Divisive Partisan Prayer and a Better Role for Faith in the Public Square

Millennial writer Daniel DiLeo has a new article at Political Theology Today. He writes:

“Father God, in the name of Jesus, Lord we’re so thankful for the life of Donald Trump. We’re thankful that you are guiding him, that you are giving him the words to unite this party, this country, that we together can defeat the liberal Democratic Party, to keep us divided and not united.” These are the words that Pastor Mark Burns used in his benediction to open the 2016 Republican National Convention.

Following his prayer, Pastor Burns was excoriated by politicians, pundits, and citizens from across the political spectrum for his ideological and divisive use of religion. Yahoo News senior editor Amy Sullivan described Pastor Burns’s benediction as “the most explicitly partisan prayer heard at a major party convention in modern times,” and as a person of faith I echo the condemnations of Pastor Burns’s perverse invocation of religion….

The case that religion should be kept out of the public square is inconsistent with the Catholic, Christian vocation of “scrutinizing the signs of the times and interpreting them in the light of the Gospel,” as the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes describes (#4). In particular, the case against religion in public is averse to public theology which, as advocated by figures like David Hollenbach and Michael J. and Kenneth R. Himes, is the discipline by which believers seek to shape public discourse and policy through appeals to Christian texts and teachings.

In light of the legal and theological justifications for the presence of religion in public, what might Christians do to appropriately bring their faith into the public square? In my opinion, Christians should take at least four steps.

First, Christians should avoid what H.R. Niebuhr calls the “Christ of Culture” type of social engagement and instead employ the “Christ the Transformer of Culture” model. The former works to demonstrate how Christianity is wholly harmonious with popular culture, and in so doing employs a shape-shifting theology which makes unorthodox adaptations as necessary and fails to prophetically challenge society (on my reading, Pastor Burns’s benediction was implicitly animated by the “Christ of Culture” model). In contrast, “Christ the Transformer of Culture” seeks to help shape society into an entity that enables God’s love to flourish for all, and is arguably the mode of social action for which Gaudium et Spes calls.

You can read the the full article here.

Donald Trump is a Threat to Free Democracy

The prospect of Donald Trump as President of the United States is the greatest threat to free democracy on the planet today. His consistent praise of dictators and refusal to condemn anti-democratic crackdowns should be troubling to anyone who supports the norms and institutions of American democracy. Would he curtail the freedom of the press? Would he respect constitutional limits on his power? Would he punish enemies extra-constitutionally? These are disturbing questions to ponder, but his rhetoric should place these concerns at the center of this election.

But the global impact of a potential Trump presidency is even more frightening. If Trump is elected president, the US will no longer be the leader of the free world (a role that it has played, albeit imperfectly, since WWII). Trump is open to abandoning NATO partners if they are attacked. This is essentially an invitation to further Russian aggression. The entire architecture of the postwar order is threatened by this position and this man. The possibility of massive global unrest, from land-grabbing invasions to nuclear proliferation to even a third world war, would rise precipitously with his election. His ‘America First’ approach marks a return to the dangerous approach of 1930s isolationists. There is a reason this man has widespread support from brutal dictators and neo-fascists; he would greatly strengthen the forces of authoritarianism and totalitarianism around the world.

If one believes in freedom, democracy, and human rights; if one values human security, international order, and peace through strength and unity; and if one acknowledges the responsibility of the United States to work for these aims, one must see this presidency-seeking reality TV star as an absolute menace.

Trump is not an ordinary candidate for the presidency. He is (hopefully) a once-in-a-lifetime threat to American ideals and the critical commitments we have to people around the world. Those who are committed to the global common good should be clear: we need a commander-in-chief who will not coddle dictators, invite unjust aggression, and open the door to global chaos.


Pro-life Democrats Hit Back at Democratic Platform’s Extremism on Abortion

13599899_1144580945562241_64976429325294662_nvia Jacob Lupfer:

The platform Democratic convention delegates will adopt in Philadelphia later this month will be more pro-choice than ever before, ceding even less to Americans who oppose abortion rights or have moral concerns about the procedure.

Upon learning that the Platform Committee called for eliminating the Hyde Amendment, a legislative procedure that generally prohibits Medicaid from funding elective abortions, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said, “That’s crazy.” Manchin cited the fact that most Democrats in West Virginia disagree with federal funding for abortions, as do most Americans.

Via The Hill:

Sen. Bob Casey Jr., a Democrat from Pennsylvania who opposes abortion, was concerned enough about the change to write a letter to the platform committee urging members to reconsider.

“This is a consensus-based policy that has, for many years, prohibited the use of federal funds to pay for abortion,” Casey wrote in a letter sent Friday to the platform committee and obtained by The Hill.

He said the Hyde Amendment recognizes “that many Americans remain morally opposed to abortion, and do not wish to see their tax dollars go to pay for abortion.”…

Representatives for two other prominent anti-abortion Democratic senators confirmed to The Hill on Monday that they were opposed to their party platform’s proposal to repeal the Hyde Amendment.

“Senator Donnelly has long supported and continues to support the Hyde Amendment, and as a pro-life Senator believes all life is sacred,” said Sarah Rothschild, spokeswoman for Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.).

Via Michael O’Loughlin:

After an unsuccessful effort to get delegates to amend the platform language on abortion before it goes to a full vote in Philadelphia, which included an online petition, Day said she will urge party leaders to look beyond winning the White House.

“You can’t rely on the White House to pass things like paid leave, or Medicaid for all, or increased access to health care, or a minimum wage increase,” she told America, referring to other issues she believes are important to the pro-life cause. “You can’t pass any of those things when you have Republican majorities in the rest of the country. You can’t just rely on the White House, and that’s what we’re doing right now.”

Day pointed to substantial Democratic losses at the state and national levels following the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which contained provisions to increase access to contraception, including methods church leaders consider abortifacients. “We can’t pass more laws to support pregnant women and working families and protect this ‘Whole Life’ point of view if we’re in the minority,” she said. “In swing districts, the pro-life vote can make a difference.”

During the convention, Day’s group will unveil a report that she said shows that the party’s extreme views on abortion are out of touch with most of the U.S. electorate and is thus harming progressive goals.

The Real Scandal at the Republican Convention is Racism, Not Plagiarism

Millennial co-founder Christopher Hale has a new article at Time. He writes:

The politics of exclusion were in full force at the convention Monday night as the party aroused the concerns of white Americans with three populations that they think threaten American security and prosperity: immigrants from Latin America, Muslim refugees from the Middle East and “militant” blacks in American cities.

At a panel discussion on MSNBC Monday, Representative Steve King, a Trump supporter, questioned whether nonwhite people had contributed much to society:

I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out, where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you’re talking about, where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?…

During the lifted portion of Melania’s speech, she said: “From a young age, my parents impressed on me the values that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise; that you treat people with respect. They taught and showed me values and morals in their daily life.”

If only Donald Trump and his campaign had learned the same lesson.

The 21st Century Angelus Bells

I have always been enamored by the Angelus.  It’s one of my favorite prayers, although I don’t pray it as often as I should.  It is short, but so much is contained within it.

It is also the history of the prayer that attracts me, and particularly the relevance the prayer had in Ireland, my ancestral homeland.  When the Angelus bells from the local parish would ring out, everyone would stop what they were doing, drop to their knees, and pray this wonderful devotion commemorating the Incarnation.

Coming from a family of tradesmen, I have this image of work crews putting down their hammers at the first peal of the bell, and the foreman leading the rest: “The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary…”  Or, more likely, a couple of peasant farmers would end their workday by praying over their harvest of potatoes when the bells rang out.  Even today, TV and radio stations in the Emerald Isle sound chimes in the morning, at midday, and before the evening news to remind listeners to pray.

I, living an ocean and almost a century away from my last ancestor there, don’t have a TV and am far more likely to listen to a podcast than I am to the radio.  There is no bell tower within earshot of my home or office, and I am not holding my breath waiting for my boss to lead us in prayer.

What I do have, however, is a smart phone and the Pope’s new app, Click to Pray.  Three times a day, in between notifications from ESPN and pictures of whatever cute new thing my niece and nephew are doing, my phone buzzes to remind me to pray.  I have it set to go off at 10 a.m., once I am settled in at work, at 3:00 when I am usually in need of a distraction, and at 7:00 at night once I am home.

As the app is a 21st century project of the Apostleship of Prayer, now known as the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, the morning prompts often ask you to offer your day for the Holy Father’s monthly intention.  The afternoon provides an inspirational quotation, and in the evening you review your day and ask for the grace to live out the next one in greater accord with God’s will.

There are additional features as well where you can post your own requests for prayers, or pray for others.  Then, once you do, you don’t “like” the prayer.  You “click to pray,” and see how many people around the world are praying with and for you.

This is actually the second new media initiative from the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network.  The first, The Pope Video, harkens back to the original purpose of the Apostleship, praying for the Holy Father’s intentions.  Instead of simply seeing a few words written in the parish bulletin or Columbia magazine, you see a professionally done video with Pope Francis himself speaking about the issue and asking you to pray for it.

With all the time I spend watching nonsense, sports highlights, and how-to videos on YouTube, there is no way I can’t find 90 seconds to listen to Pope Francis.  He speaks in Spanish in the videos, which are uploaded to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube on the first Friday of each month, but subtitles ensure you don’t miss anything.

I don’t have a perfect record with the Click to Pray.  Many times the app will buzz but I will be in the middle of something else, and I’ll forget about it.  I do, however, pray far more often than I otherwise would without the app.  Perhaps if my phone buzzes enough, and I respond to it enough, I may actually become the handmaid of the Lord.


The House Passes the Conscience Protection Act

Via CNS:

In a bipartisan 245-182 vote, House members July 13 passed the Conscience Protection Act, which would provide legal protection to doctors, nurses, hospitals and all health care providers who choose not to provide abortions as part of their health care practice….

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other supporters of the Conscience Protection Act say it close several loopholes in current law that they say are allowing states to mandate abortions be performed or covered by Catholic and other faith-based hospitals and health care providers.

In 2014, California began demanding that all health plans under its Department of Managed Health Care cover elective abortions. The state allows no exemption of any kind. In a ruling issued June 21 of this year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said the state can “continue forcing all health plans under its jurisdiction to cover elective abortions, including late-term abortions.”

Like California, New York state is mandating that all health insurers operating in New York require small-group employers — including faith-based nonprofits and Christian businesses — to cover all abortions with no exemption.


Slain Baton Rouge Officer Montrell Jackson’s Heartfelt Message

via CNN:

Four days after the police-involved shooting of Alton Sterling turned his city upside down, sending ripple effects nationwide, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Police officer Montrell Jackson issued a plea to the embattled community and vowed to do his part to help it heal….One week later, on Sunday, Jackson’s life was cut short in a shootout that left three officers dead and three more injured, law enforcement said.

It’s a message that reflects the difficult times facing the city, country, and world in 2016, and it is resonating with people from all walks of life who are looking for hope in the face of violence and division.