The Common Good

Automakers: Apology Accepted

Sojomail - December 11, 2008


It was worth it. It was not only for us, it was for everybody nationwide, because they can do the same thing.

- Heriberto Barriga, a nine-year employee of Republic Windows & Doors, where a six-day protest by employees was ended with an agreement to accommodate workers' demands. Workers had argued they were owed the pay after the company shut down their plant last Friday on only three days' notice, rather than the two months' notice required by federal law. (Source: Chicago Breaking News)

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

Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

Automakers: Apology Accepted

Get a free trial issue of Sojourners Get a free issue of Sojourners
This week GM printed a full page ad in Automotive News magazine to make a public apology. They said:

While we’re still the U.S. sales leader, we acknowledge we have disappointed you. At times we violated your trust by letting our quality fall below industry standards and our designs become lackluster. We proliferated our brands and dealer network to the point where we lost adequate focus on our core U.S. market. We also biased our product mix toward pickup trucks and SUVs. And we made commitments to compensation plans that have proven to be unsustainable in today’s globally competitive industry. We have paid dearly for these decisions, learned from them and are working hard to correct them by restructuring our U.S. business to be viable for the long-term.

This gesture could easily be interpreted as “too little too late,” a desperate P.R. campaign, or as a “bizarre” and “pointless exercise” as some analysts have put it. While I do not know the hearts of the executives at GM, I would like to take this apology at face value and accept it.

The heart of our faith is about relationships. How they are broken and how they are fixed. Righteousness is the term we use that means “right relationships.” It may sound like an oversimplification, especially in light of all of the complex market instruments that are in use today, but the root of all of this financial mess and turmoil are broken relationships, broken social covenants.

The relationship between employer and employee. The relationship between corporations and community. The relationship between stock holders and executives. The relationship between consumers and their creditors. The relationship between the businesses, the government, and our civic institutions. The relationship between people and the planet we live on. These relationships are broken, distorted, and even abandoned. All of them are in need of redemption.

If all that come out of this crisis are some new regulations on naked short-selling, transparency in hedge funds, realistic credit ratings for mortgage backed securities, and a slap on the wrist for those who spent more than they had, then we have missed the point. All or some of these actions may be good and may be necessary, but no maze of regulations or army of watch dogs can ever change the fact that we have broken and abandoned the relationships that build up the foundations of a good society. As I have said before, this economic crisis is both structural and spiritual.

If we only treat the symptoms of the problems without also seeking personal and communal transformation, we will find ourselves on the losing side of this battle. However, if we fail to regulate our markets and hope that the “invisible hand” will turn all our vices into virtues, we fall into the painful naiveté that brought us to this place to begin with.

Part of what scares us when we see a company like GM collapsing is that we can see our own vices writ large against the sky. When we hear that these companies have been producing not the best that they could, but only what would just get by, we think of our own failings. When credit freezes up and lenders do not trust borrowers or borrowers trust their lenders, we think of all the times that we have refused trust to others and the times that we’ve broken the trust that has been extended to us. When we watch the bubble burst, we see the futility of our own greed and our inability to say that enough is enough.

If we are honest with ourselves, we realize that the very mistakes the leadership of GM, Chrysler, and Ford have made are all too recognizable in ourselves—even if there are drastic differences of scale. All I can say is, apology accepted. Maybe we all need the chance to make a fresh start and begin to slowly dig our way out of this crisis.

Being from Detroit, I hope that Congress will pass the loan package for the auto companies—with a whole range of tough conditions, clear oversight, and a goal of becoming the world’s leading innovators in green automotive technology. Because bailouts without apologies, penance, and true change are never a good idea for any of us.

+ Click to share to this article

+ Click to respond to this article on the God's Politics Blog


My Advent Calendar: Daily Reflections by Diana Butler BassDiana Butler Bass opens her Advent calendar with the Sojourners community this year, sharing her daily reflections on the God's Politics blog. + Read the series

+ Click here to read today's reflection for December 11


Sojourners magazine

See the newest issue of Sojourners, with our memos to President-elect Barack Obama:

Ed Spivey VideoAlso, watch the latest video from Sojourners' Art Director and resident humor columnist Ed Spivey Jr., as he takes on the economic crisis and former Lehman Brothers CEO Richard Fuld in this month's H'rumphs. Warning: frequent interruptions from a sock puppet ensue.


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

Dear Santa, All I Want for Christmas...
by LaShaune Littlejohn

Dear Santa, I remember how Christmas used to be when I was a little girl: waking up early Christmas morning, racing downstairs to see the presents and unwrapping gifts. But since I've grown up, Christmas is about Christ, and the greatest "present" to me is the time I get to spend with my family and friends.
+ Click to continue

Audio: Change We Can Believe In
by Efrem Smith

In this clip Pastor Efrem talks about how, in order to be change agents in society, we need to change a church divided by race, class, and culture. But a critical part of creating that change occurs within us as individuals and how we relate to others. Basically, how is your life changed because of your identity in Christ?
+ Click to listen

Postville Still Suffering in the Wake of Immigration Raids
by Allison Johnson

Working families who were once self-sufficient are now totally reliant on the charity of the church for survival. Agriprocessors plant workers who are now material witnesses in legal proceedings were required to return to the area but are without permission to work. Four thriving Latino evangelical churches in the area disintegrated overnight. One congregation went from more than 200 members to only 12.
+ Click to continue

Downsize Wall Street
by Elizabeth Palmberg

So here's the cold, hard, unvarnished economic truth about financial deregulation, and the big gaps between rich and poor it fosters: They're really, really lousy for the economy, as Robert S. McElvaine points out in "It's the Equality, Stupid" in this month's Sojourners magazine.
+ Click to continue

Remembering Merton on the 40th Anniversary of His Death
by Troy Jackson

1968 was a year filled with tragic deaths, of young leaders lost. In April, we reflected on 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and in June we remembered the tragic loss of Robert Kennedy. A lesser-known voice was also taken from us 40 years ago today: a 53-year-old Trappist monk named Thomas Merton.
+ Click to continue

India's Challenge after Mumbai 26/11: Don't Repeat America's Mistakes
by Joseph D'souza

After the Mumbai terrorist attacks, India must not commit the same mistakes as the United States in its war on terror. A pursuit of justice must treat people of all faiths with respect and, at the end of the day, encourage diversity.
+ Click to continue

Midwifing a New America
by Vincent Harding

Not only is something trying to be born in America, but some of us are called to be the midwives in this magnificent, desperately needed, and so painfully creative process. As so often happens, the midwife metaphor overtook me before I knew what it really meant. So I turned to Selena Green, a gifted, compassionate and socially-conscious midwife, and asked her to tell me something about what she does.
+ Click to continue

Trump Blames "Act of God" for Economic Woes
by Jim Wallis

Donald Trump is trying his hand at theology. Trump was sued last week by a German bank for failing to make a loan payment. In recent court filings, Trump cited the "Act of God" clause in his contract as sufficient reason for missing the payment and needing an extension.
+ Click to continue

Burma's Untold Suffering
by Aaron Taylor

Soldiers entering villages and killing people on sight. Landmines blowing pregnant women to smithereens. There's no way this is really going on. The world would never tolerate this. How come I haven't heard about this before?
+ Click to continue

Election Night Unity, Online Animosity
by Onleilove Alston

I walked among and was embraced by a community of people unlike anything I have ever seen before. Every single color, background, orientation, race, and age began to celebrate. But hear me, people, when I say that it was not what they were celebrating about that moved me to tears, but rather that they were celebrating together. The fact that there was this beautiful bond between all of these people and that fear was the last thought in their minds!
+ Click to continue

A Brief Explanation of Canadian Politics: Prorogue, Eh?
by Michael Norman

Here in Canada if you're the party with the most seats in the House, you get to be in charge, and your leader gets to be the Prime Minister. But you can be ousted from power if all the other parties gang up on you and defeat you in a big vote. Then they get to be in power, assuming they can suspend Constant Squabbling long enough to agree on who will actually run things. Over the years, the one thing you could really count on in Canadian politics was Constant Squabbling.
+ Click to continue

New Faith-Based Initiatives Report: 'Serving People in Need, Safeguarding Religious Freedom'
by Jim Wallis

I have long supported effective partnerships between government and faith-based organizations. Unfortunately, during the years of the Bush administration these partnerships were often used for political ends.
+ Click to continue

This Season of Giving, Workers Need a Chance to Get Ahead
by Mary Beth Maxwell

In his adult years, Jesus led by example. He chose to associate with the poor, prostitutes, criminals, and others considered societal pariahs. His work, as described in the gospel, inspires us to pursue social justice, and right the wrongs of the world. I can think of no better way to follow his example than by fighting for those who don't have a voice.
+ Click to continue

Hard Times
by Mary Nelson

Thirty-one states are in fiscal crisis; cities and counties are slashing budgets. And they're slashing the very survival programs for the poor. The economic crunch, as we all know, is not only a matter of investments and credit on Wall Street and Main Street. It deeply impacts low-income families and low-wealth communities as a whole.
+ Click to continue

'Veggie Delite': Tomato Pickers Win Wage Increase from Subway
by Joey Ager

As the third largest fast-food chain in the world adds its name to a growing list of giants to deliver wage increases and working condition improvements to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, momentum is being gained on the journey to support workers' rights in the Immokalee region of Florida.
+ Click to continue

The Green Bible
by Brian McLaren

A lot of us remember "red-letter" editions of the Bible, which put Jesus' words in red. This one puts references to God's creation in green ... and the effect is quite impressive. You realize how much of scripture depends on human beings having a real connection to the land, so they can understand the metaphors and imagery drawn from it. You also realize how much biblical writers have to say about our responsibility to care for the land.
+ Click to continue


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

Top Stories:

Top 10 Religion Stories: 7. The Birth of the New Evangelicalism
Time Magazine (online)
For decades leaders like Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo and Ron Sider have pressed their movement to extend its concern beyond classic issues of individual sin to questions like economic inequality, material aid overseas and the environment. But this year others took up their prophetic calls in response to Democratic blandishments, Bush-fatigue and an increasingly vocal youth generation that finds its church unduly pushy on issues like homosexuality.
+Click to continue

Barack Obama and faith-based politics
The Dallas Morning News
For all the significant changes Mr. Obama is expected to usher in, religion may be one that people didn't see coming. If the past eight years have been dominated by prominent conservative evangelicals like Pat Robertson and James Dobson, the Obama years may be the era of Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo, social-justice-minded evangelicals in the model of Walter Rauschenbusch and Martin Luther King Jr.
+Click to continue

Obama backers look for ways to carry out the call for change
The Boston Globe

'Last Call' proves to be prophetic
The Washington Times

"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.


Click Here!

Engage your faith. Transform your most deeply held beliefs into the power to change the world! MMA believes small choices for good can have significant impact when we all work together. You can make a difference with your investments. By engaging in stewardship investing, MMA makes it possible for your investment decisions to go hand-in-hand with your values. Find out more. Download a prospectus.

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

First Congregational Church, a progressive Christian congregation of the United Church of Christ in Redwood City, CA, is looking for a pastor to start a new UCC church in our community of 75,000 on the San Francisco Peninsula. We are providing start-up training, coaching, and two rounds of funding. Please see our Church Start Pastor Profile on the Resources page of our website for complete details on how to apply. Click here for more information.

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: (Programmed Events tab)

Scared to talk politics in church? Get the conversation going in your small group with Sojourners’ discussion guides. Lots of topics and great talking points on challenging aspects of social justice. Learn more.

Common good and economic justice? What can we learn from the Bible about the proper role of government? Explore these ideals with Sojourners’ four-part study guide, Christians and the Role of Government. Now available for download. Learn more.

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: | Advertising: | About Us

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