The Common Good

God's Politics Blog

It’s Time for Moneyball Church

Religion is notoriously behind on nearly every societal curve there’s ever been. Some say that’s a good thing, as it’s supposed to be countercultural.

But there’s a difference between pandering to cultural trends and being tone-deaf or willfully ignorant. And as one of my old grade-school counselors once said: when you know better, do better.

If we look around us we know that there are better ways to employ the resources we have to affect positive social change, deepen discipleship, and strengthen community of many kinds. But we adhere to mid-twentieth-century models and understandings of how the world works, then look around, asking ourselves why no one cares anymore.

It’s time for Moneyball church.

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So What'll We Tell the Kids About God?

My personal theology is a bit of a haphazard salad, and some of the odder items in the Bible make me pretty sure we aren’t supposed to follow the Good Book word for word. But I’d like to believe there’s Someone up there somewhere, and surely some Bible stories will teach my kids moral lessons that will help them grow up into the fine, upstanding people I want them to be. Right?

So I buy a book of bible stories — a charming little book filled with fluffy sheep and smiling cartoon people in tunics and sandals — telling myself it’ll be Aesop’s fables plus Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, with the extra heft of blessings from the Big Guy Upstairs. I sit down to pick out our first story.

And I can’t. 

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Weekly Wrap 5.29.15: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. D.C. Metro Bans ‘Issue Ads’ after Pamela Gellar Submits Prophet Muhammed Cartoon Ad

Gellar, who leads the group that organized the ‘Draw Muhammed’ cartoon contest that prompted a shooting in Texas, submitted the winning drawing to run as an ad in the Washington, D.C. metro. According to the WMATA, that will not be happening.

2. Killing It: Nebraska’s Ban Another Sign of Decline in Support for Death Penalty

“A growing number of Republicans have recently taken up the cause of banning the death penalty in Nebraska and other states. They argue that it is inefficient because it does not deter murderers, is more expensive than imprisonment for life thanks to the costly trials and lengthy appeals, and is at odds with Christian morality.”

...

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Five Faith Facts about Rick Santorum: Church-State Separation Makes Him Want to ‘Throw Up’

He won 11 primaries in 2012 with his devoutly Catholic, homeschooling-dad culture-warrior campaign. On May 27, he declared for the 2016 race with his traditionalist moral views freshly sharpened.

Here are five faith facts about Santorum.

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Five Faith Facts about George Pataki, a Catholic Who Doesn’t Always Toe the Line

Pataki is Roman Catholic but has frequently taken stances that conflict with Catholic teaching. He supports abortion rights and tried to restore the death penalty in New York state. He doesn’t often invoke his faith and has selectively highlighted his Catholicism. Here are five faith facts about the married father of four.

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Recovering Providence in an Era of Christian Anxiety

Hand-wringing among religious folks has never been in short supply, but the doomdayers really had their day a couple of weeks ago, when the Pew Research Center confirmed what conventional wisdom has known now for decades.

We are in an age of post-Christendom — or, American adherents of Christianity continue to decline at a massive rate.

This is a case of statistics catching up with reality. For decades churches have been closing, Sunday Schools have been shrinking, and confirmation classes have been getting smaller. Especially among Catholics and mainline Protestants, the sky has been falling for many years. The right blames gay rights and liberal theology; the left blames hate speech and an overly doctrinal attitude.

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She’s Black, Gay, and Soon You Can Call Her ‘Rabbi’

Sandra Lawson, a former military police officer turned personal trainer, wasn’t religious about anything, except maybe fitness. She wasn’t looking to convert to Judaism or any other religion.

And she certainly never aspired to be one of the first — if not the first — black, openly lesbian rabbi.

But this spring Lawson finished her fourth year at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College outside Philadelphia with the help of an online GoFundMe campaign. She plans to marry her girlfriend and spend the fall semester in Israel. If all goes according to plan, she will celebrate her ordination in 2018.

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Vatican Looks to Reform Its Media Operations, Add Multimedia

The Vatican is dragging its media machine into the 21st century, promising to promote social media and streamline its fragmented services with the help of a former BBC executive.

Lord Christopher Patten, former chairman of the BBC Trust, on May 27 outlined reform plans nearly a year after being appointed chief of the pope’s media committee.

Addressing journalists at St. Patrick’s church in central London, Patten highlighted “wasteful” duplications of media services at the Vatican and said modernization was imperative.

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Can There Be an ‘Atheist Vote’? Nonreligious Set Sights on 2016

As the 2016 election approaches, atheist, humanist, and other freethinking activists are encouraged. They say their longtime goal of creating a cohesive and formidable secular voting bloc from the diverse and scattered category of the nonreligious has taken new life from the study — and could carry them far if they use the data wisely.

“It is going to translate into a lot of political clout and social acceptance if we manage this correctly,” said David Silverman, president of American Atheists.

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Iraq, ISIS, and Our Need for Repentance

What we have yet to hear from Republican presidential candidates or the habitual hawks is the appropriate spiritual response to the war in Iraq — repentance. Instead, we hear this defensive language: “Everybody got it wrong.” Well that’s not true. The people who ultimately made the decision to invade, occupy, and completely destabilize Iraq did indeed get it wrong. But so far, they have been unwilling to admit their incredible mistakes that we all now have to live with: the enormous number of lives lost or permanently damaged; the extremely dangerous exacerbation of the sectarian Sunni/Shia conflict that now rules the entire region; and the creation of the conditions that led to ISIS. Except for Rand Paul, none of the Republican candidates has been willing to admit that ISIS is a consequence of our complete devastation and destabilization of Iraq — leaving us with the greatest real threat the international community has faced for some time. Yet we’ve heard not a word of apology for mistakes or any spirit of repentance from the neoconservative hawks.

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