For the last several years I've been part of a coalition of members from eight or nine churches who have been providing volunteer help at the now-closed Southwest High School in Kansas City.
Now some of us have made ourselves available to another public high school here, Southeast.
As I've been doing that work, I've also been reading a challenging book by Robert D. Putnam called Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis.
I was pleased to find Putnam providing a religious motivation for people of faith to be involved in helping disadvantaged children get a better public school education:
"Virtually all religions," he writes, "share a profound commitment to caring for the have-nots." (He then quotes several passages of scripture bearing that out.) And continues:
"The most important service that Pope Francis has rendered to men and women of all faiths and of no faith at all is to remind us of our deep moral obligation to care for our neighbors and especially for poor kids." (He then quotes the pope about the danger of failing to have compassion for the poor.) And continues:
"The foundational documents of our national history, from the Declaration of Independence to the Gettysburg Address, have espouse the fundamental precept that all humans are of equal moral worth. For much of our national history we have made silent, shameful exceptions to that principle for nonwhites and women. Virtually any moral theory of fairness and justice leads to that principle, however, and it is the anvil on which the hammers of the liberation movements of the last 100 years have wrought the expansion of equal rights."
All of which says to me that if we are satisfied with a public school system that fails the children of families in poverty, we dehumanize them and we fail to live up to our highest moral standards, taught to us by our religions.
(A recent American Public Square panel discussion got into faith community support for public schools, and I wrote about that here.)
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SAYING 'NO' TO MARTIN LUTHER
The state Lutheran Church of Norway has issued a statement denouncing Martin Luther's virulent anti-Judaism. About time. As the world approaches next year's 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation, it will look at history, and not all of it will be lovely. Luther, in fact, wound up being quite ugly about Jews, and much later some of the Nazis picked up on his vile thinking and used it to justify their own violent bigotry.
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P.S.: Looking for a terrific, inexpensive holiday gift for friends who actually read books? Let me modestly suggest this: Order my new book, The Value of Doubt: Why Unanswered Questions, Not Unquestioned Answers, Build Faith. I've just given you a link to the Amazon.com page for it. But if you want an autographed copy of either the paperback or the hardback, send me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I'll tell you how we can arrange that. (Just don't wait until Christmas Eve.) Or if you're in the Kansas City area, our great local independent bookstore, Rainy Day Books, has been carrying it. One excellent thing about the book is that it doesn't require batteries. Well, unless you get the e-version for your phone or iPad, say.