December, 2013

Following is a message from Pope Francis relating to the celebration of the World Day of Peace on January 1, 2014


[1] In this, my first Message for the World Day of Peace, I wish to offer to everyone, individuals and peoples, my best wishes for a life filled with joy and hope. In the heart of every man and woman is the desire for a full life, including that irrepressible longing for fraternity which draws us to fellowship with others and enables us to see them not as enemies or rivals, but as brothers and sisters to be accepted and embraced.

Fraternity is an essential human quality, for we are relational beings. A lively awareness of our relatedness helps us to look upon and to treat each person as a true sister or brother; without fraternity it is impossible to build a just society and a solid and lasting peace.

We should remember that fraternity is generally first learned in the family, thanks above all to the responsible and complementary roles of each of its members, particularly the father and the mother. The family is the wellspring of all fraternity, and as such it is the foundation and the first pathway to peace, since, by its vocation, it is meant to spread its love to the world around it.

The ever-increasing number of interconnections and communications in today’s world makes us powerfully aware of the unity and common destiny of the nations. In the dynamics of history, and in the diversity of ethnic groups, societies and cultures, we see the seeds of a vocation to form a community composed of brothers and sisters who accept and care for one another. But this vocation is still frequently denied and ignored in a world marked by a “globalization of indifference” which makes us slowly inured to the suffering of others and closed in on ourselves.

In many parts of the world, there seems to be no end to grave offences against fundamental human rights, especially the right to life and the right to religious freedom. The tragic phenomenon of human trafficking, in which the unscrupulous prey on the lives and the desperation of others, is but one unsettling example of this. Alongside overt armed conflicts are the less visible but no less cruel wars fought in the economic and financial sectors with means which are equally destructive of lives, families and businesses.

Globalization, as Benedict XVI pointed out, makes us neighbours, but does not make us brothers. The many situations of inequality, poverty and injustice, are signs not only of a profound lack of fraternity, but also of the absence of a culture of solidarity. New ideologies, characterized by rampant individualism, egocentrism and materialistic consumerism, weaken social bonds, fuelling that “throw away” mentality which leads to contempt for, and the abandonment of, the weakest and those considered “useless”. In this way human coexistence increasingly tends to resemble a mere do ut des which is both pragmatic and selfish.

At the same time, it appears clear that contemporary ethical systems remain incapable of producing authentic bonds of fraternity, since a fraternity devoid of reference to a common Father as its ultimate foundation is unable to endure.

[2] True brotherhood among people presupposes and demands a transcendent Fatherhood. Based on the recognition of this fatherhood, human fraternity is consolidated: each person becomes a “neighbor” who cares for others.
“Where is your brother?” (Gen 4:9)

2. To understand more fully this human vocation to fraternity, to recognize more clearly the obstacles standing in the way of its realization and to identify ways of overcoming them, it is of primary importance to let oneself be led by knowledge of God’s plan, which is presented in an eminent way in sacred Scripture.

According to the biblical account of creation, all people are descended from common parents, Adam and Eve, the couple created by God in his image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26), to whom Cain and Abel were born. In the story of this first family, we see the origins of society and the evolution of relations between individuals and peoples.

Abel is a shepherd, Cain is a farmer. Their profound identity and their vocation is to be brothers, albeit in the diversity of their activity and culture, their way of relating to God and to creation. Cain’s murder of Abel bears tragic witness to his radical rejection of their vocation to be brothers.

Their story (cf. Gen 4:1-16) brings out the difficult task to which all men and women are called, to live as one, each taking care of the other. Cain, incapable of accepting God’s preference for Abel who had offered him the best of his flock – “The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering; but for Cain and his offering he had no regard” (Gen 4:4-5) – killed Abel out of jealousy. In this way, he refused to regard Abel as a brother, to relate to him rightly, to live in the presence of God by assuming his responsibility to care for and to protect others.

By asking him “Where is your brother?”, God holds Cain accountable for what he has done. He answers: “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9). Then, the Book of Genesis tells us, “Cain went away from the presence of the Lord” (4:16).

We need to ask ourselves what were the real reasons which led Cain to disregard the bond of fraternity and, at the same time, the bond of reciprocity and fellowship which joined him to his brother Abel. God himself condemns and reproves Cain’s collusion with evil: “sin is crouching at your door” (Gen 4:7). But Cain refuses to turn against evil and decides instead to raise his “hand against his brother Abel” (Gen 4:8), thus scorning God’s plan. In this way, he thwarts his primordial calling to be a child of God and to live in fraternity.

The story of Cain and Abel teaches that we have an inherent calling to fraternity, but also the tragic capacity to betray that calling. This is witnessed by our daily acts of selfishness, which are at the root of so many wars and so much injustice: many men and women die at the hands of their brothers and sisters who are incapable of seeing themselves as such, that is, as beings made for reciprocity, for communion and self-giving.

“And you will all be brothers” (Mt 23:8)

3. The question naturally arises: Can the men and women of this world ever fully respond to the longing for fraternity placed within them by God the Father? Will they ever manage by their power alone to overcome indifference, egoism and hatred, and to accept the legitimate differences typical of brothers and sisters?
By paraphrasing his words, we can summarize the answer given by the Lord Jesus: “For you have only one Father, who is God, and you are all brothers and sisters” (cf. Mt 23:8-9).

The basis of fraternity is found in God’s fatherhood. We are not speaking of a generic fatherhood, indistinct and historically ineffectual, but rather of the specific and extraordinarily concrete personal love of God for each man and woman (cf. Mt 6:25-30). It is a fatherhood, then, which effectively generates fraternity, because the love of God, once welcomed, becomes the most formidable means of transforming our lives and relationships with others, opening us to solidarity and to genuine sharing.

In a particular way, human fraternity is regenerated in and by Jesus Christ through his death and resurrection. The Cross is the definitive foundational locus of that fraternity which human beings are not capable of generating themselves. Jesus Christ, who assumed human nature in order to redeem it, loving the Father unto death on the Cross (cf. Phil 2:8), has through his resurrection made of us a new humanity, in full communion with the will of God, with his plan, which includes the full realization of our vocation to fraternity.

From the beginning, Jesus takes up the plan of the Father, acknowledging its primacy over all else. But Christ, with his abandonment to death for love of the Father, becomes the definitive and new principle of us all; we are called to regard ourselves in him as brothers and  sisters, inasmuch as we are children of the same Father. He himself is the Covenant; in his person we are reconciled with God and with one another as brothers and sisters.

Jesus’ death on the Cross also brings an end to the separation between peoples, between the people of the Covenant and the people of the Gentiles, who were bereft of hope until that moment, since they were not party to the pacts of the Promise. As we read in the Letter to the Ephesians, Jesus Christ is the one who reconciles all people in himself. He is peace, for he made one people out of the two, breaking down the wall of separation which divided them, that is, the hostility between them. He created in himself one people, one new man, one new humanity (cf. 2:14-16).

All who accept the life of Christ and live in him acknowledge God as Father and give themselves completely to him, loving him above all things. The reconciled person sees in God the Father of all, and, as a consequence, is spurred on to live a life of fraternity open to all. In Christ, the other is welcomed and loved as a son or daughter of God, as a brother or sister, not as a stranger, much less as a rival or even an enemy.

In God’s family, where all are sons and daughters of the same Father, and, because they are grafted to Christ, sons and daughters in the Son, there are no “disposable lives”. All men and women enjoy an equal and inviolable dignity. All are loved by God. All have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, who died on the Cross and rose for all. This is the reason why no one can remain indifferent before the lot of our brothers and sisters.

Fraternity, the foundation and pathway to peace
4. This being said, it is easy to realize that fraternity is the foundation and pathway of peace. The social encyclicals written by my predecessors can be very helpful in this regard. It would be sufficient to draw on the definitions of peace found in the encyclicals Populorum Progressio by Pope Paul VI and Sollicitudo Rei Socialis by John Paul II. From the first we learn that the integral development of peoples is the new name of peace. From the second, we conclude that peace is an opus solidaritatis.

Paul VI stated that not only individuals but nations too must encounter one another in a spirit of fraternity. As he says: “In this mutual understanding and friendship, in this sacred communion, we must also… work together to build the common future of the human race”.

In the first place, this duty falls to those who are most privileged. Their obligations are rooted in human and supernatural fraternity and are manifested in three ways: the duty of solidarity, which requires the richer nations to assist the less developed; the duty of social justice, which requires the realignment of relationships between stronger and weaker peoples in terms of greater fairness; and the duty of universal charity, which entails the promotion of a more humane world for all, a world in which each has something to give and to receive, without the progress of the one constituting an obstacle to the development of the other.

If, then, we consider peace as opus solidaritatis, we cannot fail to acknowledge that fraternity is its principal foundation. Peace, John Paul II affirmed, is an indivisible good. Either it is the good of all or it is the good of none. It can be truly attained and enjoyed, as the highest quality of life and a more human and sustainable development, only if all are guided by solidarity as “a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good”.

This means not being guided by a “desire for profit” or a “thirst for power”. What is needed is the willingness to “lose ourselves” for the sake of others rather than exploiting them, and to “serve them” instead of oppressing them for our own advantage. “The ‘other’ – whether a person, people or nation – [is to be seen] not just as some kind of instrument, with a work capacity and physical strength to be exploited at low cost and then discarded when no longer useful, but as our ‘neighbour’, a ‘helper’”.

Christian solidarity presumes that our neighbour is loved not only as “a human being with his or her own rights and a fundamental equality with everyone else, but as the living image of God the Father, redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ and placed under the permanent action of the Holy Spirit”, as another brother or sister. As John Paul II noted: “At that point, awareness of the common fatherhood of God, of the brotherhood of all in Christ – ‘children in the Son’ – and of the presence and life-giving action of the Holy Spirit, will bring to our vision of the world a new criterion for interpreting it”, for changing it.

Fraternity, a prerequisite for fighting poverty
5. In his encyclical Caritas in Veritate, my predecessor reminded the world how the lack of fraternity between peoples and men and women is a significant cause of poverty.[11] In many societies, we are experiencing a profound poverty of relationships as a result of the lack of solid family and community relationships. We are concerned by the various types of hardship, marginalization, isolation and various forms of pathological dependencies which we see increasing. This kind of poverty can be overcome only through the rediscovery and valuing of fraternal relationships in the heart of families and communities, through the sharing of joys and sorrows, of the hardships and triumphs that are a part of human life.

Moreover, if on the one hand we are seeing a reduction in absolute poverty, on the other hand we cannot fail to recognize that there is a serious rise in relative poverty, that is, instances of inequality between people and groups who live together in particular regions or in a determined historical-cultural context. In this sense, effective policies are needed to promote the principle of fraternity, securing for people – who are equal in dignity and in fundamental rights – access to capital, services, educational resources, healthcare and technology so that every person has the opportunity to express and realize his or her life project and can develop fully as a person.

One also sees the need for policies which can lighten an excessive imbalance between incomes. We must not forget the Church’s teaching on the so-called social mortgage, which holds that although it is lawful, as Saint Thomas Aquinas says, and indeed necessary “that people have ownership of goods”, insofar as their use is concerned, “they possess them as not just their own, but common to others as well, in the sense that they can benefit others as well as themselves”.

Finally, there is yet another form of promoting fraternity – and thus defeating poverty – which must be at the basis of all the others. It is the detachment of those who choose to live a sober and essential lifestyle, of those who, by sharing their own wealth, thus manage to experience fraternal communion with others. This is fundamental for following Jesus Christ and being truly Christian. It is not only the case of consecrated persons who profess the vow of poverty, but also of the many families and responsible citizens who firmly believe that it is their fraternal relationship with their neighbours which constitutes their most precious good.

The rediscovery of fraternity in the economy
6. The grave financial and economic crises of the present time – which find their origin in the progressive distancing of man from God and from his neighbour, in the greedy pursuit of material goods on the one hand, and in the impoverishment of interpersonal and community relations on the other – have pushed man to seek satisfaction, happiness and security in consumption and earnings out of all proportion to the principles of a sound economy.

In 1979 John Paul II had called attention to “a real perceptible danger that, while man’s dominion over the world of things is making enormous advances, he should lose the essential threads of his dominion and in various ways let his humanity be subjected to the world and become himself something subject to manipulation in many ways – even if the manipulation is often not perceptible directly – through the whole of the organization of community life, through the production system and through pressure from the means of social communication.”

The succession of economic crises should lead to a timely rethinking of our models of economic development and to a change in lifestyles. Today’s crisis, even with its serious implications for people’s lives, can also provide us with a fruitful opportunity to rediscover the virtues of prudence, temperance, justice and strength. These virtues can help us to overcome difficult moments and to recover the fraternal bonds which join us one to another, with deep confidence that human beings need and are capable of something greater than maximizing their individual interest. Above all, these virtues are necessary for building and preserving a society in accord with human dignity.

Fraternity extinguishes war
7. In the past year, many of our brothers and sisters have continued to endure the destructive experience of war, which constitutes a grave and deep wound inflicted on fraternity.

Many conflicts are taking place amid general indifference. To all those who live in lands where weapons impose terror and destruction, I assure you of my personal closeness and that of the whole Church, whose mission is to bring Christ’s love to the defenceless victims of forgotten wars through her prayers for peace, her service to the wounded, the starving, refugees, the displaced and all those who live in fear. The Church also speaks out in order to make leaders hear the cry of pain of the suffering and to put an end to every form of hostility, abuse and the violation of fundamental human rights.

For this reason, I appeal forcefully to all those who sow violence and death by force of arms: in the person you today see simply as an enemy to be beaten, discover rather your brother or sister, and hold back your hand! Give up the way of arms and go out to meet the other in dialogue, pardon and reconciliation, in order to rebuild justice, trust, and hope around you! “From this standpoint, it is clear that, for the world’s peoples, armed conflicts are always a deliberate negation of international harmony, and create profound divisions and deep wounds which require many years to heal. Wars are a concrete refusal to pursue the great economic and social goals that the international community has set itself”.

Nevertheless, as long as so great a quantity of arms are in circulation as at present, new pretexts can always be found for initiating hostilities. For this reason, I make my own the appeal of my predecessors for the non-proliferation of arms and for disarmament of all parties, beginning with nuclear and chemical weapons disarmament.

We cannot however fail to observe that international agreements and national laws – while necessary and greatly to be desired – are not of themselves sufficient to protect humanity from the risk of armed conflict. A conversion of hearts is needed which would permit everyone to recognize in the other a brother or sister to care for, and to work together with, in building a fulfilling life for all. This is the spirit which inspires many initiatives of civil society, including religious organizations, to promote peace. I express my hope that the daily commitment of all will continue to bear fruit and that there will be an effective application in international law of the right to peace, as a fundamental human right and a necessary prerequisite for every other right.

Corruption and organized crime threaten fraternity
8. The horizon of fraternity also has to do with the need for fulfilment of every man and woman. People’s legitimate ambitions, especially in the case of the young, should not be thwarted or offended, nor should people be robbed of their hope of realizing them. Nevertheless, ambition must not be confused with the abuse of power. On the contrary, people should compete with one another in mutual esteem (cf. Rm 12:10). In disagreements, which are also an unavoidable part of life, we should always remember that we are brothers and sisters, and therefore teach others and teach ourselves not to consider our neighbour as an enemy or as an adversary to be eliminated.

Fraternity generates social peace because it creates a balance between freedom and justice, between personal responsibility and solidarity, between the good of individuals and the common good. And so a political community must act in a transparent and responsible way to favour all this. Citizens must feel themselves represented by the public authorities in respect for their freedom. Yet frequently a wedge is driven between citizens and institutions by partisan interests which disfigure that relationship, fostering the creation of an enduring climate of conflict.

An authentic spirit of fraternity overcomes the individual selfishness which conflicts with people’s ability to live in freedom and in harmony among themselves. Such selfishness develops socially – whether it is in the many forms of corruption, so widespread today, or in the formation of criminal organizations, from small groups to those organized on a global scale. These groups tear down legality and justice, striking at the very heart of the dignity of the person. These organizations gravely offend God, they hurt others and they harm creation, all the more so when they have religious overtones.

I also think of the heartbreaking drama of drug abuse, which reaps profits in contempt of the moral and civil laws. I think of the devastation of natural resources and ongoing pollution, and the tragedy of the exploitation of labour. I think too of illicit money trafficking and financial speculation, which often prove both predatory and harmful for entire economic and social systems, exposing millions of men and women to poverty.

I think of prostitution, which every day reaps innocent victims, especially the young, robbing them of their future. I think of the abomination of human trafficking, crimes and abuses against minors, the horror of slavery still present in many parts of the world; the frequently overlooked tragedy of migrants, who are often victims of disgraceful and illegal manipulation.

As John XXIII wrote: “There is nothing human about a society based on relationships of power. Far from encouraging, as it should, the attainment of people’s growth and perfection, it proves oppressive and restrictive of their freedom”. Yet human beings can experience conversion; they must never despair of being able to change their lives. I wish this to be a message of hope and confidence for all, even for those who have committed brutal crimes, for God does not wish the death of the sinner, but that he converts and lives (cf. Ez 18:23).

In the broad context of human social relations, when we look to crime and punishment, we cannot help but think of the inhumane conditions in so many prisons, where those in custody are often reduced to a subhuman status in violation of their human dignity and stunted in their hope and desire for rehabilitation. The Church does much in these environments, mostly in silence. I exhort and I encourage everyone to do more, in the hope that the efforts being made in this area by so many courageous men and women will be increasingly supported, fairly and honestly, by the civil authorities as well.

Fraternity helps to preserve and cultivate nature
9. The human family has received from the Creator a common gift: nature. The Christian view of creation includes a positive judgement about the legitimacy of interventions on nature if these are meant to be beneficial and are performed responsibly, that is to say, by acknowledging the “grammar” inscribed in nature and by wisely using resources for the benefit of all, with respect for the beauty, finality and usefulness of every living being and its place in the ecosystem. Nature, in a word, is at our disposition and we are called to exercise a responsible stewardship over it.

Yet so often we are driven by greed and by the arrogance of dominion, possession, manipulation and exploitation; we do not preserve nature; nor do we respect it or consider it a gracious gift which we must care for and set at the service of our brothers and sisters, including future generations.

In a particular way, the agricultural sector is the primary productive sector with the crucial vocation of cultivating and protecting natural resources in order to feed humanity. In this regard the continuing disgrace of hunger in the world moves me to share with you the question: How are we using the earth’s resources? Contemporary societies should reflect on the hierarchy of priorities to which production is directed.

It is a truly pressing duty to use the earth’s resources in such a way that all may be free from hunger. Initiatives and possible solutions are many, and are not limited to an increase in production. It is well known that present production is sufficient, and yet millions of persons continue to suffer and die from hunger, and this is a real scandal. We need, then, to find ways by which all may benefit from the fruits of the earth, not only to avoid the widening gap between those who have more and those who must be content with the crumbs, but above all because it is a question of justice, equality and respect for every human being.

In this regard I would like to remind everyone of that necessary universal destination of all goods which is one of the fundamental principles of the Church’s social teaching. Respect for this principle is the essential condition for facilitating an effective and fair access to those essential and primary goods which every person needs and to which he or she has a right.

10. Fraternity needs to be discovered, loved, experienced, proclaimed and witnessed to. But only love, bestowed as a gift from God, enables us to accept and fully experience fraternity.

The necessary realism proper to politics and economy cannot be reduced to mere technical know-how bereft of ideals and unconcerned with the transcendent dimension of man. When this openness to God is lacking, every human activity is impoverished and persons are reduced to objects that can be exploited. Only when politics and the economy are open to moving within the wide space ensured by the One who loves each man and each woman, will they achieve an ordering based on a genuine spirit of fraternal charity and become effective instruments of integral human development and peace.

We Christians believe that in the Church we are all members of a single body, all mutually necessary, because each has been given a grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ, for the common good (cf. Eph 4:7,25; 1 Cor 12:7). Christ has come to the world so as to bring us divine grace, that is, the possibility of sharing in his life. This entails weaving a fabric of fraternal relationships marked by reciprocity, forgiveness and complete self-giving, according to the breadth and the depth of the love of God offered to humanity in the One who, crucified and risen, draws all to himself: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:34-35).

This is the good news that demands from each one a step forward, a perennial exercise of empathy, of listening to the suffering and the hopes of others, even those furthest away from me, and walking the demanding path of that love which knows how to give and spend itself freely for the good of all our brothers and sisters.

Christ embraces all of humanity and wishes no one to be lost. “For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (Jn 3:17). He does it without oppressing or constraining anyone to open to him the doors of heart and mind. “Let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves” – Jesus Christ says – “I am among you as one who serves” (Lk 22:26-27).

Every activity therefore must be distinguished by an attitude of service to persons, especially those furthest away and less known. Service is the soul of that fraternity that builds up peace.

May Mary, the Mother of Jesus, help us to understand and live every day the fraternity that springs up from the heart of her Son, so as to bring peace to each person on this our beloved earth.

Should there be a Mimimum Wage, set in each country, for workers across the planet? Is the solving of economic inequality around the world an economic issue or a spiritual issue?

Virtually the entire world sees these questions as economic issues. Pope Francis, on the other hand, has now set the planet’s people to thinking: Might this, in fact, be a spiritual issue?

In a written statement to the world’s billions of Catholics late last month, the Pope asked a searing question: How could it be that it’s not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?

U.S. President Barack Obama has likewise recently brought the issue to widespread attention, calling the combating of growing inequality and lack of upward mobility the “defining challenge of our time.”

Perhaps it is time to look at economic inequality as a spiritual, and not merely an economic, matter.

First, let us look at a few facts.

Let us examine the U.S. economy (picked because it is one of the largest economies n the world, in a country that freely and often boasts that its citizens have “equal opportunity”). Since 1979 the economy in the United States has more than doubled in size. That’s the good news (presumably). Yet most of that good fortune has been experienced by those who already have a fortune.

Second in a series of articles on economic inequality and spirituality, at the crossroads of the two

In the U.S., statistics show that the top 10 percent of the population in terms of wealth no longer takes in one-third of the country’s income. It now takes half. The average Chief Executive Officer of a major company made about 20 to 30 times the income of the average worker in the past. Today the CEO makes 273 times more.

This, proponents of the capitalist system say, is perfectly okay. Because it is the big companies and their owners and leaders that create jobs for the rest of us. Yet, in fact, fewer jobs are being created by the Big Corporate Machine, thanks in various parts to automation, consolidation, and the sending of many jobs out of the country — where wages are even lower.

This is perfectly okay, proponents of the capitalist system say. It’s only “good business” — and it brings economic opportunity to people in poorer nations around the world. Except that people in some of those poorer nations have to work 50, 60, and sometimes 70 hours a week to make productivity goals set by their employers, and, as well, to earn a living wage.

There is been a huge disconnect between productivity and worker income in the past 25 years — and the disparity is growing.  Statistics from the International Labor Organization show that between 1999 and 2011 average labor productivity in developed economies increased more than twice as much as average wages.

In the United States, the ILO says, real hourly labor productivity in the non-farm business sector increased by about 85 per cent since 1980, while real hourly compensation increased by only around 35 per cent.

In Germany, labor productivity surged by almost a quarter over the past two decades, while real monthly wages remained flat.

This is perfectly okay, proponents of the capitalist system say. Productivity will increase as technology makes it possible for fewer workers and fewer hours per employee to produce the same or a greater amount of goods and services than ever before. This, too, is only “good business,” they say.

But is it good for people? That becomes the central question. That becomes the spiritual issue.

Your comments, observations, and insights are invited below.

‘Tis the season to observe and hear the familiar sights and sounds of the Salvation Army red kettles, accompanied by the bell-toting, red-apron-wearing volunteers who faithfully stand in front of the big stores and busy street corners in hopes of being the recipient of your spare change.  In response to some establishments banning the sounds of the bells and requiring the infamous holiday bell-ringers to wave at passersby  in silence, my first thought was how much I had grown accustomed to and actually enjoyed the sound of those bells as a symbol of the beginning of the Christmas season, almost as much as my first delicious cup of eggnog each year.

But there is a larger and darker underlying story here in relation to the Salvation Army bell-ringers, one that might make you think twice about tossing a coin or two into those famous red kettles.

The Salvation Army has been facing a growing backlash over the past several years because people are discovering that their organization is an evangelical Christian church which actively advocates against the civil rights of gays and lesbians around the world, in addition to discriminating against gays in employment.

The website  has created a historical timeline which demonstrates the religious-backed organization’s  anti-gay history:

“In recent years, the Salvation Army has come under fire for its lengthy history of anti-LGBT political maneuvering and other incidents. The church has publicly articulated its belief that homosexuality is unacceptable, stating:

‘Scripture opposes homosexual practices by direct comment and also by clearly implied disapproval. The Bible treats such practices as self-evidently abnormal. … Attempts to establish or promote such relationships as viable alternatives to heterosexually-based family life do not conform to God’s will for society.’

While such statements were recently removed from the Salvation Army’s website, the church has yet to repudiate any of its explicitly anti-gay beliefs. And though these positions may seem to be limited to the group’s internal doctrines, they’ve become a persistent element of the church’s overtly political activities – activities which have negatively impacted the Salvation Army’s ability to provide charitable services, and have aimed to limit the rights and benefits of LGBT citizens in multiple nations.

1986 –  The Salvation Army of New Zealand collected signatures against the Homosexual Law Reform Act, which repealed the law criminalizing sex between adult men. The Salvation Army later apologized for campaigning against the Act.

1998 – The Salvation Army of the United States chose to turn down $3.5 million in contracts with the city of San Francisco, resulting in the closure of programs for the homeless and senior citizens. The church backed out of these contracts due to San Francisco’s requirement that city contractors must provide spousal benefits to both same-sex partners and opposite-sex partners of employees. Lieutenant Colonel Richard Love stated:

‘We simply cannot agree to be in compliance of the ordinance.’

In 2004, the Salvation Army in New York City also threatened to close down all of its services for the city’s homeless due to a similar non-discrimination ordinance.

2000 – The Salvation Army of Scotland submitted a letter to Parliament opposing the repeal of Section 28, a law prohibiting ‘the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.’ Colonel John Flett, the church’s Scotland Secretary, wrote:

‘We can easily envisage a situation where, due to active promotion of homosexuality in schools, children will grow up feeling alienated if they fail to conform.’

The Salvation Army of Scotland has never retracted or apologized for its suggestion that homosexuality would be promoted in schools or that children would be encouraged to become gay.

2001 – The Salvation Army of the United States attempted to make a deal with the Bush administration ensuring that religious charities receiving federal funding would be exempt from any local ordinances banning anti-gay discrimination. Church spokesman David A. Fuscus explained that the group did not want to extend medical benefits to same-sex partners of its employees. The deal fell through after it was publicized by the Washington Post.

2012 – The Salvation Army of Burlington, Vermont fired case worker Danielle Morantez immediately after discovering she was bisexual. The church’s employee handbook reads, in part, ‘The Salvation Army does reserve the right to make employment decisions on the basis of an employee’s conduct or behavior that is incompatible with the principles of The Salvation Army.’

Later that year, Salvation Army spokesperson Major George Hood reaffirmed the church’s anti-gay beliefs, saying:

‘A relationship between same-sex individuals is a personal choice that people have the right to make. But from a church viewpoint, we see that going against the will of God.’

2013 – The Salvation Army continues to remove links from its website to religious ministries providing so-called ‘ex-gay’ conversion therapy, such as Harvest USA and Pure Life Ministries. These links were previously provided as resources under the Salvation Army’s section on dealing with ‘sexual addictions’.”

I wonder how many people actually know any of this?  I wonder how many people, even if they did know any of this, would care?

Do you?

Does the fact that the underlying belief system for this organization is one that breathes discrimination into our world change whether or not you toss money into that red bucket? It is undeniable that the Salvation Army aides thousands of people every day with food and shelter and other types of charitable assistance.   I remember as a child, when a devastating tornado tore through our small neighborhood, The Salvation Army was quick to serve food so graciously to all those affected.  All things considered, perhaps that high level of compassion and humanitarian assistance becomes the most important piece of the equation here.  Or does it?

In a world where many feel powerless when it comes to implementing the types of social changes we desire to see, isn’t one of the most effective ways to create change realized in the way in which we choose to spend our money?  I am fairly confident that a large percentage of people have no idea who or what they are supporting with their dollars…nor do they think ever about it.

Conversations with God says “Every act is an act of self-definition.”

Who are you defining yourself as when you give your money to an organization which espouses intolerance?  Who are you defining yourself as when you have no idea where your money is going and what it is supporting, but continue to do it anyway?  Who are you defining yourself as when you make conscious choices to share your money with organizations which are in alignment with who you really are?

According to

“The Salvation Army claims to offer its services ‘without discrimination.’ therefore invites the Salvation Army to live up to its claims of non-discrimination by affirming the following:

  • That the organization will no longer withdraw its charitable services from municipalities in order to avoid complying with non-discrimination laws.
  • That the organization’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees, as well as their partners, will no longer face discrimination or unequal treatment in hiring, promotion, or the provisioning of employment benefits.
  • That the organization will cease any and all political activities against fully equal rights and benefits for LGBT citizens of any nation.

These actions represent meaningful, concrete steps that the Salvation Army can take to show the world that it is genuinely and unreservedly committed to the cause of non-discrimination and equality for the LGBT community. Countless major charities worldwide are capable of effectively carrying out their charitable functions on a large scale without anti-LGBT political activities or anti-LGBT employment policies. believes the Salvation Army is capable of doing the same.

We recognize that the Salvation Army is capable of extraordinary goodness. This year, we’re optimistic that the Salvation Army will choose to truly ‘do the most good’ by opening their hearts to treat everyone with equal love, dignity, and respect.”

If you are reading these words, the time has come for you, too, to make a choice.  Of course, no choice being right and no choice being wrong, but all choices, rather, being a declaration of your own truth and an expression of who you know yourself to be.

So the next time you find yourself faced with a bell-toting, red-apron-wearing volunteer waving a bell in front of a red kettle, hoping silently for your contribution, what will you choose?

(Lisa McCormack is a Feature Editor at The Global Conversation. She is also a member of the Spiritual Helper team at, a website offering emotional and spiritual support. To connect with Lisa, please e-mail her at

‘Tis the season

This is that special time of year when we dream about peace.  We visualize prosperity and proclaim that old acquaintance be forgot.  We experience the giving and receiving of gifts and most people find themselves feeling rather charitable.  Yes, compassion fills our hearts and olive branches are extended.  The world’s armies put down their guns and break bread with their opponents.  We all come together and unite for a fleeting moment on Christmas Day.

Well, at least that is how all the songs and movies depict it anyway.  What actually happens for many this time of year doesn’t quite fit the bill of “joyful and triumphant!” Many people find themselves stressed over the financial burden of the holidays or the pressure to purchase the perfect gift for their special someone.  How could I not mention those in recovery and those who are still suffering with addictions?

This time of year can be very challenging to the newly sober person.  There are Christmas parties where even casual drinkers drink too much.  The expectation is to let loose and live it up.  For a recovering person, this isn’t an option and most people can’t understand that.  For those with addiction, one is too many and a thousand is never enough.

But the end of the year is a great time to reflect over the past twelve months. It is good to look at our lives from time to time and decide what is working for us and what is not.  For many, we will look at our physical condition and decide that it is time to make some changes.  Come January 2nd, the gyms, yoga studios, Pilates classes and the YMCA will be standing room only for three or four weeks.

Deep inside, all of us are yearning for the same things:  happiness, joy, contentment, peace, and freedom.  We just have no idea how to get it.  Does it come from things? Does it come from others? If you love me, will everything be okay?  Do we attain happiness from money, food, sex, drugs, being right?  What is it? And why do we have such a difficult time finding it and holding on to it?

I believe we have set up a system of living that just flat out doesn’t work.  Most would say, “If I had more money, I would be happy.”  The facts simply don’t prove that.  Very few people who win the lottery actually find happiness.  Many end up in a deeper pit of despair in a very short time.

Happiness is a decision. Not a simple one, I might add, but it is a decision.  And it would seem many of us are simply incapable of making that decision. Why do you think that is?  Is it our ego? Are we hardwired for “my way or the highway”?  Isn’t it time we break out of the “do it my way or else” paradigm?

I believe that we are becoming more conscious with time. I can look as far as my own life and see that my own beliefs have changed drastically since I was a child.  I have expanded my view of the world and strive to continue to do so.  I can also see in the children of today that they appear to be well-equipped to take us to a higher place.

I choose to believe we are going there.  In fact, I believe we are already there; we just don’t know it yet.  When asked, “Why do you strive to change the world’s view of God?” my reply is simple.  It would appear to me that the world’s perspective of what God is and wants for us isn’t working.  Now, I am not going to force my belief on anyone, but I do not hesitate to bring it up in conversation when I see the opportunity.  I know my perspective of God changed, so why can’t others?  Why can’t we all keep an open, flowing, and ever-willing-to-change view of God?

Let me ask you this: If given the opportunity to be right or be happy, which would you take?  Now to take that one step further.  If all you had to do was consider that what you believe to be true about God may not be the whole truth, and by doing so could bring you to a higher state of happiness, joy and freedom, would you take it?

(Kevin McCormack, C.A.d ,is a certified addictions professional and auriculotherapist.  He is a recovering addict with 26 years of sobriety. Kevin is a practicing auriculotherapist, life coach, and interventionist specializing in individual and family recovery and also co-facilitates spiritual recovery retreats for the CWG foundation.  You can visit his website here for more information. To connect with Kevin, please email him at

At your suggestion I have started doing Neale’s “How To Have Your Own Conversation With God” process on CWG TV. Today was my third CWG and it continues to be of tremendous help. I am still working on going deeper, but even now it is so good to go there, if that makes sense. 

When I first went to CWG TV the other day, I watched Neale’s introductory video, where he talks about re-contextualization. I immediately put it to use in regard to my ex-husband because I have continued to go on believing that somehow I just didn’t measure up to him, that I was somehow an inferior person and he wanted to move on to someone better than me. I have been divorced for over a decade, so this is kind of embarrassing to admit, but it’s true.

Well, the truth is I don’t know that for sure… and well, I guess you could say I just made it up and chose to keep believing it. So, like Neale said, why not make up something better, more to your liking. So I did. And I am sticking to it and feel so much better and am leaving that old “reality” behind. Do you have any insights or suggestions you can add to this? Thank you… Lee

Dear Lee,

You hit the nail on the proverbial head when you said you “chose to keep believing it.” A belief is only a thought that we’ve continued to think over and over, and the great thing about this is, we are always at choice as to what we will think about now! Yes, if this has been weighing on you for over a decade, it is high time for a New Thought. Change your thinking, change your life.

While you are re-contextualizing this event, I invite you to remember that Conversations With God says, “I have sent you nothing but angels.” The relationship with your ex-husband wouldn’t have existed were it not for your ultimate expansion and highest good.

My prayer regarding difficult situations is this: “Thank you, God, for helping me to see this through the lens of my soul, rather than through the filters of my mind.” Knowing that nothing happens to me, but that everything happens through me for my highest good, helps me rise to my God-perspective about things.

An attitude of gratitude changes everything. If you can try hard, with your own CWGs’ help, to find things to be truly grateful for about the entire experience with your ex—the good, the bad, and the ugly—the leftover memories and confusion can begin to release their hold on your deep psyche.

Now, about those personal CWGs: I am so glad you are doing them because they are enormously beneficial. Please, though, don’t feel you have to “work on going deeper”. Simply allow more information to come through as you become more comfortable with the practice. Different people have different depths of detail and some people’s CWGs are longer than others. The length of the response doesn’t matter, as long as you receive the clarity you desire.


(Annie Sims is the Global Director of CWG Advanced Programs, is a Conversations With God Coach and author/instructor of the CWG Online School. To connect with Annie, please email her at

(If you would like a question considered for publication, please submit your request to: where our team is waiting to hear from you.)

An additional resource:  The CWG Helping Outreach offers spiritual assistance from a team of non-professional/volunteer Spiritual Helpers responding to every post from readers within 24 hours or less. Nothing on the CCN site should be construed or is intended to take the place of or be in any way similar to professional therapeutic or counseling services.  The site functions with the gracious willing assistance of lay persons without credentials or experience in the helping professions.  What these volunteers possess is an awareness of the theology of Conversations with God.  It is from this context that they offer insight, suggestions, and spiritual support during moments of unbidden, unexpected, or unwelcome change on the journey of life.

Crimes and Godliness

This idea has been swimming in my head for a very long time. At one point in time, I was corresponding with more than 30 inmates in various correctional institutions around the country. The charges ranged from simple burglary to murder. One was even on death row.

I got to know them as men and women, not as criminals. They wrote about their families and about their dreams and their hopes for the future. They were poets, songwriters and artists. Several times a week, my mailbox would be graced with an envelope that was beautifully decorated by an inmate. I used to have a collage of many of these works of art, but sadly, I lost it in a house fire.

I was inspired by these men and women to rethink my ideas about those who commit crimes. To see them not as someone who got what they deserved, as “low life” who don’t deserve any of the “good things” in life, but as a human being who had made some ineffective choices.

I am aware that most people see the justice system as a means of making sure the criminal “gets what s/he deserves”, but I have long seen the justice system as a means of “rehabilitating” those incarcerated within its prison walls. It long ago ceased to make any sense to me to throw these people into cages, treat them like animals, deny them access to any means of bettering themselves and then, when we release them, to be surprised that they return to a life of crime!

A recent insight that came to me is that most crime is about trying to feel in control in a world that feels out of control on so many levels. Those who work in rape crisis centers have long been aware that rape is not a sex crime: it is a crime about power and control. Those who work in women’s shelters have long been aware that domestic violence is not about uncontrollable anger but about power and control over another. (The other crimes are where people just don’t think—they have a momentarily lapse of judgment and make a “stupid” decision. Like someone who shoplifts a cigarette lighter when they have the money in their pocket to pay for it.)

In the CwG material, God tells us that no one does anything inappropriate given his/her view of the world. And then recently, in What God Said, I read:

  • [T]he Conversations with God theology suggests that the only motivation that makes sense to our Soul is the goal of experiencing, expressing, and demonstrating Divinity. So we will, as enlightened beings, seek to do “what works” to produce that experience from moment to moment.

It was a sort of “Aha!” moment for me. How “enlightened” we are will determine “what works” for us to produce that experience of Divinity. And what, at its base, is the experience of Divinity? That of creating the life that we choose. And for those who are “less enlightened”, this is experienced as being the one who calls the shots. Being “in control.”

This logically leads to one conclusion: a criminal is seeking to express and demonstrate their view and understanding of Divinity! The creative energy that is part of that divinity manifests as taking control of others to create the world they want when they want it! It is “what works” for them to fulfill that drive to experience Divinity. Until they get caught.

It’s already evident that “getting tough on crime” doesn’t work. Rather than seeking harsher penalties and more jail time for those who have violated the social mores of their culture, perhaps it would be more effective to help them find further enlightenment so the next time they choose to express their Divinity, no one else is adversely affected.

Naughty or nice?

We protest mightily to any possibility of our lives being spied upon, traced, monitored, and kept track of.  We want our whereabouts to be kept private and our comings and goings to be off the grid.  For many, imagining that the government, big brother, or any other external entity has the ability to observe our every move is a chilling prospect.

So it is puzzling to me why the same doesn’t always hold true when it comes to what we tell our children.

“You better watch out.
You better not cry.
You better not pout.
I’m telling you why,
Santa Claus is coming to town.
He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!”

Yes, these are the lyrics to a well-known Christmas tune, one which is being sung over and over and over again to many children this time of year, especially in the few weeks leading up to Christmas Day, the day that the fat man with the white beard and red coat slides down the chimneys of all the houses in the world to give gifts to those boys and girls who have been good.  You know, those special children who have earned it and who deserve it.

And apparently the monumental job of keeping tabs on the do-gooders and wrong-doers has gotten too big for Santa.  Now he has elicited the assistance of an elf, an elf who sits on a shelf inside the homes of families around the world and reports back to Santa on a daily basis who is being naughty and who is being nice, which, as we all know, has a direct correlation to the amount of presents, if any, children stand to receive.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite fond of the jolly old fella and enjoy the magic and wonderment his character brings to the holidays.  I’m just wondering, could our children be given a better opportunity within which to understand what gift-giving is truly about?   Do they need to be spied upon, their choices tallied up by an elf who sits on a shelf, and their actions judged so harshly by this mysterious man who visits once a year and his loyal round-the-clock sidekick?   How do we expect our children to grasp larger concepts like a nonjudgmental God when we continue to throw ideas like a judgmental Santa Claus at them?

Isn’t one of the main reasons we struggle so much in our relationships because somewhere along the way we have been taught that in order to get something, we must give something or do something or be something?  We withhold our love when we think we are not receiving the love of another.  Maybe the best gifts we could give to a child are an appreciation for the gift of life itself, a deeper knowing of why we are all here in the first place, and the experience of giving and receiving in the spirit of love and compassion instead of one that is mired down by the heavy weight of consumerism and laced with lofty expectations.

If we tell our children that if they don’t behave, Santa won’t bring presents; or if we tell our children if they don’t straighten up, the policeman will take them away to jail; or if we tell our children if they aren’t good, God won’t let them into heaven, what is the underlying message we are really conveying to our kids?

(Lisa McCormack is a Feature Editor at The Global Conversation. She is also a member of the Spiritual Helper team at, a website offering emotional and spiritual support. To connect with Lisa, please e-mail her at

If you are looking for not only a “good read,” but an invigorating and inspiring take on the spiritual/political/economic issues of our day, do not miss the just-released book from my wonderful friend Matthew Fox, Letters to Pope Francis.

The Rev. Mr. Fox (he was once a Catholic priest, but was expelled from the church and became an Episcopalian priest) suggests that the Pope should go on an international tour with the Dalai Lama.  Below is what he says of the tour, followed by a remarkably detailed  and wonderfully informative look where the Pontiff stands.

— Neale Donald Walsch

Together Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama could speak to the obvious and real moral issues of our day:  Economic inequality based on a system of avarice not only at the top but in the consumer bottom and middle; gender injustice (something the Catholic Church has to address internally as well); ecological destruction; unemployment, especially among the young; the pressing need for religious and spiritual interfaith or deep ecumenism; the necessary and desired marriage of science and spirituality (as opposed to silly fundamentalism either by religion or by science).

The young could be deeply inspired by such a road show and I have no doubt that the two principals would themselves learn from one another.  This pope has displayed a refreshing humility and eagerness to learn from other religious leaders as in his book of dialogs with Rabbi Abraham Skorka of Argentina (who is also a PhD in science).  It is a fine book and they got together over a two year period to produce it.

Teachings of Pope Francis that stand out include some of the following.

1.  A walking of his talk of simpler lifestyle.  Pope Francis was well known in Argentina for taking public transportation to work and refusing any limousine­like service which so many prelates take for granted.  He has done the same in his new position as pope where he chooses not to live in the papal apartments but in a far more modest guest house or hotel in the Vatican.  He drives a Ford Focus in Vatican city.  Might he give over the apartments to Rome’s homeless?  He has also drawn some press recently for sneaking out at night from the Vatican in the simple priestly garb of black suit and color and hanging out with homeless in the streets of Rome.  One senses he is trying to walk the talk and follow his own preaching about simplification.  And he is putting pressure on other prelates to do the same.

2.  As for his talk, he tends to mince no words when speaking of the divergence of wealth and poverty today.  He speaks to globalization this way: “The globalization that makes everything uniform is essentially imperialist…it is not human.  In the end it is a way to enslave the nations.” (Fox, 24)[1]  Is globalization enslaving the nations?  Serious words worthy of a serious discussion.

3.  He says: “Christianity condemns both Communism and wild capitalism with the same vigor” and one needs to reject the “wild economic liberalism we see today” and “seek equal opportunities and rights and strive for social benefits, dignified retirement, vacation time, rest, and freedom of unions.”

4.  He praises St Francis because “he brought to Christianity an idea of poverty against the luxury, pride, vanity of the civil and ecclesiastical powers of the time” and for this reason “he changed history.”

5.  He takes on the neocon preoccupation with “world terrorism” and the fear such language arouses when he declares that “human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassination, but also by unfair economic structures that create huge inequalities.”  How important is that?  To equate economic structures with terrorism?  Yes, Wall Street terrorizes.  Ask any Main Street citizen.

6.  He denounces the “flight of money to foreign countries” as a sin because it dishonors “the people that worked to generate” that wealth.  He also condemns those who hide their wealth in off­shore accounts to avoid paying taxes that are so important for the common good.

7.  Pope Francis has said:  “The option for the poor comes from the first centuries of Christianity.  It is the Gospel itself.”  And he remarked that were he to preach sermons from the first fathers of the church on the needs of the poor he would be called a “Maoist” or “Trotskyte.”  (119)

8.  He critiques clericalism as a “distortion of religion” and says priests should not declare “I am the boss here” but listen to the community.  “The Catholic Church is the entire people of God” he declares a la Vatican II—not words the previous two popes were at all home with.  (85)

9.  “Human rights are violated by…unfair economic structures that create huge inequalities.” (71)

10.  On Holy Thursday Pope Francis washed the feet of young people in jail including the feet of some women, one of them being Muslim.  It is a custom to do this ritual after the memory of Jesus who also did it—but the Catholic right wing is up in arms about his daring to wash women’s feet and those of a Muslim woman!

11.  He endorses the concept of small communities over what he calls “hierarchical mega­institutions” because these better “nurture their own spirituality” and after all the “origin of Christianity was ‘parochial and later organized into small communities.” (94)

12.  “Repair my church in ruins” he said on taking over the office of the papacy.  He seems to get it.  The schismatic church of John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) has left a Catholicism which the young have abandoned en masse.

They left a church in ruins run by fascist leaning opus dei cardinals and bishops all over the world.  One Catholic paper in India declared “there is a civil war in the church.”  I for one do not believe this pope or any pope could return Catholicism to its previous state—or should. As I concluded in my book, “The Pope’s War,” I see the destruction of the Catholic Church as we know it the work of the Holy Spirit.  It is time to simplify the message and the presence of those who follow a Christ path.

It is time to travel with backpacks on our backs, not basilicas.  The pope’s work will not bring Catholics “back to the church” but hopefully it will inspire Christians and non­Christians alike to consider the basic teachings of Jesus around compassion and justice and start acting accordingly.

13.  Says Pope Francis: “The worship of the golden calf of hold has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any human goal.”  We need, he says, a “balanced social order that is more humane” and that resits consumerism.  “Money has to serve and not rule.”  It is a “savage capitalism” that teaches “the logic of profit at any cost” and exploitation of people.

14.  Says the pope: “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.”  Structures can “give us a false sense of security” and “rules makes us harsh judges…while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us, “give them something to eat.’”  He wants to decentralize the church for “excessive centralization, rather than proving helpful, complicates the church’s life and her missionary outreach.”

15.  Unfettered capitalism is a “new tyranny”  “Today we are living in an unjust international system in which ‘King Money’ is at the center.”  This “throwaway culture discards young people as well as its older people…..A whole generation of young people does not have the dignity that is brought by work.”  A “diminishing of the joy of life” is the result of such idolatry (125f) and interestingly he chose a parallel phrase, the “Joy of the Gospel” for the title of his most recentpronouncement.

In his recent document entitled “The Joy of the Gospel” Pope Francis speaks bluntly, as all the prophet do. He says No—as all the prophets do.  He denounces “trickle­down” economics as “never having been confirmed by the facts” and being built on a “crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power….Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.” [2]

Following are some of his No’s presented in his own words:

1.  “No to an economy of exclusion….An economy of exclusion and inequality kills….Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.”

2.  “No to the new idolatry of money….While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority form the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few…..Self­serving tax evasion has] taken on worldwide  dimensions.  The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits….Whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a defied market, which becomes the only rule.”

3.  “No to a financial system which rules rather than serves.  Ethics is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative.  It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person….

Money must serve, not rule!  The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor.  I exhort you to generous solidarity and a return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favors human beings.

4.  “No to the inequality which spawns violence.  [Violence happens not]simply because inequality provokes a violent reaction from those excluded form the system, but because the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root.  Just as goodness tends to spread, the toleration of evil, which is injustice, tends to expand its baneful influence and quietly to undermine any political and social system, no matter how solid it may appear…..Evil crystallized in unjust social structures…cannot be the basis of hope for a better future.

Pope Francis speaks out against an “education that would tranquilize the poor, making them tame and harmless.”  And he defines injustice as “evil.”  He has invited liberation theologian Gustavo Gutierrez to the Vatican and the word is out that he will canonize Archbishop Romero.

A different kind of papacy?  Surely from the past two popes; much more like Pope John XXIII. Does that mean we go back to papalolatry?  Absolutely not. But it does mean that it is good that a person in the public eye is keeping his sights on values that matter and speaking up for the kind of people of conscience who read and act on the values that Tikkun represents.

When it comes to issues of women, Pope Francis has much to learn (including how women were leaders in the early church).  But I think he is capable of learning.

On homosexuality, he has uttered a telling line, “Who am I to judge?” that certainly distances him from the previous two popes.  On issues of abortion, at least he has spoken to the need to care about the women involved.

Pope Francis is not perfect—none of us is—but he is an ally to all those seeking a world of justice and therefore peace.


[1] Subsequent citations are from Matthew Fox, Letters to Pope Francis (South Orange, NY: LevelFiveMedia, 2013

[2] Aaron Blake, “Pope Francis denounces ‘trickle­down’ economics, The Washington Post, Nov. 26, 2013.


Amidst all that the world’s people and their leaders have said following his death, is humanity praising Nelson Mandela to high heaven without listening to a word he said?

It is not necessary to agree with everything that a leader asserts, but can the world acknowledge even the smallest portion of what Mr. Mandela sought to bring to our attention — and to solve? Or are we going to honor the man while ignoring all that he pointed out to us?

One of his greatest struggles was against the economic inequality that produces rampant poverty. Do most people agree with what he had to say on this subject?

“Massive poverty and obscene inequality are such terrible scourges of our times — times in which the world boasts breathtaking advances in science, technology, industry and wealth accumulation — that they have to rank alongside slavery and apartheid as social evils,” the former president of South Africa once (and often) declared.

He did everything in his power, in speech after speech, in interview after interview, to make it clear to all of humanity that, in his exact words: “overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity.” Rather, he said, “it is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.”

Do we believe that? Does the majority of our species agree?

In eight words that may need to be heard in countries that routinely loudly boast of their liberties — the United States perhaps most notably among them — Mr. Mandela pointedly proclaimed: “While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.”

Does this sound uncannily like the words spoken by another world leader just a few days ago?  It was on November 26 that Pope Francis, in his internationally reported message to the world’s Catholics, warned against the “idolatry of money.”

The pontiff openly decried “the inequality that spawns violence,” and sharply criticized “trickle-down economics,” bluntly observing that the theory most often attributed in contemporary times to the late U.S. President Ronald Reagan “expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power.”

“Meanwhile,” Francis quietly added, “the excluded are still waiting.”

First in a series of articles on economic inequality
and spirituality, at the crossroads of the two

Eight days later U.S. President Barack Obama joined the chorus in a what has been described as one of the most important speeches of his presidency, forcefully directing attention to what he termed “a dangerous and growing inequality and lack of upward mobility that has jeopardized middle-class America’s basic bargain — that if you work hard, you have a chance to get ahead.”

Mincing no words, Mr. Obama labeled this endlessly expanding inequality the “defining challenge of our time.”

Is it possible that our planet is “getting a message” from several powerful voices at once — a message that events are making it virtually impossible to any longer ignore?

If, indeed, economic inequality is the challenge of our time, what could possibly be done — what action could be undertaken by humanity as a whole — to meet this challenge head on?

That shall be the central topic of a series of articles appearing in this newspaper in the days and weeks ahead. The time has come for us to stop burying our heads in the sand and start speaking out on this issue; to go to the next level — one step beyond the Occupy Movement that spoke of the “one percent” who they allege hold 95% of the world’s wealth, resources, and power.

What could happen after the Occupy Movement that could produce an outcome it could not? That is the question of the day. Could the Evolution Revolution be the answer?

Your comments and observations are invited below. And I believe that Mr. Mandela, were he still here today, would be the first encourage them. (Indeed, I have a notion that he is encouraging them in fact — from where he is right now.)

We might begin by considering the possibility that most of the world is looking at economic inequality in the wrong way. They are looking at it as an economic issue. It is not. It is a spiritual issue. That is clear. And that is why the problem has not heretofore been solved. We are trying to cure an illness with medicine directed at the wrong cause.


Did you know that there is a new book that identifies the 25 most important messages of the 9-installment Conversations with God series? It then offers practical suggestions on how to apply each message in every day life. Powerful and inspirational reading.  To see the first seven chapters and hear a one chapter sample of the audio book, click here.

(This is Part IV of an extended series on being part of the change, rather than simply observing the change, that is occurring on our planet right now.)

When I was a kid my father used to ask me the same question over and over again. I heard it so often that I can still hear it to this day, his voice ringing in my ear. Over and over, from the time I was six until the time I was 16 (after which I think he just gave up) my father kept asking me: Who do you think you are, anyway….?

Of course, this was not meant as a genuine inquiry. My father was in actuality trying to get me to stop acting the way I’d been acting.

Now we have an opportunity to get others—people all over the world—to stop acting the way they’ve been acting, by asking the same question: Who do you think you are, anyway……?

This is the only question there really is. There is nothing else to ask. Once we have answered this question, and once we have given it the highest answer, we will have changed the world.

What is “the highest answer”? It is, to use the language of Conversations with God, the next grandest version of the greatest vision ever we held about Who We Are.

It is our highest idea about ourselves; the grandest notion we can imagine. Amazingly, this is something that very few people think about. They rarely think about it as it relates to themselves, and they never think about it as it relates to humanity at large.

Ask yourself, right now, what is the next grandest version of the greatest vision ever you held about who you are? Do you even have a vision about who you are? If you do, you are among the few. If you do not, what would it take for you to create such a vision?

Are you a person who changes the world?

(By the way, changing the world is about changing the world around you. If “changing the world” sounds like too big a job for you, think of it as changing the experience and the understanding and the awareness of the people around you—the people whose lives you touch. That you can do, yes? Of course you can. And when you do that, you change the world. Because every change for the better that you produce in the life of another is sent forward through that other to those whose lives they touch, and then, through those others to still more, and still more. Do you believe that this is true? I assure you that it is. People who have changed the world have all started with one other person!)

So, are you a person who changes the world? Good. So what does it “look like” to be the next grandest version of that? What would it feel like to go to the next level in that experience?

That’s what we are talking about here. Our world will change when people change their idea about our world. The people on our planet will change when the people on our planet change their ideas about the people on our planet! It is every bit as simple as that.

We have to all ask ourselves, looking in the mirror, Who do you think you are, anyway……?

Then when we have decided, then when we have created what the next grandest version of that looks like, we can begin to take the ten simple steps outlined here, stepping into our role as a spiritual helper.

This is what Life is calling forth right now: spiritual helpers. For it is as it has been clearly stated in The New Revelations, in Tomorrow’s God, and in What God Wants: Our world is facing a spiritual dilemma of the first rank.