The Common Good

Sojourners

Meet the Nones: Politically Active

Editor's Note: Sojourners has launched this new blog series to help shed light on the nation's latest "religious" affiliation. Go HERE to read their stories. Or EMAIL US to share your own.

PBS Religion & Ethics Newsweekly has launched a new mini-series on the rise of the unaffiliated. Go HERE to read more about this week's epidsode.

Watch None of the Above: Political Implications on PBS. See more from Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

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Values of a Public Faith (Part 1)

Editor's Note: This is part one of a three-part series from Dr. Miroslav Volf an a voice instructing us how to involve our values into our present politcal debates. 

In this year of presidential elections, I have decided to summarize key values that guide me as I decide for whom to cast my vote. There are three basic elements of choosing a candidate for public office responsibly:

  1. Values we hope the candidate will stand for and the order of priority among them (which requires of us knowledge of faith as a whole, rather than just a few favorite topics, and knowledge of how faith applies to contemporary life)
  2. Ways in which and means by which these values are best implemented in any given situation (which requires of us a great deal of knowledge about how the world actually functions and what policies lead to what outcomes — for instance, whether it would be an economically wise decision to try to reintroduce the gold standard)
  3. Capacity — ability and determination — to contribute to the implementation of these values (which requires of us knowledge of the track record of the candidate)

Most important are the values. As I identify each value, I will (1) name the basic content of the value, (2) give a basic rationale for holding it, (3) suggest some parameters of legitimate debate about it, and (4) identify a key question for the candidate. 

I write as a Christian theologian, from the perspective of my own understanding of the Christian faith. Whole books have been written on each of these values, explicating and adjudicating complex debates. In providing a rationale for a given value, I only take one or two verses from the Bible to back up my position, more to flag the direction in which a rationale would need to go than, in fact, to strictly offer such a rationale. 

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Just Peace Theory and Foreign Policy

Just peace theory begins with the idea that peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peace building is a day-by-blessed-day proposition. Unlike just war theory, it does not begin when violent conflict is imminent. There are 10 just peacemaking practices that have a record of success. A just peace foreign policy employs these practices for the purposes of both national security and of international peace.

The 10 just peacemaking practices are: support nonviolent direct action; take independent initiatives to reduce threat; use cooperative conflict resolution; acknowledge responsibility for conflict and injustice, and seek repentance and forgiveness; advance democracy, human rights, and interdependence; foster just and sustainable economic development; work with emerging cooperative forces in the international system; strengthen the United Nations and international efforts for cooperation and human rights; reduce offensive weapons and weapons trade; encourage grassroots peacemaking groups and voluntary association. (Just Peacemaking: the new paradigm for the ethics of peace and war Glen H. Stassen editor)

Cooperation, interdependence, human rights, and democracy are important elements of just peacemaking practices. I say this is a power-with, not a power-over model of foreign policy. This is not a model of weakness, but one of strength. The strength comes from building relationships and partnerships with other nations on the basis of mutual respect.

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Now THAT's Epic: 'Brother of the Year'

“What I do every day is get a pencil, take a piece of paper, and draw,” Wes Noyes said.

The 17-year-old artist hopes someday to work in animation or as a graphic artist. Wes works for more than an hour a day, takes classes, and to date has made more than 500 pencil drawings.

After Wes playfully collaborated on a chalk drawing made by his mother Rebekah Greer, his work as a cartoonist gained national attention.

Greer, a photographer, musician, and the mother of five, had drawn fanciful backgrounds — a cityscape, an ocean scene among them — on the family’s driveway one evening this past summer and took portraits of her children posing in front of them. Wes added to the drawing she had made for son Jonah, then eight, by adding flames and interjecting himself into the picture as Godzilla.

When Greer posted the photo to Facebook, it quickly went viral.

“It sort of spread around,” Wes said simply.

The picture, titled “Brother of the Year,” has indeed “spread around.”

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Please Do Not Dress Up for Halloween in Blackface, Brownface, or Yellowface; Don’t Be Stupid

Americans love Halloween. In fact, maybe it’s fair to say we go crazy about Halloween. How crazy?

Americans spend $310 million dollars per year on costumes … for our pets. Wow.

In total, Americans spend between $6.5 – $6.86 billion dollars on all things Halloween: costumes, candy, and decoration. More wowzers.

So, as the average consumers spends about $27 on costumes, I thought it’s never too early to encourage folks to be careful how they dress up for Halloween … even if it’s “all in the spirit of fun.”

Listen, I like fun. And while my social life is nearly zilch, I like fun parties, but it’s all fun and games until someone shows up at a costume party or … err … at your front door trick-or-treating in a borderline racist costume.

Yes, it’s not too early to tell people:

Please don’t dress up in a blackface, yellowface, brownface, or any other costumers that stereotype, denigrate, or mock another culture.

Don’t caricature another real culture. Why? Because we’re a culture and not a costume.

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Ohio 'Voter Fraud' Billboards a 'Perversion of Truth'

Fraud is a strong word. Webster's defines fraud as deceit and trickery, and an "intentional perversion of truth in order to induce another person to part with something of value or to surrender a legal right." Fraud is a serious matter.

The word "fraud" is on billboards around Ohio. I started noticing this a few weeks ago, when I was driving through a working class African American community in Cleveland and noticed a billboard that read: "Voter Fraud is a Felony: 3 1/2 years & $10,000 fine." 

The red-and-black sign is accented by a large gavel in the lower right hand corner. A few days later, I noticed a similar billboard in Dayton, and late last week saw two such billboards near my home in urban Cincinnati. In an election season that has seen more jockeying around voter fraud and voter suppression than any in my memory, these billboards caught my eye.

Voter fraud sure sounds horrible, and based on these billboards in Ohio, one would imagine that it is an epidemic. After all, one of the hallmarks of American democracy is our fair and free elections.

But the billboards quickly created dissonance for me based on a recent meeting I and other pastors from Ohio Prophetic Voices enjoyed with Ohio Secretary of State John Husted. During the meeting, Husted told us that voter fraud is extremely rare and almost nonexistent. Statistics back up Husted's contention. 

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Young Evangelicals and the 'Nones'

The Pew Forum recently released a new study, “Nones on the Rise.” This was not about my friends called the “Nuns On The Bus,” who just did a tour around the country focusing on social justice. Rather, It details the concerning trend of those in our country who have given up on religion altogether. 

Social scientists tell us that adults, especially young adults, are increasingly disconnected from our established religious traditions. “Nones,” the Pew forum calls them, have grown from 15 percent of U.S. adults to 20 percent in only five years. One-in-three adults under 30 check the religious affiliation box, “None of the above” or “Unaffiliated.” Despite the fact that 68 percent of nones believe in God, only 5 percent of them attend church once or more a week, and 22 percent attend monthly/yearly. (Learn more about this group in our blog series Meet the Nones.)

But the focus on the next generation is not all bad news. On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of moderating a diverse panel of seven young evangelicals. Each had unique experiences and backgrounds. Some self-identified as liberal, while others self-identified as conservative. But those political ideologies could not separate their core evangelical principles. 

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Sustainability: God's Gift and Charge

God created the earth to produce every thing Adam and then Eve — and then their issue, and then all of us — would need. In the beginning, the garden needed little tending, but — due to a rather fortunate fall — eventually Adam and Eve, as his helpmate, and their children and the issue of generations had to toil the earth to pull from the garden those things God intended to meet their needs. 

Along the way, progress was made in the form of extensions of the garden bounds, the distribution of water and other nutrients, applications of healthful foods and herbs, techniques for every aspect of garden production. A community grew from a couple who worked hard as stewards, first out of penance and then, I think, out of love for the land provided to sustain them and for each other as they worked together. This is the story of how sustainability came to be. 

To simplify: God created the Heavens and Earth. He designed a glorious garden and put in it everything needed to make that garden productive: plants, water, clean air, soil, enrichers (bugs, worms, life, decay), animals, and the Sun, the first and last fuel. And, finally, He made man and woman. 

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DRONE WATCH: Opposition to Drones in Yemen.

Opposition to drone strikes is growing in Yemen.
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DRONE WATCH: Nine Deaths in Yemen.

Nine killed by drone strike in Yemen.
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