The Common Good

Sojourners

Republicans Woo Evangelical Base in Bid to Recapture the Senate

The Republican National Committee on Friday launched its first web-based effort to rally conservative believers behind the party, a sign of how crucial voter turnout will be in this fall’s close-fought midterm elections and an indication that the GOP cannot take its evangelical Christian base for granted.

“This shouldn’t be outreach, this should be who we are — it is who we are,” said Chad Connelly, director of faith engagement for the Republican National Committee and the force behind this new initiative, GOPfaith.com.

Evangelicals, Connelly said, “are our biggest, most reliable voting bloc.”

The problem, however, is that even though evangelicals identify more closely than ever with the GOP, they have not been turning out at the polls in sufficient numbers to carry Republican candidates to victory.

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Conservatives May Hold the Key to Ending the Death Penalty

Ralph Reed’s recent Road to Majority conservative confab in the nation’s capital had an unlikely exhibitor in the conference hall: opponents of the death penalty.

The activists were in the right place because their opposition stems from conservative principles. Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty believe that the faithful who gathered at the annual event hosted by Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition are ripe for embracing their critical view of capital punishment.

They have their work cut out for them. Yes, support for death penalties has been dropping in a Pew survey — from 78 percent in 1996 to 55 percent last year. But this barbaric practice still enjoys strong preference among conservatives, with 69 percent expressing support in a June ABC News/Washington Post poll. Only 49 percent of liberals agreed. Among Republicans, support is even higher — at 81 percent.

So what kind of reception did the activists receive? The group’s advocacy coordinator, Marc Hyden, told me the response was very positive.

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Weekly Wrap 6.27.14: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. WATCH: Powerful Ad Shows What A Little Girl Hears When You Tell Her She's Pretty
“A new Verizon commercial cites a sad statistic by the National Science Foundation: 66 percent of 4th grade girls say they like science and math, but only 18 percent of all college engineering majors are female.”

2.Sandy Hook Dad on What You Can Do Right Now to Help Prevent Violence 
“'Pick your eyes up from the sidewalk and look at people,' Mr. Barden pleaded, with tears in his eyes. Yes, we should call our representatives; yes, we should make our voices heard where laws are made. But we should also do what we can to foster empathy; to create a world where no one feels invisible and ignored — least of all those who disproportionately fall victim to our collective failure to care enough to act."

3. Facebook VP: Stop Portraying Me as Mother-of-Four Who 'Wanted it All''
"'When I got my post at Facebook it was all about how I was a mother-of-four who had 'won' the position, alongside pictures of my wedding,' she said, noting that the male executive hired at the same time came under no such scrutiny. Reports also said she insisted on working part-time, when in fact she was working a typical five-day week."

4. FIFA Go Home: Inside Brazilians' Struggle to Challenge World Cup 
From Mashable: "Their goal isn't so much to change the current World Cup in any specific way; it's more to challenge — and, ideally, impact — the mainstream narrative surrounding the tournament, shifting its focus to the event's human costs and larger political context. To the billions spent on stadiums that won't be used again and the millions living in abject poverty."

5. Ikea to Raise Its Average Minimum Hourly Wage to $10.76 
"The happier the co-worker, the happier the customer and the better the overall shopping experience," said Ikea's acting U.S. president, Rob Olson. "We wanted to be less concerned about the competition and more concerned about offering our co-workers a better everyday life."

6. The Decency of a Nation
A new index attempts to measure the 'goodness' of nations — based on the way they treat other nations, science and technology, culture, equality, etc. (Spoiler: guess who doesn't break the top 10.)

7.WATCH: 'Columbusing': When White People Think They Discovered Something They Didn't 
"Macklemore Columbused same-sex marriage, just like Gwyneth Paltrow Columbused Eastern medicine."

8.Use of Drones for Killings Risks a War Without End 
A bipartisan panel concluded that the use of armed drones "sets a dangerous precedent for lethal operations that other countries might adopt in the future," according to the New York Times.

9. Detroit Activists Call for UN Help as City Shuts Off Water for Thousands 
“Detroit has too much of some things – stray dogs, abandoned houses – and not enough of others, such as residents who pay their water bills. The latest sign of Detroit’s decline came from the city’s water department, when it said in March it would begin shutting off water for up to 3,000 homes and businesses a week in an attempt to stop the utility from sliding even further into debt.”

10. PHOTOS: Inside a Detention Center for Migrant Children 
The Customs and Border Patrol is overwhelmed by a flood of minors entering the U.S. from Central America.

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Weekly Wrap 6.20.14: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. WATCH LIVE: The Summit: World Change Through Faith & Justice
Today is the last day of The Summit. Live stream Summit Sessions Unlocking Solutions to Disarm Injustice: Mass Incarceration & Gun Violence at 1 p.m. EDT and The Final Push: The Immigration Reform Debateat 7 p.m. EDT. 

2. The Devastating Issue Pastors Aren't Discussing
A groundbreaking new poll shows the large discrepancy between pastors' belief that domestic and sexual violence is a problem in their local communities and their belief that it is a problem in their congregations.

3. To Publish a Predator
Christianity Today's Leadership Journal recently published a first-hand narrative from a pastor who entered into a sexual relationship with a minor — framed around the concept of sin. The post spurred a Twitter firestorm using the hashtag #TakeDownThatPost. They did, and CT''s her.meneutics blog responds. 

4. The Number of People Displaced by Violent Conflict at the End of 2013 Exceeded 51 Million
"The number of people displaced by violent conflict hit the highest level since World War II at the end of 2013, the head of the United Nations refugee agency, António Guterres, said in a report released on Friday, warning that “peace is dangerously in deficit.”

5. Presbyterians in U.S. to Allow Gay Marriage Ceremonies
The PC(USA) voted at its Detroit gathering this week to allow clergy to perform same-sex marriages wherever they are legal. 

6. Russell Moore Weighs in on Hobby Lobby's China Dealings
Jonathan Merritt says Hobby Lobby cannot be considered a Christian business because of the ethical implications in its business dealings with China. "Because they’ve chosen to label their business as “Christian,” I think it is wholly fair to raise this issue." In his Religion News Service blog, he gives Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, a chance to respond.

7. The Places They'll Go: Nuns Working on the Margins
"If you happen upon a forgotten corner of desperate poverty or a neglected collection of humanity, chances are good that a religious woman has arrived before you."

8. Rape Victims Say Bob Jones University Told Them To Repent
In this piece for Al Jazeera America, women survivors of rape while attending BJU during the course of three different decades share their stories. "… most damaging was how, through the language of Scripture, victims say they were told that their sins had brought on their rapes, that their trauma meant they were fighting God and that healing came from forgiving their rapists." 

9. And watch the related three-part series: How the 'fortress of faith' handles rape.

10. How Cities Use Design to Drive Homeless People Away
"It has been encouraging to see the outrage over the London spikes. But the spikes that caused the uproar are by no means the only form of homeless-deterrent technology; they are simply the most conspicuous. Will public concern over the spikes extend to other less obvious instances of anti-homeless design? Perhaps the first step lies in recognizing the political character of the devices all around us."

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Weekly Wrap 6.13.14: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. In Extremists' Iraq Rise, America's Legacy 

"First Falluja, then Mosul, and now the oil-refinery town of Bayji. The rapid advance of Al Qaeda-inspired militants across the Sunni heartland of northern and western Iraq has been stunning and relentless — and utterly predictable. Here’s a forecast: the bad news is just beginning."  

2Obama Says He Will Decide on Military Force for Iraq in 'Days Ahead' 
"This poses a danger to Iraq and its people and, given the nature of these terrorists, it could pose a threat eventually to American interests as well," Mr. Obama said of the offensive now threatening Baghdad. "We will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq, but I have asked my national security team to prepare a range of other options."

3. Ruby Dee, Actress and Civil Rights Activist, Dies at 91 
"Over the course of Ms. Dee’s career, the lives of American blacks, both extraordinary and ordinary, belatedly emerged as rich subject matter for mainstream theater productions and films, and black performers went from being consigned to marginal and often belittling roles to starring in Hollywood mega-hits. … But Ms. Dee not only took part in that evolution; through her visibility in a wide range of projects, from classics onstage to contemporary film dramas to television soap operas, she also helped bring it about."  

4. 5 Problems with Throwing Immigrants in Separate, Private Prisons 
From Vox, a breakdown of just one of the many problems with the current immigration system: "These facilities only house non-citizens, most of whom will be deported after their terms are completed — meaning the federal government is willing to set lower standards for their treatment in some respects than they do for other inmates."  

5. WATCH: High School Boys Prove Feminism Is For Everyone 
"High school teacher Ileana Jimenez, who clearly deserves some sort of award, recorded seven of her students sharing their thoughts on feminism. And they are so, so refreshing you want to reach through the screen and hug those young dudes."  

6. It's Really Hard to Be a Good Guy With a Gun 
"The universe of scenarios in which carrying a gun seems prudent or useful just keeps shrinking and shrinking, even as the legal freedom to wield personal firepower keeps expanding. The NRA has recalibrated its message for the 21st century: ''The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.'' But in many ways, the 21st century has already overtaken us good guys."  

7. The World Cup of Food 
It's Brazil's feijoada v. Croatia's roasted lamb pod pekoe. Belguim frites v. Algerian tchakshoukha. And, of course, Ghananian red red takes on U.S. BBQ. Follow along to see what delicious dishes get kicked out in the first round.   

8. Bergdahl Explains in Prison Letters Why He Vanished 
“In the 2013 letter, he seems to be well aware the U.S. army was investigating his disappearance from his base. … He sets about explaining why he left his base, in poorly spelled block print.”  

9. Confronting Racism Face-to-Face 
“Mo Asumang, daughter of a black Ghanaian father and a white German mother, talks to BBC News about her experiences making her new documentary, The Aryans, in which she confronts racists, both in Germany and among the Ku Klux Klan in America.”  

10. Starting Wednesday: Live Stream The Summit: World Change Through Faith & Justice 
The Summit kicks off on Wednesday. It's a 4-day event that intends to create a space to build relationships and inspire social change. That success is based on the contributions of every person involved. That includes YOU — at home, at school — on the ground, making a difference. Since not everyone can come to us, we’re coming to you! Interact with the speakers by Tweeting #summitforchange or texting in your questions.

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Double Victory: 'Winning Over the Cops Who Had to Arrest Us'

“We will not only win victory for ourselves; we will appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process and our victory will be a double victory.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Four years ago I was working a corporate job for a national AFL team. It was well paid. I had great opportunities. Life was good. If you had told me that I was going to become a Christian, I would have laughed in your face. If you had gone on to say I would leave my well-paid job to spend my days running a Welcome Centre for refugees while working side jobs to make ends meet, I would have questioned your mental health. If you had added that I would be arrested with church leaders and a rabbi while continuing Martin Luther King’s work, it would have certified to me that you were crazy.

On Monday I walked into Austrailian MP Jamie Briggs' office to be arrested with seven Christian leaders and a rabbi. It sounds like the start of a joke. (My life is teaching me God has a great sense of humor.)

Why were we arrested? There are 983 children and their families currently in Australia’s detention centers.

These children are kids just like our own, with their made-up games, whispered jokes, and giggles. Their families dream of a future of safety. Our incoming Governor of South Australia, Hieu Van Le, arrived by boat in Darwin seeking refuge 36 years ago, with “nothing but a suitcase filled with invisible dreams. A dream to live in a peaceful, safe and free country and to live a meaningful and fulfilling life.” In the past, Australia has been the kind of nation that grants dreams like this – why not for the 983 future Hieu Van Le’s and their families in detention?

A world away and so many years later, how is Martin Luther King’s freedom movement related to the current plight of asylum seekers in Australia? Well, the links are stronger than you think.

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Iraq: Humility Is the Best Option

America is stunned by what is happening in Iraq right now, and happening so quickly. We may be facing the worst terrorist threat to international security so far — despite all we have done and sacrificed. Both our political leaders and media pundits are admitting there are no good options for the U.S. now. But there is an option we could try for the first time: humility. Let me turn to two biblical texts that might provide some wisdom for both the religious and non-religious.

If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom. 12:20–21)

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God. (Matthew 5:9)

All nations use propaganda to tell half-truths and spread misinformation about their enemies, which should be honestly challenged. Even so, it is also true that we have real enemies in this world, as individuals, groups, and nations. To assume otherwise is foolish, from the perspective of history, certainly, but also in light of good theology about evil as part of the nature of the human condition. According to the Bible, even our faith communities will encounter enemies. Jesus’s teaching assumes that we will have enemies, and he teaches us how to treat them. In the passages above, Jesus and Paul the Apostle offer guidance for more effective ways of dealing with our enemies. It seems to be clear that our habit of going to war against them is increasingly ineffective. For the past several years, we have found ourselves in a constant state of war with “enemies” who are very hard to find or completely defeat.

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Could Baptizing Children of Gay Couples Become a New Battleground?

Despite numerous controversies over dismissing gay Catholics from church posts and the U.S. hierarchy’s campaign against same-sex marriage, Catholic leaders have carefully, if quietly, avoided doing anything to block gay couples from having their children baptized.

But a move by a bishop in Wisconsin to route all such decisions through his office is raising questions about whether that neutral zone will now become another battleground, and whether the growing acceptance of gay parents will inevitably draw more attention to this practice and force church leaders to establish clearer rules.

The default position for most bishops — reiterated in a major Vatican document released on Thursday — is that if the parents pledge to raise the child Catholic, then no girl or boy should be refused baptism.

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Vatican Confronts Shifting Landscape on Family Issues

Faced with a cultural landscape that’s shifting faster than the church’s ability to keep up, Catholic bishops are looking for new approaches toward unmarried couples, divorced people, and single parents who are disillusioned with the church.

The first-ever survey of 114 bishops’ conferences around the world found that many Christians “have difficulty” accepting church teachings on key issues such as birth control, divorce, homosexuality, and cohabitation.

But one senior church leader cautioned that “the doctrine of the church is not up for discussion.”

The survey’s findings, released in a 75-page document by the Vatican on Thursday, will serve as the blueprint for October’s Synod of Bishops, when bishops from around the world will gather to discuss issues facing the family.

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Raising Girls In A World Where They Are Less Than Human

I have two daughters.

They are little spark plugs of utter joy and complete chaos. They make me laugh. They make me cry. They remind me to view the world through childlike wonder. They remind me that I am not what I do, but who I am. They teach me what selfless love actually looks like … every day … day after day … early morning after early morning … nasty crap diaper after nasty crap diaper. They make me realize how much I have to learn about parenting and our place in the world.

Most every night from the moment they were born, I have quietly held them in my arms or rested my hand on their backs while they sleep and prayed for them.

I pray for their continued breath. I pray for their development as little, unique human beings. I pray the Spirit of God to fill them and empower them. I pray the Lord’s Prayer over them. I pray for them to be protected from evil. I pray for them to love those who aren’t often loved. I pray for them to live confidently into who they have been created to be, free from the pressure of imposed reputation and expectation.

I pray for their past, present and future.

In learning to love these little girls, I began to ask more and more questions about the place of women in the world, in the church, and in everyday life.

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