The Common Good

Reviving Our Spirits

Sojomail - September 20, 2007


What they told me was, "Our mission is to protect the principal at all costs. If that means pissing off the Iraqis, too bad."

- Ann Exline Starr, a former Coalition Provisional Authority adviser, describing the behavior of highly paid and negligibly accountable private security contractors, including Blackwater USA, assigned to protect her. There have been numerous cases of killings or injuries of Iraqi civilians by employees of private military contractors, and Blackwater agents were involved in a shootout last weekend that has raised protest from the Iraqi government, including calls for their expulsion from Iraq. (Source: The Washington Post)

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As I travel around the country, I find that many people are feeling disconnected and frustrated with politics. They feel that our political system is broken, failing to address the most significant moral issues of the day. When those feelings grow, social movements often rise up to change politics -- and the best movements usually have spiritual foundations.

Such a revival of faith applied to our most significant social and public challenges also shows the capacity to bring people together -- even across traditional political boundaries and divisions -- in order to find real answers and solutions. That’s because faith and spirituality can take us deeper than politics can, with a moral commitment that allows us to transcend our usual ideological debates. That moral appeal can truly help us find common ground by moving to higher ground.

I personally invite you to be a part of an amazing weekend of sharing and listening:

Reviving our Spirits, Transforming our Politics
Oct. 19 – 21, 2007, at the historic Renaissance Hotel in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 />Cleveland, Ohio

This event will be part conference and part retreat, part learning and part sharing, part contemplation and part revival. I will be speaking, along with Richard Rohr and Naomi Tutu (daughter of Desmond Tutu). We will have interactive sessions led by Lynne Hybels, Marvin McMickle, Judy Bierbaum, Zina Jacque, and Adam Taylor, as well as times for deep conversations on faith and justice. Worship sessions will include music by Paul Sadler and Cleveland’s premier gospel choir, The Prayer Warriors.

I hear from so many of you about your desire to connect in real and important ways, and to be inspired in ways that restore hope. If you are looking for a revival of your spirits and for a movement in our world for greater compassion, peacemaking, and justice, please join me in October. Early registration ends Sept. 24, so please go to Reviving our Spirits, Transforming our Politics and register now.

I’ll look forward to seeing you.


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I'm Going Back to School (by Jim Wallis)

This fall, for the fifth year, I’m teaching a course at Harvard. I spent Monday, the first day of the semester, in Cambridge. This year’s course, based at the divinity school, is titled "Faith and Politics: Should They Mix and How?" These undergraduate and graduate students come from the divinity school, but also from other schools -- the Kennedy School of Government, business school, law school, and other universities and seminaries in the Boston area.

Jena is America (by Lydia Bean)

Today, Sept. 20, over 10,000 people will converge on Jena, Louisiana, to call for justice for the "Jena 6." Thousands more will hold vigils in cities across America. As reported previously on this blog, it all started on Sept. 1, 2006, when a black student at the high school asked an administrator if he could sit underneath a tree in the courtyard where traditionally only white students sat. The administrator told him that he could sit wherever he wanted. The next morning, there were three nooses hanging in that tree. The school dismissed this hate crime as a prank. When black students protested, the local district attorney threatened that he could take their life away with a "stroke of my pen." ... America is shocked by the naked bigotry they see in Jena, Louisiana. Why aren't Jena's white residents equally protective of all their town's children? By only intervening to protect whites, Jena's white establishment bears the responsibility for letting conflict escalate between black and white youth. It would be tempting to dismiss the Jena story as representing the vestiges of bigotry in small-town Louisiana -- but Jena is America.

The Leadership Gap on Global Warming (by Bill McKibben)

And here's the word from the political world, as it appeared in The New York Times last Thursday: "The prospect of a comprehensive energy package's emerging from Congress this fall is rapidly receding, held up by technical hurdles and policy disputes between the House and the Senate and within the parties." The technical word for this situation is "gap." As in, there's a slight gap between how much we need to do and how much we are doing. A gap at least as wide as the Northwest Passage, which as of early September was fully navigable. There's one thing that can close that gap, and it's called leadership.

Iraq and Christian Identity (by Jim Wallis)

I got a LOT of responses to my post at the end of last week, in which I said the war in Iraq presents the American churches with an issue of Christian identity. Nobody really denied the fact that the worldwide body of Christ is overwhelmingly against the war and the whole thrust of American foreign policy in the post-9/11 era. And that fact remains true even for evangelical Christians around the world. The global body of Christ has no deep trust in the political motivations or geopolitical interests of the U.S., nor do they welcome American hegemony in their regions of the world. Some of my responders have no real concern that their perspective as American Christians in support of their government's war policy puts them in a distinct minority among believers around the world. But many others, like me, are worried by the American Christians who are more allied with their own government than they are with their brothers and sisters across the globe, especially when our nation is the world's military and economic superpower.

Returning to a Green Orthodoxy (by Logan Laituri)

In an encouraging shift away from the status quo, many Christian groups are taking a more focused look at stewarding God's creation. A few notable references to biblical environmentalism have been popping up in the news lately. On the recently aired CNN series "God's Warriors," Richard Cizik explains "creation care," a conservative evangelical approach to being a greener church. Two weeks ago, the pope took to a stage in Italy in green vestments to declare Sept. 2, "Save Creation Day," and beseech Roman Catholics to make "courageous decisions" to spare the earth from destructive and irresponsible development trends.

Politics Pushes Uneven Policies (by Jim Wallis)

The chief motivator for American foreign policy in the Middle East is clearly geopolitical, with a primary emphasis on oil. But for a vocal constituency in a segment of the American evangelical community, an unquestioning and unequivocal support for the Israeli government’s policies is clearly a religious conviction. And that religious conviction of a key political constituency (especially for the Bush administration) bolsters the demonstrably uneven U.S. policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Seeking Liberation from Modern Slavery (by Jeremy Scott)

Ask anyone -- slavery is illegal. Every country has passed laws stating that it is unlawful to own another human being and to exercise total control over that person’s life, work, and family. Therefore, it is shocking to discover that slavery persists in many countries around the world, including the United States.

Anita Roddick: 'I Don’t Want to Die Rich' (by Rose Marie Berger)

Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop chain and supporter of fair trade, died on Sept. 10 at age 64 after a major brain hemorrhage brought on by complications of hepatitis C. Roddick, who was raised Catholic but had deep suspicion of organized religion, gained a new appreciation for Christianity at the UK-based Greenbelt Christian Arts Festival in 2004.


Rick Warren Should Be in Prison
(Karl Barth, Too!)

Imagine walking into your local library, planning to read a theologian such as Reinhold Niebuhr or Karl Barth, or a popular inspirational work, such as Rick Warren's Purpose-Driven Life or Harold Kushner's When Bad Things Happen to Good People. But instead of finding such important and popular titles, you discover that the religion section has been decimated – stripped of any book that did not appear on a government-approved list.

That's exactly what's happening right now to inmates in federal prisons under a Bush administration policy. As The New York Times put it, "chaplains have been quietly carrying out a systematic purge of religious books and materials that were once available to prisoners in chapel libraries."

Click here to tell the Bureau of Prisons to stop censoring prison libraries.


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