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Obama to join faith-based national teleconference on health care reform

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President Barack Obama will participate Aug. 19 in a national teleconference on health care reform sponsored by an interfaith coalition.

The 5 p.m. (EDT) conference call will also be available as a live audio stream on the Internet at www.sojo.net/obamacall or at http://faithforhealth.org.

Health care reform “is a theological, biblical, moral issue,” said the Rev. Jim Wallis, executive director and CEO of Sojourners, a progressive evangelical organization that is hosting the teleconference. “Our health insurance system is broken. Our system is sick. It is a threat to the nation’s soul.”

In an Aug. 10 conference call with journalists Wallis and other faith leaders expressed dismay at what they termed the lies and misinformation being spread widely by opponents of health care reform.

“Moral people can disagree” on details of the proposed reform, said Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, “but this is not going to be about the details, but on the moral imperative to act.”

How our desires can pull us

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I am not cut out for the role of publicist, but you really must get to the movie theater and see the two flicks I watched this weekend. Hollywood has always been more of an industry than an art school, and so many movies of late simply play to humanity's baser passions in an effort to chalk up a quick profit, even while the art form is cheapened. So it was a bit surprising that both movies were thoughtful, engaging critiques of contemporary culture.

"District 9" is a disturbing tale about humans interacting with aliens, the kind of storyline that does not attract me in the least. (Dealing with the religious right fills my quotient for the bizarre.) But, the movie slowly develops into a commentary on what it means to be humane and how our prejudices and our desires can pull us away from our own humanity. Although the movie was conceived before the economic crisis, its critique of greed and the power of greed to break apart our most basic human affiliations is spot-on.

The Dutch Dominicans

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A couple of times this summer, online and in our print issues, references have been made to NCR sending Chicago-based writer Robert McClory to Holland. The assignment was made a couple years ago, just after the Dutch province of the Dominican order proposed a way to address the priest shortage. Their idea: Parishes should consider selecting lay members to preside at the Eucharist.

Here's the story McClory wrote for us: The Dutch plan: Will innovation save this church? (NCR, Dec. 14, 2007)

The Dutch Dominicans spelled out their proposal in a booklet-length paper titled "The Church and the Ministry."

When that was fresh, hot news, NCR had made an English translation of that booklet available as a pdf document. The links to that document got mixed up because of changes we have made to our web site, and a number of readers have called and e-mailed asking to get a copy of "The Church and the Ministry."

Fr. Marcial Maciel: More revelations

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Jason Berry, the dogged New Orleans reporter who has helped to uncover so much about the clergy sex abuse scandal in the Catholic church, has an update on the case of the late Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaries of Christ. Berry's story appears on the web site of the Global Post New questions about Legionaries of Christ. A women living in Spain who claims to be the mother of Fr. Maciel's daughter is speaking out and other people have come forward claiming to be the adult children of Macial.

Jason Berry is coauthor of Vows of Silence, a book about Maciel, and producer of a documentary of the same name, "Vows of Silence."

A number of bloggers have been following this story, as well. Here are a couple: The EX-LC Blog and Patrick Madrid.

Morning Briefing

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Facts. Stubborn facts.

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Earlier, I blogged about how many conservatives who are against any form of health care reform seem satisfied to stay in the clouds of pejorative words, misinformation and mis-characterization. Opponents just don't want to focus on the facts, and then make informed, reasoned decisions in favor or against, all or part of differing proposals.

Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), while at a town hall gathering, was presented with a zany question and his response was:

"With regards to the first comment about being forced to buy health care, I'll say it again... The bill does not force anybody to buy health care ... The bill does not force people to change their health care plan. If you're in a plan, you will not be forced into the public option. You will not be forced into the health insurance exchange. Now folks will say that's not true, but I've got facts on my side and you've got Glenn Beck on your side. It's just not going to play out that way."

Facts. Stubborn facts.

How About If We Count Doughnuts?

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Since there remains a tendency to make big trends out of scraps of evidence, let me try another tack.

Bob's Bakery has been having a tough time of it since a health store/bagel shop opened next door.

Nonetheless, in the past year he's noticed that cinnamon doughnuts are selling better. Last year he sold a total of 15,000 doughnuts (down four percent from the previous year). However he sold 10 more of the jelly variety than the year before and 30 more cinnamon doughnuts .

If Bob were to hail this as a major trend in favor of cinnamon doughnuts his bank might have second thoughts about keeping him afloat.

Museum questions religion with art

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"In the end though it was the energy of the art that surprised me the most. I have always been aware of the power art has over me, but when these objects were juxtaposed with questions [about religion], I found that the gallery actually vibrated."

That's Amanda Hellman describing for Boston Globe religion writer Michael Paulson her reactions to "The Matter of Theology: A Conversation with the Collection," an exhibit she put together as an art history grad student and an intern at the Williams College Museum of Art in Williamstown, Mass.

Hellman said her assignment was to "find art from the museum's permanent collection that says something about the world's religions that could hang in the museum and would be interesting to the academic community."

To see some of the art, look at Paulson's story and then follow the links to the museum's web site.

As fascinating as the art is Hellman's description of how an exhibit is researched and assembled.

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September 12-25, 2014

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