The Common Good

If It's Not Good News, It's Not Evangelical

Sojomail - October 25, 2006


"Some of us have been reluctant to speak of our faith in the political arena ... because we can see a danger that people deeply rooted in faith will seek to use God rather than be used by God."

- Tennessee State Sen. Roy Herron (Source: The Christian Science Monitor )

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Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

If It's Not Good News, It's Not Evangelical

I was at Bethel University in the Twin Cities on Tuesday. Known as a conservative evangelical school in Minnesota, and located in the heartland of the American Midwest, Bethel has long been regarded as a safe and secure place for conservative Republican politics - and even as fertile ground for recruiting by the Religious Right. And in the last two elections, most Bethel students certainly would have voted for George W. Bush.

But the wind is changing at Bethel, as it is among a new generation of evangelical students across the country. Yesterday was a dramatic demonstration of that change, one that will be most significant for both faith and politics in America.

I started my day at Bethel by speaking in chapel and asking a new generation to "clear up the confusion" in this nation about what it means to follow Jesus. I asked them if they wanted to be true evangelicals, defined by the root meaning of the word "evangel," which literally means "good news." The word was first used by Jesus in his opening statement in Nazareth, recorded in Luke 4, where he defined his own mission by saying, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news ("the evangel") to the poor ....” I told the young evangelical audience that any gospel that wasn't good news to the poor simply wasn't the gospel of Jesus Christ.

It was clear from the response in chapel that a new generation of evangelical Christians want to be, like Jesus, good news to the poor. And because of that their agenda is now much broader and deeper than just the two things the Religious Right continues to talk about as the only "moral values" issues - abortion and gay marriage. The Bethel students, like me, still believe that the sanctity of life and healthy family values are indeed important issues. In fact, they are too important to be turned into political wedge issues to get votes at election time. We need a deeper moral discussion of both those questions than we find occurring in the political arena today, but there are clearly no longer just two moral values issues for this evangelical generation. They care deeply about poverty, global warming, sex trafficking, human rights, genocide in Darfur, and the ethics of war in Iraq. And they are eager for an agenda that will call forth their best gifts, energies, and the commitment of their lives.

This generation won't accept the narrowing of scripture to only two hot-button social issues and have found those 2,000 verses in the Bible that speak of God's concern for the poor and vulnerable. For them, environmental concern is "creation care." And they want a "consistent ethic of life" that addresses all the places where human life and dignity is threatened - not just one.

That doesn't mean that their votes, which conservative Republicans have taken for granted, will now automatically go to liberal Democrats. Instead, they are eager to challenge the selective moralities of both left and right, and respond to a moral agenda for politics that will hold both sides accountable. In the future, any candidate (from either party) who speaks the moral language of politics and lifts up the issues of social justice the Bible talks so much about could attract the attention of this new generation.

The chapel was packed; every seat in the house was taken. I told them that faith is for the "big stuff," that politics was failing to solve our deepest crises, and that it was a time for faith-inspired movements to change both politics and history as we have done many times before, invoking the abolition of slavery campaign and the civil rights movement, among others. When the students rose to their feet at the end it didn't just feel like a standing ovation, but rather an altar call, with students standing to say they want their faith and their lives to make a difference in our world.

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Top Stories:

Evangelicals lobby Bush on Sudan crisis
by Rachel Zoll
Associated Press 10-19-2006
Liberal and conservative evangelicals set aside their political differences Wednesday to urge that President Bush do more to end the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan. The Rev. Jim Wallis, head of the liberal Sojourners/Call to Renewal, an evangelical social justice movement, and the Rev. Richard Land, head of the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, are among the leaders of the Evangelicals for Darfur campaign. »read more

Evangelicals broaden their moral agenda
The Washington Post
The Darfur appeal was backed by full-page ads in yesterday's Washington Post and other newspapers, paid for by $575,000 in donations from two individuals who wish to remain anonymous, according to Jack Pannell, spokesman for the liberal evangelical magazine Sojourners. "Without you, Mr. President, Darfur does not have a prayer," said the ads, addressing Bush. "This is an important day. You see evangelical leaders from across the political spectrum coming together to speak as one voice," Jim Wallis, Sojourners' editor, told reporters. »read more

Evangelicals urge Darfur action
by Julia Duin
The Washington Times 10-19-2006
"Darfur should be on the front pages until this is resolved," said Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners magazine and a founder of the Call to Renewal network. "But it falls off the front page again and again. We cannot resolve this until we stop [merely] talking about it." Mr. Wallis' group, which represents the evangelical left, has teamed up with 23 mostly conservative evangelical groups or leaders in placing radio and newspaper ads urging Mr. Bush to push for a multinational force in western Sudan. Several of the leaders are seeking to meet personally with the president - a fellow evangelical - to discuss the issue. »read more

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"Sojourners in the news" articles are the most recent news clippings that mention Sojourners in any way - whether favorably or unfavorably. Though we provide the text on our site for your convenience, we do not necessarily endorse the views of these articles or their source publications.


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