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The Common Good

The Manifesto and the Media

Sojomail - May 15, 2008


Each of the Coburn Seven counts himself pro-life. If a bill came to the Senate floor that would save millions of unborn children, one assumes that pro-life members would push to improve it, accept a few necessary compromises and then enthusiastically support the legislation. It is difficult to imagine why pro-life legislation involving millions of Africans should be viewed differently.

- Author, columnist, and former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson, criticizing Senators Tom Coburn, Jim DeMint, Jeff Sessions, Saxby Chambliss, David Vitter, Jim Bunning, Richard Burr--Republicans who have signed a hold letter preventing action on the reauthorization of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). (Source: The Washington Post )

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The Manifesto and the Media

Last week, I wrote about the new Evangelical Manifesto, of which I was a signatory. It's been interesting to see the news coverage that followed its release.

On the one hand, CNN implied that the statement was pro-Democratic:

For Democrats, the timing is good. The party has been pushing to overcome the "faith gap," that many feel has hurt them with church-going voters. ... Evangelicals are now leading public support for many issues dear to Democrats: global campaigns against AIDS, hunger and poverty.

And on the other, a number of stories spun it as a repudiation of politics, at least in their headlines. Most of the stories, written by religion writers, were quite good, but their content was not reflected by the headline writers. The Los Angeles Times wrote, "Group of evangelical Christians writes manifesto urging separation of religious beliefs and politics," The Tennessean (Nashville) had "Evangelicals call for movement to shun politics," and an Associated Press story ran "Evangelical leaders say their faith is too politicized."

The Manifesto itself, while arguing that "evangelical" must be defined first and foremost as a theological term, not a political one, went on to say:

Called by Jesus to be "in" the world but "not of" the world, we are fully engaged in public affairs, but never completely equated with any party, partisan ideology, economic system, class, tribe, or national identity. ...

Called to an allegiance higher than party, ideology, and nationality, we Evangelicals see it as our duty to engage with politics, but our equal duty never to be completely equated with any party, partisan ideology, economic system, or nationality. In our scales, spiritual, moral, and social power are as important as political power,

It's a point I have made many times: "God is not a Republican or a Democrat," and that is a good thing. There should be no religious litmus tests for politics - committed Christians will, and should be, on both sides of the political aisle. Indeed, people of faith should never be in any party's or candidate's political pocket and should, ideally, be the ultimate swing vote because of their moral independence from partisan politics.

But the media just can't help themselves and always want to squeeze everything into their old framework of left and right, Democrat and Republican. But "left" and "right" are not religious categories, and people of faith should define their political involvement in moral terms, not partisan predictability, and that's exactly what the Manifesto said. Even the media coverage of the Manifesto shows how much the statement is needed.

Let me make a prediction. In the future, we will see new alliances and campaigns led by people of faith on a wide range of moral issues - such as poverty, the environment, pandemic diseases, torture, and human rights, and a much wider and deeper focus on the dignity and sanctity of life, including war and peace and even the death penalty along with unborn children - that will involve people of faith across the political spectrum and will shake up politics. The social movements that really change politics are precisely that - public engagement defined by religious and moral commitment that defies normal political categories. Eventually, even the media will finally get it. Stay tuned.

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

Jesus-Following vs. Social Activism (by Derek Webb)

Claiming to follow Jesus is a ridiculous thing to try and do. He's a really hard guy to follow, especially when he talks about loving the poor, loving our neighbors, and loving those who hate and oppose us. Loving people who love us is sometimes hard enough, but loving our enemies is just counterintuitive. It goes against every instinct in my body. When someone does or seeks to do harm to me or my family, it's my knee-jerk reaction, my default, to return violence with violence. I am violent to the core. To confess anything less would be a dangerous land mine to sneak over.

Zimbabweans Face New Violence - in South Africa (by Nontando Hadebe)

This week has been marred by xenophobic violence in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 />Alexandra Township, in Johannesburg, South Africa. The violent attacks targeted foreign nationals whom locals accuse of being responsible for crime, job loss, "taking their girlfriends," and other social problems. The violence meted on foreigners included murder, robbery, looting, rape, and violent assault. Most of the victims are Zimbabweans. One reason for this could be the high number of Zimbabwean refugees in South Africa.

Yom Ha'atzmaut and al-Nakba (by Jim Wallis)

I recently joined many prominent Christian leaders in signing a joint declaration on Israel's 60th anniversary. The signers are too many to list here but they include church leaders, theologians, and the heads of international missions agencies who have an intimate knowledge of the region's history, theological significance, and present reality. ... Many Christians in the U.S. and around the world - including myself - have traveled to Israel and Palestine to learn about the geographical origins of our faith, and to meet the people whose lives are still shaped by the struggle over that Holy Land. We've heard stories of lives destroyed by terrorist violence, and lives destroyed by the violence of occupation. While it is tempting to either emphasize the suffering of one people over the other, or to impose an oversimplified narrative of false symmetry and intractable conflict, our biblical imperative remains, as the statement cites, to "seek peace and pursue it" (Psalm 34:14).

Black-Brown Unity (by Carolyn Delossantos)

When I first decided to spend this semester of my college career in Washington, D.C., I did not expect to work for the Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CCIR) campaign here at Sojourners. Sadly, I must admit that though I am Latina and the daughter of immigrants, immigration did not make my long list of worthy causes to fight for. Like many, I was ignorant about the plight of immigrants, and mistakenly saw deportation or enforcement-only policies as ideal solutions. Through her dedication, patience, and passion, Patty Kupfer, the CCIR campaign coordinator, taught me to embrace the struggle of the millions of undocumented immigrants and understand the complexities of a broken immigration system.

Joseph Dantica's Death (by Rose Marie Berger)

Sojourners magazine scooped CBS's 60 Minutes when we interviewed Haitian author Edwidge Danticat in April about the death of her uncle, Joseph Dantica (she spells her name differently than her uncle), and about immigration issues. Watch 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley's Sunday night interview with Danticat on medical care for asylum seekers to the U.S.

Body of War's All-Star Soundtrack (by Logan Laituri)

My fingers have been tapping out of control for more than a month and a half now. Don't worry, though -- I am not falling to the symptoms of my own PTSD just yet. At the completion of the Winter Soldier event, all Iraq Veterans Against the War members in attendance received a copy of the movie soundtrack compiled by Body of War subject Tomas Young, a partially paralyzed veteran of the Iraq war. It is a two-disc eclectic ensemble of major artists such as Talib Kweli, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Franti, Tom Waits, Neil Young, Serj Tankian, and Tom Morello.

Churches a Haven after Immigration Raids (by Patty Kupfer)

There was a raid at a meat-packing plant in Postville, Iowa, yesterday, in which about 300 people were detained. Please keep them in your prayers. The Des Moines Register ran a moving article about the role of a local church in helping the community deal with this crisis: "The Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid at the Agriprocessors Inc. plant scattered the Hispanics of Postville. About 400 found their way to St. Bridget's Catholic Church, waiting for information. Some filled out G-28 forms that allow a lawyer to represent their detained children or minors in their care."

The Sound of Social Justice in Australia: 'From Little Things Big Things Grow' (by Jarrod McKenna)

The song "From Little Things Big Things Grow," written more than 20 years ago by Australian artists Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly, tells the story of Australian nonviolence hero Vincent Lingiari. Under the name "GetUp Mob," they have collaborated with other Australian musicians, such as Missy Higgins and John Butler, to sing of this historic moment in Australian history. And (to my knowledge) they have launched the musical career of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd by sampling his historic apology speech.

Failing "Elections 101" in Zimbabwe (by Nontando Hadebe)

This weekend Zimbabwe's opposition party announced that it would take part in the next round of presidential "elections." Violence, harassment, and intimidation of unarmed citizens continue as part of the government's preparation for the "elections." In my understanding, there are three basic rules that qualify a process to be described as a legitimate election (election 101!).

The Velveteen Rabbi's Birthday Card to Israel (by Rachel Barenblat)

Dear Israel, Wow, you're turning 60. Incredible. Happy birthday to you! I feel a little bit like I'm showing up at your birthday party without a gift. The truth is, you and I don't really know each other. I know we're related, but we don't have much of a relationship. That's been my choice, I realize. I wasn't sure how to feel about you, so I turned my attention elsewhere for a while. ... I often feel caught between people I know and love who adore you, who support you without reservation -- and people I know and love who find your choices problematic at best. And, of course, everyone in between. I experience cognitive dissonance where you're concerned. To your detractors, I want to defend you fiercely; to your defenders, I want to point out every way in which you fail to live up to my hopes and dreams.

Small-Time Ministry, Big-Time Dreams (by Bart Campolo)

There are plenty of times I miss running a legitimate ministry organization like Mission Year. Like when I'm breaking down my "office" every night so my family can eat at the kitchen table, or hand-addressing the envelopes for our donation receipts. (Don't get me wrong; I love having to send out those receipts). Or when I'm desperately bribing Roman and his buddy with combo meals at Wendy's to help me move yet another apartment-load of stuff for yet another family in crisis, instead of simply assigning the job to some interns. Trust me, being small-time is hard on the ego. But then there are those magical moments when being small-time means you get to make things up as you go along.

'Pray the Devil Back to Hell' (interview by Becky Garrison)

We have already shown the film in many countries to women's groups and the response has been so moving. Women in Iraq wept when they saw it and immediately asked how many copies they could make so as to make sure that it is shown in people's homes all over the country. Women from Sudan e-mailed us to say that they felt sure that lives were being changed by the dialogues the film had sparked. In Tblisi, Georgia, women sat down immediately after the film and wrote up a Peace Agenda that is now making its way around the country for women's signatures. What is remarkable is the way that so many women were already poised to work together for peace—all the film does is remind them how powerful they are when they work together. It is a spark of faith in dark times.

A Rose That Blooms Every 500 Years (by Rose Marie Berger)

At the Associated Church Press conference two weeks ago in Fort Worth, Texas, I heard Phyllis Tickle, founding editor of the religion department at Publishers Weekly, speak about Christianity's every-500-years growth spurts. In her talk (and forthcoming book The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why), Tickle emphasized that Christianity is going through one of these "spurts" right now. Tickle calls our present historical moment (read: the last 100 years) "Emerging Christianity." (This is not precisely the same thing as the self-identified "emergent church" networks, but there may be similar characteristics.) Historically, these great emergences are sometimes symbolized by a rose blooming forth from the rubble.


Envision 08

As a co-sponsoring organization, Sojourners invites you to join a group of Christ-followers that are gathering to chart the course of Christian public engagement in this new century at Envision 08.

Jim Wallis will be speaking along with friends such as Shane Claiborne, Lisa Sharon Harper, Brian McClaren, Brenda Salter McNeil, John Perkins, Ron Sider, Ruth Padilla DeBorst, Miroslav Volf, and Kay Warren. The conference features other Sojourners staff, including Adam Taylor, who will lead one of the 20 learning tracks, and Chuck Gutensen, who will participate in a panel of evangelical, mainline, and emergent leaders who will draw together the insights of online contributors and conference participants into a Christian Declaration for the Common Good called "Envision the Future."

In this election year, EnVision will continue the work of the Faith Forum, the Compassion Forum, and many other endeavors to make clear that, if the gospel does not say something about the interrelation of war, poverty, racism, sexism, the destruction of the environment, and other challenges to humanity, it has nothing to say. In this summer when an awakening is igniting across the country, we hope you'll join us in Princeton June 8-10.

As a recipient of Sojomail, you can register online at the discounted rate of $149, so please register today at www.ev08.org.

Envision the Future, Live it Now!

P.S. Even if you cannot attend Envision, you can contribute to the declaration by giving just two hours of time to an online dialog June 2-3. Go to www.evo8.org and click on "Join the Online Dialog" to find out how!


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"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.


Call To Action, the progressive Catholic justice organization, seeks an Executive Director. Help us create a church of justice for those on the margins: women, people of color, gays and lesbians, etc. Learn more:

Saint Paul School of Theology offers a Doctor of Ministry Track
in Wesleyan Spirituality, Leadership, and Congregational Renewal. Learn to lead congregations into spiritual growth, evangelical witness, and prophetic social outreach. Cohort begins January 2009.

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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.

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