Smart people saying smart things

Brian McLaren: “An Open Letter to Rebecca Kadaga”

I have visited Uganda as a Christian leader and met with a wide variety of Christian leaders. They have impressed me as people of compassion, not violence … of grace, not intolerance. They know that Jesus was once put in a situation similar to the one you face in Uganda today. A group of strict religious leaders pressured him to assent to the killing of a woman widely regarded as a damnable, detestable sinner. They quoted the Bible to make their case. But he resisted that pressure and overcame it. He courageously sided with the woman, and he challenged those preparing to throw stones at her to face their own hypocrisy. Rather than handing them a stone “as a Christmas gift,” he risked his reputation, even his life, in an effort to protect her. He handed them another gift: a model of compassion, a new way of being religious, a new way of being human.

Terence Weldon: “Walking in Our Shoes”

The whole point of the word “heteronormative” is that this is the way the world is constructed, based on a single, majority way of seeing things – without ever considering that another perspective is possible.

In the religious sphere, there is often outrage at the very concept of queer biblical interpretation, or theology from an LGBT point of view, with no recognition at all that “traditional” biblical hermeneutics is constructed from an automatically straight perspective, with no particular justification for it. This is especially clear where modern conservatives insist that they are merely trying to protect traditional marriage “as found in the Bible” – when their understanding is of “traditional” is a very modern one.

Rebecca Levi: “‘Just to Make a Statement’: Power, Sincerity, and the Women of the Wall”

Rabbi Rabinowitz is implying, of course, that it’s impossible to demonstrate and worship at the same time. (It’s also worth noting that his wording rhetorically links Women of the Wall to anti-Occupation demonstrators, another group he likely considers deviant and traitorous to the Jewish norm.) And, in all fairness, the idea that worship is an activity in which you remove yourself temporarily from day-to-day concerns is not a position without, you know, significant precedent. Even etymologically, both the English (from Greek) word “sacred” and the Hebrew word kadosh, “holy,” come from roots having to do with “set-apartness” and “withdrawal.” Similarly, it is hardly controversial to suggest that the main goal of worship should be to direct attention not to yourself, but to the Divine.

But what Rabinowitz doesn’t see — or chooses not to see — is that separating worship from daily affairs and not drawing attention to oneself in the practice of worship is a luxury reserved for powerful people with normative practices. If you’re a member of a group that’s “out,” accessing the same prayer sites, practices and rituals, with the same level of respect and dignity, as the “in” group can’t not attract attention. In such a case, worship necessarily becomes a political action.

Steven Hill: “Don’t Cut Social Security — Double It”

Here’s the dilemma that the United States faces. Since World War II, individual retirement has been based on a “three-legged stool,” with the three legs being Social Security, pensions, and personal savings (the latter primarily centered around home ownership). But two out of three of these legs have been chopped back to blunted pegs, leaving the retirement stool as an unstable, one-legged oddity.

… The gritty reality that the Obama administration and House Republicans must face is that the vast majority of America’s retirees cannot afford to watch them hack off part of the only leg that remains of the three-legged stool. Quite the contrary, we should make that leg more robust by doubling the current Social Security payout, and turning it into a true national retirement system called “Social Security Plus.” Doing so not only would be good for American retirees, but also would be good for the greater macro economy.

Steve Benen: “Jindal’s selective concern for the poor”

For Jindal, poor and disadvantaged kids should have the same educational opportunities as kids from wealthy families. Fine. There’s ample evidence that vouchers don’t work, but let’s stick to the larger principle. The next question is pretty straightforward: can poor and disadvantaged kids have the same access to quality health care as kids from wealthy families? How about the same access to safe and affordable housing? How about nutrition? And transportation? And political influence?

"This sounds an awful lot like what Saul was doing before he became Paul."

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