What does a teenager turning eighteen, two parents who are welcoming their first child, and a new kid in school all have in common? They have to find where they are going to sit at the table. The child knows that his table selection at lunch in the cafeteria is a crucial decision and he will have to live with the repercussions for years to come. The new parents are now thrown into the world of do you have a family bed or do you let them cry it out? Are you “Baby-Wise” or are you raising the “Happiest Baby on the Block?” The eighteen-year-old gets to register to vote and has the joy of selecting Republican or Democrat or the confused “Other.” It almost feels like the moment I belong to one group I must fight against another group. It seems like in all sorts of settings we spend more time fighting others than working to get things done. Unfortunately, the Church has found its way into this kind of thinking and living, which is strange considering how much Jesus and others spoke of another way.
In the ninth chapter of Mark’s Gospel, the disciples tell Jesus that they had stopped others who were doing miraculous works because “he was not one of us.” Jesus replies, “Do not stop him… for whoever is not against us is for us.” Not exactly a bombshell, because it seems so obvious, but it almost never happens. We see political division almost year round in D.C. and at local government levels, every parenting topic is just a chance to engage the never ending “mommy wars,” and it is almost always easier to know what the Church stands against than to see what it actually stands for.
Fortunately there are people who step out of these fights to promote what has been called the common good. Borrowing Andy Crouch’s definition, common good is “the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily.” This definition makes it clear that it is about helping persons, not just groups or individuals or the vague “humanity,” but actual persons. Second, this definition makes it about helping people become what they can be. I think we can agree that girls should not be kidnapped because they are receiving an education. I think we can agree that literacy rates need to rise. I think we can agree that we need to continue to create technology that helps us to connect to real humans as humans versus when they become tools of dehumanization. Once again we can be quick and point out that there are all these different views about what actually helps in that process, but in doing that we pass over the vast landscape of good that is in front of us.
It is to this end that this summer Cobblestone is starting it’s first summer series of “Conversations for the Common Good.” The full schedule is on our calendar page here. Each event will meet at the Bier Abbey and we will have a different speaker and theme for each night. This year we will have a conversations about craft brewing, charity vs. development, the power of shame and vulnerability, poetry, and fighting human trafficking. These events are open to all, and not all speakers are coming from a strictly Christian perspective because it is good to hear and learn from others who are promoting the common good in this world.
Brene Brown speaks these words of wisdom in her recent book, Daring Greatly, “I think we have to question the intentions of any group that insists on disdain toward other people as a membership requirement. It may be disguised as belonging, but real belonging doesn’t necessitate disdain.” The Church needs to be the first place to realize this is the case, especially because we exist because God became the “other” for us, and he loves us despite our rebellion against him. At Cobblestone when we baptize somebody we remind ourselves that “we love because God first loved us.” I hope we can use this event and others like it to reflect the love we have received from God.