Pope Francis’ private meetings with Kim Davis and others at the Vatican Embassy in New York:

Because Kim Davis had become a public figure championed by many people for many reasons not necessarily her own (who knows?), the Vatican needed to acknowledge that as it welcomed her as an individual. The truth is that some people who champion her are not only against gay marriage in the secular state but are those who promote hate and prejudice against the gay and lesbian community. Yes, Pope Francis met with Yayo Grassi, a gay man AND his partner– a fact that addresses the issue of consistency regarding his stance of being welcoming and promoting dialogue. But without clarifying that and qualifying the Davis visit, opportunities for misinterpretation and politicizing of her visit became rife. Kim Davis is a public figure, whereas Mr Gassi is not. Had Mr. Gassi been a public figure, the playing field would have been more balanced.

I would like to affirm and promote Pope Francis’ insistence on ongoing dialogue. A Church that promotes love, charity and that preaches against prejudice and hatred, must always be open to hear all sides, all perspectives to inform her pastoral response. Love requires a listening stance. Of course the Bible is an essential source in the conversation but by no means can it be an exclusive one. If the Church took every verse of the Bible on an absolute literal level (without honoring context, Church Tradition and the latest in biblical scholarship) adherents could justify prejudice against all kinds of people. Tragically, they have throughout history. In other words, without ongoing dialogue with all kinds of people and all branches of knowledge such as psychology, anthropology along with the Bible, and peoples’ experiences, the Church would condone all kinds of bigotry and hatred in God’s name–just pick your verse. As for those who adhere to a strict literal interpretation of all Biblical prohibitions, even they admit to various criteria for prioritizing them. In truth, most acknowledge that charity and love toward others must always prevail whatever they may choose for themselves. God bless them. God bless us all.

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Gut Response to Republican Debate Sept. 16, 2015

I watched ALL of the Republican debate on CNN.  Here’s my gut response:  Jeb Bush comes across as the most humane (and yes, he had more energy); John Kasich quite sensible.  The rest?  Ugh.  I take particular umbrage with Marco Rubio.  Could anyone be more myopic? His tirade against environmental concern is so extreme.  Is there no middle ground with him?  If some jobs are lost, wouldn’t more jobs be gained in the new technologies?  Has he no concern for clean air and water?  He likes to drink water.  God help him.

Trump was a bit more cordial than the last time.  He is so very entertaining.
Carly Fiorina comes across as a solid hawk, perhaps even more than most of the men.  Do you think she overdid it to show that she is a strong person?  I don’t know.  But I applaud her statements not to fund Planned Parenthood (NO reason tax dollars should support abortions not only because it’s a great moral issue but also because the tax paying public is so divided on the issue.  PP will have no problem getting funds from the private sector anyway) and I appreciated her passion against legalized marijuana as a gateway drug. For all that, I think all of the candidates want to take funding away from  PP.
Sadly Jeb didn’t get to summarize his tax plan, although Carson and others did.  Having read Jeb’s in the NYTIMES, it definitely seems reasonable.  Carson’s tithing (10 %) across the board for everyone is intriguing, but he’s not a viable candidate and the tithing thing doesn’t seem practical on some levels, although it would totally simplify everything. Plus it’s biblical!
I wish these debates would focus more on the issues than the usual political rants and idealistic speeches.  The moderators don’t ask penetrating questions!  E.g. on the hot issue of the Iran deal:  during the considerable number of sanction years, Iran has built up considerable uranium deposits and, without any Western communication , sources say it would be ready to build a bomb in the next three months.  So what good did the strict sanctions do?  They only isolated a sick and diseased country and allowed its leaders to do what they wanted while the common people suffered there.  Why would no one state the obvious here? Sadly, central points like these are never brought up in most debates.  At least some of the potential candidates did state the obvious:  with or without this agreement the USA can bomb Iran any time it likes.  And so can Israel for that matter. So what is the big deal here?  In the past, some diplomacy with an enemy has had greater potential than none at all even when war became inevitable. And as Kasich repeatedly stated, we gain more support from Europe when we at least try the diplomatic way first.
Have a wonderful day.  You deserve it!

A Modest Proposal: Tips for McDonald’s Workers

The article on Fast-Food Workers in the September 15 issue of the NEW YORKER is worth our time:  http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/09/15/dignity-4

I am particularly concerned about this statement:  “A recent study by researchers at the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that fifty-two per cent of fast-food workers are on some form of public assistance.” (i.e., Food Stamps and Medicaid).”  And this one: Most of their employees today are adults—median age twenty-eight. More than a quarter have children” (i.e., not high-school and college students working part-time, especially since the 2008 recession.)

The volatile discourse, of course, is on the hot topics of union organization, government intervention on minimum wage and the reality of government assistance in food-stamps and Medicare. It seems at least half of the American population wants to do away with all of these things.  So often I hear people insisting that there be no government involvement in setting minimum wages, no government assistance for low-wage workers and no unions.

Here’s an option I haven’t seen in print yet:

Tip each MacDonald’s cashier as you would tip a restaurant worker – that is offering 20 % of your bill. (That’s $2 dollars for every $10 you spend at McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s etc.)  The cashiers would then share the total in tips with the cooks and janitors, etc.  Would Americans agree to do this?  Would the amounts make a difference?

If the answer is “YES!” then all fast-food workers could potentially afford part-time College courses and get out of the Fast Food industry.  (Yay!)   They could then turn over the entire fast-food worker population to our high school and college part-timers.  (It’s already been proven that students would have to make far more than minimum wage to support themselves through even community colleges.)

Now, of course, there still will be adults with less talent or intellectual abilities who would stay on as fast-food workers, but at least with this “Americans are Generous and Will Tip Program”  they could live on salary and tips and maybe have a family or live alone or with friends if they wish.

The success of this program would prove two things:  Americans ARE generous at heart AND American Fast-Food Corporations are NOT.  Even with Americans subsidizing fast food worker’s salaries through tips, the Fast Food Corporations would maintain their profits while continue to spend millions of dollars in legal fees and payments to the “NRA” (National Restaurant Association) which is dominated by the major fast food and other chain restaurants.  Why would they do this?  Because they would want to maintain and expand their many successful accomplishments defeating the following: “minimum-wage legislation, paid-sick-leave laws, the Affordable Care Act, worker-safety regulations, restrictions on the marketing of junk food to children, menu-labeling requirements, and a variety of public-health measures, such as limits on sugar, sodium, and trans fats” as noted in the New Yorker article.

My last thoughts:  Can churches, synagogues, mosques and temples be of any help in bringing these and other issues into the greater public discourse? Wages and their impact on society are moral issues after all.  The topic is too complicated for the pulpit beyond posing an open-ended question or two while reflecting on a Scripture passage.  Parish Social Justice Committees and Religious Education Directors would need to offer a series or a seminar on the article with or without a featured speaker.  But do all of our churches, synagogues, mosques and temples have Social Justice Committees and /or do they want them?  Would congregants attend these seminars?  This answer to that may or may not depend on whether or not there fast-food workers among their worshipers or within the neighborhoods they serve.  Still, we are left with the question: shall we support fast food workers in either their desires to organize unions, get the government to legislate a $15. Minimum Wage or support them with alternatives such as tips and food pantries?   Or do we let them take care of themselves if they are able?

Any thoughts?