The Common Good

My Personal 'Faith Priorities' for this Election

Sojomail - October 23, 2008


QUOTE OF THE WEEK

Gayle was serving a people that she loved, and felt God called her to be there for such a time as this. We know her life was blessed and she was a blessing to those around her. No one could have asked for a more humble daughter with a more loving heart. She died doing what she felt the Lord had called her [to] and she is definitely with him.

- Pat Williams, mother of Gayle Williams, a 34-year-old British woman who was murdered this week by the Taliban while she was walking to work in Kabul. Gayle worked for Serve Afghanistan, which helps young boys and girls who have lost limbs to land mines and bombs. (Source: The Independent)

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

Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

My Personal 'Faith Priorities' for this Election

Get a free trial issue of Sojourners Get a free issue of Sojourners

In 2004, several conservative Catholic bishops and a few megachurch pastors like Rick Warren issued their list of "non-negotiables," which were intended to be a voter guide for their followers. All of them were relatively the same list of issues: abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research, etc. None of them even included the word "poverty," only one example of the missing issues which are found quite clearly in the Bible. All of them were also relatively the same as official Republican Party Web sites of "non-negotiables." The political connections and commitments of the religious non-negotiable writers were quite clear.

I want to suggest a different approach this year and share my personal list of "faith priorities" that will guide me in making the imperfect choices that always confront us in any election year — and suggest that each of you come up with your own list of "faith" or "moral" priorities for this election year and take them into the voting booth with you.

After the last election, I wrote a book titled God’s Politics. I was criticized by some for presuming to speak for God, but that wasn’t the point. I was trying to explore what issues might be closest to the heart of God and how they may be quite different from what many strident religious voices were then saying. I was also saying that "God’s Politics" will often turn our partisan politics upside down, transcend our ideological categories of Left and Right, and challenge the core values and priorities of our political culture. I was also trying to say that there is certainly no easy jump from God’s politics to either the Republicans or Democrats. God is neither. In any election we face imperfect choices, but our choices should reflect the things we believe God cares about if we are people of faith, and our own moral sensibilities if we are not people of faith. Therefore, people of faith, and all of us, should be "values voters" but vote all our values, not just a few that can be easily manipulated for the benefit of one party or another.

In 2008, the kingdom of God is not on the ballot in any of the 50 states as far as I can see. So we can’t vote for that this year. But there are important choices in this year’s election — very important choices — which will dramatically impact what many in the religious community and outside of it call "the common good," and the outcome could be very important, perhaps even more so than in many recent electoral contests.

I am in no position to tell anyone what is "non-negotiable," and neither is any bishop or megachurch pastor, but let me tell you the "faith priorities" and values I will be voting on this year:

  1. With more than 2,000 verses in the Bible about how we treat the poor and oppressed, I will examine the record, plans, policies, and promises made by the candidates on what they will do to overcome the scandal of extreme global poverty and the shame of such unnecessary domestic poverty in the richest nation in the world. Such a central theme of the Bible simply cannot be ignored at election time, as too many Christians have done for years. And any solution to the economic crisis that simply bails out the rich, and even the middle class, but ignores those at the bottom should simply be unacceptable to people of faith.


  2. From the biblical prophets to Jesus, there is, at least, a biblical presumption against war and the hope of beating our swords into instruments of peace. So I will choose the candidates who will be least likely to lead us into more disastrous wars and find better ways to resolve the inevitable conflicts in the world and make us all safer. I will choose the candidates who seem to best understand that our security depends upon other people’s security (everyone having "their own vine and fig tree, so no one can make them afraid," as the prophets say) more than upon how high we can build walls or a stockpile of weapons. Christians should never expect a pacifist president, but we can insist on one who views military force only as a very last resort, when all other diplomatic and economic measures have failed, and never as a preferred or habitual response to conflict.


  3. "Choosing life" is a constant biblical theme, so I will choose candidates who have the most consistent ethic of life, addressing all the threats to human life and dignity that we face — not just one. Thirty-thousand children dying globally each day of preventable hunger and disease is a life issue. The genocide in Darfur is a life issue. Health care is a life issue. War is a life issue. The death penalty is a life issue. And on abortion, I will choose candidates who have the best chance to pursue the practical and proven policies which could dramatically reduce the number of abortions in America and therefore save precious unborn lives, rather than those who simply repeat the polarized legal debates and "pro-choice" and "pro-life" mantras from either side.


  4. God’s fragile creation is clearly under assault, and I will choose the candidates who will likely be most faithful in our care of the environment. In particular, I will choose the candidates who will most clearly take on the growing threat of climate change, and who have the strongest commitment to the conversion of our economy and way of life to a cleaner, safer, and more renewable energy future. And that choice could accomplish other key moral priorities like the redemption of a dangerous foreign policy built on Middle East oil dependence, and the great prospects of job creation and economic renewal from a new "green" economy built on more spiritual values of conservation, stewardship, sustainability, respect, responsibility, co-dependence, modesty, and even humility.


  5. Every human being is made in the image of God, so I will choose the candidates who are most likely to protect human rights and human dignity. Sexual and economic slavery is on the rise around the world, and an end to human trafficking must become a top priority. As many religious leaders have now said, torture is completely morally unacceptable, under any circumstances, and I will choose the candidates who are most committed to reversing American policy on the treatment of prisoners. And I will choose the candidates who understand that the immigration system is totally broken and needs comprehensive reform, but must be changed in ways that are compassionate, fair, just, and consistent with the biblical command to "welcome the stranger."


  6. Healthy families are the foundation of our community life, and nothing is more important than how we are raising up the next generation. As the father of two young boys, I am deeply concerned about the values our leaders model in the midst of the cultural degeneracy assaulting our children. Which candidates will best exemplify and articulate strong family values, using the White House and other offices as bully pulpits to speak of sexual restraint and integrity, marital fidelity, strong parenting, and putting family values over economic values? And I will choose the candidates who promise to really deal with the enormous economic and cultural pressures that have made parenting such a "countercultural activity" in America today, rather than those who merely scapegoat gay people for the serious problems of heterosexual family breakdown.

That is my list of personal "faith priorities" for the election year of 2008, but they are not "non-negotiables" for anyone else. It’s time for each of us to make up our own list in these next 12 days. Make your list and send this on to your friends and family members, inviting them to do the same thing.

+ Click to share to this article with your friends and family

ON THE GOD'S POLITICS BLOG

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

The Election, Immigration, and the Gospel
by Gabriel Salguero

In the months leading up to the election, the topic of immigration reform has disappeared from the presidential candidates' conversations. Ironically, during Hispanic Heritage month, Senators Obama and McCain spoke very little on the immigration crisis.
+Click to continue

An InterVarsity Chapter Shifts Focus from the Campus Booth to the Voting Booth
by Tim King

"We were tired of being 'booth' Christians," William explains. "Every year we would set up a booth on campus, hand out Bibles and hope that people would come to us." It wasn't working. The reputation for Christian groups on campus, whether it was earned or not, was dismal. They began to rethink the work that they were doing and what it could look like.
+Click to continue

Another Sign of the End
by Eugene Cho

I'm especially angry when I read reports of how we got into this mess and even more so, how numerous companies -- who are receiving billions of dollars with the taxpayers' money in this historical bailout -- continue to spend lavishly for executive compensation, glitzy hotels, and nice massages. So, today, I just want to share a video with you to make you laugh.
+Click to continue

Voting Through the Lens of the Poor
by Jennifer Svetlik

Around the nation, Christians are lifting up the biblical call to social justice and care for the poorest and most vulnerable, globally and in their communities, through participation in Sojourners' Vote Out Poverty campaign. Park Street Church in Boston organized a Poverty Sunday event last month that included a commitment by church members to "vote through the lens of the poor."
+Click to continue

Listening to the Black Church Tradition on Voting and Hope by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
Maybe it is time for us to listen to the black church tradition that Dr. King inherited and learn from people who never had the luxury of imagining that faith and politics could be kept separate. At a time like this, brothers and sisters at my church tell me, the church cannot be reduced to a voting bloc for the candidate we like best.
+Click to continue

Different but Equal?
by Mimi Haddad

Many of us have heard the claim that though women and men are equal, they are said to have "different roles." How are men and women equal but different? Perhaps you imagine the most obvious issue, that women, rather than men, conceive children, carry them to term, give birth, and breast-feed them. But if you press further, you discover that "equal but different" turns on one issue alone -- authority.
+Click to continue

Jim Cramer's Wallis' Mad Money
by Jim Wallis

My stock pick for the day? Hormel, the makers of Spam. Since May, Spam has been reporting record sales. It is one of the first moves for many families when they need to cut back in their food budgets. So BUY, BUY, BUY! (Editors Note: PLEASE don't take stock advice from Jim Wallis! In that case, you probably shouldn't from Jim Cramer either.)
+Click to continue

Letter to the Man Who Yelled at Me
by Jeannie Choi

You saw me. You saw my black hair, my sloped forehead, brown eyes, and undoubtedly in your mind you thought something along the lines of chink, gook, oriental, Chinese chick who doesn't speak English. And for some reason, for a reason that I can't understand, you proceeded to get right in my face and yell at me. And if you can't remember what it is you yelled—well, I do and I probably will forever.
+Click to continue

Climate Change: The Threat to Life and A New Energy Future
by Becky Garrison

What struck me about this exhibit is that it acknowledges that climate change can be attributed to a number of factors. Also, the exhibit makes it crystal clear that there isn't only one solution to this global crisis.
+Click to continue

Seeing Immigration Through Biblical Spectacles
by Rich Nathan

Christians need to be different than people around us and have a distinctive way of looking at issues that affect our society. My concern as a Christian pastor is to disciple our church to begin with the Bible in all of our thinking. Let me apply this to one real world issue, illegal immigration.
+Click to continue

Spiritually-Inflected Science Fiction
by Elizabeth Palmberg

Some -- okay, a lot -- of science fiction treats religion, and even spirituality, as pre-rational claptrap or dangerous authoritarianism. But jostling on the same shelves as the neo-imperialist space wars and the vampire-themed soft porn, there's a universe of spiritually relevant good writing. In the newest issue of Sojourners (which you can read here), we gave capsule reviews of 11 sci-fi books that incorporate spirituality from the last decade, but just for God's Politics readers, here are more examples from earlier decades.
+Click to continue

What New Monastics Can Learn from History (Part 2)
by Onleilove Alston

[continued from part 1] Out of a general respect for anyone who seeks to serve the inner city (I grew up in the housing projects of Brooklyn's equivalent to Kensington), and with an excitement for the church's renewed dedication to preaching "the good news to the poor," I humbly give a few suggestions for how New Monasticism can avoid repeating the past mistakes of the Settlement House movement.
+Click to continue

History Won't Wash Away Torture's Shame
by Jimmy McCarty

The Bush administration has known and approved of "enhanced interrogation techniques," i.e., torture of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, since 2002, and provided written approval of such techniques to the CIA in 2003 and 2004. For many this is not new information. What is new information is that it seems everyone involved wanted someone else to be held responsible if these techniques ever became public knowledge.
+Click to continue

Put the 'Labor' Back in Secretary of Labor (Our Secretary of Labor is M.I.A., Part 2)
by Kim Bobo

[continued from part 1] Regardless of who wins the presidential election, we need a secretary of labor who thinks and acts like Frances Perkins. Perkins was the secretary of labor appointed by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932 to help him address the economic crisis left by eight years of Coolidge and Hoover leadership. Learning from Perkins' lessons, here's what the new secretary of labor should do.
+Click to continue

The Sad Truth about the Surge
by Tony Campolo

In a recent conversation, a friend reiterated the campaign rhetoric that the "surge" in Iraq has worked, and that Barack Obama ought to admit that John McCain was right in advocating the surge long before President Bush made it a reality. Because I wasn't so sure that the surge deserved such lauding, I did some research, and what I found was very disturbing. Yes! The violence has de-escalated, just as my friend had pointed out, but the reasons I discovered as to why it has de-escalated have caused me much consternation.
+Click to continue

SOJOURNERS IN THE NEWS

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

Top Stories:

Activists see political opening for poverty
Akron Beacon Journal
Christian and social activists see opportunity in an unconventional presidential race and a spiraling national economy: pushing poverty as an election issue. "I feel more momentum, energy and focus on poverty than I have in churches in three decades or more," said evangelical Jim Wallis, chief executive officer of Sojourners social justice ministries in Washington, D.C. +Click to continue


Bringing Poverty into the Public Debate
Washington Memo

Blogs Comment On Catholic Voters, Presidential Debate, Infant Mortality, Abortion
Medical News Today

Anti-poverty crusader to speak at prayer breakfast
The Advocate

Issue 5 centers around payday lending reform
The Crescent-News

"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.


ADVERTISERS

Click Here!

In the world’s war zones, children are at risk from abandoned and unexploded weapons -- in fields, roads, even on playgrounds. Everyone deserves to live free of fear. The investments we make are part of this picture, and that’s why MMA engages in stewardship investing, a philosophy of financial decision making motivated and informed by faith. What do your investments promote? Find out more. Download a prospectus.


Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!


Dr. Tony Campolo is leading Spruce Lake’s Men’s Retreat January 8-9, 2009. (Pocono Mts. of northeastern PA.) Package, $99/person. Guys, if you’re seeking a challenging call to discipleship, click here: www.sprucelake.org (Programmed Events tab)

Miracles happen when we share the joys and sorrows of families marginalized in society. Help make miracles with the Maryknoll Sisters this Thanksgiving season. Click here for more information.

Changed people change the world. Subscribe to Sojourners. Click here.

Are you Hungry for Justice? Learn more with this 6-week devotional guide from the editors of Sojourners. Feed your hunger with daily prayer and readings that explore the Bible's call to social justice.

Vote Out Poverty. Concerned for the "least of these?" Let the candidates know that overcoming poverty is central to how you vote and ask for their commitment to making poverty history.


God's Politics Blog facebook
MySpace YouTube

Click Here!

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

GET THE MAGAZINE: Subscribe today

CONTACT US: General inquiries: sojourners@sojo.net | Advertising: advertising@sojo.net | About Us

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