The Common Good

The Washington Post

The Washington Post Press Items
Over the past few weeks, I have traveled both to “Liberty Plaza” to see for myself the young people “occupying” Wall Street and to Abu Dhabi to meet with CEO’s and business leaders at a World Economic Forum summit. While the two forums couldn’t have been more different, I was surprised to find that the heart of their concerns were the same. Both groups believe that our current governmental and economic systems are broken and that change will require both structural and moral overhaul.
"Perhaps the most unusual of the meetings was one Obama had last week with a coalition of Christian religious leaders who urged him not to hammer the poor in trying to reduce the national debt."
Reporter Peter Wallsten covers the recent work done by Circle of Protection members, specifically radio ads that Sojourners launched this week.
The Obama meeting Wednesday included a dozen faith leaders who spanned the political gamut, from the progressive Sojourners to more conservative leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Association of Evangelicals.
Although the media focused on the role that political and military officials, including President Obama and Gen. David Petraeus, played in getting Jones to back down from his plan for a Koran bonfire, the faith community also had a key part. Religious leaders from many traditions condemned Jones's threats, while behind the scenes, a number of us reached out to stop Jones and support Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam behind the proposed Islamic community center in New York.
The Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of the Washington-based social justice group Sojourners, is even blunter in his assessment of the Tea Party's approach to giving. "The libertarian enshrinement of individual choice is not the pre-eminent Christian virtue," he wrote on his blog, God's Politics. "Emphasizing individual rights at the expense of others violates the common good, a central Christian teaching and tradition."
Glenn Beck has picked a fight with me, but he recently started a more troubling battle with the nation's churches with his criticism that "social justice" is "code" for "communism" and "Nazism," and that Christians should leave their churches if they preach, practice or even have the phrase on their Web site.
Others, including Jim Wallis, leader of the progressive faith movement Sojourners, who has served on the White House council, said he hopes to see the president engage with the faith community on a much deeper level on domestic and foreign policy. "I want him to listen to faith groups as much as he listens to people on Wall Street," Wallis said. "I want him to listen to faith groups as much as military leaders on Afghanistan."
One cold morning the week before Christmas, I found myself huddled with a group of homeowners and religious leaders on Pennsylvania Avenue, in the shadow of the White House and the Treasury building. The homeowners, who had all worked hard to buy their first homes, and most of whom had put enough money down to qualify for fixed-rate mortgages only to be persuaded into more exotic mortgages, were facing imminent foreclosure. We had come to stand with them.
For some, the "Christian community lifestyle" means not raising their own food remotely with "other self-sufficient Christians" but rather moving to inner-city neighborhoods and sharing resources. Groups such as D.C.-based Bread for the World and Sojourners are examples of a Christianity that is thriving and badly undercovered.