The Common Good

God's Politics Blog

Lent: As Being Caught up in the Spirit of Forgiveness

In this Lent reflection, Grant and Uncle Graham Paulson talk about cultural genocide and forgiveness in the same breath. It is an honor to listen to someone who is possible of such a witness.

 

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The Critical Part Of Orphan Care That Adoption Culture Has Totally Missed

For the past 20 years or so, adoption has grown to become a staple of much of Christian culture in America. So much so that one could actually argue that adoption has become trendy within evangelical circles. As I’ve said before, if something were to become trendy, I’m glad that helping kids in need is one of them — though the trendiness of adoption has certainly led to some negative outcomes as well. While I won’t get into all of the aspects where adoption culture has gone wrong — that could take a series of posts — I do want to address what I feel is the most critical oversight we have made, and how we begin to fix it.

Orphan care is critical to the life of a Christian whether one is called to adopt (and trust me, not everyone is called to adopt — it’s not all rainbows and sunshine kisses). Caring for orphans is something we see consistently expressed in both the Old and New Testaments. In fact, James goes as far as saying that caring for widows and orphans is the only religion that God finds acceptable. While Christian culture for the past few decades has certainly taken that calling seriously, I think it is time for adoption culture to shift its focus in order to take the issue more seriously and to more effectively address the real issue at hand.

How did we miss the most important aspect of orphan care? This stems from a misunderstanding and misdiagnosis of the problem. Much of adoption culture has been led to believe that there is an orphan crisis in the world today with somewhere around 153 million children being orphaned. On the surface, this number of 153 million (provided by UNICEF) understandably leads one to believe that tonight there will be 153 million children who will go without the loving embrace of their parents. It’s a number so staggering that one can easily understand why culture mobilized and began adopting these children at rapid pace.

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BYU Graduates Complain to Accrediting Board Over School’s Treatment of Lapsed-Mormon Students

A group of Brigham Young University graduates is strengthening its push for students who lose their Mormon faith to retain their spots at the private school.

Students do not have to be Mormon to attend the Provo university, but those who enter as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and later leave the faith face expulsion from BYU.

Activist group FreeBYU filed a complaint last week with the nonprofit accrediting board that evaluates the LDS church-owned school for the U.S. Department of Education. The filing alleges that the policy hinders academic and intellectual freedom at BYU, which is due for a seven-year accreditation review in April.

Organizer Brad Levin says many students who are “in the closet” about changing or leaving their faith must censor themselves in classrooms, online, and in the wider BYU community. Such students should receive the same religious protection as non-Mormons, FreeBYU contends.

“They don’t know what’s going to put them in hot water,” Levin said.

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St. Louis Archdiocese Cancels Speech by Visionary Who Saw the Virigin Mary at Medjugorje

To Roman Catholic officialdom, it’s unclear whether the Virgin Mary appeared to Ivan Dragicevic and five others 34 years ago in a Bosnian village.

What is clear is that Dragicevic won’t be appearing Wednesday to speak in St. Charles, as some had hoped.

Earlier this month, Archbishop Robert Carlson addressed a memo to priests and deacons in the archdiocese:

“I have received a request from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to remind everyone that they are not to participate in events that promote the so-called visionaries of Medjugorje and in particular Mr. Ivan Dragicevic.”

Prior to the March 3 memo, Dragicevic had been scheduled to speak in St. Charles’ Lindenwood University, about 25 miles from St. Louis.

Dragicevic is one of six who claim the Virgin Mary appeared and spoke to him in 1981 in Medjugorje, a town situated in the Herzegovina region of Bosnia.

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Zaytuna College Recognized as First Accredited Muslim College in the U.S.

A college that requires the study of both Wordsworth and the Quran for graduation is now the first fully accredited Islamic university in America.

Zaytuna College, a five-year-old institution in Berkeley, Calif., was recognized in March by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, an academic organization that oversees public and private colleges and universities in the U.S.

The accreditation means Zaytuna, which owns only two buildings and has 50 students, is a legitimate institution of higher learning, only a few blocks from its esteemed neighbor, the University of California, Berkeley.

“Being accredited puts us at the same table” as other accredited colleges and universities, said Colleen Keyes, Zaytuna’s vice president of academic affairs.

“It makes us equal partners.”

For faculty — of which Zaytuna has 15 — it lends credibility and status.

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An Open Letter to Franklin Graham

We don’t know what prompted Rev. Franklin Graham to log onto Facebook and pound out the words that lit a firestorm last week. But within one day, tens of thousands of his faithful followers liked and shared his short, patronizing post that called “Blacks, Whites, Latinos, and everybody else” to “Listen up” and tune in to his take on why so many black people have died at the hands of police officers recently. According to Graham, the problem is “simple.” It can be reduced to their lack of obedience and bad parenting.

By Monday morning, more than 80,000 people shared the post and almost 200,000 liked it. Sojourners’ Jim Wallis penned a strong response.

On Friday an evangelical pastor based in Oakland, Calif. (the birthplace of the Black Lives Matter movement), Dominique Gilliard, shared the post with a small diverse group of evangelical leaders who decided to craft a collective response. This open letter was crafted by the collective efforts of Rev. Leroy Barber (CCDA and Word Made Flesh), Gilliard (New Hope Oakland), Dr. Brian Bantum (Seattle Pacific University), Micky ScottBey Jones (Transform Network), Efrem Smith (World Impact) and me (Sojourners). We didn’t know if our words would resonate. We only knew the truth that we must speak in response to Graham’s outsized influence coupled with apparent ignorance. In the end, a broad representation of national evangelical leaders agreed to sign this letter to Graham as principal signatories.

We invite you to read it, discuss it in your churches, and add your name to the many who say “No more!” We will not tolerate this type of flippant, patronizing commentary from faith leaders on critical issues that mean life and death for many in the body of Christ and in communities across America. We won’t tolerate it, even one more day. Rather, we invite all with open hearts to enter into dialogue — and to join us in the ministry of the gospel — the ministry of reconciliation.

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Being a Man, a la Paul

Paul teaches a bedrock unity in marriage. Both the Christian wife and husband are members of the Church which is Christ’s body (v30) and have further cemented this with particular devotion to union with each other (v31). Since we have this fundamental unity, a divisive gender identity in marriage or elsewhere is impossible to accept—it sets up barriers where Christ recognizes none.

As such, men inside or outside of marriage must follow Christ’s example in giving of themselves for others, particularly to those who rely and trust on them. This is why domestic violence is such a satanic perversion of masculinity: it replaces a protective, self-sacrificial love with a violent, domineering authority. A relationship which should point to Christ and the Church instead becomes controlled by power and violence.

Paul forces me to think differently about what it means to be a man. I need to reorient my actions in a way that recognizes that Christians, male and female, are all part of one body of Christ. That should push men, especially those in positions of authority, to a love that seeks to build up and to serve rather than domineer. That love, rather than a macho authority, is the true mark of a man.

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Inward-Focused or Outward? Christian Congregations at a Crossroads

American Christianity is at a crossroads — again. It’s the latest in a long string of crossroads.

In the run-up to revolution, American branches of European denominations — such as my Anglican ancestors — had to declare loyalty to the crown or to an emerging rebellion.

In the 1830s, congregations throughout the restless nation had to decide whether they served whites or all people, including Native Americans.

In the mid-19th century, denominations were forced to choose between continued slavery and a commitment to freedom.

On it went. During each era of change and expansion, Christian communities had to decide what they stood for and what the gospel meant to them. Would they serve immigrants who spoke a certain language or all people in the community, one class in the emerging industrial society or all people, enclaves of status and like-mindedness or whole communities?

Whatever choice was made, each congregation and denomination found a way to justify it. The choices themselves didn’t flow from Scripture. Rather, in stepping up as theologians for slavery or abolition, for white rule or open access, for changes in women’s place or perpetuation of patriarchy, preachers wore out their Bibles and seminary training looking for rationales to do what they wanted. They claimed absolute authority for what, by any reasonable standard, was simply their preferred way of doing things.

Now Christianity in America faces a similar crossroads that turns on the question: Do we serve only ourselves and people like us, or do we serve the larger community, especially its outcasts and vulnerable?

Up to now, the church has focused on who crossed the threshold into our pews and who had leadership roles within the fellowship. Now the challenge is to go out into the world, see what the needs are, and rethink how we do things in response to those needs.

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Presbyterian Church (USA) Approves Same-Sex Marriage Amendment

The Presbyterian Church (USA) approved an amendment to include same-sex relationships in its constitutional definition of marriage on March 17.
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What If Jesus Wasn’t the Answer?

I gave up street evangelizing a long time ago. It was a short-lived career — a few weekends into town with a friend, praying for God to help us meet someone we could share Jesus with. It quickly (thankfully) became clear to me that this business of following God is much better done in the context of long-term relationships with a broader understanding of salvation and mission.

Any time we try to confine the big and beautiful Good News of God into a simplistic message small enough to fit onto a tract or a 10-minute awkward conversation, we cut out too many important details. The truncated gospel of the Four Spiritual Laws requires that we get to the point — Jesus is the answer — as quickly as possible, lest our conversion, I mean, conversation partner gets away from us.

For Jesus to be the answer, there’s got to be a problem, and so we belabor the problem in order to solve it.

The mathematical equation of the gospel made sense to me when I was a child and perhaps into young adulthood. Prove the problem and solve the equation. Everything was simple, organized, and neatly categorized.

Somewhere along the way, it stopped making sense.

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