The Common Good

God's Politics

Report: Solutions to Hunger, Poverty Must Focus on Empowering Women

This morning, Bread for the World, released the 2015 Hunger Report, When Women Flourish, We Can End Hunger. The comprehensive analysis focuses on the imperative role the empowerment of women and girls plays in ending hunger, extreme poverty, and malnutrition.
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Obama Extends U.S. Combat Role in Afghanistan

News agencies reported Saturday morning that weeks ago President Obama signed an order, kept secret until now, to authorize continuation of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan for at least another year. The order authorizes U.S. airstrikes “to support Afghan military operations in the country” and U.S. ground troops to continue normal operations, which is to say, to “occasionally accompany Afghan troops” on operations against the Taliban.

The administration, in its leak to the New York Times, affirmed that there had been “heated debate” between Pentagon advisers and others in Obama’s cabinet chiefly concerned not to lose soldiers in combat. Oil strategy isn't mentioned as having been debated and neither is further encirclement of China, but the most notable absence in the reporting was any mention of cabinet members’ concern for Afghan civilians affected by air strikes and ground troop operations, in a country already afflicted by nightmares of poverty and social breakdown.

While the concern for civilians may have been discussed even if not reported, it’s worth pointing out some of the suffering people on the ground continue to experience.  Here are just three events, excerpted from an August 2014 Amnesty International report, which President Obama and his advisors should ha considered (and allowed into a public debate) before once more expanding the U.S. combat role in Afghanistan:

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Ferguson: Between Jesus and Barabbas

In an intimate conversation between Jesus and his disciples, just before Jesus predicts that Peter will deny him three times, Jesus asks Peter, “Will you lay down your life for me?” As Jesus’ crucifixion approaches, his question to Peter becomes reality, and the people who know of Jesus or his movement must make a choice — to suffer and die with Jesus, or to slip away in fear and passivity — to welcome Christ, or to reject Christ.

Peter is certainly not the only one to face this decision. Judas must choose to betray Christ or not; the high priests must choose between power and mercy; Pilate must choose the approval of the people or trust his own conscience. These individuals, however, do not stand alone in their decision-making, but among one of the strongest but often overlooked characters in Scripture — the crowd. As Jesus stands before Pilate, it is not Pilate who truly holds power — it is the raging crowd before him that demands for the freedom of Barabbas and the crucifixion of Jesus.

When looking back on the crowd’s decision, it is easy to see how wrong it was until we begin to ask where we stand among the crowd in our time. In the case of Ferguson and the grand jury’s decision on Darren Wilson, most of us stand in the crowd, waiting to see what the grand jury and the state may do while we decide what we must do. All eyes are on the jury, yet many of us who are watching realize that the real power does not reside in Gov. Jay Nixon or the grand jury, but in us. Just as it is the crowd who sways Pilate to crucify Jesus, so it is we who can determine whether justice comes in Ferguson and everywhere where racism exists. As bell hooks writes, “Whether or not any of us become racists is a choice we make. And we are called to choose again and again where we stand on the issue of racism in different moments of our lives.” Today, we have another choice. The grand jury is under the spotlight, but we are all responsible.

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BREAKING: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel To Resign Under Pressure

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the third Secretary of Defense to serve under President Obama, will resign under pressure from the White House, according to officials.
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It's Time Again: Depression and the Holidays

Don’t check your watch. This is something else all together. We know it will soon be the end of November and the end of Thanksgiving weekend. In the Christian calendar, it’s the beginning of Advent, the season leading up to Christmas. For many people, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a tough time to get through. There are too many reminders of loss:

           -the empty chair at the Thanksgiving table;

          -the time when being alone turns to loneliness as everyone talks about family (some stores were closed on Thanksgiving to show support for families, but what if you are estranged from your family?)

          -the bright red lettering over Macy’s front door proclaims “BELIEVE” — but believe what? The very word can remind you that you don’t believe anything anymore. What time is it in your life right now?

Can we be as honest as the Bible?

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Churches to Serve as Safe Spaces After Ferguson Grand Jury Announcement

After a prayer service outside her church turned violent last month, the Rev. Teresa Danieley, pastor of St. John’s Tower Grove, allowed those trying to escape the demonstrations to enter her church.

Now, Danieley and dozens of other clergy members are preparing to once again offer their churches as safe spaces, or sanctuaries.

The grand jury decision on whether to indict Darren Wilson, the officer who fatally shot African-American teenager Michael Brown, is expected by the end of the month, potentially triggering further civil unrest. Clergy anticipate some might seek refuge in churches, whether to escape violence or find fellowship.

Organizations such as the Don’t Shoot Coalition, which was formed after the death of Brown, and Metropolitan Congregations United, a group of interdenominational, multiracial congregations from around the region, are in the process of creating a list of churches that are volunteering the use of their space. Many of these churches will be packed with supplies such as food, water, and phone chargers. Medics, legal observers and counselors will also be on hand.

Some believe that unless officers are needed in an emergency, churches should also function as police-free zones during protests.

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Becoming a Better America

I am a newly minted American. Four years ago I passed the naturalization test and took the oath of allegiance to the United States. But I had been living as a citizen before I took the oath. Those who do not have the legal status of citizen often act as citizens. They attend PTA meetings, pay taxes, and engage in spirited public discussions about the common good. Citizenship is not only a legal status, but also a moral category and a set of practices.

President Obama recognizes this. Last night’s address described executive actions that will protect up to five million people from deportation and provide them with permits to work legally. People without valid immigration documents will be eligible to stay in the country temporarily if they have lived in the United States for more than 5 years, if they have children who are American citizens or legal residents, and if they register and pass criminal background checks.

Obama is not offering people citizenship, but his address reflected on the meaning of community belonging. “These people” often act like citizens, he seemed to be saying, because they “came to work, and study, and serve in our military, and above all, contribute to America's success.” To those of us who are citizens legally, Obama also had a message: Become better Americans.

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What Families Want — And How the Church Can Help

Churches have spent millions attempting to cater to the needs of the young families in their communities.

"Come here! Bring your kids! We have a replica-sized Noah's Ark with real, live animals — a coffee shop that sells Pumpkin Spice lattes — cupholders in the chairs and state-of-the-art acoustics."

From a Millennial mom: this stuff is great. We like it, especially the lattes. But what we really want — what we really need — might not cost a thing.

When I started about a year ago as pastor of a small Lutheran church in the Chicago suburbs, one of my first priorities was to re-start the moms group that had been meeting at the church.

At one time it had served almost as a preschool drop-off. Later it had been held down by one mom and her friends, and as their children grew up no one came to fill the void.

I wanted to make it more than a drop-off, though — I wanted it to be Christian with a capital C. I made some tongue-in-cheek flyers with a black and white photo of a crying baby holding a Bible, and I called it Babies and Bibles.

Then, on a few Thursday mornings, I brought Jake to the church. A few curious moms emailed and showed up, but it never really took off. 

Meanwhile, I missed the close-knit moms group I had in California, where Jake was born. 

I was in the process of giving it all up for awhile, when one day as I drove to church God spoke to me:

"Why are you holding this at the church?" God asked. "It should be at your house."

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Weekly Wrap 11.21.14: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. Everything You Need to Know About Obama’s Executive Action

ThinkProgress breaks down the immigration relief announced by the president Thursday night. Who gets relief and who is left out? What about border security? Your questions answered.

2. Give Thanks; Celebrate Hope!

Offer your thanks and stand behind the new immigration relief measures!

3. The United States of Thanksgiving

Looking for some great recipes for unique holiday cooking? “We’ve scoured the nation for recipes that evoke each of the 50 states (and D.C. and Puerto Rico). [But not Guam!] These are our picks for the feast. Dig in, then tell us yours."

4. WATCH Toni Morrison Completely Schools Stephen Colbert on Racism

The Pulitzer Prize, Nobel Prize, and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient sits down with Colbert to discuss her works. “Racism is … a social construct. And it has benefits. … But race can only be defined as a human being.”

5. Thai Protestors Detained After Using ‘Hunger Games’ Salute 

“The salute, which in the movies is a daring act of silent rebellion, began to appear here in the weeks after the May 22 coup. The authorities warned that anyone raising it in public could be subject to arrest.”

6. A New Image of Black Fatherhood [PHOTOS]

These photos capture "ordinary moments that crush white media narratives and stereotypes about black fathers."

7. The Cosby Show

Ta-Nehisi Coates writes for The Atlantic about his experience covering Bill Cosby in 2006-2007 as he was making the speaking rounds talking about the supposed decline of morality in black communities. At the time, he knew about 13 rape accusations but declined to report on them. Here, he explains what he would have done differently. 

8. The False Gospel of Gender Binaries

"Jesus didn't die on the cross to preserve gender complementarity. Jesus didn't die on the cross to ensure that little girls wear pink and little boys wear blue. Jesus lived, taught, died, and rose again to start a new family in which Jew and gentile, slave and free, male and female are all part of one holy Body."

9. NTSB Rules that FAA Has Authority to Regulate Drones

‘‘It’s a huge win for the FAA, and signals it’s not going to be the Wild West for drones, but a careful, orderly, safe introduction of unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system.’’

10. Filmmaking a Cultural Battlefield in Iran

A fascinating look inside the politics an propaganda of film in Iran: “As reformists assert their cultural influence on screen and in the arts, conservatives in Iran are looking to a new set of movies and filmmakers to help suppress reformists and eliminate Western influence in Iranian society.”

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We’re Awestruck About Earth, Unsure About Global Warming

Most Americans say they feel a deep connection to the wider world.

But all that spiritual stargazing makes no difference in views about the facts of climate change and global warming, a new survey finds.

Just 5 percent of Americans thought climate change was the most important issue in the U.S. today. And religion was a major dividing point on how much — or how little — they think it’s a matter of concern, according to a new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute.

“We asked about spiritual measures such as being in awe of the universe, and you might think it would correlate with views about the universe. But, in fact, they have very little relationship,” said Robert Jones, CEO of PRRI, which conducted the survey on U.S. adults’ attitudes toward climate change, environmental policy and science.

 

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