The Common Good
July-August 1996

A National Forum

by Duane Shank | July-August 1996

September event will bring together Spirit and action.

Who speaks for God? Throughout human history, many individuals and empires have sought to speak in God’s name. Today in American politics, the name of God is frequently invoked by the Religious Right to support its ideological political platform.

In September, the Christian Coalition will host its annual “Road to Victory” conference in Washington, D.C. If past conferences are a guide, it will be a Republican pep rally. The featured speakers will be leading Republican candidates, and the Coalition leadership will report on the number of states where it now controls the party apparatus.

Think of an alternative event:

  • An event seeking to transform our political landscape by getting to the moral heart of the issues at stake and empowering those who are moved by matters of the Spirit, but left dry by today’s divisive public debate.
  • Prominent speakers who seriously reflect on the biblical relationship between faith and politics, examining the role of Christians in the political process working for “the shalom of the city,” for the common good.
  • A forum featuring organizations and networks that are working to create a new politics, with presentations that include descriptions of inner-city economic development projects by member groups of the Christian Community Development Association, efforts to end hunger by Bread for the World, organizing for the well- being of children by the Children’s Defense Fund, programs to combat violence by the Ten Point Coalition, endeavors to preserve God’s good creation by the Evangelical Environmental Network, and domestic and international peacemaking work by Pax Christi.
  • A discussion highlighting grassroots efforts to show an alternative to the Religious Right such as the Texas Freedom Network/ Texas Faith Network and other groups from around the country.
  • A panel discussion with Democratic and Republican members of Congress reflecting on the moral issues they face, and the divisive political climate that is leading many of the best members to resign.
  • Inspirational music.
  • Periods of worship and intercessory prayer which acknowledge that “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”

These things are now being planned for the Call to Renewal’s “National Forum on Faith and Politics” to be held in Washington, D.C., on September 13-15, 1996, at the Omni Shoreham Hotel. While the Christian Coalition is meeting, we will come together to demonstrate that there is an alternative—that many Christians around the country are working not for partisan, ideological victories, but for civility, compassion, and community to heal our wounded nation.

Further details on how to register for this conference will be coming soon. Mark the weekend of September 13-15 on your calendars and begin to mobilize others to attend. While in numbers we may appear to be David to the Christian Coalition’s Goliath, the diversity and grassroots connections of the Call to Renewal will be an important witness that weekend. A SERIES OF regional conferences is being planned for the six weekends following the national conference. In consultation with local individuals and organizations, we chose places where the role of faith is likely to be an issue in electoral debates, where racial divisions are pronounced, and where a network of Call supporters is eager to help organize.

These events will also show in practice that there is an alternative to the Religious Right. They will demonstrate that a faithful, biblical involvement in the political arena does not mean following a right-wing Republican agenda. They will show that a politics of community will help our nation more than a politics of divisiveness. They will help set a tone of political debate that shows that thoughtful people can have differences of opinion on some political issues without demonizing and attacking others.

The likely locations for these regional conferences are: Minneapolis, Minnesota; Texas (in cooperation with the Texas Faith Network); northwest Ohio; Colorado Springs, Colorado; North Carolina; and southern California. More information will be available soon.

In addition to these conferences, Call to Renewal key contacts are working all across the country to organize town meetings and candidate forums. These events are also important ways to bring an alternative vision to public and media attention. In many cases, they will be linked to the promotional tour for Jim Wallis’ new book, Who Speaks for God?

In October, hundreds of local churches will spend a Sunday discussing faith and politics. The Call to Renewal has developed a resource packet including organizing ideas, sermon ideas for pastors, a Bible study/discussion guide, and bulletin inserts.

For more information on any of these local events, please contact us.

Sojourners is an active participant in the Call to Renewal network, providing leadership and organizing support. Contact Call to Renewal, c/o Sojourners, 2401 15th St. NW, Washington, DC 20009; (202) 328-8842.

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