Subject: NCC Weekly News

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From Jim: Some handy Christmas gift ideas
For the most part, I turned off the TV in 2015. I’ve always loved reading. By the time I was six or seven I would walk right behind my mother reading a book as she made her way through the grocery store. I’m a big fan of the public library. Here are some books I’ve read over the past year that I can recommend to those who are making up Christmas lists:


The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism,” by Edward Baptist. A seminal work. 

The Fifty-One Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza by Max Blumenthal. The story the American media doesn’t want to tell. 

The Homesick Texan’s family Table: Lonestar Cooking from My Kitchen to Yours,” Lisa Fain. My family’s from Oklahoma. These are recipes I resonate with. 

Frank: A Life in Politics From the Great Society to Same-Sex Marriage,” by Barney Frank. A personal history combined with many lessons in politics and American history from the legendary Congressman.

Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War,” by Leymah Gbowee. The inspiring story from Liberia by the Nobel Peace Prize Winner. She was the keynote speaker to the NCC’s 2015 Christian Unity Gathering. 

One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America,” by Kevin Kruse. A disquieting story. 

“Power Forward: My Presidential Education,” by Reggie Love. An enjoyable and quick read by President Obama’s former ‘body man.’

“The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI,” by Betty Medsger. Must reading. 

“Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War,” by James Risen. How our government abuses power and spies on all of us. 

“Denmark Vesey,” by David Robertson. The biography of the leader of the great slave revolt. Vesey was a member of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. 

“Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption,” by Bryan Stevenson. The great founder of the Equal Justice Initiative tells his story. 

“Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power,” by Timothy Tyson. An often forgotten African American leader. I recommend this be read in conjunction with Umoja’s book listed below.

“We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement,” by Akinyele Omowale Umoja. Not everyone was committed to nonviolence. 

“The Last of the President’s Men,” by Bob Woodward. The story of Alexander Butterfield, the man who revealed the existence of Nixon’s office taping system. 


“Make Me,” by Lee Child. Like many, I’ve read most of the Jack Reacher thrillers. It’s not great literature, but Child spins a good yarn.

“The Burning Room,” by Michael Connelly. Another in the Detective Harry Bosch series. Enjoyable. 

“The Marauders,” by Tom Cooper. Set in the Louisiana bayou after the BP oil spill. Little guy takes on the powers that be. 

“The Rogue Lawyer,” by John Grisham. I suppose you either love Grisham or you hate him. I love him and the Methodists are always nicely portrayed by him. 

“I am Pilgrim,” by Terry Hayes. A lively thriller about the Middle East. Of course, the US side wins.

“The Bone Tree,” by Greg Iles. The sequel to “Natchez Burning,” a fascinating story of American history over the past 50 years. 

“Station Eleven,” by Emily St. John Mandel. I’m a sucker for end of the world tales. This is a good one. 

“The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August,” by Claire North. Harry August dies over and over again but eventually saves the planet. 

“Seveneves,” by Neal Stephenson. The incomparable Neal Stephenson ponders the end of the earth.

“The Cartel,” by Don Winslow. An incredible novel of the Mexican drug trade. I also recommend other novels by Winslow including, “The Life and Death of Bobby Z,” The Kings of Cool,” and “California Fire and Life.”

Meanwhile, right now I am reading:

“The Sympathizer,” by Viet Thanh Nguyen. A fascinating spy novel from the Vietnam War.

“The Bible in Translation: Ancient and English Versions,” by Bruce Metzger. A survey of various translations by a key leader in the creation of the New Revised Standard Version.

“In Discordance with the Scriptures: American Protestant Battles Over Translating the Bible,” by Peter Thuesen. Good background reading for the head of the NCC!

“Infidel Kings and Unholy Warriors: Faith, Power, and Violence in the age of Crusade and Jihad,” by Brian Catlos. Timely.

Merry Christmas!

Jim Winkler,
President and General Secretary

NCC stands against demagoguery in Presidential campaign

It is gratifying that many faith leaders, media figures, and politicians have denounced the demand by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump that Muslims be banned from entering the country. The National Council of Churches joins our voice to those who have expressed outrage at his comments.

At the recent meeting of the Governing Board of the NCC, a statement on hateful rhetoric was adopted which “calls on all candidates for office to refrain from utilizing speech that reflects hatred of others and results in the division of society as a way to promote their candidacies.” This statement speaks to the larger matter but does not address Mr. Trump's most recent comments.

The New York Times has carried out a careful examination of Mr. Trump's rhetoric and has concluded it bears disturbing demagogic tendencies similar to “Goldwater, George Wallace, Joseph McCarthy, Huey Long and Pat Buchanan, who used fiery language to try to win favor with struggling or scared Americans.” Demagogic rhetoric, while sometimes popular, is damaging to the body politic and we reiterate our request that political candidates not employ it.

Finally, we not only express our solidarity with our Muslim sisters and brothers, we pledge to protect and shelter them physically and spiritually with our words and our deeds. It is a certainty that many Christians will give active aid and assistance to Muslims if efforts are made to ban them, register them, or harm them. 
We urge Christians across the nation to respond to hate with love, and to the stranger with hospitality and generosity, taking the Great Commandment to heart: 

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, 
“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with 
all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 
‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments 
hang all the law and the prophets.”

     -Matthew 22:36-40 NRSV
Faith leaders join U.S. Senators in call to accept refugees

In the wake of the tragic attacks in Paris and more recently in San Bernardino, Calif., many have been quick to point fingers and place blame on refugee families fleeing horrific violence in Syria and other countries. In reaction to the ugly, xenophobic rhetoric heard on the campaign trail and attempts in Congress to restrict the resettlement of refugees in the U.S., a coalition of national faith leaders from across the religious spectrum joined Senators Leahy (D-VT), Durbin (D-IL) and Kaine (D-VA) to call for an end to incendiary and divisive remarks.

At the press conference this morning, the group responded to the latest attempts to vilify refugees and called on lawmakers to engage in smart, moral policy making over reactionary fear mongering.

“Intolerance has no place in our country," said U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT). "Accepting refugees is a part of our history, our culture, of who we are, and it can be done safely with the proper screening procedures. In the words of Pope Francis, our message to those seeking refugee should be ‘one of hope and healing, of peace and justice.’ To respond by closing our doors to those fleeing our enemy is to give in to that enemy. It is in these difficult moments that our actions most directly reflect who we are as a nation. It is time for Senators to lead by following our consciences. It is time to do what is right and moral.”

Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath Weekend

Join places of worship across the nation on December 10-14 to remember those who have lost their lives to gunfire, pray for those whose lives have been forever changed because of the loss of a loved one, and to educate one another on proven strategies to reduce gun violence. List your congregation, event ideas and access the online tool kit at

Why observe the Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath?

It has been nearly 3 years since an individual armed with multiple weapons entered an elementary school in Newtown, CT, and took the lives of 20 children and 6 adults before taking his own life. In 2015 the terrible toll of gun violence continues to march before us in daily newspaper headlines and television news stories. Yet despite impassioned expressions of outrage and sorrow over needless loss of life, and polarizing political rhetoric, Congress has failed to take meaningful steps to address the escalating cycle of gun violence.

NCC Philippines: Justice Delayed, Human Rights Ignored and Human Dignity Abused

“On the occasion of the observance of Human Rights Day, it is disappointing that there has been no progress made over the last six years to end the culture of impunity in the Philippines” said Fr. Rex RB. Reyes, Jr., General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines. “It is also a silent issue among the current crop of presidentiables”. Over the last six years there has been an utter failure to deal with human rights abuses, especially extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, and cases of torture committed under the previous Arroyo administration, despite commitments by President Aquino. There have also been ongoing killings and abuses, and an escalation of abuses committed by the AFP especially against indigenous people and others who stand in the path of mining and other large scale projects. The culture of impunity perpetuates itself with cases of human rights abuses inadequately investigated and those identified as perpetrators continuing to evade the processes of legal justice.
Disciple, United Church of Christ leaders speak up for Muslim sisters, brothers

A joint statement of the leadership 
of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) 
and the United Church of Christ

As people of faith, we are called to “love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength.” Jesus charges us to “love our neighbor as yourself,” telling us that “there is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31). We are called to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), and to “pursue peace with everyone” (Hebrews12:14).

Recognizing that all people are created in the image of God, and heeding the words of our sacred scripture, we are disturbed and concerned as we witness the divisive discourse in our country concerning our Muslim neighbors. The rhetoric of exclusion and vilification runs absolutely counter to our understanding of God’s oikos, which is an inclusive fellowship of God’s children and creation.

As leaders of the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), we offer our ongoing solidarity with and support for all those who are increasingly fearful for their safety and well-being as a result of the heightened vitriol. And we commit to continuing to pursue peace, to promote better understanding among our communities, and to pursue justice in all that we do.


The United Religions Initiative (URI) and Grace Episcopal Cathedral’s MAY PEACE PREVAIL ON EARTH: AN INTERFAITH CHRISTMAS SPECIAL, will be broadcast Thursday, Dec. 24 (11:35 PM-12:35 AM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

The hour-long special features an interfaith Christmas Eve service at St. Gregory’s of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco, Calif. The heart of the program will be filled with scripture readings, music and carols. The program will also feature wishes sent via video from people of different religions from around the world.

Coming together to create this program are leaders from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East, and North and South America, representing Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Humanist, Indigenous, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Native American, Sikh, Shinto and Unitarian Universalist traditions.

“This program is a gift of light and hope in the midst of a world too often filled with darkness and despair,” said URI founder the Right Reverend William E. Swing, former Episcopal Bishop of California. “It is the gift of a far larger story than what we often see, a story of ordinary people of different faiths living together peacefully, working together and making contributions to their communities together. This message is a gift of peace for the whole world at Christmas.”

The United Religions Initiative was founded 15 years ago by Right Rev. Swing. Headquartered in San Francisco, it is the world’s largest grassroots interfaith peacebuilding organization, operating in 92 countries. The organization brings people of different faiths and cultures together to promote enduring interfaith cooperation, to end religiously motivated violence and to create cultures of peace, justice and healing.

The program is produced by Jon Dann Communications and by Executive Director of URI, Reverend Victor H. Kazanjian, Jr. John P. Blessington is the Executive Producer for CBS.

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