Opinion by the Rev. Fred D. Robinson, special to CNN
(CNN) – On day five after the shooting death of unarmed black teen Michael Brown at the hands of police, I was on the phone with a white Christian and fellow preacher concerning the racial cauldron that has become Ferguson, Missouri.
During our conversation, he spent more time decrying rioting and calling for calm and prayer than lamenting the modern-day lynching by law enforcement of innocent black bodies that are piling up across the nation.
But most frustrating was his solution to the racial powder keg that has produced the Fergusons across the nation: a call for more racially diverse churches.
I get tired of that one. His unrelenting insistence reminded me — in the most stark terms — of James Baldwin’s prophetic quip: “Racial progress in America is measured by how fast I become white.”
Simply having diverse congregations without addressing the weightier matters of social justice and structural racism is not better church practice. It is possibly subterfuge.
During Princeton Theological Seminary’s 2014 Black Theology and Leadership Institute, of which I was a fellow, Dr. John Kinney, a professor of theology at Virginia Union, offered this stinging indictment:
“When white supremacy adopts diversity, it seeks to either cleanse you, contain you, co-opt you or convert you.”
If one is not careful, that is exactly what will be achieved in today’s climate of multiracial churches.
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
Lampedusa, Italy (CNN) – Abdel clung to his pregnant wife, 4-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter as they sailed across an open stretch of the Mediterranean Sea.
They were in a dilapidated fishing boat with limited provisions and almost no sanitation, sharing a cramped space with some 400 other Syrians.
Abdel prayed quietly and recited verses from the Quran for two days and two nights as the boat swayed and motored precariously along the 180-mile route from Libya to the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa.
If they could make it, his young family would be one step closer to freedom.
He knew thousands had died making the same voyage.
By John Blake, CNN
(CNN) – The Rev. Timothy McDonald gripped the pulpit with both hands, locked eyes with the shouting worshippers, and decided to speak the unspeakable.
The bespectacled Baptist minister was not confessing to a scandalous love affair or the theft of church funds. He brought up another taboo: the millions of poor Americans who won’t get health insurance beginning in January because their states refused to accept Obamacare.
McDonald cited a New Testament passage in which Jesus gathered the 5,000 and fed them with five loaves and two fishes. Members of his congregation bolted to their feet and yelled, “C’mon preacher” and “Yessir” as his voice rose in righteous anger.
“What I like about our God is that he doesn’t throw people away,” McDonald told First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta during a recent Sunday service. “There will be health care for every American. Don’t you worry when they try to cast you aside. Just say I’m a leftover for God and leftovers just taste better the next day!”
By Eric Marrapodi, Shasta Darlington and Miguel Marquez, CNN
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Rio de Janeiro (CNN) – Pope Francis visited one of Rio de Janeiro's most dangerous and impoverished neighborhoods Thursday, saying that no society pushing the poor to the margins can succeed.
"I say: You are not alone; the church is with you; the pope is with you," Francis told residents of the notorious Varginha favela, or slum.
"I carry each of you in my heart, and I make my own the intentions that you carry deep within you: thanksgiving for joys, pleas for help in times of difficulty, a desire for consolation in times of grief and suffering."
Francis, whose concern for the poor has earned him the nickname the "slum pope" in Latin America, is in Brazil through Sunday for World Youth Day, a weeklong Catholic event.
By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) – A coalition of noteworthy Christian leaders and thinkers is asking President Barack Obama and congressional leaders to protect the poor from the forced spending cuts that are due to take effect this week.
The group’s open letter frames budget decisions as a moral question for lawmakers and asks them to stop the political brinksmanship.
“Important choices must be made: we must weigh the benefits of tax credits for low-income people and tax breaks for high income people; of nutrition assistance to low-income families and subsidies to agricultural businesses,” the letter says. “Congress can and must develop a balanced and thoughtful path forward that protects the most vulnerable and preserves economic opportunity.”
The group is called Circle of Protection, and it goes on to ask lawmakers to “maintain a Circle of Protection around effective programs focused on hungry and poor people in our country and around the world.”
Founded nearly two years ago, the groups boasts a politically diverse group of almost 100 Christian leaders, including Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, Bishop Stephen E. Blaire from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Jim Wallis, president of the group Sojourners.
Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.
By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN
A lot has been written about the “Mormon moment” in American politics. But the election of 2012 is starting to shape up as a “Catholic moment,” too.
Now that Mitt Romney has tapped the former altar boy (and Rep.) Paul Ryan as his vice-presidential running mate, there will be a Catholic on both major party tickets for the first time in U.S. history.
So as Ryan and Vice President Joe Biden articulate their views, we will be tuning into an intra-Catholic conversation pitting “social justice” Christians on the left versus “family values” Christians on the right.
He called himself a “life-long Quaker and a church-going Christian,” and at first there was no reason to doubt him.
He played piano in the church, taught Sunday school, and praised Jesus at revivals. His mother thought he was going to be a missionary. His friends said he would be a preacher.
We now know this former Sunday school teacher as “Tricky Dick” or, more formally, President Richard Nixon. He was one of the most corrupt and paranoid men to occupy the Oval Office. Nixon gave us Watergate, but he also gave presidential historians like Darrin Grinder a question to ponder:
Does a president’s religious faith make any difference in how he governs?
(CNN) – Bishop Harry Jackson is a former college middle linebacker who can still hit hard.
He once described same-sex marriage as a satanic plot to destroy the family, called on Republicans to get “political Viagra” and said African-Americans needed to abandon what he called the Gospel of Victimization.
Jackson is not shy about stirring up controversy, but he stops short when it comes to preaching about greed. The Maryland bishop said he encourages his congregation to get through the Great Recession by saving and sharing. But he doesn’t want to alienate well-off members by talking about what’s behind the nation’s economic woes.
"I've got to watch it," said Jackson, pastor at Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland. "I could get into some big teaching on greed, but the reality is that a lot of that teaching may wind up creating anti-economic-growth and anti-capitalism concepts (in people’s minds). ... I always talk about personal responsibility so we don't get into the blame game."
The Great Recession is more than an economic crisis. It has become a spiritual dilemma for some of the nation’s pastors and their parishioners, religious leaders say.
Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.
What would Jesus think of the GOP budget now before the Senate? Not much, says a consortium of Protestant bishops.
In what is becoming something of a pig pile on the GOP from the Christian Left, more than two dozen bishops from mainline Protestant denominations sent a letter to Congress today denouncing proposed Republican budget cuts as "morally indefensible."
Following on missives from Catholics to House Speaker John Boehner, from Catholics and evangelicals to Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to Congress as a whole, Protestant leaders such as the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, are advancing the argument that the GOP budget is an immoral document.
A couple weeks ago, some Catholic leaders called out House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan and House Speaker John Boehner for neglecting Catholic social teachings in their proposed 2012 budget.
Boehner avoided the issue in his recent commencement address at Catholic University, but Rep. Ryan tackled it head on in an April 29 letter to New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Dolan responded in a letter dated May 18, and Ryan responded in turn. All three letters are now available on the House Committee on the Budget website.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.