Social convention

"Social convention" Continued...

Issue: "Reassessing the genome," Oct. 6, 2012

Back at The King’s Kitchen restaurant in Charlotte, owner and chef Jim Noble wasn’t talking about economics or politics a few days after the convention. Instead, on a Tuesday afternoon, he was sitting on a bar stool near the back of the restaurant with an iPad and a glass of sweet tea, conducting a Bible study.

Nearly 20 men and women, mostly local homeless folks, come five days a week for a Bible study and a meal. They listened intently for an hour before filing out with boxes full of fried chicken, sweet potatoes, French fries, and bottled water. 

The restaurant—which functions as a nonprofit organization because of its charitable giving and mentoring program—also delivers food to other groups, including a Christian housing ministry for homeless men. Most days, it’s full of well-dressed professionals from downtown Charlotte who come because the menu of local Southern cuisine is good. 

Beyond discussions of the government’s role, Noble says caring for the poor is a biblical mandate: “This is not an option as a believer. This is something we’re called to do—to take care of the widows and orphans and poor.”

For Noble, taking care of the poor means giving opportunities for meaningful work to men and women struggling with problems like homelessness. Others have just emerged from prison or rehab programs. The workers (usually just a few at a time) attend classes on leadership and budgeting, and go to a church that meets in the restaurant on Sunday mornings.

“We are dealers in biblical hope,” says Noble. “God has given us the gospel of Christ, which is the only answer to man’s problems.”

That may be a lost message during an intense political season, but the couple dozen men and women who came for Bible study and dinner recently left with this reminder from Noble: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but man shall live by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

This article has been edited to clarify that the children accompanying pro-life activists in the beginning of the story did not speak through a megaphone. Only one activist declared: “Unless you repent, you will be cast into hell.”

Institutional indifference

By Emily Belz

Harry Knox
Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images
Harry Knox

At the Democratic National Convention, Catholics for Choice (CFC) distributed copies of its quarterly magazine titled Conscience. Inside, Sara Hutchinson, domestic program director at CFC, writes that “conservative religious advocates” are redefining religious liberty and undoing the “right to contraceptive access.” Religious liberty, according to her definition, applies to individuals only, not institutions like churches, and therefore institutions should not receive conscience protections from the mandate to provide contraception coverage to employees. 

Hutchinson has formed a coalition of 53 groups (from the American Civil Liberties Union to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to Jewish Women International) to defend the Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate from charges that it abuses religious freedom.

A Catholic reporter asked Hutchinson, “What if you’re an individual business owner?” referring to business owners objecting to paying for contraceptive coverage.

“You are serving as an institution in that capacity,” said Hutchinson, and do not have religious freedom protection from providing contraceptives. So far, one court in Colorado has disagreed with that constitutional analysis, siding with a Catholic business owner who sued over the contraceptive mandate.

At least two dozen institutions and business owners have sued the federal government because they object to paying for contraceptive or abortifacient coverage, and even the Catholic Health Association, one of the most touted religious backers of the healthcare overhaul and initially of the contraceptive mandate, later objected. The group said the mandate reflected an “unacceptable change in federal policy regarding religious beliefs.”

Harry Knox, the head of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice who also served as an adviser for President Obama’s White House Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Office, joined Hutchinson at the convention.

He said women must have the religious freedom to use contraceptives or have an abortion. As an example, he described “a child who has been conceived and is so sick that to continue a pregnancy would be a terrible injustice to that child, because she or he is in so much pain in the womb. ... To bring it to term would only force more suffering on it.”

Meanwhile, the Obama campaign has rolled out a new “Catholics for Obama” ad that avoids the subject of religious liberty entirely. Hutchinson told me that the election would not alter or influence the work of the organization, but the organization’s tax documents show that the group receives about double the contributions during election years.

Robert George, a Catholic and a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University, described Hutchinson’s posse as “silly as well as ideological.”

“If the Vegetarian Society were being forced by a government mandate to serve meat at their annual ‘animals are our friends, don’t eat them’ fundraising banquet, people on the left would suddenly discover that institutions based on shared convictions have rights of conscience,” he wrote in an email. “Their problem is not in recognizing that institutions have rights of conscience; their problem is in recognizing that institutions whose teachings they don’t agree with have rights of conscience.” 

Pastors and the party

By Emily Belz

Rev. William Owens Sr.
Raymond Thompson/The Washington Times/Landov
Rev. William Owens Sr.

About half a dozen African-American pastors, representing the Coalition of African-American Pastors, convened a press conference at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., to condemn President Obama’s, and the party’s, embrace of gay “marriage.” Undermining traditional marriage, said Rev. William Owens Sr., “will further destroy the black family. … How could the black president take this thing that is very immoral and endorse it? Why don’t they take that same energy and try to get these boys off the corners, try to get them off drugs, try to get them in college?”

The pastors were willing to criticize the president on the marriage issue, but not necessarily work against him in the election. When reporters questioned the pastors about their political stance, they wouldn’t say that they wouldn’t vote for President Obama. “We still want to dialogue with the president and with the Democratic Party,” said Owens. “We have not looked at the Republicans. As I said, I have some criticisms for them too, as to how they address the black community. … They have said, ‘Well, there’s nothing we can do to get the black vote,’ so they just ignore us. But President Obama has just taken the black vote for granted. It’s really the same thing.” 

When a reporter asked Bishop David Allen Hall, one of the pastors, if he would consider backing Romney, he was emphatic: “I’m not working for Mitt Romney!” The pastors said they mainly wanted President Obama to be aware of their opposition to his stance on marriage.

“I think [Democrats] have done what they wanted to do because they thought they had the black vote in their pocket,” said Owens. At least at the convention, the pastors didn’t seem to give Democrats any reason to think they didn’t.

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the political beat and other topics as national editor for WORLD Magazine. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.


You must be a WORLD member to post comments.

    Keep Reading


    Job-seeker friendly

    Southern California churches reach the unemployed through job fairs