Check out this fascinating new program on peacemaking that places people in a 3-month Learning Lab which culminates in a 2-week immersion experience into conflict in Israel/Palestine. Read more here and here.
If you’re an evangelical supporter of immigration reform, you can join an hour-long Twitter town hall from 4-5 p.m. (EST) on May 30. Here’s more from Sojourners:
On May 2, the Evangelical Immigration Table launched its 92 day Pray4Reform Challenge. They sent a letter to Congress challenging decision makers to pass compassionate and fair immigration reform within 92 days. Throughout the 92 days, evangelical Christians across the country will be showing their support by engaging in thoughtful prayer to support their legislators.
Christians countrywide also are being asked to join by signing up to be “prayer partners.” Each week during the challenge, they will receive an email or text with guidance on what prayer the Table is lifting up that week. Prayer partners are also encouraged to join the National Day of Prayer on May 30 by holding a dedicated time of prayer event in their communities.
Events can take place in the following form (from the EIT):
- A dedicated time of prayer for immigration at your office, school, church, or prayer group
- “See you at the pole” style event where three or more people gather at a flagpole, front of church, courthouse, etc., and ask friends, your local church, or colleagues to join you
- Prayer meeting with one of your legislators [email Josh Breisblatt firstname.lastname@example.org for help reaching out to congressional offices]
May 30 is the kickoff day for local prayer gatherings across the country.
If you’re interested in participating as a prayer partner sign up at www.pray4reform.org. If you’d like to organize a broader community event for May 30, please email Rudy Lopez (email@example.com). Any public prayer gatherings will be posted on www.pray4reform.org to show the scope of support for immigration reform among the evangelical community!
And follow the town hall and Tweet along! #Pray4Reform
“The issue of comprehensive immigration reform is just about the only public policy issue on which there is great unanimity across the Christian spectrum. . . . Other issues divide the Christian community, right and left. Comprehensive immigration reform unites us.”
I’m happy to join some distinguished historians of religion–John Turner, Philip Jenkins, Tommy Kidd, Agnes Howard, Miles Mullin, and Tal Howard–at the Anxious Bench blog. Below is my inaugural post:
This past semester for me focused inordinately on death. I taught a course called “War in the American Memory” and covered the Holocaust in World Civilizations. And then—even though commencement was already over—fellow blogger Miles Mullin piled on with a terrific post on how modern Americans outsource death and dying. It’s the semester that won’t die!
Death even pervaded an annual trip that I take with a group of Asbury students to the Abbey of Gethsemani, located about an hour west of Lexington, Kentucky. One of the main attractions at Gethsemani, of course, is the grave of Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk whose 1948 spiritual autobiography Seven Storey Mountain sparkles with lively descriptions of a boyhood in Europe, a bohemian young adulthood in the bustling streets of New York City, and a new monk’s life of quiet contemplation in the pastoral rolling hills of Kentucky. Ahead of the hippies, he interpreted monastic spirituality and community to the world. In fact, his grave, which rests in a gently sloping hill next to the Trappists’ chapel, bears witness to simplicity and community. His stone is identical to his colleagues’ markers. Death is universal, the modest stone suggests, leveling profound and simple minds.
Even the Welcome Center features death. A film replays the burial of a Trappist monk, whose unembalmed body wrapped in a simple white shroud, is lowered by ropes into a deep hole. Next door to the film room is a gift shop. What drew me first was the Trappists’ amazing bourbon fudge. But the shop also sells caskets. They start at $1,000 for the “Simple Rectangular” model and top out at a still-reasonable $3,400 for a “Premium” cherry model. No worries—if you live outside Kentucky, you still can buy your very own Trappist casket on the Internet. They can deliver it within two days in the continental U.S. (Or if you plan ahead and want your furniture to pull double-duty, you might consider the Coffin Table. I love the ad copy: “Not only can it store books and other knick-knacks like personal mementos, but its ultimate goal is to store YOU – or what remains of you – when you pass on to the next life.”)
The aura of death at Gethsemani did not feel unduly dark or foreboding. It rather felt like a reprieve from the sterility of modern life and death. Even the roads that took us to Gethsemani testify to the monastery’s unmodern sensibilities. The winding, idiosyncratic Monks Road on which the monastery is located contrasts sharply with the road we took out of Lexington: the Martha Layne Collins Blue Grass Parkway, an efficient four-lane divided highway that cuts an unnatural path straight through rock. The feeling that I was leaving the twenty-first century for the nineteenth century evoked a kind of nostalgia in me–even though I’ve never actually lived any golden age. Nevertheless, Gethsemani’s practice of death as a natural part of life, instead of an artificial thing to be cordoned off in a hospital morgue, has striking appeal for postmoderns drawn to earthier approaches such as this. My students certainly expressed a lot of enthusiasm for our trip.
Conservative evangelical Michael Gerson makes nice with progressive evangelical Jim Wallis. Check it out here.
The book has broader value in challenging a variety of shallow modern ideologies.
• Contra libertarianism: The common good is not identical to the triumph of market forces. Constructing it is the shared duty of communities, corporations and government.
• Contra modern liberalism: The common good is not identical to the triumph of autonomy and choice. Humans flourish in the context of binding moral commitments such as marriage and family. And the most vulnerable members of the human community deserve special concern and protection.
• Contra secularism: The common good is not achieved by banishing religion from the public square. Religious institutions perform works of mercy, carry ideals of justice and should be sheltered by a generous interpretation of religious liberty.
In a political era of rights talk and special-interest pleading, a greater emphasis on the common good would make American politics more civil, admirable and humane.
Nice little piece–“The Fiction of Evangelical Friction”–by Wheaton’s Noah Toly on evangelicals and immigration. In recent weeks several analysts have criticized articles in national publications that have highlighted shifting evangelical views. Mark Tooley, for example, says that evangelical elites are misrepresenting rank-and-file evangelicals in the pews who remain opposed to immigration reform. But PRRI/Brookings research really does show an overall softening on immigration due to “generational differences, social class, educational attainment, and party affiliations.”
Toly further notes that:
evangelical Protestants are making connections between their core commitments and the plight of many immigrants. As Martin Marty writes, evangelicals “’believe their own eyes’ when they look, are dumbfounded, and are then motivated to change attitudes about the plight and agony of ‘illegal aliens’ and so many others. And they also believe their own eyes when they look at their scriptures, which put the need of the strangers, exiles, aliens, and newcomers first as bidders for consideration and change.” Typical evangelical Protestant convictions are being expressed in new or unexpected ways.
Check out a new book by Brayton Shanley entitled The Many Sides of Peace: Christian Nonviolence, the Contemplative Life, and Sustainable Living. Here’s the description from the publisher Wipf and Stock, which is putting out some fantastic books these days:
The Many Sides of Peace comes out of thirty years of living in a Catholic lay community, attempting to understand and practice the compelling ideas of gospel-centered nonviolent love. The book attempts to speak to the signs of these times for those who seek peace and liberation from both war and the looming ecological Armageddon. It is a faith based on the revelation of Jesus and the conviction that a love that is nonviolent will save this environmentally threatened planet and its warlike people from an “at risk” status to a more peaceful and sustainable one. This is a message of hope, a “how to live” spiritual manual for human/earth survival that can help create a bold and beautiful world.