TIME Religion

The Bachelorette’s Nick Viall: Why I Brought Up Sex

Adrien Brody, Nick Viall And Tony Hale On "Extra"
Noel Vasquez—Getty Images UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - JULY 30: Nick Viall visits "Extra" at Universal Studios Hollywood on July 30, 2014 in Universal City, California. (Photo by Noel Vasquez/Getty Images)

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This article originally appeared on Patheos.

On The Bachelorette, the lights dim and the cameramen leave when it comes time for the Fantasy Suites. There’s an unwritten rule that no one really talks about what happens on those nights. However, what happens there actually affects the relationships in profound ways. It’s a time when a couple can be together and share special time without the cameras. It doesn’t have to mean sex, but, of course, we all know that happens. Sean Lowe believes sex should happen in marriage, but I like that he’s open about the discussion surrounding the topic.

When people are hesitant to discuss sex, especially in the context of The Bachelorette fantasy suites, it feels a little inauthentic.

By now, everyone knows what happened in the fantasy suite between Andi and me. In the “After the Final Rose” episode, I had no intention of confronting Andi with my now infamous question about why she had sex with me. I figured she had been conflicted about what must’ve been a tough decision. The world of The Bachelorette is a complicated one, after all.

However, she started explaining away our relationship in the tidiest terms. In her explanation, she confessed that she had never loved me.

I let that sink in.

She never loved me.

As I sat there on national television, I tried to process this information. In my mind, I went back to that night in the fantasy suite. Though she couldn’t tell me that she loved me, I’d told her in no uncertain terms how I felt. I loved her. This was no fling for me. As far as I was concerned, we’d be engaged in a few days.

To me, sex between us was a big deal, and she knew it.

That’s why I feel Andi’s decision to have sex with me was not appropriate. Either she was unsure about our relationship or – worse – she was certain she was choosing Josh. In both of those circumstances, I felt as if she didn’t respect my feelings and that she should not have had sex with me.

Why? Well, once we had sex, my feelings of love would be solidified in that scenario.

That’s not unusual – that’s normal.

In the After the Final Rose, her demeanor and perceived disregard for the relationship that we had took me back. That’s why I decided to ask her that very simple question.

“Why did you make love to me?” I asked.

I used the phrase “make love” because that’s how I felt. It was more than just physical. It was an act – I thought – of love.

Whatever your beliefs about sex, we live in a very sexual world. To me what’s most important is that the two people involved have a clear understanding of what sex means to the other person. If the emotional attachment to sex isn’t equal, sex can be hurtful. Consequently, it should be treated with the greatest amount of respect.

Yes, both men and women need to respect it.

Sometimes people laugh off any emotional damage that sex can do to guys. The boys-will-be-boys mentality suggests the majority of men are really just looking to add another “notch on their belt.” Because of this unfair – inaccurate – stereotype, it’s often considered unmanly for a man to speak about the emotional repercussions of sex. But I’m here to attest that men fall in love just as hard as women do and that sex can be just as powerful to a man as it is to a woman.

Sex, when enjoyed in the right context, is a wonderful way to solidify a relationship. But when expectations aren’t the same for both partners, it can be devastating.

Let me say this: don’t shame Andi to support me. We all make mistakes, I’ve made mistakes. In a culture where sex has no bounds, it’s hard to figure out how to fit it into your life without hurting each other. That’s why it’s important to be sensitive to the emotional attachment that sex has to your potential partner and to treat it with the greatest amount of respect.

Also, I want to emphasize that I wish Andi and Josh all the best. I hope they have incredible happiness in their life together for years and decades to come.

I’m speaking out about this incident because I hope Bachelor Nation will have a more honest conversation about the Fantasy Suites and the emotional repercussions of sex.

Nick Viall was the runner-up on The Bachelorette.

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TIME Religion

What if Palestinians Became Israeli Citizens?

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This article originally appeared on Patheos.

Dear Rabbi, Do you think there is any hope for peace between Israelis and Palestinians?

“Any hope” is setting the bar quite low; we can all entertain some sliver of hope, so the answer to your question “is there ANY hope for peace” is “yes.” But I doubt peace will come the way our pundits and politicians imagine it.

They still talk about a two-state solution as if this is possible, but I have little hope that it is. Israelis and Palestinians are trapped in a lose-lose scenario, and only some bold new initiative can change the status quo. Given the nature of Israeli politics, I’m not sure what that would be on the Israeli side. On the Palestinian side, however, the initiative would be Israeli citizenship.

If I were advising the Palestinians I would suggest they drop all efforts to secure a state alongside Israel, and demand full Israeli citizenship instead. I would suggest a media campaign with slogans like “Let My People In” and “Let us in or let us go.” If citizenship were granted, demographics would see Israel become a majority Palestinian state within a few generations. If it were not granted, the world would turn on Israel at it did on South Africa during the apartheid regime. The result in either case would be a democratic but no longer Jewish state. Democracy would, I imagine, lead to Islamic rule that would in time lead to Jews fearing for their lives in what was the Jewish state.

US Jews would then pressure the United States to rescue Jews from Palestine (I imagine the state would be renamed Palestine) and allow mass migration of former Israeli Jews into the United States. This may or may not work, but if it does American Jewry needs to prepare itself now to assimilate Israelis on a massive scale.

Of course I am probably wrong about all of this. Perhaps Israel will agree to withdraw to the Green Line, share Jerusalem as a capital, and repatriate Palestinian refugees; Palestine will eschew all militarization and violence, welcome the Jewish settlers in their midst with open arms as fully enfranchised citizens of Palestine, and become a secular, democratic and economic dynamo; and Hamas and the Islamic Jihad will become nonviolent social organizations helping the poorest of the poor to get into the middle class.

Or perhaps not.

A congregational rabbi for 20 years, Rabbi Rami currently co-directs One River Wisdom School and Holy Rascals Foundation.

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TIME Religion

Behind British Minister of Faith Sayeeda Warsi’s Resignation Over Gaza

Sayeeda Hussain Warsi, British Senior Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Minister for Faith and Communities in Islamabad, Pakistan on October 10, 2013.
T. Mughal—EPA Sayeeda Hussain Warsi, British Senior Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Minister for Faith and Communities in Islamabad, Pakistan on October 10, 2013.

Her choice is bold and dramatic, and it sends a strong statement that political will requires moral courage.

Politicians don’t often quit out of principle. They especially do not quit out of moral principle. But, on the rare occasion that they do, it is dramatic.

That’s what happened Tuesday morning, when Sayeeda Warsi, the United Kingdom’s first Minister of Faith and the first Muslim to serve as a Cabinet minister, resigned in protest of her government’s approach to the crisis in Gaza. “For some weeks, in meetings and discussions, I have been open and honest about my views on the conflict in Gaza and our response to it,” she wrote in her resignation letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, which she posted on Twitter. “My view has been that our policy in relation to the Middle East Peace Process generally but more recently our approach and language during the current crisis in Gaza is morally indefensible, is not in Britain’s national interest and will have a long term detrimental impact on our reputation internationally and domestically.”

Cameron replied in a statement, thanking her for her work and regretting her decision. “Our policy has always been consistently clear–the situation in Gaza is intolerable and we’ve urged both sides to agree to an immediate and unconditional ceasefire,” he said.

At first glance, one might assume that this story is simply “Muslim minister resigns over U.K. support for Israel.” Warsi is, after all, the first Muslim to serve in so high a position, and soon after her resignation, she called for an immediate arms embargo against Israel in an interview with the Huffington Post UK.

But that’s almost certainly too simplistic an understanding of what happened. Warsi has built her professional career on a foundational principle that religious and historic divides do not necessitate irreconcilable divisions or violence. She made it her mission to help create a government that, as she often said, would “do God” and advocate for faith’s place in society. That meant working for people of all faiths. She spoke out against Islamophobia and worked to make sure British government was inclusive for Muslims. In 2012 she let the U.K.’s largest ministerial delegation to the Vatican. Last year she came to Washington, DC, to speak out against the global persecution of Christians. One of her main goals was to encourage the international community to develop a cross-faith, cross-continent commitment to protect Christian minorities. Religious persecution, she told me at the time, is the biggest challenge of the 21st century. “It is about working up the political will,” she said. “It is about getting some consensus, it is about politicians being prepared to take on these difficult challenges.”

Her personal faith story is also one that bridges divides often thought to be unbridgeable. She is the daughter of Pakistani immigrants and grew up in a Muslim family with a blended theological background that included both Shias and Sunnis. “We were taught to respect and love other faiths as much as we loved our own, and I suppose, you know, quite strong teachings that you can only truly be a Muslim if you also are Christian and Jewish before that, that actually Islam is just an extension of the other faiths and it has been a process where various books have been revealed at various times,” she told me. “I don’t see there is a collision course between people of faith, I actually do think it is instinctively based up on the same values.”

Her whole story is rooted in commitment to a higher calling. It makes her decision to resign is all the more dramatic, and it sends a strong statement that political will requires moral courage. “I always said that long after life in politics I must be able to live with myself for the decision I took or the decisions I supported,” she said in her resignation letter. “By staying in Government at this time I do not feel I can be sure of that.”

She may have resigned, but that does not mean her voice has been silenced: it may be louder as a result.

TIME faith

Texas Law: Thou Shalt Not Place 10 Commandments Signs Along Highways

Michael Berry—Liberty Institute The 10 Commandments sign near Hemphill, Texas, has been deemed illegal by the Texas Department of Transportation.

An illegal posting of the 10 Commandments has forced Texas transportation officials to rethink a law barring speech on private property

Along rural Highway 21 in East Texas, where cell phone service is patchy at best and the nearest major town is over an hour away, an unassuming 10 Commandments sign sits near an advertisement for a mattress store and a roadside stand hawking jams and jellies. The signs promoting commercial ventures are lawful. The 10 Commandments placard is not.

In August 2013, Jeanette Golden—who pastors a small community church in nearby Hemphill—erected the sign after a couple in her church wanted to do the same but had nowhere to put it. She didn’t think anything of it until earlier this year. That’s when the Texas Department of Transportation sent her a removal notice saying the religious poster was against the law.

“My reaction was told shock,” Golden says via email. “And I immediately felt like they were trying to invade my personal privacy and strip me of my freedom of speech and my freedom of religion. I wondered what law I had broken.”

The broken law was a Department of Transportation code prohibiting signs on personal property, part of state regulations written to comply with the federal Highway Beautification Act that dates back to the 1960s, designed to regulate advertising along Interstates and federally funded highways. But it was a little-known regulation, one that’s raised the ire of many in this deeply-red state that prides itself on individual freedom and religious liberty.

“It was a head-scratching moment,” says the Liberty Institute’s Michael Berry, when he first heard about the banned sign. “The state allows commercial speech but not private speech—even if it’s religiously motivated—on private property.”

The institute, which began representing Golden in April, sent a letter to the department demanding the rule be rescinded, arguing that the code violates the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Texas Constitution and the First Amendment. Since then, the agency has put the removal notice on hold and hasn’t done anything to force Golden to remove it.

Department of Transportation spokeswoman Veronica Beyer says officials are currently in the process of rewriting the codes “not for just this case, but for future cases,” and says officials are looking into creating a new classification that would exempt signs that are no bigger than 96 sq. ft. in size, sit on private property and do not promote a business. (Golden’s sign is 72 sq. ft.)

“It’s not a done deal, but this is definitely an exemption that would work in her favor and for a lot other private property owners,” Beyer says, adding that the department doesn’t “regulate content.”

“TxDOT is always concerned about honoring the constitutionally protected rights of its citizens, so property rights, free speech rights and religious rights are always considered important factors,” she says.

The transportation commission will vote on the new regulations at the end of August.

Meanwhile, along Highway 21, Golden’s sign remains in limbo near the legal commercial placards hawking gas and fruit. Residents near Hemphill have been vocal about supporting Golden. A local printing company has created 10 Commandments T-shirts in response. Others in the area are donating money to help support the sign and overturn the law. Golden believes officials will approve the changes, and her 10 Commandments sign will stay put.

“I believe in my heart there will be a change in the rules that will allow me to keep up my sign,” Golden says. “I’m a woman of faith and I believe what it says at the bottom of my sign: With God all things are possible.”

TIME Religion

Faith Leaders on Kids at the Border: Give Us the Children

Immigration Overload Numbers
Eduardo Verdugo—AP Central American migrants ride a freight train during their journey toward the U.S.-Mexico border in Ixtepec, Mexico on July 12, 2014.

Dear government and faith leaders: What if we adopted Mother Teresa’s compassionate response to the unaccompanied minors at the U.S. border?

Mother Teresa inspired millions at the 1994 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., when she told attendees how she responded to mothers with unwanted pregnancies. “We have sent word to the clinics, to the hospitals and police stations: “Please don’t destroy the child; we will take the child.”

Mother Teresa’s eyes barely peeked above the podium, but she spoke with powerful resolve and appealing love. “Please give me the child,” she asked.

Today, there are thousands of children who are unable to be cared for by their communities or their governments. They are showing up like refugees at the southwest border of the U.S., often risking their lives on what is called the “el tren de la muerte” (the train of death), as they travel north through Mexico.

As the leaders of two Christian organizations doing relief and development work in the U.S. and Central America, we are asking government and faith leaders: Instead of seeing these children as a political crisis or legal dilemmas, what if we adopted Mother Teresa’s compassionate response? Give us the children.

Right now a boy named Chava (a pseudonym) is riding el tren de la muerte after fleeing El Salvador, where he lived until four weeks ago.

It’s amazing that Chava didn’t leave years ago. For the last four years he has been moving from city to city in El Salvador running from the gangs. It started when Chava refused to join one. “They tried shooting me several times. I just ran and saved my life, but I was forced to leave my hometown and moved to a different community.”

Chava thought he was safe because the gang he fled wasn’t active in the new community, but instead a different gang tried to recruit him. “They kill for a living, that’s what they do,” he said. “They do not respect anybody and try to enroll everyone, especially youth.”

Instead of attending high school the last four years, Chava has been running for his life. He only has a middle school education. He has few employment options and hasn’t been able to settle down in a community before the gangs catch up with him. “Many youth are in the same situation, we all have to move from one community to another to be safe and not get killed.”

Now that Chava has left El Salvador, returning home is even more dangerous. “If I go back, the gangs will kill me.” With two brothers already living in the U.S., Chava wants to join them.

Chava’s story illustrates why a comprehensive response is essential. Unaccompanied children arriving at our border must be treated fairly and humanely, but we must also address the root causes of the crisis—the conditions marked by violence and lack of economic opportunities in the children’s home communities in Central America.

These children are not merely seeking better jobs but are fleeing an intolerable situation. With this understanding, we are calling on the presidents of the U.S., Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador to work closely together to strengthen child protection systems and reduce violence in migrants’ home countries as well as to ensure the humane treatment of children arriving in the U.S.

We believe that our governments together with our relief agencies can find ways to address comprehensively the issues of widespread gang-violence, extreme poverty, corruption, and other root causes of the massive immigration of children and young families.

We also call on our own Christian communities to do more to respond to the humanitarian crisis that is taking place all the way from the U.S. border to Central America. Already churches are taking in children in the U.S., ministering to migrants en route, and tackling the long-term causes of violence, poverty, human-trafficking, and corruption that are at the root of the crisis.

We know that faith-based organizations have a unique role to play in resolving this situation. In Honduras, youth leaders are rising up through a Bible-based curriculum called Channels of Hope that teaches young people about healthy life choices, how to handle sexual pressure and avoid pregnancy, self-esteem, and communication. This World Vision-backed program is turning into an alternative social support structure for youth who refuse to join the gangs. “We gathered weekly, and God was the center of everything,” said Ernesto, one of the leaders.

The network of youth groups have grown to include eight neighboring communities, and despite conflict with the gangs, they launched a summer camp. In an area where shootings are a daily occurrence, this group of nine youth networks is raising up future community leaders who are seeking to build a healthy neighborhoods. “God has a purpose for everything and we trust that Channels of Hope is leaving a big mark in the transformation of our lives. New children and youth with the desire to change the community have entered the network as I did at the beginning,” says Ernesto.

In addition, the National Latino Evangelical Coalition (NaLEC) is partnering with its congregations in the United States to provide shelter and care for children fleeing violence into the United States. NaLEC has also partnered with Esperanza and the Alianza Evangélica Latina to ensure we bolster church-sponsored sustainable programs for children and families in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

Unfortunately, much more is needed across Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala to provide children with hope for the future within safe communities. We need compassionate leaders who, like Mother Teresa, have the courage to lead this great nation to say, “Please, give me the child.”

Richard Stearns is president of World Vision U.S. Gabriel Salguero is president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition

TIME faith

Pope Francis and the New Values Debate

Italy Pope
Salvatore Laporta—AP Pope Francis waves as he gets on his pope-mobile after arriving by helicopter in Campobasso, Saturday, July 5, 2014.

Pope Francis may soon visit the U.S. to attend the World Meeting of Families. His visit would present a unique opportunity to have a conversation about families that moves past the usual culture war flash points.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia broke some big news recently when he announced that Pope Francis would make his first trip to the United States next September. While the Vatican has not officially confirmed the visit, it’s widely expected the pope will attend a Philadelphia conference focused on families with possible stops at the United Nations and in Washington. This papal trip is shaping up to be a blockbuster worth watching for anyone who cares about the intersection of religion and politics.

A broader values debate

The Religious Right has long dominated the values debate in the United States. Evangelical and conservative Catholic leaders built a formidable alliance in the 1970s and 1980s that became a major force in electoral politics. The Catholic activist Paul Weyrich teamed up with Rev. Jerry Falwell of the Moral Majority to fight liberalizing cultural trends and paved a path that helped Ronald Reagan win the White House in 1980. George W. Bush built on this model in 2000 and 2004 by operating what is often regarded as the most sophisticated religious outreach strategy in memory. His circle of Catholic advisors served as an informal kitchen cabinet during his presidency. While the old lions of the Religious Right have died or lost influence – and a new generation of progressive religious activists are finding our voice – Christian culture warriors like Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and some outspoken Catholic bishops still shape a faith in politics narrative usually focused on a narrow range of sexual issues that overshadow Christianity’s broad social justice claims.

Enter, Pope Francis.

His first U.S. visit will take place as jockeying for the 2016 presidential elections heats up. Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Nancy Pelosi have already invited him to address a joint session of Congress. President Obama quoted him in a speech about inequality last year. While the pope is not changing church teaching on abortion and marriage, he has warned about the perils of a church perceived as “obsessed” with a few hot-button issues, and has called for a “new balance” that focuses renewed attention on the poor. His bold moral critique of global capitalism, specific challenge to “trickle-down economics” and calls to reject an “economy of exclusion and inequality” should breath new life into our values debate at a time when most Americans, especially the Millennial generation, are weary of the culture wars. The pope’s frequent appeals to respect the dignity of migrants and his description of environmental exploitation as a “sin” will surely cause heartburn for a Republican Party that has proven unwilling to act on these core moral issues.

Given that a number of Catholics may run for president – including Rep. Paul Ryan, Jeb Bush, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Newt Gingrich – the rock-star interest in Pope Francis should help draw more attention to overlooked Catholic social teaching on living wages for workers, unions, the prudent oversight of financial markets, just tax policy and care for the environment. The Democratic Party and progressives would also do well to consider that the pope they are cheering on for his bold words on economic justice also regards abortion as part of what he calls a “throwaway culture.”

“Francis Effect” on the U.S. Church?

During the three and a half decades that Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI led the Catholic Church, a network of influential U.S conservatives — the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus of First Things, George Weigel of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Michael Novak of the American Enterprise Institute and Robert George of Princeton University — filtered church teaching through an ideological prism that baptized the Iraq war, made an idol of unfettered markets and radically narrowed Catholic identity to a scorecard that aligned neatly with the Republican Party’s agenda.

In tandem with Pope John Paul II’s hardline episcopal appointments, these Catholic intellectuals and activists played a decisive role in pushing the American hierarchy to the right. While Catholic bishops once helped inspire social reforms that took root in the New Deal and challenged Reagan-era economic and military policies, these days bishops are more likely to be known for opposing the Violence Against Women Act, the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, health care reform legislation that became the Affordable Care Act and breezily mentioning President Obama’s administration in the same breath as Hitler and Stalin.

The bishops’ religious liberty campaign, based in legitimate concerns about protecting the church’s vital ministries, quickly alienated even many faithful Catholics with apocalyptic references to Christian martyrs of centuries past. In a sign of how some in the U.S hierarchy view a persecuted church under siege from all sides, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago has said that while he expects to “die in his bed,” his successor would “die in prison” and his successor would likely “die a martyr in the public square.” Not exactly the hopeful Christianity of mercy and joy that Pope Francis has emphasized on his way to rescuing the church from prophets of doom who only see dark clouds gathering on the horizon.

Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia, who will be the first to greet Pope Francis when his plane touches down next fall, is regarded as the new intellectual leader of the culture warrior camp. While Pope Francis made headlines for saying it was not his place to judge gays and lesbians, Chaput once defended a pastor for his refusal to enroll two girls, ages 5 and 3, in a Denver Catholic school after it became known their parents were lesbians. He has blasted progressive Catholic organizations as “doing a disservice to the church,” and in the 2004 presidential election emerged as one of a small cadre of bishops who argued that a candidate’s position on abortion should trump all other issues for Catholic voters.

“There is no question U.S. bishops are the most difficult team Pope Francis has to work with because sociologically and culturally they are in a different place than how he understands the church,” Massimo Faggioli, a Vatican analyst and theology professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, told me.

It remains to be seen whether U.S. Catholic bishops will take up Pope Francis’ vision for a “church for the poor” that is “bruised, hurting and dirty” because its in the streets. The silent majority of moderate bishops uneasy with having the microphone dominated by the episcopal equivalent of the Tea Party should become more emboldened in the Francis era. San Francisco Bishop Robert McElroy offered what amounts to a roadmap back to relevance and respect for bishops when he wrote an essay in the Jesuit-edited magazine America arguing that Pope Francis’ emphasis on poverty and inequality “demand a transformation of the existing Catholic political conversation in our nation.”

Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, now the most influential American Catholic because of his role on the pope’s council of cardinals tasked with reforming church governance, could also play a key role in helping communicate more effectively that Catholic opposition to abortion should never be viewed as a single-issue theology that blesses one political party. Instead it is part and parcel of the church’s respect for the sanctity of all life – the migrant, the prisoner on death row, the child in extreme poverty, the dying and the disabled. In a homily before the annual March for Life in Washington, O’Malley described poverty as a “dehumanizing force” and insisted “the Gospel of Life demands that we work for economic justice in our country and in our world.” In April, when the cardinal led a delegation of bishops to the U.S.-Mexico border to bear witness to the suffering and death caused by a broken immigration system, he called comprehensive immigration reform “another pro-life issue.”

Real threats to family values

Pope Francis is making his first trip to the United States to attend the World Meeting of Families, an event launched by Pope John Paul II in 1994. This is a unique opportunity to have a much better conversation about families that moves past the usual culture war flash points.

While some conservative religious leaders view civil same-sex marriage for gays and lesbians as the greatest threat to families today, the real strains keeping parents up at night are economic insecurity and the absence of effective social supports. “Family values” gets plenty of lip service from politicians on the left and right, but the United States lags behind most of the developed world when it comes to policies that help strengthen families.

The U.S. is one of only three countries to offer no paid maternity leave, according to a new report by the United Nations’ International Labor Organization. Only 12 percent of U.S. workers have access to paid family medical leave through their employees, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families. Nearly 40 million working Americans don’t even have a single paid sick day. Other nations help subsidize the cost of childcare, but here families are pretty much on their own and struggle to find and pay for quality care. Efforts to give the federal minimum wage a modest boost to $10.10 an hour are going nowhere in a Republican-controlled House filled with conservatives who proudly wave the “family values” flag.

Pope Francis understands that talk is cheap. Families need more than lofty rhetoric. Serving human dignity and the common good means putting real meat on the bones of our values. “A good Catholic meddles in politics,” the pope said during one of his daily homilies.

Sounds like a call to action.

John Gehring is Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life, an advocacy group in Washington, and a former associate director for media relations at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. You can follow him on Twitter at @gehringdc.

TIME Television

Arie Luyendyk: Why I Want to Be the Next Bachelor

8th Annual BTE All-Star Celebrity Kickoff Party
David Livingston—Getty Images Auto racing driver Arie Luyendyk attends the 8th Annual BTE All-Star Celebrity Kickoff Party at the Playboy Mansion on July 15, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California.

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This article originally appeared on Patheos.

“Party of one.”

I walked into the Cracker Barrel, was seated, and fiddled with the wooden triangular brain teaser. Normally, I can solve those things, but on that day – after driving thirteen hours straight – I was struggling.

“I can only get it down to four little pegs,” the waitress said as she approached my table and saw my frustration.

“What does it mean that I have five left?” I asked. When I looked at the waitress, I saw a wave of familiarity flash across her face. I’d gotten used to be recognized and never minded connecting with people who’d watched Season 8 of The Bachelorette… when Emily Maynard broke my heart in front of the world, instead choosing my buddy Jef Holm. The waitress never mentioned anything, but she smiled very kindly.

“Maybe you just need some coffee,” she said.

It had been a pretty big season for me, because it was the first year I’ve owned my own team. Normally I am just hired to drive, so I faced a great deal more responsibilities. “The Off-Road Championship” (TORC) consists of fourteen races over the course of several months. The first race of the year – in Primm, Nevada – shook me up a bit, when I crashed and broke my collar bone. After the first race, we moved onto Charlotte where rounds three and four were held. I was short on help for the weekend so a fellow race team referred a guy named Fred to me for help. Fred, who works on Hendricks NASCAR team, agreed to come help out my team for the weekend.

On the day of the race, Fred and his two sons showed up and proved themselves to be tireless workers, and it paid off. It was first podium finish of my off-road racing career!

I was thrilled!

After the Saturday night win, we celebrated my first podium of my Off-Road career. As the night wore on, we still had so much work to do: breaking down the pit space and loading the truck and equipment.

“It’s getting late,” Fred said. “It’ll take you until three o’clock in the morning, at this rate.”

I looked at the pit space and sighed.

“Listen, I’ll come back in the morning with my sons and help you out,” he said. “On one condition.”

“What condition?” I asked.

“If you’ll join me at church tomorrow morning.” Apparently, Fred was a preacher at a Baptist church in North Carolina and was determined to get me into a pew. But the offer was enticing to me and my tired mechanic, so we went back to the hotel for some well-deserved sleep. The next morning, we took a cab to the church and sat in the row next to the others. Church was not my natural habitat, but I liked Fred, his sons, and all they’d done for me.

As I sat there in that building, I was skeptical. Pastor Fred wasn’t speaking – there was a guest preacher that day, who happened to be hilarious. The message which was about accepting God into our lives, but I didn’t feel any pressure to make a spiritual commitment. The service was inspiring, and – as the preacher wrapped it up — I felt I’d fulfilled my part of the deal.

To my surprise, at the end of his sermon, the Pastor asked if anyone would find it in their heart to come to the track directly after the service and help me break down and load up. Half of the little church, which was located near the track, came and broke things down. Pastor Fred and I spent some time getting lunch for everyone and chatting about where I was at with life, my faith, and what I thought about the experience at church.

It was very touching that these strangers were willing to come out to the racetrack and help me.

When all the work had been done, I shook Fred’s hand.

“Thanks so much,” I said, before reaching into my wallet. He’d done so much work that weekend, it was time to pay him and his sons for their help before I went to my next location. That’s when he turned down payment and instead handed me a book.

It was an old Bible that looked like it had been in his family for years. I could tell someone had read that thing, because the pages were worn and certain passages were underlined, and he held it like a prized possession. He wrote in the front, saying he was giving the book to my mechanic and me.

“Take it so you don’t forget what you learned this weekend.”

“Are you sure you want me to have it?” I asked, touched by his selfless act.

He did.

That book came along with me as I traveled from that point on. In fact, the Bible sat next to me in the front seat of Betsy (yes we named our race hauler). It began to change me as I read it at night before going to sleep, though sometimes I felt I needed help understanding. Regardless, I knew there was powerful stuff in there. The Bible comforted me as I traveled from place to place… sometimes it was hard to keep track of where I was or where I was going.

When I made it to Cracker Barrel for lunch that day, I had another three or four races under my belt and had made it to Springfield, Missouri. I’d been driving thirteen hours – straight through the night — and was completely exhausted.

To be honest, I was a little lonely.

The yellow embroidered name on the brown uniform of my server read, “Tara” and she came back to the table quite often to make sure I had everything I needed. She never mentioned the show, but we talked for a bit and she was very kind. Before I left, she asked me for a photo.

Later I received a message on Facebook from her, and what she wrote has stuck with me ever since. She told me that she enjoyed getting to know me, and that she found me to be humble and kind. (She also included a Bible passage – which was very endearing — plus, it made me think more deeply about where I am in my life.)

Her note gave me the realization that I may have let things get to my head in the past – the television, the resulting embarrassment of Emily’s rejection, and the race track — and I finally realized I was back to the same old me, the same person I was before being on TV. I hadn’t become someone completely different, but all of that does change you in a way. After the show, I was more guarded and a bit less open to finding someone.

Meeting Tara at Cracker Barrel somehow showed me that I was finally myself again. She said that she sensed that I was compassionate and humble… she also said this Bible verse reminded her of me:

“Lord, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear.”

It struck me.

Actually, it gave me hope. Emotions are easy to hide when your distracted, being in the race car has always been my therapy. But I don’t want to be distracted from life’s promises any more.

Since America last saw me, I’ve been running around the country racing my cars and trying to figure out a lot about life. As you may have heard, I’m being considered to be the next Bachelor. However, I don’t want to be on the show for the attention, or to go to exotic locations. In fact, I travel too much as it is. I want to go on the show for the opportunity to dedicate the time to find love instead of traveling for racing. I’m tired of letting my relationships take a back seat to my career. The show would give me the opportunity to slow down and meet someone willing to be a part of my life – as crazy as that life is. I want what my parents have always had… a lifelong partnership of love and adventure. I know I’m ready for change. I’m ready for marriage. I’m ready to open my heart up again for love.

More than anything, I guess, I want someone who can join me as I continue my spiritual journey that Pastor Fred jumpstarted and that Tara has inspired.

The Bachelor is all about journeys, right?

I’m ready for my next one.

More from Patheos:

TIME Religion

Pope Poo-pooed by GOP for Being too Jesus-like

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Franco Origlia—Getty Images Pope Francis attends an outdoor papal mass on July 5, 2014 in Campobasso, Italy.

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This article originally appeared on Patheos.

I can’t think of a Pope who has made a bigger impact, brought more hope and sounded more like Jesus than Pope Francis.

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan. I even Facebook-lifted a hashtag I saw on Diana Butler Bass’ page that I use all the time now: #popecrush.

And now he’s coming to the United States!

The first Pope from the Americas is coming to the U.S.

This is very exciting.

So exciting, in fact, that a bi-partisan resolution has been presented to Congress that would congratulate the pontiff on being the first Pope from the Americas and for his “inspirational statements and actions.”

#Popecrush on!

Unfortunately, it’s beginning to look like this particular resolution may never make it out of committee. It was sent to the House Foreign Affairs Committee and seems to have died there.

Why?

Because the Pope is too much like Jesus.

Yep. Seriously.

Let me explain.

There actually are a few (19 out of 221) GOP backers of this resolution and one of them is leaking a little information about why it may never pass or even be voted on. According to this Republican insider, many of his cohorts expressed concern that the Pope has been making statements on issues like “trickle-down economics,” which are “politically charged.”

A religious leader addressing the morally repugnant behavior of economic and political systems that value the powerful over the poor?

Where have I seen that before?

Oh yeah – Jesus.

Also, let’s not miss the irony that the Republicans who are resisting the passage of this resolution have the audacity to accuse the Pope actions of being “politically charged.” Their resistance to honoring a man who, as the resolution itself says, has demonstrated humility, broke from tradition to wash the feet of criminals, embraced lepers, and places an emphasis on humanitarian efforts is the only “politically charged” thing I see here.

The upside to all of this is that I suspect Pope Francis really doesn’t care if the U.S. Congress honors him this way.

Kind of like Jesus probably wasn’t hoping to be honored by Pilate.

Mark Sandlin is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) from the South. He is a co-founder of The Christian Left.

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TIME Religion

Why I’m Not Afraid to Be Too Gay on Facebook

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Peter Dazeley—Getty Images Social media 'Like' symbol on keyboard

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This article originally appeared on Patheos.

We had just lit a candle, said a blessing and were passing around the broken bread for all at the table to share when we began talking about our respective days. The kids had been about the business of getting the most out of the last days of their summer vacation (we go back to school sinfully early in Georgia) and I had been engaged in the regular ins and outs of working for the college I love, writing for the blog I adore, posting on Facebook frequently (the kids say obsessively) everything from political/theological news to rather base potty humor and the occasional dog video (what?) to responding to the regular sprinkling of hateful comments on my blog and in private messages.

I don’t usually talk about that aspect of what I do in front of my kids but I said just enough in an otherwise glib moment that my oldest furrowed her brow and went off a bit “Mom, you post everything, I mean way too much – like every moment of your life! Ugh, what you eat, who you are hanging out with, pictures of me and you even check in on Foursquare and stuff. Some day one of those crazies is gonna find you and…”

I cut her off there, first hoping to reassure her that it really wasn’t that bad and no one is looking to hurt me but what I needed her to hear was…

Let me back up a bit.

I’ve been writing this here blog for just a scooch over two years. But long before Patheos invited me to stretch my gawd-awful clothes line and hang out my weathered washin’ on the front lawn of my digital acre, I was wrestling mightily with what it meant to live life fully as God created me and to as love openly as my mamma and daddy had when I was growing up.

After stuffing down my truth for for decades I found the love of my life. We fell hard and fast and it was glorious. I wanted nothing more than to love her fiercely and openly. But as it turns out we had very different notions about how to live as a committed lesbian couple. For her it meant carefully maintaining circles of who was allowed to know and who was not. In her career she carefully selected those friends and colleagues who were permitted access to the inner circle of our life. Most of her daily professional life was conducted as if I did not exist or was simply a roommate – a babysitter. I really do understand her need to live out her career not labeled and pigeon-holed into a certain trajectory based on her superiors’ ability to grasp or not grasp equality – but it was hard, real hard to be invisible as a cop’s wife.

Thankfully, in our church and local community life we lived more openly with no secrets from our children’s teachers or folks in the neighborhood. Slowly my love invited old friends into the circle and her family, though the words were never spoken, treated us with love and genuine kindness. I never felt anything less than a daughter-in-law when in the presence of her parents. But there was a limit to our openness. Touching in public, hand holding, a stolen peck of a kiss, a loving embrace – these were always and only permitted behind closed doors. She was ever mindful of what others would think and the potential consequences of encountering hateful homophobes, especially if we were with our children.

But for me, I simply could not wrap my head or heart around the impulse to hide love. Though I tried to respect her way of living out her queerness, it would become a source of bitter conflict that would poison the wellspring of our love.

See, once I came out to my family to utterly devastating rejection, walked away from their abuse – and didn’t shrivel up and die, well a setting resentment began to grow each time I was asked to dampen and hide my affection while watching friends openly share tender moments regardless of the company.

The fault that began to open between us would be the source of many a tiny, deadly tremor in our foundation and would ultimately contribute to the dark and gaping fissure into which our love fell and could not climb out.

I simply do not know any other way to exist in this mortal coil and on this beautiful and broken planet than transparent to a fault.

So now, still fumbling my way though this thing called life, I blog about the willful ignorance of homophobic “Christians”. I post all over the interwebs about my utterly banal homosexual lifestyle, I write about the extravagant welcome of God and the radical hospitality of Christ, and I live openly and unabashedly for any and all to see.

As a result I encounter vitriol all up and down the ignorance, fear and loathing spectrum. Every day. And every day I do my dead level best to confront the vitriol with grace and integrity (but more often than not I fail to live up to my ideal).

It seems like every week someone asks me why I do what I do. “How do can you stand to jump into these abusive conversations? You must have thick skin!” Sometimes all I can say is that I have no idea why I do it and you have no idea how often I cry myself to sleep. But more often than not I answer something like “Because I am compelled beyond reason to show up over and over again and share the good news that God loves us. I am drawn into the fray to say, just for the outside chance that whosoever needs to hear, will maybe hear for the first time in their life, that they are loved beyond their wildest imagination and free in Christ. I know not why, only that I must proclaim, directly from the book that is otherwise used as a weapon, that nothing, nothing, nothing on earth, in heaven or all of creation can separate us from the love of God.”

Most of all I know that I have no skills to be anything other than nakedly, unashamedly myself.

What I need my daughter to know is this. Yes, there are people out there who hate gays and lesbians savagely enough to kill us. They hate queer folk all the more when we have audacity to claim Jesus and cry out to God in thanksgiving for making us who we are. But I must wake up every day and be me and for some damn reason I am called to do so in a public way. I am called to speak loudly to those who would silence me, stand boldly in the light in front of those who would have me skulk away in the dark and reject the heretical theology that God would create me for a life of shame, fear and self-loathing. For do anything less is to give myself over to the power of darkness and admit that evil has already won.

Kimberly Knight is the Director of Digital Strategy at a southern liberal arts college and Minister of Digital community with Extravagance UCC.

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TIME

China: Dozens Dead or Injured in Xinjiang ‘Terror,’ but Facts Are Few and Far Between

A Uighur man looks on as a truck carrying paramilitary policemen travel along a street during an anti-terrorism oath-taking rally in Urumqi
Stringer China—Reuters A Uighur man looks on as a truck carrying paramilitary policemen travel along a street during an antiterrorism oath-taking rally in Urumqi, China's Xinjiang region, on May 23, 2014

Two vastly different accounts have emerged about the incident, which occurred on the first day of the ‘Id al-Fitr festival

Some time on Monday, in a small town near China’s northwest frontier, dozens of people were injured or lost their lives. Two days later, we do not know who died, how they were killed or what sparked the violence. And with the area effectively sealed off by Chinese security forces, and the Internet up and down across the area, it is possible we never really will.

Two vastly different accounts have emerged about the incident, which occurred on the first day of the ‘Id al-Fitr festival, which celebrates the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month. Chinese state media reported that dozens of civilians were killed or injured in a premeditated terrorist attack in Shache county (or Yarkand in the Uighur language). The news, which was not released until more than 24 hours after the incident, was cast as evidence of organized terrorism by ethnic Uighur extremists. Their account suggests that knife-wielding mobs went on a rampage after officials discovered some explosives and foiled a terrorist plot that may or may not have been timed to coincide with a commodity fair.

An account by the nonprofit Radio Free Asia (RFA) paints an altogether different picture. Reporters for the outlet’s Uighur-language news service say dozens of “knife- and ax-wielding” ethnic Uighurs were shot by police in a riot sparked by restrictions during Ramadan. “There has been a lot of pent-up frustration over house-to-house searches and checking on headscarves [worn by Uighur women] during this Ramadan,” Alim Adurshit, a local official, told RFA. The report also mentioned the extrajudicial killing of a Uighur family — an incident that has not been reported by Chinese state press and that TIME has not independently confirmed.

The dueling narratives point to the challenge of figuring out what, exactly, is happening in China’s vast and restless northwest. The Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, where the incident took place, is contested space. It is both claimed as the homeland of the mostly Muslim, Turkic Uighur people, and also as Chinese territory. In recent years, the area has seethed with unrest attributed, depending on whom you ask, to Islamic terrorism, separatism or heavy-handed repression by the state. For years now, a small minority has fought against the government, usually by targeting symbols of state power, including police stations and transport hubs.

The past year has been particularly bloody. In October, an SUV plowed through crowds of tourists in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, killing five — including three inside the vehicle — and injuring dozens. Chinese authorities said the vehicle was driven by ethnic Uighurs, but revealed little else. In March, a group of knife-wielding attackers slashed and stabbed their way through a train station in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, killing 29. The government blamed that incident, and two subsequent attacks in the regional capital, Urumqi, on separatists from Xinjiang.

Beijing has responded by doubling down on already aggressive security measures and their campaign of forced cultural integration. Across the region, town squares are now patrolled by armed security personnel in riot gear, and villages are sealed off by police checkpoints. Ethnic Uighurs are stopped and searched. Meanwhile, the government has stepped up limits on religious practice by, for instance, putting age restrictions on mosque visits and banning students and government workers from fasting during Ramadan.

In the context of this division and distrust, it makes sense that there are competing claims. The trouble is, China prevents outsiders from gathering information on their own. The foreign press corps is, by virtue of China’s rules, based far from Xinjiang, primarily in the Han-majority cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Travel to Xinjiang, while not officially forbidden, is effectively restricted. When I visited Urumqi and Hotan in late May, security personnel harassed my Chinese colleague, questioned me, followed our movements and stopped us from traveling to the city of Kashgar.

The ruling Communist Party’s powers of information control are also a factor. On a good day, China’s Great Firewall makes it difficult for citizens to share information that censors might consider politically sensitive; other days, it is impossible. Following the violent suppression of the 2009 riots in Urumqi, the government effectively turned off the region’s Internet for nine months. There are reports the web is off and on again now, which may help explain why so little has emerged in terms of firsthand accounts or photographic evidence.

Overseas-based Uighur groups say until there is transparency, the public should not trust the state’s account. “China does not want the world to know what occurred on Monday,” said Alim Seytoff, president of the Uyghur American Association, in a statement. “As little is known of the circumstances of their killing, due to tight restrictions on information, UAA seeks an open investigation into the incident and the loss of dozens of lives.”

With every instance of violence, that looks less likely to happen.

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