The Common Good

God's Politics Blog

COMMENTARY: Islam Is Just the Latest U.S. Scapegoat

Historians have a term we call the scapegoating concept of history. This is the idea that people tend to look for others to blame — scapegoats — for their condition. They then attack that group even if it had little or nothing to do with their situation.

Scapegoats are usually weaker or marginalized members of society easily made to look suspicious. Scapegoats ease our anxiety especially when ethnic minorities or immigrants come into view. Bigotry, however, while burning intensely, has a short memory.

Islam is currently on the list of things we are supposed to be afraid of. The threat is such that even the president himself is apparently some kind of secret Muslim in league with unsavory characters. We seem to have forgotten that the deadliest example of domestic terrorism in America before Sept. 11, 2001, came at the hands of Timothy McVeigh, who blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City. Despite McVeigh’s claims to loving Jesus, no calls to ban Christianity or close churches sounded following his detestable act.

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Why Is Pope Francis Spending so Much Time Going after the Mafia?

It began with the murder of an innocent 3-year-old boy who burned to death in his grandfather’s car in a Mafia ambush in January. Pope Francis was so shaken by the death of Nicola “Coco” Campolongo that he spoke out against the ferocity of the crime and those behind it.

But he didn’t stop there. In June, the outspoken pontiff traveled to the southern Italian town where the murder took place and accused Mafia members of pursuing the “adoration of evil.” Then he went one step further.

“They are not with God,” Francis said during his visit to the nearby town of Sibari in the region of Calabria where the global crime syndicate ‘Ndrangheta is based. “They are excommunicated!”

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Money Talks: World Council of Churches Disinvests in Fossil Fuels

The Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United case infamously affirmed money spent in political campaigns as a form of free speech, thus declaring various legal limitations unconstitutional. The ruling gives a political megaphone to those with the most money and has been decried by many as contributing further to the nation’s political dysfunction and rigid polarization.  I strongly agree.

But this ruling came to mind again when I heard the news that the World Council of Churches, at its Central Committee meeting in early July, had made a decision not to invest in fossil fuel industries. In fact, money does talk. Where institutions place their invested funds is not a neutral, pragmatic matter. It speaks volumes.

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Why Evangelicals Should Care About 'The Mikado' Controversy If They Care About Reconciliation in the Church

In my pastoral counseling class in seminary, the professor played a video of a counseling session of a black couple. He intended for us to learn some lessons on marriage counseling from it, but it turned out to be a laugh fest for the mostly white class. Repeatedly the husband and wife cut each other down with witty insults. My sense is that the couple reminded the students of George and Louise Jefferson from the TV show The Jeffersons. I sat next to an African American student that day and during the break I turned over to him and asked, “Do you find this funny?” He said, “I’m glad you asked,” and proceeded to tell me that he witnessed this kind of behavior firsthand in his own home since his parents are divorced. Needless to say he did not find the video amusing. I encouraged him to voice this to the class, which he courageously did when we returned from break. It seems while the professor intended to communicate one thing from showing the video, it communicated another because of the manner in which the students were racialized. 

I share this story as an analogue to the recent controversy surrounding the production of the Seattle Gilbert and Sullivan Society’s The Mikado — a comic opera written in 1885 as a critique of British politics and institutions, set in distant, mysterious, and mostly made-up Japan. It began with Sharon Chan writing an editorial to the Seattle Times, calling the current production of it by an all-white cast as “yellowface” and “open[ing] old wounds and resurrect[ing] pejorative stereotypes.”  Since then, Jeff Yang has also written an editorial for CNN.com entitled, “Yellowface staging of ‘The Mikado’ has to end.”  I will not rehearse their arguments here; I write to address why this incident matters to North American evangelicals. 

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World War I at 100: New Books Examine the Battle of Beliefs Behind the 'Great War'

Some called it “The Great War.” Others called it “The War to End All Wars.” History proves it was neither.

As the world marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I — a conflict that left 37 million dead or wounded and reshaped the global map — a number of scholars and authors are examining a facet of the war they say has been overlooked — the religious framework they say led to the conflict, affected its outcome and continues to impact global events today.

More than that, they argue, today’s religious and political realities — ongoing wars, disputed borders and hostile relationships — have their roots in the global conflict that began when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on July 28, 1914.

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Why Evangelicals' Love for Jews Is a Case of Unrequited Love

According to a new survey, white evangelical Christians feel a lot of warmth toward Jews.

As for Jews, they feel colder toward evangelical Christians than they do about any other religious group.

Cue the Taylor Swift ballads: We have here a serious case of unrequited love.

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Kenya's Catholic Bishops Sued After Canceling Lease for Muslim-run Restaurant

The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops is facing a lawsuit over the cancellation of a rental contract for a restaurant operated by a Somali Muslim.

Al-Yusra Restaurant Ltd. had signed a six-year lease starting in 2013 to operate a restaurant in a section of Waumini House where the bishops’ conference is based. Baakai Maalim, a Somali Muslim, is a director for the company.

A lawyer for the bishops said the lease was signed without written consent and knowledge of the bishops.
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Pope Francis Appeals for Peace with Shimon Peres, Mahmoud Abbas

As Israel continued its ground offensive into the Gaza Strip, Pope Francis urged Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to end the spiraling conflict.

The pontiff telephoned the two leaders on Friday to express “his very serious concerns” only six weeks after both me joined him at the Vatican for an historic prayer meeting.

Francis said he was concerned about the “climate of growing hostility, hatred, and suffering” that was claiming many victims, resulting in “a serious humanitarian emergency”, the Vatican said in a statement.

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Weekly Wrap 7.18.14: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. Germany 'May Revert to Typewriters' to Counter Hi-tech Espionage
German politicians are considering a return to using manual typewriters for sensitive documents in the wake of the US surveillance scandal. Yes, really.

2. World Cup Winners Donate Their Prize Money
Some German soccer players who took gold on Sunday—and fellow runner-ups from Argentina—both gave away portions of their earnings to charity, earning gold stars for empathy to go along with their trophy.

3. The Crisis in Israel-Palestine
Vox is keeping an up-to-date StoryStream on the developing crisis in Israel-Palestine. While world leaders call for peace, we pray.

4. Leading AIDS Researchers Among Those Killed in Malaysian Airlines Crash
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine yesterday. Evidence now suggests that more than one-third of the passengers were headed to an international health conference, including leading AIDS researchers.

5. Neil Whosis? What You Don't Know About The 1969 Moon Landing
The names Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were household names in 1969. But they were all but forgotten by 1970. How did the astronauts to land on the moon pass into obscurity, and why are their names famous again now?

6. Meet The Former Call Girl Saving Hookers For Jesus 
Annie Lobert, who spent 16 years as a prostitute in Las Vegas, is running a ministry that gets women out of the sex trade.

7. Why You Should (Really, Seriously, Permanently) Stop Using Your Smartphone At Dinner
A “new paper from Virginia Tech … confirms that the mere passive presence of cellphones cheapens in-person conversation, even when we’re not looking at them.”

8. On Campus, Young Veterans Are Learning How to Be Millennials
“That difference in background made Horton see all his classes in a whole other light. His friends read Moby Dick and saw the story of a whale hunt. Horton saw a man who lost his leg and set out for vengeance … he knew what it felt like to cling to the timbers with his shipmates, hurtling forward on a mission that threatened, at any moment, to kill them all.” 

9. Watch 1,000 Balls Blast Through a Vacuum-Powered Maze
Inspired by hulking machines like CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, Roy’s contraption is a playful attempt to provide an artistic visualization to what happens in actual particle accelerators.

10. Word Crimes
“Everybody wise up!” Did you miss him? Weird Al returns with a pitch-perfect spoof on Robin Thicke’s infamous “Blurred Lines”—but this time, it’s about grammar. A catchy song on proper verb tense usage? Our web team says YES. #grammarnerds.

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The Clickbait Bible: New Testament

Ephesians: Can You Find All the Run-on Sentences in this Classic Book? Philippians: How To Build Your Endurance Using This Neat Old Trick. Colossians: You’ll Never Believe What God Looks Like!

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