The Common Good

Take Back Our Faith - Successes and Next Steps

Sojomail - August 27, 2004

Quote of the Week Johnny Cash is not a Republican. (Or a Democrat?)
Batteries Not Included David Batstone: Take back our faith - successes and next steps
Multimedia Video: The Religious Right gone wild
Politically Connect Celsius 9/11
Urban Legends Hoax Watch: Is John 16:3 a popular verse among politicians?
Soul Works Tolstoy on Christ's teachings
Building a Movement Call for debt justice
Culture Watch Will video games with Christian values sell?
Web Sitings History lesson | Global voices | Feeling down?
Boomerang Readers write
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THANK YOU for spreading the word! SojoMail readers have told nearly 22,000 people about our "God is not a Republican...or a Democrat" petition! If you haven't already helped spread the word - or want to spread it even more - >>Click here to tell your friends


Johnny Cash is not a Republican. (Or a Democrat?)

"I hesitate to even call this a grassroots protest - there isn't a whole lot of grass in NYC and Brooklyn.... It stems from the concrete resistance we hold in our hearts to the defamation of the memory of Johnny Cash."

- Activist Erin Siegal, discussing a protest against an exclusive Johnny Cash-themed party sponsored by the American Gas Association to be held at Sotheby's auction house during the Republican National Convention. Source:

"I wear the black in mournin' for the lives that could have been, each week we lose a hundred fine young men.
And I wear it for the thousands who have died, believen' that the Lord was on their side.
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died, believen' that we all were on their side."

-- Johnny Cash, from the song, "Man in Black."


Take back our faith - successes and next steps
by David Batstone

In the past week, tens of thousands of people have joined us to say in a very public way that we want our faith back.

We are Christians - as well as other spiritual friends who respect our way when we actually live in accordance with the teachings of Jesus - and we have had enough. Enough of having to explain to the world that we are not the kind of "Christian" that usually comes to mind when the word is used.

We cannot allow the Religious Right to tell the world that "God is pro-war" (as Jerry Falwell has done) when Jesus tells us to be peacemakers. We cannot keep silent when the Religious Right seems to say "blessed are the rich" and "judgment upon the poor" when Jesus said the very opposite! The Religious Right has told many people that God hates them for who they are. We believe - and the Bible tells us so - that God loves the whole world.

And now, the final straw. Pat Robertson and many of his colleagues tell their followers that God has blessed George W. Bush and instruct them that it is their duty to keep him in the White House. Enough!

The "Take Back Our Faith" campaign has only just begun. I have fabulous news to share of how it has gone so far, and I want to let you know what is yet to come.

We launched a petition to you - our loyal SojoMail readers - first. Over the past week, more than 30,000 of you have put your name behind our statement declaring that "God is Not a Republican. Or a Democrat." In the next couple of weeks we will be circulating our petition to hundreds of thousands more, helped by friends with large e-mail lists who want their constituency to have the chance to make their faith known.

You, our loyal SojoMail readers, also have put up your hard-earned money to testify to your ardent beliefs. During the past week, you gave us more than $100,000 - nearly 3,000 individual donors got us there - to put an ad in The New York Times on Monday, August 30, which is the opening day of the Republican National Convention in New York City. Click here for the ad.

We want the convention delegates to know in no uncertain terms that Christianity is not a sub-department of the party. In the past week, I have received a few letters asking why we did not proclaim the same message to the Democratic Convention. There is no comparable movement within the Democratic Party to ordain by God a candidate or party. In a recent issue of Sojourners magazine, I wrote an investigative story on that segment of the Christian church that identifies itself almost wholly with the Republican Party. Its aims are the Republican Party aims, and this Religious Right movement exercises a terrifying influence on public policy. Click here to read that piece.

Our editor-in-chief, Jim Wallis, was invited to speak to a "People of Faith Luncheon" during the Democratic Convention, and he made clear to delegates our position that God is not a Democrat. "Just because a Religious Right has fashioned itself for political power in one predictable ideological guise does not mean those who question this political seduction must be their opposite political counterpart. The Republican Party has misstepped in co-opting religious leaders. The Democratic Party should not make the same mistake. The best public contribution of religion is precisely not to be ideologically predictable or a loyal partisan, but to always raise the moral issues that will challenge both left and right, and governments who put power above principles. The best thing for the country and for politics is to let the prophetic voice of faith be heard," Wallis said.

Many of your letters also asked us to take our message to communities beyond New York City. We agree 100 percent! You gave us enough funds to place our statement in The Lynchburg News & Advance - Jerry Falwell's home newspaper - as well as The Virginia Pilot - Pat Robertson's home newspaper. We will also place our statement in The Colorado Springs Gazette - the home paper of James Dobson and Focus on the Family - to coincide with a Jim Wallis speaking engagement in Colorado in early September. We want the Religious Right to know that WE WANT OUR FAITH BACK.

And we do not plan to stop there! Thanks to your support and several major donors, we have created a special fund to match local organizing efforts to place our statement in newspapers across the country! For every dollar that you raise to put our statement in your local newspaper, we can match it dollar for dollar!

So please do your part to keep the momentum building. Here are three simple things that you can do TODAY:

1) Sign our petition if you have not yet done so

2) Send our petition - you also may want to send our flash video - to your entire e-mail friend list

3) Send a donation that will enable us to put our statement in newspapers across the USA - it's a great way for our overseas friends to make their voices heard in this country as well.

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


Video: The Religious Right gone wild

If you haven't already seen our satirical flash video on the "Heavenly Convention" of the Religious Right, it's a must-see (and a must-share):

>>Click here to watch it now

If you have seen it, but still can't believe the actual, non-satirical quotes attributed to Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson that appear in it, check the sources on our facts page.

Sojourners is currently planning a series of free Election-Year Organizing Seminars in the following states in conjunction with Call to Renewal's Bus Tour: Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Please contact us if you are interested in helping host a seminar in your church, community center, college, or seminary. For more information, e-mail or call 1-800-714-7474 x259. Seminars will be held in August and September, so time is of the essence.


Celsius 9/11
by Will Braun

As a Canadian who won't be at the U.S. ballot box in November, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 raises issues beyond the tangled questions of Bush, Kerry, Nader, or none of the above. The nonpartisan question on my mind as I left the theatre was: "How much more of God's love could we experience by boldly questioning our oil-intensive lifestyles?"

Fahrenheit 9/11 leaves me wanting to extricate myself from the oil system. I don't want any hint of crude on my conscience. I don't want my faith journey encumbered by it. The film increases my zeal for biking, gardening, buying local, and similar spiritual disciplines.

If we are going to talk about peace and justice in church, we have to talk about how we get ourselves to and from church, and what that means for our souls. We have to talk about all those things in our lives that require oil in one way or another.

Each step toward extricating ourselves from the grasp of oil is a step closer to the God of love. For these are questions of love - how do our actions affect our neighbors? This is as basic as it gets, and yet so readily overlooked. This is the hard, exciting, promising work of faith in this age.

+ Read the full article


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Hoax Watch: Is John 16:3 a popular verse among politicians?

A popular e-mail hoax is making the rounds, targeting both Bush and Kerry. It goes something like this:
[Candidate you don't like] gave a big speech last week about how his faith is so "important" to him. In this attempt to convince the American people that we should consider him for president, he announced that his favorite Bible verse is John 16:3.

Of course the speech writer meant John 3:16, but nobody in the [candidate's] camp was familiar enough with scripture to catch the error.

And do you know what John 16:3 says? "And they will do this because they have not known the Father nor Me."

This hoax also targeted Gore in the 2000 election, according to, which also reports that commentator Cal Thomas, in his book Blinded by Might: Can the Religious Right Save America? recounts that the elder George H.W. Bush actually did make this mistake in a 1990 speech.

+ Read more

+ Read Sojourners' interview with Cal Thomas

+ Read an excerpt from Thomas' book, Blinded By Might


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Tolstoy on Christ's teachings

"There are many reasons for the failure to comprehend Christ's teaching...but the chief cause which has engendered all these misconceptions is this: that Christ's teaching is considered to be such as can be accepted, or not accepted, without changing one's life."

- Leo Tolstoy

Source: The Daily Dig


Call for debt justice

Building on momentum from this summer's G-8 meeting, Jubilee USA is organizing a mass call-in to the White House and Treasury on September 1 to demand justice and mercy for the world's poorest indebted nations - many of which pay more in interest each year than on health care. Find out how you can make your voice heard this week.

+ Learn more


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.


Will video games with Christian values sell?

Fans of The Simpsons may remember the episode where Bart and the Flanders kids play a video game called "Billy Graham's Bible Blasters" (Rod: "Convert the heathen!" Bart: "Got 'em!" Tod: "No, you just winged him and made him a Unitarian.") Since reality is never far behind animated television, a new wave of faith-based video games are on the way with plans to market them outside of the Christian subculture. As The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports, the new game makers are trying to create heroes that use the power of God and scripture rather than the extreme violence of many popular mainstream games. The paper quotes Sojourners Executive Editor David Batstone as saying, "Rather than fight it, religious folks are now trying to offer alternative venues for both content and technology." Titles include: "Catechumen," "Matzah Man" (a Torah-ized version of Pac-Man), and "Charlie Church Mouse."

+ Read the full article


History lesson

Adbusters has created an animated timeline of 200 years of U.S. interventions, coups, incursions, covert actions, proxy armies, support for armed insurgents, and multilateral offensives.

+ Take a walk down memory lane

Global voices

Chicago Public Radio's Worldview program has collected interviews from around the world from youth who are involved in global conflict.

+ Those who have ears, let them hear

Feeling down?

Check out the scientifically designed self-esteem games developed by McGill University's psychology department.

+ Get happy


Readers write

Jessica Kantrowitz writes from Thomaston, Maine:

I am very happy to see that Jim Wallis and Sojourners are working against the idea that Christians must unthinkingly toe the Republican party line. I am also glad that there seems to be a strong sense that neither party fully represents Christian values at the moment. I want to reiterate Laura Singleton's warning [Boomerang 8/18/2004], however, that we not repeat the errors we lament in others. I signed the "God is not..." petition, but I was slightly concerned about the three dots between Republican and Democrat. The dots create the impression that the latter is a mere concession. Better to say, God is neither a Republican nor a Democrat. But I understand that they were going for dramatic effect. (I almost think it would have been more effective to say, "God is not a Democrat...or a Republican." That might have tricked more Republicans into reading it!)


Dr. Sheri Wells-Jensen writes from Bowling Green, Ohio:

Yes, good people, I did sign the "Take Back Our Faith" petition, but with a heavy heart. Certainly, Revs. Falwell and Robertson are out of line and President Bush may well be a madman, but neither does Kerry speak to me of peace, justice, or true stewardship of the earth. Should I vote for Kerry who does seem to be the lesser of two evils? I may very well do that, but if I do it, I will be remembering uneasily that Kerry swims in the same seas as other well-funded, mainstream, perhaps well-intentioned candidates. He may be an alternative to Bush, but can we stop for a minute in our dash to defeat Bush to recall that less war is not peace, less oppression is not justice, and less consumption is not simple living? Kerry is at best a compromise, a "practical" alternative to Bush's insanity, but a vote for him is not an expression of my faith any more than a vote for Bush would be. Is 2004 a year to be "practical" people as opposed to passionate followers of the faith?


Paul L. Whiteley Sr. writes from Louisville, Kentucky:

God is not a political football to be kicked around by Democrats and Republicans. Neither party is more Godlike than the other, and God does not favor one party over the other. God is not pulling for either George W. Bush or John Kerry to be America's next president. Our Creator gives us the freedom to make right and wrong choices, even the freedom to be an atheist or agnostic. We reap the consequences of our choices, good or bad.

But what God does require of us is that we do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly, not arrogantly, with our God. We must love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and love our neighbors as well as we love ourselves. God wants all of us to walk the walk, not just talk the religious talk. If we do what God requires of us, it will help us to make the right choices in the voting booth. We dishonor and displease God when we deliberately use God for political gain. I am a person of faith who doesn't need Jerry Falwell to tell me who to vote for.


Jon Kuhrt writes from London, U.K.:

There have been a lot of e-mails in Boomerang about the negativity of SojoMail. Christians do need to be constructive and argue for what they are for, not just critique and deconstruct. But we also have to understand the context and reality of the current political landscape - that right-wing fundamentalism is the most powerful religion in the world. We have to subvert it. In extreme situations, it is not biblical to reduce our campaigning to an apologetic whisper. God told Isaiah to "raise your voice like a trumpet and declare to my people their rebellion"; John the Baptist publicly exposed Herod's hypocrisy; Jesus subverted the temple-cult by turning over the market stalls and denouncing the powerful; and John pictured the Roman Empire as a Beast. Were they going a bit over the top? Were they being "unpatriotic?" Christians should be passionate about justice to "speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy" (Proverbs 31:9).


Russ Buckbee writes:

I'm delighted that "God is Not a Republican...or a Democrat" is winning in your bumper-sticker contests, since we all know she's a Green.

+ See our bumper sticker poll results


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