The Common Good

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The signers include the heads of evangelical universities and colleges, nonprofits and denominations, and white and Hispanic mega-church pastors. They span the ideological spectrum, from Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention to Sojourners CEO Jim Wallis.
That was little consolation to Bisset, the chief operating officer of Soujourners(sic), a social-action foundation based in Columbia Heights. “There wasn’t a plan. People were on the train for a long time with no information,” she said Wednesday. Bisset said that after waiting and waiting aboard the train, she called 911. Fire and rescue workers soon arrived. But still, no sign of a rescue train.
This statement, though, is a document of exceptional accord among groups that rarely find themselves on the same side of anything. The signatories are calling for comprehensive immigration reform that respects human dignity and the rule of law, protects family unity, is fair to taxpayers, and ensures both secure borders and a path to citizenship. Jim Wallis, founder of the left-leaning evangelical group Sojourners, signed it, of course. But so did Jim Daly, president of the socially conservative group Focus on the Family, as did the heads of many of the country’s most conservative Christian denominations: the Assemblies of God, the Southern Baptist Convention and various Nazarene churches.
While the former Obama pastor is the most controversial name, the conference includes some of the best-known names among progressive American pastors, including Sojourners founder Jim Wallis, writer Brian McLaren and dreadlocked Christian activist Shane Claiborne.
This is why Sojourners has kicked off our “Voting for Us” campaign with this video. We think there is an opportunity to build a “post-candidate” paradigm for engaging this election. It’s an approach that starts with people and issues instead of personalities or parties. We hope to engage young Christians in issue-based advocacy but at the same time re-brand for the rest of the country what it looks like to be a Christian engaged in politics. It doesn’t need to be replica of the old Religious Right with just a different list of policy concerns, and we don’t need to bow out of the electoral process all together. It’s not easy, but it’s worth doing because it matters to our service members overseas, to the clean air and drinking water of future generations, to those who are out of work, to the world’s poorest 1 billion people and to the young and to the old. It matters to all of us.
From a storytelling perspective, stories concerning religion have a sort of universal appeal, said Cathleen Falsani, the new media director for Sojourners and a prolific author on the intersection of religion and pop culture. “Art imitates life, and in this country and most of the world, religion, and certainly spirituality and faith, is a massive part of a lot of people’s lives, whether we’re embracing it or reacting against it,” she said.
Sojourners magazine put together a pretty good roundup of answers to the question, but there’s another source for another answer that’s been on TV most Sunday afternoons. One actually doesn’t have to look too much farther than the NFL this past year for a few good specimens of evangelicals. And they just happen to be among the best quarterbacks in the league, or at least in the case of one of them, the most talked about.
Simon may not understand it, but he’s been writing and singing a lot about it, and that has generated attention. One Irish blogger suggested “So Beautiful or So What” could be the best Christian album of 2011. Sojourners’ Cathleen Falsani, an evangelical who writes frequently about religion and pop culture, called it “one of the most memorable collections of spiritual musical musings” in recent memory.
Progressive leader Jim Wallis and Southern Baptist honcho Richard Land had organized the public “discussion” about faith and politics Wednesday night because they said they’re both worried that our desperate desire to create more jobs is squeezing out talk of moral imperatives and religious values.
In evangelical America, the Revs. Richard Land and Jim Wallis are odd bedfellows. Land is a leader of the huge, traditional Southern Baptist Convention who advises conservative talk show host Glenn Beck. Wallis is a staple on lists of the country’s most influential religious progressives.