Suffrage, Civil Rights, and the LGBT Debate

The issue of LGBT rights should be seen in the same light as women’s suffrage and civil rights. We are all God’s children, equal in the sight of God. We should all be equal under the laws of our nation and states, as well. Would anyone advocate taking away a woman’s right to vote? Would anyone advocate going back to Jim Crow laws?

At the heart of the conservative Christians’ argument is something called conscience or values. Well, what’s wrong with you worrying about your conscience, and me worrying about mine, without either of us trampling on the rights of the other.

Throughout history, calls for social change and equality have been nothing more than a group of people asking for fair and equal treatment. White, protestant, heterosexual males take all their rights for granted. Women, minorities, people of other faiths and sexual identities have to claw and fight for equal treatment. Why is that?

Trump’s latest LGBTQ slight

LA Times Opinion – July 28, 2019

President Trump’s outrageous claim Wednesday that transgender service members were a burden on the nation was crude and simplistic, and it seemed to catch the Pentagon by surprise.

By contrast, the friend-of-the-court brief filed by Justice Department lawyers in a gay man’s employment discrimination lawsuit was detailed and dispassionate. Yet it, too, belies Trump’s campaign assurances that he cares about “our LGBTQ citizens.”

The U.S. government isn’t a party to the lawsuit brought by the late Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor who said he was fired after he revealed that he was gay. He sued his former employer under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination because of “sex” — which the plaintiff argued covers discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. A district judge and an appeals panel disagreed, and now the case is before the full 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission shares Zarda’s view of the law. But the Trump Justice Department took the contrary position in its brief. “Any efforts to amend Title VII’s scope,” the brief said, “should be directed to Congress rather than the courts.”

It’s true that in 1964, few if any members of Congress were thinking about discrimination against gay men and lesbians. It’s also true that until recently, courts did not interpret “sex discrimination” to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

But, as the Supreme Court has recognized, the meaning of sex discrimination can evolve. For example, in 1998 the high court ruled in favor of a male oil-rig worker who alleged that he had been the target of sexually oriented touching and threats from male co-workers — even though the Congress that enacted Title VII wasn’t primarily concerned with “male-on-male sexual harassment.”

Citing that decision (and others), the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled earlier this year that discrimination on the basis of “sex” did include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The court explained that, over the years, “Title VII has been understood to cover far more than the simple decision of an employer not to hire a woman for Job A, or a man for Job B.” For example, the law has been interpreted to forbid hiring decisions based on gender stereotypes. Extending that principle, the 7th Circuit held that refusing to promote the plaintiff in that case because she was a lesbian was punishing her for the “ultimate case of failure to conform to the female stereotype.”

Ultimately, the Supreme Court must decide whether the 7th Circuit’s interpretation is correct; we found it persuasive. But the Trump administration’s rush to insist that the law doesn’t protect gays and lesbians — in a case in which the federal government is not even involved — is deeply disappointing.

equal rights

Nun ministering to transgender women gets thumbs-up from Pope

by Inés San Martín

July 25, 2017

ROME- Even during the summer, when Pope Francis has a much more private profile, the energizer bunny of popes is far from being inactive. This year, for instance, he took the time to answer an email from Sister Monica Astorga, a Discalced Carmelite nun who works with transgender women in his native Argentina, helping them get out of prostitution and substance abuse.

Astorga wrote an email to Francis last Thursday, to update him on the new developments in the ministry she does in the southern Argentine province of Neuquen. It didn’t take long for her to hear back from the pope: She told Crux his answer came in the next day, on Friday.

Astorga had written to the pope to inform him that the city had given her a plot of public land, where she planned to build 15 one-room homes for the transgender women she works with.

Read the full article here.

About the featured photo: Sister Monica Astorga with some of the transgender women she works with. (Credit: Sister Mónica Astorga/Facebook.)

How the social gospel movement explains the roots of today’s religious left

by Christopher H. Evans, Boston University

Throughout American history, religion has played a significant role in promoting social reform. From the abolitionist movement of the early 19th century to the civil rights movement of the 20th century, religious leaders have championed progressive political causes.

This legacy is evident today in the group called religious progressives, or the religious left.

The social gospel movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as I have explored in my research, has had a particularly significant impact on the development of the religious left.

What is the social gospel movement and why does it matter today?

What was the social gospel?

The social gospel’s origins are often traced to the rise of late 19th-century urban industrialization, immediately following the Civil War. Largely, but not exclusively, rooted in Protestant churches, the social gospel emphasized how Jesus’ ethical teachings could remedy the problems caused by “Gilded Age” capitalism.

Movement leaders took Jesus’ message “love thy neighbor” into pulpits, published books and lectured across the country. Other leaders, mostly women, ran settlement houses designed to alleviate the sufferings of immigrants living in cities like Boston, New York and Chicago. Their mission was to draw attention to the problems of poverty and inequality – especially in America’s growing cities.

Charles Sheldon, a minister in the city of Topeka, Kansas, explained the idea behind the social gospel in his 1897 novel “In His Steps.” To be a Christian, he argued, one needed to walk in Jesus’s footsteps.

The book’s slogan, “What would Jesus do?” became a central theme of the social gospel movement which also became tied to a belief in what Ohio minister Washington Gladden called “social salvation.” This concept emphasized that religion’s fundamental purpose was to create systemic changes in American political structures.

Consequently, social gospel leaders supported legislation for an eight-hour work day, the abolition of child labor and government regulation of business monopolies.

While the social gospel produced many important figures, its most influential leader was a Baptist minister, Walter Rauschenbusch.

The legacy of Walter Rauschenbusch

Rauschenbusch began his career in the 1880s as minister of an immigrant church in the Hell’s Kitchen section of New York. His 1907 book, “Christianity and the Social Crisis” asserted that religion’s chief purpose was to create the highest quality of life for all citizens.

Walter Rauschenbusch.

Rauschenbusch linked Christianity to emerging theories of democratic socialism which, he believed, would lead to equality and a just society.

Rauschenbusch’s writings had a major impact on the development of the religious left in the 20th century. After World War I, several religious leaders expanded upon his ideas to address issues of economic justice, racism and militarism.

Among them was A.J. Muste, known as the “American Gandhi,” who helped popularize the tactics of nonviolent direct action. His example inspired many mid-20th century activists, including Martin Luther King Jr.

The intellectual influences on King were extensive. However, it was Rauschenbusch who first made King aware of faith-based activism. As King wrote in 1958,

“It has been my conviction ever since reading Rauschenbusch that any religion which professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the social and economic conditions that scar the soul, is a spiritually moribund religion only waiting for the day to be buried.”

Social salvation and the religious left today

King’s statement highlights the importance of the social gospel concept of “social salvation” for today’s religious left.

Although many of its primary leaders come out of liberal Protestant denominations, the religious left is not a monolithic movement. Its leaders include prominent clergy, such as the Lutheran minister Nadia Boltz-Weber as well as academics such as Cornel West. Some of the movement’s major figures, notably Rev. Jim Wallis, are evangelicals who identify with what is often called progressive evangelicalism.

Others come from outside of Christianity. Rabbi Michael Lerner, founder of the organization Network of Spiritual Progressives, seeks not only to promote interfaith activism but also to attract persons unaffiliated with any religious institutions.

These leaders often focus on different issues. However, they unite around the social gospel belief that religious faith must be committed to the transformation of social structures.

The Network for Spiritual Progressives’ mission statement, for example, affirms its desire

“To build a social change movement – guided by and infused with spiritual and ethical values – to transform our society to one that prioritizes and promotes the well-being of the people and the planet, as well as love, justice, peace, and compassion over money, power and profit.”

Rev. William Barber.
AP Photo/Jonathan Drew

One of the most important voices of the religious left is North Carolina minister William Barber. Barber’s organization, “Repairers of the Breach,” seeks to train clergy and laity from a variety of faith traditions in grassroots activism. Barber’s hope is that grassroots activists will be committed to social change by “rebuilding, raising up and repairing our moral infrastructure.”

Other organizations associated with the religious left express similar goals. Often embracing democratic socialism, these groups engage issues of racial justice (including support for the Black Lives Matter movement), LGBT equality and the defense of religious minorities.

An attractive option?

Despite the public visibility of activists like Barber, some question whether the religious left can become a potent political force.

Sociologist James Wellman observes that often religious progressives lack the “social infrastructure that creates and sustains a social movement; its leaders are spiritual entrepreneurs rather than institution builders.”

Another challenge is the growing secularization of the political left. Only 30 percent of Americans who identify with the political left view religion as a positive force for social change.

At the same time, the religious left’s progressive agenda – in particular, its focus on serving society’s poor – might be an attractive option for younger Americans who seek alternatives to the perceived dogmatism of the religious right. As an activist connected with Jim Wallis’s “Sojourners” organization noted,

“I think the focus on the person of Jesus is birthing a younger generation…. Their political agenda is shaped by Jesus’ call to feed the hungry, make sure the thirsty have clean water, make sure all have access to healthcare, transform America into a welcoming place for immigrants, fix our inequitable penal system, and end abject poverty abroad and in the forgotten corners of our urban and rural communities.”

This statement not only circles back to Charles Sheldon’s nineteenth century question, “what would Jesus do?” It illustrates, I argue, the continued resiliency of the core social gospel belief in social salvation for a new generation of activists.

The ConversationCan the religious left achieve the public status of the religious right? The theme of “social salvation” that was critical to Walter Rauschenbusch, A.J. Muste and Martin Luther King Jr. might, I believe, very well galvanize the activism of a new generation of religious progressives.

Christopher H. Evans, Professor of the History of Christianity, Boston University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

About the header image: A Moral Monday protest led by a preacher, Rev. William Barber.
AP Photo/Martha Waggoner

St Jude Novena Prayer


Most holy Apostle, St. Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the Church honors and invokes you universally as the patron of hope. Please intercede on my behalf. Make use of that particular privilege given to you to bring hope, comfort, and help where they are needed most. Come to my assistance in this great need that I may receive the consolation and help of heaven as I work with my challenges, particularly (here make your request). I praise God with you and all the saints forever. I promise, blessed St. Jude, to be ever mindful of this great favor, to always honor you as my special and powerful patron and to gratefully encourage devotion to you. Amen.

The National Shrine of St. Jude

Trump’s HHS Dept. Ends 81 Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program Grants

I have linked a very important article from the LA Times below, that discusses the fact that the Department of Health and Human Services, under the leadership of Trump appointees, has canceled $200 million of annual funding for 81 teen pregnancy prevention programs nationwide.

This is just so incredibly naive. It boggles my mind how any rational person can think like this. I guess the thought process goes something like this:

  1. Teens should not be having sex.
  2. Giving teens condoms encourages sexual behavior.
  3. We will therefor not give kids condoms.

But this ignores one simple and certain fact: The kids are going to have sex anyway. And without sex education and contraceptives, they will spread STD’s and they will make babies. And many of those babies will be aborted.

This is a perfect example of why progressive ideology serves the society so much better. Realistic and thoughtful policy decisions, based on sound science and social study, rather than dogma, help to alleviate problems such as this. Teen pregnancy prevention programs reduce the spread of STD’s, reduce the number of pregnancies, and reduce the number of abortions. How can any rational person see that as a bad thing?

I am a practicing Catholic. There is nothing wrong with my moral compass. But I’m also a realist. And I am also in full support of a complete and total separation of church and state. We don’t have to share the same religion, but we do have to share the same government. And I don’t want your God in charge of my government. Your God’s place is in your home, not my statehouse.

Trump makes good on a threat to kill teen pregnancy prevention programs

by Michael Hiltzik

Experts in teen pregnancy prevention were nervously holding their breaths as the Trump administration stocked key positions at the Department of Health and Human Services with advocates of ineffective abstinence-only sex education programs and opponents of birth control.

Now their fears have proven to be justified. Over the last couple of weeks, 81 teen pregnancy programs around the country have been informed that their grants will end in the next fiscal year, or as of June 30, 2018. At least one program that funded educational outreach by Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, among other institutions, was cut off immediately — just as it was beginning the second year of a five-year plan. In all, more than $200 million in annual funding is being ended, according to an analysis by the Center for Investigative Reporting, which made the shutdown public.

Read the full article from the LA Times here.

Fr. James Martin’s Ministry to LGBT Catholics

Meeting on the Bridge: Fr. James Martin’s Ministry to LGBT Catholics Becomes a Book

An interview with Jesuit Priest Fr. James Martin, by author Kaya Oakes

A few years ago, the idea of a “celebrity Jesuit” would have puzzled most Americans. That was not only before the election of the first Jesuit pope, but also before Fr. James Martin began appearing on The Colbert Report, and before his books on saints, spirituality and prayer ascended the bestseller lists.

Today, Martin occupies a unique place in religious media: still working a day job as the editor-at-large of America magazine (where I’m an occasional contributing writer), he’s also become a go-to explainer of Catholic issues to both religious and secular audiences. He’s so successful in this role that in April of this year, he took up yet another job when he was invited by Pope Francis to be a consultor to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications.

In the past few years, however, even as Martin’s profile has grown, it has also included a focus on one of the Catholic church’s most marginalized groups, the LGBT community. Martin describes this as an “informal ministry,” conducted through articles, conversations and social media, and it expanded after the June 2016 shooting in Orlando, Florida when Martin was dismayed that Catholic church leaders failed to acknowledge the targeting of LGBT people in the Pulse massacre. His Facebook video posted the day after Orlando has over a million and a half views.

The scope of his outreach is still so unusual for a Catholic priest that Martin was honored by the church reform group New Ways Ministry in October of last year.

The talk he gave at that gathering has now been expanded into a book, Building a Bridge. Martin’s collection of the expanded talk and scripture meditations for LGBT Catholics even comes with an unusual set of endorsements from cardinals, bishops, and New Ways Ministry founder Sister Jeannine Grammick, who was investigated by the Vatican for her work with LGBT Catholics in 1999.

At a time when Catholic school teachers and lay ministers are still regularly being fired for being LGBT, endorsements from church higher-ups for a book that advocates pastoral outreach to LGBT Catholics comes as a surprise. But it’s also indicative of Martin’s unique position in the church: respected by everyone from Vatican officials to activist women religious to secular journalists to his massive social media following, he may actually be in a position to gently influence the way LGBT people are treated by the institutional church. We spoke in May.

Click Below to read the complete article and interview as a PDF.
Meeting on the Bridge

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Click here for original article source.

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Here is a good follow-up Q&A with Fr. James.

Saint Junípero Serra & Due Diligence

Many of the newsletters in my inbox go unread, but I always at least browse the one from This Day in History. Often, there is a story of interest, sometimes there are many. Today is a good example. Here are just a few things that happened on July 16th:

  • 1769 – First Catholic mission in California dedicated
  • 1790 – Congress declares Washington, D.C., new capital
  • 1945 – The first atomic bomb test is successfully exploded
  • 1969 – Apollo 11 departs Earth
  • 1995 – Amazon opens for business
  • 1999 – JFK Jr. killed in plane crash

Of these, it is the Catholic Mission story that is most interesting to me. For this is the story of Saint Junípero Serra, the Franciscan Friar responsible for mission settlements from San Diego to San Francisco. But to many, Serra (who was canonized by Pope Francis in 2015) is no saint. Rather, claim his critics, he was a brutal slave master.

It is up to us, the consumers of information, to do due diligence. Before taking up someone else’s talking points, educate yourself. Then you can develop an informed opinion and speak intelligently and persuasively to the issue.

As to Junípero Serra, there is an abundance of good articles about him available. Here are a few:

My point is simply this: Before launching headstrong in support of a cause, or ranting about an issue, learn about it. Some of the links above are very flattering of Father Serra. Others, notably the last, might have you happy to see his entire legacy erased. I applaud Serra’s dedication, stamina, and what must have been his own sincere belief in the righteousness of his efforts. But I denounce what seem to be well documented acts of brutality that took place in the missions he founded. Is he worthy of Sainthood? That’s not for me to decide.

Jesus commanded us, all of us, to spread the Good News. Father Serra did so to the best of his ability.

God most high, your servant Junipero Serra brought the gospel of Christ to the peoples of Mexico and California and firmly established the Church among them. By his intercession, and through the example of his evangelical zeal, inspire us to be faithful witnesses of Jesus Christ. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.