The Common Good


Can There Be a Rational Compromise on the Pledge of Allegiance?

Yet another Pledge of Allegiance lawsuit has been filed, this time with New Jersey humanists challenging the requirement that each school day begin with recitation of the pledge describing the United States as one nation, “under God.”

This case joins a bevy of previous cases that have wended their way through the courts, costing school districts and states millions of taxpayer dollars and contributing to bitter disputes across the country. To date, the Supreme Court has studiously avoided ruling on such cases, but if this continues, eventually, the court will be required to join the fray.

I am always sorry to see these cases: On the one hand, I am sympathetic with the students and parents who do not want their children indoctrinated in religion by a government, even with a very general declaration of the existence of God. (And I am always disappointed that so many people who vehemently insist that government is incompetent want government to lead prayer.)

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PHOTO: Short-term budget fixes and shutdown fears loom once more

Date: December 18, 2013
The immediate deadline was Dec. 13. Negotiators Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., have reached a small deal to keep the government open, limit the sequester, and trim the deficit by a mere $2.2 billion a year. The deal may be a welcome departure from previous meltdowns, but it does not address any of the real budget problems facing the country. It is a compromise to be sure, but a small one.

Faith Leaders Welcome Government Reopening, Point To Unfinished Work

Date: October 18, 2013
WASHINGTON Religious leaders welcomed the congressional deal of Wednesday that reopened the federal government after a 16-day shutdown, but some cast wary glances at the unfinished business of Congress as well as the circumstances that brought about the shutdown in the first place. "The shutdown has had a widespread impact on many people, especially the poor, who suffered for lack of basic services during the period," said a statement Thursday by Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, Calif., chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

Re: Gov. Shutdown; An Appeal To Paul Krugman And The NY Times: Stop Being Polite, It's Time To Expose Extremist Religion's Threat To Our Democracy

Date: October 7, 2013
One other thing, I know from experience: Not all evangelicals or Roman Catholics are of the right or part of the problem. For instance my friend and Huffington Post columnist Jim Wallis, or the people running the Wild Goose Festival with their in-gathering of progressive believers are on the side of sanity and compassion. But the good guys don't run the religion show in America.

Senate Chaplain Scolds Lawmakers For Shutdown, Unwillingness To Compromise

Source: Deseret News
Date: October 7, 2013
Jim Wallis, president of the Christian social justice group Sojourners, explained on his blog that allowing the government to shut down violates the Bible's teachings on the role of government. "Government is meant to protect its people’s safety, security and peace, and promote the common good of a society — and even collect taxes for those purposes," Wallis wrote, citing chapter and verse. "The scriptures also make it clear that governmental authority is responsible for fairness and justice and particularly responsible to protect the poor and vulnerable."

Faith Leaders Urge Compromise As Government Shuts Down

The federal government began shutting down overnight, for the first time since 1996, after Congress failed to compromise on how to fund federal agencies — battling instead over implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

From The Washington Post

The impasse means 800,000 federal workers will be furloughed Tuesday. National parks, monuments and museums, as well as most federal offices, will close. Tens of thousands of air-traffic controllers, prison guards and Border Patrol agents will be required to serve without pay. And many congressional hearings — including one scheduled for Tuesday on last month’s Washington Navy Yard shootings — will be postponed.

Faith leaders on Monday called on Congress to end partisan brinkmanship and consider the real damage their actions have on the American people.

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COMMENTARY: Leaders Who Can Act like Grown Ups

I just spent a wonderful and encouraging weekend with a church leadership team from Reisterstown, Md. I came away filled with hope for this congregation and with admiration for their clergy and lay leaders.

I wish our weak and tiresome political leaders in Washington and state capitals could visit this church in northern Baltimore County and see how mature adults of diverse backgrounds and viewpoints manage to put the congregation first.

They listened, spoke without barbed words and without aggression garbed in niceness.

They voiced their dreams, heard their differences, and then allowed a consensus dream to emerge. They understood the need to move on from yesterday. They were like two healthy parents trying to work a family problem. They seemed to trust each other.

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What is 'Biblical Politics'?

Sojourners has always tried to understand and advocate for "biblical politics." But what does that mean now, especially as we approach another major election?

I was talking the other day to a Christian leader who has given his life to working with the poor. His approach is very grassroots -- he lives in a poor, virtually all-minority community and provides basic services for low-income people. He said, "If you work with and for the poor, you inevitably run into injustice." In other words, poverty isn't caused by accident. There are unjust systems and structures that create and perpetuate poverty and human suffering. And service alone is never enough; working to change both the attitudes and institutional arrangements that cause poverty is required.

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The Works of the Flesh and the Debt Ceiling Deal

In Galatians 5:19-20, Paul lists the "works of the flesh," contrasting them to the "fruit of the Spirit" immediately thereafter (Gal. 5:22-23). Among the works of the flesh are hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, and division. Another translation puts it, "People become enemies and they fight; they become jealous, angry, and ambitious. They separate into parties and groups ... I warn you now as I have before: those who do these things will not possess the kingdom of God."

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