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Hope in a Time of Darkness

Hope in a Time of Darkness

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Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as you ever can. These words are often attributed to John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, although there is some dispute about their authorship. They may have been penned by a woman, unnamed of course. It appears they were frequently revised. But our ancestors offered them to us to ponder so ponder them we shall.

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Living in Parched Places

Living in Parched Places

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I live in a parched place. In east Tennessee, it has only rained 3 times in the last 4 months. This relentless heat and drought are palpable every day. So also on this political landscape: the heat of hateful rhetoric and the drought of substantive discussion of the serious issues. Facing the weeks ahead, I turn to Jeremiah 17.

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Rape Culture: The 2016 Presidential Campaign

Rape Culture: The 2016 Presidential Campaign

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This is what Rape Culture looks like—Donald Trump’s “locker room” chat that was recorded and is now before us. I am not as offended by the lewdness of his comments as I am by his aggression and his assumption of entitlement to women...

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Good News for New Year 5777

Good News for New Year 5777

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As I wish blessings in the New Year to Jewish friends and colleagues, there is also good news to celebrate. There is finally a solution to the problem of the get in Modern Orthodox Judaism. For centuries, women have suffered because a husband in a divorce refused to give the get, the agreement to divorce, to his wife. Orthodox Jewish wives, committed to Jewish law, could find themselves bound to a spouse for life which meant that they could not remarry. Many Jewish battered women have suffered from get refusal on the part of an abuser and even rabbinic tribunals have been powerless to force a husband to give a get. Now there is an answer: a halakhic prenup.

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Good News is Always Welcome

Good News is Always Welcome

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I’m probably not alone in feeling the need for some good news, so I'm happy to share this: In a welcome development, three groups of Orthodox Jewish Rabbis have issued a proclamation addressing child sexual abuse. Over 300 rabbis from the Orthodox Union, the Rabbinical Council of America and Yeshiva University have signed the proclamation which outlines in detail their response to the suicides of members of the Orthodox community who were victims of child sexual abuse.

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Why Do They Hate Us? On the Orlando Tragedy

Why Do They Hate Us? On the Orlando Tragedy

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Hate is by definition not a reasonable, rational thing. Yet it is a powerful motivator that causes untold suffering for so many people who are regarded as “other,” as marginal. In the case of the Orlando massacre at a gay bar, the hatred is about homophobia. Make no mistake: laws that seek to intentionally perpetuate discriminate against LGBT people, churches that continue to deny us acceptance as full members, individuals who deny us services in public commerce and defend their right to do so with religious arguments— all of these contribute to a culture in this country that accepts discrimination and homophobia against us and opens the door to individual acts of hatred and violence.

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The Courage of Survivors: The Stanford Rape Case

The Courage of Survivors: The Stanford Rape Case

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The Board and Staff of FaithTrust Institute want to take this opportunity to share with you some of the outstanding responses we’ve read to the rape case at Stanford over the last few days. The media attention has been extraordinary, as have the comments and reflection on social media. Perhaps it's because of the powerful statement read by the survivor in court, which she addressed directly to the perpetrator, Brock Turner. (Note: If you haven’t already read this, be mindful that it is painful, powerful, and graphic. It may be difficult to read.) Or perhaps it was because the perpetrator was a college athlete from a prestigious university. Or maybe it was the blind entitlement and callousness of the letter written by the perpetrator’s father, which stood in stark contrast to the heart-wrenching pain expressed in the letter that the victim of this crime read in court.

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Ramadan For All: We Are In This Together

Ramadan For All: We Are In This Together

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Ramadan is almost here. It begins on June 6. This holy month is a time for Muslims to fast during the daylight, focus on prayer, generosity, compassion, and family. It is a special time set aside from normal daily life. Meditation, prayer and reflection take a central role in the day, while the fasting focuses the mind (and the body) on a personal sacrifice for faith. It is a beautiful holiday. You have certainly heard the hate-filled rhetoric that permeates our airwaves these days. It began on September 11, 2001 and has waxed and waned ever since. Now it has reached the presidential campaigns. We have a candidate who is inflaming hate and violence against Muslims and threatening to prevent all Muslims from entering the U.S. Of course, the U.S. is not alone in this. The response in Europe is just as shameful, with many countries struggling with the challenges of thousands of refugees leaving the war-torn Middle East.

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GUEST BLOG: Lessons From Rebecca: Gender in the Bible

GUEST BLOG: Lessons From Rebecca: Gender in the Bible

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There has been a recent spate of attempts to reverse progressive laws protecting people of all genders from discrimination. These include the repeal of laws in North Carolina requiring restrooms to be accessible to transgender people, the so-called ‘Potty Law’ HB2. Some of the proponents of repealing these laws are faith communities believing the Bible only accounts for two genders, male and female. The Bible’s Five Books of Moses (Torah) passed down over the millennia speaks to our origins and how we define ourselves, even in modern times. The Chapter Gen. 24:14, 16, and 28, called ‘Life of Sarah’ is one of them.

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Dear BYU: Rape is Not Pre-Marital Sex

Dear BYU: Rape is Not Pre-Marital Sex

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Madi Barney, a student at Brigham Young University in Salt Lake City, Utah, reported being raped off campus to the Provo, Utah, police. She did not report it to the university and did not want them to know. But a police officer shared the report with the university and they have gone after her for violating the “Honor Code” of the university. The Code prohibits students from inviting members of the opposite sex into their rooms, mandates chastity and modest dress and no drugs or alcohol. Barney has been told that she cannot register for future classes at the school.

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Spotlight: Diving Deep & Surfacing

Spotlight: Diving Deep & Surfacing

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Spotlight is the name of the team of Boston Globe reporters who investigated the Archdiocese of Boston in 2001 when the puzzle pieces began to fall into place surrounding the sexual abuse of children by priests. Their reporting yielded a Pulitzer Prize and finally blew the lid off the long-standing conspiracy of silence surrounding the protection of priest pedophiles in the Catholic Church. Spotlight, the film, is indeed a cautionary tale for us all. While non-Catholics might be tempted to walk away from the theater with just a tinge of self-righteousness, assuming that this is a Catholic problem, don't give into that temptation. And let us not spend time arguing (as some commentators have) over whether "the problem" is greater or lesser in our faith community. Neither will serve us well.

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GUEST BLOG: Bettie Williams Watson: Ending the Silence, Defeating the Shame {16 Days of Activism: Stories That Inspire Our Work}

GUEST BLOG: Bettie Williams Watson: Ending the Silence, Defeating the Shame {16 Days of Activism: Stories That Inspire Our Work}

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I met Bettie Williams-Watson 8 years ago when she presented a workshop on domestic violence at a faith-based women’s conference in Seattle. Bettie told a compelling story about her abusive relationship with her husband, a minister who would batter her during the week but was careful to avoid hitting her or kicking her on parts of her body where bruises could be seen in church on Sunday. He was over 7 feet tall with huge feet and hands and she describes him as a lethal weapon. One day she realized that if she stayed he would kill her and their children.

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It Takes Courage: Rev. M.L. Daniel on Activism

It Takes Courage: Rev. M.L. Daniel on Activism

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Have you read the comment section on any of the headline news stories recently? I have to admit that I frequently make the mistake of reading the comments and it never fails that I am appalled, saddened and ashamed of what many people post in the name of Christianity.

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How Many? How Long?

How Many? How Long?

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This might sound like the start of a bad joke: What do a theologian (John Howard Yoder) and a comedian (Bill Cosby) have in common? More than you might imagine—and I’m not laughing. Both were major figures in their fields. Both were widely regarded and respected, even adored by many. Both were powerful men with a sense of entitlement. With impunity, both sexually abused scores of young women who trusted them for years. Both were shielded by their peers and colleagues from any meaningful accountability.

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Dear Dylann Roof

Dear Dylann Roof

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Dear Dylann Roof: When you gunned down 9 people in a Charleston church who were sharing Bible study with you, you said, “I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.” Author Lisa Wade described this as “benevolent” sexism. I find this an overly generous label.

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Dear Pope: It's Me Again

Dear Pope: It's Me Again

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Dear Pope: It’s been a while since I wrote to you. Like many people around the world, I’ve been watching your tenure closely, particularly regarding the sexual abuse of children. I want to commend you for your move to establish a tribunal for holding bishops accountable for their actions to protect abusers and stonewall investigations or their inaction to protect children in response to sexual abuse by priests. I also commend you for actually listening to the Papal Commission you established in late 2013 to advise you on these matters.

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“Marriage Is Sacred”

“Marriage Is Sacred”

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A few years back there was a news article in California about the prosecution of a husband for marital rape of his wife. The wife had locked herself in the bedroom to protect herself from the abusive husband. He broke down the door and assaulted her. His defense at trial was that he was Roman Catholic and the church had taught him that once he married, he could have sex with his wife any time he chose; therefore his arrest for marital rape was a violation of his First Amendment right to exercise religion.

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Spring Break {File Under: Things We Tend To Take For Granted}

Spring Break {File Under: Things We Tend To Take For Granted}

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In the northern hemisphere, this is the season of spring. Each year I try to spend a week in the Smokey Mountains because spring here is an event that unfolds each day before our eyes. Warm days and cool nights coax the sprouts from the ground and the buds from the trees. Wild violets cover the ground, tender fiddle heads of ferns unfold, the redbuds are just ready to burst into purple, a faint touch of green covers the mountainside.

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From Darkness to Light: Passover

From Darkness to Light: Passover

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Passover is the Jewish holiday about the passage from darkness to light, from slavery to freedom. In remembering the Exodus story of the liberation of the Jews from slavery in Egypt, it is an occasion to reflect on our own journeys.

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A Tale of the Usual and the Unusual

A Tale of the Usual and the Unusual

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The story of Mohammad Abdullah Saleem of Elgin, IL, is not unlike that of a Catholic priest, a Protestant pastor, a Jewish rabbi, or a Buddhist teacher who has sexually molested a faithful follower. Over the past 30 years, we have heard from many survivors of abuse by a faith leader in all of these groups, but few Muslim survivors. It has simply been harder to break the silence in the Muslim community where any discussion of anything sexual remains largely taboo.

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