The Common Good

Sojourners

DRONE WATCH: Drone Weekend

Drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen kill at least 25, including 14 civilians.
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White Man: 'We Built This Country.' Really?

The Wild Goose Festival was awesome as expected this weekend in Corvalis, Ore. About 1,000 folks gathered for the first-ever west coast version of the event started in North Carolina. There were artists, theologians, pastors, hippies, activists, poets, and any number of other curious observers, navigating the landscape to better understand where this movement might be headed.

I offered a workshop on Saturday with Brian Ammons and Bruce Reyes Chow on masculinity and male identity. Folks gathered in the small animal arena on the fairgrounds where the event was held to hear about, and respond to, male identity from three fairly distinct perspectives. It was a rich conversation and pretty fun, at least until one question came toward the end, from a guy in the back row.

I suppose we should have seen it coming, but we had gotten a little too comfortable. The following is a paraphrase of what he said, but the essence is the same.

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Is Work a Punishment From God?

On the first Monday of September, America honors working stiffs by taking a paid day off. But does Labor Day celebrate an enterprise that God intended to be a punishment?

In a recent New York Times essay on the frenetic hustle of modern life, humorist and author Tim Kreider took the Puritans and their infamous work ethic to task. They had turned toil into a virtue, he argued, whereas God had invented it to chastise the disobedient Adam and Eve.

In an interview, Kreider explained that he was referring to Genesis, in which God tells Adam “by the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat thy bread.” In the same chapter, the serpent is sentenced to an eternity of belly slithering and Eve condemned to severe childbearing pains. 

“Coming as it does on the heels of the infamous Illicit Fruit Incident, the details of which there’s no need to re-hash, certainly makes it sound punitive,” said Kreider, who said he’s a veteran of 18 years of Sunday school, but no Bible scholar.

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Rev. Benedict Groeschel Apologizes for Sex Abuse Comments

The Rev. Benedict Groeschel, whose comments defending priests who sexually abuse children sparked a firestorm of controversy (see related story here), on Thursday evening apologized for the remarks. Groeschel had said that priests who sexually abuse children "on their first offense" should not go to jail and added that in “a lot of cases,” the child is “the seducer.”

The religious community he founded, the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, based in New York, also denounced the comments. The statements followed a wave of condemnation that grew in the days since the interview with Groeschel was first published.

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DRONE WATCH: Yemen Attack Kills Eight.

Third attack in Yemen this week kills eight.
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It’s Official: Coke and Pepsi Are OK for Mormons

SALT LAKE CITY — Maybe now, reporters, bloggers, outsiders, and even many Mormons will accept that the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not forbid drinking cola.

On Aug. 29, the LDS church posted a statement on its website saying that “the church does not prohibit the use of caffeine” and that the faith’s health-code reference to “hot drinks” “does not go beyond (tea and coffee).”

A day later, the website wording was slightly softened, saying only that “the church revelation spelling out health practices ... does not mention the use of caffeine.”

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Parting with Sister Anne Montgomery

Anne Montgomery died this week. I remember her words to me and to our young Iraqi friend Eva, sitting in the Al Monzer hotel in Amman, Jordan. This was in 2006, and she’d waited three weeks for a visa to enter Iraq as a peace witness. Anne had crossed into zones of conflict more times than any other activist I’d known. During these weeks with us, she’d been meeting and working with Iraqi refugees, many of them undocumented and struggling to eke out a living in Jordan.

Now the wait was over. The visas were not forthcoming, and Anne had decided she was needed most in the Palestinian West Bank city of Hebron, where the Christian Peacemaker Team — at that point, she had been a “CPT-er” for 11 years — was particularly short staffed and had requested a month of her time. She was going to attempt the crossing from Jordan into Israel by taxi, since Israel could very well have refused her entry, and we were to save a bed for her. But for the moment, we treasured the chance to learn from her in case this was a parting.

It was, and a greater parting has now come, so I take comfort in her words, and rededicate myself to taking direction from them.

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Transcript of Cardinal Dolan's RNC Blessing (with Video)

New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, delivered his highly-anticipated benediction Thursday night to close out the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

Dolan will do the same for the Democrats next week in Charlotte, so this blessing seemed less like an imprimatur for the GOP than it would have had President Obama not taken the cardinal up on his offer to give the closing prayer after he accepts his party’s nomination.

Moreover, Cardinal Dolan’s four-minute prayer clearly had something for everyone – or, rather, something to cheer and challenge everyone in the hall.

He mentioned the importance of protecting the unborn, but also welcoming immigrants. His riff on religious freedom was a swipe at the birth control mandate, but he also mentioned the importance of “solidarity” and the “common good,” two bedrock principles of Catholic social teaching that the Republican platform – and especially Paul Ryan’s budget plans – are seen as undermining.

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A Labor Day Prayer

In their annual Labor Day statement, the U.S. Catholic bishops call for “national economic renewal that places working people and their families at the center of economic life.” Issued by Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, Cal., chair of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, the statement emphasizes the reality that Millions of Americans suffer from unemployment, underemployment or are living in poverty as their basic needs too often go unmet. This represents a serious economic and moral failure for our nation.”

The bishops then cite related issues in the news.

On the deficit:

“Public officials rightfully debate the need to reduce unsustainable federal deficits and debt. In the current political campaigns, we hear much about the economy, but almost nothing about the moral imperative to overcome pervasive poverty in a nation still blessed with substantial economic resources and power.”

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Of Protestants, Politics, and Power

As the Republicans leave Tampa and the Democrats prepare to gather in Charlotte, one dynamic is immediately clear in both parties: For the first time since Abraham Lincoln ran in 1860, no white Protestant will be on the ticket of either major party.

Mitt Romney, the newly minted Republican nominee for the White House, is a Mormon, though he clearly does not want to talk publicly about how his faith shapes his identity and personal values. Paul Ryan, his running mate, is a Catholic, a fact Romney made sure to mention in the vice presidential rollout ceremony. Indeed, Romney’s two closest rivals in the GOP presidential primaries were also Catholics: Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.

On the Democratic side, President Obama is an African-American Protestant despite the fetid conspiratorial screams that the president is a crypto-Muslim. Finally, Vice President Joe Biden, like Ryan, is an Irish-American Catholic. 

 

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