The Common Good

The San Francisco Chronicle

The San Francisco Chronicle Press Items
Conservative evangelical Christians are a rock-solid part of the GOP political base, so when they talk, Republicans listen. Many have long advocated some kind of reform, but when they gather Tuesday as part of a bipartisan national strategy session sponsored by the National Immigration Forum, they will have the ear of Republican lawmakers as at no time in the past 25 years.
Wallis, who participates in many interfaith activities, said he thinks relations with Muslims have improved since 2001. "People are making a mistake of believing what the media points to as real," Wallis said. "All you have to do to get attention - whether you're in a cave in Afghanistan or a pastor in Florida - is to be on the extreme.
Far from religious views that can be used to divide people, Barack Obama's faith may be a powerful offering and an invitation to people in America and around the world to work together on solutions to the dire economic, political and social problems confronting us. A careful reading of Obama's books and his speech on faith at Jim Wallis's 2006 Call to Renewal conference discloses that our president-elect sees his religious beliefs as informing and shaping his values. In turn, his values and ethical outlooks may shape our policies.
"The issue isn't Rick Warren per se," said Wallis, who co-hosted a 2006 conference where Obama made one of his first major speeches on politics and his faith. "It is very Obama-like to reach out to conservative evangelicals who didn't vote for him. Whether people like Rick Warren or not is not the issue."
Whether you feel that faith was scorned or celebrated in this election, now that it's all over may be a good time to review what we've learned. Jim Wallis is the editor and founder of the evangelical magazine Sojourners as well as a blogger, speaker, preacher and the best-selling author of "God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It." I asked him how traditional Christians are responding to the recent election and where he thinks we should all go from here.
The common good is not just part of our religious traditions, Jim Wallis said, but "it's in our American political tradition. And we just forgot ... all of us, not just social regulation but ... self-regulation too. What is best for the common good? We've lost that and now the common good is going to really suffer."
Jim Wallis, the best-selling evangelical author who is leading forums at both political conventions, said there has been a "sea change" in the issues that appeal to faith voters in the last several years. "They're frustrated in talking about abortion and gay marriage. Now, especially with younger evangelicals, they want to talk about poverty and climate change and Darfur," he said. "If the Democrats can show that they'll take action on these issues - and not just talk about them - they'll pick up a lot of votes in the middle."
Amid some of the worst political demagoguery we have seen for some time, the effort to craft a comprehensive immigration reform bill in Congress failed badly last fall. Lawmakers could not balance legitimate enforcement of the law, with humane treatment of the 12 million people already here because of a broken system, with the complicated need to provide both a fair legal worker status and an earned path to citizenship for those willing to work for it.
On [Jon] Stewart's show recently, HarperOne author Jim Wallis - founder of Sojourners, a Christian group devoted to social justice - promoted his newest book, "The Great Awakening: Reviving Faith & Politics in a Post-Religious Right America." Wallis argued that presidential candidates should be judged by their moral compass, not given a "religious litmus test."