Come Let Us Reason Together
Sojomail - October 11, 2007
A vehicle got close to them, and they opened fire on it randomly as if they were in the middle of a confrontation. You won't find a head. The brain is scattered on the ground. I am shaking as I am trying to describe to you what happened. We are not able to eat. These were innocent people. Is it so natural for them to shoot innocent people?
- Ahmed Kadhim Hussein, an Iraqi policeman, describing the shooting deaths by private military contractors of two Christian women on their way home from work. (Source: The Washington Post)
As the Religious Right has diminished in influence, many are searching for a new political agenda that doesn't fit the standard right/left battles of American politics and is more consistent with their deeply held values. That new agenda would be good news for the majority of Americans who are alienated by the political extremes and are hungry - not for a soulless centrism - but for a new moral center in our public life.
The public discussion about and between evangelicals and progressives has been dominated by too many false choices and too much mutual misunderstanding. It is time to work for common ground on some of our most critical issues. We must address a compelling vision to the many Americans who are actually more "purple," than "red" or "blue." What could evoke their convictions, reflect their values, summon their commitments, and change America? What would a broader and deeper moral politics or values politics begin to look like?
An important step toward those goals was taken yesterday with the release of "Come Let Us Reason Together " by the Third Way culture program. I applaud this effort by Third Way to develop common ground.
In a section on the role of faith in public life and politics, the paper outlines three "basic principles as a first step in bridging the divide over the role of religion in American public life:"
The heart of the paper, "Come Let Us Reason Together" provides significant common ground with a "Shared Vision on Five Divisive Cultural Issues" - affirming the human dignity of gay and lesbian people, reducing the need for abortion, placing responsible moral limits on the treatment of human embryos, creating safe spaces for children online, and encouraging responsible fatherhood. The authors explain:
The paper concludes:
Progressives and evangelicals are people who care deeply about the justice and health of our society, and potential alliances between us on key issues could provide a genuine convergence for the common good. This paper was endorsed by a wide range of religious leaders, and I look forward to the "hard work of reasoning together" in further conversations.
'Devils and Dust': How We Learned to Torture (by Brian McLaren)
In The New York Times story about the administration's secret authorization of torture, one sentence is particularly chilling: "With virtually no experience in interrogations, the CIA had constructed its program in a few harried months by consulting Egyptian and Saudi intelligence officials and copying Soviet interrogation methods long used in training American servicemen to withstand capture." Copying tactics used by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the former Soviet Union ... what does this say about our nation's trajectory? Since reading those words last week, I can't keep Bruce Springsteen's song out of my head. First, he echoes what many Americans might say in response to the secret authorization of torture.
Reality Check, Please (by Elizabeth Palmberg)
Normally I'm a big fan of science fiction, but I nearly swallowed my teeth when I heard America Abroad's recent program on the World Bank on my local NPR affiliate, WAMU, last Sunday. My choppers would have been a lot easier to stomach than the show's assertion that, in the 1980s, policies pushed by the World Bank and U.S., "had succeeded in solving the [developing world's] debt crisis." Tell that to the African nations today that have to spend more on debt interest payments than on health care – in the middle of the AIDS pandemic. If that isn't a crisis, what is?
Who Has Betrayed Us? (by Brian McLaren)
I remember about eight years ago when then presidential candidate George W. Bush repeatedly claimed that he would restore honor to the presidency, soiled as it had been by our previous president's infamous affair. I remember hoping he would succeed. But a new kind of shame has come to the office and to our nation as reports surface about our government's secret authorization of torture. We all share in this shame. Conservative columnist and blogger Andrew Sullivan expresses what many of us feel.
Criminal, Ignorant, and Potentially Murderous Folly (by Jim Wallis)
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, recently returned from a visit to Armenia, Syria, and Lebanon. While there, he met with politicians, Christian and Muslim leaders, and visited with Palestinian and Iraqi refugees. In an interview with BBC radio, Williams shared some of the observations he gathered, particularly in Iraq and Iran. He spoke movingly about the Iraqi refugees he met, saying, "the stories we heard were, I have to say, really hair-raising."
A Christian Voice of 'Laughter, Love, and Peace' Murdered in Gaza (by Philip Rizk)
On Saturday afternoon, Rami closed his shop as he always did at 4:30 p.m. He had told his brother that three days earlier he had sensed he was being followed home after work, but had not made much of it. Two hours after closing up, he called his wife and told her with much uncertainty that he hoped to be home in two hours and not to worry. He was not able to say where he was or why he was there. Rami never came home. Friends and family searched for him until late into the night. At 5:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, his body was found beaten, a bullet through his head, another through his chest. His wallet, ID, and watch were gone. No one has made any statements, no group has taken responsibility. This is the first time in Gaza's recent history that a Christian has been kidnapped and killed.
'Bush Has Given Christ a Bad Name' Says Pastor in India (by Jim Wallis)
In two recent posts, The Global Church and America's War, and Iraq and Christian Identity, I talked about the difference between the perceptions of U.S. Christians and our sisters and brothers around the world. I recently received a powerful e-mail from a Pastor Kuruvilla Chandy of Grace Bible Church, Lucknow, India, who describes himself as "a born again Christian" who supported the Cold War and "as a believer in prophecy, [is] in general agreement about supporting Israel." Hardly the profile of a left-wing Bush-basher. I'd like to share some of what he wrote.
Stan Guthrie's Red Letter Blues (by Tony Campolo)
In response to Stan Guthrie's article in the October 2007 Christianity Today, "When Red Is Blue: Why I Am Not A Red Letter Christian," Tony Campolo wrote the following open letter as a response. ... I have to say, "You got us right!" ... While we, like you, have a very high view of the inspiration of Scripture and believe the Bible was divinely inspired, you are correct in accusing Red Letter Christians of giving the words of Jesus priority over all other passages of Scripture. What is more, we believe that you really cannot rightly interpret the rest of the Bible without first understanding who Jesus is, what he did, and what he said.
Agnes, AIDS, Bush, and Bono (by Jim Wallis)
Bono was in town the other night and had a small thank-you party for friends and allies to celebrate some successes in Africa with regard to poverty, AIDS, and other pandemic diseases. ... But there was another speaker. Agnes Nyamayarwo is a Ugandan nurse who has become an amazing activist in the battle against AIDS. She is HIV positive herself, lost her husband to AIDS, and unknowingly transmitted the disease to her unborn son, who also subsequently died.... When George Bush visited her country, the leader of the free world gave Agnes a big hug. And she whispered in his ear, "What about the global fund?" (the international AIDS fund that still needs more investment). Agnes has an agenda and a faith, and both are very substantial.
Bread for the World, a national advocacy organization on hunger and development issues, has a great opportunity for an experienced Director of Church Relations and Director of Communications. If you are interested in submitting your resume, please visit www.bread.org and click on jobs.
|GIVE TO SOJOURNERS: Donate now to support this voice for justice and peace.
GET THE MAGAZINE: Subscribe today