
Then on this year’s celebration of the birthday of
Martin Luther King Jr., one day before the inauguration of the
nation’s first black president, one could almost feel the warmth of
Martin’s smile. The freedom fighters of the civil rights movement
who are still with us, like Congressman John Lewis, said that while
the election of Barack Obama wasn’t the fulfillment of King’s dream,
it was, nonetheless, a hefty down payment.
Joy and I were blessed to attend the private
prayer service for the new president that began inauguration day for
Barack and Michelle Obama. Then there was the swearing in, which was
almost unbelievable as the world watched. And then the speech. The
more I listen to it, the better it gets. Here was a leader who
wanted us to face how serious our situation really is. What some
have called the “fake optimism” that often attends such inaugurals
wasn’t there, but rather a serous invitation to make the hard choice
of hope, which has always been the strength of this nation when
facing the most difficult times. And here was a leader who said this
wasn’t really about him, but about us, and what we would decide to
do together. He called for a “new era of responsibility.” And
bridging the polarized left/right debates of the decades, it was
clear that he meant both personal and social responsibility.
Read the speech a few times. But some of the
highlights for me were:
That the national security strategy of Donald
Rumsfeld will now be replaced by the wisdom of the prophet
Micah—that our security depends upon other people’s security.
That the secret governance and detention centers
of Dick Cheney will now be replaced by the rule of law and the
renunciation of torture as not American after all.
That the money changers of the temples of Wall
Street will be replaced with the call of the prophet Nehemiah to
rebuild the broken walls and establish the common good.
And American “manifest destiny” will be replaced
by a new relationship to the world, more characterized by “humility”
(he actually said the word) and leading by American example more
than by American domination.
In concert with and in challenge to the new
president, Joseph Lowery prayed:
Help us then, now , Lord, to work for that day when nation shall
not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into
tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her
own vine and fig tree, and no one shall be afraid; when justice will
roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.
The opportunity that has always been the American
promise must now be extended to all, including those at the bottom
of the economy, said the new president, who also pledged that the
poor of the world would not be abandoned anymore.
To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to
make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish
starved bodies and feed hungry minds.
He also gave a stern warning to the country about
the results of misplaced policies and priorities.
This crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market
can spin out of control. The nation cannot prosper long when it
favors only the prosperous.
Obama sometimes did sound like the prophet
Nehemiah, who after he carefully surveyed the broken walls of the
temple, called the people together to start the rebuilding and to
“commit themselves to the common good.”
Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and
begin again the work of remaking America.
Afterwards, as we were leaving the Capitol, my son
Luke whispered in my ear, “Yes, we did.”
Simply put, these last few days were a moment of
answered prayers for me—the prayers of decades.
Participating in the Presidential Prayer Service
at the National Cathedral was a fitting end to the week’s inaugural
events. Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Hindus stood to pray for the
president as the first family sat just a few feet away.
It was acknowledged that it was time now for the
new president to go to work. And so should the religious community.
Our job now is to offer prayers and support for the new president,
as we did in the Cathedral yesterday. But it will also be our job,
our prophetic religious responsibility in fact, to offer challenge
when necessary, as it certainly will be for this president like all
presidents before him. But I think this president has the capacity
to understand that challenge can be the deepest form of support.
So let our work begin.
|George McGovern urges
calling a time out in Afghanistan
George McGovern, former senator from South Dakota,
and the Democratic nominee for president in 1972, writes in The
As you settle into the
Oval Office, Mr. President, may I offer a suggestion? Please do not
try to put Afghanistan aright with the US military. To send our
troops out of Iraq and into Afghanistan would be a near-perfect
example of going from the frying pan into the fire. There is reason
to believe some of our top military commanders privately share this
view. And so does a broad and growing swath of your party and your
The full article >>
from Great Britain:
'War on terror' was wrong
The phrase gives a false idea of a unified
global enemy, and encourages a primarily military reply
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband writes in
The Guardian, UK:
Seven years on from 9/11 it is clear that we
need to take a fundamental look at our efforts to prevent
extremism and its terrible offspring, terrorist violence. ...
But ultimately, the notion is misleading and mistaken. The issue
is not whether we need to attack the use of terror at its roots,
with all the tools available. We must. The question is how. ...
The more we lump terrorist groups together and
draw the battle lines as a simple binary struggle between
moderates and extremists, or good and evil, the more we play
into the hands of those seeking to unify groups with little in
The "war on terror" also
implied that the correct response was primarily military. But as
General Petraeus said to me and others in Iraq, the coalition
there could not kill its way out of the problems of insurgency
and civil strife. ...
We must respond to terrorism by championing
the rule of law, not subordinating it, for it is the cornerstone
of the democratic society. We must uphold our commitments to
human rights and civil liberties at home and abroad. That is
surely the lesson of Guantánamo and it is why we welcome
President-elect Obama's commitment to close it.
The call for a "war on terror" was a call to
arms, an attempt to build solidarity for a fight against a
single shared enemy. But the foundation for solidarity between
peoples and nations should be based not on who we are against,
but on the idea of who we are and the values we share.
Terrorists succeed when they render countries fearful and
vindictive; when they sow division and animosity; when they
force countries to respond with violence and repression. The
best response is to refuse to be cowed.
The full article >>
orders closing of Guantánamo, end of torture
don’t need to tell you again this good news. But there’s more to be
said and done.
The National Religious
Coalition Against Torture wrote to its membership list
This is a moment for
celebration and thanksgiving. We have all prayed and labored
faithfully for this significant step toward ending U.S.-sponsored
Thank you for all your efforts to help reach this
Is there more to do? Yes!
Along with these sweeping changes in policy, the
executive order created a Special Task Force charged with reviewing
the Army Field Manual's interrogation guidelines to determine
whether "different or additional guidance" is necessary for the CIA.
The Task Force has 180 days to report. We need to make sure that any
new interrogation technique that the Special Task Force recommends
abides by the "Golden Rule" (in other words, each new technique must
be both legal and moral if used upon a captured American).
Please email the White House to thank President
Obama for his action today and to urge him to ensure that any
additional interrogation techniques recommended by the Special Task
Force comply with the principle of the "Golden Rule" – that we will
use only those interrogation techniques that would be considered
moral and legal if used upon a captured American.
Click here to email the White House.
In the coming months we will focus on a
legislative agenda to make permanent the elements of this executive
order by codifying them into law. We will also continue working to
secure a nonpartisan investigation that will provide the critical
information necessary to create effective safeguards against the
future use of torture and allow the nation to decide whether to
pursue criminal prosecutions of those involved in authorizing or
implementing policies that led to the use of torture.
Together, we can build on today's victory and
ensure that our grandchildren will be able to say, "Our nation once
engaged in torture, but we don't do that anymore." May it be so.
Linda Gustitus, President
Rev. Richard Killmer, Executive Director
Also, the Rev. Carol Wickersham of Presbyterian-based
No2 Torture has written to her organization with thanksgiving, but
also a reminder of the need for continued vigilance.
Click here for her note >>
Some blogs worth visiting
Mitch Trigger, PVJ's
Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where
Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and
views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both
personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!
You can post your own news and views,
or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.
for Life" website
Long-time and stimulating blogger John Shuck,
a Presbyterian minister currently
serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton,
Tenn., writes about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized
and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and
Click here for his blog posts.
Click here for podcasts of his radio program, which "explores
the intersection of religion, social justice and public life."
John Harris’ Summit to
Theological and philosophical
reflections on everything between summit to shore, including
kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology,
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens
neighborhood of Ridgewood -- by a progressive New York City
Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon
board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in
Voices of Sophia blog
Heather Reichgott, who has created
this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:
After fifteen years of scholarship
and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the
voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy,
students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers
and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God
in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God
through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through
articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and
Got more blogs to recommend?
send a note, and we'll see what we can do!