Author: Thomas Bushlack

10 Suggestions for Interrupting White Privilege

I offer the following suggestions for ways that I have thought of in the past few weeks to renounce white privilege and work toward greater racial justice, equality, and solidarity. I make no claims that this is a comprehensive or definitive list. Nor do I necessarily believe that this list would be satisfactory to others – whether black, white, or other. Rather, I offer it for your consideration as a result of my own personal questioning

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Now, That’s More Like It: Kansas’ New Abortion Law

A few weeks ago I wrote a strong critique of both the discriminatory spirit and the bad jurisprudence portrayed in Indiana’s recent Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  However, I have the opposite reaction to the recent Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act, which makes Kansas the first state to a ban second trimester abortion procedure.  What makes the former law such terrible policy, while the latter is a more fitting piece of legislation? I’m glad you asked.  In her recent book, Law’s Virtues, legal scholar and moral theologian Cathleen Kaveny claims that good laws promote both the common good and the virtues of autonomy and solidarity of those who are subject to it.  A central claim of her book, one that she bases in Thomas Aquinas’s discussion of law, is that law functions as more than just as a police officer – that is, dissuading persons from harming others and/or punishing when they do – but also that law instills certain moral values and guides citizens toward particular civic virtues. If we apply this notion of law to these two pieces of legislation, a clear difference begins to emerge.  Indiana’s law claims to be defending religious liberty.  However, in reality it extends a legal right to religious groups to use their religious beliefs to discriminate against and deny services to those whom they deem as morally unworthy.  I would argue...

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Is This the Face of Religious Liberty?

In a move that seems both almost incomprehensible, and yet somehow perhaps not surprising in our political climate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed legislation today that could potentially allow discrimination against members of the LGBT community.  Amanda Terkel of The Huffington Post writes that “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act would allow any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party.”  Concerns over legalized discrimination have prompted Salesforce, a Fortune 500 company to state that it will avoid future business in Indiana, and Gen Con, one of the largest gaming conventions in America, has threatened to stop holding its convention in Indiana. This bill is based upon both bad jurisprudence, and bad theology.  Is this really the way in which religious leaders, including members of the Catholic Church such as those represented in this photo, want to stand up in defense of religious liberty?  Do we want to use the fundamental tenet of American democracy as an excuse to discriminate against our own citizens, against our own brothers and sisters in Christ?  I submit that this is not the face of religious liberty that we need to defend in America today. This bill strikes me as one of the most ironic and perverse applications of religious liberty imaginable: a fundamental principle of the United States’ Bill of Rights, enshrined in the...

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A Brief Reflection on MLK: Subtle Changes in Racial Consciousness

This is the third J-term in a row that I am teaching an Introduction to Christian Morality, in which I have used sections from Fr. Bryan Massingale’s Racial Justice and the Catholic Church, along with Peggy MacIntosh’s classic essay “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.”  My students come predominantly from white urban or suburban neighborhoods surrounding the Twin Cities, MN, and are therefore on the whole part of what both MacIntosh and Massingale describe as implicitly educated into a system of cultural racism that teaches whites NOT to see or be aware of the kinds of privilege that we benefit from every day.  (I should note that I also grew up in a very similar culture and geographic location as most – though not all – of my students.)  Therefore, these texts are very challenging for them, as they are asked to consider the fact that they have benefited from a system that has intentionally kept them unaware of their own unearned privilege, and conversely, the unfair loss of privilege and rights to people of color.  Often the geographic divides between areas of white privilege are a matter of a few miles or blocks (and this is true of most urban areas in the U.S.), but the cultural divides might as well be measured in hundreds of miles. I have noticed a very subtle, but I believe significant, shift in the...

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What is Violence? Continuing the Conversation from New Wineskins to Ferguson to Gaza

One of the “traditions” that has evolved out of the annual New Wine, New Wineskins conference, held recently between July 31-Aug 3 at Notre Dame, is the debates that continue after the presented papers.  Often, a circle will form in the basement recreation room at Moreau Seminary as someone brings up a hotly contested point that was left unresolved from the question-and-answer period earlier in the day.  These are some of my favorite New Wineskins moments, because, frankly, there is usually enough mutual trust that we’re able to throw down the gauntlet – as it were – and have it out in a solid conversation/argument.  But we don’t just leave the room, walk out, and stop talking to those with whom we disagree.  At the end of the night we look each other in the eye, remain friends, and come to a better mutual understanding (note that I didn’t necessary say agreement, but understanding).  This is really the heart of what New Wineskins is all about.  (If you’re a junior scholar in Catholic moral theology, this is your official invite to next year’s conference!) One of the papers that sparked such heated conversation was raised by Matthew Whalen (Ph.D. candidate at Duke) in his paper, “Violence and the Ordinary.”  Whalen drew upon texts from Archbishop Oscar Romero and Catholic Social Thought, and the challenge of land reform in El...

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