The Common Good

God's Politics Blog

Facebook: The New Public Square

Even though I use Facebook frequently, I doubt my usage pattern will justify a $100 billion valuation for the company or send a new crop of Silicon Valley paper millionaires to Ferrari dealerships.

I never click on sidebar ads, I immediately block all games, and I have no intention of using Facebook's virtual money. I've done some advertising -- to little effect -- and will do more, but not much.

On the other hand, I find Facebook intriguing, sobering and oddly encouraging. To me, Facebook is an intriguing window on the world. It's the raw stuff of human diversity, not filtered through self-serving politicians or media summaries. When I decided to "friend" people whose views differ from mine, little did I know how much we differ.

Name an issue — say, the recent dust-up over breast cancer funding for Planned Parenthood — and I read not only the rage and indignation of fervent extremes, but deep divisions within the sensible middle. The hope that we could find common ground by moving to the middle could be delusional. Divisions are still there, but maybe they're just calmer.

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California's 'Prop 8' Ruled Unconsitutional

In a decision that likely will set the stage for a high-stakes showdown at the U.S. Supreme Court, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down California's Proposition 8 ballot measure that banned gay marriage, saying there is no "legitimate" reason to keep same-sex couples from marrying.

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Why We Fast

In February of 2009, when I tried a month-long Ramadan fast for the book Flunking Sainthood, I felt like a failure for most of the month.

Fasting was not a practice I ever cheated on (weirdly, it was easier for me to give up food completely in February than it was just to be a vegetarian in October of that year, when I did cheat -- how lame is that?). But I never felt like I fully "got" it. I did feel unexpectedly relaxed at the end of February -- and, let's face it, a bit smug that I'd persevered through the experience -- but not much more spiritual than when I started.

I think it's because I had the wrong attitude to begin with.

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Afternoon Links of Awesomeness: Feb. 7, 2012

Ferris Bueller's Super Bowl ad compared side by side with the movie, North Korea goes polka via Norway with A-Ha's "Take on Me,"Jimmy Kimmel encourages viewers to pull more pranks, timelapse photography from Yosemite National Park, guess who said it: Dwight Schrute or Newt Gingrich? And an in-depth Interview Magazine chat with Grammy nominated Bon Iver's Justin Vernon. See this and more in today's links.

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Afternoon News Bytes: Feb. 7, 2012

Racial Discrimination Can't Be Solved By Fighting Poverty; In This Election Year, Let There Be Tolerance (OPINION); Flood The Zone (OPINION); The Poverty Problem: More Than Mitt Romney's PR Misstep (OPINION); Syria And The Pernicious Consequences Of Our Libya Intervention; Were Politics Buried Inside Eastwood's 'Halftime' Commercial?; A Line Of Would-Be Immigrants? There Isn’t One.; Waging War In Secret Vs. American Democracy; California Occupiers Camp Outside Former Marine’s Home To Prevent Foreclosure.

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Happy Birthday Charlie! Dickens' 200th Celebrated Worldwide

“Come in, and know me better man”
~ Ghost of Christmas Present, A Christmas Carol

As the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens is celebrated around the world today, it seems like a great opportunity to get to know the author a little better.

And where else would a tech-minded person like myself head first? Why the Google Doodle of course!

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Poll: Americans support contraception coverage, divided over religious exemptions

A majority of Americans — including Catholics — believe that employers should be required to provide employee health care plans that cover contraception and birth control at no cost, according to a new survey.

But the research by the Public Religion Polling Institute shows that when it comes to providing religious exemptions from free contraceptive coverage – something the White House is sharply criticized for failing to do – the public is much more divided.

The Catholic bishops have slammed the Obama administration in recent weeks, urging priests to read letters from the pulpit blasting a new Health & Human Services rule that will require some Catholic institutions, such as universities, to cover employees' contraceptive costs. 

On Monday, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued "Six Things Everyone Should Know About the HHS Mandate." Included on the list was, "Catholics of all political persuasions are unified in their opposition to the mandate."

The survey released today, however, paints a more nuanced picture.

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Is Iran Really a Threat?

It seems like every day we hear from another politician saying that “we are ready to attack Iran if necessary," or from another pundit full of hot air telling us why we should invade Iran right now.

The presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, has said that he would support “something of a surgical-strike nature, to something of a ‘decapitate the regime’ nature to eliminate the military threat of Iran altogether.” President Obama has said:   “Every option is on the table.” All of these conversations typically go along the lines of emphasizing how Iran poses a serious and immediate threat to the United States.

As was the case in the conversations leading up to the 2003 Iraq war, there is much heat, and not a whole lot of light.

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'Dexter Theology': Shedding Blood in God's Name

I’ll admit I’m a sucker for stories about the malleability of human morality. From the mob movies, where a guy can whack his cousin but better not show his Patron any “disrespect,” to justice-seeking serial killers like “Dexter,” there’s plenty of justified violence to be found.

Where do such seemingly contradictory value systems come from? And do they actually happen in the real world today?

How about the politician who claims a platform that values a respect for “all life,” while justifying war and advocating for capital punishment? Or those who celebrate the death of Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein? And the list goes on.

It’s common in western culture to objectify the Islamic faith, cherry-picking texts from their scripture and plucking choice sound-bytes from extremist leaders, to portray the whole of the religion as inherently violent. This, in turn, is employed to justify violence in-kind, or worse, preemptive violence, as in the case of our invasion of Iraq.

I call this “Dexter” theology.

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UK Watchdog Group Bans Christian Ads, Says Divine Healing=False Advertising

 LONDON — Britain's powerful media advertising watchdog has banned a Christian group from claiming on its website and brochures that God's cure-all powers can heal a string of medical ailments.

The Advertising Standards Authority, the independent regulator of advertising in all British media, ruled that the ads generated by the group Healing on the Streets are irresponsible and misleading.

The ASA, whose tight rules are considered among the world's most stringent, cites a leaflet produced by the group from its center in the spa town of Bath, England, claiming that God "can heal you from any sickness."

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