The Common Good

God's Politics Blog

Obama: Defeating Poverty Takes Money and ‘Transformative Power’ of Faith Groups

The African-American boy who grew up without a father, who started his work life as a community organizer on the payroll of a Catholic agency, and who later became U.S. president had plenty to say about poverty in our “winner-take-all” economy.

President Obama spoke May 12 of “ladders of opportunity” once denied to blacks and now being dismantled for poor whites as their difficult lives get that much more difficult.

“It’s hard being poor. It’s time-consuming. It’s stressful,” he said.

Obama joined two policy voices from the left and right in a rare moment of participating in a panel discussion, part of a three-day symposium at Georgetown University on combating poverty. The audience of 700 included 120 Catholic and evangelical leaders.

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Why We Shouldn't Single Out All Muslims for the Actions of a Few

What followed after two gunmen were killed trying to carry out an attack on an anti-Muslim “Draw Muhammad Contest” was predictable.

Pamela Geller, the organizer of the event, called for war, American Muslims condemned the attack, and the mainstream media rehashed the very old and exhausting debate about whether Islam has a violence problem.

This routine unfortunately reeks of collective responsibility, an antithesis to sound moral ethics in all societies, including Western ones. 

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Five Problems With Christian Evangelism (and What to Do Instead)

I got to thinking about evangelism this month in particular as part of My Jesus Project, a year-long practice I’m engaged in to more deeply understand what it really means to follow Jesus. This month I’m studying what I call “Jesus the Evangelist,” with Alan Chambers as my mentor. Chambers is best known as the founder and longtime head of Exodus International, an organization that emphasized conversion therapy, or helping people who were gay become — for lack of a better term — un-gay.

But it didn’t work. Chambers said so himself, as he is gay too, and he knows firsthand that he is still very much the same sexual being he was before. Further, the organization’s form of evangelism did a lot of damage, which he now seeks to repair.

Here are some all-too-common examples of how we misstep when trying in one way or another to share our faith with others.

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Meet the Gay Celibate Catholic Who's Shaking Up the Sexuality Debates

A few decades ago, there were two options for people who wanted to follow Jesus but were attracted to the same gender: They could either throw off religion and embrace their sexuality, or they could remain in the faith and hide their sexual orientations. Today, there are other options. Some — like Matthew Vines and David Gushee — are attempting to make a biblical case for same-sex relationships. Others — such as Julie Rodgers and Wesley Hill — are leading a movement of celibate gay Christians.

Among the second group, Eve Tushnet has risen to prominence. She has a popular blog hosted by the Patheos Catholic Channel and has created a stir with her book Gay and Catholic: Accepting My Sexuality, Finding Community, Living My Faith. We asked her why it is important to her to self-identify as a lesbian and whether she’s missing something about the uniqueness and importance of erotic intimacy.

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Jesus, Drawing Muhammad, and the Idolatry of Free Speech

If Christians are going to take seriously Jesus’ command to follow him, then we need to stop this absurd defense of drawing pictures of Muhammad. And if we defend the practice of ridiculing our fellow human beings by hiding behind the freedom of speech, then we have made freedom of speech into an idol.

Pamela Geller, as a non-Christian, has the right to host the conference. But Christians do not have the right, or the freedom, to support the conference. For Christians, freedom comes from following Christ in loving God and our neighbors as we love ourselves. The obvious implications of Jesus’ command to love our neighbors means that we should not mock them.

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Christians Lose Ground, ‘Nones’ Soar in New Portrait of U.S. Religion

The United States is a significantly less Christian country than it was seven years ago.

That’s the top finding – one that will ricochet through American faith, culture, and politics – in the Pew Research Center’s newest report, “America’s Changing Religious Landscape,” released May 12.

This trend “is big, it’s broad, and it’s everywhere,” said Alan Cooperman, Pew’s director of religion research.

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When Leaving Faith Means Finding It Again

I’ll never forget that conversation: the moment Amy predicted I would walk away from my faith. I was 26 at the time. She, 36. We sat at a rustic seafood restaurant on the beach. I stabbed my blacked salmon salad and chewed long and hard on her words.

“You remind me of myself 10 years ago,” she said.

She had been raised in a deeply religious family, and had been a devout Jew her whole life. Then around her 20s, she gave it all up. By the time I met her in her 30s, she called herself a “lapsed Jew,” disillusioned with the rules, the expectations, the rigorous doctrines.

I was the daughter of missionaries, raised in the Evangelical church, and deeply committed to my relationship with Jesus. Her words scared me. No, no, I prayed quietly. Jesus please don’t let me go.

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Sister Helen Prejean: Tsarnaev ‘Genuinely Sorry for What He Did’

Sister Helen Prejean, the Catholic nun and anti-death penalty activist whose story came to fame with the 1995 film Dead Man Walking, took the stand on May 11 in the penalty phase of convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s trial. She said he is “genuinely sorry for what he did,” and told her how he felt about the suffering he caused to the bombing’s victims.

“He said it emphatically,” Prejean said.

“He said no one deserves to suffer like they did.”

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New Palestinian Saints Highlight Region’s Beleaguered Christians

Pope Francis will bestow sainthood on two Palestinian nuns on May 17, a move that’s being seen as giving hope to the conflict-wracked Middle East and shining the spotlight on the plight of Christians in the region.

Sisters Maria Baouardy and Mary Alphonsine Danil Ghattas are due to be canonized by the pontiff along with two other 19th-century nuns, Sister Jeanne Emilie de Villeneuve, from France, and Italian Sister Maria Cristina dell’Immacolata.

The coming canonizations have been described by the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, as a “sign of hope” for the region.

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What Migrant Families Face at Dilley Detention Center

Earlier this year, I toured the U.S. government’s family immigration detention center in Dilley, Texas with a delegation of Roman Catholic and Lutheran faith leaders. It was a difficult and deeply moving day. Family immigration detention centers incarcerate immigrant mothers and children, many of whom fled Central America for their lives. More than 90 percent of these families suffered sexual, domestic, or physical violence, had their lives threatened by gangs, or experienced similar traumas. These are not threats or abuses to be taken lightly. When migrants who suffer these threats are deported, they are often targeted and killed upon return to their home country.

Nevertheless, the United States welcomes these families seeking safety with incarceration. They are frequently jailed for months, with little knowledge of their term length or if they will be deported. In detention, as basic possessions as their shoelaces are taken away. Children often lose weight. Mothers and children are isolated for punishment; infants are baptized in an ad-hoc fashion. Currently, more than 1,000 mothers and children are detained in detention centers. The government is planning to expand this number to 3,700.

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