Tag Archives: Inclusion

Irish Pride

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
Dublin gay pride 2013 (Photo: Giuseppe Milo from Dublin, Ireland)

Ireland is not the Vatican, and one referendum in a largely Catholic country doesn’t do a thing to change church doctrine. It is all the more disappointing then, when the immediate reaction out of Rome is to decry the decision of the Irish people to allow gay marriage as a “defeat for humanity.” The opposite is true.

In a country where well over 80% of the population are Catholic, the decision to allow gay marriage is supported by more than 60% of voters. Instead of chastising this decision as a defeat, the Vatican should declare victory that civil minded, God loving people can show such courage and respect to the family-minded GLBT community. The Irish should be proud of themselves.

Pope Francis, too, should be pleased to see fulfillment of his plea for tolerance and acceptance:

“If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?”
– Pope Francis

There is no better will than committing your life to the love and care of a spouse and creating a family bond. By withholding judgement and urging respect for gay people, Pope Francis is also sending out a message of inclusiveness.

At a time when the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated “nones” are growing faster than any other religious grouping, it is important for all faiths of tolerance and respect to reach out to new communities who broadly share their values and beliefs. More importantly, in the context of the Irish referendum, it is essential for the Vatican to respect the separation of church and state and recognize that the institution of marriage is no longer only a matter of spiritual identity, but a legal institution that has consequences for couples and families committed to caring for one another.

As the Vatican prepares to discuss family issues at the Synod of Bishops in October later this year, let us pray for a spirit of tolerance, inclusiveness and respect. That would be a true victory over the hateful and parochial attitudes of vengeance and dogmatism that only leads people to reject spiritual identity altogether.

Advertisements

Pride and Patience: the Spoils of Victory

If God likes the game of soccer, then he would probably be pleased with Team Germany. That isn’t to say he would be picking sides in the World Cup, of course. How could he? After all, Pope Francis and more than 90% of all Argentinians have a long tradition anchored in the Catholic faith. But there is a lot about the team spirit in Germany to be proud of today.

As Pope Francis tweeted this weekend:

Pope Tweets on the World Cup.

Far different from the battlefields of war, ethnic tension and interfaith conflict, soccer fans from around the globe come together in events like the World Cup to put differences behind themselves and engage each other in a friendly and sporting environment.

Since World War II, Germany has risen to the challenge and taken the World Cup four times. On the current occasion and faced with the daunting task of defeating Brazil in the semi-finals, Germany did so with confidence and humility. In the routing the Cup’s host country 7:1, Team Germany went out of it’s way to show grace toward Brazil both in the media and on the playing field. Now that it has won the championship by defeating Argentina 1:0, Germany has earned the right to be proud of it’s accomplishment. The spirit of the World Cup would be best served if that national pride is now used to further encourage the values of fairness, inclusion and sportsmanlike behavior in all walks of life.

By denouncing racism, supporting gay athletes to live openly and fighting corruption at all levels in the sporting business, Germany can be a leader with impact that goes far beyond the world of soccer. Step by step it can, in short, prove that true victory is not measured by the spoils of war, but by the progress achieved in a long fought battle.

Applied to the “real world”, challenges abound. With a unique historical perspective and sense for moderation, Germany can use its strength and power of example to help resolve ethnic and sectarian conflicts, humanitarian refugee crises, income inequality and the struggle between security and personal freedom. Admired around the world, it is time for Germany look beyond the national pride of the moment and to build and advance its reputation as a reliable force for real progress on the world stage.

Both Germany and Argentina can take heart in the aspirational words found in Ecclesiastes:

The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride. (Ecclesiastes 7:8)

For Argentina, who itself is no stranger to World Cup finals, both team and country can look back at a hard fought and successful competition, which could have ended a lot earlier if it didn’t have the faith and the will to succeed. In Sports like in life, there is consolation that the next opportunity to prove your faith is just around the corner.

Sheep vs. Goats

Screenshot 2014-07-09 11.32.36 Source: UNHCR

If Christian life is full of hardship, whose suffering is worse: the fate of a lost and hungry child or that of the family “forced” to take the child in? Wasn’t it also the fate of Jesus to wander in search of those who are loving and faithful – not only to the Son of God, but also to each other.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.

Matthew 25:35

The United States prides itself as an exceptional nation and a beacon for the poor and downtrodden. Conservatives across the country are quick to declare their moral views and family values. When faced with the current refugee crisis on the southern border, however, these good shepherds look more like the euphemistic goat.

Americans outraged by the inflows of children and their mothers from Central America should consider this – you are not alone. Just this year more that 68,000 refugees from Africa crossed the Mediterranean Sea to reach Italy, slightly higher than the number of “illegals” entering the US during the same time frame – and the European refugees were mostly adults, not children. In fact, the most recent UNHCR data shows that many other countries are shouldering a much larger burden than the United States. The number of refugees to the US pales by comparison with Europe for example. At only a quarter of the size of the United States, Germany took in 600,000 refugees in 2010 compared with less than 300.000 refugees to the US.

While the humanitarian refugee crisis is also hotly debated in Europe, it’s mostly a debate about an acceptable level of care for refugees and their equitable distribution within the EU while giving the refugees due process to plead their case. In the US, on the other hand, the debate centers around how to beef up border security and “protect the homeland” against “illegals.” Shutting their eyes to the real source of the humanitarian crisis in Central America, unchristian-like protesters prefer to blame President Obama and block busses of immigrants from entering their communities. Ironically, the more generous European policies are arguably the result of enlightened post WWII politics which were shaped at least in part by the United States.

The reality is that the United States AND Europe ARE beacons of hope for many around the world. Increasing numbers of refugees are not the result of failed border controls, but a symptom of the growing income inequality in parts of the world that Pope Francis discussed with President Obama during their visit in March. Clearly the United States and Europe cannot integrate all of the world’s suffering people into their countries – and yes they have many of their own problems to solve. Unless Americans wake up to the true reality and invest more time and energy in the political and economic development of their neighbor states (instead of fighting long distance wars), the refugee crisis will continue.

In the meantime it would be a welcome change of tone if more Americans would demonstrate a little more patience and Christian-like compassion while working with the President on meaningful long-term immigration reform. Progressive or conservative, most Americans should be able to find common ground. I pray that Washington just gets it done.

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Matthew 25:40

Refugees in EU

Brotherly Love

You go girl! With all due respect to those who disagree with Pope Francis’ recent comments on gays, abortion and other liberal social issues, you should remember that God commands brotherly love:

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.

1 John 4:7

The Pope is right to criticize that the Church Is too ‘Obsessed’ With Gays, Abortion and Birth Control . Make no doubt about it. The Pope is still far from blessing gay marriage or supporting other liberal social issues. But what he is saying is good news to progressives who feel that you can be believe in God without agreeing with every church policy. In short you can disagree without being disagreeable. Pretty good advice, huh?

Pope Francis isn’t just side stepping the tough issues, either. By focusing his attention on mercy and humility, he appeals on everyone to reject narrow-mindedness in favor of forgiveness. To ostracize anyone who pursues a loving and virtuous existence  – regardless of personal circumstance or sexual preference – is a rather un-christian-like thing to do.

Whether you are gay person trying to just live a “normal life” or a woman facing a difficult decision regarding pregnancy and family planning, there are plenty of difficult challenges to overcome even without the constant judging of others. Let’s leave judgement up to a “higher authority”. Mormon dance champion Benji Schwimmer makes a pretty good case that you can be both gay and a good Christian, if the Church would just let it be. I’m not mormon, but I like his attitude.

Rather than battling against our neighbor, believers of all faiths should embrace what is good in modern society and find ways to promote diversity and inclusion within our churches and public institutions.

Let’s move on, brother.