|Concerns for the world go hand in hand with faith.
Here we offer reports and analyses on various issues of justice and
peace and stewardship of the environment.
|Do you have news to share, concerns you'd like to see
addressed here? Send a note!
|Pres. Bush's initiative
for "faith-based organizations" is receiving lots of
attention. You may want to start with our page listing some of our reports and analyses on that issue.
|Some general areas of
concerns and racism
& international issues
|Recent stories, and some of lasting interest, are listed below.
And we have archive pages listing reports and comments on social issues, from
at Virginia Tech -- 3 perspectives
The Virginia Tech "massacre" generates
lines of reflection
Witherspoon Issues Analyst Gene TeSelle
sorts out some of those lines – as a starting point for more reflection
is a poem in which the Rev. Bobbie McGarey transforms the pain of the
Blacksburg killings into a prayer.
Presbyterian pastors in Blacksburg tell of their experience and their
roles, and see faith, community and time as vital in the process of healing
. A report from Presbyterian News Service.
Chalmers Johnson on his new book, "Nemesis: The Last Days of the American
In his new book, CIA analyst,
distinguished scholar, and best-selling author Chalmers Johnson argues
that US military and economic overreach may actually lead to the nation's
collapse as a constitutional republic. It's the last volume in his
Blowback trilogy, following the best-selling "Blowback" and "The Sorrows
of Empire." In those two, Johnson argued American clandestine and military
activity has led to un-intended, but direct disaster here in the United
In an interview with Amy Goodman, Johnson summarizes his
argument from the book.
Johnson says early in the hour that he is serious about
the subtitle of his book:
This is not just hype to sell books - "The Last Days
of the American Republic." I'm here concerned with a very real, concrete
problem in political analysis, namely that the political system of the
United States today, history tells us, is one of the most unstable
combinations there is - that is, domestic democracy and foreign empire -
that the choices are stark. A nation can be one or the other, a
democracy or an imperialist, but it can't be both. If it sticks to
imperialism, it will, like the old Roman Republic, on which so much of
our system was modeled, like the old Roman Republic, it will lose its
democracy to a domestic dictatorship.
Washington Office forced to discontinue
Stewardship of Public Life Networks, opens new network system: "Witness in
Washington Weekly" [5-25-06]
Due to budget cuts in Presbyterian programs, the Washington
Office is creating a new network system
called "Witness in Washington Weekly" to replace the Stewardship of Public
Life Networks. It will start in late June after the General Assembly
and will be activated only when Congress is in session or Presidential
actions warrant it.
To get on the new list (even if you are
currently on one or more of the current ones!) you can
simply click here, and
follow the instructions by filling in all the fields and checking the box
that says "Witness in Washington Weekly."
offers "a word to the overwhelmed" – noting some hopeful
developments in the past week, and some specific ways to act on various
points of need and opportunity. [10-28-05]
PC(USA)'s new mission initiative battles HIV/AIDS as 'a
matter of faith'
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has stepped up its efforts to combat the
worldwide spread of AIDS, launching a new campaign: "It's a Matter of
The project was created after the 2004 General Assembly directed the
Worldwide Ministries Division (WMD) to "make a concerted effort to lift up
and publicize" opportunities to contribute to the response to the HIV/AIDS
crisis around the world.
U.S. leads global attack on human rights -- Amnesty
after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, human rights are in
retreat worldwide and the United States bears most responsibility, rights
watchdog Amnesty International said on Wednesday. Governments are
increasingly rolling back the rule of law, taking their cue from the
U.S.-led war on terror, it said.
"The USA as the unrivalled political, military and
economic hyper-power sets the tone for governmental behaviour worldwide,"
Secretary General Irene Khan said in the foreword to Amnesty International's
2005 annual report.
Read the Reuters report in
Presbyterian Washington Office provides lots of helpful issue updates:
Three current major
|Social Security |
Last summer, the 216th General Assembly of the PC(USA)
passed a resolution, Reaffirming the Importance of Our Nation's Social
Insurance System (Social Security and Medicare). It reaffirms past policy;
noting that Social Security and Medicare were enacted to promote the
general welfare and to assure a guaranteed income and health care for U.S.
workers. As noted by The Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick, in a letter to
congregations: "These programs enable older Americans, people with
disabilities, and their families to live life in fullness." [Read
|Border Crossing: Minors in Jeopardy |
The Arizona desert is beautiful at just about any time
of year. Yet for migrants who have been driven from their homelands
because of worsening economic situations, the desert is all too often
deadly in its beauty. More than 3,500 migrants have died trying to cross
the border since 1998; and at least 219 dead during 2004 on just the
Arizona border. In the search for economic survival, many migrants leave
their families and make the trek from Mexico or Central America to cross
the deserts of U.S. border states. They hold out hope of making enough
cash in the fields, farms, restaurants, and office buildings of America
---- not only to survive themselves, but also to have enough to send back
home so that their families might also eke out a living. [Read
|The Widow's Offering |
As the tsunami crisis unfolded, the Bush
Administration's announcement of its paltry donation of $15 million in aid
incited enough criticism that the amount was increased ---- to $350
million! The criticism sparked a debate: Is the U.S. stingy in what it
gives to the developing world? In terms of percentage of national income,
the U.S. is at the bottom of the list of developed countries. [Read
The 109th Congress has begun its first session. The
Washington Office provides its outlook for congressional action in nine
issue areas. If you are committed to influencing laws and policies, here's a
great place to start.
Towards an ethics of
Religion, conflict & peace discussed at World Social
At the World Social Forum meeting in Porto Alegra, Brazil,
as a kind of alternative to the gathering of the rich and powerful in Davos,
Switzerland, a global ecumenical coalition (including the World Council of
Churches) has sponsored a panel to explore the role of religion in
conflicts, and to identify resources within religion for overcoming
violence. The emphasis was on an ethic and spirituality that are relational
rather than individualistic. Solidarity and accompaniment were affirmed as
hopeful signs in an religiously pluralistic world. [2-1-05]
Earthquake and tsunami devastate South and Southeast Asia
Presbyterians join in sending relief aid to areas devastated by tsunami
Asian media report on the disaster in their own countries
Tightening restrictions on Cuba
The Washington Office
has provided a helpful look at increasingly restrictive policies from
Washington, some of the factors in domestic politics that are influencing
them (in spite of resistance from younger Cuban immigrants and from the
House of Representatives), and recent General Assembly policy statements
calling for an end to the embargo and travel restrictions, and moves toward
re-establishing diplomatic relations.
Washington Office signs on to welfare letter
Coalition wants program
that can lift families out of poverty
The Presbyterian Washington Office has joined a number of
other religious groups in urging completion of a welfare-reauthorization
plan being considered by the Senate Finance Committee.
The groups have joined in sending a letter to U.S.
senators about the federal government's principal cash-assistance program
for low-income families, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).
The coalition, the Interreligious Working Group on
Domestic Human Needs, says in the letter, "We are extremely disappointed
that Congress has not yet passed a long-term reauthorization to strengthen
the program so families can move out of poverty."
Switch? Human Rights
and U.S. Foreign Policy [3-11-04]
The Presbyterian Church has
consistently affirmed the importance of respect for human rights, and each
General Assembly receives and considers an update on human rights from the
Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy.
Julie A. Mertus, professor of human rights at American
University's School of International Service, offers a critical look at the
use of the idea of human rights,
especially in U.S. foreign policy. The author's main point is
that the U.S. and other nations often affirm the concept of human rights,
but use them as a way of justifying their own policies.
What is needed, she says,
is a "culture of human rights" that goes beyond the rhetoric.
The adoption of human
rights language is an essential step in building a human rights culture,
but this alone is insufficient. Human rights concepts enter a culture
slowly, as the population develops its own shared (although often
contested) understanding of the prominence and importance of the norms.
Incrementally, humane values become part of the identity, interests, and
expectations of individuals and groups within the society.
America has human
rights language without a human rights culture--the talk without the
walk. The level of
awareness of human rights in the U.S. is extremely low. According to
Amnesty International, 94% of American adults and 96% of American youth
have no awareness of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
Even when they are aware of human rights, U.S citizens are far too willing
to tolerate their government's abridgement of international human rights
Mertus is the author of Bait and Switch: Human Rights
and U.S. Foreign Policy (Routledge, 2004) and an analyst for FPIF (Foreign
Policy in Focus)
World Service urges U.S. to stop sending Haitian refugees back to chaotic
Church World Service (CWS), the global humanitarian agency, on March 8 sent
an initial shipment of emergency food and medicine to Haiti. The
agency is also advocating for U.S. protection of Haitian asylum-seekers.
Haiti: Another U.S. coup d'etat?
Tom Driver, a member of the
Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, looks at the recent events in Haiti through
the lens of his 20 years of observing that country, most recently on a visit
in 2000. He sees the removal of President Aristide as the culmination
of a long U.S. campaign to unseat him because he has not been cooperative
enough with U.S. desires.
For confirmation of Driver's view, if
you're surprised at his assertion of a U.S. coup d'etat, you
at an essay by Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of the Earth Institute
at Columbia University, and a former economic advisor to governments
in Latin America and around the world. His article in the Los
Angeles Times on March 4, is headlined "From His First Day in
Office, Bush Was Ousting Aristide."
Click here for a
Washington Office report on Haiti.
Washington Office has posted a very helpful
wrap-up of Congressional
actions (or inactions) on issues of interest, including:
Ecology and Environment
Hunger and Human Needs
Women and Families
Free trade or fair trade: the
struggle moves to Miami
The Free Trade Area of the Americas is being negotiated this week in
Miami, with expectations (now a bit shaky, perhaps) that this extension of
"free trade" to the whole of North and South America (except for Cuba, of
course!) would be put into effect in 2004. We offer an index to a few
reports that will give some background and analysis of this important
Peace Fellowship announces special events at School of America protests
The Presbyterian Peace
Fellowship invites everyone to two special events during the protests at
the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia -- Saturday and
Sunday, Nov. 22-23.
Thoughts on truth and lies from a "Christian" White House
Greg Garret, who teaches at Baylor
University, reflects on the varieties of lying in light of his 6-year-old
son's simple definition: "A lie is when you don't tell the truth."
He concludes: "Other writers can talk about how policies
of the Bush White House starve the hungry, harm the widow and orphan and
discomfort the prisoner. That is not my aim today. I am simply trying to
teach my son to tell the truth, and I'd appreciate it if the president of
the United States would give me a little backup."
Guatemala faces election filled
with threats; one seminarian sees in Scripture a call to listen and
Guatemala, where "patriotism ... is often identified with
militarism rather than the struggle for peace and justice" is approaching
a presidential election in which retired general Efrain Rios Montt is
seeking a return to power. In this threatening time, the Rev. Karla Koll,
a PC(USA) mission co-worker, reports on the challenges of the time, and
asks for prayers for this nation and its people.
One of her seminary students, in a paper for a bible
course, examined Mark 7:31-37, the account of Jesus' unstopping the ears
of a deaf man. Koll reports his conclusion that (in her words) "The church
should not be deaf and mute today, but should assume responsibility for
listening carefully to the world around it, for speaking out and for
working for peace and justice. Good words for Christians in any context."
Senate votes to overturn FCC media
The Presbyterian Washington Office reports on a vote in the US Senate
which rejected strong efforts by the President and many Republican
legislators to allow further consolidation of media ownership and control.
WTO meeting in Cancun
collapses - a victory for the South? [9-16-03]
The failure of the World Trade Organization Ministerial in Cancun has been
widely reported. We offer here a perspective you may not find in the U. S.
press: a view from the South.
Mexico Solidarity Network
reports on the collapse of the meeting "amid North-South divide." Then a
second report (below) focuses on impact of protests and marches by
"thousands of campesinos, unionists, students, anarchists and NGOs."
So what about all
Peter Sawtell, Executive
Director of Eco-Justice Ministries, reflects on the emerging "pattern of
lies" from the Administration in Washington – those used to justify the
invasion of Iraq, as well as those being trotted out to justify the
continual downgrading of environmental protections.
in Colombia urges support for Synod executive in Colombia, under
threat for his defense of human rights
UPUSA mission co-worker Alice Winters
calls our attention to serious threats against Milton Mejía, and offers
specific information to help us contact the President of Colombia on his
See also the Presbyterian
News Service report on threats against the Rev. Milton Mejía, and the
"escape" from custody of the man who threatened him.
Health care is a
basic right, say church leaders
Presbyterians and other
religious leaders join in declaring that access to adequate health care
"is a basic right ... on par with other human rights such as the rights to
food and shelter."
The religious leaders said the 40 million Americans who
have no health insurance are casualties of "a crisis with moral and
ethical dimensions" that "must be an urgent national priority."
Pressuring Taco Bell
Tomato pickers, supporters start 2nd week of hunger strike
Presbyterian News Service reports on the
second week of a fast by more than 50 farm workers and their supporters
(including Presbyterians) outside Taco Bell's corporate headquarters in
Irvine, CA, in support of demands for negotiations for decent wages
and working conditions.
Washington Office joins
others calling for opposition to
"Houses of Worship Free
Speech Restoration Act," H.R. 235
Washington Office provides a new online advocacy tool
The Washington Office of the
Presbyterian Church (USA) has added a new Legislative Action Center to its
Internet site to enhance its advocacy efforts with CapWiz, the nation's
premiere online political action tool.
CapWiz is the driving force behind online
grassroots democracy for nearly 1,000 associations, corporations, media
outlets, state organizations, and 80% of Fortune Magazine's
Washington Power 25. CapWiz will allow the PCUSA Washington Office to add
a content-rich, interactive government-relations area to its Web site,
where visitors can make their voices heard in the U.S. Congress and
CapWiz allows Web site visitors complete
access to their elected officials by simply entering their ZIP code.
Visitors may view their senators and representative's pictures, phone
numbers, e-mail addresses, staff, committee assignments, voting records,
and more. In addition to elected officials, visitors may also locate local
and national media contacts in all 50 states.
Several compelling free features have
recently been added to CapWiz that will assist the PCUSA Washington
Office's advocacy efforts: ElectionWiz with Voter Registration provides
information on candidates, key races and issues and includes an optional
component for facilitating online voter registration; Alert Stickers allow
you to post topic-specific alerts on affiliates' or supporters' sites,
allowing their site visitors to easily link back to the Presby Legislative
Action Center and take action on issues the Washington Office promotes.
A little note from your
You can access this promising new channel
for on-line legislative advocacy by going to the Washington Office home
http://www.pcusa.org/washington/index.htm, then clicking on "Presby
Legislative Action Center" on the right of the home page.
Or you can scroll down the page till you
find a box on the right side of the page that says "Contact Congress." Key
in your ZIP code and you'll go to the CapWiz page for your district
(senators and representative).
Or go directly to
the CapWiz page
Let's pay attention to "the common good"
Jane Hanna reminds us of a concept rooted deeply in the
Biblical faith and in American history: the common good. Our
society's growing focus on private gain poses a threat to us as a nation,
and even as individuals. And certainly it's a threat to the rest of
the world. [1-31-03]
National Council of Churches calls for
a day of prayer and fasting for
peace in Iraq, on Monday, January 27, 2003
Administration policies still reflect racism in America
of Michigan points to continuing problems of racism (and more) in our
society, reflected in recent actions by the President of the United
As budgets shrink,
more federal money is going to faith-based groups for work with the
The US Department of Veterans Affairs has announced that
40% of the groups receiving federal grant funds to support work with the
homeless are religious groups. This means that nonreligious groups that
have received funds in the past are receiving less money this year, and
will have to cut the number of beds they offer to homeless people. Both
religious and nonreligious groups say that it appears to them that the
religious groups received special treatment in the award process.
groups watch with wary eye as Congress opens [1-9-03]
Religion News Service story details the varied concerns of different
religious groups as Congress reconvenes under the cloud of war (and its
assorted high costs) and a new Republican dominance.
The Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the
World, speaks for many of the groups when he says, ""Money is
disappearing by the hundreds of billions into the tax cut and then the
war. The political situation
for poor people this year is pretty grim."
Christian Coalition is on the job, pushing to make elements of President
Bush's earlier tax cuts permanent.
No Jobless Worker Behind
As Congress reconvenes, labor groups urge support for
meaningful help for jobless workers.
report on Congressional action [1-2-03]
The Presbyterian Washington Office provides a helpful
year-end wrap-up on Congressional action (and inaction) on issues on
which the PC(USA) has expressed interest.
|Stories on social and
global concerns from all of 2002, are listed in Global
Concerns Archive # 4.
Stories on social and
global concerns from September through December, 2001, are listed in Global
Concerns Archive # 3.
Stories June through August 2001 are listed in Wide
World Archive # 2.
And there's another page
listing reports and comments on social issues, from May
2000 through May 2001.
Some blogs worth visiting
Mitch Trigger, PVJ's
Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where
Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and
views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both
personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!
You can post your own news and views,
or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.
for Life" website
Long-time and stimulating blogger John Shuck,
a Presbyterian minister currently
serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton,
Tenn., writes about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized
and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and
Click here for his blog posts.
Click here for podcasts of his radio program, which "explores
the intersection of religion, social justice and public life."
John Harris’ Summit to
Theological and philosophical
reflections on everything between summit to shore, including
kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology,
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens
neighborhood of Ridgewood -- by a progressive New York City
Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon
board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in
Voices of Sophia blog
Heather Reichgott, who has created
this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:
After fifteen years of scholarship
and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the
voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy,
students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers
and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God
in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God
through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through
articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and
Got more blogs to recommend?
send a note, and we'll see what we can do!