The Common Good

Sojourners

Momentum Building on Immigration Reform

In case you’ve missed the news surrounding immigration reform, here’s a brief update.

Last week, a bipartisan group of eight Senators unveiled a set of principles in support of immigration reform. The following day, President Barack Obama spoke at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas., where he released his proposal for a commonsense solution for immigration reform. Both parties see the moral and political need to address this issue.

President Obama is keeping up the pressure as he continues dialogue with numerous stakeholders to highlight the broad support for reform. On Tuesday he met with numerous external leaders hosting two separate meetings at the White House — one with progressive and labor leaders and the other with leaders from the business community — to discuss his continued support for an immigration reform package he hopes will pass this year.

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DRONE WATCH: Drones Hit Front Page

The publication on Monday of a previously secret Justice Department memo has opened the door for front-page questions about the entire drone program.
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On Scripture: Climate Change and Setting the World on Fire

It was Earth Day, 1988. I was in my fifth grade “Earth Science” class, a place where one might expect to talk about the importance of caring for the earth. But this was not what we were talking about that day. At least, we weren’t talking about it until one student asked our teacher about the hole in the ozone layer and whether or not she should stop using hairspray. Our science teacher replied by saying that hairspray wasn’t a problem because the end of the world was coming and the whole earth would be consumed by fire anyway.
 
While my science teacher did not speak for all people of faith, she also was not a lone voice in the crowd. Caring for the earth is not something Christian churches in the West have been particularly good at. We were late coming to the conversation and have been slow in mobilizing our efforts. This is ironic considering that the foundational stories of our faith, the first words in the book we call holy, commission us to be caretakers of every living thing. In a world where climate change is evidenced in super storms, wildfires, heat waves, droughts and floods, it is urgent that people of faith return to our first responsibility of being stewards of the world in which we live.

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'The Convert' Comes to Washington, D.C.

Next week, The Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company will premiere The Convert, a play by Off-Broadway Theater Awards-winning playwright, Danai Gurira.

The Convert is set in late 19th Century Southern Africa (modern-day Zimbabwe). The play follows Jekesai, “a young girl who escapes village life and a forced marriage arrangement, ultimately discovering Christianity under the guidance of an African teacher. However, as anti-colonial sentiments rise to a boiling point, Jekesai must choose between her new European God and the spirits of her ancestors. … The Convert examines complex cultural and religious collisions that shaped the post-colonial world, the reverberations of which are still felt in Zimbabwe today.”

I had the opportunity to talk to actress Dawn Ursula, who plays Prudence in The Convert. She was also named one of DC’s top 12 actors / actresses by the Washington Post.

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Chicago is Ground Zero in U.S. Muslim Renaissance

CHICAGO — Religious affiliation may be on the wane in America, a recent Pew study asserts, but you wouldn’t know it walking into the storefront near the corner of West 63rd Street and South Fairfield Avenue.

Inside a former bank in a neighborhood afflicted with gang violence, failed businesses and empty lots, a team of volunteers drawn by their religious faith is working to make life better for Chicago’s poorest residents.

The free medical clinic has expanded its hours; 20-something college graduates are clamoring to get into its internship program; rap stars swing by its alcohol-free poetry slams; and the budget has increased tenfold in the past decade.

The storefront belongs to Chicago’s Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) and it is part of a wave of new Muslim institutions emerging at an unprecedented pace. More than a quarter of the nation’s 2,106 mosques were founded in the last decade, according to a recent University of Kentucky study, and new social service organizations, many of them run by 20- and 30-something American-born Muslims, are thriving as never before.

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Walk the Moon: A Fun Pick-Me-Up

If you’re looking for a pick-me-up, look no further than Cincinatti’s Walk the Moon. The group recently stopped in Washington, D.C., on their world tour and performed in front of an uber-hyped audience.

Their songs blend elements of pop, rock, and dance music — like what you’d expect if you mixed The Strokes, Passion Pit, and sprinkled on some of the overall vibes from the Vans Warped Tour.

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Blessed Are the Tip Leavers

There are two personality flaws that I consider to be more or less fatal: being cheap and being unkind to the wait staff.

By “cheap,” I don’t mean frugal. I’m talking about the kind of economic stinginess that goes far beyond being a good steward of your budget and resources. Cheap is miserly, selfish, and, I believe, based in fear. And nothing good is wrought when fear is your motivation.

Another word to describe this kind of cheap is more commonly employed in British English than in our own American lexicon: “mean.” Meanness connotes the habit of being ungenerous and petty. 

This meanness is what the first fatal flaw and the second have in common. If you are rude, condescending, or just plain nasty to your server in a restaurant, it is, in the immortal words of Liz Lemon who crossed over last week into the eternity of syndication, a deal breaker.

The only thing worse than being cheap and nasty to the wait staff is invoking your religious beliefs to justify your actions. And that is, sadly, precisely what one pastor did when she attempted to stiff her waitress after church one recent Sunday night at a Missouri Applebee’s.

On Jan. 25, Alois Bell, pastor of the tiny Word Deliverance Ministries church in St. Louis, headed to the local Applebee’s with nine of her congregants – four other adults and five children – for a post-worship dinner. When the unidentified server returned with the bill for $39.43 at the end of the meal, Bell crossed out the automatic 18 percent gratuity (added to parties of six or more), wrote in the tip amount of “0” and the following handwritten message: “I give God 10%, why do you get 18?” Then she signed the credit card receipt “Pastor Alois Bell.”

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The Key to Entrepreneurial Success

Some enterprises, like tech start-ups, are all dream and no structure.

A founder’s dream of making a world-changing product compels other pioneers to work long, self-sacrificial days. In what resembles religious fervor, they are like monks in constant prayer, hunched over computers, collaborating at white boards and talking shop deep into the night.

Investors, however, want structure and a return on their investment. So, eventually, do employees, who want stock offerings, benefits, and some sense that the dream has a future.

This awkward transition from dream-only to dream-plus-structure is where many enterprises fall apart. Freedom collides with accountability, jealousy emerges as some get better titles and more stock options and the freedom of “all in this together” gives way to stratification.

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Christian Churches Come Together on Immigration Reform

Last week Christian Churches Together in the USA gathered in Austin, Texas for its 7th Annual Meeting. CCT represents the breadth of Christian denominations in the United States, including historic Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, evangelical Protestant, and historic black church denominations. In subsequent years CCT focused on issues of poverty and racism. This year leaders of this diverse body of Christian denominations focused on the need for broad reform within the U.S. immigration system. 

Over the course of four days, this broad coalition of heads of communion and ecumenical officers learned the history of Immigration Reform in the U.S., sought biblical counsel, watched films about life along America’s southern border, and listened to the testimonies of “DREAMers," undocumented domestic workers, and asylum-seekers. In the end the five families of the church in the United States reached consensus on a statement calling for just and humane immigration reform that includes an “earned path to citizenship."

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DRONE WATCH: Deliberately Killing U.S. Citizens

Editor's Note: DRONE WATCH follows daily developments about drone strikes and policy concerning the highly controversial usage of drones. To keep up to date, follow our Quick Read blog HERE.

One of the most hotly contested points of the administration’s drone policy is its claim to have legal justification for killing U.S. citizens. Now we have their rationale for that claim. Michael Isikoff, National Investigative Correspondent for NBC News, published on Monday a memo he says was given to members of the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees in June.

The “Department of Justice White Paper” outlines certain conditions for an attack. An “informed, high-level official of the U.S. government” must determine that the targeted U.S. citizen is a “senior, operational leader of al-Qa’ida or an associated force,” poses “an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States,” “capture is infeasible,” and the attack is conducted in a way consistent with “law of war principles.”  In those conditions, the memo says, “a targeted killing of a U.S. citizen who has joined al-Qa’ida or its associated forces would be lawful under U.S. and international law.”

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