The Common Good

The Huffington Post

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What would it mean to be on God's side? Rev. Wallis's answer is to focus on the common good: Not just in politics, but in all the decisions we make in our personal, family, vocational, financial, communal, and public lives. That old but always new ethic simply says we must care for more than ourselves or our own group. We must care for our neighbor as well, and for the health of the life we share with one another. It echoes a very basic tenet of Christianity and other faiths -- love your neighbor as yourself -- still the most transformational ethic in history.
Stories are what change the world, more than just ideas. And that's what I am seeing and hearing on the road -- stories that will change people for the common good. Nobody outside of Washington trusts Washington because there are no more human stories -- just money and the calculations of power.
I hear it over and over again both during my conversations on the road, and as I skim the headlines each day, that we are in a battle for the common good.
It could last several weeks, but family members of victims and survivors of gun violence are planning to hold a round-the-clock vigil on Capitol Hill until the Senate passes gun policy reform.
I was very moved by Arianna Huffington's recent piece called "God, Cellphones, Quarterly Earnings and the Search for the Common Good." It's wrapped around the release of Jim Wallis's book, On God's Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn't Learned About Serving the Common Good and challenges all of us to give some serious thought as to how we all might live more aware of "our greater common good."
Today, on the National Mall, I stood with fellow faith leaders, including clergy from Newtown, to remember lives lost at Sandy Hook elementary school and the 3,364 gun deaths that have happened since.
In front of 3,300 mock grave markers representing Americans who have died from gun violence since the Newtown tragedy, the Rev. Matt Crebbin will stand on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Thursday to pray for expanded federal gun control legislation.
Sojourners rightly shot back against this part of the campaign, and since then, they have started a photo album on Facebook of girls in various settings, with titles like "Bright Young Scholar," or "Bright Young Athlete." It's a start, but the very fact that we're still having such conversations a dozen-plus years into the 21st century shows just how far we still have to go.
A little over a year ago, during some of the most heated moments of the presidential election, the Rev. Jim Wallis went on a three-month sabbatical.
"Our life together can be better." That's the opening sentence of an important new book by Jim Wallis called On God's Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn't Learned About Serving the Common Good. Wallis, in addition to being CEO of the D.C.-based Christian ministry Sojourners, is one of our most compelling thinkers and writers -- not just on religion and spirituality but on American public life as well. He's also, I'm happy to say, a longtime and frequent contributor to HuffPost. And for those of you in the New York area, on Friday I'll be taking part in a conversation with him, moderated by our religion editor Paul Raushenbush, at NYU's Brennan Center for Justice from 7:00 - 8:30 p.m.