The Common Good

A Misnomer Becomes a Movement

Sojomail - February 14, 2008


I find that my conscience will not allow me to continue business as usual.

- Steven Spielberg, announcing his resignation as artistic advisor for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Summer Olympics in Beijing, to protest China's support for the Sudanese government and "the unspeakable crimes against humanity that continue to be committed in Darfur." (Source: BBC )

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A Misnomer Becomes a Movement

Tuesday night, I spoke at the historic Park Street Church in Boston, where the second Great Awakening evangelist Charles Finney preached in 1831, calling people to faith in Jesus Christ and then to enlist in the anti-slavery campaign. William Lloyd Garrison delivered his first abolitionist speech here when he was only 23 years old. I was facing a packed church on a Tuesday night, full of 600 20-something evangelicals who want to be a generation of new abolitionists - focusing on the most vulnerable in our world, those suffering people whom they think Jesus would care about. The sense of history and the possibilities of this moment were palpable. Several other constituencies were also there—and you could feel the energy of a movement.

That's what this Great Awakening book tour has been like. It's a book for a movement. Many of you have supported the new book and, by doing so, are supporting a movement. Enough of you bought The Great Awakening in the first two weeks to put us on The New York Times Best Seller List. This puts the book in the front of book stores across the country where, of course, more people see it, buy it, and read it. Thank you. This is a book that is helping to spark and support a revival movement that could change big things.

When you buy your own copy of The Great Awakening in these first few weeks, and then buy it for friends and family, fellow church members and neighbors, you literally help spread the message and the movement. Go to Amazon and see part of the proceeds from your book purchase go to Sojourners or to your local Barnes and Noble, Borders, or your favorite local independent book store.

Several people have already told me that they are starting book studies in their congregations and communities. They asked me if there was a downloadable study guide for small groups. I told them that we already have one—a free study guide for book study groups. Take the book to your congregation or meet up with others in your community to begin a Great Awakening Study Group. Make it a Lenten study book, or an Easter book study, or a discussion group focused on what people can practically do in their own families or congregations to influence public policy.

And while you're at it, support the other "movement books" that are out now—Tony Campolo's Red Letter Christians, Brian McLaren's Everything Must Change, Amy Sullivan's The Party Faithful, E.J. Dionne's Souled Out, and Shane Claiborne's Jesus for President (coming soon). These are all progressive Christian "movement books," and we are blessed to have so many out there now. What a change from just a few years ago! I've read them all and can heartily recommend them as very important books for a movement. Please support them all.

We see the conservative movement strategically support their movement books all the time and put their spokespeople on the best-seller lists and onto the talk shows non-stop. There is no other way to explain how people like Ann Coulter keep getting the microphone to say such outrageous things. A string of six bestsellers that all spew venom against liberals keeps Coulter on the air. So it's a good thing to see progressive Christians supporting our own movement books.

I am on the road now, visiting 22 cities in six weeks. And our Sojourners staff told me yesterday that I had just completed my 80th media interview in the past three weeks. I wasn't really tired until I heard that! So please keep me in your prayers.

Reporters used to say to me, "So you are a progressive evangelical; isn't that a misnomer?" Now the misnomer has become a movement. And just this morning, a highly rated drive-time talk show host on the East Coast asked me to tell him about this new progressive Christian movement.

Something is clearly happening across this nation and it is very exciting indeed. But your support for this new book and for these book events when we come to your city is absolutely critical. Go to the Great Awakening Web site that our staff has prepared to see what other people are saying about the book, or to download the study guide for your book study group. And follow the hopeful stories from our book tour and reports from the road on our God's Politics blog. It's a great time to start a Great Awakening study group in your church or community and bring the movement home.

I believe that a genuine revival is coming and a that new great awakening may soon be here. God is good.

P.S. And speaking of the movement, please read Adam Taylor's exciting account of our plans for Pentecost 2008 (just below).


Pentecost 2008: Training for Change

by Adam Taylor

"...And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" Micah 6:8 (NRSV)

And what does the Lord require of you? What is your response to one in eight children in theU.S. growing up in poverty and a billion people around the world living on less than $1 a day?

This summer, we hope you will join us as Sojourners offers a different type of national gathering - to help you strengthen your commitment to justice and learn practical ways to attack the root causes of poverty in America and around the world.

In years past, we have hosted annual mobilizations at the time of Pentecost to educate, equip, and mobilize thousands of faith-inspired people to work on behalf of those who have no voice in the halls of power. But this year, we thought it was time to dig deeper by providing substantive skills for you to take back to your community and your churches.

At Pentecost 2008: Training for Change, we are offering you the chance to build your own toolbox of skills – everything from building a diverse coalition in your local community to using new media to share your message with the whole world. From June 13 to 15, 2008, at Trinity College in Washington, D.C., there will be times of worship and fellowship as well as facilitated small group discussions and training sessions. We’ve invited some of the best community organizers in the country to serve as facilitators and will be hearing from some of the most dynamic change agents in the country, young and old, including leading theoretician and tactician in the civil rights movement, Dr. James Lawson.

Come alone or, better yet, come with a group from your church or your neighborhood who share your vision for a nation and world free from poverty. Together, you will learn and grow as a team and create a plan to achieve real change in your community and across the country. We offer a reduced rate for groups of five or more and discounts on registrations received before May 1 - but we can’t guarantee that there will still be spaces available. Because of the nature of this training, we have limited space for 250 participants – and the slots are sure to fill quickly.

So share this news with a few friends and sign up today at Your registration fee includes all the trainings, the group meetings, the worship services, and all meals throughout the conference. Low-cost accommodations are also available at Trinity College.

Answer your call to justice. Join us in Washington, D.C., on June 13 to 15.


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

Election 2008 in High-Definition: Beyond Black and White (by Gabriel Salguero)

Any candidate that ignores the Latino Evangelical electorates is making a serious mistake. Any leader, religious or political, that assumes how Latinos or evangelicals should vote by arguing that one party is the Christian or evangelical party is not speaking the language of the Technicolor revival. There is a shift going on among evangelicals, and the over 8 million Latino evangelicals cannot be easily politically pigeon-holed. Latino evangelicals are seeking an inclusive and broad coalition for social justice that values them at the table. Immigration, HIV/AIDS, issues concerning life, housing, healthcare, genocide, urban ecology, and education are all on their list of priorities. No candidate in 2008 can assume they know how Latino evangelicals will vote.

The Moral Pulse of the Oscars (by Gareth Higgins)

Paul Tillich wrote that the church should provide an 'answering theology' – that is, it should seek to answer the questions that society is asking. This year, the movies seem to have got there before the church; and it may well be that the Oscars seem to have found the moral pulse of our society.

Shaming China's Genocide Games (by Elizabeth Palmberg)

Running interference for genocide is not an Olympic sport. And now Nobel laureates such as Shirin Ebadi and Archbishop Desmond Tutu are joining with former Beijing 2008 Olympic Games artistic director Stephen Spielberg to say just that to China, which has repeatedly used its diplomatic and economic clout to shelter its oil supplier Sudan. China's support has emboldened the regime in Khartoum to keep up its policy of genocide in Darfur.

A Warning to Comment Meanies (by Ryan Rodrick Beiler, et al)

Your cries for blog comment justice have reached our ears. Actually, our team of moderators are intimately aware of the problem with commenters that habitually violate the rules of conduct. But we also appreciate your grace as we try to digest your many comments and apply the rules fairly with limited time and competing projects. (We are a nonprofit, after all.) ... We have been working through a series of logistical and technical challenges to make good on the promise we made in December to begin blocking users who are disruptive.

Twenty-Something Evangelicals (by Jim Wallis)

The quantitative picture painted by Barna pollster David Kinnaman in his recently released book, unChristian, is qualitatively borne out in this group of Generation Y "insiders"—those raised inside the church but frustrated with the status quo. They will shake things up in the years ahead, both politically and theologically. Politically, these 20-somethings are less likely to associate with the Republican Party than ever before, as discovered by a recent Pew Research Center poll. It showed that party identification among white evangelicals ages 18 to 29 decreased from 55 percent to 40 percent between 2005 and 2007. That’s 15 points in just two years. This doesn’t mean young evangelicals are automatically becoming Democrats (and I don’t think they should). It does mean that their agenda is broader and deeper, no longer beholden to a single partisan ideology – more concerned with 30,000 children dying daily of poverty and disease than with gay marriage amendments in Ohio.

A Dose of Sanity in Archbishop Willams' Sharia Controversy (by Becky Garrison)

My friend Jonny Baker posted via his blog that "Richard Sudworth has an excellent response to this controversy." In this article, Sudworth observes that "For most people sharia = stonings for adultery, hands chopped off for stealing and institutionalised misogyny." However, he challenges this misperception. "The vast bulk of Islamic laws that are invoked within Muslim communities (yes, present tense because it is a current reality here in Britain) concern family relationships (divorce and separation), and inheritance matters. The trouble is, the media and our beloved political establishment are either not intelligent enough to know this or, and God forbid this be the case, prefer to play to the simplistic public perception of sharia = stonings for short-term electoral expediency."

I'm an Idiot (by Bart Campolo)

Lately I keep wishing I was somebody else. Somebody different. Somebody better than me. Don't worry. I'm not depressed. I am well aware that I have many good qualities and many more good friends. My marriage is strong. My kids are fine. Moreover, I am ever increasingly convinced that the God of love loves me, no matter what I do or don't do. Unfortunately, none of those things changes the fact that, after nearly 45 years of countless growth opportunities, I remain essentially the same careless, undisciplined fool I've always been. Everybody makes mistakes, of course, but mine are almost always the kind a more thoughtful, more focused person could easily avoid.

Pomp and People Power (by Jim Wallis)

History suggests that change doesn't start inside the beltway, inside our chambers of power, inside the heads of politicians. Change begins outside Washington, D.C., in the hearts and minds of those who first experience society's brokenness, envision a different future, and then bet their lives on a new vision. That's how social movements begin.

Who's Not Ready for Minority Leadership? (by Randy Woodley)

A pastor of a large metropolitan church once sought me out for some advice. He was told by several other people that as far as solving his church growth dilemma, namely, drawing Native Americans to the church, I was the "go to guy." Disregarding whether or not those assumptions were correct, I agreed to have a meeting with him over breakfast the next day. He began our meeting by laying out his failures in attracting a significant First Nations crowd, even though the neighborhood demographics suggested they should have a much larger native constituency. He summed up his case, and then looked at his watch to inform me we had about 10 minutes before he needed to leave. I saved him nine minutes that morning. ...


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The Great Awakening is a Best-Seller! Jim Wallis' latest book on faith and politics is hitting the airwaves and the road: Find out when The Great Awakening Book Tour is coming to your town. Hear interviews with Jim, download a free study guide, and find (or start!) a book group.

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