The Common Good

Sojourners

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Eric and Ruth Brown believe nothing about daughter Pearl Joy's life is a mistake.

They say God gave Pearl her bright red hair and wide blue eyes, as well as the genetic disorder that created a cleft in her upper lip and caused her brain's development to stall in the first weeks in the womb.

"Things didn't go wrong," Eric Brown said. "God has designed Pearl the way he wanted, for his glory and our good."

That belief has sustained the Browns during the past six months, ever since a routine ultrasound revealed that the couple's third child has alobar holoprosencephaly, a rare genetic condition that's almost always fatal. A specialist told the Browns she would probably die in the womb and advised them to end the pregnancy early.

It's one thing to talk about God's will when life is good. It's another when a doctor is saying your baby won't live.

The Browns were forced to consider religious, medical and ethical issues most parents never will. And nobody could make their decision for them.

The Browns never considered abortion. They believe that Pearl is "fearfully and wonderfully made," as Psalm 139 puts it, and God alone should decide when she lives and when she dies.

Seeing Pearl's beating heart on the ultrasound also persuaded them to continue the pregnancy, even if the odds were stacked against her.

"If there is a chance, you say yes to that chance," Eric Brown said. "The only thing I know about parenting is that you say yes."

So far, Pearl has beaten the odds.

Few babies with Pearl's disorder make it to term, and of those who do, only 3 percent survive birth, according to the Dallas-based Carter Centers for Brain Research in Holoprosencephaly and Related Malformations. Pearl has a particularly severe form of the condition, which means her brain never divided into two hemispheres.

She turned 11 weeks old Oct. 12, a milestone that the Browns celebrated by lighting 11 candles and singing "Happy Birthday."

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Family Research Council Shooter Charged with Terrorism

WASHINGTON -- A federal grand jury added terrorism to the list of charges faced by the Virginia man who was indicted in the shooting of a security guard at the conservative Family Research Council's Washington offices.

Floyd Lee Corkins II, 28, of Herndon, Va., was arrested Aug. 15, shortly after police say he opened fire in the lobby of the FRC's downtown headquarters, injuring an unarmed security guard.

Before he opened fire, Corkins reportedly was carrying a bag of Chick-fil-A sandwiches, and told security guard Leo Johnson he disagreed with the FRC's politics; the FRC had supported the fast-food chain's donations to groups that oppose same-sex marriage.

Corkins pleaded not guilty to initial charges of interstate transportation of a firearm and ammunition, as well as the District of Columbia offenses of assault with intent to kill while armed and possession of a firearm during a crime of violence.

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'The Line,' the 47 Percent, and the Food Stamp Professor

When I was a 17-year-old senior in high school, I was in several Advanced Placement courses. As the school year drew to a close, I wanted to take the AP test that would allow me to attain college credit. The AP tests, however, were very, very expensive. I went to my guidance counselor. She said that they could waive the fees for the exams if I qualified for the school’s free lunch program. 

I had avoided the free lunch program for years. I had been on the free lunch program in elementary school and middle school but was always embarrassed by it. So when I got to high school, I didn’t apply for it. I picked up a part-time job so I could pay for my own lunch. But now, I wouldn’t be able to take my AP exams if I didn’t fill out the free lunch program form.

So I agreed to fill out the form. Later that day, my guidance counselor sent a student aide with the form to my social studies class room, where in front of the entire class, she declared that I needed to fill out the free lunch form. I remember the shame of not only my classmates laughing at me that day, but my high school teacher bursting out in laughter as well.

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GGNFT: Two Irish Boys Cover 'We Found Love (in a Hopeless Place)' SQUEEEEE!!!!

God Girl's New Favorite Thing for Oct. 25, 2012: Two Irish boys cover Rihanna's "We Found Love (in a Hopeless Place)"

See video
who are these talented young lads?

UPDATE: WE FOUND 'EM!

More info from the singer's father inside the blog...

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Links of Awesomeness: October 25, 2012

Google StreetView is in the Grand Canyon, a video tries to explain why the moon looks so big sometimes, a space shuttle gets shuttled across Los Angeles, Jon Stewarts talks with veterans about job qualifications, and Richard Nixon looks like a hipster. Woah!

Brandon Hook is the Online Assistant at Sojourners.

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Border Violence is Fast & Furious; Four Killed in Recent Weeks

Candles burn near the bloodstained concrete sidewalk where a youth was tragically killed when more than a dozen bullets shot across the wall into the Mexican bordertown. I've walked that sidewalk running parallel to the border wall and Calle Internacional in Nogales, Sonora possibly hundreds of times. It is with this intimate awareness of the context that I describe how recent deaths in the name of homeland security are an affront to all families of the borderlands. 

Four deaths in six weeks across the border region, one common offender

On the evening of Oct. 10 U.S. Border Patrol agents shot and killed 16-year old José Antonio Elena Rodriguez. The shots were fired through the paneled border wall in Nogales hitting José Antonio in the back seven-to-eight times. The agents allege the boy was involved in rock throwing. For more detailed description of the circumstances, see this article.

About a week earlier, Border Patrol agent Nicolas Ivie, 30, was killed in Naco, another Arizona border town just east of Nogales, when a fellow U.S. agent searching for smugglers mistakenly opened fire. Agent Ivie has a wife and two young daughters who live in southern Arizona, and the family is publicly fundraising to survive without him.

 

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Sipping Scotch in a Mansion and Eating Jesus Off the Floor in the Nation’s Capital

On Sunday, we went to the Washington National Cathedral, a gigantic Episcopal church and self-professed “spiritual home for the nation.” This strikes me a bit funny, as a) Episcopalians make up fewer than half a percent of the nation, and b) America, regardless of religious affiliation, seems more interested in mammon than it does in spirit. 

But our friend has been attending the cathedral since she moved to D.C. a few months ago, and I worshipped in Episcopal churches for about seven years, not since 2007, and, frankly, I had missed how the traditional liturgy can transport me to a different place, psychologically speaking – a place where a man dying on a wooden cross 2,000 years really does seem to matter in a cosmic, world-changing kind of way. Plus, I wanted to see the neo-Gothic architecture in its transcendent beauty. This is the rub, right? Mammon makes beautiful things. What was difficult for me about the Episcopal church is the same thing that’s difficult about Washington, D.C.: It’s the wealth, it’s the power, it’s the privileged way of life that seems very distant from my beer-and-burgers existence, let alone from Jesus who had no place to lay his head.

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Cue the Math: McKibben’s Roadshow Takes Aim at Big Oil

It was game time. The Saturday night crowd on the Vermont campus was festive, boisterous, pumped. People cheered and whooped when told that one of their heroes, climate activist Tim DeChristopher — serving a two-year federal sentence for his civil disobedience opposing new oil and gas drilling in Utah — would soon be back on the field.

When the man on the stage, 350.org’s Bill McKibben, said it was time to march not just on Washington but on the headquarters of fossil fuel companies — “it’s time to march on Dallas” — and asked those to stand who’d be willing to join in the fight, seemingly every person filling the University of Vermont’s cavernous Ira Allen Chapel, some 800 souls, rose to their feet.

McKibben and 350, the folks who brought us the Keystone XL pipeline protests, are now calling for a nationwide divestment campaign aimed at fossil fuel companies’ bottom line. Beginning with student-led campaigns on college campuses, modeled on the anti-apartheid campaigns of the 1980s, they’ll pressure institutions to withdraw all investments from big oil and coal and gas. Their larger goal is to ignite a morally charged movement to strip the industry of its legitimacy.

“The fossil fuel industry has behaved so recklessly that they should lose their social license — their veneer of respectability,” McKibben tells his audience. “You want to take away our planet and our future? We’re going to take away your money and your good name.”

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Accompanied by Nones

It was December of 2000, but I remember the occasion as if it were yesterday.

It was a few days after Christmas during my senior year of college. I was quite nervous, and I wondered how my friends and family would react. 

How would my basketball teammates respond? Would my roommates treat me differently? And of course, what about my girlfriend? She had no idea our relationship would take such a dramatic turn.

I could hide no longer. I had to be honest with who I was. And so, after a great deal of delay and long nights of nervous planning, I finally decided to share what I had been keeping secret. 

Beginning with my girlfriend, then my parents, brother, sister, and eventually friends, roommates, and teammates, I shared the news: After a significant amount of prayer and discernment, I was no longer planning to attend law school following college graduation, but instead, I wanted to attend seminary in order to become an ordained Lutheran pastor.

As to be expected, I received mixed reactions.

My parents were confused and surprised, as they – like most people – had not perceived me as “religious”," especially not to the point of pursuing ordination. Nevertheless, they accepted the news with delight and affirmation. 

In addition, my girlfriend (who is now my wife) was wonderfully supportive. So was my brother, sister, and closest friends. 

On the other hand, some others were not sure how to react. My friends – mostly uninterested in religion – wondered about future plans. Basketball teammates were a bit uneasy. And even the campus priest and a few professors had an assortment of reactions. While a number of people were anxious and apprehensive, those within my closest circle of friends accepted the announcement with open arms. 

I continue to thank God for such a wonderful web of support.

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Millennials' Reflections on the New American Values Survey

On Tuesday, the religion, policy, and politics project at Brookings and the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) hosted a forum to release PRRI's fourth American Values Survey (AVS), a large national, multi-issue survey on religion, values, and public policy.

We sent some of our interns to listen in on the findings. Here's what they thought about some of the issues raised by the report.

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