This podcast is the voice of the McGovern Center for Leadership and Public Service at Dakota Wesleyan University. The McGovern Center is the living legacy of Sen. George and Eleanor McGovern, two of Dakota Wesleyan’s most prominent alumni. The McGovern Center builds on George and Eleanor’s lifelong commitment to humanitarian outreach and civic engagement working in the areas of leadership development, social justice, community-based research and learning and public service.
During this pandemic and racial unrest, we've almost forgotten about what is perhaps an even more threatening challenge - that of climate change. In this episode, I had a conversation with Drs. Paula Mazzer and Kayla Miller, about their experiences as scientists and their understanding of the science of climate change.
In the Outro, I discussed the fact that in November of 2022, we'll be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1972 McGovern political campaign. I mentioned that if you have personal memories of involvement in that campaign, or personal memories of George and Eleanor McGovern, please use the following link and on the page that comes up, click on the "Messages" option.
Mark Lempke, Author of "My Brother's Keeper: George McGovern and Progressive Christianity" joins me today to discuss the influence of the social gospel on George McGovern and how this message might resonate today. Mark is a historian of post-war religion and politics. He specializes in progressive Christianity and the Christian left that developed in the 1960's and 70's. He completed his Ph.D. from the State University of New York in Buffalo and taught on the SUNY campus in Singapore before he moved back to Rochester NY. Mark and I discussed the importance of Walter Rauschenbusch on McGovern's thought and politics.
We all watched the video in absolute horror. How could this police officer, charged to guard and protect, so casually murder an unarmed and handcuffed person? How could others have stood by and watched without ever intervening? We are in a time when, as a nation, we're having a serious and much overdue conversation about how we can police ourselves better. It isn't just about rogue cops, its about rogue cultures that turn a blind eye causing community outrage. Of course, the looting and rioting is only worthy of opprobrium. And most police officers and departments want only to uphold the law and protect all persons regardless of race, ethnicity or religion. So let's discuss policing, police reform, police unions and how we can make this a better nation for all Americans. I interviewed Joel Reinesch, chair of our Criminal Justice Department at DWU and a former police officer and marine. We looked at some interesting approaches taken in Camden New Jersey and Eugene Oregon. I hope you find this a helpful and engaging conversation. Many thanks to Joel for taking this touchy topic on!
We are all tired of talking about the pandemic! We've heard stories from every angle imaginable. Yet this episode covers an aspect that is going unreported in the American press, even though it is impacting millions of people around the world. The pandemic, tragic as it is for those in the west, is more tragic by far in the developing world. Don Messer, founder and CEO of the Center for Health and Hope (https://www.centerforhealthandhope.org/) is one of our guests today. Don was president of DWU from 1971-1981 and has been deeply engaged in meeting the needs of those with HIV/AIDS in the developing world. Andrew Devaney is the founder and CEO of AsOne Ministries (https://www.asoneafrica.org/), a development ministry working in several villages in Uganda. I do encourage you to make donations to these two ministries if you want to help meeting desperate needs in this part of the world.
I've wanted to interview Don for some time. He's a perfect guest for this podcast and what an interesting life! He was president of Dakota Wesleyan University (1971-1981) and Iliff School of Theology (1981-2000). Don went on to found and direct the Center for Health and Hope which advocates and promotes health (particularly HIV and AIDS) and clean water. He and his wife Bonnie were good friends with George and Eleanor McGovern for many years. Don also marched with Dr. King on several occasions. Don has been passionately engaged in issues of world hunger, and in fact, he and George McGovern wrote a book on world hunger called Ending World Hunger Now: A Challenge to Persons of Faith.
Let me speak personally for a moment. I get a little emotional toward the end. This took me completely by surprise. I hate to cry in public but . . . it happens. I decided not to cut it out. I'm not a person who can cry on demand. I get uncomfortable when others cry in public. But its a part of life and maybe some tears are warranted when there is such sorrow.
This podcast examines a recent experience I had advocating for South Dakota HB 1212 which would have added clergy to the list of mandatory reporters of suspected cases of child neglect and abuse. 45 states already mandate that clergy report suspected cases. Reporting suspected abuse does not mean that anyone gets in trouble. It just means that a qualified professional checks in on the child's welfare. Teachers, counselors, healthcare providers, social welfare workers and many other professions are already mandatory reporters. The Board of Ordained Ministries of the Dakota's Conference of the United Methodist Church says, "House Bill 1212 not only aids in offering protections for our most vulnerable members of society but also frees our clergy to be better disciple-makers who model the teachings of Jesus and speak up on behalf of children." You would think it would be a no-brainer, right? Enter Norman Woods of the Family Heritage Alliance - a conservative organization that "seeks to defend the values that you cherish" - namely the protection of family, faith and freedom. Norm testified against the bill claiming it was an impingement on first amendment protection of the free exercise of religion. Legislators there clearly know Norman and respect his opinion. The bill passed out of the Judiciary committee on a 9/3 vote and was voted down in the House of Representatives on a 30/35 vote. I believe if the FHA hadn't opposed it, it would have passed. I argue in this podcast that the biblical support provided on the FHA website for their work in protecting religious liberties completely misses the point of the two passages on which it is based (1 Peter 2:11-14 and Romans 13:1-3). It is a great example of reading what you want to see into the Bible and ignoring what it actually says. Secondly, the FHA didn't provide any explanation on what exactly makes HB 1212 a 1st amendment curtailment. Norman simply said it was. But there is a very clear argument otherwise (provided in the podcast). Furthermore, as far as we can tell, there has not been a single 1st amendment challenge brought against any of the 45 states where clergy are mandatory reporters. Not a single one. If we were truly dealing with a curtailment of the free exercise of religion, someone would have noticed and brought a challenge. But this is not the case. There is absolutely no good reason to say that HB 1212 threatened 1st amendment religious freedoms. I think it is clear that children are now less safe, less protected, their welfare less prioritized because of this political influence. It is hard to prioritize the welfare of children. It so often gets ignored because people don't want to disturb their church with information about sexual abuse that may occur. So it gets swept under the carpet with the claim, "The state has no business telling the church what to do." As I say in the podcast, the state cannot tell a preacher how to interpret the Bible, but it sure can tell him how fast he can drive on his way to Bible study. In the judiciary hearing, one wise representative asked an opponent of HB 1212, "Can you explain to me exactly how the practice of your faith would change if HB 1212 were passed?" That is the question and the failure to answer proved the point! Churches should place greater important on the protection of children than upon the protection of 1st amendment privilege. The FHA folks are good well-intentioned godly people. They are also unable to see how their fierce attention of protection of religious liberty is blinding them to a deeper calling. So South Dakota continues on its path of prioritizing the needs of adults over those of children in voting down of HB 1212. And it is a curious situation when the misapplication of the 1st amendment supersedes Jesus clear command that we "suffer the little children to come"
In this episode, I've interviewed Ryan Chase and Anna Schwader about their leadership role in planning/transforming our Great Wesleyan Give Back day. So every year we do a major all-campus service day which is organized by the McGovern Center. This year, with the pandemic, we all expected it to dissipate along with everything else. But it didn't. Ryan, Anna, the Alumni Office, and others organized a virtual event that would combine our service day and our Day of Giving day into a two day event called DWU Cares. It was a tremendous success and everyone had a great time doing service in communities all over the US and even around the world.