The Common Good

Quick Read: Social. Justice. News.

Does a President's Faith Make Any Difference in How He Governs?

CNN.com's John Blake reports:

We elect a president every four years, but perhaps we also elect a high priest.  Ever since George Washington spontaneously added “so help me God” to his inaugural oath, Americans have expected their presidents to believe in, worship and publicly invoke God....

History suggests, however, that piety and presidential performance don’t always match. Some of America’s most religious presidents have been its most brutal. And two of its greatest presidents wouldn’t even be considered Christians today, scholars say.

Consider Abraham Lincoln, who is widely acknowledged as one of the nation’s three greatest presidents, along with Washington and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But Lincoln, who never joined a church, was not a Christian, says Niels C. Nielsen, author of God in the Obama Era.

“Lincoln believed in an active God, he believed in providence. But if you asked Lincoln if he believed in the deity of Jesus, he would have said no,” Nielsen says.

Or look at Roosevelt, who is virtually a national saint. With his perpetual grin and a cigarette holder perched jauntily in his mouth, he guided the nation through the Great Depression and World War II. His legacy is built on his New Deal, an array of programs that protected the poor and elderly from the abuses of unrestrained capitalism.

But Roosevelt was no saint in his personal life. He rarely talked publicly about his Episcopal faith, preferred golf over church (before he was stricken by polio), and likely cheated on his wife, scholars say.

Read Blake's report — which also examines the faith of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Andrew Jackson, Thomas Jefferson and Barack Obama — HERE.

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Introducing Quick Read: Social. Justice. News.

It’s July 5 and we’ve got a little gift for you all.

The Sojourners office is only occupied today by a motley crew of staff who fall into two categories: those who were smart enough to not end up with any medical emergencies due to improper use of home fireworks, and those of us who weren’t smart enough to use the July 4th holiday as an opportunity for a five-day weekend. But, with this small, slightly dim group with highly refined survival instincts, we are still ready to bring you some great content.

We work hard every day to make sure our God's Politics blog brings you news and commentary on issues important to Christians who care about social justice. Still, it always seems like there is way more going on all day, every day than one person can ever keep up with.

For all of you who are unlucky enough to be chained to a computer, Blackberry (does anyone still use these?) smart-phone or are otherwise more electronically connected then you would like to be—we’ve got a special treat: our newest blog, “Quick Read: Social. Justice. News."

This is the place to go for quick information and short takes on the day's news. If it's important to Christians who care about economic justice, immigration, faith and politics, peace and nonviolence, and creation care, it should be on this blog.  

Our editors are constantly scouring the web to bring you great content, but it's impossible to grab it all. That’s where we need your help. Maybe it’s an article, factoid, story, video, or infographic that needs to be seen, heard and spread—send it our way. As the marketing campaign progenitors of neighborly distrust in the name of homeland security like to say—if you see something, say something.

We want to know what else you're reading, seeing and thinking about so that we can share it!

Visit the “Quick Read” blog and let us know what you think!

+Leave a Comment | Economic Justice

DRONE WATCH: Methodist Church in Britain Opposes Use of Drones

The Methodist Church in Britain has agreed to ask that the U.K. government urge the U.S. to stop using drones in killing suspected terrorists. One concern expressed by church leaders was that increased reliance on unmanned weapons could make military interventions easier. On other concerns,

"A working group of policy experts submitted a report to the Methodist Conference highlighting moral concerns surrounding the use of drones, recognising that armed unmanned aircraft has the potential to transform the use of air power in conflict and counter-insurgency. 

Steve Hucklesby, a Methodist policy adviser and member of the working group, said: "If there is a legitimate use for this technology we need a much clearer idea of the boundaries for its use.  Terrorists function outside the law. It is vitally important that the UK and its allies do not do so as well. The targeted killings carried out by the CIA in northern Pakistan demonstrate only too clearly the ethical challenges that will face us as this technology proliferates more widely."

Following the Methodist action, The United Reformed Church and the Baptist Union of Great Britain voiced their support for the Conference's decision.

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

Mormons Quit Church in Mass Resignation

From Reuters:

A group of about 150 Mormons quit their church in a mass resignation ceremony in Salt Lake City on Saturday in a rare display of defiance ending decades of disagreement for some over issues ranging from polygamy to gay marriage.

Participants from Utah, Arizona, Idaho and elsewhere gathered in a public park to sign a "Declaration of Independence from Mormonism." ...

After gathering in the park, participants hiked a half-mile up nearby Ensign Peak, scaled in 1847 by church President Brigham Young to survey the spot where his Latter-day Saints would build a city.

At the top, those gathered gave three loud shouts of "Freedom," cheered, clapped and hugged.

Read the report in its entirety HERE.

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NY Judge Orders Twitter to Release Tweets of #OWS Protester

A judge in New York has ordered Twitter to release three month's worth of tweets from an Occupy Wall Street protester charged with disorderly conduct during a march across the Brooklyn Bridge last year.

The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., reports:

Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Matthew A. Sciarrino Jr. rebuffed one of Twitter Inc.'s central arguments, which concerned who has rights to contest law enforcement demands for content posted on its site. But the judge said the company was right on a separate point that could require prosecutors to take further steps if they want to see one particular day of Malcolm Harris' tweets and his user information....

The case began as one of hundreds of disorderly conduct prosecutions stemming from an Oct. 1 Occupy march on the Brooklyn Bridge, but it has evolved into a closely watched legal tussle over law enforcement agencies' access to material posted on social networks.

The Manhattan district attorney's office said Harris' messages could show whether he was aware of police orders he's charged with disregarding. Twitter, meanwhile, said the case could put it in the unwanted position of having to take on legal fights that users could otherwise conduct on their own....

[Harris] challenged the subpoena for his tweets, saying prosecutors' bid for user information, alongside the messages, breached privacy and free-association rights. The data could give prosecutors a picture of his followers, their interactions through replies and retweets, and his location at various points, [his lawyer, Martin] Stolar said.

Read the report in its entirety HERE.

+Leave a Comment | Economic Justice

Hotel Replaces Bibles with Kindles

According to CNN:

Last year, Gideons International distributed more than 84 million printed copies of the Bible around the world to students, hospitals, members of the military and, of course, hotels, where they are a ubiquitous sight in bedside tables.

Starting this month, however, the InterContinental Hotels Group is modernizing that mission at one of its hotels, replacing the paper tomes with electronic versions of the Bible loaded on Kindle e-readers. Each of the 148 rooms at the chain's Hotel Indigo in Newcastle, England, will be outfitted with a Kindle Touch with Wi-Fi. Guests can use the e-ink devices to catch up on scripture, as well as purchase and read any other books available in the Amazon Kindle store.

Apparently the Gideons are supportive of the hotel group's move toward electronic versions of Holy Writ. (And if a guest is so taken with the Kindle that they take it with them when they check out, the hotel will charge the guest's credit card for the Kindle.)

Read the entire CNN.com report HERE.

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Doctor, Will You Pray With Me?

A new survey of medical patients found that prayer — with their physician — is for many an important part of the treatment process.

According to American Medical News:

About two-thirds of patients believe doctors should know about their spiritual beliefs, said a survey of nearly 500 adults from Florida, North Carolina and Vermont in the January 2003 Journal of General Internal Medicine.

One in five patients likes the idea of praying with the doctor during a routine office visit, while nearly 30 percent want to do so during a hospital stay, the study found. Half of patients would want to pray with the doctor in a near-death scenario.

About 75 percent of physicians say patients sometimes or often mention spiritual issues such as God, prayer, meditation or the Bible, said an April 9, 2007, article in Archives of Internal Medicine.

The question of whether it is appropriate for doctors to pray with patients was addressed in late May at a three-day conference organized by the University of Chicago Program on Medicine and Religion.

G. Richard Holt, MD, MPH, a recently retired otolaryngologist, gave a presentation reviewing his perspective as a head-and-neck surgeon.

During his 40-year career, Dr. Holt received about one or two prayer requests a month. He made it his practice to remain silent while the patient, a family member or religious leader prayed aloud. But Dr. Holt drew the line at initiating or leading prayer.

Read the article in its entirely HERE.

+Leave a Comment | Economic Justice

DRONE WATCH: Strike in Yemen

The Associated Press reports a drone strike in Yemen earlier today: 

"A Yemeni official says a suspected U.S. drone strike has killed two al-Qaida militants in a car in Yemen's south. Tribal officials there said four militants were killed."

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: It’s All About the Money

With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down and the Pentagon budget cuts likely, U.S. weapons manufacturers are looking for ways to keep their profits up. The Los Angeles Times reports that exporting drones might be the next step.

"Despite concerns about U.S.-made drones ending up in enemy hands, American military contractors are lobbying the government to loosen export restrictions and open up foreign markets to the unmanned aircraft that have reshaped modern warfare.

Companies such as Northrop Grumman Corp. and other arms makers are eager to tap a growing foreign appetite for high-tech — and relatively cheap — drones, already being sold on the world market by countries such as Israel and China."

If changes are made in export regulations, expect to see drones becoming common weapons in areas of conflict around the world. It’s a dangerous possibility, but … it’s all about the money.

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Even Facts Have a Point of View

Proponents of "America as a Christian nation" ideology like to point to our founding fathers' faith, however shoddy the details of said faith, to make their arguments. Case in point, David Barton of WallBuilders, whose book The Jefferson Lies touts Thomas Jefferson as an orthodox Christian.

Stephen Prothero in his latest column for USA Today, points to Barton's (and others like Glenn Beck's) talking points as indicative of the larger issue of extreme factionalism that stretches the truth for its own means. 

From the column:

"In our nation's capital, many Republicans and Democrats now treat their political opponents as mortal enemies at war with all that is good and godly in America. And the Supreme Court, which used to be seen as "above" politics, is under closer scrutiny than ever after a string of hotly contested 5-4 rulings. This fervent factionalism is not confined to politics and law, however. It is leeching into science and history. As musician David Byrne of The Talking Heads once put it, even facts now have a point of view."

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