The Common Good

Sojourners

A Lesson in Selflessness

Peacemaking happens in many forms. Sometimes peace is offered to others, and sometimes given in unexpected ways.

It was early morning. The African sun had yet to rise above the mountains, and the sky was the soft yellow of newly shucked corn.

Beep, beep, sounded the horn on the old truck as it rumbled to a stop in front of my house. My old friends  Momadu, Madu, and Balamusa  greeted me with smiles, waves, and morning blessings.

We were on our way from Kenieba, a small town in western Mali, to Sitaxoto, a large village about two hours away over a broken dirt road.

A church was there, a little group of people who met each week outside under a big baobab tree to pray, study the Bible, share their stories and ask, How do we follow Jesus?

 
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In the Stacks, October 17, 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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After Romney Meeting, Billy Graham Website Scrubs Mormon ‘Cult’ Reference

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association removed language labeling Mormonism a “cult” from its website after the famed preacher met with Republican nominee Mitt Romney last week and pledged to help his presidential campaign.

The removal came after a gay rights group reported that the “cult” reference remained online even after Graham all but endorsed Romney, a Mormon, on Oct. 11. 

Ken Barun, the BGEA’s chief of staff, confirmed the removal on Tuesday.

“Our primary focus at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has always been promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Barun said in a statement. “We removed the information from the website because we do not wish to participate in a theological debate about something that has become politicized during this campaign.”

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Meet the Nones: Pouring Out Love

Editor's Note: Megan Monaghan Rivas tells her story of why she's part of the 20 percent of Americans who identify with "no religion in particular." Find more stories (or share your own) HERE. Read about the study HERE.

There are never really two kinds of people in the world. But for purposes of this post, I’ll posit that there are two kinds of “nones” in the world – “nones” who would be part of a church if they could just find the right one, and “nones” who have no desire to be part of a church even if it matched them perfectly. I place myself in the latter category.

Like many “nones,” I started out as a “some.” I was reared in the Roman Catholic Church and educated in Catholic schools. As luck and the development curve would have it, just after confirmation (at age 14) I started finding out things about the church that I could not stand up and be counted for. The church’s policies concerning women and homosexuals seemed to me to stand in deliberate polar opposition to the Gospel message. And the church is not known for willingness to change from the inside. I didn’t have another 2,000 years to wait. My first “adult” move in the church was to leave it.

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QUIRK: It's Hard to Change the World, Especially as a Sweet Potato

Most people in Washington know that changing the world is hard. But it's even harder when you're a sweet potato named Claude. 

But Claude is more than just a sweet potato. Claude is a symbol. 

From celebrity chefs and mom bloggers to churchgoers and YouTube stars, ONE campaign members are mobilizing en masse around the country today — World Food Day  to raise awareness of global hunger and malnutrition. These activities are part of a new campaign from ONE that’s calling on world leaders “to make measurable commitments to reduce chronic malnutrition for 25 million kids by 2016 so they can reach their full potential.”

As part of the campaign, supporters around the globe are celebrating the sweet potato, an example of a nutritious crop that can help fight chronic malnutrition. Which is why Claude is a sweet potato and not a french fry.

Every year, malnutrition is the underlying cause of more than 2.4 million child deaths — or more than one third of all deaths of children under the age of five. Chefs Mario BataliJosé AndrésMarcus Samuelsson, Spike Mendelsohn and Hugh Acheson are among dozens of celebrated chefs who will support the campaign by shining a spotlight on the humble sweet potato in the coming months.

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QUIRK: Francis Chan Learns to Speak Northern Irish

Top o' aftornune to ya!

Francis Chan recently sat down with the Northern Irish Christian band The Rend Collective to test his Northern Irish speaking skillz. Chan holds his own. Most of the time he mimics his Irish friend well.

But what do I know? I'm not from Ireland. 

I do, however, enjoy accents. And hopefully you do too. Enjoy.

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Young Evangelicals, Election 2012, and Common Ground

What culture war? At a survey release of young evangelicals and proceeding panel discussion, common ground was the pervading theme. 

While panelists ranged in religious and political backgrounds — representing groups like Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, World Relief, Family Research Council, USAID, World Vision, the Manhattan Declaration, and Feed the Children — there was an overarching agreement that while young evangelicals are largely pro-life, life issues now extend to beyond the typical to things like creation care and immigration. 

“There is still a lot of tension that many young people feel in trying to identify with one political party or the other,” Adam Taylor, vice president of advocacy for World Vision. “… There is a real deep commitment to a pro-life agenda, but that agenda has now expanded and includes a core and strong commitment to addressing issues of poverty.”

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Faith, the Poor, and Politics: A New Album by Josh Schicker

I couldn’t resist: I heard that a singer/songwriter in Atlanta was coming out with an album titled, Faith, the Poor, and Politics. Josh Schicker currently serves as Worship Leader in Mission at North Avenue Presbyterian Church in Atlanta. He’s also an accomplished musician, recording songs and performing at Eddie’s Attic most recently. 

Faith, the Poor, and Politics is both catchy and contemplative. It’s spiritual but not in-your-face religious; personal, but not isolated from community. Below, you can read his thoughts on the album and other things in the realm of faith, politics, and culture. 

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An Offering of Self

This morning, Madu walked the one kilometer path from his village to my house. He is married to Sirima and they have two children: four-year-old Sira, who they call Bonnie, and two-year-old Musa, who they call Papa. He told me that Papa had burned his hand and wrist in the morning cooking fire.

Maybe the path to civility and peace can be found somewhere along the path from my house to Madus village.

Do you have any medicine for a burn? he asked.

There is a hospital in our small town on the southwestern edge of Mali, but its small staff of doctors serve a large population of people without the use of technology, electricity, or even running water. Many times people come to me for help and healing before they go to the hospital because I have free first aid supplies, a generator, and a deep water well. I consulted my ragged copy of Where There Is No Doctor and turned to the section on the treatment of burns.

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Learning to Take It Slow

When I alerted my readers that I would be taking time off from writing to recover from surgery, many sent me kind words with a common theme: “Take time to heal.”

“Give your body time to heal,” said one. “Rest and sleep,” said another. “Be sure to take ALL the time you need for a full recovery!” and “Don't try to power through. Stop, lie down and rest. ... We will still be here.”

I was hearing the wisdom of experience: been there, didn't take the time, thought I was healed, wasn't.

That certainly has been my experience from previous times of loss and stress. I haven't always taken enough time to heal. I moved on too soon, when my head, in effect, was still woozy.

Even now, a week after surgery, I find my mind drifting off. I will be thinking through a sentence and find I have jumped tracks. I will need to read the same page of a novel several times and replay a scene in a recorded TV show.

So this time I am taking time. No rushing back to work, no making important decisions, no feeling impatient to have my wits fully about me.

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