The Common Good

Associated Baptist Press

Associated Baptist Press Press Items
“For a lot of the young people I meet, the Religious Right has been replaced by Jesus,” said Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners/Call to Renewal, an evangelical social-justice group. “Politics is stuck in its polarities -- every issue has only two sides, and both sides do it.” Wallis has been a frequent critic of many of President Bush’s policies, particularly regarding poverty and the Iraq war. He has also criticized Religious Right leaders for their closeness to Bush. His organization co-sponsored the discussion along with Beliefnet, the religion-focused Internet news site.
Leaders from several religious groups are criticizing a polling agency and the organizers of the Jan. 19 Nevada caucuses for a lack of religious sensitivity...The signers included David Neff, editor of the flagship evangelical magazine Christianity Today, Jim Wallis, founder of the Sojourners/Call to Renewal anti-poverty movement, and Joel Hunter, pastor of the Orlando-based Northland Church.
[Jim] Wallis, an evangelical writer and political activist, said his involvement with the initiative came from his desire to “change the conversation on abortion.” There’s common ground around the country among people who want to stop using abortion as a polarizing issue or as a way to leverage votes, he said: “Abortion has been the third wheel in American politics for too long.”
Jim Wallis and Richard Land agree that faith should influence public policy. They just can’t agree on how.
Called “Voices & Votes II: Shaping a New Moral Agenda,” the event was co-sponsored by three Christian magazines: Sojourners, Christianity Today, and The Christian Century.
As the president of Sojourners, Jim Wallis has firm beliefs about how Christians should influence political power. Jesus created a new world order, Wallis said, and Christians embody that change.
But, with a sizable number of Americans now saying the war was a mistake for America, Sojourners’ Taylor said the fact some of the evangelical community’s most prominent leaders seemed to endorse Bush’s agenda whole-heartedly makes the war a mistake for evangelicalism itself. “In terms of the credibility of the evangelical voice and community, certainly it’s had an impact,” he said. Evangelicalism has “become something of an appendage of the Republican Party” to many non-evangelical Americans, Taylor said. “Even if we may disagree on how those Christian values should be applied to public-policy issues, we think we could agree … on the importance of maintaining your prophetic integrity. And having an uncritical view of the war really compromised that prophetic integrity.”
“The current system should be changed in ways that would strengthen communities in rural America, ensure all Americans an adequate, nutritious diet, provide better and more targeted support for U.S. farm families of modest means, and conserve the land for present and future generations,” said a statement from the Religious Working Group on the Farm Bill, whose leaders were represented at the press conference. “In addition, such changes are necessary to unlock the ability of small-holder farmers in developing countries, who comprise the majority of the world’s hungry people, to improve their livelihoods and escape poverty.” Among the group’s other members are the Progressive National Baptist Convention, the Episcopal Church USA, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Sojourners/Call to Renewal and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
But exactly who are the religious voters they hope to attract? Tony Campolo, noted author and sociologist, has coined a term that describes at least part of the movement: “Red-letter Christians.” These people, named after the red ink some Bible publishers use to denote the words of Jesus, hold to traditional Christian beliefs and believe the Holy Spirit inspired the Bible, which they view as authoritative and relevant for faith and practice.
Meanwhile, Democratic candidates have ratcheted up their appeal to evangelicals, talking unabashedly about their faith, especially in a recent forum sponsored by the progressive Christian social-justice group Sojourners. Edwards, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama sounded almost like they were testifying at a revival meeting when talking about how their faith affects their policy choices.