Center for American Progress Press Items
Lisa Sharon Harper, a dynamic voice and a mobilizing force on issues of poverty and racial justice. Harper is the director of mobilizing for Sojourners, a nationwide Christian social justice network based in Washington. This year Harper mobilized communities of faith to speak out against draconian immigration laws; supported Human Circles of Protection, a grassroots initiative to protect federal funding for critical social services; and pressed policymakers to treat their budgets as “moral documents”—that is, with an understanding of how budgeted federal funds have significant ramifications for vulnerable communities who rely on government-supported services. An author, regular blogger, and speaker on social justice concerns, she also published her second book on morality, faith, and politics, Left, Right & Christ, in October 2011.
This is precisely what President Obama believes. In a speech delivered at evangelical writer Jim Wallis’s “Call to Renewal” conference on June 26, 2006, then-Sen. Obama articulated a vision of how religious views and public policies can—and should—face citizen scrutiny. “Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religious-specific, values,” he said. “Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality.”
A less-reported but equally significant success lies in faith groups’ increasingly enthusiastic embrace of the movement. Progressive Christian groups such as Sojourners—an early supporter of the protests—are being joined by growing numbers of Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Protestant, and Catholic congregations, as well as interfaith groups that are lending their voices, bodies, buildings, and pulpits.
The Hunger Fast campaign is joining supporters together to fast and raise awareness of the unacceptable level of hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world.
Glenn Beck is a particular focus of progressive faith activism because he has frequently attacked the idea that Christians should be committed to social justice. In March, he urged his listeners to leave their churches if pastors talked about social justice. Beck verbally attacked an evangelical pastor, the Rev. Jim Wallis, several times on his programs, and ridiculed the antipoverty commitments of , the Christian organization founded by Wallis.
Ever the faith activist, Wallis challenged Beck to learn more about what social justice really means in a one-on-one discussion. Instead of meeting Wallis head on, Beck instead threatened him, saying “the hammer is coming…and when the hammer comes it is going to be coming hard and all through the night, over and over…”
This perhaps makes for good television, evoking a violent and threatening image. Do I think Beck is threatening bodily harm to Rev. Wallis? Of course not. But I do worry that such provocative and incendiary language might sound to a less than stable person like a call to arms—real arms against Rev. Wallis.
Hundreds of diverse faith communities have been active independently and within larger organizations. Mainline Protestant denominations, Catholic parishes, Jewish congregations, and others, along with groups such as PICO, the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, Sojourners, Catholic Social Services, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Families United, and Gamaliel have stood up and spoken out on behalf of immigrants and their families.
The Fighting Poverty with Faith coalition held a Capitol Hill vigil on Sept. 16 to call for an end to poverty. Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners addressed the vigil attendees.
While the passage of House Concurrent Resolution 198 is a positive development in reducing poverty in the United States, the next step is for Congress to take action to make the goal of cutting poverty a reality in the next decade. An anti-poverty movement is brewing across the country. Groups such as Catholic Charities, Sojourners, and others have called for a national goal of cutting poverty in half.
“Comprehensive immigration reform is a great moral debate,” said Jim Wallis, President and Executive Director of Sojourners/Call to Renewal yesterday at an event at the Center for American Progress. “‘Who would Jesus deport’ is a fair question.”
Wallis joined an expert panel of religious leaders in a discussion about the sense of a moral imperative that has led many in the religious community to work for comprehensive immigration reform. Religious leaders’ perspectives are especially poignant since they are on the front lines in dealing with the daily consequences of an unjust system that causes undue suffering and hardship to the people they serve.