Clinton/Kaine vs Trump/Pence – a study in religious contrasts

Hillary Clinton and running mate Tim Kaine

Hillary Clinton (r) and running mate Tim Kaine

From the perspective of Christian faith, it’s hard to imagine a more stark study in contrasts than that between the recently announced presidential/vice-presidential teams. Tim Kaine gave a rousing speech yesterday (July 23, 2016) when he appeared for the first time after being chosen by Hillary Clinton as her running mate. Kaine proudly declared, “Soy católico … I’m Catholic…” and his speech was filled with explicit references that show how deeply his Catholic Christian faith has formed his values and directed his life’s work. Kaine impresses as profoundly influenced by his Jesuit education, his missionary work in Honduras, and his commitment to the teachings of Jesus as a lawyer who worked to defend the housing rights of the poor. The Clinton/Kaine duo proclaim that their lives were formed by a faith that asked how they could help others. It is a faith that puts belief into practice, living out the social, communal dimension that Christianity absolutely requires.

Trump/Pence, on the other hand, seem to be much more formed by or comfortable with the so-called “Prosperity Gospel” (an oxymoron if ever their was one).  While there are some Christian leaders in the Evangelical tradition who recognize that this “gospel” is an aberration of historical, biblical Christianity, there are many others who have succumbed to its allure. This philosophy is uniquely American. It is the spawn of the marriage between 19th century Protestant fundamentalism and that brand of American individualism which puts the self before others, the individual before community, and one’s own success ahead of or at the expense of others’ success. Its focus is on “my rights” and not the common good. To be clear, this focus on the “rights” of the individual can be exploited on either end of the political spectrum. It’s the same right espoused by gun-owners, abortion advocates, and the increasing number of laws that permit assisted suicide. At its root, the “Prosperity Gospel” makes two basic claims: First, if your faith is strong enough, God will shower you with earthly riches, wealth, and worldly success; and, second, if you have earthly riches, wealth, and worldly success, then these are signs of God’s favor.

Perhaps it does need to be stated, but this view of the Christian Gospel — preached by such megachurch leaders as Joel Osteen (who, by the way, has no theological training) and Joyce Meyer — bears so little resemblance to the actual teachings of Jesus that it cannot be rightly called Christian. It is a “gospel” without humility, without prudence, without a sense of justice. It lacks a belief that the goods of this earth are for all God’s People, not just the industrious few who stake their claim first, whose might trumps right, or who know how to manipulate the economic and legal systems to their advantage. On the contrary, as Pope Pius XI wrote in his encyclical Quadragesimo Anno (1931),

Therefore, the riches that economic-social developments constantly increase ought to be so distributed among individual persons and classes that the common advantage of all, which Leo XIII had praised, will be safeguarded; in other words, that the common good of all society will be kept inviolate. By this law of social justice, one class is forbidden to exclude the other from sharing in the benefits,” (no. 57).

To anyone schooled in the social justice tradition of Christianity in general and Catholic Christianity in particular, this quotation will ring true. Pius XI’s reference to his predecessor, Leo XIII, is a reference to that pope’s encyclical, Rerum Novarum, which is generally considered the first papal document in modern times to spell out some of the basic principles Christian faith requires for a socially just society. From the perspective of Christianity and its two-thousand year tradition, there is no doubt that the Gospel of Jesus does not exist without Jesus’ “new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” (John 13:34). Come November, each of us must decide which of these two teams contending for the highest offices in the land have lived lives that most exemplify the common good the Gospel requires.

Florida DCF Should Protect LGBT Youth in Foster Care

Florida Department of Children and Families
1317 Winewood Boulevard, Bldg. 4

Tallahassee  Florida  32399

ATTN:  Ms. Jodi Abramowitz

Dear Ms. Abramowitz,

My name is Timothy MacGeorge and I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW).  In my work as a therapist at a community behavioral health center in Naples (FL), I occasionally work with youth who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT).

I am writing to urge the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to restore the language that was recently stricken from  Rule 65C-I4: Group Care Licensing (cf. http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/publicnotices/20160408-Notice-of-Change-65C-14.pdf ) being considered at tomorrow’s [April 8, 2016] public hearing.  As a therapist, I have seen first hand how a young LGBT person’s emotional well-being is impacted by the degree to which he/she is accepted by his/her family, friends, classmates, teachers, and society at large. When young people are accepted for who they are, they are more likely to thrive and reach their God-given potential. When young people are denigrated, shamed, and made to feel that their sense of self is an abomination to be exorcised, then the resulting high rates of anxiety, depression and even suicide should not come as a surprise. All reputable mental health organizations now recognize the broad range of sexual orientations and gender identities within the human family. They also recognize that any attempt to change or “convert” someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity is not only clinically unsound, but also professionally unethical.

Media reports suggest that the impetus behind this recent language change in the Proposed Rule was pressure from religious groups in the state, including the Florida Catholic Conference. As a Catholic Christian (one who was also ordained a Catholic priest), I believe that there is more support in Sacred Scripture for accepting all of God’s children as they are, created in God’s image and likeness, than there is for any view which sees LGBT persons as “unnatural,” “not normal” or in need of so-called “conversion therapy.”

Please do the right thing and restore the recently stricken language from the proposed rule. Please act on behalf of all youth committed to DCF’s care — including LGBT youth.

Sincerely,

Timothy J MacGeorge, LCSW
Bonita Springs, FL  34135

True Fasting

PopeFrancis-mercy“Is this the manner of fasting I wish, of keeping a day of penance: That a man bow his head like a reed and lie in sackcloth and ashes?…

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer, you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!”

from today’s 1st Reading for Mass, Isaiah 58