The Common Good

Blog Posts By James Colten

Posted by James Colten 1 year 2 weeks ago
It’s been twenty years since I rose and cleared my throatIt’s been ten years since stood outside the church- Derek Webb, I Was Wrong, I’m Sorry & I Love YouThe first verse of the first song on the Derek Webb’s new album is a recap of his music career, from Caedman’s Call in the 90s to his solo career launched with She Must and Shall Go Free (2003). Since that first solo album, Webb has pushed all sorts of buttons in the church and the “Christian” music world. From albums Stockholm Syndrome (2009) to Sola Mi (2012) and Ctrl (2012), he’s pushed his own musical boundaries and themes, incorporating elements of hip-hop and electronica and veering away from his gospel-country-folk roots. I Was Wrong, I’m Sorry & I Love You releases today across the country. While you can buy the album online, it is also at a number of Christian retailers for only $4.99 (an unbelievable deal, I must say). It is a return to those gospel-country-folk roots while still embracing all he’s learned in the past 10 years of a solo career. The bright guitar sounds return alongside mellow synthesizers, and for some songs, a crowd-sourced chorus.But more important than the sounds are the lyrics. They’re not snarky or sarcastic like earlier records Mockingbird and The Ringing Bell, but still raw and personal. 
Posted by James Colten 1 year 17 weeks ago
It’s almost impossible to talk about Christians in sports without talking about Tim Tebow (case in point). But there’s another University of Florida grad who has gained attention from another sport — Ultimate Frisbee.Unlike mainstream sports like baseball and football (and futbol), Ultimate is a relatively new sport. In fact, it is not much older than Sojourners, as it was reportedly invented in 1968 (Sojourners was founded in ’71). And like Sojourners, it has gained momentum through word of mouth to the point that it is a nationally recognized sport.Even with the infiltration of high school sports, college teams, and semi-professional clubs, Ultimate is, for the most part, faceless, with the exception of one man: Brodie Smith. Smith grew to be a nationally recognized Ultimate player through his Youtube trick shot videos.
Posted by James Colten 1 year 32 weeks ago
Next week, The Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company will premiere The Convert, a play by Off-Broadway Theater Awards-winning playwright, Danai Gurira.The Convert is set in late 19th Century Southern Africa (modern-day Zimbabwe). The play follows Jekesai, “a young girl who escapes village life and a forced marriage arrangement, ultimately discovering Christianity under the guidance of an African teacher. However, as anti-colonial sentiments rise to a boiling point, Jekesai must choose between her new European God and the spirits of her ancestors. … The Convert examines complex cultural and religious collisions that shaped the post-colonial world, the reverberations of which are still felt in Zimbabwe today.”I had the opportunity to talk to actress Dawn Ursula, who plays Prudence in The Convert. She was also named one of DC’s top 12 actors / actresses by the Washington Post.
Posted by James Colten 1 year 39 weeks ago
“What Child is This,” written by William C. Dix in 1865 is one of the few Christmas carols I know of that does not have its own musical arrangement. It uses the tune, “Greensleeves” (a traditional English folk song, thought to have been written in the late 16th or early 17th century), which when paired with Dix’s lyrics creates a haunting and beautiful image of the birth of our Lord. There’s another song that’s less well-known titled “Child of the Poor,” written by Scott Soper (published in 1994). The counter melody blends stunningly with the melody of “What Child is This.” Reading the lyrics, side by side, gives me chills. In part, because it reminds me that hope is found in low places — God could’ve chosen to be raised in comfort (as Moses was). The cross was only the finale of Jesus’ discomfort. “Child of the Poor” honors the death and discomfort we often don’t want to think about while we’re sitting around the fire drinking cocoa. 
Posted by James Colten 1 year 39 weeks ago
When I go home for Christmas, I always end up pulling out the old Christmas songbook from inside the piano bench and working my way through while my mom cooks dinner. I don’t really read the music as much as I read the chords and play by ear. Good King Wenceslas is a beautiful song musically, but is one of the most fun songs to play because of the never-ending chord changes. I never really considered what the song was about, being raised in a school system that taught of the tyranny of monarchies and the Revolutionary War. Medieval leaders ruled in an age of knights, castles, and oppressed peasants. But then there was Wenceslas (who I now know was the Duke of Bohemia).
Posted by James Colten 1 year 44 weeks ago
All this talk about the three Israelis killed by Gaza rockets …What about the fifteen Palestinians killed by Israeli bombs?If I were inclined to give mathematical value to people based on the media coverage I watched on “Fox & Friends” this morning, I would come to this conclusion:3 Israelis > 15 PalestiniansI don’t think God sees it that way.  To God, all human life is equally precious.I saw a photo showing an Israeli holding a blood-covered, critically injured 8-month-old baby. There’s another photo of a man, Jihad Masharawi, clutching his 11-month-old son on today’s Washington Post front page. Jihad is a Palestinian and a BBC Correspondent. He lives in Gaza. I presume he has a wife, with whom he had his son, Omar. Omar was killed.It is one of the great tragedies of war that the innocents on both sides suffer.
Posted by James Colten 1 year 45 weeks ago
What does it feel like to have your vote stolen?It sucks. It feels like someone literally let all the air out of my balloon animal.Late in September, I happily filled out my absentee ballot request form to the DuPage Election Commission. Illinois had a new measure that allows for anyone to request an absentee ballot. I expected for there to be a delay.So I waited.And I waited some more.
Posted by James Colten 1 year 48 weeks ago
I couldn’t resist: I heard that a singer/songwriter in Atlanta was coming out with an album titled, Faith, the Poor, and Politics. Josh Schicker currently serves as Worship Leader in Mission at North Avenue Presbyterian Church in Atlanta. He’s also an accomplished musician, recording songs and performing at Eddie’s Attic most recently. Faith, the Poor, and Politics is both catchy and contemplative. It’s spiritual but not in-your-face religious; personal, but not isolated from community. Below, you can read his thoughts on the album and other things in the realm of faith, politics, and culture. 
Posted by James Colten 2 years 1 week ago
Emmanuel Jal—South Sudanese pop musician, rapper, and peace activist—was beaten and robbed this past weekend by Police in Juba, South Sudan (Rolling Stone). Jal, a former child soldier, was in his homeland promoting an upcoming concert on International Peace Day in two weeks.AllAfrica reports:“At approximately 9:30pm, Emmanuel was en route to the Gatwich guesthouse in the outskirts of Juba when he was stopped by police and robbed of his mobile phone. Imminent not to use violence, he was repeatedly beaten by 5 police and national security officers until he eventually lost consciousness."
Posted by James Colten 2 years 2 weeks ago
You know it is football season when the office starts grumbling about the offensive name of the local football team, or when co-workers start asking, "What ever happened to Tim Tebow?" Still others, "What is fantasy football?"Politics aside, I went ahead and compiled a little fantasy team for Sojourners, featuring both prominent and less-prominent Christians thriving in the NFL. So if you own a fantasy football team, or are starting one for the first time, here are some picks to help inject some strong faith in your team. (I don’t get paid to do football analysis so take this for what it’s worth).
Posted by James Colten 2 years 6 weeks ago
Over the past few weeks, Christians have written Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley asking him to stop the immoral practices that plague the state’s criminal justice institutions. This incredible outcry from the faith community demonstrates their outrage at stories of people in poverty spending days, weeks, and months in jail over their inability to pay fees and fines to private companies contracted to administer parts of Alabama’s system. When contacted by Sojourners for a response to the thousands of messages received from people of faith about this issue,  Jeremy King, spokesman for Gov. Bentley’s office responded, "We can review this issue and move forward from there."
Posted by James Colten 2 years 7 weeks ago
A few weeks ago, we asked you to sign a petition asking the Department of Justice to investigate hate crimes against the Islamic Society of Joplin’s mosque. Federal officials are offering $15,000 for information leading to the man who set the mosque on fire July 4th.Beau Underwood wrote for Sojourners two weeks ago: “The biblical call to love our neighbors as ourselves requires Christians to speak out against these attacks. By protecting the rights of American Muslims to worship in the United States, we provide a powerful witness to those countries where Christian minorities face attack and persecution, such as Nigeria, Egypt, Somalia, and Kenya. If we expect others to take our advocacy for global religious freedom seriously, then our efforts must begin in our own backyard.”More than 5,500 of you signed this petition, which is incredible! But we don’t have to stop there.
Posted by James Colten 2 years 8 weeks ago
A few weeks ago, members of the House spoke out against the House Agriculture Committee’s vote to cut SNAP benefits to working class Americans. On Wednesday, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) rallied on the Senate-side to restore balance to the budget debate and avoid sequestration in conjunction with a report on the effects of such cuts.The premise of the current debate is that all the cuts have to come from the non-military, discretionary budget. Harkin reported that since we last had a balanced budget (Clinton-era), discretionary funds have risen 0 percent as opposed to a 73 percent increase in the Pentagon budget.We have two sets of rules, he said. One set for the rich, and another set for the rest of America. This equals out to tax cuts for the rich and budget cuts for the poor and middle class.
Posted by James Colten 2 years 9 weeks ago
Last month, the Supreme Court struck down three of the four provisions of SB 1070, Arizona’s harsh anti-immigrant law. Now civil rights groups are going after the remaining provision—what many call, the “show me your papers” or “papers please” clause.Of concern to these groups, along with many leaders in the faith community, is that the law will lead to people being targeted by law enforcement solely because of their race. As Luis Gutierrez (D – Ill.) explains:"For our young C-SPAN [viewers]: Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez … have overcome their very different national origins and became apparently a happy couple. I’m sure Justin helped Gomez learn all about American customs and feel more at home in her adopted country."Oh wait a minute, I’m sorry," he continued. "Because I’m not a trained Arizona official, I somehow got that backwards. Actually, Ms. Gomez, of Texas, has helped Mr. Bieber, of Canada, learn all about his adopted country. Justin, when you perform in Phoenix, remember to bring your papers."
Posted by James Colten 2 years 10 weeks ago
Anti-poverty advocates and members of Congress are speaking out against proposed cuts to anti-hunger programs being considered in the broader political tussle over the Farm Bill. Over ten congressional representatives, including Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), joined a rally denouncing.
Posted by James Colten 2 years 10 weeks ago
After announcing the Evangelical Statement of Principles for Immigration Reform, Sojourners asked Christians across the country to add their endorsement. More than 10,000 people have now signed their name! 
Posted by James Colten 2 years 12 weeks ago
Today the Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs (DHN) presented a forum for congressional representatives to talk about a more faithful response to the pending sequester this upcoming January.Sequestration as we know it was meant to be a last resort – if Congress could not agree on a budget, then programs would be cut, or sequestered, across the board. The problem with the current sequestration agreement is that it does not protect programs that affect the poor, uninsured, and unemployed.
Posted by Elaina Ramsey, James Colten 2 years 14 weeks ago
Dreams came alive today as President Obama granted relief to thousands of undocumented students. While the decision does not create a pathway to citizenship, it eliminates the threat of deportation for many unauthorized students and makes them eligible for work permits. Sponsored by Casa de Maryland, a number of organizations—Amnesty International, Jews United for Justice, 32BJ SEIU, National Council of La Raza, and the National Gay & Lesbian Taskforce—participated in a rally in front of the White House to celebrate the president’s announcement. 
Posted by James Colten 2 years 16 weeks ago
Hundreds of Alabamians gathered at the state Capitol grounds after their legislators passed HB 658, a harsher version of now infamous anti-immigrant HB56.HB658 calls for the creation of an online public database to expose individuals’ identities. The database would list the names of all undocumented immigrants who have appeared in court. In addition, the law targets innocent children by requiring schools to check the immigration status of students. It is both reckless and morally indefensible.
Posted by James Colten 2 years 18 weeks ago
WOW! More than 3,000 of you submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency regarding their proposed carbon regulation. Thank you for your heartfelt letters and remarks in support of this rule -- read some of them below! Why are people supporting the EPA carbon rule? Faith, health, science, family, you name it. Below you’ll find some samples from Sojourners members. 
Posted by James Colten 2 years 21 weeks ago
I participated the Jericho March for people of faith, organized by the New Sanctuary Movement of New York. We walked the half mile loop around the Supreme Court in silence, praying for a society that builds up justice and dignity. The tough part about this morning was dealing with “the others.”
Posted by Nicole Higgins, James Colten 2 years 27 weeks ago
FOX NewsChannel host Sean Hannity calls the Rev. Jesse Lee  Peterson, "the most courageous, outspoken critic of the liberal left and the so-called 'black leadership' in America today."He also calls him pastor.Peterson, 62, is president and founder of The Brotherhood Organization of A New Destiny (BOND) — an organization dedicated to promoting the conservative agenda in the African American community. Host of his own radio and television programs, Peterson also is a member of Choose Black American, which stridently opposes illegal immigration in the United States and a former member of the California Christian Coalition.Hannity has hosted Peterson as a guest on his Fox show numerous times and sits on the board of BOND, which he lauds for having, "played an instrumental role in helping young men and women build lives which will help inspire the next generation. BOND continues to fight the good fight standing for the values of God, family, and country, and are deserving of our support."On March 5, Peterson took to the airways on his "Exploring Your Destiny with Jesse Lee Peterson" program and delivered a message/sermon titled, "How Most Women Are Building a Shameless Society." The video clip came to our attention Thursday afternoon, when Fox and Daily Beast contributor Kirsten Powers, a Democtrat who also happens to be an evangelical Christian, began posting a litany of tweets on Twitter castigating Peterson for his blatant misogyny.
Posted by James Colten 2 years 27 weeks ago
Last week, 56 senators voted to include the Keystone XL Pipeline in a highway bill — four short of the required 60.The vote proved that ordinary people still can make a difference. Months of action, hundreds of thousands of messages and phone calls, and stalwart determination made the difference in those four votes. And I think it shows that people are looking for a different paradigm of environmental stewardship. 
Posted by Joshua Witchger, James Colten 2 years 31 weeks ago
Tim Tebow references were a dime a dozen as the 2011-2012 NFL season drew to a close. News media, op-eds, fans, Bill Maher — everyone was talking about the Broncos QB's accomplishments, his unabashed Christian faith, the way he would pray when he scored a touchdown. (See: Tebowing.)And plenty of people questioned whether or not God was really on Tim's side.Football season is over, and the lull in “Tebow fever” is forcing more than a few of us to look for similar athletic incarnations of the John 3:16-face painted footballer. So when word got around that the New York Knick’s (until recently) virtually unknown point guard Jeremy Lin is scoring some big points at the start of his professional career AND that he is a committed Christian, the masses have found their new fixation.But are the comparisons between Tebow and Lin really valid?
Posted by James Colten 2 years 32 weeks ago
“Life, especially protecting our unborn children and infants, should not be a ‘matter of party or economic commodity.’ Protecting life and providing the opportunity for abundant life must be a matter of principal and morality.” – The Rev. Mitch Hescox, delivering a testimony on “A Christian Perspective on the Costs of Mercury to Human Health and Wellbeing” before the Energy and Power Subcommittee for the House of Representatives. 
Posted by James Colten, Karla Vasquez 2 years 36 weeks ago
An estimated 27 million people are held in slavery today, and human trafficking is expected to pass drug trafficking as the largest criminal industry in the world. In the United States alone, there are an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 slaves (Salvation Army), many of them children. So we sang “All creatures of our God and king lift up your voice and with us sing, Oh Praise him”, “Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by thy help I’ve come” (“Come Thou Fount”) and “How great is our God.”
Posted by James Colten 2 years 36 weeks ago
Earlier this week, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's decision to halt anti-Sharia initiative from going into effect.Sharia law, also known as Islamic law, comes from the Qur’an, the Hadith (sayings from the prophet Muhammad), and fatwas (rulings of Islamic scholars). While many people in the West view Sharia as unfair and archaic, many Muslims view it as something that sustains humanity (read more from BBC). In practice, it is therefore not uncommon for Islamic countries to be ruled partially by Sharia law.
Posted by James Colten 2 years 36 weeks ago
The National Council of La Raza (NCLR, the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization) released a report Tuesday on anti-immigration legislation passed or considered by states. The 41-page report focuses primarily on Arizona’s SB 1070, and similar laws, and the effects these had on issues other than immigration.
Posted by James Colten 2 years 37 weeks ago
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:16-21 NIV)
Posted by James Colten 2 years 38 weeks ago
After years of opposition from coal industry lobbyists, the Environmental Protection Agency has issued the first national standards for mercury and air toxin pollution.The standards will slash emissions of these dangerous pollutants by relying on widely available, proven pollution controls that are already in use at more than half of the nation’s coal-fired power plants.The EPA estimates that the new safeguards will prevent as many as 11,000 premature deaths and 4,700 heart attacks each year. The standards also will help America’s children grow up healthier — preventing 130,000 cases of childhood asthma and about 6,300 fewer cases of acute bronchitis among children each year.
Posted by James Colten 2 years 41 weeks ago
Ron Santo, former Chicago Cubs third baseman and radio announcer, was finally inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame on Monday, just over a year after his death.As many now know, Santo had type 1 diabetes and endured many hardships during his baseball career, as well as every year that followed. In a Guideposts article he wrote about his diagnosis, “Diabetes? I didn't even know what that was. I had just one concern: "Can I still play baseball?"”
Posted by James Colten 2 years 41 weeks ago
President Obama said he’d make a decision on the Keystone pipeline after the election.The decision to not decide until later was a victory for environmental activists, as the pipeline would be a serious threat to the ecosystems it passes through should it spring a leak (TransCanada has already had 12 oil spills in 2011 alone. That’s 12 too many, by the way.)
Posted by James Colten 2 years 43 weeks ago
 Bread for the World has many recommendations in the new report, but I’d  like to highlight just one for now: “Farm policies should lean more towards the production of healthy foods.”Why this one? Most farm subsidies go to (wait for it) the largest, wealthiest producers (shocking, right?). Billions of dollars are spent subsidizing corn, wheat, soybeans, cotton and rice. Small and medium-size producers (many of whom grow vegetables — the foods that are supposed to make up half our dinner plate) receive little, if any, support from the current U.S. farm policy.Securing affordable, healthy foods for our country’s poorest will in turn help us address other issues such as malnutrition and obesity, immigration, health care, and employment.
Posted by James Colten 2 years 44 weeks ago
The House of Representatives just passed a law that would allow gun-owners to carry their guns through other states based on the Constitutional right to bear arms (as opposed to the right to bear legs — once global warming kicks it up a notch expect to see this one on the floor soon).As a native Illinoisan, I’m not sure how I should feel about this bill. Illinois is one of two states (not including Washington D.C.) that don’t have concealed carry provisions. This provision would allow Missourians and Michiganders and people from Indiana to waltz right through our state with their guns as they please. I see the merit and legality to the 2nd Amendment, yet at the same time, I recognize we have a gun violence problem in America.  Here’s how dialogue around gun control goes these days:For: Guns kill people.Against: Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.For: People kill people using gunsAgainst: And the Second Amendment?For: Shoot… No, wait!   
Posted by James Colten 2 years 44 weeks ago
This week, the Senate will vote on H.R. 2354, an appropriation bill that will determine the amount of funds we allocate for poverty-related development assistance. There are a number of amendments proposed that will severely cut this aid, which currently helps millions of the world's poorest and most vulnerable. The bottom 1 percent, if you will. 

Posted by James Colten 2 years 45 weeks ago
Abuse of physical strength and power hasn’t been limited to the locker rooms at Penn State. Nor is it limited to middle-aged men. It's in every culture, every city and state, and in every generation. And, I might add, it is both wicked and foolish.I think we’ve been given enough examples of such abuse being handled incorrectly—to be swept under the rug instead of dealt with directly. The silence of witnesses only allows the abuse to continue. When I spoke with Daniel Walker, author of the new book God in a Brothel, about child slavery and prostitution, he noted that the men who oppress women and children don’t need to be ministered to as much as they need to be held accountable.Joe Pa, 84, who had coached at Penn State for more than 45 years, has been fired, and the university’s president has resigned over the abuse scandal. Both actions were reactive responses to a problem that really needed proactive intervention.
Posted by James Colten 2 years 45 weeks ago
You need to read God in a Brothel because:  30 million people are enslaved around the world,It’s a $32 billion industry per year,2 million children are enslaved in the sex trafficking industry,100,000 of these children are living right here, in the United States.The sex trafficking industry would not exist without the demand for commercial sex that flourishes worldwide.The church played a central role in the Civil Rights and anti-apartheid movements. Now the church has the power -- and the responsibility -- to fight human trafficking with all of its rich resources.
Posted by James Colten 2 years 46 weeks ago
"For every 5 percent drop in income growth in a developing country, the likelihood of violent conflict or war within the next year increases by 10 percent. Poverty-focused development assistance supports economic growth, protects vulnerable people, and helps curtail desperation that may lead to violence" (Bread for the World). On Wednesday, the Senate will vote on the budget for foreign aid. Should the proposed cuts occur, it would prove disastrous for the rest of the world, potentially leaving millions without food, education, and livelihood. Please, contact your Senators today and tell them to continue funding poverty-focused development assistance.
Posted by James Colten 2 years 47 weeks ago
"We don't have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world."Last night 25 individuals were awarded the Freedom from Fear Award in Seattle at the National Immigrant Integration Conference. Contrary to news coverage we see day after day, these awards, sponsored by Public Interest Projects (PIP) show us courageous individuals who, to each their own capacity, are standing up to and fighting injustice.
Posted by James Colten 2 years 50 weeks ago
Let’s face it — while lawmakers are picking their own battles in Washington, they aren’t fighting on the ground in Afghanistan. Winning elections has become more important than implementing winning foreign policy strategies that would end the war and bring our service men and women safely home.And it’s my generation that’s being sacrificed.