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from Maru Gonzalez, Board Member of Soulforce, Inc.:
I have always been inspired by random acts of kindness, those powerful yet unassuming “just because” gestures that generate smiles and brighten days, revealing the humanity between two strangers. Yet often more magical than the acts themselves are their compounding and potentially wide-reaching impact. Indeed, kindness begets kindness; it plants a seed of gratitude from which compassion and empathy sprout.
This notion–at once simple and profound–rests at the core of Soulforce’s mission and vision for a kinder, more just world.
To celebrate Soulforce, I pledge to intentionally “pay forward” each donation made to my marathon fundraiser between now and race day. Whether it’s putting money in an expired meter, inviting someone to share my umbrella on a rainy day or letting another customer cut in front of me in the grocery line, I will honor your kindness the best way I know how: by sharing it with the rest of the world.
So join me in starting a kindness revolution!
I’ll keep you updated on my “random acts” and let you know who inspired each one. And while donating is always an added bonus, anyone can join the revolution! Feel free to give me ideas or tell me about what you’ve done to spread the love. Once the marathon is over, I will turn our accumulated acts into a mosaic of words, pictures and images to share with all of you.
Let’s get started. Together, I know we can create something really beautiful.
Contact her at email@example.com today.
By Fran Ferder
The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith’s April 18 doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious is not aboutdoctrine. It is not primarily about protecting the faith or ensuring an ecclesiology of communion, no matter how many times these terms are woven through the report. It is fundamentally about fear – fear of the loss of power — and the willful use of dominative control to defend that power.
The abundance of religious themes and language do not mask this punitive effort to shore up the crumbling authority of hierarchical leaders. Nor does the document hide the anger that roils beneath the protestations of gratitude and concern. The final report of the LCWR assessment reveals a desperate attempt on the part of some fearful and angry church leaders to protect their turf — to maintain an all-male church leadership, to keep women and laypeople under their authority, and to shield the homophobic-homosexual subculture in the leadership of the Catholic church.
The pattern of using coercive intimidation to control others in one’s household is called domestic abuse. Domestic abuse does not need to involve physical violence — in fact, many abusers never beat their partners. Instead, the threatened person strikes out psychologically to evoke compliance. Public humiliations, corrections, threats, accusations of disloyalty and demands for absolute obedience make up the typical arsenal of the abusive person. In extreme cases, the abuser monitors the actions of the other, keeps a record of his or her transgressions, restricts his or her activities, discredits his or her reputation, takes charge of his or her decisions, and threatens to withdraw support if unquestioned compliance to demands is not maintained.
These abusive acts will sound curiously familiar to anyone who has read the proposed implementations of the Vatican doctrinal assessment.
While females can and do commit domestic abuse, statistically, they do so at much reduced rates, inflict less physical harm and commonly have different motivations than male perpetrators, making domestic abuse primarily a crime against women. Yes, a crime — like child sexual abuse — something many bishops, archbishops and cardinals in the Catholic church failed to take seriously until they were forced to do so by lawsuits and public outcry.
But has transfer of learning taken place? Do they get it? Do they get that they cannot treat women and children as stepping stones to power, privilege and pleasure?
Whether through hits or humiliations, broken bones or broken spirits, threats of bodily harm or warnings of impending excommunication, the goal of abusers is the same: Assert absolute control. Wear the person down until he or she gives in or gives up. Use punishment if he or she dares to claim his or her own authority.
The most dangerous time in a household where domestic abuse is present is right after the person being abused has stood up to the abuser. Have too many members of LCWR claimed their own authority? The classic domestic abuser seeks one thing above all else: obedience to dictates. It is not surprising that obedience is alluded to on every page of the final doctrinal assessment document.
In fact, the mandate for implementation of the results of the doctrinal assessment reads like a how-to manual for the most common form of domestic abuse — no physical violence, just a resolute campaign to rein in those who have dared disobey the master, or, in the case of LCWR, the pope and bishops: “to implement a process of review and conformity to the teachings and discipline of the church, the Holy See” (page 7). Pretty clear.
Mental illness, including personality disorders, compound domestic abuse but are not its primary cause. Domestic abuse is power abuse. In its most prevalent form, it is conscious, coercive conduct by men those believe they have the unconditional right to use forceful tactics to enforce their rules and maintain absolute control over those they deem subject to them.
What kinds of people abuse others? While there is no single profile of the domestic abuser, research has identified characteristics frequently seen among perpetrators of all types. Ironically, there is not much difference between those who use their fists and those who use words alone to demand obedience.
- Abusers believe they are entitled to maintain power and control over those in their households (institutions).
- They may believe they have an obligation to compel obedience for the benefit of the victim and the good of the household (church).
- They do not identify their controlling and hurtful tactics as abusive and are insulted when others perceive them that way.
- Perpetrators tend to perceive all interactions within relationships through a prism of compliance or disobedience.
- Abusers tend to be insecure men who need to establish dominance to feel confident.
The single most conclusive thing we know about domestic abuse is that it is learned behavior. Abusers have gained knowledge of abusive behaviors by seeing them in action, either in their families or in the various cultures to which they belong. This applies to religious cultures where the seminarian is taught early to bow to the wishes of his rector, to obey his bishop and to submit to the cardinal — all of whom kiss the ring of the pope.
All of this bowing, obeying and willful submission programs the brain to normalize hierarchical authority, and in some less secure individuals, to deeply internalize this way of relating and to replicate it.
As in sexual abuse, church leaders who have witnessed domestic abuse in their families or who have experienced such abuse as children may be particularly susceptible to behave abusively themselves. When a fragile ego combines with learned patterns of abuse, the stage is set for domestic abuse.
While abusers do not fit neatly into any particular diagnostic category, their behavior is not considered “normal.”
Psychologically healthy adults do not mandate obedience, forbid dialogue about subjects they do not wish discussed, or use oppressive tactics to gain control over others. Personally secure leaders don’t issue orders to other functioning adults, threatening punitive measures if they are not obeyed.
Often described as having a “Jekyll and Hyde” personality, most abusers can be quite civilized and even charming when they need to be. Their ability to function as CEOs of companies and preside over large corporations does not eliminate them from the pool of the insecure who strike out against those who threaten them. Some male abusers have been found to harbor a secret loathing of females, considering them inferior. Since such attitudes are certainly present in the history of the church (read St. Jerome), it is possible that its influence still inhabits, consciously or the unconsciously, the collective mind of church leaders.
The persistent desire of hierarchical leaders to keep women under their control and out of their sphere of leadership, especially women theologians, suggests that the “Jerome Syndrome” might still be operative.
[Fran Ferder is a Franciscan sister, clinical psychologist, author and professor at Seattle University.]
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 7, 2012
Michael Cole-Schwartz | firstname.lastname@example.org | (202) 216-1553
Federal Appeals Court Agrees: California’s Proposition 8 Is Unconstitutional
Ninth Circuit Strikes Down Discriminatory Amendment
WASHINGTON – The Human Rights Campaign – the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization – today praised the historic decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirming the August 2010 conclusion of U.S. Chief Judge Vaughn Walker of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in Perry v. Schwarzenegger (now Perry v. Brown) that the amendment to the California Constitution barring marriage for same-sex couples, adopted in November 2008 as Proposition 8, violates the U.S. Constitution. In a 2-1 decision authored by Judge Reinhardt, the court agreed that Proposition 8’s only purpose in denying gay and lesbian Californians the freedom to marry was anti-gay animus, something the Constitution does not permit.
Today is a time when what is right and what is wrong is overshadowed by what seems right and what seems wrong. Controversial issues deepen the difficulty for each one of us as we determine what we believe and why we believe it. The issue of gay marriage is one of these controversies that leave our society searching for answers.
It shouldn’t matter if a person is straight, homosexual or transgender. If two people find happiness, then they should be able to commit to the other person without restriction from the government.
Same-sex marriage should be legal for many reasons, such as the defined separation between religion and government, the benefits of marriage, and minority discrimination.
Live From All Saints Pasadena, Sunday, December 18, 10:15 a.m.
“The Role of Progressive Religion in the Occupy Movement”
with Serene Jones and Cornel West
Dr. Cornel West is a prolific essayist, public speaker, social activist, and major figure in African American academia. Commenting recently on his decision to return to the faculty of Union Seminary in NYC, Dr. West said that his liberal politics were formed in Progressive Baptist churches, and that Union was “the institutional expression of my core identity as a prophetic Christian.” His work exemplifies synthesis and innovation and we are honored to welcome him to the Rector’s Forum. Dr. Serene Jones, President of Union Seminary is a popular scholar in the fields of theology, religion and gender studies and a long-time friend of All Saints Church. Dr. Jones not only returns to the Rector’s Forum to reflect with Dr. West on the theological context of the Occupy Movement, she will be in the pulpit at both the 9:00 & 11:15 services preaching “Visceral Reckonings.” From the All Saints Forum.
Click to view!
Written By Kara Speltz and Eugene McMullan
Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York addresses the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore, Marylalnd November 14, 2011. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
One of the scariest things coming out of the November annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is their false claim that our religious freedom — and they claim to speak for all Catholics — is under attack. In the midst of the worst economic crisis this country has seen since the Great Depression, rather than focusing on economic inequalities the bishops have created a bogus distraction, hoping to move the Catholic electorate to the right.
Oakland’s “Catholic Voice” recently carried a lead story stating that our religious freedom is at risk. Many of us ordinary Catholics think that while our religious freedom is not now at risk, it could be put at risk if the hierarchy continues to bring scandal to the church by its handling of the sex abuse crisis, its contempt for the laity, and its shady interventions in U.S. politics (Prop 8 for example). (http://tinyurl.com/7nrw6ls)
The days of the persecuted Catholic Church in America are over, as the country is no longer dominated by Protestants. There is not even a single Protestant left on the Supreme Court, which is now comprised entirely of Catholics and Jews. The bishops are using the defense of religious freedom as an excuse and/or mask for their prejudice and discrimination.
Their real goal is to have Catholic dogma — as defined by them — “trump” and subvert the rights of those whose faith supports equality. Ironically the United Church of Christ, descended from the Puritans and formed when Protestantism was still dominant, supports marriage equality, while the once-persecuted Catholic Church is opposed. Who is the bully now?
The religious freedom at risk is that of persons in the UCC and other pro-equality believers, including the majority of Catholics. A UCC military chaplain, for example, is not allowed to perform a wedding of same-gender spouses in a military chapel in California.
According to the Voice article, the bishops seek to protect “the right of a private individual to deny renting an apartment to a same-sex couple on religious grounds.” The article then raises the fearful specter that a “public school teacher could be fired for refusing to talk about same-sex marriage as a justice issue.” They don’t believe this for a minute. The bishops are not ignorant people; they know exactly what they are doing with their deliberate distortions.
Their real concern is access to government funding: “A religious organization that does not recognize same-sex marriage can be considered discriminatory by a state or local government and lose any contract for services.”
Churches are already tax exempt, which frees up more of our donations to be used for anti-gay activism! Now the bishops want to secure a privileged access to taxpayer monies, while refusing to respect the rule that those who feed at the government trough must respect its definitions of civil rights.
Written by Joe Perez
I am joining other leaders in the LGBT community in calling for a boycott of the Salvation Army during this holiday season, but I want to add an important qualification.
Join in a boycott of donating to the fundamentalist Christian organization during the holiday season IF you do so as a intentional practice of ethics that arises from your Unique Self. That is to say, boycott if it is the way you can most beautifully and splendidly express your inner divinity out in the world. And if a different impulse of Love arises from your perspective on the world which leads you to make a different choice, I want to respect and even applaud that impulse as well. There is no one-size-fits-all response to the Salvation Army’s red kettle.
The fundamentalist religious organization needs to hear the message that if they are going to support discrimination and gays and lesbians, there is a price to pay. But it will hear this message no matter what you or I do, as there are already thousands of individuals committed to boycotting the organization. The choice you and I make could be one of following the hordes who donate or the hordes who boycott based on spiritual beliefs or ideological principles, or we can choose based on doing what comes naturally to us when we act out of our Unique Self.