The Common Good

Sojourners

Poll Shows A Double Standard on Religious Liberty

WASHINGTON — Half of Americans worry that religious freedom in the U.S. is at risk, and many say activist groups — particularly gays and lesbians — are trying to remove “traditional Christian values” from the public square.

The findings of a poll published Wednesday reveal a “double standard” among a significant portion of evangelicals on the question of religious liberty, said David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, a California think tank that studies American religion and culture.

While these Christians are particularly concerned that religious freedoms are being eroded in this country, “they also want Judeo-Christians to dominate the culture,” said Kinnamon.

“They cannot have it both ways,” he said. “This does not mean putting Judeo-Christian values aside, but it will require a renegotiation of those values in the public square as America increasingly becomes a multi-faith nation.”

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DRONE WATCH: UN to Examine Drone Strikes

A U.N. special rapporteur is beginning an investigation into drone strikes.
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A Little Climate Change Pleasure Reading

This winter, fiction revealed truth about climate change.  

As a teacher, I relish the escape provided by pleasure reading before I return to the classroom for the next semester at Warren Wilson College, where I teach environmental education. 

In December, without reading reviews or making a list, I visited my independent bookstore, Malaprop’s and purchased two books: Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior (2012) and Lauren Groff’s Arcadia (2012). I’m a long-time Kingsolver fan and bought her book as a gift, with the goal of reading it before wrapping it. And the cover of Arcadia, with its teal VW bus and field of sunflowers, drew me into purchasing what I thought was my second random choice for recreational reading. 

Both books, it turns out, integrated climate change into the plotline, weaving scientific truths about global warming into the lives of fictional characters. And just as compelling, both works of fiction featured spiritual community at the center of critical decisions about the future of the land and its inhabitants. 

Of note, critics have bemoaned the lack of fiction centered on climate change, a paucity that seemed to mirror our public denial of this scientific reality. In a 2010 blog on openDemocracy, professor and author Andrew Dobson even outlined the components of a  “climate-change novel” that include a grim future, characters who explore ethical choices around global warming, and (no surprise here) extreme weather events. He ended his piece with this challenge: “So there’s the recipe. Who’s going to write the book?” 

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Lutherans Warn Vatican Against Simpler Conversions

VATICAN CITY — Lutheran leaders have warned the Vatican that the creation of a structure to welcome conservative Lutherans into the Catholic Church would harm dialogue and damage ecumenical relations.

In 2009, Pope Benedict created a special church structure, called an ordinariate, to allow disgruntled Anglicans to convert to Catholicism while maintaining bits of their traditions and culture.

Ordinariates have been created in the U.S., England and Australia, attracting hundreds of conservative Anglicans who oppose female and gay bishops and who seek greater lines of authority.

In recent weeks, senior Vatican officials publicly suggested the creation of a similar structure for disaffected Lutherans; the idea was first floated last October by Cardinal Kurt Koch, the Vatican chief ecumenist.

According to Catholic media reports, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, who heads the Vatican’s doctrinal office, said on Jan. 11 that if Lutherans asked for the creation of an ordinariate, the Vatican would consider their request.

Mueller’s words were swiftly rebuked by the Rev. Martin Junge, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation. “The creation of such a special structure would have deep ecumenical repercussions,” he warned on Jan. 18.

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Christianity Without Arrogance

Much has been made of the "rise of the nones" — that is, the increasing percentage of Americans who identify with no religion. It is a fascinating and undeniable trend, and one that should catch the attention of religious leaders.

I know quite a few Nones. Few of them were raised in the absence of any faith tradition. Instead, most were part of a Christian denomination at some point, but consciously made the decision to leave. What interests me about their stories is this common thread: The majority left Christianity because of the attitudes of a person, and that person was not Jesus. It was an overbearing parent, or a judgmental minister, or a congregant who told them they did not belong because they were gay or they were questioning or they had conflicted ideas. In many cases, it was a combination of these types of influences.

Something is wrong when we drive so many people away. I think a big part of that something is arrogance.

This raises the question, then, of how to be a public Christian, even an evangelical Christian (which is how I identify myself), without running the risk of arrogance.

I don't embody the ideal I'm about to describe in answer to that question, but I know some people who do. These are the people who made me want to be a Christian. What I see in them are three key attributes: They are authentic, unashamed and honest.

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DRONE WATCH: The CIA Exemption

Playbook of rules for drone attacks exempts CIA in Pakistan.
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How Abortion Became An Evangelical Issue

Were America’s evangelical Christians always stalwartly pro-life and opposed to abortion? Sadly, we were not.
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DRONE WATCH: Yemen — 4 Attacks, 4 Days

Fourteen deaths in Yemen drone strikes in past four days.
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Obama Stalls After Nebraska Approves Keystone XL Oil Pipeline

President's spokesman says action on climate change is 'one of a host of priorities' as critics demand meaningful action
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In the Stacks, January 23, 2012

Among my must reads are the Sunday New York Times Book Review and other book reviews I come across in various media outlets. There are too many books being published that I would love to read, but just don’t have the time. So, I rely on reading book reviews as one way of keeping in touch with what’s being written. Here are my picks from this week’s books.

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