Month: January 2012

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Anxiety and Moral Presence

Deuteronomy 18:15-20 Psalm 95 I Corinthians 7: 32-35 Mark 1:21-28 “I want you to be free from anxieties.” Apparently, Paul was not following the latest research on the correlation between marriage and anxiety.  Numerous studies have now shown that those who remain married over a life span are less anxious, more emotional well-balanced, and generally happier than those who are not married or who divorce.  (This seems to be slightly less true for women than for men, but on the whole it remains true.)  Of course, this is an anachronistic attack on Paul and misses the point he is trying to make.  It is well-known that Paul expected an immanent return of Christ and thus probably saw no purpose in propagating the species or ensuring the long-term emotional well-being of his readers.  If we remove the middle part of the discourse, Paul’s reading for this Sunday goes like this: “I want you to be free from anxieties.  [Insert your preferred anxiety and all of its negative consequences here.]  I say this for your own benefit, not to put any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and unhindered devotion to the Lord” (italics added). We could substitute just about any anxiety for Paul’s discourse on marriage and his overall point would still be valid.  Money, career, spouse, getting my next article published, my kids’ future, self-criticism, criticism of...

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Facing Hidden and not so Hidden Racism

A week has passed since we, as a nation, celebrated the prophetic voice and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Part of facing that prophetic voice is to face the many ways in which racism continues to plague and cloud our judgment and community. While it is tempting to focus on the accomplishments we have made since King’s assassination in 1968, honoring his prophetic voice requires that instead, we face all the ways we have not. Racism continues to be a major sin in American society and is dangerously hidden from plain sight. That racism is in fact a social sin should be obvious. In their pastoral letterBrothers and Sisters to Us, the USCCB wrote: Racism is a sin: a sin that divides the human family, blots out the image of God among specific members of that family, and violates the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the same Father. Racism is the sin that says some human beings are inherently superior and others essentially inferior because of race. It is the sin that makes racial characteristics the determining factor for the exercise of human rights. … Today in our country men, women, and children are being denied opportunities for full participation and advancement in our society because of their race. The educational, legal, and financial systems, along with other structures and sectors of...

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Obama Denies Broad Religious Exemption for HHS Contraception Mandate

The Obama administration announced yesterday that most health insurance plans are now mandated to cover contraceptives (including Plan B and sterilization) for women free of charge. The move significantly narrows the conscience clause exemption for religious organizations like the Catholic Church. Church-affiliated organizations have an extra year (until Aug. 1, 2013) to comply with the requirement, which head of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said struck “the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services.” Archbishop (soon-to-be-Cardinal) Timothy Dolan has been an outspoken critic of the HHS mandate and has appealed personally to President Obama to grant a broad exemption for religious organizations, a request the president denied, though the rule still includes an exemption for religious employers at houses of worships which serve only their “co-religionists” and not people of different faiths like hospitals, universities, and social service agencies. “In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences,” said Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan. The Archbishop is clearly concerned with Catholic organizations cooperating in something they see as a grave evil, namely, artificial contraception, which everybody knows the Church opposes. Other evangelical allies see this as a violation of the First Amendment and the all-American value of separation of Church and State, as Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah made clear in his response: “The...

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Reflecting on MLK’s Legacy for Christian Ethics

OK, so I am several days late, but it doesn’t seem right that a blog dedicated to moral theology should allow the passing of the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy without comment.  Several events have coalesced recently that have reminded me of the continual need to reflect upon the legacy of Dr. King, the civil rights movements, active non-violence, racial tensions and inequalities, among other issues as a challenge for all people, Christians in general, and professional ethicists in particular.  First, I attended an excellent presentation at the recent meeting of the Society of Christian Ethics by Prof. Sarah Azaransky in which she reflected upon the theological influence of Howard Thurman upon Dr. King and the later civil rights activists, as well as his continuing significance for those working to address racial inequality.  Second, this past weekend marked the passing of Marv Davidov, a local peace activist in the Twin Cities (MN) who began his activism by participating in the freedom rides, and who taught classes in the Justice and Peace Studies program here at St. Thomas.  Each of these people carries forward a tradition of which Martin Luther King’s civil rights activism was one expression.  Moreover, seeing Dr. King as one expression of a much broader movement that was grounded in active non-violence, and was influenced by and connected to the struggles of Indians working with...

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