Richard Rohr: “The Jesus Hermeneutic”
To take the scriptures seriously is not to take them literally. Literalism is invariably the lowest and least level of meaning. Most Biblical authors understood this, which is why they felt totally free to take so many obvious liberties with what we would call “facts.” In many ways, we have moved backwards in our ability to read spiritual and transformative texts, especially after the enlightenment of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when religious people got on the defensive and lost their own unique vantage point. Serious reading of scripture will allow you to find an ever new spiritual meaning for the liberation of history, the liberation of the soul, and the liberation of God in every generation. Then the text is true on many levels, instead of trying to prove it is true on just the one simple, factual level. Sacred texts always maximize your possibilities for life and love, which is why we call them sacred. I am afraid we have for too long used the Bible merely to prove various church positions, which largely narrows their range and depth. Instead of transforming people, the Biblical texts became utilitarian and handy ammunition.
Kiese Laymon: “The Worst of White Folks”
The worst of white folks, I understood, wasn’t some gang of rabid white people in crisp pillowcases and shaved heads. The worst of white folks was a pathetic, powerful “it.” It conveniently forgot that it came to this country on a boat, then reacted violently when anything or anyone suggested it share. The worst of white folks wanted our mamas and grandmas to work themselves sick for a tiny sliver of an American pie it needed to believe it had made from scratch. It was all at once crazy-making and quick to violently discipline us for acting crazy. It had an insatiable appetite for virtuoso black performance and routine black suffering. The worst of white folks really believed that the height of black and brown aspiration should be emulation of its mediocre self. The worst of white folks inherited disproportionate access to quality health care, food, wealth, fair trials, fair sentencing, college admittance, college graduations, promotions and second chances, yet still terrorized and shamed other Americans who lacked adequate access to healthy choices at all. White Americans were wholly responsible for the worst of white folks, though they would do all they could to make sure it never wholly defined them.
Erik Loomis: ‘The Environmental and Human Health Effects of Outsourcing Garment Production to Bangladesh”
There is a genre of personal finance writing I like to call “when rich people tell poor people how to live.” This is when, as I’ve reported in the past, you see men and women in designer suits go on CNBC, and rant about how if the poor people just managed to eschew flat screen televisions and smart phones, their financial problems would be solved. Never mind a living wage, all you need to do is figure out how to live within your means. And if your means are a $7.25 an hour minimum wage job, so be it. Those millionaires know you can do it!
This is why we need international labor and environmental laws. There are meaningful and enforced laws prohibiting the importation of goods to the United States that are made by prison labor or slave labor. There is no good reason why we can’t expand those laws to include nations that allow union organizers to be killed with impunity or products that are produced in an environmentally unsustainable manner. Whether in Bangladesh or the United States, Vietnam or Honduras, worker rights and environmental rights are human rights. The United States should crack down on its corporations whose factories violate basic conceptions of these rights or who subcontract work out to employers who do the same thing. Workers need to be able to bring suit in western courts against companies who pollute their water, give them industrial disease, or kill their husbands and daughters on the job.
Cheryl Overs: “Be Careful Who You Rape” (Trigger warning)
But then something surprising happened that made this case different. Meagher’s grief stricken husband, Tom, gave a moving television interview in which he further fused the intensely personal and the unavoidably political. With a striking lack of self pity, Tom said he was not asking “Why me?” but “Why anyone?” He pointed out that Bayley’s previous victims were sex workers and decried their treatment by the justice system. He said, “Put it like this: If he’d raped five people like Meagher that many times in that brutal a fashion, I don’t think he would have [only] served eight years in prison.”
He is right. Bayley was attacking and raping sex workers at a time when judges had explicitly said that raping a sex worker was fundamentally different than raping a “chaste woman” because the experiences associated with prostitution mean the prostitute does not endure the same “reaction of revulsio” during forced sex and that the elements of “shame” and “defilement” may be missing or diminished so the circumstance of aggravation is missing.