The Common Good

Discovering Common Ground

Sojomail - May 21, 2009


QUOTE OF THE WEEK

Sometimes, for a child, losing health care for a year can have a lifetime of consequences.

- Pediatrician Irwin Redlener, co-founder of the Children's Health Fund. More than 7 million people under age 18 have no health insurance, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. (Source: USA Today)

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

Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

Discovering Common Ground

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

The media coverage and analysis of President Obama's speech at Notre Dame on Sunday largely focused on the issue of abortion. And he did speak on that issue, clearly and strongly reiterating his own approach of finding the common ground of abortion reduction between the polarized options of "pro-choice" and "pro-life," and naming practical solutions that many on both sides of the divide can support.

Maybe we won't agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this heart-wrenching decision for any woman is not made casually; it has both moral and spiritual dimensions. So let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions; let's reduce unintended pregnancies. Let's make adoption more available. Let's provide care and support for women who do carry their children to term. Let's honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause ...

But the speech was much more than a culmination of another abortion controversy in the media. After re-reading it, I think it was likely the most significant speech Obama has made in his presidency so far in regard to many of the concerns and work of the faith community. As columnist E.J. Dionne wrote:

There were many messages sent from South Bend. Obama's opponents seek to reignite the culture wars. He doesn't. They would reduce religious faith to a narrow set of issues. He refused to join them. They often see theological arguments as leading to certainty. He opted for humility.

President Obama began by recognizing that our difficulty in finding common ground too often lies in our imperfections -- our sin -- dominating us rather than calling us to work together.

We too often seek advantage over others. We cling to outworn prejudice and fear those who are unfamiliar. Too many of us view life only through the lens of immediate self-interest and crass materialism; in which the world is necessarily a zero-sum game. The strong too often dominate the weak, and too many of those with wealth and with power find all manner of justification for their own privilege in the face of poverty and injustice. And so, for all our technology and scientific advances, we see here in this country and around the globe violence and want and strife that would seem sadly familiar to those in ancient times.

But, at the same time, he emphasized the importance of civility and how we should engage in public dialogue on issues where strong, conflicting opinions can lead us to discover that common ground.

The question, then, is how do we work through these conflicts? Is it possible for us to join hands in common effort? As citizens of a vibrant and varied democracy, how do we engage in vigorous debate? How does each of us remain firm in our principles, and fight for what we consider right, without, as Father John said, demonizing those with just as strongly held convictions on the other side? When we open up our hearts and our minds to those who may not think precisely like we do or believe precisely what we believe -- that's when we discover at least the possibility of common ground. Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction. But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature.

And the new president reminded us all that the strength of faith should produce genuine humility, rather than easy certainty, in our views, and can help lead us to a commitment to social justice.

Remember, too, that the ultimate irony of faith is that it necessarily admits doubt. It's the belief in things not seen. It's beyond our capacity as human beings to know with certainty what God has planned for us or what [God] asks of us. And those of us who believe must trust that [God's] wisdom is greater than our own.

And this doubt should not push us away from our faith. But it should humble us. It should temper our passions, cause us to be wary of too much self-righteousness. It should compel us to remain open and curious and eager to continue the spiritual and moral debate that began for so many of you within the walls of Notre Dame. And within our vast democracy, this doubt should remind us even as we cling to our faith to persuade through reason, through an appeal whenever we can to universal rather than parochial principles, and most of all through an abiding example of good works and charity and kindness and service that moves hearts and minds.

As I wrote on Monday, this president's willingness to confront controversy with an appeal to common values could help to change the way we address a number of divisive and controversial issues. We live in a country where we certainly know everyone will not agree on everything. In fact, it is quite an accomplishment to even get half of the country to agree on anything. Our differences, and our ability to maintain this union in spite of them, are some of our country's greatest strengths.

President Obama laid out a strong and positive vision for how people of faith, and the nation as a whole, can work together to face the most difficult moral questions of our time in both disagreement and unity. If you have not yet read the speech, I urge that you do. Sojourners has a long history of promoting this common-ground approach and does so again in the cover feature of our June 2009 issue, "Bridge Over Troubled Waters," by Julie Polter.

+ Click to share to this article

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

ON THE GOD'S POLITICS BLOG

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

Financial Assistance: Is Your Church Ready?
by Beverly Ryskamp

In the upcoming weeks and months, desperate people will knock on the doors of almost every church across the nation to ask for emergency financial assistance. But many, reluctant to ask for help, do so only at the last moment -- so there will not be much time to respond. Is your church ready?
+ Click to continue

Dick Cheney’s Contempt for Americans
by Obery Hendricks

Dick Cheney is a strange creature. For public consumption he is the cool, principled champion of the American people willing to take hard public stands on their behalf. Even when he does not explicitly voice it, Cheney's every public pronouncement bears the pious implication that the reason -- the only reason -- for his actions in the public sphere is this: that he is possessed of a servant's concern to do what is best for the American people.
+ Click to continue

Using My Liberty for Aung San Suu Kyi
by Kaitlin Barker

The world's only Nobel Peace Prize laureate in prison, Aung San Suu Kyi, has spent 13 of the past 19 years under house arrest -- and on May 27, after six consecutive years of detention, she was supposed to be a free woman. But the military junta is desperate to keep her out of the 2010 general elections, and a troublesome, uninvited American, John Yettaw -- swimming across a lake for a visit -- was just the loophole they needed.
+ Click to continue

Proximity: Relocation Doesn't Equal Relationship
by Neeraj Mehta

One of the principles of the Christian community development movement is "relocation." While the principle has depth to it, more times than not it is lived out as people who choose to move their physical residence and locate themselves in areas of concentrated poverty (see inner city) throughout our country.
+ Click to continue

Reflection on Prophet Malcolm X
by Seth Naicker

If he were alive, today would be the celebration of Minister Malcolm's 84th birthday. The life and legacy of minister Malcolm's cry for justice and equality must continue to be considered in this day and age, as we continue to stand up for justice.
+ Click to continue

Let Us Pray for the World's Bad Actors
by Valerie Elverton Dixon

Let us pray for Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe and for the Burmese generals. Let us send them our love. This is the counterintuitive radicality of the Christian witness. This is why living the teachings of Jesus is difficult.
+ Click to continue

Dogma and Disagreement
by Marilyn McEntyre

I recently found myself in conversation with a fellow believer who asked where I stood on the "non-negotiable" issues that seemed to him definitive for voting Christians. For him, as for quite a few others, the issues that divided the faithful from the wayward were abortion, same-sex marriage, and stem-cell research. These matters continue to be of grave concern to all of us who care about the terms on which we choose life and sustain it. But the question bothered me for two reasons.
+ Click to continue

Thoughts on Obama's Notre Dame Address
by Jim Wallis

After weeks of controversy surrounding Notre Dame's invitation to President Obama to receive an honorary doctorate as this year's commencement speaker, we have seen both the American democratic tradition at its best and the worst examples of those who would rather wage culture wars than engage in that democratic tradition.
+ Click to continue

Peace in the Middle East: A Step Forward
by Jim Wallis

Two days, in comparison to years of conflict, is not a lot of time, but it was long enough for a broad spectrum of Christian leaders to find hope in a growing consensus around a way forward for peace in the Middle East.
+ Click to continue

A Big Problem for Land Justice
by Elizabeth Palmberg

Why should the world turn away from huge, monocropped factory farms? Pick the reason you like best. Massive agro-industry uses lots of oil and fossil-fuel-based fertilizer. Small farmers are displaced -- often forcibly or illegally -- to create massive plantations, contributing, for example, to Colombia's huge crisis of literally millions displaced from their land.
+ Click to continue

Challenging Obama on Abortion
by Glen Stassen

President Obama has spoken clearly about his intention to adopt policies that reduce abortions. I want to show data that urge him and Congress to make that reduction happen, and I want to challenge President Obama to let us know him by his fruits, by his results.
+ Click to continue

The Unique Awareness, Insight, and Wisdom of Women
by Mimi Haddad

When slaves learned to read the Bible, they saw themselves in the Exodus story. Their experiences of slavery greatly informed an understanding of scripture that is beneficial for all of us. The same is true of women. ... Because women bring specific and different insights to scripture, it is important to include their voices in the decisions we make as the church.
+ Click to continue

Justice for Vieques
by Jim Wallis

For more than 60 years -- from 1941 to 2003 -- the U.S. Navy used the Puerto Rican island of Vieques as a testing ground for its weapons. While they have refused to disclose the total amount, it is known that in the 15 years from 1984 to 1998, more than 80 million pounds of explosives were dropped on the small island.
+ Click to continue

Priest Scandal Re-opens Celibacy Debate
by César Baldelomar

Scandal has again surfaced in the American Catholic Church, but, gratefully, this time it is not over child abuse or mismanagement of funds. Rather, it is over the publication of sensual pictures that show famous Miami Catholic priest Alberto Cutié kissing and cuddling a woman on a South Florida beach.
+ Click to continue

Why You Need to Know Vincent Chin
by Eugene Cho

Since I can't write it any better, I've asked a guest blogger -- Steph at GRACE2X -- to share her reflections on Vincent Chin, a Chinese-American beaten to death by a baseball bat in 1982 by two white Americans. Her voice is even more unique because she is a lawyer who lives in Detroit (the place of Vincent Chin's brutal death) and who actually received the Ina Kay Award on behalf of Vincent's family.
+ Click to continue

Witness to Sri Lanka's Onslaught, part 2
by Christina Cobourn Herman

Doctors who are working in the war zone in northern Sri Lanka – the government calls it a "no-fire" zone – are unbelievably courageous and dedicated. There are three government doctors who are caring for thousands of badly wounded people, some with horrific burns, and others with gashes from exploding shells.
+ Click to continue

Biblical Ambiguity Doesn't Diminish Authority
by Marilyn McEntyre

It's important to distinguish, in our scriptural and theological debates, between matters of opinion (remembering that not all opinions are equally informed) and matters of fact (which are at least theoretically subject to historical verification or rational validation or scientific proof). Not all facts can be proven, not all opinions are worthy of consideration, and scientific method is not the final arbiter of factuality, but to consider the basis on which we accept as right, true, or useful what we find in the morning newspaper and, most importantly, in scripture, is an indispensable criterion of responsible reading.
+ Click to continue

SOJOURNERS IN THE NEWS

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

Top Stories:

Faith Groups Get Involved In Health Care
The Atlantic Online
As a wide array of businesses, interest groups, and unions speak up on health care with reform efforts moving forward, so too are faith groups: a coalition of progressive and community-organizing-oriented religious groups will run ads on Christian radio starting Thursday (running through next week) in Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, and Nebraska and will hold events with congregations nationwide. The coalition includes PICO National Network, Faith in Public Life, Faithful America, Sojourners, Gamaliel Foundation, and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. +Click to continue


Handling America's homeless families
The Washington Times

Peace in Imo Rests on Zoning – Ozichukwu
This Day Online

"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!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!



And the winner is Sojourners magazine! Sojourners was just awarded the highest honors (Award of Excellence and Best in Class) from both the Associated Church Press and the Evangelical Church Press. See what you are missing with a free issue. Click here to order yours.

Order Strangers in the Land today, because greater justice leads to deeper faith. Take a six-week journey to get an in-depth look at immigration in relation to the church and the Bible. Click here.

Was Jesus an early feminist? Explore how Jesus radically valued women as disciples throughout his ministry with Sojourners’ four-part study guide, Christians and Feminism. Use it this Sunday with your small group - available now. Click here.

Let your laptop speak with the words of Micah 6:8 - "Act Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly." Get your reusable, long-lasting Sojourners’ laptop skin today. Click here to see and order today.

Let others know you're a Sojourner with this exclusive travel mug! With the Sojourners logo on one side and a Jim Wallis quote on the other. Microwavable, dishwasher safe, and comes with a lid for commuting. Available here.

Nonviolent love for one’s enemies is not optional; rather, it is a key part of following Jesus. Explore this topic with Sojourners’ four-part study guide, Christians and Nonviolence, now available for download.


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.