The Common Good

A Kairos Moment on Poverty

Sojomail - June 9, 2005


06.09.2005 www.sojo.net
Quote of the Week » No easy answers
Hearts & Minds » Jim Wallis: A kairos moment on poverty
Building a Movement » National day of action on Darfur
Palestine Journal » Has the church forgotten Bethlehem?
Religion and Politics » Debunking traditional gender roles
Warning: Satire » Church growth conference helps pastors feel like miserable failures
Iraq Journal » Fallujah: An unnatural disaster
Soul Works » Poetry: Home City Home
Boomerang » Readers write
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK ^top

"To demand that others should provide you with textbook answers is like asking a strange woman to give birth to your baby. There are insights that can be born only of your own pain, and they are the most precious."

- Janusz Korczak

Source: Daily Dig



HEARTS & MINDS ^top

A kairos moment on poverty
by Jim Wallis

The Washington National Cathedral was full on a Monday night. More than 1,000 people of faith had gathered for a convocation focused on the world's hungry people - at home and around the globe - sponsored by America's Second Harvest, Bread for the World, Call to Renewal, and the Interfaith Anti-Hunger Coordinators. An amazing procession of religious leaders from almost every major faith tradition in America led the service. Evangelical leaders stood beside heads of mainline Protestant denominations, a Catholic cardinal, bishops from the historic Black churches, Jewish rabbis, and Muslim imams. The main homilist, Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane of Cape Town, South Africa, noted the moral convergence of such a wide spectrum of American religious life and pronounced this a "kairos" moment - when regular time ("kronos") gives way to a spirit-filled moment in history and a new sense of time takes over.

The massive reality of global hunger and poverty has revealed our own spiritual poverty and is bringing us together. The religious leaders gathered at Washington's National Cathedral also have different political views. But maybe soon overcoming poverty could become a bipartisan issue and a nonpartisan cause. That same day, I received a powerfully persuasive message from evangelical leader Rick Warren, who urged his entire e-mail list to join the 800,000 people who have signed on to the ONE campaign to overcome poverty, alongside sponsors such as World Vision, Bread for the World, Sojourners, and U2's Bono.

The next day, British Prime Minister Tony Blair was in Washington, D.C., to meet with President George W. Bush, primarily to discuss the goals for the upcoming G8 meeting for heads of state planned for Gleneagles, Scotland, in early July. During his packed one-day schedule, Blair asked to meet with a small group of religious leaders to discuss the issues involved in the G8 Summit, especially with regard to Africa - which he has described as "the fundamental moral challenge of our time." Some of the same people from the night before gathered again for the hour-long meeting with the British leader whose country will be hosting the crucial international gathering in just three weeks.

We noted the diversity of religious leaders and traditions sitting around the table, including Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago, Ted Haggard of the National Association of Evangelicals, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of the Catholic Bishops Conference, Bishop John Chane of the Episcopal Church, and Bob Edgar of the National Council of Churches. From the Southern Baptist leader to the Muslim imam, we each expressed a real hope that something very new and powerful might come out of our common resolve.

We spoke of how for the first time the world has the knowledge, information, technology, and resources to substantially end extreme poverty as we know it, but that what is still lacking is the moral and political will to do so. And we agreed that to generate such moral will is part of the job of the religious community. We thanked Mr. Blair for the leadership that the British government, under he and British Chancellor Gordon Brown, is taking and offered both our support and readiness to say to ourselves and all our political leaders that in light of the growing crises of global poverty, disease, and conflict, we all must do much more.

The goals for the G8 Summit are clear: to come to an agreement on 100% debt cancellation for as many of the world's poorest nations as possible, and to substantially increase the wealthy nations' contribution to relieving the crises of hunger and disease, especially HIV/AIDS, and most urgently in Africa. Movement toward fair and just trade to allow poor nations to better lift themselves out of poverty is also a goal for many. News reports indicated that Mr. Blair was in Washington to encourage the Bush administration to take a stronger leadership role in accomplishing these goals.

The day after the Blair meeting, Sojourners' organizer Adam Taylor left for London to finish planning for a church leaders forum we are co-sponsoring with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who will host the day-long gathering for U.S. and U.K. church and agency leaders at Lambeth Palace on the eve of the critical G8 meeting. In September, more plans are under way for religious leaders and congregations across the nation to focus on an important U.N. Special Session to assess the progress of the Millennium Development Goals, which have been signed by 147 countries (including the U.S.) and aim to cut extreme poverty by half over 15 years.

All these efforts are being undertaken to bring the religious community's moral energy and agency to bear on the world's pre-eminent moral issue. Despite our many deep and sometimes painful divisions, the growing crisis of the world's most vulnerable people is serving to bring many of us together. And that is a sign of hope in a world that desperately needs some right now.

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BUILDING A MOVEMENT ^top

National day of action on Darfur

Since the Darfur genocide began in 2003, up to 400,000 people have lost their lives. More than 2.5 million people have been displaced, their livelihoods and villages destroyed by government forces and their proxy militias, and thousands of women and girls have been raped.

The religious community in the United States has the power to help end the genocide and quell the humanitarian crisis that has come in its wake. Now is the time to make our voices heard.

Sojourners, in partnership with Africa Action, Cedar Ridge Community Church, and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, is organizing five Sundays of public worship in Washington, D.C., to focus on Darfur. But our voices will only have traction if they are joined by a chorus of your voices and prayers around the country. Please join us for a National Day of Action on Darfur on Sunday, July 10. As we'll be worshiping and providing political witness at the White House here in Washington, we ask that you join us in your own community. We're asking you to talk to your pastor, rabbi, or faith leader about including Darfur in your worship service on the weekend of July 10.

Sojourners also is compiling prayers, liturgies, and other worship resources, which you can receive by e-mailing organize@sojo.net.

Please join us in raising the voice of the faith community to give real meaning to the words Never Again.

In peace,
Adam, Katie, and Matt
Sojourners' Organizing Team

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PALESTINE JOURNAL ^top

Has the church forgotten Bethlehem?


A portion of the Israeli separation barrier - a 400-mile system of walls and fences that annexes 10% of the West Bank - will surround Bethlehem residents, cutting them off from Jerusalem and even the rest of the West Bank. (Photo by Omar Tesdell)
In Bethlehem today, 22,000 Palestinian Christians face life in an "open-air prison," according to a new booklet by the Applied Research Institute-Jerusalem and the International Center of Bethlehem, an ecumenically oriented institution based in the Lutheran Church.

According to the 28-page study - "O Little Town of Bethlehem: What is its Future?" - Israel plans to expand the separation wall by 30 miles and build 18 miles of new military-controlled, settlement-linking roads. This will confine the Bethlehem triangle to 7 square miles and confiscate 17,500 acres of Palestinian land.

"The only access [to and from Bethlehem] will be through two 'gates' for people and one for commercial traffic - all controlled by the Israeli military," reads the study. "As God's children, we are all part of the Body of Christ. But Bethlehem is being cut off from that Body. Palestinian Christians are not only being cut off from Jerusalem and other Palestinian cities but even from their sisters and brothers around the world.... Will the world be witness to a Holy Land that, for the first time since Christ breathed its air, will be without a vibrant, growing Christian community?"

+ Learn about the situation in Bethlehem

+ Join a discussion on this topic


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RELIGION AND POLITICS ^top

Debunking traditional gender roles
by Sandra Dufield

The attempt by House Republicans to keep women from serving in military combat support and service units is a tangible example of a broader conservative agenda concerning the place and function of women.

Seeing their "family values" motto becoming a staple in the American vernacular, many right-wing religious conservatives are attempting to make another plank of the Republican Party platform a part of the American psyche by promoting traditional roles for men and women.

Armed with claims of "tradition" and a narrow interpretation of the Bible, many religious conservatives believe the best way for men and women to have a successful marriage is when the husband is "the leader" and has final decision-making authority and the wife submits to his leadership and decision-making.

Shades of this hierarchical marriage model are even finding proponents in pop culture. Hopping on the "father knows best" bandwagon, Dr. Phil tells husbands their role is to be "the leader." Star Jones informs The View's audience the husband is to be "the priest and king" - the one "in charge."

While Hollywood is fad-driven and can be excused from such nonsense, judicial and government figures charged with interpreting constitutional and civil law cannot.

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WARNING: SATIRE ^top

SATIRE: Church growth conference helps pastors feel like miserable failures

PEORIA, Ill. - The "Bigger Church, Bigger Impact" conference wrapped on Friday, leaving participants feeling drained and dejected.

"I came here thinking my church was doing all right. Now I see we're so dinky and dumb, it's not even funny," says Pastor Steve Irvine of Reno, Nev., who went to his hotel room and cried after each session.

Several faith-filled conference speakers shared how they grew their churches to tens of thousands of members with various ministry techniques. In the foyer afterward, many participants wore tight grins. Some broke down on the spot.

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IRAQ JOURNAL ^top

Fallujah: An unnatural disaster
by Joe Carr, Christian Peacemaker Teams

Fallujah is devastating to drive through. There is more destruction and rubble than I've ever seen; even more than in Rafah, Gaza. The U.S. has leveled entire neighborhoods, and about every third building is destroyed or damaged from April and November 2004 U.S. air and ground assaults. The city looks like it's been hit by a series of tornados. Rubble and bullet holes are everywhere. ...

A Sunni cleric told us that during the first invasion, several families near his mosque took cover in a home. U.S. troops used megaphones to order them out into the street and told them to carry a white flag. They complied, but when they all got out, the soldiers opened fire and killed five. He said one boy had run to his mother who'd been shot, and Americans shot him in the head. A U.S. commander cried as this happened, "but what good were his tears?" the cleric asked. "He didn't do anything to stop it."

During our meeting with the cleric, a man told us, "The Americans shot and killed my 15-year-old daughter. Was she a terrorist?" The U.S. military denied killing her. "With all respect to you," the man said, "I hate Americans; they killed my family. They shot and killed my sister-in-law while she was washing clothes, and my other brother's hands and feet were blown off." He apologized for interrupting, but said that he had to tell us because he's in so much pain.

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SOUL WORKS ^top

Home City Home
by Joseph Lapp

The lanes of I-270 split, east and west -
a welcoming gate. In the eastern sky
a buttertub moon, scudded with clouds.

He thinks of home - the neighborhood,
downtown, buildings, friends that wait for him.
"Freedom," he thinks, "for the next three months."

In the west, the sudden glare of a spotlight
arrests the scene. The helicopter's search
reminds him of the city's crime, the jury seats.

"Can't you see," he yells, "that the moon is out?
Cut off the light; the prosecution can wait -
sequester your whirly-bird and watch that moon."

But the search goes on.
A gavel flattens the moon.
Prison bars streak the sky.

Joseph Lapp is a writer, poet, community activist, amateur historian, and sometimes caterer who lives in Washington, D.C. He is currently working on a book about his Kenilworth neighborhood, its history, and his family's experience there.


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BOOMERANG ^top

Readers write

Editor's note: Several readers expressed confusion as to Sojourners' attitude toward comments made by Charles Colson in last week's quote of the week. They wondered why we were promoting his perspective ["Colson on Deep Throat: Secrecy is a moral value?" SojoMail 6/2/2005]. To answer the rhetorical question posed by the title to that section: No, we do not believe that secrecy is a moral value. Deep Throat good. Nixon bad. We regret any confusion, and affirm the readers' comments on the subject that follow.

----------

Father Tom Vigliotta, OFM, writes from Anderson, South Carolina:

Mr. Charles Colson says that Mark Felt undermined the presidency of the U.S. and that from his position he could have changed this situation through the position that he held ["Colson on Deep Throat: Secrecy is a moral value?" SojoMail 6/2/2005]. This is a little hard for me to believe. The Nixon White House was one of the most insulated and secretive administrations in our history. That administration - like others past and certainly the present one - was a master at preventing, stonewalling, distorting, and blaming others for failures that they have made. I don't know Mr. Felt's motives but I would say that if Mr. Felt had called on the Nixon administration to come clean, he would not have been seen as loyal but as a betrayer. No, Mr. Colson, Mr. Felt did not undermine the presidency, the presidency and its circle undermined the constitution - and worse yet they undermined the biblical call for truth.

----------

Michael L. Westmoreland-White writes from Louisville, Kentucky:

Charles Colson's attempt to depict W. Mark Felt as a villain because of his "Deep Throat" role in Watergate is rich with hypocrisy. Felt is a morally ambiguous person in the same way that Oskar Schindler, war profiteer and adulterer who nevertheless saved thousands of Jews from the Holocaust, was a morally ambiguous person.

Felt was a dedicated servant to the FBI of J. Edgar Hoover, which did much to undermine our democracy (including spying on civil rights workers). His anger at the Nixon administration was only partially about its disregard for the rule of law and desire to use the government to target Nixon's "enemies list." Felt himself went to prison later for using the FBI to violate citizens' rights in the COINTELPRO operations - burglaries that were not very different from Watergate.

But whatever his ambiguous morality, Felt did serve the country by his role as Deep Throat. To the contrary, bringing Nixon down wasn't a betrayal of the nation; it served the nation by forcing even presidents to live by the rule of law. The really sad note is that today's press and Congress do very little to investigate the serious misdeeds done by the executive branch under the veil of secrecy. We could use a few good whistleblowers now, and a few reporters with the courage to follow the evidence wherever it leads!

----------

Doug Steley writes from Queensland, Australia:

How odd that Mr. Colson makes no reference to the Watergate break-ins, the breach of trust and of the law that caused this moral dilemma. It brings up the question of whether public officials should be loyal to the public at large or to the government of the day.

In Australian law, concealing the crime of another person is to commit a crime yourself. People in high office or everyday life should be free to report lawbreakers but the Mark Felt case shows just how corrupt the whole system is and how dangerous being a truly honest person involved in government can be. If Mark Felt had openly revealed what he knew to be wrong, his career in law enforcement would have been over instantly. So much for a fair, honest, and impartial justice system.

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Margo McIntire writes from Harrisonburg, Virginia:

Thank you for providing voice to Christians who are feeling disillusioned and marginalized by the narrow rhetoric coming from the Right. I confess that I continue to have days when I check out the Canadian and New Zealand Web sites looking for other options. I think David Batstone makes a valid case regarding the politicization of the judiciary by citing the deplorable situation in Peru ["A case for supreme justice," SojoMail 6/2/2005]. My heart is breaking for those pobrecitos. I thank God for the untiring efforts of Generacion and pray for them.

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Tony Amoruso writes from Morgantown, West Virginia:

You should be celebrating the fact that Stassen's numbers were wrong ["New data informs abortion rate debate," SojoMail 6/2/2005]! I agree with Stassen on the economic policy issues, but it is fallacious to presume that a decline in abortions would have continued minus the election of President Bush. Given Sojourners' cautious deference to the liberal political establishment, even to the point of compromising a consistently prophetic stance regarding abortion, I am not surprised that you published an article based on sketchy facts that played to your negative views of the administration. More and more, Sojourners seems to fall into the same ruts frequented by the Religious Right - traveling in the opposite direction of course - but still guilty of spinning everything (even good news that the abortion rate is lower than previously reported!) to fit your political agenda.

We should all question why Sojourners didn't dig further to confirm or refute a claim that was based on such skimpy data. This is particularly important because the article was released in October 2004 - in the heat of a presidential campaign. Was Sojourners too eager to undermine Bush's re-election at that time to wait until Stassen's claims could be supported by more reliable data?

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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: boomerang@sojo.net. We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity.



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