The Common Good

God's Politics

Advisers Urge Pope Francis to Slow Down for a Summer Break

Pope Francis has been working nonstop since his election more than a year ago, and he has shown remarkable resilience for a 77-year-old confronted with an array of church crises. But he is also fatigued at times and his advisers are hoping that he will take a break this summer.

“We have been asking him to have holidays this year,” Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras told reporters during a visit to Washington this week. “Because last year he didn’t and sometimes he’s very tired.”

“So I think that during August he’s going to retire to rest,” said Maradiaga, who heads a kitchen cabinet of eight cardinals from around the world that Francis established as his top advisers.

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Remembering D-Day: Sacrifice, Gratitude, and Lessons Learned

On this 70th anniversary of D-Day, I thought of my father, who died several years ago. James Emerson Wallis, Sr. was commissioned in the Navy, graduated from college at the University of Michigan, and was married — all on the same June day in 1945! After a very quick honeymoon, my Dad was sent out almost immediately to the Pacific as the engineering officer on a destroyer minesweeper. I heard most about that day, and the days that followed, while sitting with my father on the benches at the World War II Memorial shortly after it opened in Washington, D.C. I soon realized why there were so many benches there — so old war veterans could sit down for a while, even for hours, to remember and tell their stories to the ones they most love.

For his 80th birthday, our family invited my dad to go anywhere in the world he wanted to go. He said he wanted to go to Oxford, England, to see the where his favorite Christian author C.S. Lewis lived — and then he wanted to go to Normandy, where so many of his high school buddies died on D-Day. He wanted to go to those beaches and to that special place himself to see the memorials to his friends. So we did both. My father got to sit at the desk of C.S. Lewis with a big smile on his face. Then I took my dad and my father-in-law to that very solemn place where American and Allied soldiers paid such a heavy human cost in perhaps the most historically significant military action in history.

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Senate Approves Prayer Plaque for World War II Monument

Just in time for the 70th anniversary of D-Day Friday, the U.S. Senate by unanimous consent passed a bill to include a prayer plaque at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The prayer to be included on the plaque was delivered over the radio to millions of Americans by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the morning of the D-Day invasion, the Allied push into Europe that eventually led to the end of the conflict.

“O Lord, give us Faith,” the prayer reads in part. “Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade.” It concludes: “Thy will be done, Almighty God.”

The U.S. House will have to approve the bill, known as the World War II Memorial Prayer Act of 2013, before it heads to President Obama’s desk for his signature. But political pundits say there is little doubt the House will approve the measure since it passed a similar version of the bill last year.

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Weekly Wrap 6.5.14: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. Seattle Pacific University Grieves After Deadly Shooting
"'When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say, blessed be the name of the Lord,' they sang. And they cried. And they raised their arms high. And when the hymn ended, new words hit the screen: '#PrayforSPU.'"

2. INTERACTIVE: D-Day Landing Scenes in 1944 and Now
From The Guardian: Peter Macdiarmid has taken photographs of locations in France and England to match with archive images taken before, during and after the D-day landings. Check out the stunning changes.

3. Four-in-Ten Pakistanis Say Honor Killings of Women Can Be At Least Sometimes Justified
The killing of a 25-year-old pregnant woman because she married without her family's consent in Pakistan has drawn international outrage. But so-called honor killings claim the lives of more than 1,000 Pakistani women every year.

4. Remembering Tiananmen
"Recently, as NPR’s Beijing correspondent, she took the famous picture from this time of “Tank Man” — a lone student standing in front of Chinese tanks — to contemporary university students in Beijing, asking if they could identify the iconic photo. Of 100 students, only 15 knew what it was, and they didn’t wish to discuss it. Their names were withheld out of respect for their anxiety."

5. The Problem With Biblical Authority
N.T. Wright writes for On Faith: "The risen Jesus doesn’t say, “All authority in heaven and earth is given to . . . the books you chaps are going to go and write.” He says, “All authority has been given to me.” The phrase authority of scripture can only, at its best, be a shorthand for the authority of God in Jesus, mediated through scripture."

6. The Heated Battle for Cooled Texas Prisons
Extreme heat has killed nearly twenty people housed in correctional facilities. Now, inmates and guards have banded together to fight for improved conditions.

7. The Church Has Been Left Behind
"It is as if the church is stuck with the disciples in wondering when Jesus will restore Christendom to Christianity. It is as if the church has mistaken cultural normativity, full pews, big buildings, political influence, and societal power for the Holy Spirit. It is as if the church has forgotten the great commission to witness to Christ in their local towns, states, and to the ends of the earth. It is if the church is afraid of being left behind."

8. The Lives of America's Homeless
At St. Stephen's Human Services in Minneapolis, Margaret Miles is creating oral and photographic histories of homeless people across Minnesota. "Somebody said, 'Gosh, that actually looks like the guy who drives my kids' school bus.' Well in fact it could be, and he could not be making enough money, or could have had a health crisis, or a divorce, or some other reason, and he's driving your kids and loving your kids and caring for your kids during his day job, and then having to sleep at night in a shelter."

9. Candidates Who Signed Anti-Immigration Pledge Are Losing Their Primaries
"In total*, 21 FAIR pledge signers lost to non-signers. Only two pledge signers have won so far in races where they were pitted against a non-signer."

10. National Donut Day 2014: Where To Go To Get Your Free Doughnuts
But, "most importantly," today is National Donut Day. Go (do)Nuts!

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Inspired and Inclusive Equality

For the better part of the last 30 years, my father has been a social justice activist serving as a leader within his Christian denomination, most specifically in various leadership roles where he could be an advocate for anti-racism education, universal health care, peace with justice in the middle East, and for full inclusion of our LGBTQ family within the body of Christ.

His activism actually dates back further, to the early 1960s when he marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma, Ala. His work in the 1990s and 2000s reflected a great depth of thought and commitment as he educated himself and others like him about the importance of recognition of the role of white heterosexual privilege in society and the need for collective repentance for ignoring structural sin regarding race, gender, class, and sexual preference. He worked to transform institutions that might inhibit the full expression of personhood for all of God’s children.

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In Heart of Texas, Support Grows for Same-sex Marriage

GUN BARREL CITY, Texas (RNS) This place got its name because the main road was straight as a gun barrel. Today, it’s at the center of a fight over gay marriage.

That’s because weekenders Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes, who bought an A-frame house overlooking scenic Cedar Creek Lake four years ago, have become minor celebrities as the men challenging Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage.

Their battle, joined by two women whose Massachusetts marriage the Lone Star State refuses to recognize, is as unlikely as it is uphill. They’ve already won the first round in federal court in San Antonio, where District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled the state’s marriage laws against gay couples “demean their dignity for no legitimate reason.”

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Our Country Needs Immigration Reform Based on Biblical Values

As immigration reform gains more and more bipartisan support in Congress, I am encouraged by our lawmakers’ positive steps forward, and I can’t help but think of my own story on immigration.

When I first started working on immigration, I was naïve. My wife and I started ministering to immigrants in 2005, and I thought our work would be all about sharing the Gospel of Christ.

I thought we would share in word and deed and our acts of service would show compassion. I was sure moving to the neighborhood would help make us equal participants in our community together, but certain things would make this nearly impossible.

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Taking Climate Change Seriously

Climate change is about people, not just science and politics — it is an inter-generational ethics issue. The earth is the Lord’s, and in Genesis, God entrusts us with caring for Creation. The earth that we leave to future generations is already being changed by climate change, and so far, our nation has done little to stop climate pollution. The Clean Power Plan, announced Monday by the EPA, is a great step forward for our country in taking climate change seriously.

The policy will treat carbon the way it should be treated — as a pollutant that’s harming our health and our planet. It will reduce our carbon pollution 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, but will allow each state the flexibility to decide how it reaches that goal.

The rule reflects some of the best values we hold dear. It will help prevent premature deaths and asthma attacks caused by smog and other air pollutants. But most importantly, it will reduce the pollution that fuels climate change. It’s clear that President Obama cares about the legacy he leaves to today and into future generations. While there is a lot more that can and should be done by this administration and by Congress, President Obama deserves our appreciation for embracing the common good and taking such a big step to preserve the earth for our grandchildren’s grandchildren.

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Is Pulpit Plagiarism on the Rise? Some Blame the Internet

Thou shalt not steal another pastor’s sermon?

Recent cases of high-profile pastors who have been accused of lifting others’ material are raising questions about whether pulpit plagiarism is on the rise — and whether it has become a more forgivable sin.

Seattle megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll was accused last year of plagiarism in material he wrote with Tyndale House Publishers and InterVarsity Press. “Mistakes were made that I am grieved by and apologize for,” Driscoll said in a statement. Most recently, popular Oklahoma City-based megachurch pastor Craig Groeschel has been accused of plagiarizing the work of writer and comedian Danny Murphy.

Groeschel is the pastor of Lifechurch.tv, a tech-savvy megachurch founded in 1996 that has quickly grown to one of the nation’s largest churches, with 80 weekly “worship experiences” across 19 campuses in five states.

On his blog, Murphy suggested Groeschel used material that Murphy wrote in the now-defunct magazine The Door in 2000. The material was later used by Groeschel in a sermon and in a book now titled Love, Sex, and Happily Ever After, printed by Multnomah Books. Murphy’s name never appeared with it.

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The Church Has Been Left Behind

Editor's Note: This post was originally a sermon in our monthly Sojourners chapel.

Friends, grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Around the time I started middle school, my church acquired a series of books called The Left Behind Series. These books chronicle the final days of earth as outlined in the book of Revelation and other apocalyptic biblical texts. I won’t offer any commentary on the theology of these books, or even their literary value, but, as a middle-schooler, they were fairly impressionable.

The entire series begins with a dramatic reinterpretation of the rapture. People are going about their daily lives — driving to work, flying airplanes, making breakfast — when all of a sudden, people who had been there just seconds before are gone. Simply vanished into thin air. Of course, chaos ensues, because who is driving the car? Flying the airplane? Tending the stove? The world they leave behind is shattered, broken, and chaotic! This seminal event — the rapture — shapes the rest of the series as those who have been “left behind” work to win the ultimate prize — a place in heaven where they are no longer left behind.

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