TIME faith

ISIS Is Ignoring Islam’s Teachings on Yazidis and Christians

Displaced families from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar west of Mosul, arrive at Dohuk province
Displaced families from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, west of Mosul, arrive at Dohuk province, Aug. 4, 2014 Ari Jalal—Reuters

Here's what the Prophet and the Quran really say about how to treat the two faith groups

The news coming out of Iraq is really devastating. The violent extremist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) continues to take over major parts of Iraq, brutally killing and oppressing any and all who come in their way. The worst of ISIS has been unleashed on Shi‘ite Muslims, Christians and the Yazidis with hundreds of thousands killed and forced to flee.

The leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is as dangerous as he is delusional. In a sermon that he gave several weeks ago, the ISIS leader declared himself as the new “Caliph” of Muslims worldwide. In the sermon he attempted to reflect the personality of Islam’s first Caliph, Abu Bakr al-Sadiq, in asking those gathered to help him when he is right and correct him when he is wrong and to only obey him so long as he obeys God and the Messenger. But, the Quran warns its readers to not be swayed by charismatic figures who, in reality, only spread evil in the world:

“Now, there is a kind of man whose views on the life of this world may please thee greatly, and [the more so as] he cites God as witness to what is in his heart and is, moreover, exceedingly skillful in argument. But whenever he prevails, he goes about the earth spreading corruption and destroying property and progeny [even though] God does not like corruption. And whenever he is told, ‘Be conscious of God,’ his false pride drives him into [even greater] sin …” (2:204–2:206).

So, I join the chorus of Muslims worldwide, Sunnis and Shi‘ites, who oppose al-Baghdadi and ISIS as a whole. The killing and oppression of innocent people and the destruction of land and property is completely antithetical to Islam’s normative teachings. It’s as pure and as simple as that.

Ironically, when the Quran allows (and, sometimes, even encourages) Muslims to engage in just fighting and resistance, it is in order to deter those who wage wars without just cause and those who engage in religious persecution — exact crimes that the ISIS is engaging in Iraq today:

“Permission [to fight] is given to those against whom war is being wrongfully waged … those who have been driven from their homelands against all right for no other reason than their saying, ‘Our Sustainer is God!’ For, if God had not enabled people to defend themselves against one another, monasteries and churches and synagogues and mosques — in which God’s name is abundantly extolled would surely have been destroyed …” (22:39–22:40)

The Yazidis are an ancient community that have been in Iraq for centuries. Historically the Yazidis follow Zoroastrianism and other ancient Mesopotamian religions. Throughout recent history the Yazidis have been oppressed and their religion largely misunderstood as Satan worship (which it is not). The violence and suffering that ISIS has inflicted upon the Yazidis is heart wrenching. There is, arguably, one reference to the ancient religion of the Yazidis (referred to as Magians) in the Quran in which it simply says, “Verily, as for those who have attained to faith [in this divine writ], and those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Sabians, and the Christians, and the Magians [on the one hand,] and those who are bent on ascribing divinity to aught but God, [on the other,] verily, God will decide between them on Resurrection Day: for, behold, God is witness unto everything” (22:17). ISIS would do well to, truly, let God decide rather than act as tyrannical judges and lords over the Yazidis and others.

ISIS is also reportedly seeking to expel Christians from their homeland of Iraq where Christians have lived since almost the beginning of their history. Christians in Iraq are considered to be one of the oldest continuous surviving Christian communities in the world. Christians in Iraq have survived, and at times even thrived, alongside Muslims over the past 1,400 years. ISIS insistence that Christians either “convert, leave or die” defies the Quranic command: “Let there be no compulsion in religion” (2:256).

ISIS has also given Christians another option if they want to remain in Iraq: to pay jizya. Jizya is a tax that Muslim empires imposed upon non-Muslim constituents in return for military exemption, protection against persecution and considerable religious freedoms. Most Muslim countries today no longer impose jizya on non-Muslims. The change in political order, rise of nation states and assumptions of citizenship today render certain medieval systems incongruent with modern realities and sensibilities. The Quran makes a reference to the jizya system (9:29), but its application is vague and it can very well be argued that such an imposition was only intended to manage troublesome and treacherous religious minorities. This is all to say that ISIS has no basis whatsoever to force Christians in Iraq to pay the jizya let alone the fact that they cannot even be considered a legitimate government by any stretch of the imagination and, therefore, cannot rightfully impose any taxes on anyone.

The strongest argument against ISIS persecution of Christians is the fact that such actions are in direct violation of the Prophet Muhammad’s own treaties with Christians in which he guarantees the protection of religious freedom and other rights:

“This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them. Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them.

No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries.

No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.

No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray.

Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants. No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).”

(The original letter is now in the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul.)

This and many similar covenants between the Prophet Muhammad and Christian communities are well documented and translated by John Andrew Morrow in his book, The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad With the Christians of the World. These covenants are a determining proof, among other proofs, that what ISIS is engaged in right now in Iraq is completely unlawful (haram) and violates Islamic teachings in every way.

To ISIS or anyone who sympathizes with them, know that Islam believes in a God of mercy, a scripture of mercy and a Prophet sent as a mercy to all the worlds. It is time to abandon persecution and violence, murder and mayhem. The enemy you seek to fight is within you. The pursuit of power is the problem. The pursuit of peace and social justice is what God really calls us to. Put down your arms. And raise your hands to the sky seeking God’s forgiveness for unconscionable sins.

Sultan is the Muslim chaplain at Princeton University and directs the university’s Muslim Life Program in the Office of Religious Life. He is the author of The Koran for Dummies and The Qur’an and Sayings of the Prophet Muhammad: Selections Annotated and Explained.

TIME Religion

Pastor Mark Driscoll Booted From Evangelical Network

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This article originally appeared on Patheos.

In a stunning move, the Acts 29 Network leadership has removed network co-founder and Mars Hill Church lead pastor Mark Driscoll from the organization’s membership. I obtained a letter from several Acts 29 pastors which was sent to Driscoll and Mars Hill Church removing Driscoll and the church as members of the network, as well as calling on Driscoll to step down due to a pattern of complaints from Acts 29 pastors. Mark Driscoll was instrumental in founding the Acts 29 Network and has been president of the group. According to the letter, the information will soon be posted on the Acts 29 website.

The letter is below:

Mark,

As the Board of Acts 29, we are grateful to God for the leadership, courage, and generosity of both you and Mars Hill in not only founding the network but also sustaining it through the transition to this board three years ago. The very act of giving away your authority over the network was one of humility and grace, and for that we are grateful.

Over the past three years, our board and network have been the recipients of countless shots and dozens of fires directly linked to you and what we consider ungodly and disqualifying behavior. We have both publicly and internally tried to support and give you the benefit of the doubt, even when multiple pastors in our network confirmed this behavior.

In response, we leaned on the Mars Hill Board of Advisors & Accountability to take the lead in dealing with this matter. But we no longer believe the BoAA is able to execute the plan of reconciliation originally laid out. Ample time has been given for repentance, change, and restitution, with none forthcoming. We now have to take another course of action.

Based on the totality of the circumstances, we are now asking you to please step down from ministry for an extended time and seek help. Consequently, we also feel that we have no alternative but to remove you and Mars Hill from membership in Acts 29. Because you are the founder of Acts 29 and a member, we are naturally associated with you and feel that this association discredits the network and is a major distraction.

We tell you this out of love for you, Mars Hill, Acts 29, and most significantly, the cause of Christ, and we would be irresponsible and deeply unloving not to do so in a clear and unequivocal manner. Again, we want you to know that we are eternally thankful for what you as a man and Mars Hill as a church have meant to our network. However, that cannot dissuade us from action. Instead, it gives added significance and importance to our decision. We hope and pray that you see this decision as the action of men who love you deeply and want you to walk in the light—for your good, the good of your family, and the honor of your Savior.

Shortly after sending this, we will be informing the members of Acts 29, your Board of Advisors and Accountability, and your elders, as well as putting out a public statement on the Acts 29 website. It brings us no joy to move forward in this direction, and we trust that the Lord will be at work in all of this.

In sorrow and with hope,

The Board of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network

Matt Chandler

Darrin Patrick

Steve Timmis

Eric Mason

John Bryson

Bruce Wesley

Leonce Crump

All Mars Hill Church locations have been removed from the Acts 29 website.

The news has been added to the organization’s website:

A Message from the Board of Acts 29 concerning Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church

It is with deep sorrow that the Acts 29 Network announces its decision to remove Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church from membership in the network. Mark and the Elders of Mars Hill have been informed of the decision, along with the reasons for removal. It is our conviction that the nature of the accusations against Mark, most of which have been confirmed by him, make it untenable and unhelpful to keep Mark and Mars Hill in our network. In taking this action, our prayer is that it will encourage the leadership of Mars Hill to respond in a distinctive and godly manner so that the name of Christ will not continue to be dishonored.

Matt Chandler

Darrin Patrick

Steve Timmis

Eric Mason

John Bryson

Bruce Wesley

Leonce Crump

According to the organization’s website, the network includes over 500 churches and focuses on church planting:

Over the last ten years Acts 29 has emerged from a small band of brothers to over 500 churches around the world. We want to allow a unifying, uncommon movement of God to happen through Acts 29. Centered on the Gospel, we desire to advance the mission of Jesus through obediently planting church-planting churches. It is our hope to see this leading to millions of lives changed by the power of the Spirit for the glory of God.

Acts 29 is not a model or a style. We have churches with live preaching and others with video-delivered sermons. We have independent church plants, replants, and existing churches that want to focus on planting new churches out of their existing congregations. Simply, we seek to be a movement of church-planting churches.

In 2005, when Driscoll headed the group, charges were filed against him by Ron Wheeler. Wheeler planted the first Acts 29 Network church in Mt. Vernon, WA and was an early protege of Driscoll’s. However, Wheeler later became disillusioned with his former mentor and asked Acts 29 to discipline Driscoll. Yesterday, Wheeler posted a lengthy open letter to Driscoll asking him to resign based on his experience with the Mars Hill pastor.

The Acts 29 action comes on the heels of the resignations of Paul Tripp and James McDonald as members of the church governing board and a recent protest primarily by ex-members.

Update:

One of the Mars Hill ex-pastors who has been initiating mediation with the church, Kyle Firstenberg, had this reaction to Acts 29′s announcement.

I have been greatly discouraged with the response from the BOAA in the charges that both I and others have brought. Years have gone by with what appears as only damage control and not any clear act of love for Mark in holding him accountable as brothers in the faith should.

This action from Matt Chandler and the other members of the board of A29 is one of the most loving acts I have seen in leadership in the Church world in recent years.

I do believe that these men love Mark and Mars Hill just as I and countless others do. I agree with their findings and pray that Mark Driscoll, Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskus would repent and step down. I believe this would be the most God honoring thing to do as it would show their love for Jesus and the Gospel is greater then their position, authority and influence.

Warren Throckmorton is a Professor of Psychology at Grove City College and Fellow for Psychology and Public Policy at the Center for Vision and Values which is a part of Grove City College.

More from Patheos:

TIME faith

Black Jesus: We Have Other Things to Boycott

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I am most particularly opposing the sexism and misogyny pervasive in Christianity itself

I had been hearing rumblings for a couple weeks, but Thursday morning I awoke to a full-throttle meltdown among some members of the community with which I most closely identify, that is, Black Christians. Thursday night the new series by Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder premiered on AdultSwim, the Cartoon Network evening lineup of adult-themed cartoon comedy. It’s called Black Jesus, and in the trailer the title character is depicted as a neighborhood brother dressed in church-play biblical garb with no place to lay his head and apparently getting little to no respect despite the fact that he is, as he himself notes, “your Lord and Savior.” It has the potential to be very funny, that is, if you don’t see it as blasphemous.

Let me admit that the name Black Jesus immediately causes me to chuckle because it evokes the memory of an iconic episode of the controversial 1970s comedy Good Times. In the episode burgeoning artist JJ depicts Jesus of Nazareth as Black. What’s funny about that episode is the interplay of religion and nationalism on the one hand and the more pointed reality that the model JJ used for his Christ is a neighborhood character known as Ned the Wino. I’ll confess that I bought the entire first season of the series just so that I could own that particular episode.

By now, you have already figured out that I’m not inclined to get too irate over the mere possibility of blasphemy. In this way, I am unlike a few of my friends and colleagues who are up in arms and calling for a boycott of the series and perhaps of the Cartoon network. Now this is not because I am incapable of indignation. I’m just saving my ire for other things, such as, the carnage in Gaza, food insecurity in my city and every city, and even the nonsense folks preach in pulpits depicting Jesus as a money-hungry capitalist, which by the way is at least as blasphemous as portraying him as a cussing, smoking, homeless dude in the hood.

Today and every day I am most particularly opposing the sexism and misogyny pervasive in Christianity itself, which threatens our Christian witness to the outside world (which the “boycott Black Jesus crew” uses as their principal motivation) and more importantly destroys the very people who most subscribe to and participate in the life of the church, that is women. As I said to my friends, I am continuing my principled boycott of churches, denominations, pastors, and preachers that deny women the opportunity to participate fully in every level of church life and leadership. As a practical matter, this means I am not listening to preachers who do not support the ministry of women in their own churches. It means I am not going to conferences that don’t have women as keynote speakers. I am encouraging women and men who believe in equality to put our money and energy where our mouth is. I’m boycotting.

I know that there are some who think that what we say and think about Jesus is more important than disagreements we might have about women and their proper roles in the church, but in reality what we believe about women tells us a lot about what we believe about God and Christ, too. Jarena Lee put it succinctly in the 19th century as she defended her call to preach when she asked “If the man may preach, because the Saviour died for him, why not the woman? seeing he died for her also. Is he not a whole Saviour, instead of a half one? as those who hold it wrong for a woman to preach, would seem to make it appear?” This is not just a political or social matter; it’s theological too. Women are a part of the body of Christ and made in the image of God.

I don’t know whether I’ll love McGruder’s satirical Jesus or whether I will find myself offended and thinking he has taken things a step too far. I’ll have more to say about that as the show progresses. What I know now is that I am already tired of the ways in which some of the same Black Christians who call for a defense of Jesus against this depiction have little or no energy for the defense of the women, the Black women, who often love and serve their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ the most.

Leslie D. Callahan is the pastor of the St. Paul’s Baptist Church in Philadelphia.

TIME Uganda

Lawyer Who Led Challenge of Uganda’s Anti-Gay Law: ‘Long, Long Way to Go’

Uganda Gays
A Ugandan homosexual photographed in a safe-house at an undisclosed location in Uganda, in March 2014. AP

Nicholas Opiyo talks human rights, the U.S.'s role in his country's morality-politics, and what's next for LGBT rights in Uganda

Nicholas Opiyo, the lawyer who led a constitutional challenge of Uganda’s anti-gay law, says that while the days of gays, lesbians and transgendered people getting publicly flogged may be gone, ongoing acts of discrimination against LGBT Ugandans keep him pushing for equal rights in the East African nation.

“That is what is most scary,” Opiyo told TIME. “The unseen, the unreported, the unwritten discrimination in the shop you go to, in the medical center you go to, on the bus you take or on the motor bike you take into town. That breaks your spirit.”

In March, just days after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed the restrictive bill that punished gays with life imprisonment as punishment for their sexual activities, Opiyo and a group of Ugandan activists and lawyers challenged the law in court. On August 1, they found success through a somewhat unusual means: Uganda’s constitutional court declared the law null and void because Parliament didn’t have a quorum when it was passed.

While the law was stricken down on account of a technicality, and lawmakers said Tuesday they had the votes necessary to re-pass the bill, activists have declared the court’s decision a victory, albeit only one step in an ongoing battle. For Opiyo, who says he grew up wanting to stand up for the underprivileged, the decision to join the fight for LGBT rights in the country was simple.

“I’m a human rights lawyer,” said Opiyo, the executive director of Ugandan human rights organization Chapter Four. “This is human rights. You’re talking about the right to associate; the right to choose your partner; the right to love who you want to love. These are human rights. To call it LGBTI rights is misleading.”

Having traveled to Washington, D.C. for the U.S.-Africa summit, Opiyo said that though he was able to meet with human rights workers, lawmakers and other stakeholders in the global fight for equality, the summit itself was a missed opportunity to have substantial conversations about the struggles Africans are facing across the continent on a daily basis.

The following Q&A is a sampling of the conversation between TIME and Opiyo. It has been condensed and edited for space.

TIME: What would you say the status of LGBT rights is in Uganda in the wake of last’s week’s decision?

Opiyo: Nothing has changed much. The deep sense of homophobia in Uganda remains unchanged. In any case, it’s only been made worse by this ruling, because the debate has been reopened in a more bitter and fierce manner than we’ve seen before. To be positive, certain incidental things that are good will happen because of the ruling. First, individuals and organizations that have been facing arrest, intimidation or investigation will now have all those cases against them dropped, because the very foundation for these cases has now been declared unlawful. Organizations that have been closed under the [Anti-Homosexuality Act] will now have their operations resume without the fear of the law constricting their work. Even if parliament is resolved, as they are now, to reintroduce the law … they will at least pay attention, some attention to the issues that we have raised in our petition, and perhaps have a somewhat watered down or even—I’m hoping—progressive law in that regard.

This law was one of a couple of instances of morality politics coming into play in Uganda. What do you think the draw is to laws like this in Uganda and across Africa?

There has been a growing influence of American evangelical ideologies in the policies of government in Uganda. The examples are plenty in Uganda—in the HIV/AIDS campaign, Uganda was praised for its response to the HIV/AIDS campaign because it had the message for condom use. When the Christian evangelists got a foothold in influencing government, the policies changed from condom use to abstinence and being faithful. Condoms were “by-the-way;” that was the influence of what we call in Uganda people who are saved. If you look at the laws that have passed since then, whether it is a media law or an NGO law, it has a strong element of public morality. That’s new, what seems to be in my view, a moralization of the legislation process. They have a strong foothold in government mainly because the Pentecostal movement is a big movement. They have numbers, they have young people, and they have a huge following. Politicians like numbers.

Is there a benefit to having this influence? And if not, what is the downside?

Not every Ugandan is Christian. Not every Ugandan subscribes to the moral values. We’re supposed to be a secular state, but we are drifting away from being a secular state to a state driven largely by religious values and thinking, and that for me is a huge downside. What happens to people who don’t believe in those values? What happens to atheists? What happens to Muslims? It creates a society where there is a majority that wants to impose their values and systems onto the whole community.

But faith can be a force for good. Faith can be an avenue for the delivery of services; many parts of our country that were under war survived because faith organizations were able to stay through the conflict and provide support—that’s the upside. But in my view I think the downside is extremely dangerous.

What role does the American government play in all of this? Can the American government in any way step in, interject?

The people who advocated for the AHA were motivated by, financed by, American evangelicals. It’s an American group driving this debate at home. This debate was not a popular debate. It was not an issue in Uganda because people in Uganda are struggling about food, employment, medical care, access to medical services, education—these are the things that occupy the people in my village, in my town. Not homosexuality—that was a non-issue. This issue was put in the national debate because of the influence of the American evangelical movement. The Americans brought this to our country they’ve got to sort themselves out back home, here, to ensure that the radical American preachers don’t spread hatred across the world.

Secondly, I think that the American government must understand that their response to this issue in Uganda at some point escalated this debate and shifted the narrative of this debate from being a human rights issue to a new colonial attempt by Americans to impose their values on Ugandans. The politicians are very quick to pounce on that. The debate shifted to America versus Uganda, not about Ugandan people who face discrimination every day. The American government can redefine this narrative by given prominence to local leaders. This is a Ugandan problem. Ugandans must find the solution to it.

What is it like working on the ground, addressing the issue of LGBT rights? How is it received?

It’s very very tough. It’s not exciting. You’ve got to have a lot of courage to stay your course. People will throw insults at you—you just have to go to my Facebook page to see the amount of insults people are throwing at me on Facebook, on Twitter. It’s difficult. People begin to put pressure on your family, on your relatives and that translates to pressure on you as a person. It’s extremely difficult. I haven’t felt physically insecure, but I felt the narrative vibe coming my way.

The height of it was in March this year, I was the Secretary General of the Bar Association of Kampala, I was in charge of managing all the affairs of all the lawyers in Uganda. At the annual meeting, a group called “The Ugandan Christian Lawyers Association” launched a campaign against me because of my involvement in this case and made sure I was booted out of the law society. Those things have happened, but in my view it is no way close to the pain and suffering that members of the community are going through. It’s not even half of it.

What makes you stay the course?

This is human rights. This is not a special category of rights. You’re talking about the right to associate; the right to choose your partner; the right to love who you want to love. These are human rights. To call it LGBTI rights is misleading. I’ve always been a human rights lawyer. I grew up in a war-torn area in Northern Uganda. I’ve been in a very underprivileged position, but I’ve always wanted to do something about it. I thought at first I should be a journalist, but I figured out writing alone doesn’t help. So I figured I should be a lawyer and here I am.

For me, whether you’re LGBTI, whether you’re a disabled person, whether you’re a woman, anybody whose rights are being abused. I will always defend your rights because to me they are human rights. I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for people supporting my family and people supporting what they believed was good. It is less prestigious, but I derive immense pleasure from seeing somebody walk free after being intimidated or being arrested.

Where’s the disconnect between understanding the benefits of human rights and the impact that equality can have on the people of Uganda—like you mentioned—how do these multiple issues play hand-in-hand?

In terms of LGBTI issues in Uganda, I think the discussion has been presented in a way that they’re separate. When you talk about health care, you aren’t talking about LGBTI rights. The discussion hasn’t been–there’s no interplay. We’ve tended to compartmentalize these issues. There hasn’t been a wholistic approach to this issue—even those working on this issue tend to look at it from a very narrow lens as opposed to an overall issue of discrimination. We’ve done a lot of work around discrimination against women, against persons with disabilities, and stigma around HIV/AIDS—you’d think that the same momentum would be applied on this issue, but it is not because people tend to look at it from different lenses, but in my view it is not. In my view that’s not helpful. In my view, there needs to be a consistent, overall approach to human rights no matter who the human being is.

This week was the U.S.-Africa summit. A couple of years back, President Barack Obama said Africa needs “strong institutions, not strongmen.” A number of people, including Daniel Bekele of Human Rights Watch, said this week’s summit should be about more than paying lip service to human rights. How do you think this conference succeeded in doing that and how do you think it failed?

This conference seemed to be more focused on issues of securities and investments, at least the ones I’ve taken part in, there has not been a meaningful engagement between civil society and those working on human rights issues and the heads of states. The thing about the heads of states, they did not engage enough on the issues of human rights. Yes, in the final press statement President Obama talked about good governance, rule of law, but it appears to me the focus has been on economics. In that room were leaders of the continent who have questionable human rights records, it would have sent a strong message if these leaders were excluded from this conference or excluded from relations of dealing with the American government.

How do you not invite Mugabe but invite Jammeh of the Gambia? What’s the difference? They are all dictators. They have been in power for over 30 years. I think the American government needs to focus on dealing with human rights as a core function of their foreign policy towards the African continent, and must not put economic and security interests above human rights issues. I thought in this summit the discussion about human rights has been very, very light.

When do you think gays, lesbians, transgendered people will be completely safe in Uganda? How long do you think that will take?

That is difficult to tell, precisely because the sense of homophobia, the sense of discrimination is so deeply entrenched. It’s going to be a long journey that will require patience; that will require deliberate actions on the part of both sides of the debate. But ultimately it’s going to take the commitment of the politicians and the leaders to reshape the narrative and the debate in our country. There has to be an honest debate within the faith community on this matter. In much the same way that they’re having an honest debate about the rights of women—that debate must come out. As long as the leaders are playing by the popular sentiment and not enforcing the values and obligations that signed up to do in their various human rights instruments this matter will still be delayed. It’s a long, long way to go. I can’t put a number to it but I think that it’s going to be a long walk and a difficult one at that.

TIME Religion

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

Adrien Brody, Nick Viall And Tony Hale On "Extra"
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) 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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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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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.
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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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