It's Been a Whirlwind of World-Changing Work
In the short three months that I have been at Sojourners as the director of individual giving, I’ve been humbled and inspired by the countless social justice activists who make up our community. In these three months, I have witnessed activism for immigration reform, a vigil for those most affected by congressional dysfunction, organizing for climate change, a prophetic stand for racial justice, the launching of a new campaign to empower women and girls, and much more.
Below is a brief overview of all of the world-changing work that we have enacted together as a community in the past few months.
Poverty and the Budget: During the government shutdown in October, we organized a rapid response campaign called the Faithful Filibuster. Together with our partners in the Circle of Protection, we stood outside the Capitol, reading the 2,000-plus biblical verses that speak to God’s justice for the poor and vulnerable while calling on Congress to protect programs that serve low-income people from cuts in any budget deals. The action had a broad reach — 80,800 Facebook connections and more than 1,500 #FaithfulFilibuster tweets reaching close to 700,000 people and getting 7.4 million impressions.
Our message also reached influential secular and Christian news outlets and outlets in Ohio, Speaker John Boehner’s home state; in Wisconsin, Rep. Paul Ryan’s home state; and Utah, Sen. Orrin Hatch’s home state. On the final day of the FF, we had a surprise visit from three of the Republican senators who were active in crafting the agreement to end the shutdown. Thanks to supporters of the Faithful Filibuster and the American Bible Society, we were able to deliver a Justice and Poverty Bible to every member of Congress.
Immigration: With the resolution of the shutdown and debt ceiling in October, attention quickly shifted to immigration reform, which has seen a lot of positive action over the past few weeks.
Through our work with the Evangelical Immigration Table, we helped support an incredible gathering in Washington in late October, with 600 conservative religious leaders pushing for comprehensive immigration reform. This was a clear demonstration of the overwhelming support from the evangelical, business, and law enforcement communities, and helped emphasize that the time for comprehensive immigration reform is now.
In November, our executive director, Jim Wallis, met with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in the Oval Office to discuss immigration reform with a small group of evangelical leaders. The Wall Street Journal, Politico, Associated Press, the Christian Post and many other media outlets covered this meeting.
We also launched a cable news ad campaign on the Christian Broadcasting Network in Rep. Steve King’s (R-Iowa) district with a stereotype-shattering ad that documents the story of an undocumented pastor designed to call out the racism that is preventing comprehensive immigration reform from passing.
Women & Girls: We are excited to share more about our most recent campaign, Sojourners’ Women and Girls Leading on Faith and Justice Initiative, which is intended to help Christians address the underlying beliefs that lead to the oppression of women and girls, as well as the behaviors and attitudes that can stem from religious beliefs.
We partnered with Michelle D. Bernard, a Washington Post writer and contributor to the popular column “She, The People,” to write a cover feature for Sojourners magazine (December 2013) on churches and domestic violence to coincide with the Nov. 25 International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This also coincided with a fall blog series by Rev. Amy Gopp to promote the Nov. 25 International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Michelle Gonzalez Maldonado (author of “Created in God’s Image: An Introduction to Feminist Theological Anthropology”) is writing an article on “a new theology of women” for a January 2014 cover feature for Sojourners magazine.
On Nov. 20 we launched an action alert calling our activists to support the Military Justice Improvement Act that will help women and men in the military by taking rape charges outside of the chain of command and leaving it with independent prosecutors.
Climate Change: Our climate change campaign continues to grow under the direction of our Campaigns team and Creation Care associate, Liz Schmitt.
Sojourners, in partnership with Oxfam, recently commissioned a messaging poll focused on communicating with evangelicals and other Christians about climate change. This is a critical constituency for our shared work to mitigate the long-term effects of a changing climate.
Liz was on the Hill in November testifying before the EPA’s listening session on carbon rules for power plants. She shared her perspective as a Christian who cares deeply for the creation God has called us to be stewards of.
In partnership with Groundswell, we organized a petition from people of faith asking the Board to support sound climate science in public school textbooks. We delivered the petition, and successfully kept climate science in Texas textbooks.
Racial Justice: In early October, Sojourners was thrilled to host a pre-screening for faith leaders of the film 12 Years a Slave. The screening was followed by a rich panel discussion with one of the film’s stars and a number of faith leaders, including Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, Rev. Michael McBride, and Jim Wallis. We have continued the conversation the panelists began by highlighting a series of blog posts on 12 Years a Slave.
Many ongoing conversations with top faith leaders resulted in the creation of Sojourner’s One Church | One Body pledge, which encourages the church to live into its multi-ethnic, multiracial calling. We launched the pledge in late October, and 78 top national faith leaders and more than 3,400 local faith leaders have signed.
I am deeply grateful for the many ways you have partnered with us in this world-changing work. Your prayers, activism, financial contributions, and passion are truly inspirational and give me great hope.
Katie Chatelaine-Samsenis the director of individual giving at Sojourners