The Common Good

Election Commentary

Both Parties Have 'Work Cut Out For Them' Attracting Millennials

In a previous post about the recent ‘Millennial Values Survey,’ I pointed out that young millennials age 18-24 are becoming disillusioned with institutionalized religion.

It’s an anecdotal truth we’ve been throwing around quite a lot lately, but the survey proves the very clear reality that the newest generation of adults is checking the “unaffiliated” box at a rate of one in four.

But young adults aren’t just showing apathy for religion—it’s politics as well. 

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Young Millennials: Rethinking Religion

One in four young millennials (age 18-24) identify themselves as religiously unaffiliated—up from 11 percent in their childhood. But the distinguishing factor for this age group is that the “unaffiliated” label may stick with them into adulthood and beyond.

“This cohort is so dramatically different—racially, ethnically and religiously—it can’t help but change the character of our country,” Daniel Cox, director of research at Public Religion Research Institute, said at the presentation of the “Millennial Values Survey,” conducted by PRRI and Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs.

In the past, young adults have tended to lapse in faith during their college years and twenties, only to return with age and family. Robert Jones, PRRI founder and CEO, said that’s not likely to happen as much with this age group.

“We’ve got to come up with some new measures of religion,” Jones said.

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Millennials Find Distinction Between Personal Morality and Common Good

College-aged adults are not letting their moral beliefs on social issues filter into their politics.
+Leave a Comment | Faith & Politics

What is Post-Candidate Politics?

For a lot of voters, President Barack Obama’s tenure hasn’t turned out quite as they hoped. On the other side, the presumptive GOP nominee, Gov. Mitt Romney, isn’t the candidate that many voters seem ready to believe in.

Traditional political parties are in decline. In December 2011, Gallup reported that 45 percent of the U.S. population identified as politically independent. At the same time, the direction of our two parties is more and more influenced by political movements like the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street.

While there is an unprecedented level of money flowing into elections from wealthy donors, corporations and unions, social media has democratized access to fellow voters. You can spend millions of dollars buying airtime on traditional TV stations—but it is entirely possible to craft a compelling message that will reach millions for a relatively small cost.

A politically disillusioned electorate and a huge influx of money for attack ads will be a challenge to our country’s democratic processes. The danger, especially for my generation, is to tune out from political and civic engagement entirely.

The opportunity is post-candidate politics.

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Catholic Bishops Say Ryan Budget Fails Moral Test

A week after House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan claimed his Catholic faith inspired the Republicans' cost-cutting budget plan, the nation’s Catholic bishops reiterated their demand that the federal budget protect the poor, and said the GOP measure “fails to meet these moral criteria.”

That and other strongly-worded judgments on the GOP budget proposal flew in a flurry of letters from leading bishops to the chairmen of key congressional committee.

The letters to Capitol Hill were highlighted in a Tuesday (April 17) statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that came after Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican and rising conservative hero, told an interviewer last week (April 10) that his fiscal views were informed by Catholic social teaching.

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The Cost of the Military

The budget for UN Peacekeeping operations for fiscal year July 2011-30 June 2012 is about $7.84 billion. That’s 0.5 percent of what the world spends on its militaries.
+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

Survey Shows Obama Lead Narrowing as Voters Focus on Economy

A new poll released today shows that Barack Obama holds a narrow lead over Mitt Romney in economic issues among voters.
+Leave a Comment | Faith & Politics

Bless These Shrimps: Faith, Fishing and Gulf Coast Restoration

Faith and fishing: two central parts of Louisiana’s vibrant coastal culture. Every April, going back generations, you can see them intersect in a celebration of bayou life at the annual Blessing of the Fleet in Chauvin, La. Families welcome the opening of the year’s first shrimp season by coming together to pray for family and friends who depend on the seafood industry, and for a healthy ecosystem that yields a bountiful catch.

“We pray for the safety and welfare of all fishermen,” said Fr. Frederic Brunet, pastor of St. Joseph Catholic church who has presided over the event for many years. “Bless the shrimp and crabs and help us to catch a lot of them.”

This year saw the second blessing since the BP Oil Spill shut down the Gulf fishing industry in 2010. Since then, many shrimpers have reported problems: poor catches and startling irregularities (such as shrimp with no eyes).

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The Lesson of History

On November 21, 1967, General William Westmoreland, U.S. commander in Vietnam, delivered a speech at the National Press Club on war strategy. “We have reached an important point when the end begins to come into view,” he said, and outlined a “new phase” in the war where the U.S. would:

  • Help the Vietnamese Armed Forces to continue improving their effectiveness.
  • Help the new Vietnamese government to respond to popular aspirations and to reduce and eliminate corruption.
  • Help the Vietnamese strengthen their policy forces to enhance law and order.

Then came what is now known as the Tet Offensive. On January 30, 1968, the National Liberation Front launched attacks against cities and towns throughout South Vietnam. It was the beginning of the end, the evidence that U.S. strategy had failed.

Fast forward 45 years. U.S. strategy in Afghanistan emphasizes assisting the Afghan army and police forces to improve their effectiveness along with working to reduce corruption in the government. We hear encouraging speeches from politicians and generals. We’re told the end is in sight.

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Faith Leaders Opposed to Prison Privatization

Several months ago I was blessed to meet a young man, Marcus, whose story is not unlike so many young African American young men who find themselves on the other side of a prison cell.

Marcus lived a challenging life, made some bad choices and was convicted of a non-violent drug possession charge. What makes his story different is that he found a new way forward. Just before his release on parole, Marcus was connected to a mentorship program that encouraged artists who were incarcerated. This mentorship program was created by one faithful person who takes seriously the charge to “Remember those who are in prison, as though you were there in prison with them…” (Hebrews 13:3).

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The Cold War is Over

From the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991, the Cold War ended. But U.S. policymakers apparently still haven’t gotten the news.
+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

Rachel is Weeping: Ending Racial Profiling in America

Editor’s note: The following written testimony was submitted by Lisa Sharon Harper, on behalf of Sojourners, to be included in today’s U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights Hearing on “Ending Racial Profiling in America.”

As a Christian organization, Sojourners is compelled to consider the pattern and institution of racial profiling practices abhorrent and a direct threat to the maintenance and cultivation of the inherent dignity of every human being living and working within the boundaries of the United States. We believe every human being is made in the image of God and therefore equally worthy of protection of human and civil rights under the law. Racial profiling not only threatens the psychological and emotional well-being of targeted communities. As demonstrated above, the practice can lead to death.

 

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Hope, Caught on Film

Last week, anonymous U.S. officials told the media that the U.S. military wouldn't stop the drone-launched missile attacks, which they have been carrying out for years within Pakistan.

Discouraging news, indeed. 

But we all need encouragement, so here's a little good news—images of a chance encounter of a peace-building kind.

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Lobbyists Spend A Lot of Money to Make Your Taxes Confusing

I finished up my taxes last night. I didn’t think much of the hour I spent on the phone with my dad making sure I filed correctly. Taxes are always complicated, right?
+Leave a Comment | Economic Justice

Kids vs. Global Warming

A lawsuit that comes to a head May 11 could set a trajectory for how we legislate and mitigate against the devastating impacts of global climate change, Think Progress reports.

The suit, which has been dubbed a ‘David vs. Goliath battle,' sees a group of young adults taking on high-level government officials, states, energy companies and big businesses over their collective failure to adequately protect our planet for future generations.

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Mission Not Accomplished

Whatever President Obama does at the upcoming Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia this weekend may not be front-page news in the U.S—but for many Colombians trying to make an honest living in their homeland, it could just be Obama's "Mission Accomplished" banner moment.

President George W. Bush's May 2003 speech in front of a giant "Mission Accomplished" sign was, to put it mildly, a premature declaration of triumph in the U.S. war with Iraq, an enterprise that was a bad idea in the first place. In Cartagena this weekend, word is that Obama may declare that, after one year of a promised four-year plan, Colombia has met its commitments to crack down on offenses against Colombian workers' rights and lives.

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Mitt Romney on the Cusp of Making Major Mormon History

WASHINGTON --  With Rick Santorum’s exit from the White House race, Mitt Romney stands on the cusp of history as the first Mormon to appear at the top of a major party ticket in a general presidential election. Romney, a Brigham Young University-educated, Mormon-family scion and beloved Utah figure, is now the inevitable Republican nominee and will take on President  Obama this fall.

The news is sure to bring a surge of excitement unseen in Utah since Romney led the triumphant 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and helped usher the state — and the Mormon Church — onto the world stage.

“Romney has family here, he’s lived here, he’s worked here, he went to school here,” says Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican who has campaigned this year with the former Massachusetts governor. “It feels like he’s one of us.”

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Rick Santorum and Family Values

Most of the first punditry around Rick Santorum suspending his quest for the Republican presidential nomination focuses on his drop in the Pennsylvania opinion polls and his difficulty in fundraising. Those were no doubt part of the decision. But there’s a deeper reason more important than political considerations.

As has been frequently reported, Sen. Santorum and his wife Karen’s youngest child Bella, was born with a rare and usually fatal chromosomal condition known as Trisomy 18. Bella, 3-years old, has been hospitalized twice already this year with pneumonia, most recently this past weekend.  Santorum took two days from campaigning to be with her.

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Rick Santorum Drops Out of GOP Presidential Race

Rick Santorum, candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination, has ended his run for the GOP presidential nomination, he announced at a news conference from a hotel in Gettysburg, Pa., today (Tuesday).

Despite winning primary contests in 11 states, failure to win any of the three primaries last week in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia heaped pressure on Santorum’s campaign.

Sen. Santorum, accompanied at the podium by his wife and several other family members, explained to journalists gathered at today’s press conference that the recent hospitalization of his young daughter Bella, who has a rare genetic disorder, had impacted his decision to end his campaign.

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President Obama to Young Evangelicals: 'God’s Hand is Moving through His People'

In a video address Tuesday, President Obama told hundreds of young evangelical Christian leaders gathered at the Q Conference in Washington, D.C., that they had a partner in the White House in their humanitarian and social justice efforts.

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President Obama on Passover, Easter: 'Common Thread of Humanity'

See video
his weeky address, President Obama said in part:

"For millions of Americans, this weekend is a time to celebrate redemption at God’s hand. Tonight, Jews will gather for a second Seder, where they will retell the story of the Exodus. And tomorrow, my family will join Christians around the world as we thank God for the all-important gift of grace through the resurrection of His son, and experience the wonder of Easter morning.

"These holidays have their roots in miracles that took place thousands of years ago. They connect us to our past and give us strength as we face the future. And they remind us of the common thread of humanity that connects us all.

"For me, and for countless other Christians, Easter weekend is a time to reflect and rejoice...."

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Bishops Say Obama Compromise is `Unconstitutional’

The nation’s Catholic bishops say the Obama administration’s proposed revisions to a mandate that requires insurers to provide birth control coverage are still unacceptable and even “radically flawed" -- signaling a long drawn-out election-year fight between the White House and the Catholic hierarchy.

The bishops also say that they will continue to try to overturn the contraception regulations in Congress and the courts even as the bishops carry on negotiations with the White House.

The critical judgments on the government proposals, which were published by the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services on March 16, are contained in an internal, two-page March 29 memo from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The memo’s contents were first reported Tuesday (April 3) by Catholic News Service.

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President Obama: Easter Celebrates 'That Glorious Overcoming'

President Obama hosted his third annual Easter prayer breakfast for about 150 members of the clergy from across the nation in the East Room of the White House Wednesday morning. In his six-minute address, Obama reflected on the spiritual messages of Easter -- Jesus' triumphant overcoming of his own human doubts and fears so that all of humanity might do the same.

"For like us, Jesus knew doubt," Obama said. "Like us, Jesus knew fear. In the garden of Gethsemane, with attackers closing in around him, Jesus told His disciples, 'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.' He fell to his knees, pleading with His Father, saying, “If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” And yet, in the end, He confronted His fear with words of humble surrender, saying, “If it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

"So it is only because Jesus conquered His own anguish, conquered His fear, that we’re able to celebrate the resurrection. It’s only because He endured unimaginable pain that wracked His body and bore the sins of the world that He burdened -- that burdened His soul that we are able to proclaim, 'He is Risen!'"

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Crossing the Racial Divide

Trayvon Martin's slaying has ignited a national discussion on race and privilege.

Many of us recognize that Trayvon’s untimely death is not an isolated incident.

Racial profiling. Discrimination. Enmity. Suspicion. Intimidation. Fear. Hate.

For far too many Americans, these are everyday realities. 

As Christians, we are called to fight injustice and work to heal the broken systems — and broken relationships — of the world. We act, with Jesus Christ, to bring about reconciliations — between people, people groups, communities; within (and between) organizations, institutions, and social systems.

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How Soon Can We Come Up with a Healthcare Plan that Makes Sense?

Maybe the Affordable Care Act is constitutional and maybe it's not. If it turns out to be constitutional, maybe it's good legislation and maybe it's not. In any case, it's looking increasingly likely that the Supreme Court, come June, will strike down at least the requirement that everyone buy health insurance. And if the mandate goes, two other requirements will most likely go with it: Once again insurers will be able to reject or refuse to renew applicants. And once again Americans with pre-existing conditions will be uninsurable.

Let me tell you four short stories about friends of mine. These are true stories, not hypothetical examples. I have changed nothing but the names of the people involved. I am not arguing on behalf of the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. I'm just saying that all of these people had serious problems before it was passed, and some of them are doing much better now because of it.

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