Image via REUTERS/Charles Mostoller/RNS

What criteria do we use to pick a president?

We hear the daily stats and buzz, but presidential elections are about the big picture — where we want to go and the best way to get there. This means looking not only at political options but also at the way we humans are set up — how we’re wired. When public policies don’t account for that, we have reduced horizons, diminished resources, and polarization.

John Pattison 09-09-2015

Image via /Shutterstock

Without a commitment to having hard conversations, and without healthy outlets for them, disagreements can be terrifying. They can seem like the end of the world, especially in the rarified atmosphere of our churches.

Unfortunately, Christians often deal with disagreements in their congregations in one of a handful of ways. We might disagree only in public, or only in denominational forums; we might talk only to our pastor, or only to the people who agree with us; we might let our money do the talking for us; we might not say anything at all; or we might split — leave, get kicked out, break fellowship.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can create a culture of rich dialogue, even around our disagreements. We can cultivate community conversations marked by gracious space and spacious grace. This unity is possible because we are bound by a covenant 

Walter Brueggemann 03-16-2015
Broken fence. Image courtesy mervas/

Broken fence. Image courtesy mervas/

Lent is our season of honesty. It is a time when we may break out of our illusions to face the reality of our life in preparation for Easter, a radical new beginning.

When, through this illusion-breaking homework, we connect with reality, we see that in our society the fabric of human community is almost totally broken. One glaring evidence of such brokenness is the current unrelieved tension between police and citizens in Ferguson, Missouri.

That tension is rooted in very old racism. It also reflects the deep and growing gap between “the ownership class” that employs the police and those who have no serious access to ownership who become victims of legalized violence.

This is one frontal manifestation of “the covenant that they broke,” as referred to in the Jeremiah text for this week: a refusal of neighborly solidarity that leads, with seeming certitude, to disastrous social consequences.

Of course the issue is not limited to Ferguson but is massively systemic in U.S. society. The brokenness consists not so much in the actual street violence perpetrated in that unequal contest. The brokenness is that such brutalizing force is accepted as conventional, necessary, and routine. It is a policy and a practice of violence acted out as “ordinary” that indicates a complete failure of neighborly imagination.

Lent is a time for honesty that may disrupt the illusion of well-being that is fostered by the advocates of indulgent privilege and strident exceptionalism that disregards the facts on the ground. Against such ideological self-sufficiency, the prophetic tradition speaks of the brokenness of the covenant that makes healthy life possible.

As long as there is denial and illusion, nothing genuinely new can happen. But when reality is faced — in this case the reality of a failed covenant between legal power and vulnerable citizens — new possibility becomes imaginable.

Photo via jsp /

Biblical Ten Commandments inscribed on stone tablets in the Paleo-hebrew script. Photo via jsp /

On any given Saturday, people join Habitat for Humanity teams and commit to work to help eradicate poverty housing.  The individual volunteers give of their time, energy and physical ability because they want to be a part of something bigger than themselves.  Similarly, in the HBO TV drama “Game of Thrones,” individuals from the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos volunteer to serve as The Night’s Watch.  Members of The Night’s Watch live as a self-sufficient military order that defends the Wall that protects the Seven Kingdoms and patrols the Haunted Forest.  The Night’s Watch oath details the sacrifice of its members:

"Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night's Watch, for this night and all the nights to come."

Although the members of The Night’s Watch are fictitious, they exist in a recognizable bond – a commitment that theologians call a covenant relationship. 

In the Book of Exodus, readers find the beginnings of the formalized covenant relationship between the Israelites and their god. 

Adam Copeland 02-23-2015
Photo via asife /

Photo via asife /

What do you want to pass on to your grandchildren? What will you give to future generations?

There’s a special spot on my shelf for books my grandparents handed down to me over the years. I cherish the collection of love poetry my grandfather gave my grandmother for a wedding anniversary decades ago. I treasure my grandfather’s old prayer book and hymnal. Depending on your family history, most of us will have at least a few old treasures from generations before.

Some things pass from one generation to another with special care—a family wedding ring, a chess set from the home country, old pictures. Other items, however, pass with less care and planning. My wife, for instance, has her grandmother’s old cookie jar. It’s made of cheap, simple glass and is completely unremarkable except for the memories of cookies eaten at grandma’s house it evokes.

Families aren’t the only ones thinking of passing things along. Politicians, skilled at tugging heartstrings, speak often of “future generations.” 

Bob Smietana 07-01-2013

Memphis' Congregational Health Network has become a model for how hospitals and faith communities can work together.

Social, political, and economic forces can either undermine the institution of marriage–or foster a society where it thrives.

Jim Wallis 04-03-2013

"This is not merely a philosophical enterprise; it is an urgent matter that requires moral courage."

Martin L. Smith 11-27-2012

Reflections on the Common Lectionary, Cycle C

Kevin Eckstrom, Al Webb 03-27-2012
Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams attends the Vespers Prayer Service. Franco Origlia/Getty Images

A proposed "Covenant" aimed at ensuring unity across the worldwide Anglican Communion appears to have failed, leaving the world's third-largest Christian body facing an uncertain and likely fragmented future.

The covenant, born of an idea in 2004 to try to set boundaries in belief and practice for the Communion's 40 members churches, appears dead after a majority of dioceses within the Church of England voted to reject it.

With results still being counted, supporters of the Covenant effectively lost their battle within the Church of England when the Diocese of Lincoln cast the 23rd vote against it last week.

"The covenant is either buried or disabled," said Simon Barrow, co-director of the independent British think tank Ekklesia, in the aftermath of the decision.

David Vanderveen 10-04-2011

col-local-currents-David-Vanderveen-by-Gabe-Sullivan-2968Being an Evangelical Christian means accepting grace and being honest about your faith with others.

First, I think you have be honest with yourself and God; and, then, when you’re as true as you can be about both what you actually know and what you actually don’t -- that’s what’s worth sharing.

Rose Marie Berger 09-02-2011

As of yesterday, more than 1,009 Americans have been arrested to bring national attention to the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. This is what church looks like. Liturgy means "the work of the people" in service of the common good.

If President Obama permits the Keystone pipeline, thousands more will sit on his doorstep and in front of bulldozers. This movement doesn't have money to match the influence of oil companies, lobbyists, or politicians with conflicts of interest, but we do have our bodies and we are putting them on the line.

Here are what people of faith -- Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Quakers, Unitarians, and more -- are saying about why they have been or will be arrested to stop the Keystone XL pipeline:

Jim Wallis 06-09-2011

This Sunday is Pentecost. For 50 days, a group of 120 followers of Jesus waited. Their teacher, for whom they had left all they had, was now gone. Judas, one of their own, betrayed their master and then killed himself. The comforter they had been promised had not yet come.

Timothy King 05-09-2011
I was in the middle of a degree in biblical and theological studies when one of my close friends told me she was gay. She didn't last long at her church after coming out to her small group.
Jeannie Choi 01-14-2011
Dutch Winter. Chinese Mothers. Martin Luther King Jr. Here's a little round up of links from around the web you may have missed this week:
Efrem Smith 11-10-2010
As we continue to live within the ever-increasing multi-ethnic and multicultural reality, it is more and more obvious that the "black and white" matrix of the American Christian church is outdated.
Nadia Bolz-Weber 10-04-2010
There is quite a strong tradition in the Old Testament of complaining to God about injustice and suffering. It's lamenting -- and we should perhaps reclaim this part of our tradition.
Efrem Smith 05-19-2010
I watched the Glenn Beck show on Fox News yesterday. His topic was how churches that are using the term, "social justice" are misinterpreting scripture in order to spread Marxism.
Diana Butler Bass 05-18-2010
In March, I signed The Civility Covenant issued by the folks at Sojourners.