Resetting Your Relationship with Politics This Lent

Millennial writer Mike Jordan Laskey has a new article at NCR. He writes:

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about, listening to, and maybe even cursing at presidential candidates this year. I’ve spent precisely zero time praying for them. I can’t imagine the stress and scrutiny they face every day; they’re certainly in need of prayer. Maybe before I read an article about a particular candidate, I can take 10 seconds to pray for him or her. And perhaps that practice will help me grow more charitable toward all the candidates, including those I really can’t stand. The negativity in politics begins with me….

This refocusing could lead us to some politics-related almsgiving, too. Myopic attention to the national race can distract us from the fact that so much of politics is local. Often, the best efforts to work for the common good take place in individual cities and towns. What community organization near you is practicing politics in the best sense of the word? Maybe it’s a social action group fighting for a living wage for all workers, or a Catholic Charities agency that is welcoming and resettling refugees in your area. Consider choosing one that interests you and contribute some money or time before Easter.

This year’s Super Tuesday is March 1 — about halfway through Lent. It’s a great opportunity to pause and see if election season is helping or hindering our journey toward Easter.

You can read the full article here.

 


Around the Web (Part 2)

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Economic Inequality: Can Theology Say Something New? by Kate Ward: “In my view, a good deal of advocacy around inequality, including that of religious leaders, avoids one of the more important questions we should be asking: how does inequality affect our moral formation? For many of us, it’s easy to find common cause with those who are like us and more difficult to feel empathy for others who we may perceive as more distant. This adds urgency to the question of whether it matters if, for example, a CEO earns 100 times or 100,000 times what her lowest-paid employees do, even supposing the employees earn a living wage. Do we really think vastly different living standards have no impact on our ability to form solidarity with one another?”

In Lebanon, Syrian refu­gee children find safety from war but new dangers on the streets by Loveday Morris: “The United Nations announced that Lebanon registered its millionth Syrian refugee on Thursday, making the tiny country — which had a population of just over 4 million before the Syrian war — home to the highest concentration of refugees in the world. Among the most visible representatives of that influx and the impact of the Syrian war on Lebanon’s capital are children such as Mohammed, who fled the violence and ended up here, selling flowers, tissues, chewing gum or shoeshines on the streets of Beirut.”

Finding ‘Mercy’ in daily life by Gail Finke: “Yes, it’s funny (“In which I get locked out of the church while trying to help people into it”) and sad and thought-provoking and inspirational. If you take even one thing away from this book, you’ll be a better person and a better Catholic. But you’ll take away a lot more than one.”

On Coates v. Chait by Ross Douthat: “You don’t have to regard morality as at the seat of all our troubles to recognize that it’s intertwined with some of them; you don’t have to write off public policy to concede that there are ills that policy alone can’t solve; you don’t have to ignore structural disadvantages to recognize the importance of asserting individual agency — saying ”there are things under our control that we’ve got to attend to …,” as the president has put it — in the face of collective difficulty.”

Facts, Propaganda and Libertarianism by Michael Sean Winters: “Any thoughtful Catholic has sufficient difficulties with liberalism, all of which tend to wish it were less individualistic, less focused on human autonomy, less redolent of rights apart from correlative responsibilities. Libertarianism wants to pull liberalism in the opposite direction, removing even the few checks on unfettered license that liberalism supplies.”

Shifting the Focus: Objectification, Porn and the Longing for Belonging by Leah Perrault: “Objectification and depersonalization are natural consequences of porn, but I don’t think that the average porn user, at least at the beginning, is aiming for those consequences as a primary goal. The appeal of porn, and eventually the compulsion or addiction, isn’t about the (often female) body, person or sexual appeal. It’s about the longing, fear and/or compulsion in the viewer.”

Opinion: Forget Ukraine, Syria is now the world’s biggest threat by Simon Tisdal: “Al-Assad’s continued survival as Syria’s head of state is an egregious affront to the U.N. Security Council and its various related Syria resolutions, to the U.N. charter, to international law, and specifically to international war crimes legislation. Al-Assad stands accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity, not least over the use by his forces of chemical weapons against civilian populations. But once again, nothing much is done, and the credibility of such institutions and laws suffers as a result. The moral example set by such dereliction is shocking.”

To prevent another Rwanda, all it takes is a few well-trained troops by David Blair: “Gen Dallaire’s searing memoir of those 100 blood-soaked days, Shake Hands with the Devil, contains a lesson of eternal relevance. This distinguished Canadian soldier offers his professional assessment that a mere 4,000 trained troops, entrusted with a mandate allowing the use of force to protect civilians, could have stopped the genocide in its tracks. For want of a handful of soldiers, 800,000 people died.”

Crisis and Need in the Central African Republic by Allen Ottaro: “Father Mombe shared an overview of the history of the conflict in his country, efforts by churches and faith communities to end the violence and initiate reconciliation, and his personal experience of the conflict in the capital city, Bangui, in December 2013.”


Millennial Editor Robert Christian in U.S. Catholic: : Becoming children of the light

Millennial editor Robert Christian has a new article at U.S. Catholic, the latest installment in their series of Lenten reflections. He asks:

Will Pope Francis be a cool dude who millennials simply admire from afar and see as affirming their existing beliefs or will he be someone that inspires us to fundamentally change the way we see ourselves and the way we live?

He goes on to write:

Lent is the perfect time to strip away the ephemeral and unreal, to free ourselves of the objects and habits that block our path to communion with God and others. It is the perfect time to become children of the light: radiating goodness, truth, and righteousness, spreading joy and hope, and bearing witness to the God of love. And by turning from the darkness, we might help others to see the Way by reflecting the light of Christ’s illuminating presence and redeeming love.

The full article can be read here.

Lent is the perfect time to strip away the ephemeral and unreal, to free ourselves of the objects and habits that block our path to communion with God and others. It is the perfect time to become children of the light: radiating goodness, truth, and righteousness, spreading joy and hope, and bearing witness to the God of love. And by turning from the darkness, we might help others to see the Way by reflecting the light of Christ’s illuminating presence and redeeming love. – See more at: http://www.uscatholic.org/articles/201403/week-our-becoming-children-light-28690#sthash.4blUSUB8.dpuf
Will Pope Francis be a cool dude who millennials simply admire from afar and see as affirming their existing beliefs or will he be someone that inspires us to fundamentally change the way we see ourselves and the way we live? – See more at: http://www.uscatholic.org/articles/201403/week-our-becoming-children-light-28690#sthash.4blUSUB8.dpuf
Will Pope Francis be a cool dude who millennials simply admire from afar and see as affirming their existing beliefs or will he be someone that inspires us to fundamentally change the way we see ourselves and the way we live? – See more at: http://www.uscatholic.org/articles/201403/week-our-becoming-children-light-28690#sthash.4blUSUB8.dpuf
Will Pope Francis be a cool dude who millennials simply admire from afar and see as affirming their existing beliefs or will he be someone that inspires us to fundamentally change the way we see ourselves and the way we live? – See more at: http://www.uscatholic.org/articles/201403/week-our-becoming-children-light-28690#sthash.4blUSUB8.dpuf
Will Pope Francis be a cool dude who millennials simply admire from afar and see as affirming their existing beliefs or will he be someone that inspires us to fundamentally change the way we see ourselves and the way we live? – See more at: http://www.uscatholic.org/articles/201403/week-our-becoming-children-light-28690#sthash.4blUSUB8.dpuf
Will Pope Francis be a cool dude who millennials simply admire from afar and see as affirming their existing beliefs or will he be someone that inspires us to fundamentally change the way we see ourselves and the way we live? – See more at: http://www.uscatholic.org/articles/201403/week-our-becoming-children-light-28690#sthash.4blUSUB8.dpuf
Will Pope Francis be a cool dude who millennials simply admire from afar and see as affirming their existing beliefs or will he be someone that inspires us to fundamentally change the way we see ourselves and the way we live? – See more at: http://www.uscatholic.org/articles/201403/week-our-becoming-children-light-28690#sthash.4blUSUB8.dpuf
Will Pope Francis be a cool dude who millennials simply admire from afar and see as affirming their existing beliefs or will he be someone that inspires us to fundamentally change the way we see ourselves and the way we live? – See more at: http://www.uscatholic.org/articles/201403/week-our-becoming-children-light-28690#sthash.4blUSUB8.dpuf
Will Pope Francis be a cool dude who millennials simply admire from afar and see as affirming their existing beliefs or will he be someone that inspires us to fundamentally change the way we see ourselves and the way we live? – See more at: http://www.uscatholic.org/articles/201403/week-our-becoming-children-light-28690#sthash.4blUSUB8.dpuf


Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

A Nation of Takers? by Nicholas Kristof: “However imperfectly, subsidies for the poor do actually reduce hunger, ease suffering and create opportunity, while subsidies for the rich result in more private jets and yachts. Would we rather subsidize opportunity or yachts? Which kind of subsidies deserve more scrutiny?”

The pope’s message to the president by EJ Dionne: “But the pope’s main job is to pose a radical challenge to our complacency and social indifference. In doing so, he should stir an uneasiness that compels all of us — and that includes Obama — to examine our consciences.”

There are many reasons why Assad is stronger than ever by Michael Young: “A closely-related strategy pursued by the Assad regime has been to allow religious or political extremism to proliferate, in such a way as to portray itself as a foe of the extremists. This it has done in the Syrian conflict, releasing jihadists from prison, putting much less military pressure on them than on the more moderate opposition, and allowing them to control oil-rich areas to finance themselves. The objective has, again, been two-fold: to create dissension within opposition ranks and provoke conflict between opposition groups; and to entice Western public opinion into believing the Al Assads are a barrier against extremism, therefore should not be overthrown.”

Three refreshing gifts of Lent by Robert J. Wicks: “Don’t miss this Lent. Greater inner freedom, a richer sense of compassion, and a deeper sense of our relationship with God are waiting.”

Smuggled, Trafficked, Violated by Nicholas Sawicki: “Whether they’re sold as child sex slaves, harvested for organs, or forced into farm labor, the denial of  the basic human right to freedom for millions is a sad reality that our society has to deal with today.”

Closed City by John Carr: “Washington is not corrupted by secret gifts, but by the legal purchase of access and influence that come with endless fundraising and politics as usual.”

Burma’s Muslims Are Facing Incredibly Harsh Curbs on Marriage, Childbirth and Religion by Time: “Proposed regulations will restrict religious conversions, make it illegal for Buddhist women to marry Muslim men, place limits on the number of children Muslims can have and outlaw polygamy, which is permitted in Islam. More than 1.3 million signatures have reportedly been gathered in support of this plan, which is spearheaded by a group of extremist Buddhist monks and their lay supporters.”

Ukrainian Catholics flee Crimea to escape threats of arrest by CNS: “Members of the Ukrainian Catholic Church are fleeing Crimea to escape threats of arrest and property seizures, a priest told Catholic News Service just four days after Russia finalized the region’s annexation.”

Political skills for divine purposes by Michael Gerson: “Francis has a feel for powerful symbols of simplicity, humility and compassion, such as carrying his own suitcase, washing the feet of Muslim prisoners, inviting the homeless to his birthday party, touching the disfigured. In this case, old Coke is pretty old — the example of a wandering preacher who touched lepers and consorted with a variety of sinners and outcasts. As in that ancient example, Francis has combined traditional moral teachings with a scandalous belief that people are ultimately more important than rules.”

Under a Barrel by Lama Fakih: “These unguided, high-explosive bombs — which are cheaply produced locally and filled with explosives, scrap metal, nails, or other material to enhance fragmentation — are pushed out of helicopters, dropped on densely populated areas by the Syrian army. Used in this way, the bombs are incapable of distinguishing between civilians and combatants, making the attacks unlawful under international humanitarian law.”

The Very Real Prospect of Genocide in Burma by Romeo Dallaire: “The international community must take early preventive action now in order to reverse Burma’s current trend towards catastrophe and possibly genocide.”

Shadowed by Tragedy by Kerry Weber: “Rwanda is a country that longs to be known for something other than the genocide, and over the past 20 years, the nation’s government has worked hard to replace that reputation with a more positive one. In many ways, it has succeeded. Rwanda has made dramatic advances and now ranks among the cleanest, safest and least corrupt countries in Africa. Yet its deepest wound is one that cannot be healed by superficial changes.”


Lent is not a self-help program

Morning Prayer at Bread for the World on Friday was about connecting to the heart of Lent.  I often find it useful to remind myself of why the Church began to practice Lent each time the season gets underway.  It’s NOT about losing a few pounds, or a time to kill bad habits, or even helping us to gain self-control over sins and failings.

In short, Lent is NOT a self-help program.

Lent is about GOD helping us.

In every aspect of our prayer, our alms, and our fasting we are reminded of this reality.

  • Our prayer connects us to God: the source of our being and the sustainer of life. By giving space to an awareness of God, the door of our heart is opened to God’s grace and transforming love.
  • Our alms remind us how dependent each of us is upon the gracious gifts we have been given by God, and by our neighbor, and unite us with the God who is by very nature an image of self-gifting.
  • Our fasting reminds us that one does not live on bread alone, but that our lives are always gifted and sustained by God.

Lent is the place where we recognize that we can’t do it alone. We struggle to be faithful in simple things. We fail. We are in need of help.

In spite of our weakness, however, we are called to lift up the name of God in prayer.
In spite of our weakness, we are called to lift up one another in acts of service and love.
In spite of our weakness, we are called to imitate Christ who fasted for us.

How can we, who are so weak, hope to do these things? God has chosen to join us in our weakness, even to the point of becoming weak Himself.

On Friday, my colleagues and I joined in singing “I Need Thee Every Hour.” I had never thought of it as a Lenten song before, but it fits so well. Take a moment to listen to this creative and beautiful rendition, and think about how this perspective might deepen your Lenten journey this year.