The Common Good

Questions That Weren’t Asked

Sojomail - June 14, 2007


"The darkness has fallen and invaded all of the Gaza Strip. We tried to protest against the war today, but gunmen shot at us when we tried to cross the street. This was a peaceful demonstration to try to get these gunmen to stop killing our future, to stop killing our hope. The darkness has fallen. There are no other words. Gaza is not a place for human beings anymore."

- Hossam al-Madhoun, lifelong Gaza resident. (Source: NPR)

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Questions That Weren’t Asked

I wrote last week about our historic Candidates Forum on Faith, Values and Poverty. We had only 15 minutes with each candidate, so there was not enough time to ask all of the questions I had prepared (click here for highlights of the forum). Here are four that I hoped to ask and wasn’t able to.

1. As you know, 3 billion people—half of God’s children on the planet—still live on less than $2 a day. Inspired by faith leaders and efforts such as the ONE campaign, a new generation of Christians is making ending extreme poverty a defining cause. At the 2005 G-8 Summit, leaders pledged to double aid to Africa. Our nation has endorsed the Millennium Development Goals, which commit to cutting in half the number of people living in extreme poverty. As president, what steps would you take to ensure that the United States keeps those promises to billions of people and actually leads the world in this moral and religious imperative?

2. In the New Testament, the beatitudes offer a vision for the world with statements like: "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom ... Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill ... Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." How would this biblical vision of the world shape your leadership and politics?

3. The command "be not afraid" appears frequently in the Bible, and yet U.S. foreign policy seems to be driven by fear, primarily of terrorist attacks. Our leaders seek to justify the most important decisions in foreign policy with dire warnings of impending attacks. Have we let fear push out wisdom and prudence as the primary virtues of foreign policy? Should the biblical command "be not afraid" have a role in foreign policy decision-making?

4. Partnerships between faith-based organizations and the government have raised concerns about the separation of church and state and debates over the role of churches and government in reducing poverty and meeting social needs. Some argue that having faith-based and community organizations meet more needs allows the government to shirk its duty to help the poor. Others argue that faith-based providers are best equipped to meet needs and they simply need more resources. How do you think faith-based organizations and government should work in partnership—or not—in meeting social needs?

I know the other questioners also had some great questions; there just wasn’t enough time. But the dialogue was very rich nonetheless. I am in London at the moment, and am being told that the coverage of our faith forum was very extensive in the U.K. I just had dinner with a number of British political and church leaders who believe the forum really changed the perceptions of faith and politics on this side of the pond. They were very excited to discuss the issues further.

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Rich Nathan: Three Principles for Christian Dual Citizens
It is precisely the dual citizenship of people of faith that both the secular left and the religious right deny. And in one of the strangest ironies in contemporary politics, the secular left and the religious right end up in precisely the same place. The secular left denies that there is a city of God to which they are morally accountable. There is only the city of man – utterly autonomous, self-confident, answerable only to itself. The religious right equates the city of God with the city of man. America is God’s chosen nation, our perspectives are God’s perspectives, our fights are God’s fights. So in its triumphalist self-confidence, "because God is always on our side," the religious right also ends up unaccountable to God.

Bob Francis: A New Pro-Life?
Two times last week during our Pentecost 2007 conference – at the presidential candidates forum Monday night and our march to Capitol Hill Tuesday afternoon – anti-abortion advocates not registered at our conference made their presence known in our midst. At face value, it seemed that they were there to protest our events, but I wanted to know more. So I wandered over to hear their stories and ended up talking for over an hour.

Suzan Johnson Cook: What's the Responsibility of Black Leadership?
Following last week's candidates forum, we asked the religious leaders on our panel if there were any other questions they wish they could have asked the candidates. Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook, a senior pastor at the Bronx Christian Fellowship, had this question for Barack Obama: Oprah Winfrey and Bill Cosby have been criticized for speaking out about the culpability of the Black community. If elected president of the United States, what do you believe Black leaders should do to re-instill/restore traditional faith, morals, and educational values within our community?

Philip Rizk: Will Na'el Walk On His Own?
I spent this morning with the Sisters of Charity at their shelter for disabled children in downtown Gaza City. When I first started going to the shelter, a boy called Na'el, with a consistent look of fear in his eyes, would hold on to me - not wanting to let go. Sister Delphina told me that it was the first time since he had arrived at the home that he had allowed a male to hold him. Na'el is deaf and she assumes his father had abused him before he was dropped off at their shelter. Na'el can walk but he has to be holding on to something while doing so, either a person's hand, a table, door, or his little wheeled chair.

Jonathan Mendez: Drop Air, Not Bombs
Twenty-three of the coolest people I've ever met geared up by putting on costumes, make-up, and even wigs, for the grueling brawl that ensued as we all tried to wax the stage with one another in an art form whose name betrays its beauty: air guitar. As the evening's emcee and national popularizer of air guitar, Björn Türoque (who has written a book, and been featured in a documentary and several news programs) explains, the art form's ultimate goal is nothing short of world peace. If you're holding an air guitar, you can't hold a gun.

Joel Hunter: What the Candidates Forum Could Have Been
OK. I've got to admit it - being a part of the panel to ask candidates for the presidency of the United States about their faith and moral values was just plain surreal. Kudos to Jim Wallis (and Jack Pannell and the rest of the Sojourners organization) for creating this historic event! As I reflected on what it was and what it could have been, I came up with just a couple of missing elements.


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Top Stories:

A Tentative First Step in Addressing Faith and Politics
The New York Times
In a post-forum wrap-up, the Rev. Jim Wallis, founder and editor of Sojourners and a tireless campaigner to get poverty on the nation’s political agenda, told Ms. O’Brien: “We were off to a good start tonight. Finally, a better conversation about faith and values.”

Democrats Embrace Faith, Stress Moral Agenda
The Dallas Morning News
"We no longer have a two-issue conversation about faith and politics," said the Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners, which sponsored the forum.

Democrats Take Religion Out of the Closet
The Politico
Jim Wallis, who organized the forum with Edwards, Obama, and Clinton, has spent years pushing Democrats to “broaden the conversation” on faith and politics, hoping to frame issues like poverty in religious terms.

Faith Groups Rally as Poverty Issue Gains Momentum
Religion News Service
Earlier this month, Sojourners/Call to Renewal, a nationwide network of liberal evangelicals, hosted a conference and a Democratic presidential forum dedicated in part to discussing poverty reduction.

A Pious Nation?
USA Today

The 'Hallelujah Chorus' is Heard Often in Campaigns This Time of Year
Gannett News Service

Converting the Faith Community
Congressional Quarterly Weekly

Democrats Get Religion, or Try
The Mankato Free Press

Hillary's 'Zero' Abortions Goal Hit
The Washington Times

The New Atheists
The Nation.

U.S. Democrats Play Christianity Card
Australian Broadcasting Corporation News

What's Faith Got to Do With It?
Tribune Media Services

Deeper Issues in Faith Debate
The Springfield News-Leader

Democrats Revive Our Civic-Religious Traditions
History News Service

"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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