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Milquetoast Liberal Religion Won’t Challenge Conservative Values



  • In the progressive era the banner for economic justice had been carried by the Social Gospel movement with its belief in the redemption of the sociopolitical order, a message inspiring enough to set the stage for some of the most significant reforms this nation has ever seen. We could use more of that alleged political naiveté today.
  • A History Lesson

Sheila D. Collins, Religion Dispatches


caspar_milquetoast_302.jpg H.T. Webster’s best-known comic strip character, Caspar Milquetoast.

March 24, 2014 | Congress’s year-end slashing of food stamps and refusal to extend unemployment benefits for the 1.3 million people whose benefits were about to expire are just some of the latest examples of the heartless approach to poverty and unemployment that characterizes contemporary policy making. Not only have millions of the long-term unemployed started the New Year with no safety net, but many of those with full-time jobs earn less than the poverty level for a family of four (18 million people in 2012 or 17.5 percent of all full-time, year-round workers).

It was not always like this. There was a time in our history when the poor and unemployed experienced a more compassionate government. During the Great Depression the federal government not only provided safety nets in the form of relief, food aid, public housing, mortgage assistance, unemployment insurance, and farm aid, but more significantly, it undertook a series of job-creation programs that gave back to millions of unemployed workers and their families precisely what the Depression had taken from them—the opportunity to support themselves with dignity.

Sheila D. Collins is Professor of Political Science Emerita, William Paterson University and co-editor with Gertrude Schaffner Goldberg of When Government Helped: Learning from the Successes and Failures of the New Deal (Oxford University Press, 2013).  

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Easter Messages, 2014


  • Jesus was killed because he was a speaker of God’s truth. He was an unrelenting advocate of justice. The resurrection stories make a profound declaration: Truth can never be killed and the truth-teller can never be defeated. 
  • Part 1:Telling the Truth about Easter
  • Part 2: Misunderstanding Jesus’s Execution

Compiled by David Culver, Ed., Evergreene Digest

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Part 1:Telling the Truth about Easter

Jesus, a radical preacher who advocated for the poor, was crucified for turning over money tables at the Temple and other insurrectionary acts. His body was likely left to wild animals, but his chroniclers sought to glorify his ending with myths about a resurrection.

Howard Bess, Consortium News of Jesus’s Crucifixion by 16th Century artist Mathis Gothart-Nithart.

April 19, 2014 | On Easter morning, at 6:30 a.m. when sunlight is just beginning to glow over the mountains to the east of Palmer, Alaska, I will, as is my custom, arrive at a sunrise Easter service to celebrate the resurrection of my Lord. I have already checked the lectionary and reread the resurrection story as recorded in Matthew 28:1-10. Millions of my Christian brothers and sisters will be reading the same ten verses.

Millions of sermons will be preached based on the Matthew account of the resurrection, but very few preachers will make mention of the history and background of the passage. A typical minister will not share what he/she learned in theological seminary about the resurrection passages.

Rev. Howard Bess is a retired American Baptist minister, who lives in Palmer, Alaska.

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Part 2: Misunderstanding Jesus’s Execution

jesusmoneychangers-300x244.jpg From the Archive (Originally published April 23, 2011): Over the centuries as Christianity bent to the interests of the rich and powerful, the story of Jesus’s fateful week in Jerusalem was reshaped to minimize its pivotal event, overturning the Temple’s money tables, a challenge to religious and political power.

Howard Bess, Consortium News

April 13, 2014 Christians have special celebrations for the key events of Holy Week, but they often overlook one of the most important.

Palm Sunday celebrates the entry of Jesus into the city of Jerusalem. Maunday Thursday is a solemn replay of his last meal with his disciples. Good Friday takes us through his mock trial and his death of horror on a Roman Cross. Easter is the Christians’ triumphant celebration of Jesus’s resurrection from the dead.

Rev. Howard Bess is a retired American Baptist minister, who lives in Palmer, Alaska.

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Does Christianity really prefer charity to government welfare?


  • While often overlooked, there is a strong Christian case for their coexistence
  • Unspeakable: Washington Ignores Homeless Epidemic

Elizabeth Stoker, The Week 

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were-all-responsible-for-helping.jpg?201 We're all responsible for helping. (Reuters/Carlos Barria) 

April 10, 2014 | The role of private charity versus that of state-sponsored social programs remains a hotly contested issue in Right vs. Left politics, with the Right typically favoring a heavy or total reliance upon private charity, and the Left typically calling for a more robust emphasis on state-provided programs. What is often presumed, however, in this political discourse is that Christianity, like conservatism, requires a total reliance on private charity to deliver services to the needy. This could not be more wrong.

The reason the political debate is back in the news is a recent essay in Democracy Journal concerning the conservative premise that voluntary charity could or should supplant state programs aimed at addressing joblessness, illness, accident, and old age. In the article, Mike Konczal labeled such conservative ideation "the voluntarism fantasy," pointing out that in the American context, "complex interaction between public and private social insurance… has always existed in the United States."

Elizabeth Stoker writes about Christianity, ethics, and policy for Salon, The Atlantic, and The Week. She is a graduate of Brandeis University, a Marshall Scholar, and a current Cambridge University divinity student. 

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Unspeakable: Washington Ignores Homeless Epidemic, Bill Boyarsky, TruthDig


  • The hardship of families and children is an overlooked national disgrace.
  • The National Center on Family Homelessness has chronicled the toll such conditions take on children.
  • Work Until You're Dead?
  • Senator Spends Day Off With Homeless Man For A Lesson You Can't Learn From An Office

‘Somebody Called the Cops on Jesus’


  • “It gives authenticity to our church,” says church rector Rev. David Buck. “This is a relatively affluent church, to be honest, and we need to be reminded ourselves that our faith expresses itself in active concern for the marginalized of society.”
  • Homeless Lose a Longtime Last Resort: Living in a Car

Alexander Reed KellyTruthdig

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mockstar (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Apr 13, 2014 | Residents of “an upscale neighborhood filled with well-kept townhomes” in Davidson, N.C., now share the block with a bronze statue depicting Jesus Christ as a vagrant asleep on a park bench on the grounds of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, NPR reports.

The Son of God is “huddled under a blanket with his face and hands obscured; only the crucifixion wounds on his uncovered feet give him away.”


Alexander Reed Kelly joined Truthdig in May 2011 as an assistant editor. In December, 2010, Alex was arrested outside the White House while protesting America’s wars. With him were Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges, Pentagon whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg and 130 other activists, many of them veterans. 

Full story (includes audio) … 


Homeless Lose a Longtime Last Resort: Living in a Car, Zusha Elinson, Wall Street Journal

  • Cities in Silicon Valley, Elsewhere Crack Down on Vehicle Dwellers Driven Out of Apartments by Rents
  • Examining DC's Homeless Crisis
  • Unspeakable: Washington Ignores Homeless Epidemic