Was former president Jimmy Carter identifying the elephant in the room or seeing a phantom when he charged that much of the opposition to President Obama’s health-care reform is motivated by racism? Whatever the wisdom of Carter’s comments, Obama himself has refused to be drawn into the debate.
I had the opportunity to meet members of one of the world’s oldest and most heroic churches recently when I spoke to the national youth conference of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East. The meeting was held, of all places, in San Jose, California.
Sociologist Robert Bellah calls individualism “the default mode” of American culture. It provides the rhetoric and political convictions to which people instinctively turn—whether or not it makes sense in the situation.
Leave it to Lutherans to address the issue of gay clergy with repeated references to a “bound conscience.” The term echoes the words of Martin Luther, who when he was put on trial for his critique of the Catholic Church declared that he would not recant, for he was “bound in conscience by the word of God.”
It’s the world’s least desirable club: the league of failed and failing states. Every year, the Fund for Peace presents its list of the world’s shakiest political entities. Qualifications for entry into the club include such factors as demographic crisis, economic decline and bloody intergroup conflict.
To little fanfare, Denis McDonough, President Obama’s chief of staff, joined a team on the streets of San Francisco doing a head count of the homeless. It was part of a survey required of cities every two years in order to qualify for federal funding for homeless programs. The president had told McDonough he wanted to know firsthand what the city was doing about the homeless. San Francisco has been able to get 19,000 homeless off the streets during the past decade by expanding housing and support services, but it still had over 6,000 people on the street during the 2013 count. “This is the same sort of challenge we face all over the country. The numbers tell the story,” McDonough said. “I had no idea anyone gave a damn,” one homeless man told the team (SFGate.com, January 30).