The Washington Post Press Items
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.”
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.