The Common Good

Values and the 2004 Election

Sojomail - March 4, 2004

Quote of the Week Dorothy Day: A hope beyond left or right
Hearts & Minds Jim Wallis: Values and the 2004 election
Soul Works Richard Foster: Silencing self-justification
Global Vision Haiti's crisis: Beyond the headlines
P.O.V. Hoping for God's ecosystem
Warning: Satire Anti-christ watch group names Schwarzenegger top contender
On the Ground Iraq: A conversation with a concerned soldier
Web Sitings Encouraging Passion-ate discussion
Boomerang Readers write

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"It is hard, I repeat, to talk to you of religion. But without faith in each other, we cannot go on. Without hope we cannot go on. Without hope we cannot live. To those who are without hope, I remind you of Christ, your brother. Religion, thought of in terms of our brotherhood through Christ, is not the opiate of the people. It is a battle 'mighty to God unto the pulling down of fortifications.' Do not let either capitalist or communist kill this noble instinct in you."

- Dorothy Day, December 1937

Values and the 2004 election
by Jim Wallis

Jim WallisA month ago, I wrote that unless people of faith insist that the biblical imperatives for social justice, the God who lifts up the poor, and the Jesus who said "blessed are the peacemakers" were brought into the political debate, the "values questions" and "moral issues" in this year's election will be restricted to the Ten Commandments in public courthouses, marriage amendments, prayer in schools, and abortion.

Events have moved fast in the weeks since. A decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Court to permit same-sex marriage and the mayor of San Francisco beginning to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples has brought that issue to the front pages. In response, President Bush announced his support for a constitutional amendment to ban such marriages. It has suddenly become the "moral" and "values" issue in the media.

But in a new national poll, an overwhelming percentage of voters see it another way. A poll commissioned by The Alliance to End Hunger and Call to Renewal was conducted last week by a leading bipartisan polling group. Those polled were asked: "The question of values is sure to be important to many voters this November. As you decide your vote for president of the United States, which of the following would be more important to you: hearing a candidate's position on gay marriage or hearing a candidate's plan for fighting poverty?"

Those polled were a representative sample of likely voters - Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, and diverse in racial and faith background. In the poll, an overwhelming majority of voters said that in deciding their vote for president, they would rather hear a candidate's plan for fighting poverty (78 percent) than a candidate's position on gay marriage (15 percent). The polling also showed that even in the midst of budget belt-tightening voters want Congress to strengthen anti-hunger programs. Traveling around the country as I do, I was hopeful about the result of the poll, but I didn't expect that 78% would see poverty as such an important values question.

Apparently, 12 million children still living in poverty is indeed a moral issue for most Americans. And apparently, the pundits are misreading and misrepresenting the people about what the most important moral issues really are. "Hunger and poverty are on the rise in our country and this poll confirms that voters want to hear more from political leaders about real solutions to these serious problems," said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World and a founding member of the Alliance to End Hunger.

We must show that people of faith are united in believing that 35 million people living in poverty is a moral and religious issue that our political debate must address. We must articulate the moral issues of social justice, or others will define the values questions in much more narrow ways. The poll tells me that people are ready to hear another view. We have to make sure that they do. That is the mission of Sojourners and Call to Renewal this year - to insist that issues of poverty and hunger, war and peace, and the environment are moral issues that politicians running for office and the media covering the campaigns must recognize. Help us. Get involved. Go to and for more information.

*The poll was commissioned by The Alliance to End Hunger and Call to Renewal and conducted by Tom Freedman, Bill Knapp, and Jim McLaughlin. Jim McLaughlin is a leading Republican pollster who works extensively with Republicans in Congress. Tom Freedman is a leading Democratic consultant and worked on the 1996 presidential campaign.

Read more commentary by Jim Wallis at:

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It is important to talk about how our faith leads us to our policy choices and it is important to take action for what we believe. We urge you to vote and to help Sojourners push real religious issues in this election - not just the hot buttons:

  • Peace and national security;
  • The environment;
  • Global poverty and economic stability;
  • Health care, jobs, educational opportunity, and a compassionate concern for those who are left out

Please give a gift to Sojourners today. Your support will help to make these religious and moral issues the ones talked about in this election.

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Silencing self-justification
by Richard J. Foster

The tongue is our most powerful weapon of manipulation. A frantic stream of words flows from us because we are in a constant process of adjusting our public image. We fear so deeply what we think other people see in us that we talk in order to straighten out their understanding. If I have done some wrong thing (or even some right thing that I think you may misunderstand) and discover that you know about it, I will be very tempted to help you understand my action.

Silence is one of the deepest disciplines of the Spirit simply because it puts the stopper on all self-justification. One of the fruits of silence is the freedom to let God be our justifier. We don't need to straighten others out.

Source: "Seeking the Kingdom," by Richard J. Foster.


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Haiti's crisis: Beyond the headlines
by Kent Annan and Shelly Satran

Machine guns and machetes. Angry mobs. Young men setting up roadblocks. A body laid out on the street. Buildings smoldering, emptied by looters. Tires are burning in the streets, with smoke rising like a sad, slow offering to despair.

These are brief samples of the images you've likely seen exported from Haiti during the past month, where events culminated Sunday in the departure of Haiti's first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The drama unfolded just two months after Haiti celebrated its January 1st bicentennial - marking the extraordinary event of slaves achieving their independence from French colonialists. Now Aristide's ouster is added to Haiti's history books, which already list 32 coups d'etat.

Blame-throwing is already fully underway: This is the fault of Aristide, a strong-handed leader thoroughly corrupted by power; or the CIA and the U.S. have orchestrated all of this, even kidnapping Aristide in the final hour; or the opposition groups are nothing but former pro-Duvalier militarists grabbing for power.

Though it might be impossible to sort out exactly what happened behind the scenes, clearly Haiti's current crisis is complex. Blame can be shared by multiple parties. The good and the bad, as usual in life and politics, are all mixed up together. The political crisis has many causes, some arising from recent events and decisions, others rooted in the distant past. Haiti and her people have endured centuries of oppression and injustice. The perpetrators have been both foreign and homegrown. Widespread hunger and the hunger for power have repeatedly shown themselves to be an explosive mix.

Read more at:

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P.O.V. ^top
Hoping for God's ecosystem
by Brenda Howell

No Sweat
Along with Sojourners' special issue on the environment, I have been reading a bit of the Bible as we head into the season of Lent. As I peruse Romans I come across the idea of hoping for things unseen. What a novel idea. The gospel calls us to live in hope for God's restoration, to be made whole, to be resurrected and accepted into the reign of God, as we Christians like to say. But Paul doesn't leave it at just us people. In Romans 8:21, he says "the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God."

Our hoping for healing and wholeness in every area of our personhood cannot be separate from hoping for healing and wholeness in our ecosystems that also wait for the restoration of God. We are not the only creatures on this earth in active worship. In fact, we are co-worshippers and co-hopers in God's restoration, partners with the land and all things in it waiting for liberation. But let's face it, we North American Christians certainly act like we are the only ones who matter in our voting records, our resource use, and our general attitude of stewardship. The general Christian population isn't known as a group of global tree-huggers. It's about time we ask why not.

Read more at:

See Sojourners' special issue on the environment at:


Where Wisdom Calls: Crossroads & Open Gates
Proverbs 8:1-6, 35
You are invited to the 30th-anniversary conference of the Evangelical and Ecumenical Women's Caucus
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Interfaith panel: Dvora Weisberg and Riffat Hassan and dramatic presentation Bold Spirit across America by Linda Lawrence Hunt

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Anti-christ watch group names Schwarzenegger top contender

Anti-christ watchdog groups say Arnold Schwarzenegger, governor of California, is far and away the most likely man in the world to be the anti-christ. Many evangelical prophecy teachers see the European Union as the 10-horned confederation of Revelation 17:7-8 from which the anti-christ will arise (see Daniel 9:26). Schwarzenegger's home country of Austria belongs to the Union.

But Schwarzenegger, who will soon start publicizing his latest film, "Around the World in 80 Days," laughed off the anti-christ suggestion: "I'm focused on running the state of California and promoting the movie," he said. "It's a terrific family film about two men who go around the globe in record time, essentially taking over the world with their exploits. It sends a great message that you can do anything you want, from learning to ride a bike, to getting good grades, to seizing world power and literally ruling over everybody. I hope people will go see it."

Read more at:


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Iraq: A conversation with a concerned soldier
by Art Gish

Saddam Hussein's infamous prison just west of Baghdad is still full, except now the U.S. military is running the prison. The prison contains more than 10,000 detainees and is being expanded. The U.S. authorities allow few visits; the detained have no right to due process, and only recently have families been able to visit their loved ones.

Cliff Kindy and I had just walked through the razor wire around the prison with an Iraqi man who wanted to make an appointment to visit his brother. "He is not allowed any visits," a guard told us.

We told the Iraqi guards we wanted to talk with an American official. That is when we met "Tony," an American soldier, about 22 years old, short, and good-looking. He likes to work out in the gym, but most days he is too tired after standing guard in front of the prison for 12 hours every day. "Most days," he said, "I have no energy left after my shift to even think." When we asked him where his home was, he said, "I am homeless."

He told us he had no authority and there was nothing he or we could do to arrange a visit. He apologized for not being able to help us. He then opened up to us. He said, "The situation is a mess in Iraq, and the American military is making it worse. I can understand that the Iraqi people would be angry..."

Read more at:

Westminster Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), bordering the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, seeks Associate Pastor. Our 700+ member congregation is intellectually vibrant, progressive, and concerned with social justice. This position includes leading our longstanding university ministry, as well as guiding our mission and outreach efforts. We seek an individual who can help strengthen our understanding of Christian faith in light of contemporary ideas, foster spiritual development, and inspire us to put our faith into action. Charlottesville is located in the foothills of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and offers good schools and extensive cultural activities. Competitive salary and benefits. See or CIF# 22646.AC0. Contact: Chris Milner at

Encouraging Passion-ate discussion

If you've seen Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ and would like to participate in an online survey about the film, visit:

For those looking to take a closer look at the questions and controversy of the film, here are a few links:

The National Catholic Reporter

Evangelical Lutheran Church's "Faith Lens"

The National Council of Churches/USA

Christianity Today

Anti-Defamation League


The Christian Scholars Group on Christian-Jewish Relations


by Charles Dickinson

If Christianity - without losing its soul - is yet to avoid losing touch with the world, it must constantly update itself by dialogue with all the intellectual currents of today. To this end, the author proposes a necessary two-way dialectic between theology and the world, an ongoing dialectic ultimately essential to both church and world. $25 hardcover. To order call (313) 624-9784. Dove Booksellers, 13904 Michigan Avenue, Dearborn, Michigan, 48126.

Readers write

Chuck Stein writes:

Satire like that of David Batstone ["Stay at home and make billions," SojoMail 2/26/2004] is uncalled for in a magazine of the stature of Sojourners. Any allegations about Vice President Cheney and his connection with his previous company deserve serious investigation, not satire.

[Editor's note: For a serious investigation of Cheney's ties to Halliburton, see the 2/18/2004 issue of SojoMail at: ]


Jack DuVall writes from Washington, D.C.:

Mel Gibson's film promotes a sectarian interpretation of the events of Jesus' crucifixion and almost wholly overlooks the content of his teachings as well as his revolutionary ministry of unconditional love and prolific healing. What is worse, it does this by using the most degrading practice of modern mass entertainment - purveying violence as a form of spectacle - in order to acquire an audience for its savagely corporeal vision. This is not a film about overcoming hatred and death. It's about bloodlust, guilt, and human sacrifice. As such, it's more like pagan anthropology than Christian history.


Judy Schindler writes from Hector, Minnesota:

I sincerely hope and pray that [Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ] will touch many people's hearts. What I truly and earnestly pray for is that the biblical message to love one's enemy, to do good to those who hate us, and to work for peace and justice in the world, might be heard. There are many statements, even in the Old Testament, which say that what God really wants is not bloody sacrifice but that we should love tenderly, walk humbly with God, and do the right thing. (Micah 6:8, for example.)


Dr. Mike Rogers writes from Kansas City, Missouri:

Like Sister Margaret Anne Talbot [Boomerang 2/26/04], I too live in the heartland and am apalled at our national stand on war, but unlike her I am a registered (albeit frustrated) life-long Republican. Like Marsha Melkonian [Boomerang, same issue], I too belong to an Evangelical (Pentecostal/Charismatic) church that walks lockstep with the Republican party and equates it to Christianity. Teaching in their Bible school with a Th.D. I do have occasions to share what the Bible actually says about many situations and have not been challenged by staff to date. I doubt that that will continue forever.

Like these two ladies, I too see the need for an anti-militaristic, pro-life party that will take a BIBLICAL stand on social, moral, and economic issues. When will this country allow us to vote on issues and not for parties? I sense a growing need for a political party that will support Biblical views without promoting itself as Christian (right or left).


Hans Barsun writes from Albuquerque, New Mexico:

I am writing in response to a letter from Marsha Melkonian that begins, "I am a member of an evangelical church and I feel like the only one there who is not a war supporter and a Bush cheerleader." Later in the letter she states, "We were there to study the Bible, not to talk 'politics' and I did not feel it was an appropriate place or time to state my views. But, when is the appropriate time?"

The answer to that question is one I have struggled with, too. As a Christian amongst your brothers and sisters, the time to state your views is whenever the Bushies start stating theirs. It can be hard, especially in evangelical circles, since you may very well be standing alone. However, you may not be alone and there may be others simply holding their peace because they too are afraid to speak out. Your speaking may keep one or two or many people from simply walking away from the church and never looking back, as both my wife and I have come very close to doing ever since the (s)election of 2000. In short, those who wish to see the church stand up for what Jesus stood up for need to speak up! If we cannot find the courage to do it amongst other Christians, how can we expect to find the courage to speak out against injustice amongst non-Christians? If we, the church, cannot come to a logically consistent position that aligns with Jesus' teaching on all the grave issues facing us today, we are done.

Did Jesus hold his tongue when presented with the stupidity of the religious establishment? No, he did not, and neither should we. Yes, it is hard, and yes it has to be done lovingly, and yes it has to be done with the backing of scripture.


C. Morrison writes from Botswana:

With due respect to your diverse readers, I speak as a non-U.S., Third World citizen. I find it incomprehensible how American Christians can get all knotted up about the unborn when we can't even care for the poor people we have. It's like you feel it is a morally good thing to carpet-bomb countries where pregnant women may be and are killed (and their sons, fathers, husbands), but you have an apoplectic fit of righteous indignation about abortions at home. Do you see the irony?

Is it so hard to see that the abortion issue is merely a political tool to get voters frothed up and to set a neoconservative agenda for your presidential elections? It represents a twisted cynicism that uses abortion - and other sensitive sexual issues - to divert voters from the real issues in the impending election.


Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of views that do not necessarily represent those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice heard? Include your name, hometown, and state/province/country in a concise e-mail to: . We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity.

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