Sunday, 26 February 2012

Called to Serve

this movie came out just before i became a missionary. it felt like a documentary of a life i wanted.  "i just  caught on fire like i never thought i could.  i just caught on fire." the unity, the sense of purpose, the acceptance, it all was just an amazing experience.  look at us, we are like hogwart students getting ready for our big adventure.

i read the tolkien series just before my mission.  there was a part in it (that i actually marked in blair's awesome hardback copy) that said something to this effect:  'when you go in search of something, you always find something, it just might not be the something you were looking for'. my mission made that principal make so much sense!  with out further ado ...  Called to Serve  -- big hud to brother merrill who figure out that the best part of mormonism was happening right in front of our eyes ;)

for those reading this for class ... please journal your feelings about how missionary work, however you want to define that, has impacted your life.  remember, this is all just for self discovery.  i will never read your journals.  i may ask you to share them, but that's all.  this part is just for you ;)

its mostly me just journalling myself. ;)

also, shout out to dave there on the front row ;)

and dear dear franz, if you are out there!  i lost your email address when we ran into each other at LAX, but i'd love to hear how you are.  i talk with dave and tris lately, seems like maybe we need a reunion?  20 years ... coming up ... wild!

Friday, 24 February 2012

Best of Bread (&art)

do i have the coolest friends or what?

EMS: Work

with the events coming up in portland, it seems apropos to share some wit on unemployment in america.   i'm so glad it's improving.  this is an idea that comes from portlandia where they think they can get to 100% employment.

since i really admire the goal, i'm passing this idea along.  i don't really want people finishing my sentences, so i'm thinking this won't totally work, but maybe?

at this point, might as well try it.  maybe creat a new economy. 

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

happy independence day st. lucia

St. Lucia’s history is just as incredible as its natural beauty. Its first “unofficial” settlers were pirates. In the 1600’s, the famous pirate, Francois Le Clerc, nicknamed, Jambe de Bois (Wooden Leg), used St. Lucia (Pigeon Island on the northern tip of St. Lucia) as a base to attack passing ships. According to local legend, this pirate’s treasure is buried along the northern shore of Pigeon Island, near Pigeon Point.
If you were one of millions who viewed the popular movie “Pirates of the Caribbean” (starring Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom), you would have been introduced to the incredible scenery of St. Lucia. It is somewhat amusing that St. Lucia was chosen as one of the major sites to film this supposedly fictional movie, considering the fact that in real life it was a base for pirates.
The “official” settlers were the French who settled in St. Lucia as far back as 1660. They set up large plantations to cultivate sugar cane—a very valuable cash crop. These plantations, however, needed large numbers of workers—ones that could work in the unbearable tropical climate. The French settlers were too few in number and unsuitable for such hard manual labor, as they couldn’t work in the searing heat. (St. Lucia is close to the equator.) The problem was solved by importing slaves, primarily from Africa, who were used to tropical weather conditions. So many slaves were brought in that the predominant ethnic background of St. Lucia changed from European to African descent. This ethnic background of the inhabitants persists today.
The presence of sugar cane made St. Lucia a very valuable colony, and of course, aroused the interest of the British. Like many places in the world, the British fought the French to set up colonies, and St. Lucia was no exception. It passed hands between the British and the French 14 times, which explains why English and French names are used throughout the island. Finally, in 1814, the British took firm control of St. Lucia. Not surprisingly, the lives of most St. Lucian’s under the British did not change for the better—the British merely continued the plantation system with its reliance on a steady stream of African slaves. Not till 1833 did Britain finally outlaw slavery throughout its colonies. Interestingly, even though St. Lucia was a British colony till 1979 (under British rule for 165 years), it still managed somehow to retain its French heritage: many of the names of the towns and villages, the surnames of the inhabitants, the natural attractions, the various sites, and the various local culinary dishes are all in French. Even the name of the national bird is in French. It is almost as though the inhabitants just ignored the fact that they had been conquered by the British and just continued on as usual living in a French culture.
Unlike many tourist destinations, St. Lucia has tried to maintain its natural beauty. You will not find concrete skyscrapers, gaudy shopping malls, endless fast-food outlets, or over-development of condominiums. People come to St. Lucia to experience a tropical paradise, and thankfully St. Lucia has done much to preserve its natural beauty.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Early Morning Seminary: Peace is Zion?

What is peace?  What is Zion?  Questions that rest heavily on the minds of many I love.  Probably a good time to be honest about what Mormons believe about Zion. Right?

In the Book of Moses, Zion is defined as a state of being where individuals are linked together in community (often referred to as Enoch).  Each person in Enoch is in a state of Zion.  The state of being is dependent on their being community or others.  That is how people can come together where everyone is of "one heart and one mind, and [dwells] in righteousness; and there [is] no poor among them."  Or as others may say: 'God don't make no junk', mingled with a triple portion of 'no man is an island and no man walks alone'.  Or as Brother Merrill so elegantly wrote: "wherever you are, that's Zion to me".

The Mormon Bible Dictionary defines Zion as thus:

Zion. The word Zion is used repeatedly in all the standard works of the Church, and is defined in latter-day revelation as “the pure in heart” (D&C 97:21). Other usages of Zion have to do with a geographical location. For example, Enoch built a city that was called Zion (Moses 7:18–19); Solomon built his temple on Mount Zion (1 Kgs. 8:1; cf. 2 Sam. 5:6–7); and Jackson County, Missouri, is called Zion in many of the revelations in the D&C, such as58:49–5062:463:4872:1384:76104:47. The city of New Jerusalem, to be built in Jackson County, Missouri, is to be called Zion (D&C 45:66–67). The revelations also speak of “the cause of Zion” (D&C 6:611:6). In a wider sense all of North and South America are Zion (HC 6:318–19). For further references see 1 Chr. 11:5Ps. 2:699:2;102:16Isa. 1:272:34:3–533:2052:1–859:20Jer. 3:1431:6Joel 2:1–32Amos 6:1Obad. 1:17, 21Heb. 12:22–24Rev. 14:1–5; and many others. (In the N.T., Zion is spelled Sion.)

Does it mean living in a community that feels safe and secure?  Is it feeling the warmth of tighly woven networks of human interaction?  Is it existence sans conflict or is it 'grace under pressure'?

Some believe that when we extend compassion to everyone, we are doing what God (no matter who that is to you) would do it she were here.  To be treated the way Christ, God, a Queen, a President, the Prophet, the perfect Mother, benevolent Father, protective Brother, trusted Sister, nonjudgemental Auntie, etc would is the ideal in Mormonism.  When our Wards do this, it feels like Zion.

Peace is, ironically, not in the Bible Dictionary of the Mormon study helps.  So I will glean most of my info on this from my NIV and the Book of Mormon*

When I was a student at BYU Byron Merrill taught in the Ancient Scriptures Department,  this is from a paper he wrote in 1995:

Appearing repeatedly in the book of 4 Nephi is a phrase which speaks to the heart of what Zion was and will be. Occurring three times in its singular form and once in the plural within the first 18 verses, this phrase explains a primary reason for the blessed state enjoyed by the Nephites as well as the results which flowed therefrom. The phrase simply reads: “There was no contention.” In its simplicity lies a pattern for reestablishing Zion which encompasses both a warning of what must be avoided and a promise of what can, with the Lord’s help, be achieved.

Early in the Lord’s visit to the Nephites, as recorded in 3 Nephi, he taught the people this principle:

And there shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been.  For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.  Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away. (11:28–30)

The people in 4 Nephi received, internalized, and lived this commandment for a lengthy time. Verses 2 and 15 detail the reasons for their success in eradicating contention: “The people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly on with another”; and “there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people” (4 Nephi 1:2, 15). Two other verses disclose the blessings arising from this condition:

And it came to pass that there was no contention among all the people, in all the land; but there were mighty miracles wrought among the disciples of Jesus.

And how blessed were they! For the Lord did bless them in all their doings; yea, even they were blessed and prospered until an hundred and ten years had passed away; and the first generation from Christ had passed away, and there was no contention in all the land. (vv. 13, 18)

I'd just love to see the @CommonGoodAmerica call out those that think that fighting is the only answer. Let's put an end to this calling out of contention.

Jesus was a lover not a fighter.  Who is the disciple of Christ the hawk or the dove? The one willing to die for truth or the one willing to kill?

Is the purpose of life to identify what your willing to kill for to protect? Or is it to believe something so incredible that you'd rather just live, in part because you believe what sister Simon taught that: "life is eternal", and "love is immortal" and "death is only a horizon". Or, as the Great British Prophet Sting has taught "one day we will dance on our graves, and one day we will "sing our freedom".

 So why not just stand up in peace right now? Reach back to the person behind you, whose been chomping their gum the entire service, and say "peace be with you, my peace i give unto you." Let's see where that takes us.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Romney invented concept of Too Big To Fail?

is it true that romney coined the phrase "too big to fail" in negotiating the federal bailout of the 2002 olympics?  did we ever get to the bottom of that scandal?

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Bathtub thoughts*: Wha DjuWant? Bono v MoTab

*Bathtub thoughts are the deep profound questions that float around my head while I do hydrotherapy exercises. My guess is that Sister Jepperson will find most of these thoughts neither deep nor profound, but maybe only one will be both.
I was going to title this, "you want some of this" but that + bathtub seemed too provocative for the wonky tone I carry in my heart.

Considering the state of the world -- Iran preparing for war with Israel; misogyny becoming a political party in the US; bishops making up political fights so they can feel relevant even though 99.9% of their flock sins on a daily bases (i know, shocker!) -- I can't help but wonder if conservative/orthodox/calvanistic christians, mormons, jews, catholics, muslims, etc etc etc aren't stimulating war on purpose?

If you believe in Old Testament Ezekiel and the Battle of Gog and Magog, couldn't you believe that this is the happy one?  The one that is not about physical blood but the triumph of man over sin?  When we prove to the world that John was right when he told us that "perfect love casteth out all fear".

I know hawks who see war as a way to separate the wheat from the tares.  Hawks believe that the Earth might actually need to burn up so that God can come again and bring the white dove of peace. Because that guy never forgets to bring wine to a dinner party ... ya know!

I wonder how Hawks reconcile those notions with this idea from Elder Maxwell:

If you sense that one day every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord, why not do so now? For in the coming of that collective confession, it will mean much less to kneel down when it is no longer possible to stand up!

Jesus explained this pretty clearly to a "certain ruler" in Luke 18:18-24, "how hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!"?  He teaches, first learn to control yourself and cleans your "inner vessel".  Live the Old Testament basics before you try to live the higher law.  "Line upon line, precept on precept".

Jesus is basically saying, don't kill, cheat, lie, steal, etc for any reason. As the Salvationist Captian and Tenielle used to say: "Love, love will keep us together.  THink of me, babe, whenever some sweet talking girl comes along ... Stop, cuz I really love you."

Love people the way you know you need to be loved.  “If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves” (Teachings, 343). Which is why King Benjamin says that "when you are in the service of your fellow beings you are only in the service of your God".

I think what they are getting at here is that this separation of God and man is false.  The veil itself is an invention.  The rich are no different than us, they are just so scared that when they start to feel threatened they attack.  Like distrained pitbulls. You can rescue that puppy, but it will always be scared.

Regardless, we can all embrace the peace that Jesus taught now.  Like right this second. If we all just decide not to fight, we probably won't have as much fighting.  That is how it works on playgrounds.

To to my calvinist friends, i think i think what Thoreau meant was you have to face the fire.  Humans go through the pain in order to live.  Without opposition, one can't  know love and pleasure.  "the only way out is through", it's true. But you can build bridges or use bulldozers.  WIthout tasting salt, you can't describe it.  Without experiencing sour and sweet, you can't explain the difference.  So it is with life.  We can't know love, until we have known hate.  That doesn't mean we have to hate though.  We can love.

I know that in the hierarchy of the animal kingdom insects are worth exterminating where as the "worth of the soul is great in the eyes of the Lord".  But in the hierarchy of the pop, Beetles really crush the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  Which is why we sang "All you need is Love" at Didi's funeral.

Since we feel true stewardship for the earth, we do everything in our power to protect and beautify the earth. Aren't we supposed to cherish the love the earth wants to give by growing gardens, enjoying recreation time as a family, following the words of wisdom about how to treat our bodies, and how the way we treat our bodies affects our souls.

I guess it is this worldview I hold of the worth of every soul and the divine nature of this planet and the country I was born to.  I learn things like the Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill (DWHOS) is not the biggest oil spill ever in the world.  Just the biggest one over here, in this part of the globe.  560-585 thousand tons of crude oil.

Oddly enough the largest "oil spill" lead to some fires and additional spills that lasted the entire year of 1991.

Starting in January 19, 1991 the Persian Gulf Oil Spill which dumped 818–1,091 thousand tons of crude oil into the Persian Gulf. Twice as much as spilt in the Gulf.  But wait, there's more ...

Resulting fires burnt 136,000-205,000 thousand tons of crude oil into the atmosphere.  The Kuwaiti oil fires unleashed 2000 times as much oil as Deep Water Horizon.   No one knows if its worse for it to go in the air or in the water.  People will claim a definitative, and then its proven wrong.  Chicken and egg question.  There is no answer.  They are equally atrocious, and we need to figure out how to get that muck out of the atmosphere.

(I have to say, I wish the bishops would care more about spilled oil than spilled seaman.)

I'd love to add a couple of satyrical verses to this popular Mormon hymn.  They'd be about the current political environment which also causes me to "stand all amazed":

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

USCCB, a note from your mothers

dear bishops,

we are a group of your mothers, who have banded together to apologize.

we speak for, and in behalf of, many sisters.  i'm sure, if you ask your mom, sister (your last name) is part of our team.

we are all very proud of you and that you became a bishop! t'was always a dream to raise a son who was pure enough to become a priest. we also regret that you never got to enjoy the joys of family and the pleasure of sex.  

we are actually a bit worried that we didn't teach you about sex well.  we are wondering if this whole misunderstanding about contraception is actually our fault. (catholic guilt?)

so, we hope you will finally feel like we can have an open conversation about sex.  we've been avoiding this since 1965. we felt weird talking to you, because you didn't seem to want to talk about it.  but we should have just pushed through because we fear we let you down by not having the "birds and the bees" conversation with you earlier.  we know you think sex is kinda gross ... but its not, and that is what we need to talk about.

see, it was okay for you to be this afraid of sex when you were 14, we all kinda were.  it is some great unknown that seems to make the world go round.  obviously a intimidating power when you want to think of God as the omnipotent.  if the penultimate to infinite is everyone on the planet having the happiest most pleasurable feeling in the world and then singing about it ... and then taking a giant nap ... you realise that omnipotent is seriously potent ;)

but kidding aside, sex isn't just penetration boys. sex is about trust, love, honesty.  its an epistemology of its own.  one can know through study and prayer, but one can also know the way adam knew eve (or even knew adam).  its just a different type of knowledge.  there are ways to have sex without penetration. if you'd like i can explain somethings, but i know you'd feel more comfortable working that out with your fellow priests.

all we are saying, is that some of these policies you are freaking out about, are about things you really just don't understand.  there is nothing wrong with contraception.  Jesus didn't talk about it, neither did Mary.  

we are beginning to wonder if you have issues with us, and those issues are spilling into a giant misunderstanding about women.

sex is a gift from God.  we in a small group of primates who are even able to have sex for pleasure.  some believe that one of the things that sets us apart is a woman can also have an orgasm. many people like having sex and it doesn't matter if they are boys and girls.  sex is this, as sister taylor like to say, "this amazing secret super power" that can both enliven and relax; restore and destroy; bring pleasure and/or pain.  but just because it is complicated, doesn't mean it should be avoided.

as you are well aware, some people don't get to choose when or how or who to have sex with.  many don't sexually debut by choice. 33% of us, your mothers and sisters, have been sexually abused at some point in our lives.  for many of us, sexual abuse is our sexual debut.  which means that there is a heap of healing necessary before trust, love, and safety can feel real.

"man is free to act for himself and not to be acted upon", but we are not free to choose the result of our action.  thus, sometimes the spiritual consequence of pre-marital sex is love. ideally,  love built on trust, safety, and vulnerability, made possible to premarital sex.  made safe by understanding of sexually transmitted diseases and the power of latex.  made safer through contraception.  now premarital sex isn't anything near the sin of taking someone's life into your own lust (lame sentence, i just didn't want to say penis, but hands didn't seem quite right in this context of creation...)  what we mean is, having sex doesn't have to have any risk of having a child.

a woman can use an IUD or take a pill which stops the process of human making.  or a man can cut his vans deference and no sperm will be ejaculated.

when you use these types of baby-creating interventions,  unintended pregnancy becomes impossible.  

please sons, help women have more control of their own bodies.  when a woman can control her sex life and fertility, she is more able to go to school, work, etc to lift her family out of poverty.

at any rate, we'd like to invite you to read up on this a bit.   we think you've been mislead by our cold war, pre-sexual revolution understanding of sex.  we know the priesthood is not the best place to get sexually educated. so let's talk a bit more about this soon.


reading list for our bishop sons:

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Song of the Week: Every Sperm is Sacred

before you view, i feel obligated to say what our dearist bishop denny allred would say before watching this video: "i beseech of you, i request of you, plead with you, and; i'd admonish you; and command you steer clear from monty python."

Friday, 10 February 2012

contreception for all?

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

Remarks by the President on Preventive Care

As part of the health care reform law that I signed last year, all insurance plans are required to cover preventive care at no cost.  That means free check-ups, free mammograms, immunizations and other basic services.  We fought for this because it saves lives and it saves money –- for families, for businesses, for government, for everybody.  That’s because it’s a lot cheaper to prevent an illness than to treat one.

We also accepted a recommendation from the experts at the Institute of Medicine that when it comes to women, preventive care should include coverage of contraceptive services such as birth control.  In addition to family planning, doctors often prescribe contraception as a way to reduce the risks of ovarian and other cancers, and treat a variety of different ailments.  And we know that the overall cost of health care is lower when women have access to contraceptive services.

Nearly 99 percent of all women have relied on contraception at some point in their lives –- 99 percent.  And yet, more than half of all women between the ages of 18 and 34 have struggled to afford it.  So for all these reasons, we decided to follow the judgment of the nation’s leading medical experts and make sure that free preventive care includes access to free contraceptive care.

Whether you’re a teacher, or a small businesswoman, or a nurse, or a janitor, no woman’s health should depend on who she is or where she works or how much money she makes.  Every woman should be in control of the decisions that affect her own health. Period.  This basic principle is already the law in 28 states across the country.

Now, as we move to implement this rule, however, we’ve been mindful that there’s another principle at stake here –- and that’s the principle of religious liberty, an inalienable right that is enshrined in our Constitution.  As a citizen and as a Christian, I cherish this right.

In fact, my first job in Chicago was working with Catholic parishes in poor neighborhoods, and my salary was funded by a grant from an arm of the Catholic Church.  And I saw that local churches often did more good for a community than a government program ever could, so I know how important the work that faith-based organizations do and how much impact they can have in their communities.

I also know that some religious institutions -– particularly those affiliated with the Catholic Church -– have a religious objection to directly providing insurance that covers contraceptive services for their employees.  And that’s why we originally exempted all churches from this requirement -– an exemption, by the way, that eight states didn’t already have.

And that’s why, from the very beginning of this process, I spoke directly to various Catholic officials, and I promised that before finalizing the rule as it applied to them, we would spend the next year working with institutions like Catholic hospitals and Catholic universities to find an equitable solution that protects religious liberty and ensures that every woman has access to the care that she needs.

Now, after the many genuine concerns that have been raised over the last few weeks, as well as, frankly, the more cynical desire on the part of some to make this into a political football, it became clear that spending months hammering out a solution was not going to be an option, that we needed to move this faster.  So last week, I directed the Department of Health and Human Services to speed up the process that had already been envisioned.  We weren’t going to spend a year doing this; we're going to spend a week or two doing this.

Today, we've reached a decision on how to move forward.  Under the rule, women will still have access to free preventive care that includes contraceptive services -– no matter where they work.  So that core principle remains.  But if a woman’s employer is a charity or a hospital that has a religious objection to providing contraceptive services as part of their health plan, the insurance company -– not the hospital, not the charity -– will be required to reach out and offer the woman contraceptive care free of charge, without co-pays and without hassles.

The result will be that religious organizations won’t have to pay for these services, and no religious institution will have to provide these services directly.  Let me repeat:  These employers will not have to pay for, or provide, contraceptive services.  But women who work at these institutions will have access to free contraceptive services, just like other women, and they'll no longer have to pay hundreds of dollars a year that could go towards paying the rent or buying groceries.

Now, I've been confident from the start that we could work out a sensible approach here, just as I promised.  I understand some folks in Washington may want to treat this as another political wedge issue, but it shouldn’t be.  I certainly never saw it that way.  This is an issue where people of goodwill on both sides of the debate have been sorting through some very complicated questions to find a solution that works for everyone. With today’s announcement, we've done that.  Religious liberty will be protected, and a law that requires free preventive care will not discriminate against women.  

We live in a pluralistic society where we're not going to agree on every single issue, or share every belief.  That doesn’t mean that we have to choose between individual liberty and basic fairness for all Americans.  We are unique among nations for having been founded upon both these principles, and our obligation as citizens is to carry them forward.  I have complete faith that we can do that.

Thank you very much, everybody.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Remarks by the President at the National Prayer Breakfast

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                           February 2, 2012


Washington Hilton
Washington, D.C.

9:10 A.M. EST

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Please, please, everybody have a seat.  Well, good morning, everybody.  It is good to be with so many friends united in prayer.  And I begin by giving all praise and honor to God for bringing us together here today.

I want to thank our co-chairs Mark and Jeff; to my dear friend, the guy who always has my back, Vice President Biden.  (Applause.)  All the members of Congress –- Joe deserves a hand –- all the members of Congress and my Cabinet who are here today; all the distinguished guests who’ve traveled a long way to be part of this.  I’m not going to be as funny as Eric -- (laughter) -- but I’m grateful that he shared his message with us.  Michelle and I feel truly blessed to be here.

This is my third year coming to this prayer breakfast as President.  As Jeff mentioned, before that, I came as senator.  I have to say, it’s easier coming as President.  (Laughter.)  I don’t have to get here quite as early.  But it’s always been an opportunity that I’ve cherished.  And it’s a chance to step back for a moment, for us to come together as brothers and sisters and seek God’s face together.  At a time when it’s easy to lose ourselves in the rush and clamor of our own lives, or get caught up in the noise and rancor that too often passes as politics today, these moments of prayer slow us down.  They humble us.  They remind us that no matter how much responsibility we have, how fancy our titles, how much power we think we hold, we are imperfect vessels.  We can all benefit from turning to our Creator, listening to Him.  Avoiding phony religiosity, listening to Him.  
This is especially important right now, when we’re facing some big challenges as a nation.  Our economy is making progress as we recover from the worst crisis in three generations, but far too many families are still struggling to find work or make the mortgage, pay for college, or, in some cases, even buy food.  Our men and women in uniform have made us safer and more secure, and we were eternally grateful to them, but war and suffering and hardship still remain in too many corners of the globe.  And a lot of those men and women who we celebrate on Veterans Day and Memorial Day come back and find that, when it comes to finding a job or getting the kind of care that they need, we’re not always there the way we need to be.

It’s absolutely true that meeting these challenges requires sound decision-making, requires smart policies.  We know that part of living in a pluralistic society means that our personal religious beliefs alone can’t dictate our response to every challenge we face. 

But in my moments of prayer, I’m reminded that faith and values play an enormous role in motivating us to solve some of our most urgent problems, in keeping us going when we suffer setbacks, and opening our minds and our hearts to the needs of others. 

We can’t leave our values at the door.  If we leave our values at the door, we abandon much of the moral glue that has held our nation together for centuries, and allowed us to become somewhat more perfect a union.  Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Jane Addams, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, Abraham Heschel -- the majority of great reformers in American history did their work not just because it was sound policy, or they had done good analysis, or understood how to exercise good politics, but because their faith and their values dictated it, and called for bold action -- sometimes in the face of indifference, sometimes in the face of resistance.

This is no different today for millions of Americans, and it’s certainly not for me.

I wake up each morning and I say a brief prayer, and I spend a little time in scripture and devotion.  And from time to time, friends of mine, some of who are here today, friends like Joel Hunter or T.D. Jakes, will come by the Oval Office or they’ll call on the phone or they’ll send me a email, and we’ll pray together, and they’ll pray for me and my family, and for our country.

But I don’t stop there.  I’d be remiss if I stopped there; if my values were limited to personal moments of prayer or private conversations with pastors or friends.  So instead, I must try -- imperfectly, but I must try -- to make sure those values motivate me as one leader of this great nation.

And so when I talk about our financial institutions playing by the same rules as folks on Main Street, when I talk about making sure insurance companies aren’t discriminating against those who are already sick, or making sure that unscrupulous lenders aren’t taking advantage of the most vulnerable among us, I do so because I genuinely believe it will make the economy stronger for everybody.  But I also do it because I know that far too many neighbors in our country have been hurt and treated unfairly over the last few years, and I believe in God’s command to “love thy neighbor as thyself.”  I know the version of that Golden Rule is found in every major religion and every set of beliefs -– from Hinduism to Islam to Judaism to the writings of Plato. 

And when I talk about shared responsibility, it’s because I genuinely believe that in a time when many folks are struggling, at a time when we have enormous deficits, it’s hard for me to ask seniors on a fixed income, or young people with student loans, or middle-class families who can barely pay the bills to shoulder the burden alone.  And I think to myself, if I’m willing to give something up as somebody who’s been extraordinarily blessed, and give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy, I actually think that’s going to make economic sense.

But for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’s teaching that “for unto whom much is given, much shall be required.”  It mirrors the Islamic belief that those who’ve been blessed have an obligation to use those blessings to help others, or the Jewish doctrine of moderation and consideration for others.

When I talk about giving every American a fair shot at opportunity, it’s because I believe that when a young person can afford a college education, or someone who’s been unemployed suddenly has a chance to retrain for a job and regain that sense of dignity and pride, and contributing to the community as well as supporting their families -- that helps us all prosper. 

It means maybe that research lab on the cusp of a lifesaving discovery, or the company looking for skilled workers is going to do a little bit better, and we’ll all do better as a consequence.  It makes economic sense.  But part of that belief comes from my faith in the idea that I am my brother’s keeper and I am my sister’s keeper; that as a country, we rise and fall together.  I’m not an island.  I’m not alone in my success.  I succeed because others succeed with me.

And when I decide to stand up for foreign aid, or prevent atrocities in places like Uganda, or take on issues like human trafficking, it’s not just about strengthening alliances, or promoting democratic values, or projecting American leadership around the world, although it does all those things and it will make us safer and more secure.  It’s also about the biblical call to care for the least of these –- for the poor; for those at the margins of our society. 

To answer the responsibility we’re given in Proverbs to “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.”  And for others, it may reflect the Jewish belief that the highest form of charity is to do our part to help others stand on their own. 

Treating others as you want to be treated.  Requiring much from those who have been given so much.  Living by the principle that we are our brother’s keeper.  Caring for the poor and those in need.  These values are old.  They can be found in many denominations and many faiths, among many believers and among many non-believers.  And they are values that have always made this country great -- when we live up to them; when we don’t just give lip service to them; when we don’t just talk about them one day a year.  And they’re the ones that have defined my own faith journey. 

And today, with as many challenges as we face, these are the values I believe we’re going to have to return to in the hopes that God will buttress our efforts.

Now, we can earnestly seek to see these values lived out in our politics and our policies, and we can earnestly disagree on the best way to achieve these values.  In the words of C.S. Lewis, “Christianity has not, and does not profess to have a detailed political program.  It is meant for all men at all times, and the particular program which suited one place or time would not suit another.” 

Our goal should not be to declare our policies as biblical.  It is God who is infallible, not us.  Michelle reminds me of this often.  (Laughter.)  So instead, it is our hope that people of goodwill can pursue their values and common ground and the common good as best they know how, with respect for each other.  And I have to say that sometimes we talk about respect, but we don’t act with respect towards each other during the course of these debates.

But each and every day, for many in this room, the biblical injunctions are not just words, they are also deeds.  Every single day, in different ways, so many of you are living out your faith in service to others. 

Just last month, it was inspiring to see thousands of young Christians filling the Georgia Dome at the Passion Conference, to worship the God who sets the captives free and work to end modern slavery.  Since we’ve expanded and strengthened the White House faith-based initiative, we’ve partnered with Catholic Charities to help Americans who are struggling with poverty; worked with organizations like World Vision and American Jewish World Service and Islamic Relief to bring hope to those suffering around the world.  

Colleges across the country have answered our Interfaith Campus Challenge, and students are joined together across religious lines in service to others.  From promoting responsible fatherhood to strengthening adoption, from helping people find jobs to serving our veterans, we’re linking arms with faith-based groups all across the country. 

I think we all understand that these values cannot truly find voice in our politics and our policies unless they find a place in our hearts.  The Bible teaches us to “be doers of the word and not merely hearers.”  We’re required to have a living, breathing, active faith in our own lives.  And each of us is called on to give something of ourselves for the betterment of others -- and to live the truth of our faith not just with words, but with deeds.  

So even as we join the great debates of our age -- how we best put people back to work, how we ensure opportunity for every child, the role of government in protecting this extraordinary planet that God has made for us, how we lessen the occasions of war -- even as we debate these great issues, we must be reminded of the difference that we can make each day in our small interactions, in our personal lives.

As a loving husband, or a supportive parent, or a good neighbor, or a helpful colleague -- in each of these roles, we help bring His kingdom to Earth.  And as important as government policy may be in shaping our world, we are reminded that it’s the cumulative acts of kindness and courage and charity and love, it’s the respect we show each other and the generosity that we share with each other that in our everyday lives will somehow sustain us during these challenging times.  John tells us that, “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

Mark read a letter from Billy Graham, and it took me back to one of the great honors of my life, which was visiting Reverend Graham at his mountaintop retreat in North Carolina, when I was on vacation with my family at a hotel not far away.

And I can still remember winding up the path up a mountain to his home.  Ninety-one years old at the time, facing various health challenges, he welcomed me as he would welcome a family member or a close friend.  This man who had prayed great prayers that inspired a nation, this man who seemed larger than life, greeted me and was as kind and as gentle as could be.

And we had a wonderful conversation.  Before I left, Reverend Graham started praying for me, as he had prayed for so many Presidents before me.  And when he finished praying, I felt the urge to pray for him.  I didn’t really know what to say.  What do you pray for when it comes to the man who has prayed for so many?  But like that verse in Romans, the Holy Spirit interceded when I didn’t know quite what to say.

And so I prayed -- briefly, but I prayed from the heart.  I don’t have the intellectual capacity or the lung capacity of some of my great preacher friends here that have prayed for a long time.  (Laughter.)  But I prayed.  And we ended with an embrace and a warm goodbye.

And I thought about that moment all the way down the mountain, and I’ve thought about it in the many days since.  Because I thought about my own spiritual journey –- growing up in a household that wasn’t particularly religious; going through my own period of doubt and confusion; finding Christ when I wasn’t even looking for him so many years ago; possessing so many shortcomings that have been overcome by the simple grace of God.  And the fact that I would ever be on top of a mountain, saying a prayer for Billy Graham –- a man whose faith had changed the world and that had sustained him through triumphs and tragedies, and movements and milestones –- that simple fact humbled me to my core.

I have fallen on my knees with great regularity since that moment -- asking God for guidance not just in my personal life and my Christian walk, but in the life of this nation and in the values that hold us together and keep us strong.  I know that He will guide us.  He always has, and He always will.  And I pray his richest blessings on each of you in the days ahead.
Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

                             END               9:30 A.M. EST