The Common Good

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Two Police Officers Shot in Ferguson

Early Thursday morning, just hours after the resignation of Ferguson police Chief Thomas Jackson, two officers were shot as they stood guard amidst protests outside the police department in Ferguson, Mo.
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Between Two Cultures: How to Be Evangelical Without Evangelizing

I occupy a strange place between cultures. Not the international cultures of my childhood spent as a missionary kid living around the world, but between two sub-cultures here in modern America. I am a rare breed of evangelical that doesn’t live in a bubble of Christian culture. Quite the opposite. I live and work in higher education, and — mark it — secular higher ed.

An evangelical acquaintance once asked me delicately, “Is there a reason you and your husband don’t work at a Christian university?”

I could hear the gears in his head as he tried to reconcile what he saw before him: two highly educated, devout Christians working in the "liberal bastion" of a secular college. Why on earth would we do such a thing to ourselves?

The truth is, Dwayne and I live and thrive in the place we’ve carved out outside the bubble of American evangelicalism. It’s not that we don’t love the evangelical church, or don’t attend an evangelical congregation.

It’s just that we don’t identify with all aspects of the American version of evangelicalism.

He and I both came to know Jesus outside the States. We are both missionary kids. In addition, Dwayne is Canadian. As a result, we have an outsider’s perspective. For us, living in America and being evangelical poses an interesting paradox.

In so many ways, living and working with people who have vastly different life experiences than our own feels normal. After all, that’s how we grew up — in the company of friends whose worldviews are shaped by the submerged iceberg of cultures not our own. These differences don’t threaten our beliefs. Ironically, holding the space for the lived experiences of our friends creates an environment that also affirms our lived experiences, and more importantly, our faith.

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Four Reasons Jews Worry about Christian Zionists — and Why They Don’t Have To

Is Christian Zionism good for the Jews?

Not every Jew thinks so.

In fact, Christian Zionists make many Jews crazy.

Why?

Worry No. 1: Christian Zionists believe all Jews need to be back in the land of Israel before Jesus can return.

Except it’s not true.

I once asked Ralph Reed, the prominent conservative activist and founder of the Christian Coalition, about this.

“Rabbi, I’ve been in church every Sunday of my life and I have never heard such a thing,” he said.

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Pope Francis Has History, But Not Time, on His Side in Reform Push

Can the Roman Catholic Church change? And if so, how? And what’s on the table — traditions, rites, doctrine, none of the above?

Such fundamental questions go to the heart of Catholic identity, and they’re the same questions Pope Francis has raised almost since the moment he was elected two years ago this March 13, a dark horse candidate who became the first pontiff from Latin America.

When he shunned the apostolic palace for a modest apartment, or cold-called people who wrote to him with problems, Francis’ humble approach endeared him to the masses. Yet he also surprised — maybe stunned — Catholics by encouraging open debate, especially about church teachings and practices that had long been considered out of bounds.

“A basic general condition is this: to speak clearly. No one must say: ‘This can’t be said; he will think of me this way or that,’” Francis told bishops from around the world last summer at a high-level Vatican summit on issues facing the modern family.

“It is necessary to say everything that is felt” with candor.

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A New Hymn on Jesus’ Protest: When Christ Went to the Temple

When Christ Went to the Temple

LLANGLOFFAN 7.6.7.6 D (“Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers”)

When Christ went to the Temple to worship God one day,

He entered through the courtyard where anyone could pray.

That court was for the nations--and all could enter in.

But Jesus found a market, a shameful robbers’ den.

 

There, cattle, sheep, and pigeons were sold for sacrifice,

And moneychangers shouted of quality and price.

Outsiders could not enter the inner courts for prayer.

Their only place to worship was in the courtyard there.

...

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Ideology Over Humanity: The Problem With Criticizing Fred Craddock on His Funeral Day

One of the principal goals of My Jesus Project, a yearlong effort to better understand what we mean when we talk about following Jesus, is to practice and embody right-heartedness, or what I call “orthopathy.” I believe that, though our beliefs — orthodoxy — and our actions — orthopraxy — are important, both are anemically informed and out of balance in a Christ-like life if the so-called heart work doesn’t come first, to inform the other two.

Some of which I saw when reading prominent voices within the Southern Baptist Convention criticize Rev. Dr. Fred Craddock, known as one of the most influential voices in preaching in the past century, before his body was even in the ground. Craddock, who was 86 and had struggled with Parkinsons for a long time, died on March 7. He left behind a family, an extensive publishing library, and a nonprofit — The Craddock Center — that has done tremendous work for those trapped in poverty in Appalachia.

Two days after Craddock’s death, Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., reduced in a blog post Craddock’s lifetime of preaching work to “a mild-mannered man encouraging mild-mannered people to be more mild-mannered” — on March 9, the day of Craddock’s funeral.

He also called Craddock’s essential claims to be “dead wrong,” claiming that it led to “no true preaching.”

Criticism of Craddock by members of the Southern Baptist Convention is not new. But there’s a big difference between lodging criticism a half dozen years before a man’s death and doing so the day of his funeral. Allen brazenly demonstrates one of the greatest dangers in what I have often called “valuing our ideology over others' humanity,” which dehumanizes and denigrates as a result.

This dehumanization does not play political or ideological favorites, either — any of us can fall prey to this trap when we hold our beliefs closer than our love of God, neighbor, and self.

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Jean Vanier, Founder of L'Arche, Wins Templeton Prize

Jean Vanier, an advocate for people with developmental disabilities who helped create an international network of residential communities that champion the rights of their residents, has won the 2015 Templeton Prize.

A Roman Catholic layman and a lifelong student of philosophy and theology, Vanier is best known as the founder of L’Arche — French for "the Ark" — a global network of communities where those with and without disabilities live side by side as equals.

The network was begun in northern France in 1964 when Vanier invited two intellectually disabled men to live with him as friends. It has evolved into 147 L’Arche communities, in 35 countries. In addition, a support group for families of people with disabilities, known as Faith and Light, has spread to 82 countries.

“One can conceive of L’Arche and Faith and Light as living laboratories where Vanier essentially exposed his ideas to the most challenging test of all — real people, real problems and real life,” said John Swinton, a professor at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland Divinity School, in nominating Vanier for the award.

In a statement at a news conference in London, Vanier, 86, said those with intellectual disabilities offer spiritual lessons and gifts to a world too driven by success and power.

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When the Way of Jesus Doesn’t Work: Finding Peace with a Divided Self

It was a rough week at work. It got off to a bad start and didn’t improve much. Maybe you’ve had one of those weeks.

It all started when one of my supervisor decided to observe me talking with a client. In my view, the conversation went really great. In fact, in the middle of our discussion, I literally thought, “I’m so glad my supervisor is witnessing this! I’ve built great rapport with the client, I’ve elicited his story, and he’s talking about his emotions and his relationships!” I decided that the universe was clearly on my side, because as we left, the client said, “Thank you so much for this conversation. I feel much better. You really brightened my day.”

In other words, I nailed it.

Then my supervisor wanted to debrief and provide some “constructive criticism.” After asking what I thought was good about the conversation, he proceeded to “should on” me. Have you ever been “should on?” It’s no fun. He said things like, “You should have done this,” “You should have done that,” “You shouldn’t have pushed so much with this,” “You should have noticed when he said this.” He said nothing positive about the conversation. Except at the end when he claimed, “You’re doing fine.”

Then I started to get critical.

“I’m doing fine?!?” I thought. “What does ‘fine’ even mean? Is that some kind of backhanded compliment? Fine is bland. It’s neither good nor bad. It’s like the word ‘interesting.’ I hate that word. Tell me what you mean by ‘INTERESTING!’ Well, in the context of this “constructive criticism,” fine apparently means that I’m not good.

And that’s when the voices came. I’ve had them before. I’m sure you’ve had them, too. It’s the voice of doubt that says, “Do you really think that you can do this? Well, you can’t. You’re a joke. You’ve been studying this and practicing this for six months, and you’re still making rookie mistakes. Even when you think you are doing great, you fail.” Then comes the kicker, “You aren’t good enough and you will never be good enough.”

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Kenya’s Catholic Church to Fight Hunger by Farming Its Vast Land Reserves

Drying livestock carcasses and anguished faces of hungry women and children have become a common feature here as droughts increase due to climate change.

But now, in an effort to fight hunger, the Roman Catholic Church is making 3,000 acres of church-owned land available for commercial farming.

“We want to produce food, create employment, and improve quality of life for the people,” said the Rev. Celestino Bundi, Kenya’s national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies.

This is the first time the church has entered into large-scale farming, though it owns massive tracts of land across the country, most of which is idle and in the hands of dioceses, parishes, missionaries, and congregations.

“We have the will and the support of the community and government,” said Bundi. 

“I think time has come for Kenya to feed herself.”

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Q&A: Rachel Held Evans on the Ills of American Christianity and Leaving Evangelicalism

Rachel Held Evans has grown into a powerful voice in American Christianity, first as the author of Evolving in Monkey Town and later with the New York Times best-seller A Year of Biblical Womanhood. Those who follow her writings often note that her thinking has become increasingly progressive, especially on hot-button theological issues such as gender and sexuality. That shift culminated in her leaving evangelicalism for the Episcopal Church.

Next month, Evans will release Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church, a book that oscillates between stinging critiques of American Christianity and prescriptions for how she believes believers can more faithfully participate in church life. In an interview with Religion News Service, she talked about the key to revitalizing the church and defended her exit from evangelicalism. Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Q: You say that the way to stop the exodus of millennials from churches isn’t cosmetic changes like better music, sleeker logos, and more relevant programming. Why are these methods ineffective?

A: These aren’t inherently bad strategies, and some churches would be wise to employ them. But many church leaders make the mistake of thinking millennials are shallow consumers who are leaving church because they aren’t being entertained. I think our reasons for leaving church are more complicated, more related to social changes and deep questions of faith than worship style or image.

If you try to woo us back with skinny jeans and coffee shops, it may actually backfire. Millennials have finely tuned B.S. meters that can detect when someone’s just trying to sell us something. We’re not looking for a hipper Christianity. We’re looking for a truer Christianity.

Q: If these aren’t the answer, what is?

 
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