Faith & Freedom
and "Justice Sunday II"
Religious leaders rally in
Nashville to present an alternative to the religious right’s "Justice Sunday
Conservative Christians press for confirmation of John
Roberts to Supreme Court
Gene TeSelle reports
The Religious Right scheduled a
high-visibility media event, called "Justice Sunday II," in Nashville on
Sunday, August 14. The theme was "God Save This Honorable Court," with an
emphasis on the need to confirm John Roberts as a justice on the Supreme
Court, with no ifs, ands, or buts. The basic message was that the people
have the power to say who will sit on the courts, and, failing that, to
change the Constitution, no matter what the legal tradition says. [Read
the local news reports >>]
A number of religious leaders around
the country decided that this was too important a happening to let it pass
without comment, especially since it was in Nashville, the Buckle on the
Bible Belt, and a place whose name is synonymous with "grassroots."
Even more to the point, the South is
the region where the federal courts have made the most difference. Without
them, we would still have legalized segregation, supported by the majority
of those who are able to register to vote; and we would still have impunity
for law-enforcement officers, Klansmen, and local toughs who engage in
extra-judicial harassment, torture, and execution. It is the region where a
major party realignment started after passage of Civil Rights Act of 1964
and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the general mood is still resentment
at the loss of the old way of doing things.
So they scheduled an alternative event
involving a number of national organizations and speakers. It was held in an
African-American church, the Cathedral of Praise, and featured praise music
by several vocal groups accompanied by sophisticated musicians. The
congregation was a varied mixture of African-Americans, mainstream white
Protestants, and activists of several different kinds.
There was also a group of several dozen
protesters, mostly from NOW, outside the Two Rivers Baptist Church where the
Justice Sunday II rally was being held.
During the two-hour service the
speakers included several African-American preachers who serve large
congregations in the Nashville area; Rita Nakashima Brock,
founder of Faith Voices; and Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans
United. They pointed out in various ways that the Religious Right wants to
create a theocracy that gives preference to one religious approach.
Perhaps the most surprising speaker was
Tim Alexander, a pastor in the Churches of Christ, our Southern
"non-denomination" that speaks only where the Bible speaks and usually takes
conservative positions. He went through the many texts, especially in the
New Testament, that support the separation of church and state.
Patrick Mrotek, a businessman and
organizer of the Christian Alliance for Progress, recited a litany of the
things that "being a Christian has come to mean," ending with, "casting
stones of bigotry and hate." He asked, "Where do you see Jesus trying to
control the political systems of his day? Where do you see him colluding
with political leaders for his own advantage? . . . Would he have gone to
Rome to make his views the law of the Empire?" In answer to the Religious
Right's claim that Christians and Christianity are being persecuted, Mrotek
put forth an alternative thesis: Christianity is being used by powerful
groups to push one political agenda.
Emilee Whitehurst of Austin Area
Interreligious Ministries expressed alarm at the current mentality: "The
more Christian you are, the more right-wing you are, the more you set greed
over love, using Jesus' name in a grab for power."
The final two speakers did not represent the Christian
tradition. They still captured the largely Christian audience with their
humor, which was sometimes mildly self-deprecating, more often just stating
what makes common sense.
Rabbi Cliff Fiedler went through the list of Congressional
bills that the Justice Sunday II leadership is pressing. One of them is the
Protection of Marriage Act. His response: "If two gays married on the
courthouse steps in San Francisco can't save their marriage, can a
Protection of Marriage Act accomplish it?" Like others, he expressed his
fears of a theocracy in which wealth and power are concentrated, while there
is indifference to children, the poor, and the sick.
Gail Seavey, freshly arrived as minister of the First
Unitarian-Universalist Church in Nashville, acknowledged that she was a "damnyankee,"
but pointed out that, starting in New England and spreading to other
colonies and states, there were Baptists and Univeralists and others who
went to court, one by one, and persuaded those courts to separate church and
state and not force people to support someone else's religion. That is a
legal heritage, more than two centuries old, which is worth preserving,
especially in this time when some are seeking religious uniformity and the
power to enforce it.
The final prayer wasn't the end of the matter. Several of
the participants, including Rita Nakashima Brock and Emilee Whitehurst, are
on a bus tour that is making its way to Crawford, Texas, to offer support to
Cindy Sheehan, the Gold Star mother who is protesting the President's Iraq
policy and has been trying in vain to talk with him in person.
|FREEDOM AND FAITH:
Speech delivered August 14, 2005 at the
Cathedral of Praise
Rita Nakashima Brock, PhD, Co-Director
Faith Voices for the Common Good
PO Box 10388, Oakland, CA 94610
I bring you greetings from people of faith from Puerto Rico to Hawaii and
from Alaska to Texas, as well as from my home state of California. We are
grateful to the good people of Nashville for coming together today to affirm
that people of faith believe in JUSTICE EVERYDAY, not in "Just Us Sunday."
Those folks meeting tonight with Tom Delay, Chuck Colson, and James
Dobson think they own the Bible and God speaks only to them. They are
boasting that they have taken over two branches of our federal government
and that they are going to take over the third. Earlier this year, Tom Delay
and his ilk in Congress actually threatened to take away the funding for our
courts if judges did not enforce their narrow agenda. There’s a word for an
extremist government controlled by one narrow religion; it is called
theocracy, not democracy.
We here today inherit a great legacy of people of faith who organized
movements to safeguard the core values of our democracy. They worked for
abolition, women’s suffrage, care for the poor, peace, and civil rights.
Even Roe v. Wade was started in a church basement in Dallas TX by women of
faith who were wanted to protect women’s lives.
And now, one grieving mother, camped in Crawford, TX, is trying to stop
an illegal, unjust, and unwise war. Cindy Sheehan was a speaker on our
national Freedom and Faith Bus Tour in June, and, following today’s events,
a number of religious leaders will leave here and join her in Crawford to
stand with her and other grieving mothers struggling for peace. [Brock
reports on this visit >>]
My Christian tradition taught me to value the religious freedom of
everyone in this land. My faith is not just something I do in private. It
informs my politics, which it should. But I know that if my values are good
for our democracy, other religious and nonreligious people can discuss them,
and we can reach a common good for all.
This commitment to the common good of all is one way I live out the core
of my faith, which is that God is love. Jesus told us to love our neighbor
and he placed no limits on who is our neighbor, no limits by race, religion,
sex, age, sexual orientation, IQ, language, physical ability, nationality,
or income level. My faith is strengthened by how widely I love my neighbors,
not by how narrowly I define them.
Today, the Christian extreme right has given American Christians a bad
name around the world. Instead of loving our neighbors, they seem determined
to ignore them. They are determined to control the world for their own
interests rather than being part of the community of God, which knows no
When Tom Delay and his friends want to deny religious freedom to their
Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Unitarian, and Sikh neighbors, we must ask,
Where is the love?
When they want to dismantle affirmative action, we must ask, Where is the
When they deny health care and a liveable wage to 45 million Americans,
we must ask, Where is the love?
When they let 7 out 1000 babies die for lack of support and nutrition for
their mothers, giving us the worst infant mortality rate in the
industrialized world, we must ask, Where is the love?
When they support a war built on false intelligence and wishful thinking,
a war that is stealing our young people, killing civilians by the thousands,
and increasing the dangers of terrorism, we must ask, Where is the love?
They are not only waging a war in Iraq. They are waging a war against
love in our own country.
They ask God to bless America, but for God to bless us, we must respect
what God has created: the world and everyone in it. We must honor our
commitments to the protection of our environment, we must uphold
international law, we must foster peace, and we must care for those in need,
not only here, but around the world.
You here today know that people of faith must not be silent. The mothers
and fathers and sisters and brothers of those serving in our military must
do all we can to end this horrible war and keep speaking and working until
it is ended. We must speak up and do all we can for the next few years to
protect this precious experiment we call democracy because there is none but
us together to protect it.
Let us bring God’s blessing to America by upholding the separation of
church and hate. Let us protect all of our faiths through the separation of
church and state. And let us join together to work for freedom and justice
|Justice Sunday II rally --
local reports [8-18-05]
The Nashville Tennessean reported on the religious
right rally, "Justice Sunday II — God Save the United States and this
Honorable Court." It was broadcast on television, radio and online and by
satellite to churches nationwide to draw attention to the direction and
influence of the nation's high court.
And the other side
The Tennessean also reported on other services held
in the area, aiming to promote unity, not to protest.
That story, too >>
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
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Got more blogs to recommend?
send a note, and we'll see what we can do!