In response to the austerity budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) and passed by the House of Representatives, nuns from the National Catholic Social Justice Lobby (known as NETWORK) took a 15-day bus tour to point out the budget’s consequences. NETWORK highlighted these problems with the budget: it increases defense spending while cutting programs for people in need; it undermines the food stamp program that millions of people depend on; it begins Medicare’s shift to a voucher program which will push many older people into poverty; it gives large tax breaks to the wealthy; and it cuts funding for insurance programs for low-income people. Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, called the budget immoral (MSNBC, June 14).
Faith and fiction
Jun 21, 2012
When science fiction writer Ray Bradbury passed away last month, one aspect of his life was largely ignored by those who eulogized him: his faith. Calling himself a Zen Buddhist, Bradbury claimed to be a delicatessen religionist, drawing insights from West and East. Unlike other Buddhists, Bradbury was occupied with “God, sin, forgiveness, grace, and redemption,” says Gregory Wolfe. Sam Weller, his biographer, said: “The guy keeps writing about Jesus, but he doesn’t consider himself a Christian.” According to Bradbury: “The best description of my career as a writer is ‘At play in the fields of the Lord’” (Patheos, June 18).
Jun 21, 2012
One of the most discussed commencement addresses this year was titled “You are not special.” It was given by David McCullough Jr., a popular teacher at Wellesley High School in Massachusetts. “If everyone is special, then no one is,” he told the graduates. “By definition there can be only one best. You’re it or you’re not.” When the speech went viral, McCullough was subjected to numerous media interviews, including an appearance on CBS’s This Morning. McCullough encouraged graduates to pursue learning for its own exhilaration, not for material advantage. “I urge you to do whatever you do for no reason other than you love it and believe in its significance” (YouTube, June 7, and Newsweek, June 18).
Jun 21, 2012
People are notoriously reluctant to reveal racial prejudice when completing a survey. One new way to measure racial prejudice is to analyze racially charged Google searches. Since 2008, “Obama” has been a prominent name in such Internet searches. West Virginia is the state with the highest racially charged search rate. Other centers of activity include western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, upstate New York and southern Mississippi—all areas where Obama did worse in the 2008 election than John Kerry did in 2004. Without the race factor, President Obama would have won the electoral vote by an even wider margin than he did. In 2012 the race factor could cost him crucial states like Florida, Ohio and possibly Pennsylvania (New York Times, Campaign Stops, June 9).
Mosque on hold
Jun 07, 2012
A judge in Tennessee issued a ruling that halted the construction of a nearly completed mosque about 34 miles south of Nashville. He claimed that the planning commission had not given enough public notice prior to a 2010 meeting when the mosque plans were approved. An antimosque group has been battling the mosque construction for the last two years, arguing that Islam is not a real religion and is not protected by the U.S. Constitution. “If you read the judge’s ruling, it is clear he sought a heightened standard of public notice for an issue that involves Muslims,” said Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. A civil rights group has asked the U.S. Justice Department to intervene if the planning commission doesn’t immediately reissue building permits for the 52,000-square-foot mosque (Orlando Sentinel, May 29).