The Common Good

pundits

The Shrill Are Shouting: So What?

Shrill voices, backed by vast ad spending, are trying to turn Americans against each other. And not just in vocal and behavioral disagreement, but to a depth of fear and hatred that could turn violent with little provocation.

Is it working?

To judge by the shrill echoes of shrill voices, the right wing is arming for battle, with God on their side, the flag as their shield, and the future of a white Christian nation at stake. Foolhardy politicians egg them on, and the greedy rich seem to believe that they can turn this hatred on and off to suit their quest for tax breaks.

Do the shrill represent any force larger than their own passions? Will the common-sense middle prove more durable and extensive than zealots want to believe?

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Gore Vidal and the Death of Refined Public Repartee


Back in the 1970s, when I still was living near William F. Buckley in Switzerland close to my parent’s ministry, L’Abri Fellowship, from time to time the author would visit my mother and father for tea.

My late father (the theologian Francis Schaeffer) and Buckley had little in common apart from a shared love of art, the Swiss Alps, and a sense that the West was in a decline that only Christianity could reverse — even if they would not have agreed on what that word “Christianity” meant. WFB was a bon vivant Roman Catholic and Dad was a “biblical inerrancy” fundamentalist.

Dad would serve tea, but I could tell that, as the afternoons wore on, Buckley might have preferred an offer of something a bit “stiffer,” as the Brits call a real drink. Later, in the early '80s, Buckley and I  were comparing notes about speaking (I’d just addressed the Southern Baptist convention before I fled the evangelical scene), and he mentioned that he agreed with Winston Churchill who said, "You can't make a speech on ice water."

Dad was a teetotaling Presbyterian. Notwithstanding, Buckley — perhaps to annoy my father — once said, rather pointedly, that he always demanded a couple of glasses of wine before taking to the podium.

When I learned of Gore Vidal’s passing Wednesday, I recalled Buckley talking to Dad and me about how Vidal and he used to go hammer-and-tongs arguing on TV — mostly on Buckley’s program Firing Line — only to go have a drink together after the show.

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Jon Stewart on Limbaugh: 'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Gross'

WARNING: Jon Stewart's take on Rush Limbaugh's latest rhetorical offense against humanity (or at least womankind) is not for the faint of heart.

But it is funny ... cuz it's true.

Hear what Jon had to say inside the blog...

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Time to Go Deeper

It’s been a bad year, and the 2012 election year looks to be even worse.

Don’t get me wrong —  there were many good and even wonderful things about 2011. I can point to weddings, great things in our family lives, wonderful moments with our children, acts of courage in our local and our global communities, and heroic accomplishments by people of faith and others of good will.

But when it comes to politics and to the media, 2011 was an abysmal year.

Washington is a dysfunctional place where we make the most important decisions about how our public resources should be allocated amidst artificial deadlines set entirely by ideological politics instead of the common good. Rational, thoughtful ideas for reducing the national deficit (while at the same time protecting our vital social safety nets and producing needed jobs) have been replaced by the politics of blame and fear.

And winning — at seemingly any cost — has trumped governing. To disagree with the opposition isn’t enough. Now politicians and pundits feel compelled to destroy their opponents’ character, integrity, patriotism, and even attack their faith.

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Rick Perry's "Oops": The Brain Freeze Heard 'Round the World

See video

I’m sure you’ve seen the clip that has now gone all over the world.

And Perry is taking a pounding from the pundits.

CNN's Jack Cafferty told Perry it was time for him to "just go away," saying: "This 'aw shucks,' grade-school stuff may play in Texas -— but I, sir, don't want you anywhere near the nuclear launch codes."

Hardball’s Chris Mathews labeled it a “brain freeze” on his show.

The Washington Post called it a "senior moment."

And the U.K.'s Globe and Mail eloquently dubbed it a "brain fart."

I call it “ideological idiocy.”

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Austin's Autumn (Nonfiction) List: Pete Rollins, Part 2

I wrote yesterday of Peter Rollins' new book Insurrection.
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Jon Stewart on 'the Poors': Fridges & Microwaves & TVs, Oh My!

Did you know 98 percent of poor households in the U.S. (those with an income of about $22,000 or less for a family of four) own a STOVE or OVEN? Or that 84 percent of poor households have AIR CONDITIONING?

Shocking! An outrage!

At least that's what some of our colleagues in the media appear to believe, as Jon Stewart documents in the following "Daily Show" report:

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'God is Watching' the Budget Debate in Congress

"God is Watching," reads the headline for a full page ad Sojourners ran in this morning's Politico. It is the latest in a series of radio, print, and online ads we have put out on the budget debate and default crisis. On Tuesday, we launched radio ads in Kentucky, Nevada, and Ohio that were recorded by local pastors who lifted up the moral issues at stake in the debate.

Furthermore, our work in the past few weeks and the Circle of Protection meeting with the president has been covered by the Washington Post (and here), CNN (and here), MSNBC, Politico, Roll Call, and many local outlets from across the country. Behind all the ads and the press is the muscle -- and that muscle is you.

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Loving Casey Anthony in a Culture of Vengeance

I couldn't bear to watch any of the coverage of the Casey Anthony murder trial. I heard snippets of information on occasion: intimations of incest; a car that "smelled of death"; fist fights breaking out as the curious and obsessed (or the profoundly bored?) tried to get a seat in the Florida courtroom.

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The Economics of Anxiety

One of the steadfast realities of following the lectionary is the predictable rhythm of its three-year cycle of readings. Preparing a sermon for Baptism of the Lord Sunday in 2011?
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