The Common Good

God's Politics Blog

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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A Mama Knows Best, So Let’s Let Her Decide

There are more than 220 million women in developing countries who don’t want to get pregnant, but who lack access to family planning information and contraceptives. Every year, nearly 300,000 of them will die during pregnancy or from complications giving birth. Far too many mothers will bury their babies before they even get to know the sound of their laughter. More than 2.6 million babies will be stillborn, and another 2.9 million will die before they are a month old.

Giving women the opportunity to time their pregnancies and space out their children through effective, low-cost contraception is key to turning around these heartbreaking numbers.

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Evangelicals Want to Follow the Global South on Gays. They Should Be Careful What They Ask For

If religious conservatives are truly awakening to the need to dialogue with global Christians, they need to be consistent. It doesn’t make sense to exploit non-Western perspectives on LGBT rights but refuse to hear those same voices on matters such as nationbuilding, war, immigration, environmental policy, and foreign aid.

The inconsistency leads me to believe that these calls are more about political posturing than a desire to really listen to our global brothers and sisters.

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Liberation Theology’s Founder Basks in a Belated Rehabilitation Under Pope Francis

Reagan and John Paul helped spell doom for the Soviet empire, and the pontiff waged a decades-long campaign inside the church — helped by his doctrinal chief, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would later become Pope Benedict XVI — to quash liberation theology and silence its most ardent supporters.

Today, however, it’s a wholly different story — and to listen to the Rev. Gustavo Gutierrez, the Dominican priest from Peru who is known as the father of liberation theology, one might wonder what all the fuss was about.

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Praying for Prisoners with Jesus

Jesus not only knew how to pray; he knew what it was like to be arrested. When he had finished his table prayer, Jesus and his disciples went out across the Kidron valley to a garden. Judas knew about that garden because he and the other disciples often met there with Jesus. This time, Judas didn’t come to pray, but brought a detachment of soldiers and religious police. They arrested Jesus, bound him and took him away to be tried.

Jesus escaped prison only because he was executed by the state the next day. This crucified, risen, and wounded Jesus has returned to the heart of God. He continues to pray for us. Why wouldn’t Jesus be praying also for those who are in prison? Why wouldn’t we?

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More Than Demographics

The story of world Christianity’s recent pilgrimage is dramatic and historically unprecedented. The “center of gravity” of Christianity’s presence in the world rested comfortably in Europe for centuries. In 1500, 95 percent of all Christians were in that region, and four centuries later, in 1910, 80 percent of all Christians were in Europe or North America.

But then, world Christianity began the most dramatic geographical shift in its history, moving rapidly toward the global South, and then also toward the East. By 1980, for the first time in 1,000 years, more Christians were found in the global South than the North. Growth in Africa was and remains incredible, with one of our four Christians now an African, and moving toward 40 percent of world Christianity by 2025. Asia’s Christian population, now at 350 million, will grow to 460 million by that same time. Even today, it’s estimated that more Christians worship on any given Sunday in churches in China than in the U.S.

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