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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.

Contra Gibson on Hosanna-Tabor

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My colleague and friend David Gibson has a post up at Commonweal about the Supreme Court's decision in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC. The title of the post captures Gibson's mood: "High court: Religions are Free to be Jerks."

Of course, Gibson acknowledges that "The ruling in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC is clearly the right one (and it seems to leave some definitions and distinctions to a future ruling, which would be appropriate, I think)." But, he then goes on to fret about the consequences of the ruling.

Kudos to America

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The editors of America magazine have a fine editorial up, looking at ways to breath new life into the pro-life movement. Instead of simply trying to change the power calculus in DC, we need to lay the groundwork in our own families and neighborhoods. Instead of changing the laws, we need to first change our way of life, finding ways to reach out to young women facing an unexpected and unwanted pregnancy, and helping her. We need to create a culture of life, and that will take more than putting another pro-life justice on the Supreme Court.

Praying for the President's Death

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Nick Sementelli, at Faith in Public Life, has the story. The Speaker of the Kansas House has finally found a Bible verse he can use to pray for President Obama. The only problem? Psalm 109 is a prayer for the death of an oppressive leader.

This is just so wrong. And coming so soon after the one year commemoration of the shootings in Tuscon, it is really, really beyond the pale. But, hey, as I keep warning folks, this is not your grandpa's GOP.

More GOP Anti-Immigrant Nastiness

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If ever, in a moment of weakness, I was tempted to swim the Potomac and become a Republican, I would only have to re-read this article posted at Politico yesterday to remember why I am not and never can join the Grand Old Party. In searching for a way to pay for extending the payroll tax cut, the GOP has come up with a novel suggestion: Deny the child tax credit to immigrant families that do not file federal tax returns with a Social Security number.

For months, congressional Republicans have balked at the prospect of paying for the payroll tax cut extension by crafting a surtax for those earning more than $1 million per year. And, remember, with our progressive tax system, this higher rate, or surtax, would not apply to the first $1 million of income, only to income above that number. But, the GOP is committed to its mantra – never raise taxes – and Grover Norquist serves as a modern day Torquemada, enforcing the no-tax-increase orthodoxy on his congressional minions.

Romney: \"I'm Pro-Life\"

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According to Politico, Mitt Romney has begun to assert his pro-life credentials which have recently come under attack from Newt Gingrich.

The problem with his assertion is this: His decision to include taxpayer funded abortions in his health care overhaul, and his decision to award Planned Parenthood a seat on a health care advisory board the overhaul established, came after, not before, Romney's conversion on abortion. Campaign spokesmen have said that Romney had no choice regarding taxpayer-funded abortions given a string of Massachusetts court rulings. But, I am not sure that would have satisfied the position articulated by the USCCB when it opposed Obama's health care plan. The USCCB, you will recall, said that the guarantees against taxpayer funded abortions in the Obama health care reform were insufficiently airtight. In Romney's health care law, there were no such guarantees at all. If the price of extending health care means extending taxpayer-funded abortion, that is a price the USCCB clearly would not have paid.

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