The exponential growth of serious diseases such as cancer, dementia and autism should make us think.  What are we putting into our bodies?  It turns out that deadly toxins are everywhere in our modern society, from oatmeal to shampoo to receipt (thermal) paper.  We need to be aware.


October 17, 2016 0 2 comments

So much of the conversation about immigration during this election season has not been based on facts or on the biblical value of philoxenia. How can this change? 

October 17, 2016 1 3 comments
Resource, Litany

Will your church be marking the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church on Nov. 6 or 13? The CRC Office of Social Justice is pleased to offer a powerpoint and litany for churches to use. 

October 17, 2016 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

How is your congregation observing the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church? We welcome your ideas. 

October 14, 2016 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

Warm greetings.

I would like to hear from anyone with an interest or knowledge about pesticide residues in food and their link with human diseases.  I believe this is a major social justice issue and therefore requires the Christian Church to be involved, especially Reformed Christians. ...

October 11, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Website

Looking for resources about refugees, indigenous justice, human trafficking, climate change, and more? Check out the new Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue website! 

October 7, 2016 1 0 comments

Even if the political talking points are shifting, the path of discipleship has not changed for CRC members. Cchurches on both sides of the border continue to reach out in welcome and support to refugee families. 

August 24, 2016 1 2 comments

Racism is not part of God’s grand design. Human beings are the architects of racism. However, through Jesus Christ, God is reconciling us to Himself, and to each other, rebuilding what we destroyed.

August 19, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Conference or Event

Join the Office of Social Justice for two upcoming educational film screenings on climate change in the Grand Rapids area.

August 8, 2016 2 0 comments

I want us to wrestle with conversations that may be difficult. I want us to enter together into the beautiful mess of reconciliation. I want us to have a candid conversation, as family, about race.

August 5, 2016 1 0 comments
Resource, Conference or Event

The Restorative Practices for Congregations Training helps church members and leaders better engage in conflict and build healthier, more restorative relationships in their congregations.

July 26, 2016 1 0 comments
Resource, Website

So far, over 200 CRC members from 35 congregations in the U.S. and Canada have come together to learn, act, and advocate for a safer and more just world. Will you join them? 

July 20, 2016 1 0 comments
Resource, Curriculum

If the Blanket Exercise is about getting your feet wet, the Living the 8th Fire curriculum is about diving deeper.

June 27, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Brochure or Pamphlet

Interested in practicing advocacy and learning to steward your voice more effectively? You can learn the basics of advocacy on any issue through this new Biblical Advocacy 101 resource. 

June 9, 2016 2 0 comments

Our elders had so few resources, in comparison to our relative wealth, yet they were much more active, faithful, and consistent than their counterparts today. We wanted to know, for our own well-being, the difference between our time and theirs.

May 20, 2016 0 0 comments

If we all confess that we seek to glorify God, build the church, and participate in God’s mission in the world, then surely we have the resources to pursue hope-filled dialogue despite differences.

May 13, 2016 2 1 comments

A few months ago, advocacy was a new practice for me. It seemed daunting. But I've learned that advocacy is something that almost everyone can participate in -- it's accessible and simple. 

May 10, 2016 0 5 comments

When engaging in conversation on social media, especially with those with whom you disagree, three important ‘guidelines’ come to mind, especially in light of the upcoming Synod.

May 6, 2016 0 0 comments

I believe one of the biggest problems in churches and denominations today is their inability to have difficult conversations well. Here are three critical things people must do to have any hope of success in crucial conversations.

April 29, 2016 3 1 comments
Resource, Article

The Internet is a place where people can spew hatred and generally behave in unfortunate ways. While that’s all true, I’ve also found the Internet expands my ability to engage those with whom I disagree.

April 15, 2016 3 3 comments

The Global Food Security Act will benefit women and children during the critical first 1,000 days. Proper nutrition during this period will have enduring positive effects. Learn how to get involved! 

April 11, 2016 1 0 comments
Resource, Article

We are many sided beings. We are made in the image of God, unique, complicated, individuals, set in a time and place, responding to nurture and nature, and we complicate things.

March 21, 2016 0 4 comments

            Two recent videos, one from a Yazidi woman and one from two Muslimas living in Al-Raqqah, the ISIS capital in northern Syria demonstrate the realities of life for women. The earlier video of December 15/2015  [

March 16, 2016 0 0 comments

Many Christians, on both sides of the border, are looking at the current political climate in the United States with disbelief and wonder. How did we get here?

March 16, 2016 2 0 comments
Resource, Website

If you’ve been to the CRC Office of Social Justice website recently, you’ve noticed a whole new look -- check our new site at!

March 14, 2016 1 0 comments



Thanks, Shannon, for sharing some resources; of the ones I recognize they will be a blessing to those who pursue them.

What did disappoint me was the very top recommendation - Richard Rohr's Center for Action and Contemplation.  Based on just the last week's worth of postings it can easily be demonstrated how far away he is from the faith "once for all delivered to the saints."  The presumption shown by his disdain for historical Christianity is saddening; more pretentious than charitable.  Does he really think he/CAC leads a "New Reformation"?!  The OSJ can do better than that.

PS  If anyone wants an analysis of the last week's "worth" of postings, send me an email:


You can find a few more at; on the book of Revelation, or the Psalms, or a few theological topics.

Thanks for sharing the story of Eloise. Beautiful little girl!  

posted in: Eloise's Story

Thank you, Angie, for sharing Eloise's life and story. She truly was created and dearly loved by God. While I can't pretend to know your grief and pain, your courage is clear. God will use her life and your story to save others.

posted in: Eloise's Story

I agree with Noel.  This is not the first time there have been refugees coming to the US.  My CRC Church (in Oregon) took in (sponsored) several SE Asian families post-Viet Nam war in the 1970's, and that involved more than a little of our time and money.

We didn't argue or debate about the war, or about refugee/immigration policy, or about government policy, nor did we debate the net good or bad that the refugee intake might do for this or that part of the economy, job market or society.  Those things could be and were argued about in other contexts.  What we focused on is doing what we should do for refugee families who were coming or had come, regardless of any of our political disagreements about broader questions.

It was there that we could find unity as Christians of a local church fellowship, whatever our differences might be as to other questions.


Since our country is receiving refugees, we should welcome them and show them Christian love. We should make sure they are not being taken advantage by unscrupulous corporations, they have thorough health screenings and treatment before beginning a job or school, and they are truly granted the freedoms we have as Americans. It seems like they are being treated as a commodity by a lot of people and organizations. We need to pray for them and speak against injustice.

I would change it by making it less about politics and government policy and more about person-to-person interaction in our neighborhoods and local communities.

I would change it by getting rid of simplistic mantras like "immigrants are a blessing and not a burden."  That bumper sticker slogan is merely a political pitch that we all join together to broadly advocate for a particular government policy on immigration.

Finally, I would change it by de-emphasizing the immigrant or non-immigrant status of people and emphasize more the biblical mandate that we demonstrate love to all, without first categorizing them into classes like immigrant v. national, illegal immigrant v. immigrants with green cards or visas -- and also other classes like black v. white v. Asian  (etc), criminal record v. no criminal record, more wealthy v. less wealthy, younger v. older, those who live in the west or south sides of town v. those who live in the east or north sides of town, etc.

Government policy is one thing (and we, CRCers, will differ on that a lot); how we are to treat each other and people in our neighborhoods or communities is quite another (and we, CRCers, should not differ on that much at all).  The first is a really complex subject matter, the second not so much.  The first has nothing to do with the fact that we are CRCers, the second a lot to do with it.


Thank you for your excellent comments.  Yes, I have also heard that gluten issues may be more related to glyphosate residues, especially due to late spraying.  I am shocked about how unhelpful governments are being in these matters, seeming to care little about public health while health costs are skyrocketing.  The companies have managed to strongly influence government and the public and to label anyone who questions this situation a whacko and a freak.  Please let me know if you have ideas about how to better educate our denomination and the general public about this huge public health risk.  I look forward to hearing from you again.  Thank you again for your supportive comments.  May God bless you.

Thank you for your thoughtful message about glyphosate and health issues. I had severe health issues for several years that were alleviated by going gluten free, but many people question if gluten is the problem, or if the glyphosate routinely sprayed on wheat just before harvesting is as much of a culprit for ill health. Please note that "Big Agra" is a huge business. Congress just passed a law making it more difficult to know if foods are GMO or not, and if the TPP is passed, my understanding is that countries will not be able to put their citizens' interest ahead of the interests of the international corporations.My prayers are for truth and light to be manifested in this world, and my prayers mirror yours. 

I agree with Doug. I don't think it is appropriate to discuss a complicated issue such as this in such a simple article.

This article characterizes the US as "debat[ing] to shut[] down its refugee resettlement completely," but the Canadians as "being applauded for its increase in hospitality, welcoming 29,817 Syrian refugees this year alone." But according to the Pew Research Center (see at: the US "... has received 28,957 Muslim refugees so far in fiscal year 2016, or nearly half (46%) of the more than 63,000 refugees who have entered the country since the fiscal year began Oct. 1, 2015...," which doesn't count those "27,556 Christian refugees" allowed in "so far this fiscal year."

In other words, the US is not being a refugee grinch and Canada is not, by comparison, being a refugee Santa Claus.

I would agree with the author that Christians ought to play a role in welcoming refugees that are admitted to their country.  At the same time, I believe the political discussion (or debate) about middle east refugees -- including by Christians -- ought to be far more constructive and nuanced than simply 'let's see how many refugees our country can take in.'

While I don't at all take Trump's stated position on immigration (although I'm not actually sure what that is from day to day), I do tend to see the the middle east refugee question to be remarkably complicated and would favor, politically speaking, providing much more assistance to Jordan and possibly other middle east countries as they provide refugee camps that would keep Syrians near their own home country, for example.  It seems to me that the permanent resettlement of refugees in foreign countries should be a disfavored solution, even for the sake of the refugees, many/most of which don't want to leave their home country.

We do well to separate questions of personal action given the political decisions already made, from the question of the political policies we advocate for.  Too often, we don't do that, assuming the two questions are only one.

Thanks for this incredibly helpful piece! 

Doug and Kris, 

While I appreciate your discussion, this conversation may be better over email, as you had mentioned. Please feel free to email me at if you'd like me to connect you in that way. 


Staci DeVries

Network Community Manager

posted in: Advocacy Works!

Since the title of the handout is Biblical Advocacy 101 I think it's fair of you to say it's the "tip of the iceberg." If you want people's credentials you would have to ask agency directors or someone more important than me. Personally, I think that is an odd request to make in the comments section of an article about an advocacy 101 handout. I hadn't caught until now that you are a lawyer. That sounds like a really interesting line of work. 

posted in: Advocacy Works!

The advocacy that is being discussed in this article is not, as you characterize it Kris, "advoca[cy] with people who are oppressed or on the margins" but rather lobbying of the government to persuade it to pass certain legislation, done for and behalf of the CRC and its members.  The difference is enormous.

If I advocate in behalf of others that the government pass this law or that law, I should have the expertise/ability to be able to competently evaluate "this law or that law," as well as the likely effects of passing this or that law.  The requirement to be competent should not be ignored by my saying I'm merely "advocat[ing] with people who are oppressed or on the margins" -- saying that doesn't accurately express what I am doing.

Let's bring this concretely to the "advocacy" (more accurately and commonly called lobbying) discussed in this article.  If I were to lobby government in behalf of a client/constituency as to the Global Food Security Act (whether pro or con), I would probably want to read the intended statute (the bill).  I'm a lawyer and so I would of course bring that set of skills and experiences to bear in reading it.  I can read the nuances of "legal language," and I know from experience that drafted bills are often intentionally deceptive in some ways, as evidenced when bills are so often given names to suggest they have an effect other than what have.  It is not uncommon, for example, for large companies or industries to want legislation that benefits them (allows them to sell goods/services) and so they lobby for bills that purport to help those in need (their intended revenue source).  Thus, for example, if the US dairy industry wanted more revenue from its surplus supply of milk, it might propose to the government that it pass nice sounding legislation, like "Global Food Security Act," which predominantly benefitted the dairy industry by requiring the federal government to buy the industry's powdered milk supplies and delivery them to third world counties overseas.

After reading the bill, I would then want to check out more details about the potential problems I found with the bill.  For example, would this law really just help the US dairy industry by giving milk supplies to lactose intolerant third world populations?  Or, do the provisions in the proposed law virtually guarantee that in some, many or most cases, the real recipients will be corrupt governments or not-so-corrupt governments that are allowed to intercept or repurpose funds given them?

Another thing I'd likely want to examine as to a law of this kind is how much "hurting more than helping" it might do.  If, for example, the proposed law would export powdered milk to third world countries, would it be having the effect of destroying or damaging a local milk industry in some of those countries?  That would be nice the US dairy industry but damaging to dairy providers in those other countries (who can compete with the price of zero after all?)

These are the kind of inquiries/investigations hired lobbyists (which OSJ is when it engages in activities aimed at passing legislation) should make/do as to any legislation it lobbies for.  And doing those inquiries/investigations required expertise and experience.

So when this article concludes with "You can advocate on any issue [too] ...", I think it is important to point out that "advocating" (lobbying) for or against legislation, done well, involves much, much more than just convincing people to say "yes" or "no," or getting CRC members to tell their political representatives to say "yes" or "no," to proposed legislation.  The latter is, as I said, just the tip of the iceberg, at least if the lobbying is to be done well.

I would certainly appreciate, off-line if you like (you have my email address), an indication of credentials OSJ brings to bear when it lobbies for or against legislation like the Global Food Security Act.



posted in: Advocacy Works!

Are you suggesting that all CRC Deacons and CRC staff who advocate with people who are oppressed or on the margins receive special CRC specific training and accreditation like Pastors do before they take on such work as part of the institutional church? That would be interesting. Obviously, CRC specialized ministries and agency staff people who do this work have degrees, experience, and outstanding records of effectiveness in the fields where they serve--if you want to question the legitimacy of that claim it would probably be more appropriate for you to ask those questions offline.    

posted in: Advocacy Works!

Indeed, advocating is not all that hard.  The far more difficult thing is figuring out exactly what to advocate for.  It's a tip of the iceberg vs the base of the iceberg thing, maybe a lot worse.

Especially when we claim to represent others when we advocate -- like OSJ does -- it is really important that we question whether our advocates really have the subject matter expertise as well as the analysis/decision making skills and experiences that one should have when he/she leads others (advocating is leading).

In the CRC, for example, we require that pastors have considerable formal education, and other training/experience, before we allow them to lead/advocate as a pastor does in our churches.  Those pastors are equipped, for example, to do their own original research, knowing the original biblical languages, before suggesting what scripture says when they stand behind a pulpit. They have formal degrees and real training from "industry experts."  This is so important to us, we've decided, that we've established a school where just these things are taught as a specialized area of concern.  The degrees conferred as specially name.  

Question: does the CRC do likewise when it takes on the role of advocating about political, legal, ecomomic and scientific matters in behalf of, and to, CRC members?  What is the preparation/experience of those who advocate in the denomination's (our) behalf about these matters?

posted in: Advocacy Works!

"In difficult conversations we so often choose to be kind or honest, not both kind and honest. We capitulate to our own anxiety by either being kind at the expense of truth, or honest at the expense of kindness. But we can choose a better way. "  -I love this!

Thanks, Amy, very well done!

Thanks, Amy, very well done!

First, when my friend and "American son", Kabba Jalloh from Sierra Leone, attended Dordt  20 or so years ago, he was very well received. I'm sure they were less multi-cultural then than now, but there seemed to be no issues. Kabba received a standing O, against commencement rules, when he accepted his diploma, the only graduate to do so, and I don't think any of the other graduates felt discriminated against.

Re: Internet. I enjoy using humor to lodge protests. Recently, I sent the following message to Chevrolet. When I posted it on Facebook I got several "Likes", some from unexpected sources. I think it's just as wrong to take offense when none is intended as it is to give offense, and I grow weary of the "offense industry", but this was a serious question couched in a semi-humorous way, about something that definitely concerns me. I wondered how many of the kids that mouthed this near-profanity even know God.

Ken Van Dellen

To Chevrolet ad department: Re: The "Oh, my God!" ad with kids. "Did it ever occur to you that this could offend atheists, Christians who believe we should not use God's name lightly,  and possibly some Jews?"

Well it would be great if the nuances are part of the workshop.  Really, I hope they are nuanced.  But that wouldn't completely resolve, in my mind at least, the problem created by the simplistic bumper sticker slogan (and published articles consistent with the bumper sticker simplicity) of "Immigrants are a blessing and not a burden."  Too much of our society learns all that it learns by bumper sticker political slogans, and then forms political opinion based on that.  I just think it is unwise, even manipulative, to use this political technique.

As for my church, we're pretty nuanced in our thinking about immigration because of our own real world experience.  Farmers in our church use a lot of immigrant labor (dairies especially); we have lawyers who know a lot about it; and our area has historically had a lot of immigration, both from south of the border but otherwise as well.  My own neighborhood is close to have Hispanic, and I know some are legal and some are not. In my own law practice, I have some clients for whom the immigrant labor force is a definite benefit, and then others for who it is a definite burden, and some for whom it is some of each.  I have also represented illegal immigrants.

Hey Doug -- I think you're actually describing our Church Between Borders workshops. If you're looking for a venue to "explain the nuances of immigration, the law, the reality, the history, the various economic impacts (both macro and microeconomic), etc., and then let CRCNA members and others form their own more informed conclusions, about more questions than they first even realized existed" we'd love to come to your church. ;)

This is so true.  Most political things, for example, are far more complicated than political candidates or activists would have you believe, including when the CRCNA, and OSJ, are the campaigners.

The current OSJ led campaign, "Immigrants are a blessing and not a burden," is an example of that.  Certainly, immigration to the US, legal and illegal, is probably not the threat or harm claimed by some political candidates who hope to gain certain voters' approval for their simplistic and hyperbolic statements, but this OSJ political follows suit, even if in the opposite direction.  

Following the advice of this article writer, OSJ would do better to pitch a campaign slogan like "Immigration: it's not as simple as you think," and then put in some serious work explaining the nuances of immigration, the law, the reality, the history, the various economic impacts (both macro and microeconomic), etc., and then let CRCNA members and others form their own more informed conclusions, about more questions than they first even realized existed.


Amen to your plea of recognizing complicatedness and practicing gracious listening.

These are important principles of conflict transformation and reconciliation, that we need more teaching and learning about.

And the Gospels have lots of examples of how Jesus practiced these in how he interacted with people.



I would enthusiastically agree that both churches and individuals do well in providing help to past or present incarcerated persons and their families.  There are few areas of concern where the need is greater and potential impact more profitable.

But I do cringe at how this article frames what is discussed as strictly a matter of "justice."  Indeed, neither the lead-in verse and sentence -- nor any other part of the post -- makes mention of "mercy."  A better lead-in verse would be Micah 6:8, which commands us to both "do justice" and "love mercy."

As an attorney, I have been involved in questions of justice in behalf of inmates and ex-inmates.  But we do well to clearly understand that we are obliged to extend mercy even when there is no question about justice.  Most of those we should help out are in fact not "oppressed" persons we must "[let] free," as this articles states.  Some should remain incarcerated inmates.  Still, we do well to serve them, while incarcerated, and their family members waiting for their release -- because of our "love of mercy."

 I work part-time for World Renew.  My recollection is that the majority world lives off of $2 a day.  That is what is used to define extreme poverty, my understanding of World Renew's definition.

I think people who have to live off $2 a day or less need help.  Where should that help come?  It should come from their family, church, non-government  agencies and yes the government too.  That is the point of the law, the prophets and the New Testament when it speaks on social implications of the Word of God.

The government is a divinely appointed agency to do good. Romans 13, Matthew 25, Psalm 72.  The ruler is a channel of God's authority.

Larry: So exactly what to you mean when you say "take care of the poor?"  My response clearly indicated that government had an obligation to provide a "safety net" but I'm not sure -- and said so in my comment to your post -- that qualifies as "providing for the poor," as you understand that phrase.

So let's clarify what we might be agreeing or disagreeing about.  What do you mean when you say that "government should take care of the poor?"

Hi Doug,

#1.  I did not draw a straight line from the theocracy to modern governments.  I only drew a line from the theocracy on the principle that the nation of Israel had to provide for the poor.  The prophets understood the scriptures that way or they could not have said that Israel would go into captivity for their idolatry and neglect of the poor.  This principle of accountability and responsibility is carried over into the New Testament.  What part of care for the poor or provide for the poor do you not understand?  We should not permit our modern differentiations of government responsibilities from excluding the governments responsibility for the poor.

 I do not agree with your statement that he year of jubilee had anything to do with caring for the poor.  It was a major redistribution of ownership of land to the way it was in the time prior to the 49 years.  That is, in my opinion, major caring for the poor which was commanded by God and legislated through Moses.  It stands not as law that needs to be replicated but as a principle to be honored.  I think your understanding of Jubilee is not held by Calvin, Berkhof, or any other Reformed theologian.

Besides the year of Jubilee which took effect in the 50th year and staid in effect until the next 50th year, there is the legislation of leaving the corners of the field for the poor, still observed until the time of Ruth we know, the Sabbatical year, the third year tithe which as to go to the poor, (Deuteronomy 14:28-29), zero interest loans (Deut. 15:1-11).  The principle of caring for the poor was deeply imbedded in the life of Israel.

Thanks for your comment, Roger. I think you're partially right in saying that many discussions are already very polarized, so that it is hard to find middle ground to talk about. But I believe that it's still possible to find that middle ground, and that there are many moderate positions on contentious issues. Dialogue that actually changes people's minds is still possible. I know my mind has been changed on contentious issues before by reading an article or speaking with someone with whom I knew I didn't completely agree. We especially try to highlight the voices of marginalized people on Do Justice through series like What Being Pro-Life Means to Me and the Listening to Marginalized Voices Challenge, because we believe that when real human stories are told, the conversation can be changed.  

In response to your comment about turning on the "conversation function", it's more difficult than flipping a switch. We would actually have to pay a web developer to add that functionality to our site, and we're not convinced that money and staff time is worth it, given that commenting is already available (and clearly functioning, since we're having this conversation) on The Network and our Facebook pages (Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue and Office of Social Justice). 

Amen as to 1, 3 and 4.  Forehead scrunches as to 2 and 5.

As to 2, I would favor learning about your neighbors, indigenous or otherwise.

As to 5, I would favor praying "locally on out." That is, pray first for those around you, then those around them, etc.  If you get there, it's fine to pray for all the places on the planet you can't find on a label-free map, but we need to recognize that 1) we are finite, 2) the best prayer is that which is accompanied by some level of real world action.  Hence my prescription for praying for "locally on out."

Taking your items, Larry, in numbered ordered:

#1.  I'm really hesitant to draw a straight line between God's mandates to Israel and modern mandates for government.  OT Israel was, as Jim Skillen would say, an "undifferentiated society" where institutions of government, church, even family to an extent, were merged (or, "undifferentiated").  Beyond that, Israel was a special nation, uniquely ruled by theocracy, even to a large extent after Saul became the first monarch.  If one draws too much from OT Israel to inform modern government, one must adopt some of the OT Israel laws that, even though not pointing to Christ, did apply to the nation/church/family of Israel.  Reconstructionist (theonomists) draw too much from the pattern of OT Israel government, I think, as do the social justice folks but on the "opposite side."

As to the Year of Jubilee, I don't so much regard that as a "taking care of the poor" measure as it is a "keeping macro balance" within society at large measure (somewhat like an estate tax imposed at death?).  After all, Jews were allowed to sell themselves into servanthood, to lose their land and all their possessions and become what was a form of a slave.  The Year of Jubilee didn't nothing for them, except every 49th year.  Were the Year of Jubilee about "taking care of the poor," it would be "active" during the 48 years as well, but it's not.

#2.  Jesus certainly said "give to Ceasar that which is Ceasar's" but I can't find any suggestion that government under Ceasar provided for the poor.  Ceasar didn't do that.  And although scripture suggests nations will have to account for how they treated the poor, that doesn't mean that government is responsible to take care of the poor.  A "nation" includes the people of a nation, not merely the government, which plays one of many roles within a particular political society, which again these days is "differentiated."

#3.  I would suggest your statement in #3 does little more than beg the question.  What, after all, does it mean to "take care of the poor"?  That could mean a thousand different things in a thousand differing degrees.  Having said that, I'll come back to a suggestion that I've made before in response to one of these posts: the fact that government is clearly given the power of the sword, which clearly means the power over life and death, I think we can fairly extrapolate that government has the affirmative authority/duty to provide a modern day "safety net" (even if Ceasar didn't) since without it, people die.  Does that degree of "providing for the poor" match your intention when you write "providing for the poor"?  I don't know because I'm not sure what your definition is for the phrase.

Thanks for creating the discussion, Larry.  These are important issues for Christians to grapple with, and not at all simple.



Thanks Danielle.  Interesting question.  “How do we stay in dialogue with people who strongly disagree with us on an issue we are passionate about, especially when that issue affects the lives of people in very tangible ways?”  I wonder, what is the purpose for such dialogue?  The question itself begs of the notion that we are right (an issue we are passionate about) and those responding are wrong.  Is the purpose of such dialog to convince those dialog that they are wrong?  Or is there a possibility that you might possibly change your position after such dialog?  I’m guessing, probably not.  

Such dialog, if not open to the possibility of changing opinions in either direction, in reality only serves to confirm those dialoguing in their own positions.  I think, quite possibly, that would be the result of such dialog for the “Do Justice” blog.  And that’s not all bad.  I enjoy such blogging for that very reason, that most often I come away confirmed in my own previous position because I’ve thought the issue through or have dug deeper into the issue.

Thanks, Doug, for your comment.  Turning on the “conversation function” is the right start.

Thanks Danielle: I'll look more for Do Justice articles on The Network.


Happy to respond to that, Doug. You are actually currently participating in one of the ways we do commenting on Do Justice--through The Network. We post Do Justice articles quite regularly on The Network, and will be posting every single article from this series. OSJ staff are very active on The Network responding to comments. We also post every single Do Justice article on the OSJ Facebook page and about one article per week on the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue's Facebook page. (By the way, Do Justice is a joint project of the OSJ and the Centre for Public Dialogue, a CRC ministry in Canada.) 

We want to steward our ministry share-funded staff time well, so we have chosen to manage comments on these two pre-existing, well-used venues for commenting rather than opening up commenting directly on Do Justice. 

Dialogue happens not just when people talk to (or yell at!) each other, but when they are actively listening and responding thoughtfully to the other's thoughts. I appreciate your respectful tone in this comment, Doug, and I hope that we can continue to have respectful conversations in the future. 

As I read this post, Danielle, I wondered whether the Do Justice blog had turned on "commenting" to allow responses to its blog postings.  I wondered that because your first sentence referred to Do Justice as a "conversation space," implying or even just stating it is a two way communications resource.

I would respectfully suggest that the first step to "encourage people to have conversations around justice" is to turn on the conversation function.

In today's media environment, blogs are not conversation sites unless they allow commenting.  Sans commenting, they are really propoganda sites for the views of whoever controls the site (OSJ in this case I believe).  Hence, even the Banner allows commenting, which in turn generates a goodly amount of genuine, constructive conversation, even if among "people who strongly disagree."

So what is the obstacle to persuading OSJ to allow actual conversations on Do Justice?

Right on!

I can't begin to express how much I have learned and been blessed by opening my home to an Iraqi refugee who had been stuck in Syria for four years.  Her story enables me to see beyond the statistics.

There are a billion people who would be rowing to the US across the Atlantic and the Pacific if it was possible. 

A resounding, "Amen."


I think the US government's policy toward asylum should not consider the religion of the asylum seeker.  On the other hand, to the extent a particular church is involved in the asylum process, it should sometime discriminate for or against certain religious perspectives of the asylum seeker.  

Exactly how would it be better, I would ask, for a devout Muslim to be placed in Sioux Center, Iowa (in a reformed Christian host family) while a devout Christian was placed with a Muslim family in Dearborn, Michigan?

No, I'm not suggesting a strict religious match up in all cases, nor that Muslims should be declared out of luck for lack of Muslim sponsors.

I would also suggest that it is good, not bad, that Christian churches in one country ESPECIALLY look out for Christian churches, and Christians, in other countries.  Raymond Ibrahim makes a very valid, and biblical, point in what he says.

James Hanson can be watched and listened to about the nuclear option at:

This is a must view for anyone who thinks COP 21 or the Climate Witness Project are on target to be significantly helpful, EVEN IF one agrees that CO2 emissions are cause for great alarm.

James Hansen, the father of the modern day concerns about global warming and climate change, has repeatedly said that the best "solution" to CO2 emissions is found in nuclear energy, and that neither renewable energy nor conservation strategies can close to solving the problem.  Sadly, most climate change alarmists are willing to follow Hansen when he talks about the danger of CO2 emissions but not when he talks about the solutions.  As to the latter, his crowd grows deafeningly silent.  Hansen is no slouch scientist, including as to nuclear reactors, which he considers extremely safe, given the advancement of nuclear technology.

Consider the % of energy that is produced by nuclear in a number of countries: France 76.9%, Slovakia 56.8%, Hungary 53.6%, Ukraine 49.4%, Belgium 47.5%, Sweden 41.5%, Switzerland 37.9%, Slovenia 37.2%, Czech Republic 35.8%, Finland 34.6%, Bulgaria 31.8%, Armenia 30.7%, South Korea 30.4%.  The United States lags way behind even if it should be in the lead.

Hansen and other climate alarmists have warned that we were reaching the "tipping point" to CO2 disaster quite some time ago.  I disagreed with their conclusions (as have more than a few world class scientists who are experts about the subject matter), and would note that if Hansen and his crowd are correct, we have already past the "tipping point."

Nevertheless, I and many others believe common ground can be found for both sides -- in nuclear energy.

In my view, COP 21 doubles down on a failed strategy, even if one agrees with Hansen's predictions, for the simple reason that its agenda cannot produce a solution, even by Hanson's analysis.  And if COP 21 is successful, the side effects in terms of world poverty will be anything but small.

If the CRCNA must enter the political fray on this topic (although I would argue it shouldn't for lack of expertise, among other reasons), it should have the courage to look for a middle ground that has the promise of being productive.  The CRCNA could do a lot worse than joining hands with James Hansen in proposing much more nuclear energy production.

When the church advocates for our government to mandate caps on emissions we must be prepared for the effects. These types of mandates will most certainly make our energy prices to sky rocket, as President Obama said. Families struggling to make ends meet will find their electric bills higher,heating bills higher ,fuel and food prices all higher. These mandates  restrict freedom as well which is the engine of a growing economy and good jobs.   As our Church discusses social justice and climate change I think we have to look at both sides of the issue.



Thank you, Peter, for this summary and personal confession of doubt turned to gratitude. I was a member of Canada's Kairos board when the MDGs first came out. It was a matter of serious debate in that ecumenical organization whether or not we should endorse and support those goals. Some of the reluctance was because certain evangelical organizations in the US were supporting them and did we want to be associated with them? Well, with the careful, articulate support of a Catholic member of the board, Kairos did indeed lean in appropriately. 

Fast forward to now. I'm long off the Kairos board and don't know if the organization has continued to track MDGs. But--and allow me to change tracks--I've been listening to Naomi Klein's This Changes Everything when I walk or work on canoes. Klein is so far left even I can hardly see her sometimes, but she also takes note in one section about the remarkable decrease in poverty especially the Global South that coincides and in some cases was part of the MDG project. Yet, when she links that to her main thesis about the on-going planet-wide environmental destruction based on short-term profitable "extractionism," she claims that poverty reduction, longer life, better health, etc. in all the places she cites go hand in hand with environmental degradation. I can't prove it, but she's likely accurate at least on that count.

So, as often happens, I am left to wonder, feel helpless and sometimes want to live in a cave. But I know that's irresponsible. . . . So I pray, repent, walk more, while using fossil fuels and rare metals (all extracted) even as I write this. Regardless, I am pleased that more people are healthier and less poor than not so long ago, even if I don't know how long the earth can survive with us on it. Thanks again in any case for writing.



One more time Mark.  You are right that Christians, like anyone else, should be allowed to voice an opinion.  If I were facing a situation of great pain, or physical disability and hopelessness (for the future), I would want to know what opinions are being voiced and weigh the validity of each point of view.  But I would not want someone telling me what I had to do, especially if I didn’t agree with a particular point of view.  I wouldn’t want someone else’s viewpoint or religion imposed on me.  After hearing the different arguments let me make my own choice.  That’s what the physician assisted suicide advocates are recommending, allowing a person to make their own choice..  Not so for those opposed to euthanasia.

I think that Christians are caught between a rock and a hard place.  The Christian’s strongest argument is the teaching that people have been created in the image of God (the sanctity of human life).  Therefore because of the ultimate value of human life, a Christian or anyone cannot even consider suicide as an escape from pain and suffering.  But this is a Christian argument and doesn’t argue well when establishing law in a pluralistic society.

The humanistic argument for forbidding euthanasia depends on logic and reasonableness in coming to a solution. What is the most humane way of handling such a situation?  Does those arguing “for” or “against” euthanasia have the most reasoned and logical point of view.  Christian and other religious points of view should be put aside when establishing law in a pluralistic culture.  Based upon reason, I think that those favoring physician assisted suicide have the stronger argument on this front.

Thinking of the humane treatment of a much loved pet dog who has lost all of its legs, what would be the most humane treatment for this pet?  No doubt, it would be to put the dog down (end its life).  It would be inhumane to expect such an animal to live out its years without legs.  But that’s what you are suggesting for a person.  The owner of the dog would make the decision for his/her pet.  In regard to a person (in a humane society) facing a life or death decision, he/she would be primary in coming to such a decision.  You can think of all kinds situations of suffering pets, in which the most humane treatment is to put the pet down.  But in the treatment of suffering and hopeless people, you suggest giving them no choice but to live in likely hopelessness.  

Of course animals and people are different.   People have the capability of logic and reason.  Adults can logically and reasonably make important decisions for themselves, even in life and death situations.  They should be given the dignity and the honor that belongs to human beings  to do so.  If they choose life, then by all means, those close to such a person will do all they can to make the remainder of their life comfortable and meaningful.  If they choose death, then those close will also make the passing as comfortable and guilt free as possible.  To give an individual the right of choice gives the individual the dignity and honor that humans deserve.  The right to choose seems, to me, to be the only reasonable and Christian option.

Hi Roger, you are right. I could have done a much better job illustrating the painful situation in which many people find themselves when considering the option of physician-assisted suicide. 

I believe that as Christians we can give arguments against physician assisted suicide from within a Christian worldview, and submit these as part of the public discourse. As I said, we have as much right to participate in the public square as others. In addition, there are organizations like Not Dead Yet that oppose assisted suicide that do not use arguments from a Christian worldview but from a humanist point of view. They too have as much right to be part of the public discourse on the topic as those who favor assisted suicide. This is not "imposing our opinion" on others but contributing to society's discussion on this topic. 

I disagree with you that those who oppose assisted suicide "offer no options" to people in severe pain or living with severe disabilities. As I argued in my article, the options include excellent palliative care and excellent social supports (from the public and private sectors - this is where the church comes in) to do as much as possible to give difficult lives meaning, to keep people in meaningful relationships with other people, and to provide as much comfort as possible. 

Thanks Mark for your clarifications.  As to your examples, if the third was a made up example, as you say, you could have, at least, added some compassion to show the concern and suffering that such a cancer victim was likely experiencing.  As it stands, it is still obvious where you stand simply from your examples.

When you suggest that opponents of physician assisted suicide are not faith based and do not use religious arguments to make their case, I hope that is not the case for you, as you represent a Christian organization, the CRC and Disability Concerns of the CRC.   And you are addressing a Christian audience.   As such, I would think your opposition to euthanasia would mainly lie in a distinctly Christian argument.  Unless, of course, the Christian argument doesn’t carry much weight.  Unless the Christian argument doesn’t represent ultimate truth. Unless you feel you can only argue from a humanistic point of view.

But then if you are arguing from a humanist point of view and not a Christian perspective, then there is no ultimate authority from which to argue.  You can only argue from a position of opinion.  And your opinion carries no more weight than that of others.  I hope you recognize that  Western opinion on a number of issues (including euthanasia) has been strongly informed and shaped by a long standing Christian tradition that has spanned centuries of thinking.  That is rapidly changing in our pluralistic Western societies.  

You suggest that Christians are part of our pluralistic society and have a right to add their voice to the mix of many voices.  I think you have a right to add your opinion and certainly impose your own opinion on yourself.  But to tell someone who fundamentally believes differently from you that they have to act according to your opinions or values in a pluralistic society is unjust.  Christianity is no longer seen as the guardian of our society and culture.  That is why groups such as “No Longer Dead” will argue their position from a humanistic perspective.  But their humanistic perspective is no more compelling or authoritative than the humanistic perspective of those advocating for physician assisted suicide.  Those wanting to legalize physician assisted suicide are not suggesting that anyone suffering or in pain must submit to such action.   That would be wrong, as well.  They simply want this to be an option.  In contrast those protesting euthanasia are giving no options.  People in severe pain or greatly disabled are not allowed to make such a decision for themselves.  Therein lies the error of your view advocating for a Christian position ruling our pluralistic society.

If the Christian church (or Christians) wants to prohibit physician assisted suicide it should prohibit it within their own church or denomination.  But why go outside of their own church (of like thinking) and try to prohibit it in society which is not under the jurisdiction of the church.   If the church cannot enforce such a law in their own churches why should the church or Christians be allowed such authority in society.

There are other valid arguments for those advocating for physician assisted suicide, but I’ve said too much already.  Thanks for listening and responding.

Roger, thanks for your comments. Clearly, you have thought a lot about this issue. My third example is made up, so it is difficult to paint as full a picture as with the other two which come out of my own experience. 

You imply that the primary reason to oppose assisted suicide is that we live in a pluralistic society, and must not "impose our values" on others. I'm far from an expert in political science, but I would disagree with you on two fronts. First, Christians and other people of faith are part of that pluralistic society, so we and our values have as significant a place at the table as people with other value systems. We do have a right to add our voices to other's voices concerning what we believe to be best for people in society, and that should be done with the kind of respect that God calls us to have toward all people. Second, the primary opponents of legislation permitting assisted suicide are people of faith (various faiths) and disability rights groups. Not Dead Yet is a disability rights organization that vigorously opposes assisted suicide legislation. You'll find that none of their arguments are based on "Christian values", yet are powerful reminders of the dangers of such legislation for many vulnerable people in our society. 

Compassion is a value I aspire to live by in all of life. If what I wrote appears to be uncompassionate toward people facing suffering and trail at the end of life, I'm sorry. However, if we only consider compassion toward people contemplating assisted suicide, we will be mislead. We must also have compassion toward other people, such as those for whom assisted suicide legislation endangers their lives (see the Not Dead Yet article referenced above). And if we are guided only by compassion, we will forget about other important values like justice. 

Thanks Mark for your insights into the topic of euthanasia or physician assisted suicide.  I noticed that in painting a picture of three different end of life situations, you painted the first two examples with a greater sense of compassion for the person dying than you did in the third example.  From that alone, I knew where you stood on the topic of physician assisted suicide.  In a sense, the rest of the article was not necessary to know where you stand.  Had you painted a much more compassionate view of the third, your viewpoint would have not been so obvious from the start, and might have shown some balance.

Most Christians oppose physician assisted suicide because of their view of human life. Human life is sacred, not just valuable.  The sanctity of human life stems fundamentally from people (as opposed to animals) being created in the image of God.  And because humans are created in God’s image, we do not have the right to take that life from anyone.  If humans were simply one step up the evolutionary ladder from monkeys, we might not feel the same.  So it is our Christian perspective that pushes us in the direction of being pro-life, whether at the beginning or end of human life.

The fundamental question in our informed age is, do Christians have the right to impose their religious views on the general population?  Because Christians believe in the sanctity of human life, should they dictate to the public that particular view?  Wouldn’t that be like people of the Islamic religion wanting to impose sharia law on the general population of a democracy such as the U.S. or Canada?  It is one thing for Christians to say that they believe in the sanctity of human life, but it’s entirely a different thing to impose our beliefs on others.  The church should be staunch supports of such principles within their church communities, without imposing their views on others outside the church. Don’t we believe in a separation of church and state?  I don’t know if the church does such an effective job within the church community, why should they go outside the church to impose their beliefs?

As for those promoting physician assisted suicide, they can definitely present and promote a much more compassionate and loving perspective on the topic than you have done with your third example.  In fact, if shown in the way promoters intend, it is the most loving, compassionate, and hopeful thing that can be done (or allowed) for those facing severe pain and hopelessness.