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VIDEO: Obama's Surprise Visit to Afghanistan Tuesday
Watch videos of President Obama's surprise visit to Afghanistan today and read the transcript of his address to the American people tonite inside the blog.
"As we move forward, some people will ask why we need a firm timeline. The answer is clear: our goal is not to build a country in America's image, or to eradicate every vestige of the Taliban. These objectives would require many more years, many more dollars, and many more American lives. Our goal is to destroy al Qaeda, and we are on a path to do exactly that. Afghans want to fully assert their sovereignty and build a lasting peace. That requires a clear timeline to wind down the war. Others will ask why we don't leave immediately. That answer is also clear: we must give Afghanistan the opportunity to stabilize. Otherwise, our gains could be lost, and al Qaeda could establish itself once more. And as Commander-in-Chief, I refuse to let that happen.
"I recognize that many Americans are tired of war. As President, nothing is more wrenching than signing a letter to a family of the fallen, or looking in the eyes of a child who will grow up without a mother or father. I will not keep Americans in harm's way a single day longer than is absolutely required for our national security. But we must finish the job we started in Afghanistan, and end this war responsibly."
~ President Obama speaking to the nation from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan
Working Class Heroes: A Playlist for May Day
A playlist for the working class: Ten songs in honor of May Day and workers everywhere.
John Lennon, "Working Class Hero"
This song from John Lennon's first post-Beatles solo album, 1970's John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, is about working class folks being "processed" into the middle class or the "machine," according to what Lennon told Rolling Stone magazine in an interview the same year the album released. "A working class hero is something to be," is the song's mantra and refrain.
Trayvon Martin: Zimmerman Charged with 2nd Degree Murder
Authorities in Florida have charged George Zimmerman, 28, with 2nd-degree murder in the shooting death of unarmed Trayvon Martin, 17, in Sanford, Fla., in late February.
The charges, announced by special prosecutor Angela Corey, at a news conference in Jacksonville, Fla., Wednesday evening, come six weeks after Zimmerman, a self-appointed community watch "captain" in a gated Sanford community where Trayvon was visiting his father on Feb. 26, shot the teen -- who was armed only with a cell phone, a can of iced tea and a packet of Skittles -- in what the shooter claimed was self-defense under Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which allows victims to use deadly force against an attacker if they believe their lives are in danger.
BREAKING NEWS: Zimmerman to be Charged in Trayvon Martin Case
Florida special prosecutor Angela Corey plans to announce as early as Wednesday afternoon that she is charging neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, according to a law enforcement official close to the investigation.
It was not immediately clear what charge Zimmerman will face.
Martin, 17 and unarmed, was shot and killed Feb. 26 by Zimmerman, who said he was acting in self-defense. Police in Sanford, Fla., where the shooting took place, did not charge Zimmerman, citing the state’s “stand your ground” law.
Corey told reporters Tuesday night that she would hold a news conference about the case within 72 hours. A news release from her office said the event will be held in Sanford or Jacksonville, Fla.
Benjamin Crump, who is representing the Martin family, said this week that Corey’s office had asked where Trayvon’s parents would be each day this week. They arrived Wednesday in Washington for a civil rights conference organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton, where they are scheduled to speak.
This story is developing ...
Images from Tuesday's Q Conference
Images from Day 1 of the 2012 Q Conference in Washington, D.C., Tuesday April 10, with speakers including Sojourners CEO Jim Wallis, philanthropist Roberta Ahmanson, the Rev. Joel Hunter, researcher Ed Stetzer, NYT columnist Ross Douthat, Michael Cromartie and Q founder Gabe Lyons.
President Obama to Young Evangelicals: 'God’s Hand is Moving through His People'
In a video address Tuesday, President Obama told hundreds of young evangelical Christian leaders gathered at the Q Conference in Washington, D.C., that they had a partner in the White House in their humanitarian and social justice efforts.
Mike Wallace of '60 Minutes' Has Died
Veteran television newsman Mike Wallace died Saturday night, surrounded by family in a long-term care facility in New Haven, Conn., CBS News announced Sunday. Mr. Wallace was 93.
According to the Huffington Post:
Mr. Wallace had been ill for years. Bob Scheiffer revealed the circumstances of his death on "Face the Nation," after Charles Osgood broke the news of Wallace's death on "CBS News Sunday Morning."
Wallace was one of the original hosts and correspondents of "60 Minutes." He was a trailblazer, known for confronting his subjects and originating the newsmagazine format. His style became standard for television news.
On Sunday, Schieffer and Morley Safer paid tribute to Wallace on "Face the Nation." The show opened with a memorial piece about the newsman, in which Safer recalled Wallace's defiant spirit.
"There will never be another one quite like him," said Schieffer, who teared up when he introduced the segment. He called Wallace a "mentor," and recalled that he "even gave [him] a compliment, once."
Χριστός ἀνέστη: Christos Anesti! He is Risen!
The Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter 28 tells us:
The angel spoke to the women: "There is nothing to fear here. I know you're looking for Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was raised, just as he said. Come and look at the place where he was placed.
"Now, get on your way quickly and tell his disciples, 'He is risen from the dead. He is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.' That's the message."
Maundy Thursday: The Last Supper and Gethsemane
As we walk with Jesus ever closer to Good Friday, we recognize today as Maundy Thursday, commemorating the day that Jesus celebrated his last Passover meal — the Last Supper — with his disciples and washed their feet. Later that night, he would go with them to the Garden of Gethsemane, to wrestled with his humanity and the mission God the Father had called him to — to suffer and die on the cross at Golgatha the next day. Jesus asks his disciples to stay awake with him, to keep him company and join him in prayer. But they fall asleep, leaving Jesus alone in his dark night of the soul.
This is my body ... broken for you.
We've compiled a playlist of songs inspired by or that speak in some way to the Holy Week journey that brings us to Maundy Thursday and the great mandate from which the day takes its name: "If I, the Master and Teacher, have washed your feet, you must now wash each other's feet."
The Manchester Passion: Finding the Sacred in the Supposedly Profane
The music of Manchester, England is, for me, the soundtrack of my college years. The Smiths. Joy Division. Oasis. James. The Happy Mondays.
It was the music I danced to in Chicago nightclubs, the songs of seeming disillusionment that I walked around campus listening to (on cassettes and "cassingles" -- remember those?) on my Sony Walkman.
I love that music that put a spring in my step and gave voice to my youthful ennui. But I had never thought of it as particularly spiritual music...that is until earlier this week when my charming British colleague, Jack Palmer, brought to my attention The Manchester Passion, an hourlong 2006 BBC special broadcast of a massive public reinactment of Christ's passion and crucifixion staged in a public square in Manchester set to the music of that enigmatic northern city in England.
The Manchester Passion took the music and lyrics of The Smiths and their Manchunian contemporaries and used them -- brilliantly and powerfully -- to retell in a thoroughly modern milieu the greatest story ever told.
President Obama: Easter Celebrates 'That Glorious Overcoming'
President Obama hosted his third annual Easter prayer breakfast for about 150 members of the clergy from across the nation in the East Room of the White House Wednesday morning. In his six-minute address, Obama reflected on the spiritual messages of Easter -- Jesus' triumphant overcoming of his own human doubts and fears so that all of humanity might do the same.
"For like us, Jesus knew doubt," Obama said. "Like us, Jesus knew fear. In the garden of Gethsemane, with attackers closing in around him, Jesus told His disciples, 'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.' He fell to his knees, pleading with His Father, saying, “If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” And yet, in the end, He confronted His fear with words of humble surrender, saying, “If it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
"So it is only because Jesus conquered His own anguish, conquered His fear, that we’re able to celebrate the resurrection. It’s only because He endured unimaginable pain that wracked His body and bore the sins of the world that He burdened -- that burdened His soul that we are able to proclaim, 'He is Risen!'"
Prayers of the People: Seven Dead in Shooting at Christian University in California
Seven people died and three others were injured Monday afternoon when a gunman opened fire on the Oakland, Calif., campus of Oikos University — a small Christian college that caters largely to a Korean and Korean-American student body.
According to CNN, police have detained a man in his 40s who police believe to be the shooter. Oikos University founder and president, the Rev. Jong Kim, told the Oakland Tribune that the gunman was a nursing student who was no longer enrolled at the school.
An update of the Oakland Tribune story shortly after 9 p.m. EST Monday police have arrested 43-year-old One Goh of Oakland in connection with the deadly shooting.
A former nursing student who opened fire in a small Christian university Monday morning, killing seven and wounding three more, first told his former classmates to line up against a wall before pulling a handgun and sending students fleeing in panic, a witness said....
Police said five people were dead at the scene; of five others who were taken to the hospital, two later died. Authorities said most of those killed and wounded had been in a classroom near the school's entrance; one was shot in an administrative office. The gunman reportedly went to another classroom and fired through its locked door but didn't hit anyone there.
The gunman was caught a short time later in an Alameda shopping center, about five miles away, police said. Safeway employees who did not give their names said the suspect told a store staffer that he had shot people and needed to be arrested.
'Why I Hate Religion, But Love YouTube'
The lesson for me, as the parent of a middle school child, was to pay closer attention.
Obama Nominates Physician, Global Health Expert to Head World Bank
In a move that surprised many in the world of economics and politics, on Friday morning President Obama nominated Jim Yong Kim, the South Korea-born physician, anthropologist and president of Dartmouth College, to be the next president of the World Bank.
Prior to taking the helm at Dartmouth in 2009, Kim, 52, led the global health and social medicine department at Harvard Medical School, of which he is a graduate. Widely considered one of the leading minds in world health, Kim also has served as a director of the HIV/AIDS department at the World Health Organization, where he focused on helping developing countries improve treatment and prevention programs.
Obama called Kim, “an innovative leader whose groundbreaking work to fight disease and combat poverty has saved lives around the globe.” The President said Kim is exceptionally well qualified for the position but brings “more to the role than an impressive record of designing new ways to solve entrenched problems.
“Development is his lifetime commitment, and it is his passion,” Obama said. “And in a world with so much potential to improve living standards, we have a unique opportunity to harness that passion and experience at the helm of the World Bank.”
Naomh Padraig: St. Patrick's Day, John O'Donohue and Blessing
To bless someone, in the most literal sense of the word, is to confer your hopes to them.
That's why so many traditional blessings begin with the word "may."
Take, for instance, what is perhaps the best-known Irish blessing (or toast, as the case may be this time of the year):
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
The rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
"May" doesn't mean "so be it." May implies that something is possible, but not a done deal. May hopes that God puts it in play and that you get out of your own way and allow it to happen.
John O'Donohue, the great contemporary Irish poet/philosopher (and former Catholic priest), knew the power of "may."
Howling wind whipped my long, unruly hair in penitent lashes across my face as I stood in the rain, staring at the churning sea at the northernmost point of Ireland. This place, Malin Head in County Donegal, for some mysterious or mystical reason — perhaps because it is such a broody, dramatic place, or maybe it’s got something to do with ancestry, or both — is the spot I love most in the world.
It is a wild land, the kind of place where myths are born, where giants and saints might come bounding over the next hillock followed by a troupe of little people or a herd of magical sheep.
Whatever the reason, I feel at home here and have returned time and again over the last 15 years, drawn to stand on its rocky cliffs like water to the shore.
Dear Sojo Commenters
Good morning, y'all,
You may recall back a post back in January where I expressed our ongoing concern about the tenor of many comments on our site. I said at the time that in order to (hopefully) curtail the snark that had infiltrated our comments sections, we would be rolling out new protocols for readers who wish to leave their public feedback on posts, including a mandatory sign-in via Facebook.
Well, the day of reckoning is upon us.
Pastor Nadarkhani Remains on Death Row in Iran
Last fall on God's Politics, we ran a few posts on the plight of Youcef Nadarkhani, a Muslim convert to Christianity who was arrested, charged with apostasy, tried, convicted and sentenced to death in Iran in 2010. We asked for continued prayer for the pastor and his family, and for people of conscience to speak out on his behalf.
Fast-forward five months...
As I was browsing through Facebook last night, I noticed a post on my news feed with the photo of a blindfolded man standing next to the executioner's noose and a headline that read, "Youcef Nadarkhani Executed."
My heart stopped for a moment. Please, no, I thought. And the guilt began to flood in: How could I have dropped the ball? If we had continued to sound the alarm on his behalf, would he have been hanged? Could we have helped save him if we'd done more?
I quickly went to Google to look for news reports of Nadarkhani's execution, reportedly on March 3. But I couldn't find any. Nothing on CNN, BBC, Al-Jazeera, NPR.
After searching for a while, I found a post by the American Center for Law and Justice that confirmed what had become my hope: Reports of Nadarkhani's execution were false.
LifeBuilders: Help Rebuild Lives (and Souls) in Detroit with the Click of a Mouse
When Marilyn and Larry Johnson sold their computer business in suburban Detroit about a decade ago, they figured they'd settle into the next phase of their lives with ease. Retirement meant more freedom, fewer pressures and ample time on the golf course. But a life of leisure turned out to feel terribly hollow for the Christian couple.
"I remember coming in from a golf game and Larry asking me how my game was, and I just started crying," Marilyn told Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom recently. "I said, 'My life has no purpose.' "
So the Johnsons began volunteering at shelters, treatment programs and soup kitchens. On Thanksgiving eight years ago, they wound up serving turkey dinner to the homeless. It was a turning point. An epiphany.
Top Ten Reasons Why I (Heart) Kristin Chenoweth
If you've ever seen or heard Kristin Chenoweth sing, you know she is a pint-sized ray of sunshine. She oozes joy and grace and love for her audience from every pore of her 4-foot-11-inch frame. Plus, girlfriend has a spot-on, finely calibrated sense of comic timing. (I dare you to watch her perform and not at least crack a smile. She is enchanting, her natural ebullience utterly infectious.)
What you may not know is that Chenoweth, 44, is a Christian. Born and raised in the Southern Baptist tradition where she accepted Jesus into her heart at the tender age of 8, "Cheno," as she is known to her legion devoted fans, now describes herself as a nondenominational "non-judgmental, liberal Christian." Her devotion to Jesus and His Way is something she's never been shy about, both before and after she took Broadway by storm in her early 20s.
“I'm sick of people who've never been to church telling me that church is full of hypocrites, and people who've never read the Bible telling me that it's baloney," she wrote in her 2009 memoir, A Little Bit Wicked. "I'm a very controversial figure in the Christian world. I don't believe if you're gay or you have a drink or you dance, you're going to hell. I don't think that's the kind of God we have. The Pat Robertsons and Jerry Falwells of the world are scary. I want to be a Christian like Christ — loving and accepting of other people."