On Syria, Silence Never Again

Many Christians in the United States and throughout the globe have tried to excuse Bashar al-Assad’s tyrannical rule of Syria because he claims to be protecting Christian minorities from terrorists in the region.

But let’s be clear: he’s using Christians as a political shield to deflect attention from his widespread violence and murderous campaign against his own people.

Let’s not mince words here: the violence the Assad regime has inflicted on the children of Aleppo these past few days is a total affront to our God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We must do everything in our power to make sure the politicians in Washington are paying attention to the greatest wartime assault on human dignity in recent world history.

Silence never again.


Christians Must Resist Trump’s Rumored Muslim Registry

I’ve been invited to be a part of the president-elect’s meeting with faith leaders during his transition where he will seek our counsel.

During his victory speech, Donald Trump said he wanted to be a President for everyone.

If he’s serious about that, he should immediately withdraw his proposals to ban Muslims and to deport 11 million people.

There’s nothing that matters more to me than my faith in Jesus Christ, so if Mr. Trump decides to register or round up Muslims, a step he may be considering, I’ll proudly declare: “I am a Muslim.”

I think every Christian living in the United States—no matter who they voted for—should vow to do the same.


Stop Pretending Trump is a Strong Ambassador for Christian Values

Today on Fox News, I debated Donald Trump’s evangelical advisor.

Though he argued that Trump has been transformed since he recently “gave his life to Christ,” I argued that his behavior doesn’t show it.

This is a man who praises a dictator and calls the pope a “disgrace.”

This is a man who mocks the disabled, belittles veterans, and bans Muslims.

After being accused of multiple instances of sexual assault, Trump denied the charges this week saying that the women “weren’t attractive enough” to assault.

This is a man who thinks belittling and shaming women makes him bigger.

This is a man who told the nation last night that he’s too proud to accept losing a free and fair election in the world’s oldest democratic republic.

You can vote for Trump, but you shouldn’t do so by pretending he’s a strong ambassador for faith values.

Because time and again, he shows that the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson are true: “who you are screams so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you say.”

You can watch the video here:

14720356_10207370634853387_8582210256161149787_n


How do the VP Candidates Differ on Religious Issues?

You can check out my Fox News debate with Donald Trump’s Catholic advisor Matt Smith on tonight’s Vice Presidential debate here:

14595733_10207240408757816_7697264173887345617_n

Drawing on my recent experiences on the border of Syria and Lebanon, I challenged his suggestion that Mike Pence’s position of rejecting Syrian was well within the Catholic moral framework.

Let’s set the record straight: that’s absolute malarkey.

Syrian refugees aren’t pawns on the chessboard of humanity. They’re children, women, and men who are victims of violence and war. We are called by God to listen to their stories, to share in their joys and anxieties, and to welcome them into our communities.


Hillary Clinton on Working With Mother Teresa

The gridlock in our political system stands as a serious obstacle to the common good. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton recently shared a story about working with Mother Teresa, while noting that they disagreed on other subjects. This serves as a good reminder that if people are willing to find common ground, even if they disagree on important issues like abortion, they can come together and make a difference in people’s lives:


Pope Francis the Feminist?

For a candidate who is often criticized for dodging controversial topics, Hillary Clinton gave a clear verdict on a thorny topic this week: “of course you can be a feminist and be pro-life,” she said on ABC’s The View on Monday.

The statement might have sent chills up the back of Hillary’s supporters at Emily’s List and NARAL, but such a full-throated defense of the pro-life feminist tradition was welcomed by many.

If Hillary Clinton thinks pro-lifers can be feminists, one has to wonder if the Democratic frontrunner would be willing to say the same about the Pope Francis, the dynamic Argentinian leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.

It’s hard to argue otherwise after Pope Francis’ latest groundbreaking document, Amoris Laetitia (Latin for Joy of Love) was released yesterday. In the roughly 260-page exhortation, Francis called on the Church take up a new way of relating to modern men and women, particularly in regards to family life, love, and human sexuality.

The headlines zeroed in on the pope’s statements regarding divorced and remarried couples and his latest commentary regarding the LGBT community. Below the radar, however, were Francis’ words on the progress of women’s rights:

Even though significant advances have been made in the recognition of women’s rights and their participation in public life, in some countries much remains to be done to promote these rights. Unacceptable customs still need to be eliminated.

However, even bolder were Francis’ strong condemnations of those who blame today’s societal woes on the women’s liberation movement:

There are those who believe that many of today’s problems have arisen because of feminine emancipation. This argument, however, is not valid, “it is false, untrue, a form of male chauvinism.” The equal dignity of men and women makes us rejoice to see old forms of discrimination disappear, and within families there is a growing reciprocity. If certain forms of feminism have arisen which we must consider inadequate, we must nonetheless see in the women’s movement the working of the Spirit for a clearer recognition of the dignity and rights of women.

Ironically, some of the strongest criticisms of the feminist movement have come from Catholic leaders. As theologian Megan McCabe notes:

Catholic teaching on gender upholds gender complementarity, which maintains that men and women have distinct roles, even characteristics, grounded in their biological sex. For example, St. John Paul II’s “Mulieris Dignitatem” framed femininity as linked to motherhood, which is necessarily compassionate and nurturing, regardless of whether or not an individual woman is actually a mother. One consequence has been that mainstream feminism has often been viewed as suspect in Catholic circles because it seeks to modify gendered roles in families and is seen at the popular level to be synonymous with sexual liberation. While Pope Francis does not reject complementarity, he begins to move this conversation in a new direction.

While Francis rejects that idea that gender is the result of social construction alone, he doesn’t mince his words against gender stereotypes and their limiting nature, writing, “masculinity and femininity are not rigid categories.”

He continues:

It is possible, for example, that a husband’s way of being masculine can be flexibly adapted to the wife’s work schedule. Taking on domestic chores or some aspects of raising children does not make him any less masculine or imply failure, irresponsibility or cause for shame. Children have to be helped to accept as normal such healthy “exchanges” which do not diminish the dignity of the father figure. A rigid approach turns into an overaccentuation of the masculine or feminine, and does not help children and young people to appreciate the genuine reciprocity incarnate in the real conditions of matrimony. Such rigidity, in turn, can hinder the development of an individual’s abilities, to the point of leading him or her to think, for example, that it is not really masculine to cultivate art or dance, or not very feminine to exercise leadership. This, thank God, has changed, but in some places deficient notions still condition the legitimate freedom and hamper the authentic development.

It’s hard to overstate what a monumental shift this is for the Catholic Church on issues on sex and gender identity. This is altogether different in kind from what Church leaders were teaching just a few years ago.

But this too is a remarkable shift for Pope Francis. Though he’s considered a pioneer on many issues regarding faith and morality, Francis has faced harsh criticism for some of his clumsy statements on women.

As journalist David Gibson noted in December 2014, “When he speaks about women, Francis can sound a lot like the (almost) 78-year-old Argentine churchman that he is, using analogies that sound alternately condescending and impolitic, even if well-intentioned.” One of his worst moments was earlier that month, when he tried to compliment leading female theologians by calling them “strawberries on the cake.”

Francis has said the Church must enter a period of discernment regarding how it relates to issues of family life, love, and sex. Clearly Francis has learned a lot in his discernment.

Thank God for that.