The Common Good

A Year of Advocacy in Review

Sojomail - December 13, 2007


We have the technology to create the most highly advanced military system, but when these veterans come home they find an understaffed, under-funded and under-equipped VA mental-health system that has so many challenges to get through it that many just give up trying.

- Mike Bowman, father of Timothy Bowman, a 23-year-old Illinois National Guardsman who committed suicide eight months after returning home from Iraq. (Source: McClatchy Newspapers)

+ Sign up to receive "Verse and Voice" - our daily quote and Bible verse e-mail


What We've Accomplished Together

As the end of the year approaches, the Sojourners policy team wants to share all that we’ve accomplished together in 2007. Together, we’ve raised our voices to political, media, and corporate leaders on issues and legislation that coincide with the biblical call to justice.

Mindful of God’s special concern for the "least of these," our first priority has been to support policies to overcome poverty, both in the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 />United States and around the world. We’ve asked you to write and call your members of Congress, and you’ve responded – more than 60,000 times. Here is a summary of our victories and challenges from 2007:

In May, Congress passed, and President Bush signed, legislation to raise the minimum wage for the first time in nearly 10 years, an important step towards ensuring that everyone who works in America earns enough to support their families.

Your calls and letters helped to build a bipartisan majority in Congress for an unprecedented expansion in health care for low-income families through the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Unfortunately, President Bush twice vetoed the legislation, and negotiations have so far failed to produce a compromise - but we’ll continue to advocate for children’s health care in 2008.

In other cases, our political leaders have continued to fail us. Congress became deadlocked over a comprehensive immigration bill in May. Meanwhile, instead of heeding the biblical injunction that "the alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you" (Leviticus 19:34), too many voices in politics and the media have sought to hatefully scapegoat immigrant families – and we’ve responded by lifting up Christian voices to present a more compassionate point of view.

This year, Congress was charged with renewing the Farm Bill, a mammoth piece of legislation that includes crop subsidies that overwhelmingly benefit big agribusiness and absentee landlords at the expense of desperately poor farmers who struggle to feed their families. Though your e-mails and phone calls have helped make a real difference in convincing key senators to vote for meaningful reform, the Senate is today poised to join the House in passing a bill which largely misses an important opportunity to alleviate the plight of the world’s poorest.

But we’ve also won a few victories outside the halls of the Congress. In September, more than 20,000 of you joined us in demanding that the Federal Bureau of Prisons reverse a policy which censored many books on religion that did not appear on a short list of officially-approved titles. Overwhelmed by opposition from Christians across the theological and political spectrum, the Bureau relented, and plans to return the books to library shelves.

In April, McDonald’s heeded calls from the faith community, including Sojourners, to pay an extra penny per pound to tomato pickers in Florida who work under atrocious conditions for near-slave wages. Together, we celebrated this success and sent almost 70,000 letters to Burger King, asking them to follow suit in negotiating with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. (Unfortunately, they’ve so far refused – a subject about which we’ll ask you to take action tomorrow.)

Meanwhile, Sojourners made history in June with the first-ever candidates forum on faith, values, and poverty, which was broadcast live on CNN. Hundreds of you organized local watch parties, and together we sent a powerful message that Christians want to hear about a broad range of issues before we cast our votes in November 2008.

As we come to the end of another year of the war in Iraq, which has so far claimed the lives of nearly 4,000 Americans and untold thousands of Iraqis, we remember all our efforts to raise the voice of Christian conscience against war and militarism. In March, thousands of us from a diverse group of Christian organizations came together – at Washington, D.C.’s National Cathedral and in communities across the country – for a Christian Peace Witness for Iraq, declaring that we are "united by the cross to end the war."

Then in September, as Gen. Petraeus testified before Congress on the progress of the Bush administration’s troop surge, we delivered a surge of our own to Congress: more than 17,000 prayers for an end to the war, two of which were later read by Rep. Rosa DeLauro on the floor of the U.S. House!

While many challenges continue to need our voice, our prayers, and our action, please join with us and give thanks for the many victories and successes we have accomplished. None of the victories would have been possible without your help, for which we are deeply grateful.

This Advent, as we wait together for the coming of Jesus in our midst, we pause and offer praise to God for calling us to "speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy" (Proverbs 31:9).

Merry Christmas,

The Policy team at Sojourners
Aaron, Adam, Allison, Duane, Elizabeth, Gini, Kevin, Michael, Patty, and Robin


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

My Top 11 (OK, 12) Films of 2007 (by Gareth Higgins)

This will be my final post for the God's Politics blog in 2007, and given that it's the time of year for lists, here's my choice of the films that have struck me the most in the past 12 months. (I should acknowledge that I haven't seen There Will Be Blood as it hasn't been released in my homeland yet – but on past form, Paul Thomas Anderson's film is likely to deserve a place on this list.) In the name of the eccentricities permitted to those of us who love films almost as much as real life, and out of kindness to the fine readers of this blog, I'll list a Top 11 – lovers of This is Spinal Tap will understand why.

Debating with Dignity (by Gabriel Salguero)

It happened again. A presidential candidate's debate in two languages. Just as the Democratic presidential candidates had done before, the Republicans have followed suit - a presidential candidates debate on Spanish-language channel, Univision. (Tom Tancredo was the only candidate who did not attend the debate). I blogged on the earlier Democratic debate and thought it only equitable to do the same again.

Advent Awakenings to the Jackhammer on the Roof (by Karen Ward)

Both the modern liberal and the modern conservative frameworks for being church are crashing down around us. From these ruins, both we and our more conservative friends need new to forge new alternatives and pathways forward for being church and working together on the core things we hold in common: Love of Triune God, the creed of Nicea, the dominical sacraments, the story of Jesus recorded in the scriptures, (albeit with varying frameworks for interpreting the scriptures among the churches) the call to mission, the call to reconciled relationships with one another reflective of the relational being of God, and the call to loving service, in and for God's world.

Providence and Politics (by Diana Butler Bass)

Last week, a Liberty University student asked Gov. Mike Huckabee to account for his recent surge in the polls. "There's only one explanation for it, and it is not a human one," Huckabee claimed, "It is the same power that helped a little boy with two fishes and five loaves feed a crowd of 5,000 people. And that's the only way our campaign could be doing what it is doing." In other words, God apparently wants Mike Huckabee to be president—or, at the very least, win the Iowa caucuses. And, evidently, Mike Huckabee wants evangelical Christians to think that God has uniquely chosen him for office, as many believed God chose George W. Bush. There is good reason for Christians to take theological offense at these claims—and that would be upon the basis the doctrine of providence.

Creative Cures for the Common Christmas (by Shane Claiborne)

A few years ago I remember a pastor friend telling me they tried something a little different for their Christmas services. Instead of the usual holiday décor and clutter of the sanctuary, they brought in a bunch of manure and hay and scattered it under the pews so the place would really smell like the stank manger where it all began. I remember laughing hysterically as he described everyone coming in, in all their best Christmas attire, only to sit in the rank smell of a barn. They even brought a donkey in during the opening of the service that dropped a special gift as it moseyed down the aisle. Folks looked awkwardly at each other, and then busted out laughing.

Blog Comment Housekeeping (by Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

This is an announcement mostly for those who post comments on this blog. As many have complained, our comments are often less a respectful dialogue, and more a reflection of our polarized partisan culture in which the most strident voices dominate. A typical complaint: "I think sometimes I get offended by the arrogant curmudgeon types that act incurious but find space and time to belligerently persist, usually to the point where people tune her or him out. We all know them. It's distracting and not a fun time."

Man Bites Dog of War (by Jim Wallis)

Confronting the gross inequities and extreme poverty in so much of our world would do far more for both national and global security than constantly increasing military budgets. Swords will be beaten into plowshares, the prophet Micah tells us, when each person has their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid.

The Evangelical Factor in Middle East Peace (by Ron Sider)

Important steps were taken at Annapolis. The leaders of Israel and Palestine publicly pledged to negotiate a permanent peace before President Bush leaves office. They have promised to meet personally every two weeks. And the U.S., especially Condoleezza Rice, is committed to working vigorously to use America's enormous influence to facilitate the process.

The Healthcare Crisis Gets Personal (by Jim Wallis)

My policy views on health care reform are very public. But this morning made it all very personal. Every parent, no matter who they are and where they live, can easily have the kind of trauma over the health of a child that we had. And every parent should have the medical care that we got. It's just wrong if they don't. What I realized most was how important it is for those who have that care to fight for those who don't.

Happy St. Nicholas Day! (by Abayea Pelt)

As you all encounter pictures of "jolly, old St. Nick" this season, remember that St. Nicholas the Wonderworker was a real Christian hero. He spent his life working for freedom and justice for the poor and powerless. In particular, he is known for saving three women from being sold into prostitution and preventing the execution of three men who were wrongfully convicted.


+ Sign up to receive our "Daily Digest" e-mail - the latest headlines on critical issues

Top Stories:

Reverend Billy preaches the gospel of the church of stop-shopping
San Francisco Chronicle
Rev. Billy: Now I think of what happens in late December as a time when darkness recedes and light expands, and the promise of spring is the promise of change. I like what Rev. (Jim) Wallis says at the end of our film: "Christmas was supposed to be the arrival of one who would set us straight. Shake things up!"

Don't Shop, and Ye Shall Be Saved!
Washington Post

In God They Trust
Toronto Star

Evangelicals Carry Darfur-Olympic Torch
Christianity Today

"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.


Over 1,900 Faith & Spirituality DVDs

Enjoy award-winning & acclaimed faith & spirituality films like Into Great Silence, Jesus Camp, and Something the Lord Made, without leaving home.

Rent, watch and return DVDs from home. A great gift for your self and those you care about!

Netflix - Only $4.99 a month!No Late Fees. Try it for Free!

Make Christmas More Meaningful! Honor your friends and family by giving a life-changing gift to those in need through Heifer International. Heifer gifts take the stress out of shopping and put the meaning back into giving by helping struggling families lift themselves out of poverty. Give Now.

Celebrate the true meaning of Christmas. This holiday, bring home the perfect movie for the entire family. Own The Nativity Story, available now on DVD.

Interested in starting or maintaining a faith-based volunteer/mission program? Attend Catholic Network of Volunteer Service's Formation Workshop and learn about operating a full-time, Christian-based program. Learn more and register for this three-day workshop.

Advent devotions online. During Advent, receive weekday devotions via email from Goshen (Indiana) College students, faculty, and staff focused around the lectionary and the theme "The world is about to turn!" Subscribe and celebrate Christ's arrival.

Subscribe to Sojourners and save! Order now and save $10 off the regular subscription price. Sojourners offers award-winning commentary on faith, politics, and culture - plus Bible study, humor, and more! Click here to subscribe!

Sojourners Job Openings Sojourners seeks qualified applicants for a variety of positions in our growing work to articulate the biblical call for social justice. Please see our immediate opening for a Network Administrator. Click here to learn more.

GIVE TO SOJOURNERS: Donate now to support this voice for justice and peace.

GET THE MAGAZINE: Subscribe today

CONTACT US: General inquiries: | Advertising: | About Us

PRIVACY NOTICE: Sojourners won't trade, sell, or give away your e-mail address. Read our privacy policy.