The Common Good

Life and Peace

Artist Statement: About the 'On Pilgrimage' Series

I was a reluctant artist, self-doubting leader and a broken soul.
I was in search of healing.

After a series of traumatic experiences that culminated with my hospitalization in Zambia, I went on a sabbatical in search of courage, tenacity, and renewal to continue in my vocation. It was early 2014, and we were entering into the year commemorating 20 years since the genocide in Rwanda. During this time, my mentors were leading a pilgrimage to Uganda and Rwanda to journey through places of immense pain and tremendous hope as a means to engage in the pain and hope in one’s active life. Because of my closely related work in Africa, I didn’t want to go — I knew I would have to intentionally delve into the hellish reality of a violent massacre I knew very little of. Simultaneously, I knew that by stepping into the pain, I would find the hope I was so desperately searching for. And so, together with eight other pilgrims, I went. We journeyed alongside of survivors and perpetrators of genocide as an attempt to identify in the incomprehensible pain that oppresses us all. It was through this experience that healing came in a profound way.

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The Joy of Forgiveness and the Seven Deadly Sins

I live in Washington D.C., a city in which mistakes are messaged and shortcomings are spun. True confession and true repentance do not occur — unless it is politically advantageous. Naturally, cynicism runs rampant.

In this environment, though we all know our own weaknesses, grace is rarely offered for failures.

Which is why Lent is such an important season on the Christian calendar. It is an opportunity to pause and reflect, to examine our hearts, and to acknowledge the ways in which we have fallen short. But we don’t confess our failures to a public waiting to crucify us. Instead, we confess our sins to one who loves us and was willing to be crucified in order to reconcile us once and for all.

Lent is rarely talked about as a celebration, but it is an opportunity to revel in the joy of forgiveness.

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Seven Deadly Sins: A Playlist

 

Wrath
Rolling in the Deep — Adele
Mama Said Knock You Out — LL Cool J
Sloth
Lazy Song — Bruno Mars
Je Ne Veux Pas Travailler — Pink Martini
Greed
Rich Girl — Gwen Stefani ft Eve
I Want It All — Queen
Gluttony
Eat It — Weird Al Yankovich
Can’t Stop — Miley Cyrus
Lust
I Want You to Want Me — Letters to Cleo/10 Things I Hate About You soundtrack
I’m Sexy and I Know It — LMFAO
Pride
I’m the Best (clean version) — Nicki Minaj
Devil Went Down To Georgia — Charlie Daniels Band
Envy
Jessie’s Girl — Rick Springfield
Dancing on My Own — Robyn

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On God's Side

Jim Wallis’ newest book, On God’s Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned About Serving the Common Good, examines the deepest problems this world faces. What we need is a commitment to an ancient idea whose time has urgently come: the common good.
$21.99
Books by Jim Wallis, Books

What Would Jesus Say To the NRA?

What does the birth of the baby Jesus 2,000 years ago have to offer the violent, troubled world we live in? Or what would Jesus say to the NRA?

I want to suggest — a lot.  A whole lot.

Jesus entered the world from a posture of absolute vulnerability — as an unarmed, innocent child during a time of tremendous violence. The Bible speaks of a terrible massacre as Jesus was born, an unspeakable act of violence as King Herod slaughters children throughout the land hoping to kill Jesus (which the church remembers annually as the massacre of the Holy Innocents).  

Perhaps the original Christmas was marked more with agony and grief like that in Connecticut than with the glitz and glamour of the shopping malls and Christmas parades. For just as Mary and Joseph celebrated their newborn baby, there were plenty of other moms and dads in utter agony because their kids had just been killed.    

From his birth in the manger as a homeless refugee until his brutal execution on the Roman cross, Jesus was very familiar with violence.  Emmanuel means “God with us.” Jesus’s coming to earth is all about a God who leaves the comfort of heaven to join the suffering on earth. The fact that Christians throughout the world regularly identify with a victim of violence — and a nonviolent, grace-filled, forgiving victim — is perhaps one of the most fundamentally life-altering and world-changing assumptions of the Christian faith. Or it should be. 

So what does that have to do with the NRA? Underneath the rhetoric of the gun-control debate this Christmas is a nagging question: are more guns the solution to our gun problem?  

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What the Church Can Learn from the YMCA

Last week I was a little under the weather, so when my husband and kids took off after church for a hike, I headed to the YMCA. It’s only a two minute drive from our house and we’ve been members for nearly 5 years now.

As I sat in the hot tub, watching folks come and go, I had the sensation of being in a thin space. According to Celtic tradition, a thin place is when Heaven & Earth feel particularly close together. Or, as Eric Weiner put it in his New York Times travel article a couple years ago, it’s "where the distance between heaven and earth collapses and we’re able to catch glimpses of the divine, or the transcendent."

The YMCA might seem a strange place to behold the holiness of God, but this is what I noticed while I was sitting quietly with the water swirling around my feet:

I heard Mandarin, Spanish, Korean and what I think was Amharic. I heard English, too, of course, and for a brief moment, English with a heavy Nigerian accent. I saw brown skin and black skin, tan skin, white skin, splotchy skin, and smooth skin.

I saw a young girl and her mama soaking together in the hot tub, the mom still fully clothed with her head wrapped. I saw heavily tatooed 20-somethings heading for the steam room. I saw three women, probably in their seventies, with drooping skin and sagging suits, laughing uproariously on the benches near the shallow end of the pool. I saw fat folks, skinny folks, tall folks and short folks.

I saw a middle-aged man limp slowly along and finally sink down into the hot tub. I saw two women walking arm in arm, one obviously leading the other who could not see, to the sauna. I saw two of the lifeguards re-positioning and working with tools on the lift that lowers those who are wheel-chair bound down into pool if they are unable to get in on their own. There was a man sitting beside me at who talked to himself at length.

I was there for about an hour and as I sensed the nearness of God in that space, it occurred to me what I was seeing — I was seeing the Kingdom of God.

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QUIZ: What's Your Lenten Personality?

Lent comes for us all. Well, for some of us, anyway. What's your Lenten personality? Find out with our quiz! (Answers do not guarantee salvation.) 

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Men: Take a Stand to End Gender-Based Violence

The roots of violence against women lie in gender inequality and the abuse of power, which in turn shapes our understanding of masculinity and femininity. What does it mean to be a man or woman in the 21st century? Many Christian authors argue that men should demonstrate leadership and competitiveness, often at the expense of women. Instead, we need to emphasize understandings of masculinity that recognize the diversity of men and allow space for women to also exercise leadership and fulfill their potential.

For Christians, our most important model of masculinity is that of Jesus Christ. As a leader and a compelling speaker and debater, Jesus demonstrated traditional masculine characteristics in his era. His miraculous powers put him in a unique position of authority. And yet he chose to live as a servant, to be nonviolent and to respect women, including relying on them for financial support. His life shows us that:

  • all men and women are worthy of respect;
  • masculinity does not need to be characterized by violence; and
  • power should not be abused, but used in the service of others.
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Private

A friend recently found out that his girlfriend had been cheating on him. They broke up, she pleaded with him to take her back, they picked up where they left off, the trust issues proved too much to bear, and just a few days later he started dating another woman.

Interestingly, all of this information was divulged via social media. I, along with everyone else who knew the couple, was given front row seats to this Jerry Springer-ish episode that terminated their relationship.

As a society, we have definitely blurred some lines between what becomes public and what remains private.

Thanks to the abundance of information at our fingertips, we need only turn on the television or stand in the checkout lane or search Google to uncover the most up-to-date gossip on any public figure. And thanks to social media, we now get to know far more about our friends and acquaintances than we probably care to.

It seems that nothing is private anymore. But in what some may see as a terrible downturn in society, I find a glimmer of hope — this is, in part, paving the way for deep and relevant discussions on faith to take place in the public forum.

Yet when it comes to matters of faith, it seems a majority of us remain silent. Why is it that we will readily invite the entire world on our date via instagram, yet we are so hesitant to open up about our beliefs?

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Let it Be

Every age must be baptized, this one as much as any before it.

The world made by men is passing away; successive scientific paradigms and technological achievements fall into times past along with the times that gave them birth. Ideas are tried and fought over, and even the best are eventually found wanting and impartial. Mansions, buildings and cities are erected and torn down or — in some places, slowly — worn down, and all the people that lived and moved and had their being in them are gone.

Yet the gospel is ever-new for Christ is not dead but alive. Despite appearances, resurrection and new creation are the end toward which all things are headed. Chaos, destruction and death are judged and in the time after the cross fight on with one hand bound, their ultimate defeat assured. The grave is now never the end.

And so there is no such thing as a "post-Christian" culture, only a new moment — right now — in which the mind of Christ, like leaven in bread, humbly seeks residence that it might by self-giving love transfigure and transform the present as it has the past and as it will the future.

Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

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