The Common Good

I strongly believe that to have any moral authority in the current crisis, we must first confess the Western policies and attitudes that have contributed to where we find ourselves today—and then repent of those policies and attitudes.

We've sanitized and romanticized the manger scene. We’ve removed all the blood and sweat and tears and pain and goo. We’ve left out all the messy parts. The oh-my-God-what-now parts. The I’m-screaming-as-loud-as-I-can-because-it-really-hurts parts. The oh-no-I’ve-stepped-in-the-animal-droppings parts. The real parts.

Demonstration in New York City on Dec. 7, protesting the non-indictment in Eric

Mary sang her Magnificat in the context of a police state called Rome. She belonged to a contained and threatened people. She waited and celebrated the day when her womb would birth hope for the oppressed and the lifting up of those tread down.

The turmoil and unrest that we are seeing is God clearly calling out the people of the church to truly celebrate life during this season through three gifts that we can give to the world and ourselves.

Marie Havens /

Many white Americans tend to see this problem as incidents based on individual circumstances. Black Americans see a system in which their black lives matter less than white lives. That is a fundamental difference of experience between white and black Americans, black and white parents, even white and black Christians. 

A chorus of voices has risen to declare with one voice and hashtag that #BLACKLIVESMATTER. And yet, I’ve noticed on my social feeds many replying ALL LIVES MATTER. ... Do they realize that in this very moment these microaggressions are like another death by a thousand Facebook posts?

On The Blog

  • Wild is a movie that’s afraid to upset people. It acknowledges the hard stuff, but barely hints at the true emotional complexities of its story and of its main character. Where it ought to challenge, it merely suggests. And while that’s okay, it’s disappointing that it isn’t more.
  • I grew up reading Scripture, have written several books about Jesus and the Bible, but somehow I’m always left with a sense that there’s more — a lot more — about Jesus and about being a follower than we generally consider.
  • This year many of us will experience Christmas not as the shepherds, but as the wise men. If we have the courage to peer through the darkness, we’ll see love as a twinkle in the distant sky. We’ll pack up life-as-usual, and pursue it.
  • For us, the 1,000+ deportations per day means the breakup of families we have come to know and love in our own congregations and communities. Their families are now our families; their kids are our kids. For us, this is an issue for the body of Christ, a question of our obedience to Jesus Christ. It is about things that are so much more important than politics.
  • Wherever peace is elusive, the first ones to suffer are the vulnerable.
  • “When politicians wanted to use the religious fibers to divide the people, whether to maintain power or to conquer it, we stood up as if we were a single man to say ‘non’ to this war and ‘yes’ to peace.”
  • When justice and changemaking are buzzwords, how do we embrace the long challenge of bettering the world while remaining humble about our place in it?
  • Though we no longer sacrifice to the gods or consult Oracles, I am afraid that we are still victim to the curse of knowing the end of things. I’m talking about the sense of inevitability that comes from politicians and generals who pronounce certain victory over our rivals.
  • For Christians in Iraq, a foundational creed of the faith is facing a sticking point. The creed is itself a challenge to human nature — “But I say to you, love your enemies; bless those who curse you; do good to those who hate you; pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” In the West, Jesus’ summons has relevance on the daily relational level. But how do we genuinely practice reconciliation in the presence of something much more terrifying and insidious? How do we love our enemies when our enemy doesn’t want to resolve? Iraq today is a testing ground for how Jesus’ words hold up in the growing presence of horror. For those of us in the business of peace, clamors for war — however targeted — are too facile and the inevitable collateral damage too enduring. But honest calls for peace require open-eyed discernment and informed wisdom — and working toward reconciliation requires all parties to come to the table. Two groups working in Iraq made headlines this summer — the Preemptive Love Coalition and theFoundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, led by Jeremy Courtney and Canon Andrew White, respectively. Courtney provides hands-on training for Iraqi surgeons to perform lifesaving heart operations for children across Iraq, and started the viral #WeAreN campaign this year. Canon White leads inter-religious dialogue with Iraq’s religious leaders with the help of Baghdad-born Dr. Sarah Ahmed. Though working from different angles, both groups are discovering how to love and reconcile in concrete terms.

In The Magazine

Featured Blog Series

In this new series, we explore the ongoing conversation within the church over LGBT identities, affirmation, and inclusion. As the push for equality expands, how are communities of faith participating and responding — and is it enough?