Posts Tagged ‘social issues’

On the Side of the Muslims

Saturday, March 16th, 2019

My last post might have been interpreted as being anti-Muslim. I certainly didn’t mean to imply that prejudice against Islam is somehow acceptable. Prominent Muslim leaders are often the target of such prejudice, and we Christians should defend them against such attacks.

Which brings us tragically to New Zealand, and how a climate of anti-Muslim sentiment can breed horrendous violence. Of course, there was just one fanatic who killed. But it took a village to raise him up, and a culture and social media that freely allow hate speech can’t escape blame.

Christians have to stand up against this anti-religious speech, however mild or casual or common it might be. And we also have to denounce anti-religious speech that is also racist and supremacist.

It’s often hard to determine “what would Jesus do.” In this case–in this Western culture–it isn’t. —J. Douglas Ousley


On the Side of the Jews

Monday, March 11th, 2019

Antisemitism, as many have noted, is on the rise world-wide. Perennially confused with anti-Israel sentiment, it is increasing throughout Europe, especially in the UK, France, and Germany–countries with supposedly liberal democratic values.

The remarks by the Michigan congresswoman recently would never have been countenanced, had they been about African-Americans–or about Muslims, for that matter.

Let it be said without equivocation: prejudice against Jews is morally abhorrent. This is true whatever political views one has about the State of Israel.

For Christians, there is only one side for us to choose: the side of the Jews. —J. Douglas Ousley


Why Socialism? Why Now?

Tuesday, March 5th, 2019

This was the topic of last night’s discussion at the Men’s Group. We especially focused on the distinction between 1960’s-era socialism (what I call, “hard socialism) and today’s socialism (“soft socialism.”) The former is a system of planned political economy with the state owning and controlling the means of production. The latter calls for more governmental regulation and control of society, especially in such areas as healthcare.

Debate was spirited between proponents of big government and defenders of individual freedom. What was perhaps most interesting was the fact that most of us find ourselves as Christians in the middle of the spectrum between hard socialism/communism on the one hand and unregulated capitalism on the other.

Since the middle is the preferred place for the Anglican Way, as well as for the Broad Church movement in which Incarnation was founded, perhaps this is the best place to be. —J. Douglas Ousley


Not Slaves But Free

Monday, January 7th, 2019

Under the leadership of our Associate Rector, Incarnation has become very active in the burgeoning movement to end human trafficking in the United States. As part of our observance of the National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, we will be participating in a service at the Church of the Ascension, Fifth Avenue and 10th Street, this Thursday at 7 PM.

This movement isn’t just one more worthy cause. Trafficked women and men serve with minimal or no compensation as prostitutes, kitchen workers, nail salon workers, and other occupations, with little or no freedom of movement or basic human rights. There many within blocks of our church. The Church of England rightly doesn’t mince words; it calls such persons, “slaves.”

Incarnation has pioneered a program to increase awareness in Midtown Manhattan hotels, so that hotel employees may identify trafficking victims. Our next step will be to educate school children about the risk of being trafficked.

For most of us, the suffering induced by modern slavery is hard to imagine. We should do anything we can to help people escape or avoid this fate. Our Christian duty is clear.–J. Douglas Ousley


In Black and White

Wednesday, November 14th, 2018

Much of the annual Convention of the Diocese of New York last weekend focussed on racial and gender prejudice. A play on slavery was presented and a special liturgy centered on the #MeToo Movement.

What was striking to me as a white male was how different the perceptions of persons of color and women were from my own. Where I saw progress in race relations, black delegates saw continuing inequality. Where I saw minor sexist gestures, women saw abusive actions.

It sometimes seemed to me as though there were two different realities. Of course, there aren’t–there is only one Reality, one Truth grounded in God.

But different perceptions do exist in our diverse mental worlds. And it’s up to me to try to understand the mental worlds of those who are suffering in today’s culture. —J. Douglas Ousley


Remembering Eleanor

Monday, October 15th, 2018

Last week, I prefaced a panel discussion on the UN Declaration of Human Rights with a few remarks about Eleanor Roosevelt.

Mrs. Roosevelt was a member of Incarnation; she was confirmed here in 1903. She and her family attended Incarnation occasionally, and we have a ramp that was built to accommodate FDR’s wheelchair.

Eleanor Roosevelt was the guiding light and driving force behind the UN Declaration which was adopted in 1948, after much debate and many meetings. The panel discussion at the Roosevelt House on 65th Street included a United Nations official who worked for human rights. He made the interesting point that these rights were being increased in the years following the adoption of the Declaration–up until 9/11.

Since 2001, rights issues have taken a back seat to security issues. For example, a nation may ally with a dictatorship because this will help its own security; the rights of the ally’s citizens are ignored.

In my talk, I pointed out that Eleanor Roosevelt’s parish was founded as part of the Broad Church movement in the 19th Century. We may hope and pray that Incarnation’s tradition of concern for the freedom of all human beings, regardless of race or religion, will not be overshadowed by other concerns. —J. Douglas Ousley


Christians v. Christians

Friday, October 5th, 2018

Some years ago, I inherited a leather-bound set of the works of Sir Walter Scott. During a recent vacation, I read Scott’s most famous book, Rob Roy.

The novel includes interactions between the main character and the Robin Hood-like Scottish hero known as Rob Roy. But an on-going sub-text of the story is the 18th-century rivalry between rebellious Roman Catholics and conservative Protestants. Despite their common Christianity, the members of these groups are forever at each other’s throats–to the extent even of civil war.

Today’s intra-Church rivalries are happily less violent. But they remain highly significant. In liberal Christian circles, “evangelical” is a negative epithet. The same is true in evangelical churches of the word, “liberal.” As someone from an evangelical background who serves a traditionally Broad Church congregation, I think I’m particularly aware of the bitterness of this conflict.

Despite all the ecumenical work in the past half-century, we Christians have a way to go if we are going to “walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us…”–J. Douglas Ousley


Civil Conversation

Monday, September 17th, 2018

At our Men’s Group meeting last week, the goal of the evening was to look for ways to have a conversation about politics without acrimony or ill-feeling.

We followed guidelines from a web site set up to promote such conversation; it’s called Better Angels. We especially focussed on listening to each other and were careful to speak in emotionally neutral terms when possible. This worked well in Incarnation’s Broad Church tradition.

In the end, many different opinions were expressed while the general good feeling of the group was preserved. I think we all agreed that sharing our views without venting was cathartic. It might even have helped us to broaden our views.

Would that our political leaders could do the same. —J. Douglas Ousley


Rebranding Jesus

Wednesday, July 25th, 2018

The recent General Convention of the Episcopal Church enthusiastically endorsed the Presiding Bishop’s priorities of evangelism, racial reconciliation, and care for the earth.

While these priorities are uncontroversial, they are very different. Dealing with racism and the environment will take years of effort and are social issues for non-Christians as well as Christians. Evangelism, on the other hand, is a pressing need specifically for Episcopalians whose ranks have been declining for decades. And if our evangelism isn’t successful, there won’t be any church to care for the environment or work for racial harmony.

Episcopalians have always found it easier to start a social program than to convince people to join their church. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is pushing the idea that we are members of the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement. Whether that rebranding will help us to add to our rolls remains to be seen. —J. Douglas Ousley


Correction: It Matters What We Say

Monday, July 2nd, 2018

I want to correct something I said last week. On the contrary to what I wrote, it does matter what we say.

As Jesus said, it is “what comes out of the mouth” that counts. Media and especially social media have been critical in calling attention to the plight of migrant families. Earlier in the year, the voices of abused women toppled many powerful men from their influential positions.

I was wrong. Jesus was right. —J. Douglas Ousley