The Common Good

The Washington Post

The Washington Post Press Items
Jim Wallis, founder of the evangelical movement Sojourners, challenged the NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre’s argument that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
On Tuesday, more than 250 activists plan to come to Washington for a debut of sorts, hosting a news conference and strategy session before heading to Capitol Hill for meetings with key lawmakers. Group leaders say they hope to bring a fresh, outsiders’ perspective to the debate, with testimonials from rural and suburban sheriffs, local preachers, even the director of the Idaho Dairymen’s Association. Rather than dwelling on the politics of the issue, these conservative leaders plan to cast the issue based on how they see it in their communities — in moral and economic terms.
Jim Wallis, the progressive evangelical and founder of Sojourners, was equally emphatic in his response. “How we treat the least of these is the ultimate question. We can’t compromise on protecting the most vulnerable. Certainly all kinds of other things can be compromised. But that’s not where the real money is.” A path to fiscal sustainability is out there, Wallis concedes, and a faith-based notion of the common good might motivate both sides to sit down together, but “compromise sounds weak and cowardly and all that.”
The Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners also spoke after the meeting: “Deficits are indeed moral issues, and how you resolve them is a moral issue too. You can’t resolve a deficit by increasing poverty. So during this holiday season, we faith leaders are going to reach out as we always do to poor people. But we’re also going to say don’t do things fiscally that make the poor poorer and don’t make our job harder.”
This week, I spoke with the Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners and Nick Stuart of Odyssey Networks about what Tuesday’s results mean for religious people and values across the spectrum. Watch the video of our conservation below.
Rabbis for Human Rights, an organization of Jewish rabbis that promote interfaith cooperation, unveiled a poster campaign in the same Manhattan metro stations as the anti-Muslim ads. They read: “In the choice between love and hate, choose love. Help stop bigotry against our Muslim neighbors.” The Christian group Sojourners also ran a counter-ad, which read: “Love your Muslim neighbors.” And another Christian group, United Methodist Women, an affiliate of the United Methodist Church, struck back by purchasing poster space in the same metro stations, offering this message: “Hate speech is not civilized. Support peace in word and deed.”
In 2006, before Obama was president, he gave a major address at the Sojourners convention: “A Call to Renewal on Faith and Politics.”
The plight of Americans living in poverty has not improved during the last year, according to newly released Census data, and Christian leaders said Wednesday (Sept. 12) that poverty must become a priority for Christians if it is not a priority for Washington. “Across the political and theological spectrum, the faith community is putting aside differences and taking up the biblical vocation of protecting the poor and bringing their stories and struggles to light,” said Jim Wallis, president and CEO of Sojourners, a progressive Christian group based in Washington.
As a senator in 2006, Obama also delivered a stirring, personal speech about the role of faith in both his private and his public life at a Sojourners/Call to Renewal conference.Commentators rapidly seized on the historic nature of the speech. In a column titled “Obama’s Eloquent Faith,” E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post called it “the most important pronouncement by a Democrat on faith and politics since John F. Kennedy’s Houston speech.”And during the 2008 campaign, the Wall Street Journal noted that the race was shaping up to be an unusual one “in which the presumptive Democratic nominee is talking more openly about his Christian beliefs than the Republican candidate.”
“Whomever they choose is really important,” said Jim Wallis, founder of the progressive evangelical group Sojourners, “. . . whether that person will prioritize Catholic social teaching in a prophetic way and not a political way on the right or the left. Or if the new direction will be more politicized. John is so trustworthy, we’re all praying for who will replace him.”