The Common Good

God's Politics Blog

President Obama Pens Pope Francis Piece for Time's 100 Most Influential List

TIME has released its annual 100 Most Influential people list, and, to no one's surprise, Pope Francis is featured. What may be surprising is who the magazine chose to write about the pontiff — President Barack Obama.
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Christian Organization Delivers Life-Saving Vaccines

April 24-30 is World Immunization Week. While it is estimated that vaccinations save the lives of 2.5 million children every year, another 1.5 million children die each year from diseases that can be prevented with vaccines. Christian organizations are working to change this and help the global health community reach the 20 percent of children worldwide who miss out on life-saving vaccines.

Sylvia, a mother of three in Kasese, Uganda says she was aware of vaccines to prevent disease, but did not understand their importance or the fact that children need a number of vaccinations throughout the first five years of life. “All I understood was that there are killer diseases we should immunize our children against,” explained Sylvia. “I took my first and second child for vaccines for only the first nine months of life. I didn’t learn my children would still be at risk of catching diseases if they were not immunized for five full years until an educator from the Bishop Masereka Christian Foundation (BMCF) came to my village.”

Reaching parents with information about vaccines and vaccinating children is critical to child survival. Immunization is one of the main drivers behind the tremendous decline in child deaths the world has experienced in recent decades.

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Does Being Pope Give You an Inside Track to Sainthood?

When Pope Francis canonizes Popes John XXIII and John Paul II on Sunday, Catholics across the spectrum will have reason to cheer: Liberals credit John with opening the church to the modern world in the 1960s, and conservatives hail John Paul as reasserting orthodoxy after too many innovations.

But the unprecedented double-barreled canonization also raises a question that might give both sides pause: Why is Rome making saints of almost every modern pontiff after nearly a millennium when almost no popes were canonized?

In the first 500 years of Christianity, the Apostle Peter (considered the first pope by tradition) and 47 of his 48 papal successors were viewed as saints, mainly because so many of them were martyred, which is the simplest route to canonization. Another 30 popes were named saints in the next 500 years, largely based on their reputation for sanctity.

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Can There Be a Rational Compromise on the Pledge of Allegiance?

Yet another Pledge of Allegiance lawsuit has been filed, this time with New Jersey humanists challenging the requirement that each school day begin with recitation of the pledge describing the United States as one nation, “under God.”

This case joins a bevy of previous cases that have wended their way through the courts, costing school districts and states millions of taxpayer dollars and contributing to bitter disputes across the country. To date, the Supreme Court has studiously avoided ruling on such cases, but if this continues, eventually, the court will be required to join the fray.

I am always sorry to see these cases: On the one hand, I am sympathetic with the students and parents who do not want their children indoctrinated in religion by a government, even with a very general declaration of the existence of God. (And I am always disappointed that so many people who vehemently insist that government is incompetent want government to lead prayer.)

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Army Approves 'Humanist' As Religious Preference

More than two years after first making his request, Army Maj. Ray Bradley can now be known as exactly what he is: a humanist in the U.S. military.

“I’m able to self-identity the belief system that governs my life, and I’ve never been able to do that before,” said Bradley, who is stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina and works on supporting readiness of the Army Reserve’s medical staff.

Lt. Col. Sunset R. Belinsky, an Army spokeswoman, said Tuesday that the “preference code for humanist” became effective April 12 for all members of the Army.

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A Gospel of the Garden

When God coupled the earth with the breath of eternity, our souls and the soil were fused and our destinies perpetually intertwined. While many of us have been taught that human beings have dominion over the Earth, we have not understood that what we do to Mother Earth, we do to one another and to God.

Dominion theology has led to domination, abuse, and destruction of Mother Earth and human communities. Every time we strip the land of its diversity, we strip a layer of humanity from our collective souls. Soil is also a community of diverse beings — some visible to the naked eye, some microscopic. A diversity of beings distinguish fertile soil from lifeless dirt. When industrial agriculture or chemical spills make these beings homeless, our soil becomes dust and is gone with the wind. Regardless of their visibility to the human eye, maintaining the homes of microbes intact, is what keeps the land fertile for growing crops which feed human beings. Adding microbes to “the least of these” who deserve our protection is truly an act of self preservation.

Respect and protection is a recurring casualty of dominion theology in that dominated land requires dominated people to work it. Plantations required slaves, and agribusiness requires exploited immigrants. Generational shame was whipped into the minds of enslaved Africans as their backs were abused in cultivating the land. Over the course of 400 years, a healthy relationship with Mother Earth was one of those legacies lost, stolen, or strayed for many African Americans. Restoring a healthy relationship with the land is a vital prerequisite for our urban youth to turn their food deserts into an oasis of food sovereignty.

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Nigerian Christians Begin Three-day Fast After Schoolgirls Kidnapped

Christians began a three-day prayer and fasting period after Islamist Boko Haram militants kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls in Nigeria and desperate parents joined the search in a remote forest.

The girls were abducted last week while at school in the Chibok area of Borno State. Initial reports said about 200 were kidnapped, but government officials lowered the figure to 130. On Monday, school officials said 234 were abducted and 40 girls had managed to escape.

“We know no religion [that] prescribes abduction or infliction of pain as a way of devotion,” said the Rev. Titus Pona, an official with the Christian Association of Nigeria. “We are calling on them to sheathe their arms and pursue their case in dialogue with the government.”

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John Paul II and John XXIII: A Rush to Sainthood?

Hundreds of pilgrims wind their way around St. Peter’s Square as tour guides shout in multiple languages. Beggars have their hands outstretched amid warnings of an invasion of pickpockets from abroad.

Across Rome, hotels are full, streets are clean, and the cash registers in the souvenir stalls are singing as the faithful pour in to the Eternal City for the dual canonizations of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII on Sunday.

Italian authorities are expecting at least a million pilgrims, including heads of state, prime ministers, and diplomats from 54 countries. One group of Polish pilgrims is making the 2,000-mile trek on horseback, dressed in medieval costumes, to celebrate Poland’s most famous native son.

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If the Internet Isn't Killing Religion, What Is?

A smart professor in Massachusetts noticed recently that religion’s decline in America coincided with the rise of the Internet.

He theorized that the two may be connected. Headline: “Is the Internet bad for religion?”

It’s utter nonsense, of course. The decline of mainline churches began in 1965, not in the 1990s when the Internet became commercially available. It would be more accurate, from a timing standpoint, to say that the American League’s designated hitter rule (1973) caused religion’s decline. Or maybe the “British invasion” in rock ‘n’ roll (1964).

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Turning Toward Pentecost: Remembering the Women

The women were there at the foot of Jesus’ cross.

The women were there when they laid him in the tomb.

The women walked through the desolate graveyard in the darkest hours of the night — the hours just before dawn, carrying sweet spices prepared to anoint Jesus’ dead body for proper burial. But they never got the chance.

They witnessed the earthquake, talked to the angel, and ran to the other followers announcing the resurrection of their beloved.

And Jesus’ mother, Mary, huddled in the upper room praying with the other women and the rest of the disciples in the days following the resurrection. Until that day, 50 days later, when tongues of fire fell on them all and Peter reminded the crowd of Joel’s ancient prophecy: “Your sons and daughters will prophesy.”

From the cross to the upper room, the women are lifted up! As the church stands in the light of Easter Sunday and now sets its face toward Pentecost, let us remember the women. And, as we do, let’s also remember the women in our pews and surrounding communities — the challenges, fears, and the very real dangers women face every day.

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