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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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            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  [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxHg34DK5_Y...

March 16, 2016 0 0 comments
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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 crcna.org/justice!

March 14, 2016 1 0 comments
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Why do justice during Lent? Isaiah doesn’t mince his words about the kind of fasting that makes “your voice heard on high.” 

March 14, 2016 0 1 comments
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As new parents, my spouse and I have been figuring out how to raise our family and also find time to continue serving God. We have been learning about being a family on mission.

March 8, 2016 1 1 comments
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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?

March 2, 2016 2 5 comments
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God gave clear instructions to the nation of Israel and its leaders (prophets, priests and kings) to care for the poor.

February 29, 2016 0 4 comments
Resource, Article

Churches are more than buildings taking up space in a city, town, or neighborhood. These are people who encounter the God of cities and nations.

February 22, 2016 1 0 comments
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A working group in the Mennonite Church USA has created a 43-minute documentary entitled "The Doctrine of Discovery: In the Name of Christ" that is a good introduction to understanding the Doctrine of Discovery.

January 29, 2016 0 0 comments
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The plight of refugees has never been more stark, obvious and in your face. So what do we do? Listen to the refugee-Jesus, where we find the simplest, clearest of wisdom. 

January 21, 2016 1 4 comments
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This summer, North American pastors received an invitation from the CRC Office of Social Justice to submit sermons on the topic of immigration. We're exicted to announce the winner!

December 16, 2015 0 0 comments
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Brave survivors of racism and inequality have shared the stories of their experiences. Their bravery has given us a chance to repent, a chance to live together in a better way.

December 16, 2015 0 0 comments

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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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZExWtXAZ7M

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.

I think much progress has been made on the MDGs, although I differ as to what caused that progress to be made.  I could have personally established these goals for the world back in 2000 and then claimed success in achieving them when observing progress had been made.  Association doesn't mean causation.

The fact is, the world has been and is, on the whole, increasingly opening up to free (or freer) market economic policies.  This is the cause for MDG progress.

Take China for example.  Despite the government being a dictatorship, China has implemented policies of open market economic principles, both internally and internationally.  Those policies haven't been implemented and executed without problems, but the move away from China's government controls of the past (under Mao) has brought a level of economic prosperity that few predicted possible or likely in the Mao days.  And all of that prosperity works in favor of each and every United Nations MDG goal.

World poverty alleviation advocate, Bono (yes the singer with U2), began his advocacy career by meeting with high level government officials, urging them to fight worldwide policies alongside the United Nations with its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  After years and years of advocacy, Bono has figured out that what the world needs more of is not more government effort but more free market economic activity.  He has even publicly laughed about himself, saying who would have thought when he started his world-wide crusade that after this many years, he'd become a fan of free market capitalism and be asking governments to get out of the way.

So now, the UN sets more goals.  That's OK I suppose, but just so we don't become fooled about why so much progress was made on MDGs.  What I will celebrate is when whatever government of whatever country decides that open markets -- which really is nothing more or less than recognizing the truth contained in that old Kuyperian concept of "sphere sovereignty" -- is a key to all kinds of success.  If the UN then wants to later take the bow for the success, that's OK, so long as it doesn't get in the way of the progress being made, or of the measures being taken by governments who have figured out what it takes to make economic progress, and thereby progress on pretty much everything else.

Peter, 

There is so much joy and gratitude in your report, and I appreciate the spirit with which you wrote it. 

It is therefore with great reluctance that I further inquire into what this means.

Another great international business consultant, John Vandonk, once said that we report what we want to see, and what we see is not necessarily what truly is.

Without testing, I would hypothesize that reported attendance figures for any daily Vacation Bible School are approximately 20% higher then the actual attendance. We want it to be true. 

Could you offer a died in the wool cynic such as myself any reassurances that the numbers you cite are somewhat close to reality? Because if they are, this news deserves much greater publicity than a little blog tucked away on the CRCNA network website. 

On the other hand, if the numbers you cite were generated by the same models that predict the rising and lowering of the oceans, there may not be enough consensus about your numbers to start  the celebration. 

Peter, I believe, help my unbelief.

50 years ago humans were persons, corporations were businesses, and raw materials were assets to be consumed. These days corporations are persons and persons are raw materials to be consumed.  I knew the jig was up when personnel managers disappeared and personnel departments were renamed "human resource" departments.

Without checking the uncited Pew research, I do wonder how Pew would know.  Most of the unlawful immigrants I know personally) don't publicize that they here unlawfully.  But even if we assume, for the sake of the argument, that your uncited Pew reference is true, I don't understand the point.  Would it be that we should decrease the number of unlawful immigrants?  If not that, what?

To the broader point, I've already conceded that on the whole, from a macro perspective, immigrants as a whole probably benefit the US economy.  Still, from a micro perspective, especially unlawful immigration predominantly benefits the more wealthy class but burdens the middle and lower classes.

Nor have I denied that immigrants and all other people are image bearers of God, but that's not really a particularly helpful observation either.  They are image bearers of God even if they are live in their home countries of Honduras, or San Salvador, or Mexico, or China, etc.  Image bearers of God don't have to unlawfully come to or stay in the United States to be image bearers of God.

Again, my point, which seems to be missed, is that we have to be more nuanced about all of this than to just say that we should lobby government to regard all immigration, legal or illegal, to be a blessing to all and a burden to no one (which is, effectively, a call for an unrestricted immigration policy).  Again, we owe it to everyone involved to be more nuanced than that.

Yes! What a great read. 

Pew says the number of unauthorized immigrants in Oregon has "decreased" since 2009 by 20%. 

I think this article from the Acton institute has some great lines like, "Humans are assets, fashioned in the image of God with creative potential and unbounded relational capacity. All is gift, and we are all destined to be gift-givers in God’s grand economy of all things. We are made to build and innovate, share and collaborate, and immigrants of whatever skill set from whatever country or political system are born with that same creative capacity." 

And the author is generous in taking time to converse in the comments section. It is helpful read, imo.  

The myth that immigrants (including legal immigrants) are a burden to society, the economy, jobs, and the "American way of life", is THE root reason that the U.S. immigration system has not been reformed in 50 years--the myth of the burdensome immigrant is more powerful than the political will to reform the broken system.  

The bitter irony is that unauthorized immigrants, while being offered no options for legal status and while contributing over $80 million in Oregon state and local taxes and billions to Social Security, continue to receive most of the suffering and most of the blame. 

Christians are called to be a voice that stands with vulnerable immigrants burdened by American myths. That is what #blessingnotburden is all about. I shared the article from Acton. If anyone has research or opinions from trustworthy sources to the contrary I would be happy to read them and learn more.          

That's a fascinating analogy (kids as immigrants).  I'm willing to play with that.  So my client Jon is in his early thirties and married with two kids.  He started a roofing business some years back.  The more the unlawful immigration (I distinguish between lawful and unlawful even if you and this campaign refuse to), the more "black market" (and "white market") competition he has.  For Jon, unlawful immigration is a hardship.  If Jon was required to accept additional children because the government said he had to, the effect would in fact be the roughly the same -- hardship.  To be clear, all people are created in God's image, as are all children.  But people who come to the US in violation of US law and become a particular burden to particular segments of the US population (in this case, small businesses and lower skilled employees) were as much created in God's image in Honduras, or Mexico, or Nicaragua and they are if they come to the US.  

The irony in all of this is that a political campaign like this one, which advocates a simplistic message that lacks nuance, hurts the small, poorer people in the US (like my clients Jon and Andrew and others like them) and helps the big ones (like my client Larry and companies much bigger than that who are not my clients -- I mostly represent small businesses).  The reason is simple: uncontrolled, unlawful immigration from third world countries favor big businesses and higher skilled employees and disfavors small businesses and lower skilled employees.  As I said before, this is really the opposite of what OSJ says they advocate for.

You and OSJ are right that on the whole, when all the numbers are counted in a macro kind of way, immigration, probably including illegal immigration, is more a blessing than a burden.  But peoples' lives aren't lived at the macro level; they are lived at the micro level, in the real world as it is.  Why should the government ignore its own immigration laws so that the rich can get richer but the middle class and lower class are economically pinched?  And why should OSJ push a political campaign that supports that? 

I suspect my clients Jon and Andrew would be interested in your t-shirts, but only if you put the word "Legal" in front of the word "Immigrants."  My client Larry would be interested in the shirt without that added word, and maybe even prefer the word "Illegal" (illegal immigrants are easier to manipulate and abuse for bigger business and bigger agricultural operations because they are more vulnerable).

Why are you and OSJ favoring the wealthier class of Americans over the middle and poorer classes of Americans?  Micro justice for real people may be as much or even more important that macro economic growth for a nation and more wealth for the already wealthy.  Not?

No more hyperbolic than saying "kids are a blessing and not a burden". We all know that sometimes kids are and feel like a burden - a pain in th but even. That does not negate the truth of the assertion and it does not fit the definition of hyperbole. But if you insist Doug, I'll buy you a T-shirt that says "Immigrants are a Blessing - (but sometimes and in some places some of them can be a bit of a burden)" If you will post a picture of yourself wearing it?

I would suggest it is never the case that a phenomena as complex as legal and illegal immigration, in a nation as large as the US, with immigration numbers (legal and illegal) as great as they have been in the US of late, can be called all good or all bad (or all "blessing" or all "burden").  It will always be a mixed bag.

In contradiction to the claims made by this campaign, I personally know of people in my community, including my clients, who are substantially burdened by immigration, especially when the numbers of unlawful immigration increases as it has.  To put it simply, a high number of lower-skilled immigration increases the supply of low-skilled workers as well as small businesses who, whether with appropriate licenses or not, engage in certain kinds of lower skill work and small business efforts (e.g., roofing, painting, yard work, etc).  That reality effectively reduces  wages and the amount of available work for some workers and some small businesses.  And of course, this would be true not just where I live but anywhere there are high numbers of immigrants, especially when high level of immigration is unlawful.

The problem with declaring -- and then pushing in a political way as does this campaign -- a hyperbole (that unlawful immigration produces all upside (blessing) and no downside (burden)) is that lawmakers get caught up in the bumper sticker mantra and tend to legislate accordingly, which of course means they tend to simply ignore the problems unlawful immigration in fact creates.  That is, they ignore the lower-skilled work force and the small business that can get hit hard by the effect of high unlawful immigration numbers.

A better approach would be to simply avoid hyperbole in this sort of campaign.  Better yet, if avoiding the hyperbole proves too difficult, would be to allow intelligent CRC members to speak for themselves to their own political representatives, based on their own experience and fact-finding.  Above all, that approach respects the rights of CRC members to be part of the CRC church without surrendering their political voice to a proxy.

Congratulations to CRC staff who have put this campaign together. In order to have a good conversation it is important to be grounded in evidence. Immigrants are blessings and not burdens happens to be a true and significant statement in multiple spheres - economic, social, and faith among others. It is this reality - this insight - that ought to ground and inform the important policy discussions needed in the public square. Love it!

That is a helpful comment, I agree!

CRCers are invited to discuss the complexities of the issues. The OSJ would be happy to facilitate the Church Between Borders workshop at any congregation in the U.S. It receives outstanding feedback from all sides of the discussion everywhere it goes. (http://www2.crcna.org/pages/osj_churchbetweenborders.cfm

Many Christians already make their voices heard in national and local conversations about immigration, without the lead, and sometimes in ways contrary to, the way the CRC/OSJ would instruct.  The more pertinent question is whether OSJ should tell all CRCers what exactly they must think and express when they make their voices heard in these conversations. 

Wouldn't it be better to invite CRCers (and other Christians) to discuss the complexities of the issues involved instead of just tell them what they should think and what they should do?  Does this topic have to be a one-way conversation?  Of course, a one-way conversation isn't a conversation at all.  And do we have to reduce our perspective to one that is so black and white?

I am so grateful that the CRC is leading this campaign! It is time for Christians to make their voices heard in national and local conversations about immigration.

Thank you CRC and OSJ for this important and much needed reminder that immigrants bless my life and that as an immigrant I also bless the lives of those around me. It is both disheartening and frustrating when some people around me and part of mainstream culture either explicitly or indirectly refer to me as a burden and other me with their language and assumptions. So, I am glad that the church and others around me are counteracting that narrative with this positive message. Muchas gracias! 

While I do agree that the church has a responsibility to help our suffering Christian brothers and sisters from Syria, Iraq, Libya, Eritrea and other conflict zones, I don't think we should discriminate on the basis of religion or ethnic background when it comes to refugees. The Gospel requires us to help all who flee violent environments and experience immense suffering. Plus, we have the added opportunity of not only helping but also witnessing to God's love to those who do not know Jesus. So I would encourage the church to open its doors to all refugees, Christian, Muslim, Yazidi, etc.

I was touched by this article.  Thank you to those who spend their time helping people through such a gut wrenching decision.  I appreciate the comments about what it means to her to be pro-life. 

Thank you for pointing out the sin of pride so many of us Christian Reformers suffer from.  Can you imagine what Jesus would say when pride/reputation trumps the life of one of His kids.  I think he would respond as He so often did to the Pharisee's.  So glad we all have something called Grace available to us.  May God have mercy on us all.

 

Bob Brasser

Last Fall, the Business Department at Calvin College and the Acton Institute hosted the Symposium on Common Grace in Business, and the proceedings have just been published in the Journal of Markets and Morality:  http://www.marketsandmorality.com/index.php/mandm/issue/view/37

Two of those articles may be particularly relevant:

This one is on pricing: http://www.marketsandmorality.com/index.php/mandm/article/view/1060

This one is on debt and risk: http://www.marketsandmorality.com/index.php/mandm/article/view/1058

 

For more reading on Christian business ethics, I would recommend the following.  I use the first two in my classes at Calvin, and the first one is thoroughly Reformed.  The second one delves into a number of specific business ethics problems, and the third one is a careful exegesis of the Gospel of Luke as it pertains to Jesus's teachings on the management of the household (which at the time was a center of economic production as well as consumption).

Van Duzer, J. 2010. Why business matters to God (and what still needs to be fixed). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.

Hill, A. 2008. Just business: Christian ethics for the marketplace. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.

Dyck, B. 2013. Management and the Gospel: Luke's radical message for the first and twenty-first centuries. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

 

As for the "how" of taking action on ethical challenges in business, my article in the abovementioned issue of JM&M talks about that:

http://www.marketsandmorality.com/index.php/mandm/article/view/1056

I also recommend the following book, which contains another framework that I use in my class at Calvin.  It's written from a secular perspective, but it provides useful guidance for acting on one's convictions in a secular organization:

Gentile, M. C. 2010. Giving voice to values: How to speak your mind when you know what's right. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 

 

Finally, for businesspeople who want to organize for change, I recommend a secular organization called Net Impact.  https://netimpact.org/   For Christian businesspeople who want to connect with each other and learn how to live out their faith at work, I recommend the Center for Faith and Work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York. http://www.faithandwork.com/   Both of the above have annual conferences, and both are holding theirs this year November 5-7, in Seattle and NYC, respectively.

Thanks for starting this conversation, Larry! I think it's a really important one. In my town (Hamilton, Ontario), an organization called Christians Against Poverty is working (indirectly) against loan sharks by providing debt counseling that helps people get out of debt. I would love to see more discussion around work like this and the Faith for Just Lending coalition, because this is an issue that affects so many of our neighbours, so the church should care. The biblical prophets speak so clearly against predatory lending practices. If any of you would like to expand this conversation by writing a post for Do Justice (a blog of the Office of Social Justice and the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue), I'd be happy to publish it. (I'm the blog's editor.) 

Thank you Kent.  I am greatly encouraged by your comment.  It also makes me aware of your books for which I am grateful.  It seems that the church has a great deal of teaching to do on this topic, advocating for it  in politics and other public arenas.  Do we have Christian attorneys dealing with this? 

There is a great deal of academic work in this field, and most MBA programs have a course in Business Ethics.  But knowing and doing have long been separate items.  I too published a book in Christian Ethics (The Moral Disciple, Eerdmans) and one related to global poverty (Less than $2.00 a Day, Eerdmans).  The problem is not a lack of reflection on the topic, but a lack of action.  It could perhaps be promoted within the church in classes, sermons, and activities.  The big foe, however, is economic liberalism, which holds that if a transaction is legal, it is OK, as long as it follows the rules.  That certainly needs to be challenged.  Let's keep working at it.

The Center for Public Justice is also part of the Faith for Just Lending coalition. See my post at http://network.crcna.org/social-justice/predatory-lending-survey for a survey they are conducting through July 31.

Thanks Kris, this is a helpful list!

Thanks Gwyneth! What did you think of the Challenge, now that it's over? 

I am looking forward to being connected with this initiative! 

Thanks for sharing this Kris! I think that event was a positive example of collaboration among organizations and neighbors to raise awareness about an important justice issue in the U.S. today. Interestingly, on the topic of immigration justice, Tim Keller makes a very compelling case from Scripture-- in Generous Justice--that how we welcome, treat, care for and include the immigrant/stranger/alien (as one of the groups in what he refers to as the "quartet of the vulnerable") is an indicator as well as a demonstration of our relationship with and love for God.  

posted in: What About Justice?

Thanks for the good reminder! I'm a deacon at my church and a small group that I am in showed a film called "The Stranger," about immigration, to a group of nearly 200 in the Holland, MI area. The response was very positive and it was a great collaborative effort with neighborhood participants and help from other organizations like the OSJ and the Methodist Church organization Justice For our Neighbors. 

posted in: What About Justice?

Thanks for sharing this Abigail. I'm grateful for the support that OSJ and World Renew will be providing and hope many deacons and diaconates will take advantage of these resources.

posted in: What About Justice?

Thanks for this important post, Jack! The Office of Social Justice has also created a new group study called Live Justly, created in partnership with Micah Challenge U.S., that will be available around September. This could also be a great resource for a deacons' Bible study or another small group!

Plus, you can receive the Live Justly curriculum for free by signing up for World Renew's Deacon's Newsletter (information regarding signing up will be going out soon). 

posted in: What About Justice?

How I wish that you would join us in a prayer meeting which we have every thiird Thursday of the month at the Omega House on Fulton street Grand Rapids. Many of the things you talk about are true, But just talking does not get the job done. We must practice what we preach It is Ora et labora. Our group comes together for prayer support . Our side walk counselors are reaching out to those who come for abortion. We are ready and have done so several times to give financial and material help to those who need it. Our Church family is supporting us in this ministry. Garden of Hope has a minisytry for post abortion ladies. Yes, we must pray and work

Matthew, it sounds like to me, that maybe you are saying that there are two kinds of knowledge:  one derived from scripture (what God tells us), and one derived from nature or what we see (secular).    This is one way of understanding a difference.  Craig is hinting at a problem with that in the sense that secular knowledge comes from what God created.  Secular knowledge is based on what we see of God's creation, God's natural laws working. 

So what is the relationship to morality, eschatology and purpose, you ask?   One relationship is that they are directly connected, not disjointed.  The laws that God gave us in scripture are related to the creation that He made.  The creation that He made reveals also who He is and what He is like, but often we don't understand this very well unless we know scripture.  The Bible says His word is all connected.  The word that spoke creation into being, is the word of God, and is also the son of God, who is the Word made flesh. 

A secular person will try to separate the secular from God, but as Christians, we know it all belongs to Him.  We can also see how God's moral laws for us make sense from an empirical perspective, even thought that is not our primary purpose for obedience to God.  Scripture provides with a lens and perspective on how to see the laws of nature.... for example how does predation fit in, or how does murder or adultery fit in to nature.... is it natural or unnatural and why?   Our value judgements color how we look at empirical evidence;  the empirical evidence is what we see, but does not by itself determine whether what we see is good or bad. 

In some cases, it is even difficult to determine meaning of empirical evidence without a value framework, or without a world and life view.   Is monogamy good or bad... is pornography acceptible or not.... are bribes another form of taxes.... should parents or government raise children.... is it okay if some species become extinct....  does it matter if poor people starve...   etc.   Usually world and life views even shape the collection of evidence, the way "secular" news is presented, and the interpretation or investigation of empirical evidence.   EG.  it is true that both the inquistion and Stalin and Hitler killed many people, but which one is more significant to you, and why? 

How do you interpret other phenomena for example.  Empirically we know that there were giant camels and mastodons and other mammals and large trees in the high artic and the Yukon, some frozen, and some fossilized;  we know that there were dragonflies with four foot wingspans and we know that there are many seashells on the tops of mountains.  What we interpret is how they got there, and it makes sense for people to derive that interpretation within the context of  their world and life view. 

Maybe this gets a little closer to answering your question? 

There is a big difference between science being compatible with the bible and God teaching man about the natural world. Hence my term, 'secular knowledge'. That is the discintction I am drawing, and to understand what I mean by secular knowledge, plese stick to this idea.

 

For example, suppose God didn't just describe the world in genesis, but also black holes, quasars, and so on. Then I would see your point. There are things God could describe that we will never know about since he was there from the begining. Anyway, my point is about the stuff of the natural world that God does not describe. Whether or not this is derivable or consistent with the bible is a seperate matter. Basically, you haven't offered a direction of where we should go with 'secular' knowledge.

 

I certainly am able to answer everything that you are talking about, partly because I'm not getting what your main idea is.  I do have one question and one answer though.

My question is what do you mean by secular knowledge?  I'm afraid that you are forming a false dichotomy.  Is there knowledge that is secular and knowledge that is unsecular?  All knowledge comes from God.

To answer your last question we have to go back to Genesis.  God created us with perfect vision.  It was our sin that brought about all these physical problems.  By God's grace we are able to improve our vision through glasses, surgery, etc.  God could have left us with the results of our sin and never helped us.  Instead, He graciously gives us help.

I know I haven't hit the meat of your discussion.  Hopefully others can.

Well said, Bert.  It reminds us of how all the commandments are so closely connected. 

Marie, I would suggest that you try this for war, environmental damage, and poverty and see what happens.  I could think of a couple of differences, however, depending on motive, knowledge, and responsibility.   For example, war might be defensive to protect the innocent;  how would that compare to agressive war to indulge imperialism?  Or environmental damage from ignorance or to save lives, vs deliberate destruction with no purpose?   Or poverty caused by others, vs poverty caused by sloth and sluggardly behaviour (as Proverbs mentions).  Abortion is an action;  war is an action;  poverty is a result of actions; environmental damage is a result of actions.  Hard to compare exactly. 

Interesting. Bert, what do you think this would look like for war? Or for environmental damage? Or poverty?

Maybe John K, the reason the issue is not raised, is that there is no prohibition against caring for needy children.  Maybe the issue is not raised because at least in Canada, health care is already available to all, including the children of single mothers.  In addition, many pro-life people do not feel hindered in fostering, adopting, etc.  In our small church of less than 100 souls, we have 14 adopted children, and support a mission project in Kenya which builds a school for orphans.  Many pro-life people have set up homes or assistance for single mothers-to-be.  Families usually support single teen moms within their family;  while this sometimes sends mixed messages about appropriateness of "being" a single mother, it also confirms the value of unborn  new life. 

 

Doug, I ran across this comment thread recently and found something on the OSJ's website that I thought might be helpful in answering your original question: 

 

What do you mean by the term "social justice"?  Isn’t the name of the OSJ controversial?

The term “social justice” emerges out of Scripture, and was actually originally coined by the church: a Jesuit monk based the phrase on the teachings of Thomas Aquinas. Contrary to some misconceptions, “social justice” is a concept deeply rooted in the historic, Biblically orthodox traditions of the Christian faith.

When we talk about “social justice” in a Reformed context, we are referring to God’s original intention for human society: a world where basic needs are provided for in love, where people flourish, and where shalom reigns in the Kingdom of God. This vision of shalom is a vision of “the way things ought to be,” or the way God created the world to be before sin. As Cornelius Plantinga writes, “In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight… the webbing-together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight.” 

Social justice refers to the pursuit of shalom in human, social relationships. There are many types of justice (retributive, restorative, etc.). The significance of social justice is that it references the pursuit of shalom — righteousness, harmony, and “the way things ought to be” — specifically in our human interactions and societal structures. The CRCNA rightly emphasizes the pursuit of God’s shalom in all areas. However, the choice of the specific term in the name for the OSJ acknowledges the mandate of the OSJ, which focuses the office on addressing societal structures and injustices which hinder human flourishing.

One final note of clarification: technically, the full name is the Office of Social Justice and Hunger Action (OSJHA). However, because the activities of the office extend beyond issues related just to hunger and poverty, the shortened term is more commonly used.

 

The FAQ page is pretty useful. If you're interested, here's the link: http://www.crcna.org/pages/osj_faqs.cfm

posted in: Political Diversity

Yes, that's the one  =)...

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