The Common Good

Morally Unacceptable

Sojomail - October 4, 2007


I know that I personally never saw anyone shoot at us, but we blazed through that town all the time. Personally I did not take aim at one person. But I don't know what everybody else did. We'd come back at the end of the day, and a lot of times we were out of ammo. ... I wasn't over there to wreck somebody's life. There was too much cowboying going on. I really didn't know if we had made things worse over there. More than likely we did; that was my feeling.

- David Horner, a truck driver for Crescent Security Group based in Kuwait City. Private security contractors have come under recent scrutiny for shooting incidents involving civilians and their lack of real accountability. Horner said he did not think any of the incidents he witnessed were ever reported. (Source: The Washington Post)

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Morally Unacceptable

As expected, President Bush yesterday vetoed legislation that would expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

At our religious leaders' news conference on Tuesday, I spoke of the issues at stake here.

Jesus made healing a principal sign of his ministry and of the presence of the kingdom of God. From a biblical point of view, it is simply wrong when health becomes a commodity and accessibility depends upon wealth. Until something is done to make universal health care a reality in America, millions of families will remain poor. SCHIP is one bill – one program – to help fix the health care problem. No bill is perfect. But a bipartisan group of legislators think it is a good bill in the right direction.

To veto the bill, with no alternative plan instead - to simply abandon millions of poor children, to leave them to a market system that is failing to provide health care to enough people - is simply morally unacceptable. We must not allow this to become an ideological battle over the larger issue of health care systems. This is about a specific program for poor children that a bipartisan majority believes is working. This is not about health care theories - this is about children. And now, overriding a presidential veto will become the next faith-based issue.

Also speaking to the media were the heads of two denominations who also serve on our Sojourners Board. Sharon Watkins, general minister and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) said:

Mr. President, members of the House and Senate, 9 million American children are without health care coverage this day. Those children are our children. God has given them into our care. We are the responsible adults who say whether they see a doctor or not. Our hearts need to break for them because they are our own. They are our future, and we need to give them a bright future. When historians reflect back on this era, do we want to be remembered as the people who turned their backs on the uninsured children of this nation?

And Glenn R. Palmberg, president of the Evangelical Covenant Church added:

An earlier administration, some 20 years ago, tried to declare ketchup a vegetable in the children's school lunch program. It was seen as a cruel and cynical response to the plight of low-income children. I still hear that talked about as the legacy of that administration regarding poor children some 20 years later. I think this veto has the potential of being talked about 20 years from now as part of the legacy of this administration, and it is seen as a cruel and cynical response to the needs of poor children.

As the Congress now gears up for the veto override battle, I commend the words of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), one of the primary sponsors:

I disagree with the [White House] legislative staff on all of this. Frankly, I think the president has had pretty poor advice on this. I can answer every objection that they've made, and I'm very favorable to the president. I know he's compassionate. I know he's concerned about these kids, but he's been sold a bill of goods.


+ See what's new on the blog of Jim Wallis and friends

'We're Going to Kill Them All' (by Gareth Higgins)

This film wants to be a serious exploration of U.S.-Middle East relations, and in its portrayal of Saudi street life it manages to be more accurate than many. But ultimately, The Kingdom is in love with violence. The modus operandi of the FBI characters is to look for evidence and then shoot the guilty. It's mob rule, more akin to Wild West stereotypes than even the most right-wing interpretation of due process. Near the beginning of the film, one character tells a grieving friend of one of those killed in the attack, "we're going to kill them all." The friend is relieved and stops crying. The film's implication is that so should we.

What Happened to Compassionate Conservatism? (By Jim Wallis)

This article also appeared at When I first heard that President Bush was vowing to veto a bipartisan bill to expand child healthcare, my immediate thought was more personal than political. What has happened to him? I wondered. Now that he has followed through on his threat, I can't help but think about the first time we met and the conversation we had about children.

Video: Overriding Bush's Veto Is Our Next Faith-Based Initiative (by Jim Wallis)

Yesterday Jim stood with a group of religious leaders to challenge President Bush's promised veto of a bill to expand health coverage for children. He told some of the story of Bush's early days in office that he told here last week, asking what happened to his "compassionate" conservatism, and asking why Bush would veto a bill with broad bipartisan support, abandoning America's children to a failing system. Bush's veto, which came this morning at 10 a.m., is morally unacceptable, and overriding it will be our next "faith-based initiative."

Iran's Lame Duck, Our Lame Political Script (by Elizabeth Palmberg)

With all the fuss around Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's recent visit to New York, you'd think that he had political power, command of the military, or at least strong popular support in his homeland. Actually, he has none of the above, as Stephen Zunes argues in a recent Foreign Policy in Focus article.

What Will Dobson Do? (by Diana Butler Bass)

With James Dobson and major conservative evangelical leaders threatening to bolt the Republican Party if Rudy Giuliani is nominated for president, conventional wisdom about God and politics has been turned on its head. For the last 25 years, conservative evangelicals could reliably count on the Republicans to choose a candidate acceptable to their version of Christian politics. This year, however, the leading Republican candidates seem unable to articulate any convincing religious message, much less a strongly biblical perspective on issues. All the while, the three leading Democratic candidates can testify to personal faith, possess robust theological views, and ground many policies in broadly biblical principles.

Sanctions Can Work in Burma (by David Cortright)

International solidarity and support for the Burmese democracy movement is growing, as evidenced in the imposition of new economic sanctions against the military regime. The European Union and the U.S. government have announced additional measures to isolate the dictators. The democracy movement has supported the imposition of these international sanctions as an effective means of pressuring the Burmese government, as I explain in a recent NPR interview.

Obscuring the Moral Issue (by Jim Wallis)

Over the weekend, conservative Republican leaders began to "spin" President Bush's expected veto of children's heath insurance (SCHIP). They said it would cover children in families with incomes up to $83,000 per year. A Washington Post op-ed points out that "up to" is a slippery phrase. The Urban Institute estimates that 70 percent of children covered would come from families with incomes less than $41,300, and most of the rest from families earning less than $62,000 - not a luxurious income for a family of four in places with high costs of living. They said it would take children off private health insurance and move then to "government-run" health care. Wrong again. About two thirds of the approximately 10 million children who would be covered now have no health insurance whatsoever. And, the SCHIP program is a government-financed program, not a government-run program.

Upheaval in Burma (by Richard Deats)

Suddenly the media was reporting that thousands of protesters were marching in Rangoon, Burma (or Yangon, Myanmar, as it is officially called since the governing military junta renamed it in 1990). And the front ranks were led by Buddhist monks in brown robes holding banners that said, "Love and kindness must win over everything." Nuns in their pink robes were also present in growing numbers. I was in Yangon just before the largest marches began, having been invited there by Burmese activists to do a workshop on Gandhian nonviolence. We met in homes and out-of-the-way restaurants, hoping to be faithful to Suu Kyi's admonition "to persevere in the struggle, to make sacrifices in the name of enduring truths, to resist the corrupting influences of desire, ill will, ignorance and fear."

Proof of a Movement (by Aaron Graham)

New York Faith and Justice was inspired into being by Sojourners/Call to Renewal during their annual Pentecost Conference in 2006. It started with just a handful of committed Christians in New York who were focused on discovering how God was leading them to respond to the issue of poverty in their city.

NYT: 'A Pro-Lynching Movie That Even Liberals Can Love'? (by Gareth Higgins)

What's surprising is that both Jodie Foster and her director, Neil Jordan, know better than this, having between them made smarter films such as The Accused and The Crying Game. But in producing The Brave One, a film that appears to co-opt the values of the war on terror into the domestic life of a character who works for an NPR-style radio station, they have created what The New York Times has called "a pro-lynching film that even liberals can love." Of course, doing nothing in response to injustice will not make the world a less violent place, but neither will suggesting that the only thing we can do is to use the same tactics as our opponents.

Not Just Another PC Peace and Justice Group (by Becky Garrison)

When I got an invitation to attend the launch of New York Faith & Justice (, their mission statement caught my eye. Simply stated, their goals are: following Christ, uniting the church, and ending poverty in New York through spiritual formation, education, and direct advocacy. Grounded in the words of Isaiah 61, this movement envisions a city where New Yorkers are released from the oppression of poverty and the poverty of riches.

The Power of Nonviolence (by Jim Wallis)

Gene Stoltzfus is a friend who worked in Southeast Asia during the 1960s and 70s, and then became director of Christian Peacemaker Teams, a program of Brethren, Mennonite and Friends churches and other affiliated organizations that places teams in high conflict zones to emphasize human rights protection, nonviolent action, and peacemaking campaigns. On his blog, he comments on the religious roots of nonviolence for the Buddhist monks leading the demonstrations against the military junta.


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