The Common Good

Reality Has Set In

Sojomail - December 6, 2006


"Jesus loved and accepted others without approving of everything they did. That's our position too, but it upsets a lot of people ...."

- Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, responding to conservatives who criticized his invitation to Sen. Barack Obama to attend an HIV/AIDS conference Warren hosted at his church. (Source: ABC News)

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Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

Reality Has Set In

In yesterday's confirmation hearing of Robert Gates, an extraordinary exchange took place. Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), who will become chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee in the next Congress, asked Gates: "Do you believe that we are currently winning in Iraq?" Gates replied, "No, sir." With that simple answer, he directly contradicted everything the Bush administration has said for the last four years. Just six weeks ago at an Oct. 25 press conference, the president was asked if the U.S. was winning in Iraq. He replied, "Absolutely, we're winning."

Finally, reality has set it. Or, more truthfully, it has been forced on the administration by the vote of the American people.

When Gates was asked, "Do you believe the Iranians are trying to acquire nuclear weapons capability?" he answered, "Yes, sir, I do." But to the question, "Do you support an attack on Iran?" he replied, "I think that we have seen in Iraq that once war is unleashed, it becomes unpredictable. And I think that the consequences of a military conflict with Iran could be quite dramatic. And therefore, I would counsel against military action, except as a last resort and if we felt that our vital interests were threatened." That's another difference from the rumors that continue to fly around Washington.

This morning, the bipartisan Iraq Study Group briefed President Bush on its report, which will be publicly released later today. I'll have more to say about that tomorrow, but news reports are saying it will call for the withdrawal of nearly all U.S. combat troops by early 2008, as well as urge talks with Iran and Syria - both of which the president has consistently opposed.

And finally, the resignation this week of John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations deserves a note. Bolton, who drew strong Senate opposition and was appointed by Bush without confirmation, was a combative figure who seemed to enjoy attacking the U.N. more than working with it. He now joins Donald Rumsfeld and a growing number of other neoconservatives who led the charge into Iraq but are now on the sidelines.

Some of the former war leaders are now changing their minds. Kenneth Adelman, longtime friend of Rumsfeld and supporter of the war as a member of his Defense Policy Board, told The New Yorker that at a meeting of the Board last summer, he said, "what we're doing now is just losing." Rumsfeld didn't like to hear that. Adelman says, "He was in deep denial - deep, deep denial." Rumsfeld's response was to remove him from the Board, saying, "You've become disruptive and negative."

The president reluctantly accepted Bolton's resignation and told reporters, "I'm not happy about it." As a new national debate begins on Iraq, there will be many more things the president won't be happy about but may have to accept.

U.S. deaths have now reached 2,900, and Iraqi deaths are in the hundreds of thousands. For their families and loved ones, reality set in long ago. It is the reality that we must now all be accountable to every day in the new debate on Iraq.

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Alice Scott-Ferguson: Hope for an End to Hostilities
The animus between the traditional (complementarian) and egalitarian views of women's roles shows little sign of abating. The polarized positions on such issues as whether a woman should submit to her husband; whether she is allowed to preach or indeed is permitted to do anything without male permission, is a polemic that has its vociferous spokespersons on both sides. With an evangelical zeal, I hold to the equality of men and women in every sphere of life. Over the years, I have despaired of change, disparaged the other point of view, and denigrated the holders of such an untenable position.

Jim Wallis: Working Together
On Friday, I wrote about the invitation from Sen. Harry Reid to speak on the Democrat's weekly radio address and the difficult decision it presented. I said that I value my independence and nonpartisanship, and I didn't want to be perceived as "in the pocket" of any political party. From the responses I've received, it appears that the message did rise above the venue. I've gotten many favorable e-mails, phone calls, and comments thanking me for my words.

Randy Woodley: Missions Still 'Kill the Indian to Save the Man'
I recently spoke and taught at a Christian college in Pennsylvania during their annual missions week. The students took the challenge from a Native American well and they asked some very good questions. I was impressed at their engagement with the world. Before arriving at the school I stopped in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, at what remains of the very first American Indian Boarding School in America. This relatively forgotten chapter in American history remains unknown to many - but not to Native Americans. It is the proverbial "elephant in the living room."

Becky Garrison: Selling the Nativity
Through this couple's eyes, I saw how these two ordinary people - who barely knew each other - fell in love as they ventured on an extraordinary journey that would change humankind. Also, I appreciated that unlike other lily white adaptations of the life of Christ, Keisha Castle-Hughes (Mary) is Maori, Oscar Isaac (Joseph) is Guatemalan, and most of the major roles feature actors of Iranian, Israeli, Sudanese, and Algerian descent. Finally, Hollywood gave us a biblical cast of people who look like they might have actually lived in the Middle East (the notable exception being the Northern European-looking baby Jesus). As I prepared to write my reflections on this seemingly sentimental yet sweet flick, an e-mail hit my inbox advertising all the promotional opportunities available to congregations. I began to experience a bit of déjà vu from The Passion.

Ryan Beiler: He'll Always Be My President of the Christian Coalition
The Washington Post reports that he's "in favor of tackling global warming, increasing the minimum wage and opposing the death penalty." Kind of makes you wonder how the Christian Coalition ever nominated this guy in the first place. I agree with Becky Garrison's recent post that despite the conservative outcry that forced his resignation, Rev. Hunter's candidacy alone is a ray of hope in Christian political engagement - especially his assessment that there is a growing constituency with his broader justice perspective, a constituency whose existence the Right and even many journalists constantly question.


This Weekend - Prayer and Action for Darfur

As the situation in Darfur worsens, it's essential to raise awareness among our communities and to raise our voices to those in power! Have your church participate in the worldwide weekend of prayer and action for Darfur on Sunday, Dec. 10. You can download a toolkit of prayers, readings, and resources to incorporate into your church's Sunday worship service.

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Top Stories:

Democrats Tap Religious Leader for Radio Talk
The Washington Post
Democrats turned to an evangelical Christian to give their weekly radio address on Saturday, citing a desire to avoid partisanship after last month's elections that gave them control of Congress. "I want to be clear that I am not speaking for the Democratic Party, but as a person of faith who feels the hunger in America for a new vision of our life together, and sees the opportunity to apply our best moral values to the urgent problems we face," the Rev. Jim Wallis said in his remarks.

Rev. Wallis: Dems, GOP Must Cooperate
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Democrats and Republicans should work together to find new ways to end poverty, curb government corruption, and strengthen families, Rev. Jim Wallis said Saturday. "Answering the call to lift people out of poverty will require spiritual commitment and bipartisan political leadership," Wallis, the head of the liberal Sojourners/Call to Renewal, an evangelical social justice movement, said in the weekly Democratic radio address.

The Widening Gaps in the Evangelical-Republican Coalition Stratfor
The leadership of the evangelical movement is beginning to split on these issues. In addition to Hunter, influential evangelicals such as conservative Wheaton College President Duane Litfin and the more liberal Jim Wallis are increasingly pressing for a new issue set.

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