The Common Good

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Jim Wallis, The Huffington Post: "The remarkable acts of kindness and grace we see with Pope Francis are the natural response from a disciple who has known the kindness and grace of Christ in his own life. ... When he invites homeless men to have breakfast with him on his 77th birthday, or provides a chair and food for the Swiss Guard outside his room, he reminds us of Christ. When he kisses the feet of Muslim prisoners, or offers to baptize the baby of a woman who was pressured to abort it, he reminds us of Christ. When he asks, 'If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?', he reminds us of Christ. When he chooses a simple place to live and simple clothes to wear, and when we hear rumors of his going out at night in disguise to minister to the homeless, he reminds us of Christ."
But in a sign of how differently the 2013 immigration debate is playing out, the convention is joining other evangelical organizations in a $250,000 media blitz starting Thursday to push members of Congress to pass a bill.
Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, a Christian social justice organization, said passing immigration reform was a "moral and biblical imperative" that requires a critical mass of Americans supporting it to sway a gridlocked Washington. "Big things don't change in Washington first. Big things change in Washington last," Wallis said.
At Princeton, Land learned to get along with people who held different beliefs. That remains one of Land's strengths, said Jim Wallis, a progressive Christian preacher and author who founded Washington, D.C.-based Sojourners magazine. Wallis and Land disagree on politics but often speak together at conferences, such as the Q gathering of evangelicals in Washington, D.C., in April, where their talk was titled "What Can We Agree On?" After they speak, they often go out to dinner and talk late into the night. By contrast, Wallis' television appearances with other leaders of the Religious Right, such as the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, were basically shouting matches. "We were always pitted against each other, like gladiators in the arena," Wallis said. "Jerry Falwell would never talk to me off camera."
So Christians increasingly long for a substantive change in tone. This desire has led to efforts such as conservative Christian and Romney adviser Mark DeMoss' Civility Project and liberal Christian Jim Wallis' Civility Covenant, which was signed by more than 100 Christian leaders and denominational heads. Today's Christians are not seeking ways to "divide and conquer" but to "partner and achieve." Unafraid to collaborate with those they may disagree with on other issues, young Christians and their leaders are showing up throughout the public square and working on common-ground agendas.
A similarly fruitless debate plays out among religious groups, even as both sides claim moral authority for their views. Some, such as Sojourners magazine editor Jim Wallis and the religious leaders who carried a golden calf (symbolizing the idolatry of wealth) through Manhattan as part of the "Occupy" movement, focus on condemning greed and achieving social justice. Others, such as First Things Web editor Joe Carter, argue that concern about income inequality is itself a form of greed.
Thank goodness we have the DeMoss-Davis duo and people like Jim Wallis, leader of the progressive evangelical group Sojourners, to remind us that politics should be dedicated to the common good, not one's own party, and that civility lines the path to a higher place.
There's no debate that faith has been used for good and misused for ill throughout history. That's why I was glad to see two men with faith backgrounds — one a liberal and one a conservative — getting together to address poverty in America. The Rev. Jim Wallis (the liberal) from Sojourners magazine and former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson (the conservative) put aside their ideological differences in order to focus on a problem that affects way too many people. I'm glad to see this latest example of what people can do if they focus on the problem and less on the politics.
As the 86-year-old Lear often puts it, religion and the larger search for meaning "are the greatest conversation going — and I want in." He doesn't mean a "conversation" like the one we've been having, in which one side acts repulsed by any mention of the divine in the public square, while the other claims God as its mascot and wields religion like a political weapon. As progressive evangelical spokesman Jim Wallis of Sojourners puts it, the solution to "bad religion" is not secularism, but "better religion."
Jesus is imprisoned — at least in the view of an increasingly vocal set of Christians spurred into action by some deeply troubling truths about America and our bursting-at-the-seams prison system. Progressive Christian leaders such as Jim Wallis show what can be undertaken by believers moved by social injustices. Raising a prophetic voice, engaging in acts of moral suasion, calling people to conscience — surely these are not beyond the capabilities of committed Christians, whatever their political persuasion.