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from the Election through the Inauguration

(Nov. 4 through Jan. 20)

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June 2007 - Oct. 14, 2008

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The Courage of our Convictions

by Senator John Marty


Webweaver's note: John Marty is a strong, progressive Minnesota state senator; his thoughtful views seem to reflect in part the scholarship and convictions of his father, Prof. Martin Marty.  More on Sen. Marty's blog >>

What do you think about progressive pragmatism today?
A necessary way of doing politics,
or a betrayal of progressive values?
Please send a note, to be share here!

November 30, 2009 — If 21st Century Progressives led the 19th Century Abolition Movement, we'd still have slavery, but we'd have limited it to 40 hour work weeks, and we'd be so proud of the progress we'd made.

In earlier eras of U.S. history, progressives believed they could fight injustice and move society forward, and they did so. Today however, many progressives have lost faith in their ability to affect significant change. Many are content simply to tinker with problems, whether the issue is getting living wages for work, ending poverty, or removing toxins from our food supply.

For example, consider universal health care. All progressives claim to support this, but many aren't willing to fight for it – not because they believe it's bad policy, but because they believe it is "politically unrealistic." When our proposed Minnesota Health Plan is offered as a way to deliver universal health care, some dismiss it as legislation that can't happen for decades. They talk about universal health care but offer and support proposals that are mere band-aids.

It is instructive to look back to the past. Despite the reality that men were the only ones who held office and the only ones who could vote, suffragettes fought and won the seemingly impossible goal of gaining the right to vote. In the 1960's civil rights activists believed they could get rid of segregation laws and get equal rights under the law. When told they were expecting change to occur too rapidly, Martin Luther King wrote a book explaining, "Why We Can't Wait."

Today, however, regardless of the speed of other changes in society, many progressives have lost hope. For them, such a book would now be titled, "Why We Need to be Pragmatic and Accept Token Change."

This timidity can be explained by decades of defeat at the hands of right wing politicians like Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove, which caused many progressives to retreat from a "Politics of Principle" to a supposed "Politics of Pragmatism" that is not only lacking in courage, but also has been highly ineffective.

Under the politics of principle, the progressive movement would fight for the goal, using pragmatic politics only to figure out how to promote the message.

But with the current politics of misguided pragmatism, some progressives calculate what is politically acceptable, and then determine what they will stand for. For example, using this "pragmatism," President Obama decided to push for health insurance for more instead of health care for all.

One cannot totally fault the President for failing to push for comprehensive reform. He shied away from principle-based reform because he knows that members of Congress working on health reform take big campaign contributions from the health insurance lobby and other powerful interests. He knows that they are afraid of nasty campaign attacks and believe they need the big money to win reelection.

"Pragmatically," Democrats in Washington are pushing for "universal" health care that isn't universal. They are pushing for reforms that cost more, not less, and policies that focus more on their sense of pragmatism than on real public health and prevention.

It's time for progressives to have the courage of our convictions. If we claim to believe in universal health care, we need to fight for it. The MN Health Plan – which covers everyone for all their medical needs, and costs less than we are spending now – is on the table. Those who are not willing to take on the powerful insurance lobby, ought to be honest and admit that reelection and other priorities matter more.

Refusing to fight for it because it is "not politically realistic" becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Likewise, dismissing it as something that will take decades to pass means leaving the problem to the next generation.

Whether the issue is living wages for workers, environmental protection, or LGBT equality, many progressives have lost courage. They fight to raise the minimum wage by fifty cents for every dollar that inflation takes away. Even in victory, we accomplish little.

It is time to move beyond fear and stand up for the principles we say we believe in. Minnesotans deserve nothing less.

Nobel Peace Prize 2009 – decided by a “left-leaning” panel?

by Bill Peach    [10-14-09]

There have been 120 recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize – 97 individuals and 23 organizations. The selection is made by a member panel appointed by the Norwegian Parliament. Several news stories referred to the panel as “left-leaning.”

I would encourage you to read the history of the Nobel Peace Prize. The first irony is that it is named after the person who invented dynamite. Go figure. One of the most interesting recipients was in 1960 when the Albert John Lutuli, a Zulu Warrior, won the prize, for his peaceful resistance to apartheid. Consider 1973, when Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho shared the prize, and the Vietnamese negotiator refused. Americans have fared well historically: George C. Marshall, Teddy Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter, Woodrow Wilson, and Al Gore.

Stalin was one of the nominees in 1945 and 1948 for his efforts “to end World War II.” Mahatma Ghandi was nominated four times, but never won. George W. Bush and Tony Blair were nominees in 2004. Anyone could easily question the selection of Shimon Peres, Menachem Begin, or Kofi Annan. We all probably applaud the honor being bestowed upon FW de Klerk and Desmond Tutu.

Most nominees are either political activists, pacifists, humanitarians, or relief organizations. The Red Cross and Doctors without Borders are exemplary. This year there were 205 nominees – a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, a Chechen, a Russian, and a Senator from Colombia. From what I have read, Sima Simar, from Afghanistan has been a tireless advocate for Afghan women. Just from all the resumes I might have leaned toward her had I been on the panel.

The Nobel panel avows that their choice was based on what he had accomplished, specifically easing relations between the West and the Muslim world, the removal of missiles from Europe, and lessening tension and making the world safer. I don’t question President Obama’s credentials or content of his heart. I do have concerns that the award may be premature. Until our military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan is resolved, this seems to be a vision rather than an accomplishment. The award is now more of a challenge to live up to his image in the world.

The repeated reference to the panel as being “left-leaning” is more or less an obvious one. The criteria for nomination include pacifists, activists, advocates for humanitarian efforts, democratic reform, and peaceful resolution of conflicts. All of this makes you wonder if perhaps there should be a “right-leaning” panel to select a Nobel War Prize.

The author: Bill Peach lives in Franklin, Tennessee, where he has been in the men’s clothing business for most of his working life. But he also describes himself as a politician, preacher, and philosopher, who received his Bachelor’s degree at the age of 51. He has authored a number of books, including Politics, Preaching & Philosophy, published in 2009 by Westview, Inc.

Nobel Peace Prize to Obama – an honor, an error, or maybe a call?

The selection of President Barack Obama as the recipient of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize seems to have surprised almost everybody, even in the White House. It’s interesting that there have been few responses of enthusiastic approval, even from people and groups that are strong supporters of Obama and his policies.

Reuters news service has compiled a helpful survey of brief comments from around the world, ranging from praise to outrage. Here’s a sample of three of them:

In Indonesia, Masdar Mas'udi, deputy head of Indonesia's largest Muslim organization Nahdatul Ulama, said: "I think it's a good thing. I think it's appropriate because he is the only American president who has reached out to us in peace. On the issues of race, religion, skin color, he has an open attitude." 

In Pakistan, Liaqat Baluch, a senior leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami, a conservative religious party, said: "It's a joke. How embarrassing for those who awarded it to him because he's done nothing for peace. What change has he brought in Iraq, the Middle East or Afghanistan?" 

South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu, awarded the prize himself in 1984, hailed the award as "a magnificent endorsement for the first African American president in history."


Glenn Greenwald, writing for Salon, offers a nicely balanced comment.

He begins:

When I saw this morning's top New York Times headline – "Barack Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize" – I had the same immediate reaction which I'm certain many others had: this was some kind of bizarre Onion gag that got accidentally transposed onto the wrong website, that it was just some sort of strange joke someone was playing. Upon further reflection, that isn't all that far from the reaction I still have. And I say that despite my belief that – as critical as I've been of the Obama presidency regarding civil liberties and Terrorism – foreign affairs is actually one area where he's shown genuine potential for some constructive "change" and has, on occasion, merited real praise for taking steps in the general "peace" direction which this Prize is meant to honor.

He lists some examples: Obama’s changing the tone of U.S. dealings with other nations, and especially with the Muslim world; his efforts to deal with Iran by negotiation rather than threat; his break from George Bush’s “full-scale subservience to Israel,” and more. For all these shifts, there are few concrete accomplishments so far – but the shifts are certainly welcome.

Even so, Greenwald voices serious concerns: Obama’s continuing escalation of the war in Afghanistan – with the possibility of much more to come; increasing U.S. airstrikes that have killed more hundreds of Afghan civilians; little if any reduction in the U.S. military presence in Iraq; no criticism of Israel’s invasion of the Gaza territory early this year ... and much more.

The author:

Glenn Greenwald was a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York, and is now a writer, including two New York Times bestselling books: How Would a Patriot Act?, a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, and A Tragic Legacy, which examines the Bush legacy.


One Presbyterian writes to the President:

Many progressives are responding to the award by communicating with the White House just what it might mean for the President to follow the high calling which seems to be implied by the Peace Prize.

For instance, the Rev. Dr. Ralph Clingan has sent this letter to the President:

Dear Mr. President, 

Congratulations on receiving the Nobel Prize for Peace. The nomination and selection, like your election, grew out of the positions you took during your campaign. I travel to Korea sometimes twice a year and know how optimistic they were about your help in bringing about Korean reconciliation. I am involved as a Theologian in West Asian Peace efforts and thank you for opposing illegal Israeli settlements and the terror war they waged in Gaza. 

Universal health care also was one of your often stated hopes for the nation and now, with Senator Baucus' Senate Bill, it is about to go down to ignominious defeat. The profiteers of Wall Street who control all banking will control all health care except that of old people on Medicare like me. What a shame. As Mark Twain used to say, "We have the best Congress money can buy." 

The people who profit from illness spent $380 million to buy Baucus and his pals who will not make a lack of buying a Wall Street profiteering policy a crime. That is pure, simple Fascism/Nazism. I have supported and will continue to support universal health care through the Single Payer Option, which would make Medicare/Medicaid available to all on the same basis as it is made available to you, your family and the people and families who work for the people in our Nation's Capitol.     

May God bless and keep you as you strive every day to fulfill the promises you made in your book and speeches which motivated the Nobel Committee to give you the privilege, task and duty of making peace on Earth. If I can be of help, just call me.

Micah preached:
Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.

Yours in Christ,

Rev. Ralph G. Clingan, PhD


The author:

Dr. Clingan is a Presbyterian minister, now retired. From 1980 to 1988 he taught preaching in The Interdenominational Theological Center, Atlanta, Georgia, and later at Princeton's Continuing Education Center in Ontario. He has written an intellectual biography of Clayton Powell and An Action Preaching Manual, in Korean.

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A very positive comment on Obama's Nobel Prize:

"Obama’s words, his calm, his vision, his integrity, his smile, his brilliance, his good heart unleashed something in the world that is loose among us."

The Rev. Michael E. Livingston, Executive Director of the International Council of Community Churches, has written this for the ICCC newspaper.  He is also a past president of the National Council of Churches, and is a Presbyterian minister and a former member of the Witherspoon Society board.  He read our earlier post, and immediately offered to share his thoughts with us here.   [10-10-09]



Why is it that there is always something momentous happening when I sit down to write “Done in Love” for The Christian Community? Coincidence?  Serendipity?  Providence?  I think it is the very nature of God’s creation: wonder is ordinary, the miraculous is available for those with eyes to see, ears to hear, hands to touch, hearts to feel, and minds to ponder the daily feast upon our senses.  Today for me it is the startlingly unexpected announcement of the selection of President Barack Obama as winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.  And yet it feels right and good.

We would inhabit an alternate universe if this were not controversial, so I pause to respect the many who for their own reasons think the prize premature and Obama undeserving:  What has he done?  The critics lament (some bark).  My first instinct is joy, celebration, confirmation.  Forgive me if that is three instincts.  No I am not fully satisfied with what he has accomplished in these first months.  I am even concerned about hints of a too generous caution, backtracking on earlier promises, and unearned accommodation with unreasonable opposition.

But the commentary from the prize committee transported me back to candidate Obama, that amazing fellow whose audacious hope ignited not just a dormant spirit and populace in this country, young and old, gay and straight, and all the colors of the human rainbow—but a whole planet of people starving for a reason to hope, a hand to grab hold of against a slide into a deeper malaise.  Candidate Obama electrified the whole world.  We are a different people today.  We are a people today, the world over, unlike at any time in our recent past. 

There is a universal dimension to Obama Nobel Peace Prize.  It’s my prize too.  And yours.  And refugees in Rwanda, internally displaced persons in New Orleans or in the Sudan, Muslims in Paris and London, prisoners in Guantanamo, Palestinians and Israelis staring at one another across dangerous checkpoints, closeted gay teenagers in Kansas, 47 million uninsured Americans.  The Prize committee in Oslo gets it, even if many in this country cannot or will not see it.  Obama’s selection is both personal and communal; it is for who he is today and our potential in the future. 

Obama’s words, his calm, his vision, his integrity, his smile, his brilliance, his good heart unleashed something in the world that is loose among us.  We elected him in the United States.  The world welcomed him as their leader too.  Not to replace others, rather because it is clear his will is to work together to address and solve problems no one leader, no one nation can overcome alone.  Let the naysayers naysay.  It is too late.  The game has changed, the rules seem fair, the deck un-stacked. 

Of course this is too much to place upon his one thin frame.  There are wars to end and deadly environmental conditions to reverse, poverty and disease of staggering proportion, parched throats and bloated bellies aching for clean water and daily bread, too many guns waiting to wreak too much havoc. 

But President Obama is not alone, we are with him.  Prize in hand, we face these challenges together.  Hoping and working for the brighter day we can create. 

                                    Michael E. Livingston

Rev. Michael E. Livingston
Executive Director, ICCC
Immediate Past President, NCCCUSA
From Rabbi Michael Lerner —

“Obama needs to be pushed from the progressive world in order to be able to be who he wants to be.”

Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine, and founder of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, has just published an article on the website in which he calls on progressives to press President Obama to get past his current efforts at pragmatic compromise, and return to the strength of his progressive ideological background.

Without this, he warns, Obama “will not be able to gain mass support for a coherent worldview that can form the basis for an alternative to ‘let the marketplace decide,’ which has been the guiding principle for American domestic politics, and ‘let our power shape the world,’ which has been our primary approach to foreign policy.”

The full article >>

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Obama announces new faith-based council

President Barack Obama has announced that the office established by President George W. Bush, for providing government support for religiously based social programs, will be continued – but apparently changed in some significant ways. While Bush’s program was primarily a grant-making body, Obama is going beyond that, creating a new board of advisers whose recommendations will be woven directly into his policy-making apparatus.

The New York Times reports today:

President Obama signed an executive order Thursday to create a new White House office for faith-based programs and neighborhood partnerships, building upon the initiatives started by the Bush administration to administer social services to people “no matter their religious or political beliefs.”   The rest of the story >>

ABC News reports on the naming of Josh DuBois to head the revamped White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which was created by an executive order signed by President Obama this morning. DuBois, a 26-year-old Pentecostal minister, directed religious outreach for the Obama campaign. Previously, he was an associate pastor at a Pentecostal church in Massachusetts and received a master's degree in public affairs from Princeton University.

The Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners said DuBois represents a "new generation of faith leaders.” Wallis added: “He's very bright and very hardworking. ... He's a good relationship builder, and he's reached out across the political spectrum and cares about policy."

The ABC report continues: “The Obama administration will seek to expand the role of this office as it relates to policy issues where religious and local leaders can be effective. DuBois will coordinate with faith-based and community organizations on social service outreach and will work to utilize these organizations' efforts to advance the administration's policies, with a primary focus on poverty.”

The legal standing of the new agency will be given serious consideration, given Obama’s statement during the campaign that he disagreed with the Bush policy that allowed religious groups that receive government money to take faith into account when make hiring decisions. Also of concern under Bush was the politicization of the office.

According to a report from the Washington Post, Obama is also naming a advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which will include Jim Wallis, along with the Rev. Joel Hunter, senior pastor of the megachurch Northland Church in Florida; Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; the Rev. Frank Page, former president of the conservative Southern Baptist Convention; and Judith Vredenburgh, president of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. The council will eventually have about 20 to 25 members, and about a dozen are expected to be named tomorrow, and will operate under the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

U. S. News provides a full list of those named to the Council, with details about a few of them >>

The Post quotes Joe Conn, spokesman for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, as saying that the existence of the advisory council is neither good nor bad. "For us, the problem is correcting these civil liberties violations. ... We want to see some actions on executive orders," he said.

The Miami Herald details more of the objections raised by Americans United >>

An article by Carrie Budoff Brown, published first on, and also posted by CommonDreams, goes into more depth about the policy-shaping role that may be expected of the new Council, and some of the concerns that are being expressed by various observers.

President Obama talked in some depth about his understanding of faith and its role in the civic life of the nation, in his remarks to the National Prayer Breakfast this morning.

A brief summary, plus the full text of his remarks, is posted on the White House website >>

What are your thoughts about this potentially significant development?

Please send a note, so your hopes and concerns can be shared here.

Obama to the Nation: “Grow up!”

In his inaugural address, President Obama had a lot to say, most of it pretty sober. There have been many commentaries on his speech, but E. J. Dionne of the Washington Post has given one that I find very helpful. (That’s partly because it’s close to what I’ve been thinking myself.) He begins: 

President Obama intends to use conservative values for progressive ends. He will cast extreme individualism as an infantile approach to politics that must be supplanted by a more adult sense of personal and collective responsibility. He will honor government's role in our democracy and not degrade it. He wants America to lead the world, but as much by example as by force.

And in trying to do all these things, he will confuse a lot of people.

One of the wondrous aspects of Obama's inaugural address is the extent to which those on the left and those on the right both claimed our new president as their own.

He goes on to list the values that Obama proclaimed: "honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism." Nothing very far out there, is there? (Well, tolerance and curiosity might be a little on the edge.) But there’s nothing about the radical “I’ll get mine” ethic that has undergirded much of the economic and social individualism of recent decades; nothing about the superiority of U.S. interests over other nations’.

This is more than just a break from the presidency of George W. Bush.  Dionne suggests that Obama is making a sharp break with the “Reagan revolution” which held that government is bad, or at least dangerous unless strictly limited. In its stead, Obama is calling this nation (which he refers to, bless him, as “the United States,” rather than “America”) to recover our commitment to the common welfare, the community, which is a part of our traditional values that has been sorely missed over the past few years. And that is not something to blame on Bush; he used our radical individualism for his own purposes, but he did not create it. We asked for it. We got it. And now we the people seem to have decided it’s time for a change.

But the real change, as Obama keeps reminding us, must come from all of us. Obama and Washington can’t do that big a job. But Yes, just maybe, we can.

Dionne’s article >>

[You may be asked to register to access this on the Washington Post website -- but it's free.]

Inauguration Journal: Scattered Thoughts Over Four Days of History -- by Jim Wallis of Sojourners

It’s a better country than I thought it was. I honestly wouldn’t have thought this possible. I guess I would have agreed with the older generation of African Americans in my neighborhood: This day would never come in our lifetimes—but here it is.

For four decades, I’ve been fighting against all the bad stuff in America—the poverty, the racism, the human rights violations, and always the wars. At a deeper level, the arrogance, self-righteousness, materialism, and ignorance of the rest of the world, the habitual ignoring of the ones that God says we can’t, the ones Jesus calls the least of these.

From the time I got kicked out of my little white evangelical church as a young teenager, and plunged into the student movements of my generation, the issue that drove me was racism. Now the son of an African immigrant and a Kansas white woman has become president. I keep pinching myself.

And he talks differently—about almost everything.

I’ve known him for a decade, but I watched him grow as a leader all through this campaign, and now each day. I have never met a more self-disciplined political leader, with one exception—Nelson Mandela. And Mandela had the advantage of 27 years of spiritual formation in a South African prison.

I am used to White Houses who want to arrest me—22 times over 40 years. This White House wants our advice. Leaders from the faith community have been virtually inhabiting the offices of the Transition Team over the last weeks, with our advice being sought on global and domestic poverty, human rights, criminal justice, torture, faith-based offices, foreign policy, Gaza and the Middle East. A staffer joked one day, “We should have just gotten all of you bunks here.”

I took my two boys to the Opening Ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial, which I thought was just going to be “a concert.” But it turned out to be a wonderfully musical civic lesson about the best of America, the history that has been a shining light to the world at our best, and one that has attracted the most diverse population on the earth. I watched my boys watch and listen, and even felt proud of my country for the first time in a very long time. Bono and Springsteen weren’t bad either, and Tom Hanks’ reading of Lincoln might have been the high point for me. Everybody was very happy and even hopeful.

Then on this year’s celebration of the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., one day before the inauguration of the nation’s first black president, one could almost feel the warmth of Martin’s smile. The freedom fighters of the civil rights movement who are still with us, like Congressman John Lewis, said that while the election of Barack Obama wasn’t the fulfillment of King’s dream, it was, nonetheless, a hefty down payment.

Joy and I were blessed to attend the private prayer service for the new president that began inauguration day for Barack and Michelle Obama. Then there was the swearing in, which was almost unbelievable as the world watched. And then the speech. The more I listen to it, the better it gets. Here was a leader who wanted us to face how serious our situation really is. What some have called the “fake optimism” that often attends such inaugurals wasn’t there, but rather a serous invitation to make the hard choice of hope, which has always been the strength of this nation when facing the most difficult times. And here was a leader who said this wasn’t really about him, but about us, and what we would decide to do together. He called for a “new era of responsibility.” And bridging the polarized left/right debates of the decades, it was clear that he meant both personal and social responsibility.

Read the speech a few times. But some of the highlights for me were:

That the national security strategy of Donald Rumsfeld will now be replaced by the wisdom of the prophet Micah—that our security depends upon other people’s security.

That the secret governance and detention centers of Dick Cheney will now be replaced by the rule of law and the renunciation of torture as not American after all.

That the money changers of the temples of Wall Street will be replaced with the call of the prophet Nehemiah to rebuild the broken walls and establish the common good.

And American “manifest destiny” will be replaced by a new relationship to the world, more characterized by “humility” (he actually said the word) and leading by American example more than by American domination.

In concert with and in challenge to the new president, Joseph Lowery prayed:

 Help us then, now , Lord, to work for that day when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree, and no one shall be afraid; when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.

The opportunity that has always been the American promise must now be extended to all, including those at the bottom of the economy, said the new president, who also pledged that the poor of the world would not be abandoned anymore.

 To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.

He also gave a stern warning to the country about the results of misplaced policies and priorities.

 This crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control. The nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous.

Obama sometimes did sound like the prophet Nehemiah, who after he carefully surveyed the broken walls of the temple, called the people together to start the rebuilding and to “commit themselves to the common good.”

 Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

Afterwards, as we were leaving the Capitol, my son Luke whispered in my ear, “Yes, we did.”

Simply put, these last few days were a moment of answered prayers for me—the prayers of decades.

Participating in the Presidential Prayer Service at the National Cathedral was a fitting end to the week’s inaugural events. Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Hindus stood to pray for the president as the first family sat just a few feet away.

It was acknowledged that it was time now for the new president to go to work. And so should the religious community. Our job now is to offer prayers and support for the new president, as we did in the Cathedral yesterday. But it will also be our job, our prophetic religious responsibility in fact, to offer challenge when necessary, as it certainly will be for this president like all presidents before him. But I think this president has the capacity to understand that challenge can be the deepest form of support.

So let our work begin.

George McGovern urges calling a time out in Afghanistan

George McGovern, former senator from South Dakota, and the Democratic nominee for president in 1972, writes in The Washington Post:

As you settle into the Oval Office, Mr. President, may I offer a suggestion? Please do not try to put Afghanistan aright with the US military. To send our troops out of Iraq and into Afghanistan would be a near-perfect example of going from the frying pan into the fire. There is reason to believe some of our top military commanders privately share this view. And so does a broad and growing swath of your party and your supporters.

The full article >>                       

A view from Great Britain:

'War on terror' was wrong

The phrase gives a false idea of a unified global enemy, and encourages a primarily military reply

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband writes in The Guardian, UK:

Seven years on from 9/11 it is clear that we need to take a fundamental look at our efforts to prevent extremism and its terrible offspring, terrorist violence. ... But ultimately, the notion is misleading and mistaken. The issue is not whether we need to attack the use of terror at its roots, with all the tools available. We must. The question is how. ...

The more we lump terrorist groups together and draw the battle lines as a simple binary struggle between moderates and extremists, or good and evil, the more we play into the hands of those seeking to unify groups with little in common. ...

The "war on terror" also implied that the correct response was primarily military. But as General Petraeus said to me and others in Iraq, the coalition there could not kill its way out of the problems of insurgency and civil strife. ...

We must respond to terrorism by championing the rule of law, not subordinating it, for it is the cornerstone of the democratic society. We must uphold our commitments to human rights and civil liberties at home and abroad. That is surely the lesson of Guantánamo and it is why we welcome President-elect Obama's commitment to close it.

The call for a "war on terror" was a call to arms, an attempt to build solidarity for a fight against a single shared enemy. But the foundation for solidarity between peoples and nations should be based not on who we are against, but on the idea of who we are and the values we share. Terrorists succeed when they render countries fearful and vindictive; when they sow division and animosity; when they force countries to respond with violence and repression. The best response is to refuse to be cowed.

The full article >>

Pres. Obama orders closing of Guantánamo, end of torture

We don’t need to tell you again this good news. But there’s more to be said and done.

The National Religious Coalition Against Torture wrote to its membership list yesterday:

This is a moment for celebration and thanksgiving. We have all prayed and labored faithfully for this significant step toward ending U.S.-sponsored torture.

Thank you for all your efforts to help reach this goal.

Is there more to do? Yes!

Along with these sweeping changes in policy, the executive order created a Special Task Force charged with reviewing the Army Field Manual's interrogation guidelines to determine whether "different or additional guidance" is necessary for the CIA. The Task Force has 180 days to report. We need to make sure that any new interrogation technique that the Special Task Force recommends abides by the "Golden Rule" (in other words, each new technique must be both legal and moral if used upon a captured American).

Please email the White House to thank President Obama for his action today and to urge him to ensure that any additional interrogation techniques recommended by the Special Task Force comply with the principle of the "Golden Rule" – that we will use only those interrogation techniques that would be considered moral and legal if used upon a captured American.

Click here to email the White House.

In the coming months we will focus on a legislative agenda to make permanent the elements of this executive order by codifying them into law. We will also continue working to secure a nonpartisan investigation that will provide the critical information necessary to create effective safeguards against the future use of torture and allow the nation to decide whether to pursue criminal prosecutions of those involved in authorizing or implementing policies that led to the use of torture.

Together, we can build on today's victory and ensure that our grandchildren will be able to say, "Our nation once engaged in torture, but we don't do that anymore." May it be so.


Linda Gustitus, President
Rev. Richard Killmer, Executive Director


And from No2Torture ...

Also, the Rev. Carol Wickersham of Presbyterian-based No2 Torture has written to her organization with thanksgiving, but also a reminder of the need for continued vigilance.

Click here for her note >>

Some blogs worth visiting


PVJ's Facebook page

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.


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 thoughtful community.


John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

Theological and philosophical reflections on everything between summit to shore, including kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology, politics, culture, travel, 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 Flushing, NY.


John Shuck’s Shuck and Jive

A Presbyterian minister, currently serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tenn., blogs about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and lightening up.


Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!


Plan now for our 2010 Ghost Ranch Seminar!


July 26-August 1, 2010



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