The Common Good

God's Politics

Are Catholic Conservatives Turning on Cardinal Timothy Dolan?

Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s positive reaction to this week’s decision by organizers of New York’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade to allow gay groups to march under their own banners initially drew charitable responses in many Catholic Church circles.

But it didn’t take long for conservative church critics to turn.

After initially signaling his grudging acceptance, William Donohue of the Catholic League came back with a revised view when he realized that more than one gay group could be allowed to march in the future.

“The goal of these activists, supported by the corporate elite, is to neuter the religious element of the parade,” Donohue said. “This is an Irish-Catholic parade, and if what comes after the hyphen is cut, so will the parade’s support, beginning with the Catholic League.”

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Steven Sotloff’s Jewish Values Shaped a Life Seeing Godliness in Every Face

As thousands gathered Sept. 5 at Temple Beth Am in Miami to mourn journalist Steven Sotloff, they paid tribute to the one quality his family and friends tried hard to conceal from his Islamic State captors: his Jewishness.

Sotloff was not only Jewish, he held U.S.-Israel dual citizenship. But during that terrible year of his captivity, dozens of family and friends worked to scrub that detail from any public mention of the 31-year-old reporter for fear he would be persecuted for it. It appears word never got out, though he was brutally beheaded nonetheless.

In death, the Jewish values that informed his life are coming forward. One of the most moving testimonies Friday came from a childhood classmate Danielle Berrin, who writes for the Jewish Journal in Los Angeles.

Speaking to Jose Diaz-Balart on his morning MSNBC talk show, Berrin said Sotloff’s Jewish education was “one of the beautiful things” about him.

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On Scripture: Foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18-24)

Children are suffering from violence in the U.S. and around the world.

Michael Brown. The children of Gaza. The refugees of Central America. Only three of numerous heart-breaking stories to fill the airwaves in the last month. But, unlike the gruesome murders of innocent news reporters by ISIL, these news stories about violence toward unarmed children have faced loud voices justifying that violence.

These voices argue for the “rule of law.” They insist on the inherent goodness of hyper-militarized, monocultural police forces using tanks and tear gas against peaceful protestors.  They claim the inherent righteousness of the state of Israel, even after the bombing of United Nations schools. They defend border guards and those who clamber into busses to scream violence and hate at asylum-seeking children.

So, the wounded or dead are put on trial and convicted for their own deaths, even though they were unarmed children. It’s their fault. To say otherwise is just foolishness.

Some Corinthian Gentiles and Jews must have reacted in exactly this way to the teaching of Paul. Jesus was crucified by the Romans — the imperial power that had brought peace to the city of Rome and quiet to the provinces, that legendary pax Romana about Augustus Caesar himself boasted. This was Paul’s testimony.

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Airman Denied Re-entry to Air Force for Refusing to Say ‘So Help Me God’

The American Humanist Association said Sept. 4 that an airman at Nevada’s Creech Air Force Base who crossed out “so help me God” in the oath the Air Force requires servicemen and women to sign was told in August he must sign it as is or leave the Air Force.

The AHA’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter to the Air Force  on the airman’s behalf demanding he be allowed to sign a secular version of the oath. The U.S. Constitution allows freedom of religious beliefs and prohibits religious tests for holding public office or public trust, the letter states.

The airman’s name is being withheld by AHA.

“The Supreme Court has held on a number of occasions that it is unconstitutional to force anyone to take an oath that affirms the existence of a supreme being,” said Monica Miller, an attorney for AHA and author of the letter. “Numerous federal courts have specifically held that forcing an atheist to swear to God violates the Free Exercise Clause as well as the Establishment Clause.”

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6 Monumental Questions Facing Every Church In America

Christianity is a lifelong journey of learning new things, growing in wisdom, and interacting with a wide array of difficult topics. Boldly asking tough questions is essential to spiritual development.

Today, few questions are as important, impactful, meaningful, or divisive within Christianity as the following six:

1. Is homosexuality a sin?

While much of society continues to accept homosexuality as being a culturally and morally acceptable practice, many Christian institutions, organizations, and communities still consider it sinful.

Increasingly, Christians who publically denounce homosexuality are perceived as homophobic, bigoted, and on the completely wrong side of a major human rights movement. This results in the Christian faith being wholeheartedly rejected by a modern population that sees this type of fundamentalism as incompatible with modern ethics and conventional wisdom.

But other churches, denominations, and spiritual communities are changing — and some have fully embraced and supported gay rights.

Christianity currently finds itself facing four basic responses: 1) support homosexuality, 2) reject it as sinful, 3) accept it but still claim it’s sinful, and, 4) ignore the issue as much as possible.

Believers are deeply divided on the issue, and ultimately your stance on homosexuality defines much of what you think about God, theology, church, sin, and salvation.

This is one of the defining question facing today’s Christians, and many are still processing through what they believe and struggling to come up with an adequate answer.

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How Should We Respond to the Celebrity Photo Hacks?

When I was a university student, more and more people were getting cell phones that had cameras — a trend I only noticed when signs in the women’s locker room went up, warning that using cell phones in that space was strictly prohibited for reasons of privacy. It’s alarmingly easy to take pictures of someone without their knowing. You can pretend to be writing a text message when, in fact, you’re capturing someone’s image and then posting it on the Internet for anyone to see.

That’s bad manners, of course, if we’re talking about simply posting unflattering photos — and even more morally and ethically questionable if the subjects are in a partial or total state of undress. But even when a person consents to be photographed nude, if those private images end up on the Internet — as roughly 200 such celebrity photographs did last weekend — it can be surprisingly difficult to get them removed.

4Chan, the anonymous message boards where the images first appeared, and Reddit, where they were posted and shared widely, are able to claim that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 allows them to deny responsibility for the content that’s posted to their site by individual users. They certainly have the capability to remove such images, but they don’t want to — and the law doesn’t compel them to.

As Emily Bazelon noted in Slate, Reddit moved quickly to delete nude photographs of Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney taken while she was underage.

“It’s not that Reddit is too shady to care about the law,” Bazelon writes. “It’s that there is no clear legal risk in continuing to host involuntary porn of adults.”

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Weekly Wrap 9.5.14: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. Almost Like the Blues

Canadian folk bard Leonard Cohen reads lyrics from one of his latest songs — a gentle, melancholy reflection on life and hope.

2. How Back-to-School Shopping Reinforces Gender Norms — and How to Fight Back

For those of us with children heading to, or back to, school — one parent attempts to buck the gendered school-accessories market. 

3. The Osteen Predicament — Mere Happiness Cannot Bear the Weight of the Gospel

"If our message cannot be preached with credibility in Mosul, it should not be preached in Houston." 'Nuff said.

4. Steven Sotloff Hid His Jewish Faith from ISIS Captors

"The secrets that couldn’t be known about beheaded journalist Steven Sotloff during his captivity were revealed in detail Wednesday: The 31-year-old was Jewish, had dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship and apparently maintained his Jewish ritual life while being held by ISIS."

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Joan Rivers: Wicked Humor with a Jewish Touch

Joan Rivers, 81, the acid-tongued survivor of popular comedy and entertainment, died Sept. 4. Who could possibly find it funny?

Joan would have.

Humor, she said, was how she dealt with all life’s triumphs and defeats.

She once said, “I knew I was funny and I knew it was powerful” as early as 8 years old.

Born Joan Alexandra Molinsky in Brooklyn, the daughter of Russian immigrant Jews, she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Barnard. (“My mother wanted M.D. to stand for Make Dollars.”)

But she couldn’t get a door opened to the stage until she started making the gatekeepers — the agents’ secretaries — laugh.

She worked her way up through New York comedy clubs, over into TV and finally, after seven auditions, onto a stand-up stint on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show.” By 1983, she was Carson’s regular guest host until a bitter feud over her competing TV endeavors brought their friendship to an end.

Rivers’ first marriage ended in divorce; her second ended in tragedy when her husband killed himself. Even so, she said, “I enjoy life when things are happening. I don’t care if it’s good things or bad things. That means you’re alive.”

 
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Gay Marriage Supporters’ String of Court Victories Broken in Louisiana

The legal winning streak for same-sex marriage is over.

A federal judge in Louisiana upheld that state’s prohibition on gay marriage on Sept. 3, and belittled a string of 20-plus federal court decisions striking down state bans as “a pageant of empathy.”

It was the first time since the Supreme Court ruled against the federal Defense of Marriage Act in June 2013 that a federal court refused to throw out a state’s ban on gay and lesbian marriages.

A promised appeal, like Texas’ appeal of a district judge’s ruling in favor of gay marriage there, now goes to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, perhaps the nation’s most conservative appellate court.

The ruling came from District Judge Martin Feldman, 80, who was named to the federal bench by President Ronald Reagan more than 30 years ago. Feldman echoed the two judges — both in their 70s and appointed by President George H.W. Bush — who dissented from recent rulings against Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia gay marriage bans in the 10th and 4th Circuits.

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Ban Ki-moon's Climate Altar Call

Reuters reported today that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is starting his drum beat to gets heads of state to his emergency climate conference in New York at the end of the month.

“Ban wants heads of state at a Sept. 23 gathering in New York to outline how their countries will contribute to a mutual goal to contain rising temperatures," said Selwin Hart, the Barbadian diplomat helping to spearhead the conference. The final deal is due to be signed in Paris in 2015, according to Reuters.

This one-day, “leaders-only” Climate Summit is somewhat unprecedented. U.N. climate negotiation meetings are usually called by the executive secretary of the UN’s climate caucus (UNFCCC) and attended by directors of environmental agencies. Ki-moon is switching things up because, as we’ve learned, effective policy to reverse global warming is about economics, not science or technology.  

“You don’t control economic policy at national level if you’re an environment minister,” said Michael Jacobs, a former climate change advisor to the U.K. government.  

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