The Huffington Post Press Items
Congregations might view the new Sojourners documentary called "The Line" that recounts the stories of poor people in our midst.
During the 2004 presidential election season, Sojourners put out a bumper sticker with these words: "God Is Not a Republican, or a Democrat." The number of orders was overwhelming and we kept running out. The simple message struck a chord among many Christians who were tired of the assumptions and claims by the religious right that God was indeed a Republican, or at least voted a straight-party ticket for the GOP. They also absurdly implied -- and sometimes explicitly stated -- that faithful Christians couldn't support Democratic candidates. We said that voting was always an imperfect choice in a fallen world, based on prudential judgments about how to best vote our values, that people of faith would always vote in different ways -- and that was a good thing for a democracy and the common good.
On the issues of poverty alleviation and educational equity, the Hispanic electorate has been very clear. What legislation will clearly protect the "least of these"? Our National Latino Evangelical Coalition is a signer of the Circle of Protection. Both President Obama and Governor Romney have responded to our call to lay out a vision for how they will respond to the issues of poverty at home and abroad. The nation's domestic budget and foreign aid commitments will be a marker for us to measure what this means. Latinos are disproportionately challenged by poverty, urban ecological challenges and educational disparity. In addition, our concerns with a disproportionate number poor Latinos living near power plants can't be ignored. We are looking for platforms that speak to these issues head-on. What political muscle will candidates leverage to ensure that "the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the stranger" are cared for in the richest nation in the world? Our commitment to the Gospel requires us to ask this of the candidates.
Earlier this month, Oxfam joined with Sojourners, World Vision and Bread for the World to launch the documentary film, "The Line", to highlight the story of hard working American families doing everything right but still struggling in poverty. We could never have imagined the response: over 2,000 screenings in churches, community centers and homes in every state in the union, attended by tens of thousands of people since the film premiered Oct 2. People have gathered to talk about growing poverty in our communities and start a conversation they do not see their leaders having. You can still sign up at http://thelinemovie.com/ to host a screening and join the conversation.
Are we "New Evangelicals" open to the hard lessons? There are hopeful signs. One leader, Lisa Sharon Harper, has seen that the answer to the "evangelical right" is not a revived evangelical left. She wants more nuance:
"I am a Kingdom Christian, not a leftist Christian, a conservative Christian, nor any other political brand of Christian ... I am called to be a prophetic Christian. The axis of my political engagement is scripture and the biblical theology of shalom: It sets the standards of my political engagement."
I will miss George McGovern. The former senator from South Dakota and Democratic presidential candidate in 1972 died in a hospice on Sunday, at 90, surrounded by family and friends who loved him.
Tomorrow night is the first presidential debate. It will undoubtedly be an important moment in the campaign for the highest office in the land. But whose lives will it be important to?
Certainly, there will be a lot for pundits to discuss and dissect. They will analyze phrases and statements and will compare them to polling data and focus groups in swing states. Super PACs will record gaffes by either candidate, ready to turn them into multi-million dollar commercial buys.
The most recent discussions of U.S. foreign policy and the Middle East once again say more about politics during an election year than they do about the fundamental issues we must confront if we want to see substantial change.
So let's look at the basic issues and fundamental choices we need to make.
Millions tuned in to watch the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. Both were merely parties for a political party funded by wealthy interests seeking to appeal to middle class voters in an election year.
The recently revealed video of Governor Mitt Romney at a fundraising event last May is changing the election conversation. I hope it does, but at an even deeper level than the responses so far. There is certainly politics here, some necessary factual corrections, and some very deep ironies. But underneath it all is a fundamental question of what our spiritual obligations to one another and, for me, what Jesus' ethic of how to treat our neighbors means for the common good.