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God's Right Hand

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Yesterday, my biography of Jerry Falwell – God’s Right Hand: How Jerry Falwell Made God a Republican and Baptized the American Right – was published by HarperOne. This is the first real biography of Falwell since 1984 and I encourage everyone to buy the book either at your local independent bookstore or at Amazon. Here is the link.

I don’t want to give away the book, but I thought I would share with you, my regular readers, some of the things I learned that surprised me while working on this project, and not only about Falwell.

TNR Gets It Wrong

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The New Republic is, hands down, my favorite magazine. But, every once in awhile, even they publish something that is frightfully wrong.

This morning, they have a post up by Michael Kazin who suggests the Religious Right's influence on national politics is waning. He writes that attitudes on abortion and same-sex marriage are moving away from the positions articulated by the religious right, a claim that is only half-true. Attitudes towards abortion have remained remarkably for the past couple of decades while, in recent years, attitudes about same-sex marriage are decoupling from other social issues as younger evangelicals have become increasingly ambivalent about the issue.

B16 On a Roll

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I mentioned in my earlier post this morning about some recent comments by Pope Benedict XVI, but I want to return to them here.

At a meeting with police officers, the Holy Father said, "There is no justice where profit is the number one criterion." Later in the speech, the Pope added, "justice is not a mere human convention. When, in the name of supposed justice, the criteria of utility, profit and material possession come to dominate, the value and dignity of human beings can be trampled underfoot.” Wouldn't you like to know what he thinks of Bain Capital?

Then, the Pope's address for the World Day for Migrants and Refugees was similarly sharp about the need to create humane criterion for assessing the plight of immigrants.

Really, ask yourselves this question: Would such sentiments get the Pope booed were he to participate in a GOP debate?

Latin American Policy

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Too much of the presidential debates, both the GOP nominating debates and this coming autumn’s debates between President Obama and the eventual GOP nominee will be consumed with trivia. Large and important issues will be ignored. One such issue is U.S. relations with Latin America but, in this instance, we might be grateful that the candidates will not address the issue because it is doubtful either party would advocate the kind of policies that would warm a Catholic heart.

Fixing the King Memorial

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The new national memorial to Dr. King along the Tidal Basin here in Washington has been the subect of a great deal of criticism, in part because of its socialist-realist feel, but mre significantly, because of one of the quotes etched into the stone. It reads, "I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness." Dr. King never spoke those words. They are condensed from a longer quote and, as Maya Angelou has pointed out, they make King sound like "an arrogant twit." The Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, has ordered the quote changed, and has ordered the National Park Service to consult with King's family and the memorial foundation that raised the funds for the project, to come up with something more suitable.

I hope they will come up with something that reminds Americans of Dr. King's specifically religious motivations, how we understood his struggles and his triumphs not just in moral terms but in explicitly religious terms. Suggestions?

Joy First; Ethics Second

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Father Robert Barron, well known for his documentary "Catholicism," which I still can't quite believe was aired on PBS, has a really great essay over Real Clear Religion.

The key graphs:

When I was coming of age in the Catholic Church -- in the 70s' and 80s' of the last century -- Catholics were utterly preoccupied with law.

What I mean is that they focused relentlessly on ethical matters, especially in the area of sexuality. This was true whether one was on the right or on the left. I think of the endless disputes around the morality of birth control, divorce and re-marriage, pre-marital sex, etc. that ripped the church apart in those days. Mind you, I'm not suggesting for a moment that those issues were unimportant or that the people who staked out positions on both sides were unserious. But I am indeed suggesting that a church battling with itself over ethical law presented a deeply disedifying and unattractive face to the wider world.

Tebow By the Numbers

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Last week, when Denver Broncos' quarterback Tim Tebow threw for 316 yards, people wondered if God was sending a signal. Tebow's favorite scipture verse, etched into the eye black he wears is John 3:16 - "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."

This week, Tebow had a tougher time facing the New England Patriots and their star quarterback, Tom Brady, who incidentally, is a Roman Catholic. Tebow only threw for 136 yards. Now, this was God sending a signal. John 1:36 tells the story, which we heard at Mass yesterday, of John the Baptist seeing Jesus, the one who is greater, the one whose sandals he is not fit to tie. It reads: "and he looked at Jesus as he walked and said, 'Behold, the Lamb of God.'" Now, Tom Brady is not the Lamb of God, but he is the king of the gridiron, and Tebow should know better than to try and tie his cleats.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Last year, I penned words about celebrating Dr. King's memory on his birthday which I re-read this weekend and which I stand by now and offer again here. There I gave my reasons for believing he was a truly great American.

This year, I intended to write about Dr. King and how his vision cohered with some significant strains in Catholic Social Teaching. But, our friends at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good beat me to the punch. At their Common Good Forum this week, they published a very smart essay by one of their "future leaders," Robert Christian, a graduate student at Catholic University. You can find the essay here.

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August 29-September 11, 2014

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