The Common Good

God's Politics Blog

Catholic Bishop on Contraception Mandate: Not Kosher.

WASHINGTON — Exhibit A in the fight over President Obama's mandate for religious institutions to provide insurance coverage for contraception: a ham sandwich.

At a hearing Thursday convened by House Republicans to cast opposition to the mandate as a matter of religious liberty, Roman Catholic Bishop William E. Lori invoked the image of a kosher deli forced to sell ham sandwiches.

"The mandate generates the question whether people who believe — even if they believe in error — that pork is not good for you, should be forced by government to serve pork within their very own institutions.

"In a nation committed to religious liberty and diversity, the answer, of course, is no," said Lori, the bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., and the point man on religious liberty for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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Whitney Houston's Funeral Saturday: No Fans Allowed

NEWARK, N.J. — With TV trucks and camera crews clogging the streets and thousands of fans hoping for a glimpse of the event, Whitney Houston's family has decided that no one but invited guests will get near her funeral on Saturday.

That means no procession, no video screens outside the New Hope Baptist Church for the noon service — and no fans who want to pay their respects.

City streets will be locked down for six square blocks around the church beginning at 7 a.m. Saturday, Newark Police Director Samuel DeMaio said.

Celebrities from Aretha Franklin (who is Houston's godmother) to the Rev. Jesse Jackson have been invited to the funeral. Others confirmed on the guest list, according to CNN, are Chaka Khan, BeBe and CeCe Winans, songwriter Diane Warren, pop singer Darlene Love, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Antonio "L.A." Reid, Ray J and Brandy.

No one without an invitation will get into the service for the 48-year-old singer who died Saturday in her Beverly Hills Hilton hotel room.

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Southern Baptists Mull Whether 'Southern' Still Fits

FAIRHOPE, Ala. — For the Rev. Jerry Henry, pastor of First Baptist Church of Fairhope, being Southern Baptist is a defining aspect of life.

He embraces the denomination's conservative social values, extols its evangelism — "We reach out to people instead of waiting for them to come to us" — and identifies with its name.

The Rev. Jerry Henry, pastor of First Baptist Church Fairhope, Ala., has struggled with whether the Southern Baptist Convention should change its name to reflect greater geographic diversity.

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Jeremy Lin and the 'Messiah Formula'

No, he doesn't go down on one knee every time he nails a dunk or a perimeter shot. And as far as I know, he’s not building any hospitals in far-off countries. But the 23-year-old point guard for the New York Knicks suddenly finds himself in a spotlight familiar enough to Tebow that the pair should consider a face-to-face lunch to compare notes.

Like Tim Tebow, Jeremy Lin “rode the pine” as a bench-warmer for years. Unlike the star quarterback, Lin was cut by two other NBA teams before landing a supporting role on the Knicks bench.

So why do we know about him all of a sudden? Although Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni would love to claim credit, he admits the only reason the American-born player of Taiwanese parents got his shot was because so many players ahead of him were injured.

Then, as if storing up his energy for months in anticipation of his big break, Lin lit up scoreboards, followed by sports talk shows and endorsement deals. Eleven days ago, he was a relative nobody. But it seems all it takes is leading your team to a six-game winning streak, posting 38 points against Kobe Bryant and snagging a buzzer-beater three-pointer against the Raptors to get the public’s attention.

So long Tebowmania; enter “Linsanity.”

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A New Hymn for Ash Wednesday

This coming Wednesday, Febr. 22, is Ash Wednesday. The following new hymn is based on the Revised Common Lectionary’s assigned reading of Isaiah 58:1-12 with its social justice themes.

            O God of Love, the Fast You Choose

  KINGSFOLD CMD (“Today We All Are Called to Be Disciples”)

O God of love, the fast you choose is not some great display.

It’s everything we gladly do to serve you day by day.

It’s not a moment set apart when we will mourn our sin;

For you require a change of heart—  a change from what has been....

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The Kingdom of God Belongs to Them

Today: As Jesus is traveling around, crowds gather, important leaders want him to come speak in their beautiful churches; all are eager to hear the teacher’s wisdom. Suddenly, as far as the eye can see, there is a huge crowd of children slowly coming toward them. Some are trying to walk, some are crawling, some are being carried. Most are stunted — their bodies and brains haven't developed properly because of a lack of food, and the necessary protein, vitamins, and minerals it provides. All of them — 2.6 million every year — are slowly dying from malnutrition.

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British High Court Rules Against Prayer at Town Meetings

LONDON — A British High Court justice has triggered dismay and anger across England and Wales with a recent decision that declares prayers at town hall meetings are against the law.

Justice Duncan Ouseley ruled late last week that local government councils were violating a 40-year-old law if they conducted prayers "as part of a formal local government meeting."

But the judge added that prayers could be allowed if they were held before the town hall meeting officially began, and if councilors were "not formally summoned to attend."

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FBI, Muslim Groups Report Progress in Training Materials

FBI officials say they are willing to consider a proposal from a coalition of Muslim and interfaith groups to establish a committee of experts to review materials used in FBI anti-terrorism training.

The coalition raised the idea during a Feb 8 meeting with FBI Director Robert Mueller, who met with the groups to discuss pamphlets, videos and other anti-terrorism training materials that critics say are either Islamophobic or factually incorrect.

"We're open to the idea, but they need to submit a proposal first," said Christopher Allen, an FBI spokesman who was in the meeting.

Groups at the meeting included the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Interfaith Alliance, and the Shoulder-to-Shoulder campaign.

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Shane Claiborne: Occupy Nonviolence

Amidst the recent police violence in Oakland and the sure temptation of some protestors to resort to violence, I wrote this little reflection inviting all Occupiers to a renewed commitment to nonviolence.

There is a verse in the Bible that says, “Our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the principalities and powers of this dark world.” It is a reminder that there are people behind oppressive structures — people who laugh and cry and bleed just like everyone else — and those people are not the enemies, but the systems are.

I was reminded of this when I went into Bank of America on Move Your Money Day, and transferred my money to the non-profit credit union here in Philadelphia. As I went into the bank, I saw the smiling faces of Bank of America tellers who have become friends over the past decade. When I told them I was closing my account, one of the women asked jokingly, “You don’t like us anymore?” At first my heart sunk, but then I said, “No way, I love the heck out of all of you. I just don’t like the values of the bank you work for.” To my surprise, they all smiled. In fact they may not like the values of the bank they work for either. Even though I’ll be leaving Bank of America, I’m hoping to stay in touch with my friends there. I may even take them some coffees next week, which I’ll charge on my new credit union debit card.

It is always tempting to demonize people and humanize corporations. It’s easy to forget that we are up against something bigger than flesh and blood people. And it’s particularly easy to forget that people are not the enemy when people are shooting pepper spray in your face. 

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Afternoon Links of Awesomeness: Feb. 16, 2012

Over the Rhine's husband/wife duo talks music and life together, old CDs are turned into remarkable animal sculptures, Chipotle takes new strides toward humane practices, a spark of fun in family pictures, restaurant serves edible balloons for dessert... and Disney's Lady and the Tramp is given new life. All this and more ... inside the blog.

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