The Common Good

God's Politics Blog

Churches to Serve as Safe Spaces after Ferguson Grand Jury Announcement

After a prayer service outside her church turned violent last month, the Rev. Teresa Danieley, pastor of St. John’s Tower Grove, allowed those trying to escape the demonstrations to enter her church.

Now, Danieley and dozens of other clergy members are preparing to once again offer their churches as safe spaces, or sanctuaries.

The grand jury decision on whether to indict Darren Wilson, the officer who fatally shot African-American teenager Michael Brown, is expected by the end of the month, potentially triggering further civil unrest. Clergy anticipate some might seek refuge in churches, whether to escape violence or find fellowship.

Organizations such as the Don’t Shoot Coalition, which was formed after the death of Brown, and Metropolitan Congregations United, a group of interdenominational, multiracial congregations from around the region, are in the process of creating a list of churches that are volunteering the use of their space. Many of these churches will be packed with supplies such as food, water, and phone chargers. Medics, legal observers and counselors will also be on hand.

Some believe that unless officers are needed in an emergency, churches should also function as police-free zones during protests.

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Becoming a Better America

I am a newly minted American. Four years ago I passed the naturalization test and took the oath of allegiance to the United States. But I had been living as a citizen before I took the oath. Those who do not have the legal status of citizen often act as citizens. They attend PTA meetings, pay taxes, and engage in spirited public discussions about the common good. Citizenship is not only a legal status, but also a moral category and a set of practices.

President Obama recognizes this. Last night’s address described executive actions that will protect up to five million people from deportation and provide them with permits to work legally. People without valid immigration documents will be eligible to stay in the country temporarily if they have lived in the United States for more than 5 years, if they have children who are American citizens or legal residents, and if they register and pass criminal background checks.

Obama is not offering people citizenship, but his address reflected on the meaning of community belonging. “These people” often act like citizens, he seemed to be saying, because they “came to work, and study, and serve in our military, and above all, contribute to America's success.” To those of us who are citizens legally, Obama also had a message: Become better Americans.

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What Families Want — And How the Church Can Help

Churches have spent millions attempting to cater to the needs of the young families in their communities.

"Come here! Bring your kids! We have a replica-sized Noah's Ark with real, live animals — a coffee shop that sells Pumpkin Spice lattes — cupholders in the chairs and state-of-the-art acoustics."

From a Millennial mom: this stuff is great. We like it, especially the lattes. But what we really want — what we really need — might not cost a thing.

When I started about a year ago as pastor of a small Lutheran church in the Chicago suburbs, one of my first priorities was to re-start the moms group that had been meeting at the church.

At one time it had served almost as a preschool drop-off. Later it had been held down by one mom and her friends, and as their children grew up no one came to fill the void.

I wanted to make it more than a drop-off, though — I wanted it to be Christian with a capital C. I made some tongue-in-cheek flyers with a black and white photo of a crying baby holding a Bible, and I called it Babies and Bibles.

Then, on a few Thursday mornings, I brought Jake to the church. A few curious moms emailed and showed up, but it never really took off. 

Meanwhile, I missed the close-knit moms group I had in California, where Jake was born. 

I was in the process of giving it all up for awhile, when one day as I drove to church God spoke to me:

"Why are you holding this at the church?" God asked. "It should be at your house."

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Weekly Wrap 11.21.14: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. Everything You Need to Know About Obama’s Executive Action

ThinkProgress breaks down the immigration relief announced by the president Thursday night. Who gets relief and who is left out? What about border security? Your questions answered.

2. Give Thanks; Celebrate Hope!

Offer your thanks and stand behind the new immigration relief measures!

3. The United States of Thanksgiving

Looking for some great recipes for unique holiday cooking? “We’ve scoured the nation for recipes that evoke each of the 50 states (and D.C. and Puerto Rico). [But not Guam!] These are our picks for the feast. Dig in, then tell us yours."

4. WATCH Toni Morrison Completely Schools Stephen Colbert on Racism

The Pulitzer Prize, Nobel Prize, and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient sits down with Colbert to discuss her works. “Racism is … a social construct. And it has benefits. … But race can only be defined as a human being.”

5. Thai Protestors Detained After Using ‘Hunger Games’ Salute 

“The salute, which in the movies is a daring act of silent rebellion, began to appear here in the weeks after the May 22 coup. The authorities warned that anyone raising it in public could be subject to arrest.”

6. A New Image of Black Fatherhood [PHOTOS]

These photos capture "ordinary moments that crush white media narratives and stereotypes about black fathers."

7. The Cosby Show

Ta-Nehisi Coates writes for The Atlantic about his experience covering Bill Cosby in 2006-2007 as he was making the speaking rounds talking about the supposed decline of morality in black communities. At the time, he knew about 13 rape accusations but declined to report on them. Here, he explains what he would have done differently. 

8. The False Gospel of Gender Binaries

"Jesus didn't die on the cross to preserve gender complementarity. Jesus didn't die on the cross to ensure that little girls wear pink and little boys wear blue. Jesus lived, taught, died, and rose again to start a new family in which Jew and gentile, slave and free, male and female are all part of one holy Body."

9. NTSB Rules that FAA Has Authority to Regulate Drones

‘‘It’s a huge win for the FAA, and signals it’s not going to be the Wild West for drones, but a careful, orderly, safe introduction of unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system.’’

10. Filmmaking a Cultural Battlefield in Iran

A fascinating look inside the politics an propaganda of film in Iran: “As reformists assert their cultural influence on screen and in the arts, conservatives in Iran are looking to a new set of movies and filmmakers to help suppress reformists and eliminate Western influence in Iranian society.”

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We’re Awestruck About Earth, Unsure About Global Warming

Most Americans say they feel a deep connection to the wider world.

But all that spiritual stargazing makes no difference in views about the facts of climate change and global warming, a new survey finds.

Just 5 percent of Americans thought climate change was the most important issue in the U.S. today. And religion was a major dividing point on how much — or how little — they think it’s a matter of concern, according to a new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute.

“We asked about spiritual measures such as being in awe of the universe, and you might think it would correlate with views about the universe. But, in fact, they have very little relationship,” said Robert Jones, CEO of PRRI, which conducted the survey on U.S. adults’ attitudes toward climate change, environmental policy and science.

 

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Evangelicals a Mixed Bag on Obama’s Immigration Move

While Republican leaders blast President Obama for taking executive action on immigration reform, some prominent evangelical leaders are welcoming the president’s plans to keep about 5 million undocumented immigrants from being deported.

Evangelicals are a key voting bloc for the GOP, but on immigration some are taking a pragmatic step away from the party. They include Hispanic leaders such as the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez who say the time has come to manage what has become a “de facto humanitarian crisis” for millions of immigrants.

“This merciful action takes place because for years our government, under the leadership of both parties, failed miserably as it pertains to immigration,” said Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

Rodriguez planned to be with Obama on Nov. 21 in Las Vegas, where the President hopes to rally for his new steps.

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President Obama's Remarks on Immigration Action

Editor's Note: Thursday evening, President Barack Obama announced he is taking action to reform pieces of our broken immigration system. See Sojourners President Jim Wallis' recap here. Below are President Obama's remarks as prepared for delivery. 

My fellow Americans, tonight, I’d like to talk with you about immigration.

For more than 200 years, our tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world has given us a tremendous advantage over other nations. It’s kept us youthful, dynamic, and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character as a people with limitless possibilities – people not trapped by our past, but able to remake ourselves as we choose.

But today, our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it.

Families who enter our country the right way and play by the rules watch others flout the rules. Business owners who offer their workers good wages and benefits see the competition exploit undocumented immigrants by paying them far less. All of us take offense to anyone who reaps the rewards of living in America without taking on the responsibilities of living in America. And undocumented immigrants who desperately want to embrace those responsibilities see little option but to remain in the shadows, or risk their families being torn apart.

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Putting People Before Politics

Tonight, faith leaders and all those who have spent years trying to fix our broken immigration system should feel gratitude toward President Obama. In a primetime address to the nation, the president announced he was taking executive action to relieve some of the suffering caused by the failures of the status quo. Millions of families will no longer live under the daily threat of having their lives torn apart by senseless deportations, which is something all Christians – whether Republican or Democrat – should celebrate. Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ, who have spent significant portions of their lives hiding in the shadows, can now enjoy the flourishing God intends for us all. Their joy and well-being must inform our judgments of the president’s action, especially in light of the biblical call to “welcome the stranger.”

Unfortunately, the president’s compassionate actions are creating a political firestorm among some Republicans in Washington. Their anger and antipathy toward the White House are blinding them to the positive effects these measures will have for our society. Even after decades living and working in our nation’s capital, I’m still amazed at the many ways political ideology can prevent us from having “eyes that see” and “ears that hear.” I lament that our political discourse has come to this.

Everyone agrees the only way to find sustainable, long-term solutions is through Congress passing bipartisan legislation. The Senate did exactly that more than 500 days ago, but their honest efforts have languished in the House of Representatives because of Republican intransigence. GOP leaders promised alternative policy ideas; reform garnered widespread, nationwide support — including among a majority of Republicans; faith leaders were hopeful after countless positive conversations with members of Congress; the president even told me that he was “optimistic” about reform after conversations with Speaker John Boehner; the country, and, more importantly immigrant families, patiently waited — yet, the House failed to act.

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Ten Commandments for Atheists: A Guide for Nonbelievers Who Want to Explore Their Values

“There are lots of books out there about why you should not believe in God,” Bayer said. “But there aren’t any about what do secular people believe in. I think that’s the question John and I felt hadn’t been adequately addressed.”

In exploring that, the two men — both whom have studied philosophy and logic — came up with 10 essentials. For the extra-nerdy, there’s even “a theorem of belief” in the appendix that looks like something a mathematician might scribble.

The result is 10 “non-commandments” — the authors’ irreducible statements of atheist and humanist belief.

First up: “The world is real, and our desire to understand the world is the basis for belief.”

No. 2 on the list: “We can perceive the world only through our human senses.”

Halfway through, at No. 5, the authors conclude: “There is no God.” Once over that hurdle, the non-commandments become less controversial — an ethical society is good, as is moral behavior.

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Austrian Bill Would Ban Foreign Funding for Mosques

Austria’s Muslim community is incensed over the government’s plans to amend the country’s century-old law on Islam.

The new bill, championed by Minister for Foreign Affairs and Integration Sebastian Kurz, forbids foreign funding of mosque construction or of imams working in the country and requires a unified German-language translation of the Quran.

The government argues the legislation, which Parliament will vote on this month, will help combat Islamic radicalism. Muslim groups and civic activists say it flouts the principle of equality.

“There is a general tone of mistrust toward Muslims,” said Carla Amina Baghajati, a prominent Muslim rights activist and spokeswoman for the country’s Islamic Religious Authority, referring to the bill. “The 1912 Islam law has set up a model of how state acknowledgment of a religious minority can help this minority better integrate. Muslims in Austria are proud of this law.”

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