The Common Good


Toward an Evangelical Peace Movement

Billy Sunday was the most famous evangelist in America during the first two decades of the 20th century. Without the aid of loudspeakers, TV or radio, Sunday preached to over 100 million people the classic evangelical gospel that remains familiar to many people today. Repent and believe in Jesus, who died on the cross for your sins, and be saved from eternal damnation. The simplicity of Sunday’s message prompted millions of early 20th century Americans to examine the state of their souls and consider their eternal fates. Yet when it came to conscientious objectors during World War I, Sunday spared no mercy:

The man who breaks all the rules but at last dies fighting in the trenches is better than you God-forsaken mutts who won’t enlist.

Throughout our nation’s history, it’s been an axiom that Presidents lead us into wars, while Christians provide the flags and the crosses. Barring a few notable exceptions — Anabaptists, Quakers, and early Pentecostals — evangelical fervor has often promoted an uncritical nationalism that baptizes American military adventures with religious legitimacy. It’s no coincidence that the setting of Mark Twain’s famous War Prayer —in which Twain delivers a devastating critique of the use of religion to justify imperialism — is a Protestant Christian church. Given the historical record, it may seem the deck is stacked against American evangelicals organizing into a comprehensive peace movement — yet that’s exactly what’s happening.

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Broken Politics

But there are some people who are trying to buck the trend. In their book Left, Right and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics, D.C. Innes and Lisa Sharon Harper come together from opposite sides of the proverbial aisle to wrestle with some of the most fundamental issues facing Americans today. Though both consider themselves evangelical Christians, it is striking how different their worldviews are: Harper is a Democrat, and Innes, a Republican. And yet they hold two things in common: 1) They both love Jesus, and 2) They are both dissatisfied with their own party’s current engagement with the public square. Both are fiercely committed to their respective political ideas—but both are also passionate about extending charity to their political opposites.

Focus On The Family, Other Evangelical Groups On Board For Granting Amnesty To Illegal Immigrants

Date: June 13, 2012
And Jim Wallis, President and CEO of Sojourners, said that while "evangelicals agree and disagree on many things,” there “are not many things that a group of evangelical leaders this diverse can agree on when it comes to public policy.”

Evangelical Leaders Unite to Flex Political Power in Support of Immigration Reform

Date: June 12, 2012
Today in Washington, D.C., several of the nation's most prominent evangelical Christian leaders will join together to announce a statement of principles that they hope will spur Congress and the president to finally pursue comprehensive reforms to our nation's dysfunctional immigration legal system.

Politico Influence 6/12/12

Source: Politico
Date: June 12, 2012
READING THE TEA LEAVES: Evangelical leaders announced an “Evangelical Statement of Principles for Immigration Reform” in a press conference this morning to push Congress to address comprehensive immigration reform and a path to legal status and/or citizenship for immigrant families. The news is the addition of the social conservative organization Focus on the Family to the roster of Evangelical groups. Now led by Jim Daly, Focus on the Family has never before taken a position on immigration and its support for this broadening coalition of evangelicals for immigration reform is a high-water mark for its efforts to coalesce moderate and more socially conservative evangelical support. Also at today’s press conference was Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Richard Land, National Association of Evangelicals President Leith Anderson and Jim Wallis, president and CEO of Sojourners.

Focus on the Family's Jim Daly on a New Stance on Immigration Reform

Date: June 12, 2012
However, several changes among leadership and priorities have paved the way for other leaders connected with evangelical institutions to take a stance. Other names included Max Lucado, Russell Moore, Margaret Feinberg, J.D. Greear, and Timothy George. Organizations included World Relief, Bread for the World, the Southern Baptist Covention's Ethics & Public Policy Center, Esperanza, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, and the National Association of Evangelicals. Daly could not attend the gathering of several evangelical organizations on Tuesday, but longtime Focus staffer Tom Minnery will join the release. On Monday, Daly spoke with CT about why he signed the statement and what it means for the organization.

AG Eric Holder, Black Church Leaders Mull Voter Law Changes

Attorney General Eric Holder and other legal experts strategized with black religious leaders May 30 about new restrictive state voting laws that could affect their congregants by reducing early voting and requiring identification.

“I would argue that of all the freedoms we have today, none is more important or more sacred than the right to vote,” Holder told about 200 people gathered for a meeting of the Conference of National Black Churches and the Congressional Black Caucus.

He acknowledged concerns about new voting laws and said his department has launched more than 100 investigations about racially discriminatory voting practices.

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The Problem with Certitude

As I've read and listened to Christian reaction in the wake of Obama's interview stating his personal opinion on same-sex marriage, I've been discouraged with the nature and tenor of the conversation itself. Specifically, I'm troubled by the way many Christians choose to take definitive and certain stances about complex issues, and the rhetoric they use to state and defend these positions, rhetoric that tends to divide rather than unite and close discussion rather than open it.

I'm interested in exploring what it is about the Christian religion, and perhaps more specifically, evangelicalism that results in such an approach.

I fully understand the attractions of certainty. From my study of C. S. Lewis I know that his popularity among evangelical Christians in the 1940s and 1950s was largely due to his style of certitude. Lewis was writing in a time where scientific discoveries and religious liberalism were challenging the assertions of orthodox Christianity. In a period of doubt and questioning, Lewis seemed to have a way of cutting through complex arguments and reaching a simple solution that was convincing to his readers.

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