The Common Good

Sojourners

Both Sides Brace for Supreme Court Battle on Gay Marriage

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court's decision to take up the explosive issue of same-sex marriage will thrust the high court into a policy debate that has divided federal and state governments and courts, as well as voters in nearly 40 states.

The court's agreement to hear challenges to the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage moves the issue to the top of the national agenda following a year in which advocates scored major legal and political victories.

The court likely will hear the cases in March and rule by late June on a series of questions, potentially including one of the most basic: Can states ban gay marriage, or does the Constitution protect that right for all couples? It also will decide whether gay and lesbian married couples can be denied federal benefits received by opposite-sex spouses.

Any decisions will make history on an issue that has divided the nation for decades. Nine states and the District of Columbia now permit same-sex marriages, and a decision against California's Prop 8 ban would add the 10th and largest state.

A ruling against the 1996 federal law could lead to a spike in gay marriages in all those states. Several more states are likely to consider allowing same-sex marriages in 2013.

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What Are You Singing: Joy to the World

I’ve been really lucky this month to hear some of my co-workers’ reflections on the social justice implications of their favorite Christmas carols. It’s been a great opportunity to reflect back on what it is we sing and celebrate each year, the truths we profess without even knowing it.

Naturally, I wanted to get involved, as well. As I was running through the songs I love, "Joy to the World" suddenly popped up in a new light:  

Joy to the World, the Lord is come!
Let Earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

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Advent: Our Christmas Hope

This Advent, as we wait for the true light who is coming into the world (John 1:9) we pause and reflect on our Christmas hope. As a friend said last night, we do not linger forever in uncertainty but as an expectant mother who labors in anticipation of the joy her child will surely bring.

Our assurance of salvation — past, present, and future — depends on the unique person of Jesus Christ and our relationship to him, and there's perhaps nothing more central to Jesus and our relationship with him than that he became flesh, was made like us in every respect (Heb. 2:17), so that by grace we might become partakers of his divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).

This isn't something the church merely teaches but an event of history, revealed for all men and women in the one-of-a-kind person Jesus is, the human and divine Son of God. From the moment of Christ's conception, eternity himself inhabits time so that events of his life on earth long since past are forever present to us in Jesus. This is one reason our joy at Christmas is so palpable and real ... when we worship Jesus at Christmas, we are once again with Mary and Joseph on that cold, dark night as they swaddle “he who made the starry skies” and lay him in a manger.

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Obama Plans Push for Immigration Reform

Post-fiscal cliff, Obama sets sights on comprehensive immigration reform.
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DRONE WATCH: Drone Crashes Increasing

An increasing number of drones are crashing at civilian airports.
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Homeless Rate Remains Steady

Sluggish economy to blame for efforts to house homeless.
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DRONE WATCH: The Year of the Drone

Air Force reports 447 drone strikes in Afghanistan this year.
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DRONE WATCH: Deaths in Pakistan

Two senior Al Qaeda leaders killed in drone strikes.
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David’s Sling: Israel, Hezbollah, and the Path to Peace

Israel reported last week that it successfully tested its latest missile defense system. Known as “David’s Sling,” it is designed to shoot down midrange missiles from Hezbollah rockets originating from Lebanon.

I don’t want to get bogged down in a discussion about Israel’s right to defend itself. What I want to do is explore the biblical reference to “David’s Sling” and what it might mean for us. The name is an obvious allusion to the story of David’s victory over Goliath. It’s a favorite biblical story for many Sunday school teachers, but a conundrum for those teachers who take mimetic theory seriously. Mimetic theory claims that violence belongs to humans, not to God. It also states that the Bible progressively reveals this message about violence to us. And yet, the connection between God and violence permeates the Bible, with God apparently sanctioning violence against God’s enemies. 

So we rightly ask, “What about all the violence in the Bible?”

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A New Hymn for Human Rights Day

Carolyn Winfrey Gillette wrote this hymn in celebration of Human Rights Day (December 10), the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Seven years later, on Dec. 5, 1955, the Montgomery Bus Boycott began with 40,000 African-Americans walking, bicycling or car-pooling to pressure the bus company for change. The boycott ended in victory after 381 days. December is a good month to remember past work for justice and to work for it today as we celebrate the one who came “to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace" (Luke 1:79).

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