The Common Good

An Election Year Campaign: Take Back Our Faith

Sojomail - August 18, 2004

Quote of the Week Market morality
Hearts & Minds An election year campaign: Take back our faith
Piece of Mind Help Sojourners create a new bumper sticker
Globe Watch Venezuelans speak: 'Chavez stays!'
Good News Boxing with Wal-Mart's "big box" stores: California wins round 1
Media Watch Too little, too late: Pre-war Post failures
Building a Movement Sudan: Day of Conscience
Eco News Environmental stories you may have missed
Boomerang Readers write
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We're hiring! Sojourners is seeking an Executive Assistant to Jim Wallis to handle all internal and external scheduling, phone calls, and administrative tasks. Application information at:


Market morality

"Conservatives say they revere both traditional and market values. But those two sets of values so often contradict each other that conservatives have to cover their eyes...if they are to pretend to be consistent. What is the most powerful force for permissiveness in the United States? It is not liberalism. It is the free market's use of sexuality to sell products."

- Columnist E.J. Dionne Jr., discussing the Senate candidacy of beer baron Pete Coors, who was attacked by opponents in the Colorado Republican primary for "ads that are degrading to women and nearly pornographic."

Source: The Washington Post

+ Read E.J. Dionne's article in Sojourners, "Can't Buy Me Love"


An Election Year Campaign: Take Back Our Faith
by Jim Wallis

I've only asked you to do this once before - to send an e-mail alert to everybody you know. The last time was to help us get out the "6-point plan," which was a concrete alternative to war with Iraq offered by American religious leaders at the midnight hour. That plan had an enormous impact and was heard at the highest levels of the U.S. and U.K. governments, even as the leaders of both countries were bent on war.

This campaign is to raise the voice of Christian conscience in Election 2004, and to challenge the theologically outrageous claims of the Religious Right that George W. Bush is God's ordained candidate and that good Christians can only vote for him. As incredible as those statements are, it is indeed what people like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson are saying. They must not go unanswered. Faithful Christian citizenship demands that the Religious Right be challenged.

Sojourners is offering an alternative voice and giving thousands of Christians an opportunity to make their voices heard. On Monday, we sent you a petition to sign that sends a clear message to the Religious Right, to the candidates, and to America that the Falwells and Robertsons don't speak for us, and that we will hold all the candidates accountable to a wide range of Christian ethical and biblical principles. If you have not yet signed the petition, click here. And then forward it to your family, friends, and others.

This petition will also be turned into a full-page ad in The New York Times and other key newspapers around the country. We are also planning an extensive online campaign to reach out to people around the country who care about faith and politics. By doing so, we hope to change the debate on the "religious issues" in this campaign. Instead of a narrow media focus on abortion and gay marriage, we will also raise the religious issues of poverty, the environment, war, truth-telling, human rights, a moral response to terrorism, and a consistent ethic of human life as the criteria that people of faith ought to bring to this election.

I've consistently said that religion could be a key factor in this election. You can help us make sure it's being discussed in a fuller and deeper way than the leaders of the Religious Right have. Listening to them, it feels like our faith has been stolen. As I said in my column last week, it's time to take back our faith. That indeed is the name of this campaign - "Take Back Our Faith."

I believe that the era of the Religious Right is coming to an end, and the time of progressive prophetic faith has arrived. Let's make that clear in Election 2004. If this petition speaks for you, please sign it. Send it to friends and family, to people in your church, to your whole e-mail list! Donate to help place ads in The New York Times and other newspapers around the country, along with our online campaign. Help us change the debate. In the first 24 hours, more than 10,000 people already signed the petition! That's a great start to what could be a very important campaign for America's future. And you can help make that possible.

How do you get involved?
1. Read and sign the petition:
2. Tell everyone you know; and
3. Donate today to make your voice heard!

Together, we can take back our faith.

Tell a friend about SojoMail

God is Not a Republican. Or a Democrat.

Please give a gift to help Sojourners place this petition in The New York Times and as many other outlets as possible. Let's send a message to America that God is not a Republican or a Democrat, and that the Religious Right does not speak for you.

>>Click here to donate


Help Sojourners create a new bumper sticker

We at Sojourners always find it difficult to express important ideas on a bumper sticker. Issues of faith, politics, and culture don't lend themselves to short phrases that can be read and understood at 50 mph. But as part of our election-year effort to present a faithful and prophetic voice for responsible Christian citizenship, we're looking for a slogan that will encourage and inspire. We've come up with a few choices, and invite you to vote on your favorite. The results will help us design a sticker that will come out later this fall!

Click the link below to vote on your favorite of these choices:

[ ] Think. Pray. Vote.
[ ] God is Not a Republican...or a Democrat
[ ] Take Back Our Faith: The Religious Right is Wrong!
[ ] VOTE for a change

+ Choose your favorite


Bill Moyers Video Available

"Democracy in the Balance," Bill Moyers' energizing keynote address at Call to Renewal's Pentecost mobilization event in May, is now available on VHS/Video. This speech, which ran as Sojourners' August cover story, is an inspiring call to action in which Moyers confronts issues of democracy, religion, and politics that directly affect poor people in America. Call to Renewal is offering a copy of the video as a thank-you gift for contributions of $20 or more. Please include a note with your gift indicating that you'd like to receive the 40-minute video, as well as your mailing address. Send to Michael Norman, Call to Renewal, 2401 15th St. NW, Washington DC 20009


Venezuelans speak: 'Chavez stays!'
by Rose Marie Berger

"The majority of the Venezuelan voters and electors have spoken...Chavez stays!" said Marielena Ridad in Maracaibo, Venezuela. "This decision is really the voice of the majority: the poor, those who live in slum areas, the under-employed, the jobless, those who can hardly read and write, the homeless, the old and neglected, and all those who fall under the category of being excluded."

On Sunday, Venezuelans voted in unprecedented number to retain President Hugo Chavez in the country's historic recall referendum. Despite open antagonism between Chavez and the Bush administration, including covert support by the U.S. to oust the Venezuelan president, Chavez won with 58 percent of the votes, according to the Organization of American States and the Carter Center.

This is the third time since 1998 that voters have chosen Chavez, who won the 1998 and 2000 presidential elections with 56 and 59 percent of the vote, respectively. Even The New York Times, which like most U.S. media has criticized what they describe as Chavez's authoritarian leadership style, declared: "It is time for President Hugo Chavez's opponents to stop pretending that they speak for most Venezuelans. They do not, as the failure of a recall referendum, promoted by the opposition, decisively demonstrated.... Since his election as president in 1998, he has broadly respected constitutional norms - as Sunday's vote itself made clear. That is more than can be said for his opponents, who backed a briefly successful military coup attempt in 2002 and have led four national strikes aimed at bringing down the elected government."

+ Read the full article

+ Read more about Hugo Chavez and Venezuela in Sojourners


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Boxing with Wal-Mart's "big box" stores: California wins round 1

Thanks to a new ordinance recently approved by the Los Angeles City Council, superstores like Wal-Mart and Costco won't be given free reign among the city's sprawling neighborhoods. The so-called "big box" retailers have a reputation for entering communities with promises of low prices and more jobs, but often end up jeopardizing local businesses and weakening the tax base. The new ordinance will require Wal-Mart to conduct a cost/benefit analysis, considering such factors as the store's effect on businesses, housing efforts, city revenues, jobs, and affordable consumer goods. The new ordinance, hopes Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti, will elucidate the process whereby citizens and local governments vet the arrival of a superstore in their town. Other California jurisdictions have also made news lately with their efforts to muscle Wal-Mart out of their backyards.

+ Read more

+ Read Sojourners' commentary on Wal-Mart, "Always Low Wages"


On October 29-31, the Orthodox Peace Fellowship will hold its annual North American Conference at St. Nicholas Ranch Conference and Retreat Center in Dunlap, California. The conference, entitled "Salt of the Earth, Light of the World: Living the Similitudes in our Communities," will be a symposium on Orthodox ministries of peacemaking, social outreach, and environmental stewardship. Representatives of Orthodox Christian ministries working in these areas will meet with interested clergy and laypeople to discuss ways of developing a more dynamic and coordinated Orthodox social witness within the United States, beginning at the level of the local parish. This will be the first pan-Orthodox conference bringing together Orthodox ministries of peacemaking, social justice, and the environment to be held in North America. Conference info is posted at:


Too little, too late: Pre-war Post failures

In a recent front-page mea culpa, The Washington Post admits inadequate questioning of the Bush administration's case for the Iraq invasion. The article notes that in the final days of the run-up to war, an article citing CIA officials who had "communicated significant doubts to the administration" concerning Iraq's WMD programs was submitted - but not published until three days after the war began. Why the delay? "Editors blamed a flood of copy about the impending invasion," writes Post reporter Howard Kurtz. In other words, they couldn't print questions about the justification for war because they were busy covering the war. Though the article offers rare candor and insight into how editorial decisions are made, it begs the question: What important story are they marginalizing now?

"We did our job but we didn't do enough, and I blame myself mightily for not pushing harder.... We should have warned readers we had information that the basis for this was shakier [than widely believed]." - Bob Woodward, assistant managing editor

"The paper was not front-paging stuff. Administration assertions were on the front page. Things that challenged the administration were on A18 on Sunday or A24 on Monday. There was an attitude among editors: Look, we're going to war, why do we even worry about all this contrary stuff?" - Thomas Ricks, Pentagon correspondent

"The caution and the questioning was buried underneath the drumbeat.... We are inevitably the mouthpiece for whatever administration is in power." - Karen DeYoung, former assistant managing editor

+ Read the full article


Sudan: Day of Conscience

On August 25, 2004, communities across North America will engage in interfaith activities to raise public awareness about the horrific situation in Darfur and to demand that the international community take immediate and decisive action to stop the killing, rape, and destruction of villages, and to ensure that humanitarian relief reaches all those in need.

+ Find out more


Environmental news you may have missed: The good, the bad, and the World Bank

Though short on policy recommendations, a new Princeton University study asserts the realistic possibility of stabilizing greenhouse gasses with a portfolio of available technologies. + The Christian Science Monitor

"Petroleum development has been a disaster in Ecuador, generating environmental, social and cultural crises, and ultimately causing the extinction of indigenous peoples. We want to maintain our way of living, free of contamination, in harmony with nature." + San Francisco Chronicle

A semantic change in environmental rules turns "waste" from mountaintop removal mining - which buries and pollutes surrounding streams and valleys - into innocuous-sounding "fill." + The Washington Post

By ignoring findings of its own studies that fossil fuel projects have done little to advance its stated cause of reducing povery, the Bank sides with the multinational corporations that benefit most from such projects. + The Christian Science Monitor


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

Rob Mykoff writes:

I am so thankful to have had the chance to read "Take back the faith," by Jim Wallis [SojoMail 8/11/2004]. As a Jewish member of Amnesty International and, I know all too well the pitfalls of such a problem as I am reminded of it daily by the actions of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his militant friends. Here in America, it is different though. Our politicians typically use Christianity in order to raise moral support for themselves and their war-like policies. It is quite scary to see these two great nations brought into the modern "advertising" realm in which images of God, justice, and peace are twisted in such politically crafty ways.

I think the saddest part of it is that so few people seem to be speaking out about this; thankfully Mr. Wallis did. It's simple: If we find ourselves in a land where the citizens are too timid, too afraid to tell it like it is regarding political manipulation, then we'll find ourselves living in a place where liberties and morals will soon have no more power than our own dwindling political choices.


Rev. Dr. Elizabeth S. Hall writes:

I have always been told I am on the religious left. I always say no, I am in the religious middle - but the religious right has taken over so much of the space...I am now on the left. But if the principles of justice for the poor, compassion, and active participation in changing systems that keep out the weak and vulnerable are not Christian anymore, I have to say I am not Christian any longer - I am a follower of the risen Christ.


Laura Singleton writes from Cambridge, Massachusetts:

I agree with Mr. Wallis in his yearning to see a prophetic voice raised by the church in America. I see, however, in his fundamental cry that the faith be "taken back" a dangerous fallacy that would repeat the errors Wallis laments in others. The Christian faith will not be "taken" by anyone and put into service of anything - people, party, or platform. In particular, the church will shake off the compromises and expediencies inherent to politics as the ill-fitting garments that they are. As a result, the faithful Christian will forever be a "square peg" in a world of round holes, failing to fit neatly in categories, political or otherwise. Rather than "taking back" the faith, let us submit to God's desire to "take hold of" us and make us new people, citizens of his kingdom, owing allegiance only to him, and ready to engage opponents of the truth consistently, whether they sit on the right side of the aisle or the left.


Philip Williams writes from Charlotte, North Carolina:

The reason that I subscribe to your newsletter is that I very much do believe in the social gospel. But, clearly, your passions seem to be much more against the rich and in demonizing the Republicans than it is for the poor and the powerless. Were you to change your approach, you might be surprised at how much help you could get from those who you have been demonizing. For now, you do sound to them to belong to the shrill left.


Editor's note: This is one example of several international responses to Jason Welle's letter to Boomerang last week asking what voting devices we'd suggest following David Batstone's article on electronic voting ["The machine ate my vote," SojoMail 8/5/2004].

Anura Samara writes from Canberra, Australia:

Here's a solution that has worked well for Australians for many years - pencil and paper! It is easy to explain to almost every person of voting age. The results of even national elections are usually known within 4-5 hours of the closing of booths in the last state. Recounts? Easy! To me the whole electronic voting debacle (and it does look like a debacle from here) seems to be premised on the idea of selling the idea of "convenience" to voters so that some companies can sell their products. Sometimes the best solution to a problem is the simplest one, not necessarily the most modern one.


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