He always had a joke for the pastor in the handshake line, often a slapstick pun characteristic of an older guy who didn’t mind being corny. He carried himself with the confidence of an ordained Methodist minister, former congressman, seminary president, and National Council of Churches secretary-general, but he was thoroughly humble and approachable, caring intimately about the personal lives of his fellow parishioners at Burke United Methodist Church. I was deeply honored to be a pastor in the church that Bob Edgar attended. His most recent position was the president of Common Cause, a national campaign to get corporate money out of politics. Bob believed in democracy, and he believed that Christians should fight for the common good. It was devastating to learn of his sudden death this week in a dark time when his prophetic vision has never been more sorely needed.
I had been waiting all summer for the release date of Miroslav Volf’s latest book, A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good. Amidst the political debate in our country about the debt ceiling, whether the Bush tax cuts should be extended, whether or not the EPA should even be allowed to exist, etc, I wanted to hear how a prominent Christian theologian understood our responsibility as Christians to the common good. To me, that phrase “common good” has a very specific meaning. It has to do with the material well-being of our neighbors and the world around us considered independently of our efforts to draw people into the body of Christ. Continue reading