In the Image of God
Sojomail - May 1, 2008
One of the oddest questions I get asked in interviews, and I get asked a lot of questions, is: Is faith important to your politics? It's like asking someone whether their health is important to them or their family. If you are someone "of faith," it is the focal point of belief in your life. There is no conceivable way that it wouldn't affect your politics.
- former Prime Minister of the UK Tony Blair, in a speech detailing the role of faith in his political career. (Source: Los Angeles Times)
In the Image of God
The heart of his speech was grounded in human rights based on the "innate dignity" of every person. Benedict said:
In other words, the recognition that each of us is created in the image of God means that what is at stake in how we treat one another is nothing less than how we regard the image of God in us. This recognition leads to:
That is the heart of the issue. It is always the "least of these" — the poorest and must vulnerable — who test our commitment. Those who are the left out and forgotten are those whose human rights must be protected by international bodies and international law, the "structures that are intrinsically ordered to promote the common good."
Today is the commemoration of Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) in the modern Jewish calendar. The date was originally enacted by the Israeli Parliament in 1953, but has now become a commemoration by the international Jewish community and friends. It is a day to commemorate the more than 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis from 1938-1945. It is a day to reflect on the fact that when the rest of the world knew what was happening, too little was done to stop it. And, it is a day to reflect on contemporary genocides, such as Darfur, and redouble our efforts to ensure that "never again" becomes a reality.
As did Brian McLaren, I recently read the conversation between N. T. Wright and Bart Ehrman, hosted by Beliefnet. I must admit my incredible bias upfront. I have a deep appreciation for Tom Wright and was embarrassingly quite ignorant of Bart Ehrman. Wright had given me the language and academic credibility for a narrative theology at which I had arrived serendipitously. I had long appreciated Wright for challenging the Christian tradition to reckon with the contextual realities that shape biblical claims. Although my faith may require less now in terms of traditional apologetic constructions to substantiate it, I am grateful for Wright's insistence on intellectual honesty when interpreting scripture. But I was immediately captivated by Ehrman's story. It was the best thing he could have done for me. While a fan and student of the quality of thinking that Wright epitomizes, I adamantly believe that everyone has the right to tell his/her own story.
Ehrman, an Evangelical Christian in his younger years, describes how in later adulthood his faith became a casualty of his inability to reconcile the world's heinous suffering with the existence of a gracious and good God. N.T. Wright, an Anglican bishop and scholar, responds. This "blogalogue" isn't a debate: there is no winner, except those who read and gain insight from the dialogue partners - both in the substance of their comments and in their mutually respectful mode of discourse.
Recently, both President Bush and an oil company spokesperson, speaking to the rising gas prices, pushed for building more refineries and upping the production of oil here in the States. No mention of exorbitant oil company profits. No mention of our need to drastically reduce use of cars and gasoline, to change lifestyles. No mention of the working poor who are stuck without public transportation to jobs remote from their inner-city or inner-ring suburban homes. Reducing dependence on the automobile will mean a lot more than raising fuel efficiency standards for cars and buying more efficient automobiles. It will need a change of lifestyle, removing frivolous car trips, using public transportation, and changing the priorities of government transportation funding.
A lot has happened this past week, starting with the international day of prayer for Zimbabwe on Sunday, April 27. Churches all over the world stood in solidarity with the plight of Zimbabweans and condemned the widespread violence and intimidation of citizens by the government. Not surprisingly, there were counterclaims by government and some politicians in the region that the violence is exaggerated and not "serious." This got me thinking about what constitutes "serious violence." Is it mass massacres where thousands upon thousands of lives are lost? By defining crisis in relation to statistics, politicians continue to devalue the lives of Africans.
I met John Marks, author of Reasons to Believe during a screening of Purple State of Mind. Given that we're both transplanted Southerners, I was interested in exploring why he chose to leave the faith of his childhood. Following is a short interview of what I hope will be an ongoing conversation.
The challenge here is in reconstructing, both in terms of our vision and also in terms of our institutions, and also our personnel, our skills—reconstructing in such a way that we speak a different language where we are really concerned about the poverty in the country, we're really concerned about the dignity of human beings—each and every human being—it doesn't matter which tribe, which ethnic group, which race. And so to really begin to talk about new citizenship in a free Zimbabwe.
Over the last several days, I watched Rev. Jeremiah Wright in discussions of faith, theology, history, and culture on television. The three-plus hours I devoted to PBS and CNN amounted to some of the most sophisticated and thoughtful programming on American culture and racial issues that any news station has offered in recent years. And, for those who really listened to Rev. Wright, he moved from being a political liability in the current presidential campaign to demonstrating why he is one of the nation's most compelling spokespersons of the African-American community and of progressive Christianity.
Last evening, I spoke at the Belmont Heights Baptist Church, just off the campus of Belmont University in Nashville. It was a good event, with the always-inspiring music of Ashley Cleveland, Kenny Greenberg, and Marcus Hammond. As is usually the case, there were a large number of young people in attendance. This morning I saw a blog post by someone who was there that I thought I'd share. He wrote: "I was skeptical, but after hearing Jim Wallis speak tonight ... I'm very much on board with what he and Sojourners (his social justice organization) are doing."
Only two African leaders have been vocal about their opposition to the crisis in Zimbabwe -- these leaders are from Zambia and Botswana. However, I must add that, to their credit, Namibia, Angola, Mozambique, and South Africa refused to allow a ship carrying weapons destined for Zimbabwe to dock in their ports. In the case of South Africa, it was the actions of dockworkers and drivers who refused to unload the cargo from the ship, and the court action co-sponsored by the Anglican church that prevented the arms from being transported to Zimbabwe. This is an amazing example of the power of citizens who follow their conscience and refuse to participate in actions that will harm fellow human beings -- even in defiance of their government. These actions inspire hope and courage.
Some young religious voters focus on social justice
"In three decades I've never seen this sort of student-youth involvement," said Jim Wallis, author of the best-seller The Great Awakening."I do think there's a major shift under way." +read more
A thoughtful look at Jeremiah Wright
The Capital Times blog
Evangelicals are not out of the race
Jeremiah Wright's bombshell
Gains for the Democrats among Evangelicals
A values voter's trap
USA Today Blog
No place for religion: On Jeremiah Wright and our culture of disbelief
Political turnaround: Democrats are the ones talking about religion
Catholic News Service
Magazines spread the word
The Gazette (Montreal)
Experts' insight on changes in U.S. politics, religion
"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.
Mennonite Central Committee is seeking a US HR Director to coordinate and resource HR functions in regions of the United States. Deadline to apply is May 5, 2008. For more information visit our website at MCC.ORG
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