The Common Good

God's Politics Blog

What Was Romney Like as a Mormon Bishop?

Though Mitt Romney talks little about his faith on the campaign trail, he grew up in the Mormon Church and spent years as a top church leader in Massachusetts. From 1986 to 1994, he was president of the Boston stake, an entity similar to a Catholic diocese. Before that, Romney was bishop, similar to a lay pastor, of congregations in Belmont and Cambridge. Each job included both organizational work and counseling.

After leaving the stake president position, Romney taught Sunday school for a year, then oversaw the church’s programs for teenagers for around two years. Romney continues to tithe — giving 10 percent of his income to his church. In accordance with Mormon teachings, he does not drink alcohol, tea or coffee. He attends church services when he can. Romney's campaign did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

As a church leader, Romney ran the church with businesslike efficiency.

“He was very serious about doing an excellent job about things and he didn’t suffer fools,” said Helen Claire Sievers, executive director for the Harvard-affiliated WorldTeach, who was active in the church when Romney was stake president.

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British Hotel Replaces Bedside Bibles with ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’

A hotel in the United Kingdom has replaced in-room Gideon Bibles with the soft-porn best-seller Fifty Shades of Grey.

The change was made earlier this month in all 40 guest rooms at the Damson Dene Hotel in the Lake District of England.

The hotel's owner Jonathan Denby explained his decision in a blog post:

"Tonight millions of women will be curling up in bed with a good book and you can bet your life it won't be the Bible. More likely than not it will be Fifty Shades of Grey. I haven't read the book yet – I'm not in the target audience – but I'm told it's a ripping good yarn and everyone who's in the target audience loves it. This made me wonder about the sense of providing a book, the Gideon Bible which no one reads, and many dislike, in the bedside cabinet of our hotel bedrooms, instead of a book which everyone wants to read, such as Fifty Shades of Grey."

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QUIRK: USA Olympic Swim Team Does 'Call Me Maybe'

Not only are they the best athletes of their generation, but they’re also solid lip syncers…

Yes, it’s the video you’ve all been waiting for:

The USA Olympic Swimming Team takes some time off from the pool and does ‘Call Me Maybe’!

Watch it ... inside the blog.

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Afternoon Links of Awesomeness: July 26, 2012

Highlights of the 2012 Euro tournament are reenacted with string --- Tim Heidecker beats Bob Dylan in releasing a song about the Titanic --- Philadelphia to open world's first Pizza restaurant and museum -- Wilco delivers a powerful performance on Late Night. See these and more in today's Links of Awesomeness...

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QUIRK: Some Londoners Slow to Catch the Olympic Spirit

Billions will tune into the Summer Olympics in London over the coming weeks, excited to see their favorite athletes competing for those coveted Gold Medals.

Hundreds of thousands more will brave the wind and rain of the traditional British ‘summer’ (this year, summer will officially be on August 13 if you’re interested) to enjoy the Games in person and literally some people will watch the Trampolining (because those were the only tickets that were left, let’s be honest).

Everyone is anticipating a wonderful event with great excitement, which will display the very best of what Britain has to offer.

Excuse me, did you say excitement? Are you having a bubble? [Editor’s note: “bubble” is Cockney rhyming slang for laugh…]

Hear what "average" Londoner Brick-laying Bertha (with an assist from Monty Python's Terry Jones) has to say about this year's games inside the blog.

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'Homeland' Asks Tough Questions About Immigration Policy

Can America still afford to be a generous immigrant nation? Can it afford not to be?

These are the questions posed by Nine Network of Public Media's and PBS's documentary Homeland: Immigration in AmericaThe first of a three-part series focused on job issues.

While the largest Hispanic populations are in California and Texas, the fastest growing Hispanic populations are in smaller Southern and Midwestern towns. 

The episode shined a spotlight on Monett, Mo., home to a Tyson Foods chicken processing plant; EFCO, a Pella Company; and Happy Apples — an apple orchard that produces caramel apples for nationwide sales. The plants have relied on immigrant labor for years, and now the city has revitalized because of the influx of Hispanic immigrants. 

While the issue of illegal immigration is at the forefront of people's minds when discussing immigration reform as a whole, the documentary points out the flaws in the legal immigration process as it exists. 

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Suffer the Little Children: Crime and Punishment at Penn State

The disciplinary actions announced this week by the NCAA against the Penn State University football program were severe.

They included a $60 million fine (equivalent to their football proceeds of one year), a four-year ban on playing in post-season bowl games, a four-year reduction in the school’s number of football scholarships from 25 to 15, vacating all of the wins of Penn State’s football wins from 1998-2011 from official records (including vitiating the numbers that made their famous coach Joe Paterno the “winningest” big-school college football coach in history), giving all returning football players the right to transfer to another school, a five-year probationary period for the football program, and reserving the right to do further investigations and impose additional sanctions on individuals for their behavior.

That will end Penn State’s dominant national football program for the foreseeable future and is a much more serious punishment than simply banning the university from playing football for a year  — aka a “death sentence”—  might have been.

I agree with the NCAA’s disciplinary decisions and would have supported even harsher penalties against Penn State.

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Pro-Life or Pro-Choice? Many Are Saying Both

The influence of clergy in swaying their congregants' attitudes about moral issues like abortion and contraception access is dwindling, according to a new study. 

The Religion, Values, and Experiences: Black and Hispanic American Attitudes on Abortion and Reproductive Issues survey, conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, shows that there continues to be a disconnect in personal, moral belief and feelings about public policy. 

"What they're hearing at church is not the big mover on attitudes of legality of abortion," Robert Jones, PRRI CEO, said. 

While 51 percent of black Americans believe abortion is morally wrong, 67 percent say it should be legal in all or most cases. 

"I really think that freedom of choice is probably one of the most precious components of what it means to be a Christian. Blacks have been quite possessive and reflective of this fact," said Dr. Stacy Floyd-Thomas, associate professor of Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt University's Divinity School. "… You do have the majority saying that they might see it as a sin or they are against it, but you still have the right."

Both groups believe it is possible to disagree with church teaching and be a good Catholic or good Christian. Jones pointed to the growing trend of personal versus external focus. Previous surveys have shown that attitudes about religion are mostly influenced by people's own beliefs and behaviors rather than institutional doctrine. 

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The Top 10 Stories of July 26, 2012

Quote of the day.
“One drop of rain doesn't make a difference at all, but a million drops of rain turns a desert into a garden. I can't do a lot, you can't do a lot, but together, we can do a lot.” - Pastor Rick Warren addresses a gathering of faith leaders during the International AIDS Conference.
(The Christian Post)

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Turning the Tide on AIDS

A palpable feeling of hope and urgency hung heavy in the air of Washington, D.C., this week as thousands of activists descended on the nation’s capital to encourage and inspire colleagues and decision-makers to “turn the tide on AIDS.”

The International AIDS Conference 2012 has returned to the United States, thanks in part to the lifting of the HIV/AIDS travel ban by the Obama Administration in 2010, which followed work from President George W. Bush also to lift the ban.

As part of the Conference, faith leaders from across the world were invited Tuesday morning to a forum hosted by the White House. It was an opportunity to hear from U.S. and international experts and officials, as well as come together as a community of faith, standing up against the stigma and isolation which have been two of the biggest roadblocks to achieving the goal of an AIDS-free generation.

Tuesday’s event centered around two panel discussions — one examining what the faith community uniquely brings to the table in tackling the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the other focusing on the relationship between governments and people of faith in building the effective partnerships needed to tackle it.

The tone of the discussions was, in many ways, extremely positive. We heard about vast improvements in treatments and holistic care, services often administered by faith-based organizations around the world.

“Hope,” as White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships Executive Director, Joshua DuBois, noted, is overcoming “fear.”

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