Krista Tippett interviews civil rights legend and Congressman John Lewis in Montgomery, Alabama during the Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage. Amazing man!
~Trent Gilliss, senior editor
On January 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court handed down its decision regarding Roe v. Wade. Forty years later, the decision remains a hot-button topic in the news but, as this Pew study points out, there has been remarkable consistency in public opinion over the last two decades:
“More than six-in-ten (63%) say they would not like to see the court completely overturn the Roe v. Wade decision, which established a woman’s constitutional right to abortion at least in the first three months of pregnancy. Only about three-in-ten (29%) would like to see the ruling overturned. These opinions are little changed from surveys conducted 10 and 20 years ago.
White evangelical Protestants remain outliers in this respect:
[They] are the only major religious group in which a majority (54%) favors completely overturning the Roe v. Wade decision. Large percentages of white mainline Protestants (76%), black Protestants (65%) and white Catholics (63%) say the ruling should not be overturned. Fully 82% of the religiously unaffiliated oppose overturning Roe v. Wade.
However, the U.S. public continues to be divided over whether it is morally acceptable to have an abortion:
“Nearly half (47%) say it is morally wrong to have an abortion, while just 13% find this morally acceptable; 27% say this is not a moral issue and 9% volunteer that it depends on the situation. These opinions have changed little since 2006.”
For a more in-depth discussion about the nuances of this conversation, I recommend listening to this conversation I produced for On Being with David Gushee, a Christian ethicist who advocates a “consistent ethic of life,” and Frances Kissling, a long-time abortion-rights activist, who reveal what they admire in the other side and discuss what’s really at stake in this debate.
Recently I heard a wonderful program on National Public Radio about Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. I was struck by one of his quotes: ‘Some are guilty, but all are responsible.’
I pray for the victims and families in Newtown and Aurora and Virginia Tech and Red Lake and Columbine and Minneapolis and Norway and Webster and all the other lesser known atrocities — and for my country.
—John Patrick Egelhof, lead FBI agent of the Red Lake High School massacre, from his excellent if not challenging commentary in the Star Tribune. Read it.
The NPR program to which Mr. Egelhof is referring is On Being with Krista Tippett, which is the radio program I’ve edited and produced for the last nine years. The show he’s culling from: “The Spiritual Audacity of Abraham Joshua Heschel.”
One of the most gratifying aspects of working on this project is seeing this type of practical impact. Many times it’s difficult to quantify the influence our work is having in the world; seeing a key law enforcement official who has faced unbelievable tragedy use these pearls of wisdom to inform his own thinking and being breathes new life into the work that I do. It’s all the thanks I need.
The election is over, and it seems like now is as good occasion as ever to turn to poetry. Non? Who better to turn to than Elizabeth Alexander, the poet who wrote and delivered "Praise Song for the Day" at President Obama’s inauguration.
She sees poetry as providing the language that elevates and emboldens rather than demeans and alienates. And, despite these times when more and more of the world requires hard data and the certainty of facts, Ms. Alexander tells us what poetry works in us — and in our children — and why it may become more relevant, not less so, in hard and complicated times.
Trent Gilliss, senior editor
No politician, no party can deliver the utopian society they promise. Neither candidate is the hope of the world. As Christians, we believe that job is taken.
— Ben Irwin, a former publishing executive and Episcopalian Michigander, who has teamed up with two Mennonite pastors to create Election Day Communion.
The campaign is a network of more than 600 congregations of all denominations in all 50 states who have signed on to gather together on November 6th “to build unity in Christ in the midst of theological, political, and denominational differences” in “red states, blue states, and swing states.” The site leads with this manifesto:
During the day of November 6, 2012, we will make different choices for different reasons, hoping for different results.
But that evening while our nation turns its attention to the outcome of the presidential election, let’s again choose differently. But this time, let’s do it together.
It’s a noble effort that speaks to the premise of our own Civil Conversations Project, in which we aim to provide tools and ideas for healing our fractured civil spaces. This collaboration is one of those kindred projects that speaks to people’s yearning to achieve disagreement and work together.
Thanks to Charley Honey for pointing this out in his column for The Grand Rapids Press.
“Good communities actually take work.”
I’m a bit late to the game today, but this symposium covering journalism ethics in a digital age at the Paley Center for Media should be great. Digital heavyweights attending include John Paton, Clay Shirky, Eric Deggans, Ann Friedman, Gilad Lotan, Vadim Lavrusik, danah boyd, and David Folkenflik.
Here’s the line-up for the day:
9:00 a.m. Welcome
J. Max Robins, Vice President and Executive Director, Paley Center for Media
Karen Dunlap, President, The Poynter Institute
Craig Newmark, Founder, craigslist and craigconnects
9:15 – 9:30 The View From Here
Kelly McBride, Senior Faculty, The Poynter Institute
Tom Rosenstiel, Director, Project for Excellence in Journalism, Pew Research Center
9:30 -10:45 The Truth: Is It Possible in the Digital Era?
Moderator: John Paton, CEO, Digital First Media
Clay Shirky, Professor, New York University “Post Truth, Post Professional, Post Scarcity”
Steve Myers, Deputy Managing Editor, The Lens, “Fact-Checking 2.0″
Adam Hochberg, Instructor, University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communications, “Whose Money Should We Take? Credibility in Investigative Non-profit Newsrooms”
Craig Silverman, writer, “Regret the Error,” “The Corrections: A Sign of Sickness or Health?”
10:45 – Break
11:00 – 12:15 The Voices: Will Digital Space Ever Reflect Our Communities?
Moderator: Emily Bell, Director, Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University
Eric Deggans, TV/Media Critic, Tampa Bay Times, “(Mostly) White and (Sometimes) Brown Media People in a (Mostly) Brown and (Sometimes) White World”
Ann Friedman, freelance editor and writer, “It’s Not What You Look Like, It’s What You Eat”
Monica Guzman, columnist, The Seattle Times, “The Community, Formerly Known as the Crowd, Is It a Means or an End?”
12:15 – 1:15 Lunch
1:15 – 2:30 The Vehicle: Can This Ride Take Us to Democracy?
Moderator: Stephen Buckley, Dean of Faculty, The Poynter Institute
Gilad Lotan, Vice President, Research and Development, SocialFlow, “The Unintended Consequences of Algorithmic Curation”
Dan Gillmor, Director, Knight Center for Digital Entrepreneurship, Arizona State University, “Can Private Platforms Coexist With Journalism’s Public Service?”
Vadim Lavrusik, Journalism Program Manager, Facebook
2:30 – 2:45 Break
2:45 – 4:00 The Story: What Stories Do People Want and Need?
Moderator: Andrew Heyward, Former President, CBS News
danah boyd, Senior Researcher, Microsoft Research, “The Cost of Fear in an Attention Economy”
Tom Huang, Sunday and Enterprise Editor, Dallas Morning News, “Should We Let the Daily Story Die?”
Kenny Irby, Senior Faculty, The Poynter Institute, “Seeing Is No Longer Believing”
Kelly McBride, Senior Faculty, The Poynter Institute, “We’re Feeding an Originality Breakdown”
4:00 – 4:30 The New Ethics of Journalism: A Guide for the 21st Century
Moderators: Tom Rosenstiel and Kelly McBride
4:30 Going Forward
Paul Tash, Chairman and CEO, Times Publishing Co.
David Folkenflik, Media Reporter, NPR
This week’s show on the future of marriage is one of those conversations that we believe adds to our collective imagination and understanding of how to work through the difficult issue of same-sex marriage. Jonathan Rauch and David Blankenhorn came to the “gay marriage debate” from two, predictable opposing sides — but with an equal desire to strengthen marriage. They’re pursuing another way to talk about this difficult issue, and others, with civility and honesty.
Please listen in and share with your friends. We’d love to hear your feedback and wonder if the way these two men engage each other might possibly be a model for the rest of us to talk about other difficult issues with sincerity and openness.
I’m waiting for the story that transcends the flat ethnicity paradigm and gets the deeper and more persistent question of religion and moral bearings:
How does the most religiously devout candidate in recent memory reconcile a life of religious commitment with a values-neutral approach to work, livelihood, and the marketplace?
Why does religion play an outsized role in the politics of gay marriage and contraception but apparently has no say when it comes to big-ticket items like national spending and economic policy?
That profound disconnect certainly did not originate with Romney, but it may in fact be the key to understanding how he would lead and govern.
Joanna Brooks, from her Religion Dispatches's piece, "Romney: “A Life Balanced Between Fear and Greed”?"
Is she describing the disconnect between the spaces in which we live and the way we’ve publicly lived religion since the 60’s?
Makes me think of an interview I witnessed with Robi Damelin and Ali Abu Awwad. Knowing how they lost loved ones to enemy fire and then seeing their friendship and love for one another made everything possible and any petty animosities of my own seem frivolous.
The Queen shakes ex-IRA commander/current Deputy First Minister for Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness’s hand. No small moment right there, one that not so long ago would have been considered more than impossible. (This is not the initial handshake, which was private.)
~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
The Wrong Side of White: Black Mormons in a Presidential Year
by W. Paul Reeve, guest contributor
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormonism) has consistently found itself on the wrong side of white. In a recent New York Times article, “Black Mormons and the Politics of Identity,” an embedded video begins with a Times reporter commenting “it may come as a surprise to people that there are black Mormons in America.” It is a telling statement that captures the nexus of the LDS Church’s racial past and its efforts to realize a more diverse racial future.
Although few in number, blacks have been a part of the LDS movement from its founding to the present. The first documented African American to join the LDS Church was a former slave known only in the historical record as “Black Pete.” He became a member at Kirtland, Ohio, in 1830, the year of the Church’s founding. More significantly, at least two black men, Elijah Abel and Q. Walker Lewis, were ordained to the Mormon priesthood in the Church’s early years. Abel participated in Mormon temple rituals at Kirtland and was baptized as proxy for a deceased friend and two relatives at Nauvoo, Illinois.
In this regard, it is most accurate to speak of integrated priesthood and temples in Mormonism’s early years, a progressive stance in a charged national racial context. At the same time that the nation moved toward legal segregation in the wake of Reconstruction’s demise, the open space for full black participation in Mormonism gave way in fits and starts. By the first decade of the twentieth century race-based priesthood and temple bans were firmly in place.
It is impossible to understand that trajectory without first understanding the ways in which white Mormons themselves were racialized. The prevailing American fear of interracial mixing played a significant role in that process, especially as outsiders projected their own alarm over race mixing onto Mormons. At Kirtland, outsiders suggested that Black Pete received revelations to marry white women. In Missouri settlers argued that Mormons were inviting free black converts to that state, not only to incite a slave rebellion but to steal white women.
After the Mormons openly announced the practice of polygamy in 1852, the charge of interracial mixing took on a life of its own. One Army doctor filed a report with the United States Senate in which he claimed polygamy was giving rise to a degenerate “race.” Political cartoons depicted interracial polygamous families, sometimes with black, Asian, and Native American wives mixed in among the white. In a variety of ways outsiders constructed Mormons as racially suspect, facilitators of interracial mixing and therefore of racial contamination. As one news account put it, “the days of the white race are numbered in this country.” At the crux of this fearful deterioration was the “American of the future,” “a black Mormon.”
Against such a charged national racial backdrop, Mormons responded with an effort to claim whiteness for themselves. In 1852, Brigham Young drew upon the curses of Cain, Ham, and Canaan, derived from long standing Judeo-Christian Biblical exegeses, to bar black men from the priesthood. Leaders later expanded the policy to include temple worship for black men and women, except for proxy baptisms for their deceased ancestors. In 1908, leaders cemented those policies in place when historical forgetfulness trumped verifiable evidence to misremember that the bans had always been there, divine mandates that only God could rescind.
With that reconstructed memory as the new guiding principle, it took Spencer W. Kimball, the faith’s mild and unassuming prophet, to overturn the ban. In 1978, Kimball announced a revelation which returned Mormonism to its universalistic roots and reintegrated its priesthood and temples.
Since that time, Mormon growth in Africa has been rapid, while the pace among blacks at home has been much slower. The bans and the doctrines that supported them sometimes plague missionary efforts among blacks and make it difficult to retain converts once they join. LDS leaders have yet to repudiate past teachings which shored up the bans, a lingering problem that makes it possible for various iterations of those teachings to live on in the hearts and minds of some members.
In the meantime, black Mormons, like their coreligionists of all stripes, must decide how they will vote in this historic election year. It is a contest that is poised to pit the nation’s first president of African ancestry against the first Mormon of any color to capture a major party nomination. Mitt Romney’s ascendency to the top of the GOP ticket might signal to some Mormons that their historically pariah faith has finally arrived. In that regard, Romney may very well mark Mormonism’s full racial passage to whiteness. It is an awkwardly-timed if not tepid acceptance that coincides with Mormon attempts to claim a more diverse racial identity for themselves — witness the “I Am a Mormon” national media campaign featuring a heterogeneous group of Latter-day Saints as the faces of modern Mormonism.
Unlike his Mormon ancestors, no one today questions Mitt Romney’s whiteness. One culture critic went so far as to call him “the whitest white man to run for president in recent memory.” It is a designation that Mormons craved a century ago, but one that comes as a liability today. The historical arc of Mormonism’s racial dance is richly ironic. In the nineteenth century they were denigrated as not white enough, by the twenty-first century, as too white.
W. Paul Reeve is Associate Professor of History at the University of Utah. He is writing a book, Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness, under contract at Oxford University Press.
This essay is reprinted with permission of Sightings from the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School.