The Common Good

Rediscovering Values: A Book I Didn’t Plan to Write

Sojomail - December 10, 2009


This is the price for freedom ... Our friends in jail are on hunger strike. I cannot help protesting. I simply have to do something.

- A young Iranian man in his mid-20s with an arm badly bruised by what he said was a police truncheon during daylong protests on National Student Day. Though not as large as those that broke out in the days after this summer's disputed elections, they took place in a larger number of cities and towns and followed weeks of warnings by security officials. (Source: Los Angeles Times)

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

Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

Rediscovering Values: A Book I Didn’t Plan to Write

Get a free trial issue of Sojourners Get a free issue of Sojourners
Donate to Support Sojourners
Donate to support

I am an Evangelical Christian. What does that mean? In part, I believe that Christmas, the celebration of Christ’s birth, is good news. Not just to me or my family or those that think or believe just like me, but for everyone. Last Christmas was tough for many families in our country, and this year will be the same for many more. There are few families that will not be touched in some way by the Great Recession. It might be a relative laid off, a friend’s house nearing foreclosure, or uncertainty at your workplace. In the midst of it all, families across the world -- along with Joy and I and our boys -- light Advent candles each night and wait with great anticipation for Christmas morning -- but we also engage in preparation.

Preparation for the good news. Because there is good news. Two thousand years ago, in a land under the rule of foreign occupiers, a baby was born to a virgin to bring hope and give light to a world in desperate need. That fact is still good news today; it’s the reason why, in the midst of economic uncertainty, we prepare, we anticipate, and we celebrate. It is because of this hope that I do the work I do and that I write you today.

I have written a new book -- one I didn’t expect or plan to write, but one that simply emerged as we were seeking to respond to the economic crisis that has gripped the nation and the world. I wrote it as a tract for the times, and it’s titled Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street -- A Moral Compass for the New Economy. It will be released by Simon & Schuster in January and is available now for pre-orders.

This recession presents us with an enormous opportunity to rediscover our values -- as people, as families, as communities of faith, and as a nation. It is a moment of decision we dare not pass by. We have forgotten some very important things, and it’s time to remember them again. Yes, we do need an economic recovery, but we also need a moral recovery -- on Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street. And we will need a moral compass for the new economy that is emerging.

The Great Recession that has gripped the world, defined the moment, and captured all of our attention has also revealed a profound values crisis. Just beneath the surface of the economics debate, a deep national reflection is begging to take place and, indeed, has already begun in people’s heads, hearts, and conversations. The questions it raises concern our personal, family, and national priorities; our habits of the heart; our measures of success; the values of our families and our children; our spiritual well-being; and the ultimate goals and purposes of life -- including our economic life.

Underneath the public discourse, another conversation is emerging about who and what we want to be -- as individuals, as a nation, and as a human community. By and large, the media has missed the deeper discussion and continues to focus only upon the surface of the crisis. And most of our politicians just want to tell us how soon the crisis can be over. But there are deeper questions here and some fundamental choices to make. That’s why this could be a transformational moment -- one of those times that comes around only very occasionally. We don’t want to miss this opportunity.

The economic tide going out has not only shown us who was “swimming naked,” as Warren Buffett put it, but it has also revealed that no invisible hand b­e­hind the curtain is guiding our economy to inevitable success. It is a sobering moment in our lives when we can see our own thoughtlessness, greed, and impatience writ large across the global sky. And it is a good time to start asking better questions.

The book suggests we have been asking the wrong question: “When will this crisis end?” It seeks to replace that with the right question: “How will this crisis change us?” The book is about the moral recovery which must accompany the economic recovery, and suggests that we must not go back to business as usual; rather, we need a new normal. The new book is about the values questions that are at the heart of how we got into this crisis, and are critical to getting us out of it. It describes the maxims that overtook us -- Greed is Good, It’s All About Me, and I Want it Now -- values that wreck economies, cultures, families, and even our souls. Instead it calls for a return to new/old virtues like Enough is Enough, We’re In It Together, and evaluating our decisions by their impact on the Seventh Generation out.

It also calls for a conversion of our habits of the heart to a clean energy economy, a family values culture, and a new meaning for both work and service. It suggests that, spiritually, the market had become god-like, and that restoring proper worship even means recognizing the limits of the market. The book describes how our many religious traditions contain many valuable correctives to this economic crisis that has spun out of control. It describes how the recent narrative of banks, bailouts, and bonuses has all the makings of a bad morality play. And it ends with 20 “moral exercises” that offer a values audit of our personal, family, community, financial, and social life.

Could there be some good news in, through, and even because of this Great Recession? Maybe so, if it becomes the opportunity to rediscover some important things that we somehow lost, but now might find again.

E-mail E-mail this article to friends
Facebook Share this article on Facebook
Comment Comment on this article on the God's Politics Blog


Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn


Promoting gender equality is crucial to combating global poverty, a point Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn make in their new book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.

Click here to listen as Sojourners associate editor Molly Marsh interviews Kristof and WuDunn about their work.


Feed a Neighbor this Christmas

Last year, 49 million people in the United States, including more than 16 million children, were at risk of going hungry. As Christmas -- the time of giving -- draws ever closer, remember those families, children, and individuals around you who may worry about where the next meal will come from, or have to skip a few meals. This holiday season especially, let’s endeavor to make sure that not one of our neighbors goes hungry. Join the United We Serve: Feed a Neighbor initiative today.

Download the Anti-Hunger Volunteer Toolkit to get started.


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

Obama's Nobel Peace Prize Speech and Just Peace Theory
by Valerie Elverton Dixon

If all we notice in President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize Lecture is a justification of war, we will miss the 21st century import of his thinking and the hope of peace he called forth. President Obama spoke of just peace, the middle ground between just war thinking and pacifism.
+ Click to continue

Climate Justice Clips: Burning for Change
by Becky Garrison

As we reflect on the current economic crisis and the Copenhagen Climate Summit, I'm reminded of the documentary The Burning Season, which I caught during the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival. In this film Dorjee Sun, a young Australian entrepreneur, asks the question, "Can you make money and still save the environment?"
+ Click to continue

Seeing Christ in Human Rights
by Donn Mitchell

Today, Dec. 10, is Human Rights Day, an annual observance commemorating the promulgation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Christians from around the world, both learned and grassroots, are encouraged to offer their insights and perspectives on a document that mentions neither God nor Jesus Christ, but has attracted the allegiance of the world's Christians for three generations.
+ Click to continue

Guess Who's Getting a Christmas Bonus
by Sheldon C. Good

Do you think you'll get a Christmas bonus this year? I know one person who will -- the new chief executive who will take over for Ken Lewis at Bank of America.
+ Click to continue

How I Responded to Public Racial Mockery
by Rodolpho Carrasco

A while back, I was in a situation where I was mocked publicly in front of 300-plus young leaders. There were racial overtones. I was prepared to leave the matter for private discussion and reconciliation. But then the mocking turned against the African-American and Latino teens who were pictured with me on a slide show that was being watched by our entire assembled group. The ethnic minority leaders in the room were staring at me as this spectacle unfolded. I sensed shock and fear on their faces, shock at what was happening and fear of speaking up about it.
+ Click to continue

The Archbishop and the President's Common Problem
by LaVonne Neff

I really like President Obama and Archbishop Williams. I like them because they are thoughtful reconcilers, and I think both of them have really good ideas. The question is, can they do their jobs if they continue to be simultaneously irenic and visionary?
+ Click to continue

How 'Scroogenomics' Is Saving My Christmas
by Helen Lee

I felt a bit Scrooge-ish saying this, and I admit that I was worried that this news would deeply disappoint him, but after taking a moment to ponder my words, he answered, "I totally agree with this plan!"
+ Click to continue

Huckabee Got it Right
by Alan Bean

Those calling for Huckabee's head on a platter argue that no sentence should ever be commuted because every prisoner might turn out to be a bloodthirsty psychopath. Follow that logic to its natural conclusion and every sentence would be a life sentence.
+ Click to continue

Fired Up About Financial Reform
by Jennifer Kottler

Some issues just get under my skin, while others can roll off me like water off a duck's back. This is one of the former. Financial reform. I think that most people probably roll their eyes and wonder how much of a difference this will really make, or could have made, and will it really make a difference in my life.
+ Click to continue

In Praise of Christmas Materialism
by Ernesto Tinajero

This is our business cycle every year: over-buying, regretting the over-buying, saying we will transcend the materialism, and then over-buying the next year. To all of this, I answer that I believe in the power of Christmas's materialism. That materialism is the reason for the season, and it can lead us out of the spiritual malaise of consumerism. For this is the season that God become flesh and lived among us. The Son of God became material out of love for us.
+ Click to continue

Climate Justice Clips: The Real Conspiracy at Copenhagen
by Jarrod McKenna

This clip is great crash course from the "Story of Stuff Project" about the problems of "cap and trade" solutions that James Hansen is referring to in the above quote. While many climate deniers have distracted people's attention with the sound and fury surrounding the now infamous hacked e-mails, there are more important critical questions Christians need to be asking about COP 15.
+ Click to continue

Advent: Hope for Immigrants Too
by Crissy Brooks

Last year at Christmastime one of my neighbors was deported. The next day his mother showed up to volunteer as a gift wrapper at our annual community Christmas Store. I told her she should go home, that it was all right to sit this one out. "No, my neighbors are depending on me," she replied.
+ Click to continue

The Murphy Report on Clergy Sexual Abuse: Why We All Need Accountability
by Margaret Benefiel

It is, of course, necessary that the priests and bishops be held accountable now that the truth has emerged. And it is appropriate for us to be horrified at what occurred. At the same time, it's easy to point the finger at the priests and bishops, believing that we would never behave in such a way, that we ourselves are above abuse of power in any form. But are we? How might we be on the slippery slope toward abusing our power, albeit perhaps in less horrifying ways?
+ Click to continue

I've Done It. I've Reclaimed Christmas.
by Lynne Hybels

I've tiptoed into December with a calm mind and a quiet spirit. I don't feel overwhelmed at all. Lest you think I'm bragging, hear me out. I'm calm only in the aftermath of crisis.
+ Click to continue

Climate Justice Clips: Countdown to Copenhagen, Day 1
by Jarrod McKenna

Okay, so if Amos was to show up today and deliver his poetic-prophetics in the body of a skinny, pale, spectacled, over-educated English environmental analyst, he might look something like the amazing Danny Chivers.
+ Click to continue

Advent Echoes: Checkpoints and Childbirth on a West Bank Winter Night
by Phil Haslanger

... More time went by. Still at the checkpoint. And there were two more checkpoints to go. His wife's labor was progressing rapidly. Finally, in desperation, Hani picked up his wife to carry her over hilly, rocky, ice-covered paths on that January night as his sister used the glow from her cell phone to light the way.
+ Click to continue

Vulture Funds Feed on the Global Poor
by Hayley Hathaway

Not only are the majority of Liberia's debts illegitimate, the new democratic government run by Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is doing everything it can to start a new chapter in the country's history.
+ Click to continue

Climate Justice Clips: Countdown to Copenhagen, Day 2
by Jarrod McKenna

I find deeply moving how they are listening and learning from the global south and providing a space where their voices are heard. I hope and pray that we as Christians are doing the same.
+ Click to continue

Climate Justice Clips: Countdown to Copenhagen, Day 3
by Jarrod McKenna

This clip comes from a fantastic collective that is putting into practice Gandhi's words: "Under certain circumstances, fasting is [a] weapon God has given us for use in times of utter helplessness."
+ Click to continue

Christmas Toy Drives Bring Protests of Anti-Immigrant Discrimination
by Larry James

Last week we received word from Houston, Texas, that some charitable organizations would screen out the children of undocumented residents of the city when it comes time to distribute toys and other Christmas gifts.
+ Click to continue

Dive!: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Dumpster Diving but Were Afraid to Ask
by Ryan Rodrick Beiler

A confession: When I first saw publicity for Dive! I forwarded it to my main dumpster diving partner with the subject line: "great." As in, "great, now dumpster diving will become more popular and we'll have more competition."
+ Click to continue

Afghanistan: Praying Our Part
by Valerie Elverton Dixon

We may not agree on the wisdom of the strategy, but we can agree that we want the war over. We can agree that we want to see the end of useless violence wherever we find it. We can agree to do our part.
+ Click to continue

Climate Justice Clips: Countdown to Copenhagen, Day 4
by Jarrod McKenna

This clip is a response to a sincere Christian who thinks climate change is God's will. It's not so much a theological response as a prophetic challenge from outside the fold to not "blame God" for the consequences of human sin and fail to hear the call to repent and change.
+ Click to continue

Obama's Afghanistan Policy and Christian Political Humility
by Aaron Taylor

I may refuse to serve in combat because I believe that killing in war is a violation of Jesus' command to "love your enemies," but that doesn't mean that I have God's perspective on what should be done about Iraq and Afghanistan.
+ Click to continue

America's Pervasive Pattern of Race-Based Medical Disparities
by Onleilove Alston

Our country has a long history of underserving and mistreating African-Americans and other marginalized groups.
+ Click to continue

Climate Justice Clips: Countdown to Copenhagen, Day 5
by Jarrod McKenna

This video features three heroes of mine and courageous Christian leaders, Desmond Tutu, Wangari Maathai and Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia, talking about the importance of climate justice for the poorest of the poor right across the continent of Africa.
+ Click to continue


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

Top Stories:

A Christianity with less 'self'
The Washington Post
For some, the "Christian community lifestyle" means not raising their own food remotely with "other self-sufficient Christians" but rather moving to inner-city neighborhoods and sharing resources. Groups such as D.C.-based Bread for the World and Sojourners are examples of a Christianity that is thriving and badly undercovered. +Click to continue

Who Backs Obama's Afghanistan Strategy
Christianity Today

Ethicist: Obama's Afghanistan plan falls short of just-war criteria
Associated Baptist Press

U.S. Christian leaders denounce Ugandan anti-gay bill
Associated Baptist Press

Christian leaders oppose Uganda's anti-gay bill
Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life

Uganda's anti-gay law riles U.S.
On Faith

"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!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

"Giving a Gift of Love"
Maryknoll Sisters
Making God's Love Visible

NEW JOINT APPOINTMENT AT PALMER/EVANGELICALS FOR SOCIAL ACTION. Professor of Public Policy and Christian Ethics at Palmer Seminary at Eastern University and Coordinator of Public Policy Programs at Evangelicals for Social Action. Job description.

Wisdom for your commute: Download audio talks by Shane Claiborne, Brian McLaren, Lucy Winkett and more. Shop the SojoStore.

Stickers! Magnets! Buttons! Show your stuff with pithy statements from Sojourners. Order yours today.

Faith and Finances: Christians and the Economic Crisis. Sojourners’ new discussion guide gives a faithful perspective on money, power, and stewardship. Great for Sunday school classes, small groups, and sermon preparation. Download now.

Travel Mug: Let others know you're a Sojourner with this exclusive mug, complete with Jim Wallis quote. Microwavable, dishwasher safe, and comes with a lid for commuting. Order now.

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.