Smart people saying smart things

Smart people saying smart things April 19, 2012

Guy Sayles: “Will Majority Religions Protect the Rights of All?

As a Christian and a Baptist pastor, I believe that the spirit of Jesus includes a refusal to coerce, directly or indirectly, strongly or subtly the conscience of another person.

I also believe that, when the state, in this case the Buncombe County Schools, promotes, actively or passively, a particular religious viewpoint, it becomes an agent of coercion, impinging on the rights and freedoms of people who are served by the schools but who do not share that viewpoint.

… I deeply believe that members of majority religions – in Buncombe County, that means Christians – need to be very intentional and proactive about protecting the rights of people who hold minority faiths or no stated faith.

I encourage school board members to consider that to protect the separation of church and state is not only your duty as a public official but that it is a just, respectful and loving thing to do.

Khalil Gibran Muhammad: “Playing the Violence Card

Recall how Americans responded to high levels of white-on-white violence in the past.

Consider the crime waves of 1890 to 1930, when millions of poor European immigrants came to America only to be trapped in inner-city slums, suffering the effects of severe economic inequality and social marginalization. Around the turn of the century, the Harvard economist William Ripley described the national scene: “The horde now descending upon our shores is densely ignorant, yet dull and superstitious withal; lawless, with a disposition to criminality.” But the solution, Ripley argued, was not stigma, isolation and the promotion of fear. “They are fellow passengers on our ship of state,” he wrote, “and the health of the nation depends upon the preservation of the vitality of the lower classes.”

As a spokesman for saving white immigrant communities from the violence within, Ripley was part of a national progressive movement led by Jane Addams, the influential social worker of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the face of grisly, gang-related youth shootings — “duplicated almost every morning,” Addams wrote — she insisted that everyone from the elite to community organizers to police officers had a part to play.

She and other progressives mobilized institutional resources to save killers and the future victims of killers. Violent white neighborhoods were flooded with social workers, police reformers and labor activists committed to creating better jobs and building a social welfare net. White-on-white violence fell slowly but steadily in proportion to economic development and crime prevention.

In almost every way the opposite situation applied to black Americans.

Meg Jenista: “Sometimes I Think God Made Me Wrong

There is still an operational feminine mystique guiding our churches today, a one-size-fits-all mentality of Christian womanhood. I submit into evidence the “Women’s Interest” section of your local Family Christian bookstore … and the defense rests.

There is a dominant story in our Christian churches about what it means to be a woman. In reality, there are a lucky few women who naturally fit into this story. Other women subconsciously adopt this narrative, pretending it is their own, amputating the parts of themselves that don’t quite fit between the covers of the storybook.

Most women I know are partial-resisters of the story, timidly struggling against but ultimately bowing to the societal hand-slap that comes along with trying to tell the pieces of your truth that don’t comfortably fit the plotline of the dominant narrative. There are some women out there who just flat out resist the story. I would like to meet these women.

As an ordained minister in the Christian Reformed Church, you might suppose I am one of those no-holds-barred resisters. I remember a more conservative time in my life when I assumed that women preachers were all New-Age goddess-worshippers who cut up Scripture to their own liking. But that caricature of women ministers assumes we are “in your face” simply because we exist.

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