The Joys and Sorrows
of U. S.
Archive -- 2003-2005
for items on U.S. Politics posted in 2007.
Stories from 2006 are archived
on a separate page.
Should the President be impeached?
MSNBC takes a poll.
The MSNBC cable network is running a poll in which over 175,000 have already
voted, as of December 29th.
You can participate at
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10562904/, and then you’ll see the most
current results. Earlier today they were:
Do you believe President Bush's actions justify
* 177330 responses (as of 12-29-05)
|Yes, between the secret spying, the deceptions leading
to war and more, there is plenty to justify putting him on trial.
|No, like any president, he has made a few missteps, but
nothing approaching "high crimes and misdemeanors."
|No, the man has done absolutely nothing wrong.
Impeachment would just be a political lynching. 8%|
|I don't know. 2%
Quaker organization calls for end to government spying
AFSC Says Surveillance of Peace Groups is "Outrageous"
The American Friends Service Committee, a
Friends organization at the forefront of combating illegal FBI surveillance
tactics in the seventies now urges Congress to undertake a complete and
thorough review of reports that the Pentagon is spying on "peaceful anti-war
and counter-military recruitment groups."
Matters of peace and justice are still before Congress
A number of issues in which many of us
have an interest will still be under consideration as Congress tries to
finish its work for the year – including budget cuts that would hurt those
least able to afford them; funding for African Union peacekeepers in Darfur;
banning US use of torture (which according to late reports may have been
resolved); and punitive policies against undocumented immigrants.
|Kucinich introduces bill to abolish federal death
Introduced on Dec. 14, co-sponsored by 39 members of congress
Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH), on
Dec. 14 introduced legislation to abolish the federal death penalty. The
Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act of 2005, currently co-sponsored by 39
Members of Congress, will put an immediate halt to executions and forbid the
imposition of the death penalty as a sentence for violations of federal law.
SAVE THE DATES
2006 Ecumenical Advocacy Days for
Global Peace with Justice
"Challenging Disparity - the Promise of God, the Power of Solidarity"
Friday, March 10, 2006 to Monday, March 13, 2006
In 2005 more than 900 persons from at least 26 denominations participated
in workshops, training and advocacy for international and domestic social
justice issue. 2006 promises to be bigger and better.
Advocacy Days will include:• Major speakers
• Chance to
advocate with your members of Congress
• Bring your faith
values into the public square
• Fun and more…
March 2006 represents the early stage to many of the mid-term House and
Senate campaigns. Your advocacy will be invaluable to helping to insure that
issues of justice for persons who are poor are not ignored.
Stay tuned for more information
Check www.advocacydays.org for
Or e-mail email@example.com
Senator Barack Obama introducing bill to prevent voter intimidation
More information, and
an invitation to speak up for voter rights >>
Saving Social Security
Here’s a clear-eyed look at the Social Security
issue, by a writer who offers some simple "truth-telling," some critical
reflection on the values at stake (and at the way most of the arguments for
privatization are essentially materialistic and self-centered), and some
common-sense reforms that would help greatly.
It was published in the Seattle
Post-Intelligencer , but you can read it on
AlterNet or on
More on the Social
Security issue >>
Why the West gets religion wrong [7-8-05]
Witherspooner Dugan Frederick, of Denver, writes: "The
International Herald Tribune is an interesting website, and this
particular article is important in today's world."
Your webweaver agrees.
In this essay, Phillip Blond, who lectures in philosophy
and religion at St. Martin's College, Lancaster, and Adrian Pabst, a
doctoral candidate at Cambridge University, argue that in secular Europe,
the role of religion in public life is badly misunderstood. So "secular
liberals regard religion as repressive, irrational and fundamentalist.
Religious conservatives view liberal secularity as immoral, self-serving and
nihilistic. Both are right about each other, but wrong about religion."
Since the secularization that began in the 1960s, the
political left has "eschewed a genuine public morality in the name of
personal choice and private gratification. At great political cost, it
handed over to the right the language of formation, values and religion.
Unable to craft for itself a new form of civic collectivity, secular
liberalism remains mired in individualism and blind to cultures built around
universal ideals and collective aspirations."
In reaction to liberal relativism, the political and
religious right have exalted the interests of the dominant class. And "in a
fanatical overreaction to the atomization of liberal society, American
conservatives embraced a new Christian fundamentalism that promised its
followers an eternal community - composed only of themselves."
So "what unites both liberals and conservatives is their
mutual insistence on the exclusivity and absoluteness of their vision. In
this both sides are composed of fundamentalists who mistake their subjective
beliefs for the only objective truth.
"But true religion is not and cannot be fundamentalist. No
true follower of monotheism can claim to know the mind and will of God."
But "equally, religion is not and cannot be relativist. No
genuine belief in God is just a matter of personal taste or subjective
opinion. True religion has always been public and political because it is
about forming communities around shared values and the practices that embody
them. In the West, privatizing religion initiated the abandoning of any
collective public realm that expressed common substantive ideals. We should
not then be surprised when Iran and other countries do not wish to follow us
down this path."
If you have a chance to look at this
we’d like to hear your comments.
to be shared here.
A July 4th Covenant
Covenant is a fundamental concept in the Biblical tradition, in the Reformed
faith, and in American history. Here’s a short, insightful reminder of that
deep thread connecting our faith and our politics.
Marcus Raskin wrote this as an open letter to the
Congressional Progressive Caucus, and in response to President Bush’s call
for Americans "to find a way to thank the men and women defending our
freedom" over the July 4th holiday. Raskin served on the staff of the
National Security Council in President Kennedy’s administration, and is a
distinguished fellow at the Institute for
Policy Studies and professor of policy studies at The George Washington
He sees America as divided. (OK, no big surprise there.)
There are those who believe that "You are either for us or against us," and
who are united by their fear of real or imagined threats to themselves and
But there is another side of America: "It is the one that
we may be justly proud of, for it has stemmed from sentiments of generosity,
economic and social justice. It is the welcoming side that holds out a hand
to the wretched, the tired, the left-outs of the earth ..."
He concludes: "... [M]embers of a free society recognize
that personal responsibility is the foundation of the social contract. The
nation, therefore, can be seen as the collective expression of this
individual responsibility, not individual self-interest. Thus, the nation is
a projection of our personal responsibility and respect for other people
that manifests the bond between the healthy and the sick, the prosperous and
the hungry, the strong and the weak. This responsibility attaches between
the healthy and the sick as a bond of that shared humanity.
"This is the July 4 covenant of progressive liberals, and
of a free people."
Read the full essay >>
We invite you to share your
Independence Day reflections here.
Just send a note!
Onward, Moderate Christian Soldiers
John C. Danforth, an Episcopal
minister and former Republican senator from Missouri, writes in the New York
Times, that "It is important for those of us who are sometimes called
moderates to make the case that we, too, have strongly held Christian
convictions, that we speak from the depths of our beliefs, and that our
approach to politics is at least as faithful as that of those who are more
He concludes: "For us [moderates], religion should be
inclusive, and it should seek to bridge the differences that separate
people. We do not exclude from worship those whose opinions differ from
ours. Following a Lord who sat at the table with tax collectors and sinners,
we welcome to the Lord's table all who would come. Following a Lord who
cited love of God and love of neighbor as encompassing all the commandments,
we reject a political agenda that displaces that love. Christians who hold
these convictions ought to add their clear voice of moderation to the debate
on religion in politics."
How The Christian Left
Gets It Right
Dr. Ted Huffman suggests that
following Jesus is really the basis for being progressive, in contrast to
the political claims of the Christian Right. [6-13-05]
Bush visit to Calvin College is met by open letter of
protest from faculty and students
signed by more than 800 faculty members, alumni, students and friends of the
school, was published as a full-page ad in the Grand Rapids Press.
Here's the full text of the letter:
Open Letter to George W. Bush; Signed by 823
students, faculty and alumni of Calvin College
Dear President Bush:
We are alumni, students, faculty and friends of Calvin College who are
deeply troubled that you will be the commencement speaker at Calvin on May
21st. In our view, the policies and actions of your administration, both
domestically and internationally over the past four years, violate many
deeply held principles of Calvin College.
Calvin is a rigorous intellectual institution, and a truly Christian
one. Since its inception in 1876, Calvin has educated its students to use
their minds and hearts to transform the world into a "beloved community"
where no one is an outcast and all of God’s children are cared for. Calvin
teaches its students to work for peace and justice, and to be good
stewards of God’s creation.
By their deeds ye shall know them, says the Bible. Your deeds, Mr.
President—neglecting the needy to coddle the rich, desecrating the
environment, and misleading the country into war—do not exemplify the
faith we live by.
Moreover, many of your supporters are using religion as a weapon to
divide our nation and advance a narrow partisan agenda. We are deeply
disappointed in your failure to renounce their inflammatory rhetoric.
We urge you not to use Calvin College as a platform to advance policies
that violate the school’s religious principles. Furthermore, we urge you
to repudiate the false claims of supporters who say that those who oppose
your policies are the enemies of religion.
full-page newspaper ad, including all the signatures >>
Thanks to Steve Cross for tracking down the ad.
The Washington Post carries a report on the President’s
The Detroit Free Press tells
more about the
Congress by-passes the nuclear option. Maybe.
From the Washington Post:
Breakthrough pact unlikely to end battle
Dan Balz sees the agreement reached by 14 US Senators to
avert the "nuclear option" as a clear victory for the "center," but he sees
it as only "a cease-fire in the judicial wars," which will continue.
"For a night at least," he concludes, "politics did seem
to take a back seat to comity and cooperation. Whether the center can
continue to hold is far less clear."
Read the full story in
The Washington Post.
Read our earlier reports on Sen. Bill Frist's campaign to
overturn the Senate's system of filibusters as a means of protecting the
voice of the minority:
Religion as a litmus test for judges?
Senate Majority Leader
Bill Frist plans to join with the conservative Family Research Council,
demanding support for judicial nominees on grounds of religious and moral
faith-based groups are raising objections and urging the people contact
their representatives in Washington.
reports provide helpful background.
NCC general secretary
voices deep concern
Dr. Robert Edgar, General Secretary of the National
Council of Churches USA, has sent an open letter to the media, expressing
his concern about the campaign being launched by the Family Research Council
with the support of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, pushing the view that
"those who disagree with them on President Bush's judicial nominees are
‘against people of faith.’" Edgar says this effort "serves to further
polarize our nation, and it disenfranchises and demonize good people of
faith who hold political beliefs that differ from theirs."
Advocacy groups for religious
and civil rights urge people of faith to reject Senator Frist's
co-option of religion.
|Presbyterian Washington Office urges
calls to Congress:
Stop the Cuts in Social
Programs. Call-In Day tomorrow – Tuesday
Your Senators and Representative on Tuesday, and tell them, We'll pay our
share in taxes, but we expect you to set the right priorities when you spend
those dollars! [4-11-05]
economic concerns –
Times reports that wages are lagging behind prices
Inflation has outpaced the
rise in salaries for the first time in 14 years. And workers are paying a
bigger share of the cost of their healthcare. [4-11-05]
Read the article in
go to the
On being a nation
that America has become a nation of Pharisees -- and Presbyterian Berry
Craig takes off from there. [3-23-05]
In this provocative little essay (and that word can mean
it's one that will make you think -- or make you mad) journalist and
professor Berry Craig, responds to a recent article by Jesuit John Dear,
saying that "we have become a culture of Pharisees."
We encourage you to
take a look at
Dear's essay, along with Craig's.
Bankruptcy bill said to hit
poorest Americans hardest
If you’ve been
following the Senate debate and action on the so-called “bankruptcy reform
bill,” you’re probably aware that it will have a great impact on many people
of limited means, who have used bankruptcy as a way to get a fresh start –
often when they have been overcome by illness and medical bills, or by
This article provides more details on the impact of the
bill, which passed the Senate last week, and will very likely be approved by
the House and then signed by the President.
Read it on
Peace Not Poverty -- bearing witness for the “Beloved
On March 30,
a one-million-person community of conscience will gather online to create a
declaration against the Iraq War. This "write-in" is the second of four
events planned by progressive religious leaders and organizations to launch
a movement to build what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called the
Beloved Community. Details
term Bush budget ‘unjust’
Kirkpatrick among those calling for opposition to ’06 spending plan
The leaders of five mainline Protestant denominations, speaking together
at a press conference in Washington on March 8, called President
Bush’s 2006 federal budget "unjust."
Kirkpatrick was represented by the Rev. Elenora Giddings Ivory, director
of the PC(USA)’s Washington Office. She read a statement Kirkpatrick had
Domestic Programs Slated for
Large Cuts in 2006 Budget [3-11-05]
The Presbyterian Washington Report, prepared by the PCUSA
Washington Office, provides more details about the severe and broad cuts in
domestic programs that would be imposed by the Administration’s budget
proposal. Programs impacted would include
those that help alleviate hunger through Food
Stamps and school lunch programs, provide high quality public education to
all children, assist families in affording safe child care, help families
find safe, affordable housing, and offer unemployment benefits.
A Canadian looks wryly at US policies – missile defense projects and all
Witherspooner Darrell Yeaney of Iowa City, IA, sends word of an open letter
from former Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy to Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice, after the US Ambassador to Canada asked "why Canada would
in effect give up its sovereignty" by not going along with the US missile
Axworthy begins with a wee bit of sarcasm:
Dear Condi, I'm glad you've decided to get over your fit of pique and
venture north to visit your closest neighbour. It's a chance to learn a
thing or two. Maybe more.
I know it seems improbable to your divinely guided master in the White House
that mere mortals might disagree with participating in a missile-defence
system that has failed in its last three tests, even though the tests
themselves were carefully rigged to show results.
But he moves far deeper to point out truly important differences between the
attitudes of Canadians and their neighbors to the south. Among other things:
I invite you to expand the narrow perspective that seems to inform your
opinions of Canada by ranging far wider in your reach of contacts and
discussions. You would find that what is rising in Canada is not so much
anti-Americanism, as claimed by your and our right-wing commentators, but
fundamental disagreements with certain policies of your government. You
would see that rather than just reacting to events by drawing on old
conventional wisdoms, many Canadians are trying to think our way through to
some ideas that can be helpful in building a more secure world.
These Canadians believe that security can be achieved through well-modulated
efforts to protect the rights of people, not just nation-states.
To encourage and advance international co-operation on managing the risk of
climate change, they believe that we need agreements like Kyoto.
Read the full letter >>
Bankruptcy Reform bill would
make it harder for Americans to get relief from high medical bills by
declaring bankruptcy [3-5-05]
This word comes to us
– slightly edited here
One urgent issue in Congress today is S.256,
the Bankruptcy Reform bill, which
would make it harder for average Americans in financial distress to receive
help through the bankruptcy process. This bill is especially harmful because
nearly half of all bankruptcies in America are caused by medical bills.
To ease the
harmful effects of this bill for those who must declare bankruptcy for
medical reasons, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) will introduce several
amendments to the bill next week. These may include limiting how much
hospitals can charge those individuals, Medicare prescription drug
negotiation authority for the federal government, drug reimportation, and
other measures to deal with the rising costs of health care.
To take action now
Senators to oppose
making it harder for Americans with high medical bills to declare
bankruptcy. Instead, urge them to support efforts to lower hospital and
prescription drug bills. To find your Senator's phone number, call the
U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.
For more information,
read E.J. Dionne's column in The Washington Post,
"A Bill Bankrupt of Pity" (free registration required).
We are a "pharisee nation," argues Jesuit priest John Dear
John Dear says that "we have become a culture of Pharisees.
Instead of practicing an authentic spirituality of compassion, nonviolence,
love and peace, we as a collective people have become self-righteous,
arrogant, powerful, murderous hypocrites who dominate and kill others in the
name of God."
He urges that Christians become not like the pharisees,
but rather "try all over again to follow the dangerous, nonviolent,
troublemaking Jesus." [3-2-05]
Washington Office suggests
urging House to restore civil rights protections in the Job Training
The proposed job training
bill would allow religious discrimination by religious organizations
receiving federal funding. The Washington Office has joined many other
religious groups in calling for the restoration of civil rights protections
to the bill.
has issued a similar call for action. [2-26-05]
unify, not divide, says Madeleine Albright
The people of the world can longer afford to allow religion and religious
leaders to divide them, former Secretary of State and U.N. Representative
Madeleine Korbel Albright told the annual gathering of the Consortium of
Endowed Episcopal Parishes February 25. [2-26-05]
Budgets are Moral Documents!
The religious left links economic disparity and moral values
Utne Webwatch has posted a brief summary
from Sojourners of some of the growing flow of
dealing with issues in the federal budget from a progressive faith
And Sojourners editor
Jim Wallis has written a brief statement affirming that indeed, budgets
are moral documents. And he raises sharp questions about the moral values
reflected in the President's budget proposal.
Sojourners also provides
a web page for sending quick
notes to Congress about the budget issue.
Faith-based reflections on the
federal budget [2-15-05]
The Presbyterian Washington Office has
published a clear, concise analysis of the President's proposed budget for
2006, focusing on slashes in Medicaid, the Food Stamp Program, child care
for low-income families, education, and community food and nutrition
programs. That is coupled with the President's proposal to make his huge tax
cuts permanent, to the benefit of the affluent. Added to that is increased
military spending - and that's not counting the cost of the wars in Iraq and
The Bulletin includes a
"Faith Reflection on the Federal Budget,"
from the Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs. The signers
of the statement raise the crucial question of the budget: "[D]oes it uphold
values that will strengthen our life together as a nation and as part of the
Finally, the Bulletin reminds us of a
resolution adopted by the
1997 General Assembly, which set forth "guidelines for the church and
government to follow in promoting the general welfare of the poor."
would have loved George Bush
Berry Craig, a professor of history in
Paducah, Kentucky, plays with what he sees as similarities between Napoleon
and the current president of the United States, primarily in their abilities
to convince the common people that their leaders, who were using them, were
their best friends. [2-12-05]
Privatizing Social Security: 'Me' Over 'We'
Benjamin R. Barber, professor of political science at the
University of Maryland and the author of Jihad vs. McWorld,
comments in the LA Times on the current campaign by the President for the
privatization of Social Security. He says, "... the most profound cost of
privatizing Social Security has been wholly ignored: the systemic cost to
our public way of life. By turning part of a public social insurance and
pension policy into a private bet in which where personal and private
decisions determine who does well and who does badly, we do irreparable harm
to our democratic 'common ground.' " [1-27-05]
Decoding Bush's God-Talk [1-26-05]
guide to the president's inaugural speech, with brief notes clarifying
the many religious
references in the speech.
speechwriter Michael Gerson discusses the five religious themes the
president emphasizes most. Gerson argues that religion is part of our
culture and we shouldn't be afraid to talk about it.
Address and the Sermon on the Mount
The Rev. Jake Young considers the President's
Inaugural Address and the values proclaimed by Jesus in the Sermon on the
Mount. He finds ... well ... some tensions between them.
Privatizing Social Security - three large flaws
The L. A. Times argues in an editorial today that
"President Bush's notion -- it is not yet a plan -- of partly privatizing
Social Security has three large flaws. First, it is a cure in search of a
disease. Second, it is a cure that won't work. And third, it is a cure that
requires the disease to be gone before the cure can start." This essay deals
primarily with the third flaw, but summarizes the other two as well.
Comments on President Bush's inaugural address
A Washington Post comment on the address is headlined:
On Liberty Don't Mesh With Policies: U.S. Maintains Close Ties With
The article states:
President Bush's soaring rhetoric yesterday that the
United States will promote the growth of democratic movements and
institutions worldwide is at odds with the administration's increasingly
close relations with repressive governments in every corner of the world.
Some of the administration's allies in the war against terrorism --
including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Uzbekistan -- are ranked by
the State Department as among the worst human rights abusers. The
president has proudly proclaimed his friendship with Russian President
Vladimir Putin while remaining largely silent about Putin's dismantling of
democratic institutions in the past four years. The administration, eager
to enlist China as an ally in the effort to restrain North Korea's nuclear
ambitions, has played down human rights concerns there, as well...
Meanwhile the Presbyterian Church has consistently
expressed concern over violations of human rights by a number of these
and other governments - many of which engage in violations of religious
freedom for Christians and others. The
Rights Update" received by the 2004 General Assembly details these
The Los Angeles Times sums up Bush's address in the headline,
"President Pledges to End 'Tyranny in Our World'."
In a editorial headed
"No Country Left Behind," the Times expresses appreciation
for much that Bush affirmed, along with alarm at the scope of his global
Questions to raise about
cabinet nominees regarding role of religion in public life
The Interfaith Alliance,
which describes itself as "a nonpartisan, national grassroots organization
dedicated to promoting the positive and healing role of religion in public
life," has sent
letters to senators who will participate in the confirmation process of
a number of nominees for cabinet positions. These include Ms. Margaret
Spellings, President Bush's nominee to be the next Secretary of Education;
Governor Mike Johanns, as Secretary of Agriculture; Mr. Carlos Gutierrez, as
Secretary of Commerce; and Judge Alberto Gonzales, as Attorney General.
The four specific questions they raise for each nominee
what religious tradition you believe in, how will your religious faith and
values impact your role in running the Department of Education?
in your official capacity, will your use of religious language reflect the
language of your religious tradition, or will it be more broadly
steps will you take to show respect for the variety of religious beliefs
of the millions of students enrolled in K-12 and institutions of public
higher education? |
|What are your
views on the Constitutional guarantee of the separation of the
institutions of religion and government?
Faith in the Reformed Tradition & "Inaugural Excess"
Bruce Gillette sends this commentary on the coming
How shall we deal with a culture
Douglas Ottati looks at the American
culture after the presidential election, pondering the insecurity in which
we live. He examines some of the temptations presented by that insecurity,
including the corruptions of nation and family - while affirming at the same
time their very real value. The challenge for progressive Christians today,
he concludes, is to develop a deeper theology of culture from which we can
both critique and affirm the major institutions of our society.
Dr. Ottati is Professor of Theology at Union Seminary/PSCE
in Richmond, VA. [1-7-05]
Join in calling on
Alberto Gonzales to renounce the use of torture, as hearings begin this
Thursday (Jan. 6) on his nomination as attorney general of the United States.
You're invited to sign the Declaration Against American Torture
Hearings on the appointment of Alberto Gonzales to attorney general of the
United States will begin this Thursday, January 6. Serious questions still
remain regarding Gonzales' apparent advocacy of torture as a legitimate
practice by American soldiers, government agents and contractors.
ActForChange, True Majority, MoveOn, Faithful America,
Sojourners and Win Without War have joined to call on Alberto Gonzales,
nominee for chief law enforcement officer of the United States, members of
the U.S. Senate, and other responsible government officials, to sign a
Declaration Against Torture, unequivocally renouncing all forms of torture
and abuse as instruments of American policy.
The Attorney General is charged with protecting the civil
liberties of every American, and the American public must be assured that
the person who holds the job is up to that task.
Go to the website of
ActForChange or that of
MoveOn.com to read the Declaration and add your name.
Please share this announcement with your friends
and help spread the word about this important campaign!
|If you're wondering why this is so important, you'll
find a good, brief summary of the background in an L.A. Times
column by Robert Scheer, under the title
"Backing Gonzales Is Backing Torture."|
Here's help for
progressive letter-writing to Washington
Bruce K. Gagnon, the coordinator of the Global Network
Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, shares this suggestion. Your
webweaver has looked into it, and is impressed. [1-3-05]
I think you might be interested in a email letter-writing
service I belong to:
Their letters are excellent and they cover an incredibly wide range
of issues, all from a progressive point of view. It's easy too. They send
you the letter, you read it, and if you want to send it then you just click
and reply. Progressive Secretary does the rest.
They personalize the letter so it goes to your representatives in
Washington, over your name and address, just as though it came directly from
you. Even though your name and address show at the bottom of the letter,
they never give your name out on lists or to other participants. They are
very careful to protect your privacy.
It's totally free, because their "staff" are all volunteers. You can suggest
they do letters on issues you're especially interested in.
They never send a letter without your OK. And of course you can drop out any
time you want.
I've found that I agree with almost all their letters, and I feel like I'm
telling Washington and big corporations what I feel on issues I care about
-- with practically no work on my part!
Visit their web site. I think you'll like them. I do!
|Jane Hanna, former
Witherspoon president, endorses Progressive Secretary
I've been using Progressive Secretary for about 3 years and find it
very helpful. There is no way, even if I did nothing else, to write to
our elected officials about all the topics that concern me if it
weren't for the biggest part of the job being done by Progressive
It really is helpful
and you always have the choice to send or not. The letters are well
written, short and to the point. Also, you can choose the issues you
wish to be able to speak to.
Bruce K. Gagnon
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 652
Brunswick, ME 04011
|This year's presidential
election -- as many people are reminding us -- may be one of the most
important in America's history. [7-28-04]
We believe it's important for a group like the Witherspoon
Society, as it is for all people of faith, to pay attention, serious
attention, not only to what we see in the media but to the deeper issues of
peace and justice that underlie our choices.
So on this page we will present some views of the campaign
as it unfolds -- hopefully reflecting Witherspoon's commitments to peace and
justice, without being merely partisan.
We want to offer a variety of opinions and reflections,
both from you, our friends and visitors, and from other sources.
|Our first installment includes a note from a frequent
visitor, pointing to the significance of former Pres. Bill Clinton's
speech at the Democratic convention, in which he spoke of following our
call, with the refrain, "Send
Lerner sends a critical note from the convention.
He expresses concern about the stifling of dissent, and
especially about the lack of "a coherent vision that can speak to people
in a way that makes them believe that something can really be different."
-- author, farmer, environmentalist, philosopher -- provides "some notes
for the Kerry campaign, if wanted." He looks at the deeper questions
of values being neglected so far in this campaign. We must look at
those questions of principle, he says. |
So please read, think, and contribute your own views.
Just send a note!
|Not just in New York:
Another demonstration against Bush
The hundreds of
thousands of demonstrators in New York City are getting lots of attention -
from the media as well as from the police. But similar actions
are going on around the country. Gene TeSelle reports on
three demonstrations this week in
|The growing gap, or
"Democracy for sale"
No, not the teens' clothing store. The
gap between rich and poor is clearly growing in America, says Bill Moyers in
a recent Sojourners article. And more: more and more "middle class" people
are entering the ranks of the poor. Meanwhile, the long-standing American
commitment to the welfare of the whole people, the "commonweal," is being
replaced by private control of once-public functions. Why is this happening?
Because, argues Moyers, big money has gained control of the political
|Guns, trade, poverty and more!
Washington Office "Report to
Presbyterians" provides in-depth information on the imminent expiration
of the ban on assault weapons,
the need to oppose CAFTA
(Central America Free Trade Agreement) in order to protect workers' rights,
and plans by the NCC and others to
highlight issues of poverty
in the current election campaign.
And finally, Elenora Giddings Ivory, director of the Washington Office,
responds to the question:
"How do you deal with the constant attacks against the Washington Office
and you personally?"
"Christian Principles in an Election Year" offer criteria for judging
Council of Churches USA has released 10 principles for evaluating candidates
that it hopes all Christians - from liberals to conservatives - will study
and apply in this election year. They could provide very helpful
points for reflection and conversation in churches and elsewhere.
You can download a one page list of the ten principles,
with a short study guide on the back of the page.
Note: This one does not come from the
Seminarians will speak out before
Republican convention [7-16-04]
Seminarians in New York plan a service of worship before the Republican
convention, to urge an end to "the misuse of religious language in political
and public settings," to affirm that "governance is moral action," and that
the role of religion in society is to "respond non-violently to protect to
the well being of all people."
|Recovering a hijacked faith
Jim Wallis, convener of Call to
Renewal and executive director of
Sojourners, has published an opinion piece in the Boston Globe,
saying that it's time for Christians to mount a "rescue operation" to take
back their faith from the radical Right.
Many of us feel that our faith has been stolen, and it's
time to take it back. A misrepresentation of Christianity has taken place.
Many people around the world now think Christian faith stands for
political commitments that are almost the opposite of its true meaning.
How did the faith of Jesus come to be known as pro-rich, pro-war, and
pro-American? What has happened? How do we get back to a historic,
biblical, and genuinely evangelical faith rescued from its contemporary
That rescue operation is crucial today in the face of a social crisis that
cries out for prophetic religion. ... When we take back our faith, we will
discover that faith challenges the powers that be to do justice for the
poor instead of preaching a "prosperity gospel" and supporting politicians
who further enrich the wealthy.
You'll find his essay in
the Boston Globe, and also on the
Thanks to Jack Hartwein-Sanchez
Interfaith Alliance warns churches to beware of legal, ethical violations
The Interfaith Alliance has
issued a strong warning to churches and other religious organizations that
an initiative by the Bush-Cheney campaign could possibly lure them into
jeopardizing their tax-exempt status, violating privacy laws, diminishing
the positive role of religion, and dividing congregations along political
Not-too-serious thoughts about a serious concern:
The Patriot Act
Tennessean assures his conservative Representative that he's trying to
live by the Patriot Act - so he tells her what he's been reading.
concerned about Bush campaign use of churches
We recently received
a brief but sharp note from a Presbyterian church member, expressing deep
concern about reports in
the Washington Post that the Bush/Cheney campaign plans to use
churches and their address lists to mobilize their religious supporters.
US diplomats and military
call for change of government in Washington
organization, Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change (http://www.diplomatsforchange.com/)
has issued a powerful statement calling for the defeat of President Bush
in November as an essential first step in restoring good relations with
the Middle East and the rest of the world. The group expects to critique
US policy in a series of future statements and positions.
here for the full text of their brief statement.
Thanks to Witherspooner Arch Taylor
Reagan - more completely
Charles Henderson offers a thoughtful
Ronald Reagan's faith as a neglected aspect of his personality, his
presidency, and his impact on American life. George W. Bush apparently
can't claim credit for making the first connection between piety and
writing as an evangelical, finds much to praise in Ronald Reagan, he
laments that in becoming his unabashed supporters, conservative Christians
began "equating Christianity with the Republican Party,' and lost the
critical distance they should have maintained in relation to any political
Two commentators remind us that President Reagan,
like the rest of us, had his shadow side.
Corn, author of The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics
of Deception, reminds us of Reagan's friendly connections with
dictators such as Augusto Pinochet of Chile, and - yes - Saddam Hussein,
even when it was clear that Hussein had used chemical weapons. (This
latter venture carried out by one Donald Rumsfeld.) There is the El Mozote
massacre in El Salvador in December 1981; the support of contra rebels
against the socialist government in Nicaragua; the support of apartheid in
South Africa. These things too, he says, must be remembered as part of the
Miguel D'Escoto, a Catholic priest who was Nicaragua's Foreign
Minister under the Sandinista government in the 1980s, was interviewed on
the daily radio/TV news program "Democracy Now!" In an unedited
transcript, he offers the unflattering (and perhaps not quite objective)
opinion that "more perhaps than any other U.S. President, Reagan convinced
many around the world that the U.S. is a fraud, a big lie. Not only was it
not democratic, but in fact the greatest enemy of the right of
self-determination of peoples."
Why is the race for President still so close?
Liberals need to get beyond the story of being victims
After all the disasters that current Administration
policies are creating, it seems odd that polls still show a rather close
race between President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry. Joshua Wolf
Shenk, a former editor of The Washington Monthly, suggests in
Mother Jones article that the presumptive Democratic
candidate has yet to present a story as gripping and convincing as the
Bush story of a battle between good and evil.
"Perhaps the fundamental problem for the left," says
Shenk, "is that it has long defined itself in opposition to the powerful.
But it needs a story that is consistent with exercising power,
and taking action. And it does have a powerful, true story to tell."
Christians, and especially students of the biblical
narrative, should know all about stories and the telling of them.
(Preachers do it all the time, right?) You may find Shenk's thinking
interesting for any progressive concerned about contributing to the
political discourse in the coming months.
Other churches' views on church and
Catholic perspective in this election year has mostly been
headlined in relation to abortion, vouchers, and same-sex unions. But
there are many Catholics who insist on bringing the whole range of
Catholic social teachings to the voting public - and to fellow Catholics.
One project is
A Social Justice Message from Catholic Voters. As in previous election
years, they are rounding up contributions as well as signatures so it can
be published in Roll Call and the National Catholic Reporter.
It can be
accessed at www.quixote.org/cso
Thanks to Gene TeSelle
A Baptist view
comes from a Baptist homiletics professor, writing for a
moderate-to-liberal Baptist website. He asks
church can conduct "ministry in a political year," and suggests some
concrete things a congregation can do to help members become more informed
and active, without being partisan. He mentions things like a non-partisan
voter registration drive, inviting local candidates to speak, taking
groups to hear national candidates, and talking about or studying topics
"Christians and International Politics," or "Christians and Labor Issues."
Are you aware of other statements
or sources on political views and strategies in other churches or
Please send a note, and we'll share them here!
Legislative action on budget
The Friends Committee on National
Legislation (FCNL) has sent out a very helpful Legislative Action Message
focusing on issues of budget priorities currently before Congress and the
carefully at the rhetoric in the State of the Union address
Stephen Zunes offers a helpful "annotation" of President
Bush's State of the Union address. Zunes is Middle East editor for
Foreign Policy in Focus, and associate
professor of Politics and chair of the Peace & Justice Studies Program at
the University of San Francisco.
Fellowship of Reconciliation responds to Bush address with a reminder
from Martin Luther King that we live in a "world house."
CLARK AND DENNIS KUCINICH DIFFER ON THE SCHOOL OF THE AMERICAS
Wed., Jan 14, 2004 - from SOA
The New York Post recently published an article
exposing Democratic presidential candidate General Wesley Clark as a
supporter of the notorious School of the Americas (SOA/WHISC). Clark
delivered a commencement speech at the SOA in 1996 (the year in which the
use of Torture Manuals at the SOA became public). To read the article, click
Since the information on Clark's position on the SOA/WHISC
became more public, the SOA Watch office has received dozens of phone calls
and emails from journalists and activists who are saying that at nearly
every one of Clark's public appearances, he is being confronted on his
unpopular stands on the issue of the School of the Americas/WHISC.
On the other hand, Democratic presidential candidate
Dennis Kucinich has repeatedly announced that, if elected, one of his first
actions as president would be to immediately close down the SOA/WHISC.
Kucinich's official position on the SOA/WHISC:
Click here for background
on protests against the School of the Americas/WHISC
SOA Watch ~ PO Box 4566 ~ Washington DC 20017 ~ (202)234-3440 ~
It appears that our Issues Analyst, Gene TeSelle, has
never met an issue he didn't at least like to think about. Here are two
reflections, one on an issue - same-sex marriage - that is of direct
concern to the PC(USA), the other - legislative redistricting in Texas and
Colorado - an issue that is a matter of "good citizenship" for all of us.
He offers these points with the hope they will generate
some good conversation, and perhaps ideas for actions to be suggested at
the 2004 General Assembly.
If you have thoughts,
please send a
note and we'll share it here!
It was most notorious in Texas, when the Democratic
members of the legislature twice left the state in order to deny a quorum.
But it also happened in Colorado.
What's the topic? The re-drawing of state and
Congressional districts after it had already been done once by legislatures,
using data from the 2000 census.
While gerrymandering has been done by both parties when
they were in control of state legislatures, the "social contract" under
which they have lived is that redistricting is to be done only once every
ten years, in accordance with the requirements of the U.S. Constitution. The
drawing of districts has become such a fine science that most Congressional
districts are "safe seats" for one or the other party; those that are really
up for grabs every two years are limited to ten or fifteen across the entire
Republicans in Texas and Colorado broke that contract when
they gained control of the legislatures and decided to make their control
permanent. We don't yet know how this will play out in the courts. What we
do know is that lots of eyebrows are being raised at such shenanigans.
The situation is so dramatic that there are calls for
reform from many quarters. Here are three viable approaches, all of them
better than what we have now.
The state of Iowa since 1980 has authorized the
nonpartisan Legislative Services Bureau to draw up three different
plans, all of them based on clear criteria that are ranked in importance;
then the legislature decides among them. It seems to have worked well in
Iowa, and it is wistfully admired in other states.
This may be the time for a campaign for proportional
voting -- if not nationwide, at least in enlightened states -- or those
that are just exhausted by the constant debate. It is quite possible for the
Congressional seats allotted to a state to be determined on a statewide
basis. So if a state sends five representatives to Congress, each voter can
cast five votes for different candidates ("single-shotting," casting five
votes for a single candidate, would be ruled out). The top five vote-getters
go to Congress.
Proportional voting is used in most of the countries in
Europe and in many other areas. The single-district "winner take all" method
has been perpetuated in Britain and the U.S., and it tends to encourage a
two-party system, with each party trying to capture the middle. The problem,
as Lani Guineer has put it, is that the voters "get districted" and lose the
right to decide who will represent them. The consequence of proportional
voting is that more parties have a chance of getting their candidates
elected. But it also means that each constituency has the opportunity to
make its vote count, perhaps even be the "swing vote."
Along with this, it may be the time for instant runoff
voting. Each voter, in voting for candidates, could also indicate second
choices. In counting the votes, the first choices would be tallied first,
and those who received a majority would be elected; in the other cases the
second choices would be tallied. This approach is already used in many
municipalities as a means of avoiding expensive run-off elections. It could
also be adapted to proportional voting on a statewide basis.
If you, our visitors, have had
experience with any of these, we would love to have your comments.
Please send a
and we'll share it here.
for items on U.S. Politics posted in 2007.
Stories from 2006 are archived
on a separate page.
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!