The Common Good

Creating Change in the Midst of Crisis: Re-thinking Our Values

Sojomail - January 28, 2010


It is all part of the game they play with the international community to avoid pressure. But just in case, we are booking the flying pigs in November for a celebratory fly-past over the Burmese embassy.

- Mark Farmaner, of Burma Campaign UK, on reports that Burma's military government is contemplating the release of the country’s democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, at the end of the year, but only after the anticipated date of national elections. (Source: Times Online)

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

Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

Creating Change in the Midst of Crisis: Re-thinking Our Values

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

In past years at Davos, I often found myself in early morning optional sessions on social responsibility, in small rooms on the third floor of the conference center, with people like Muhammad Yunus, the founder of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. But this year, Muhammad and I were on a panel in the main floor in a prime time plenary session at the World Economic Forum called “Re-thinking Values in the Post-Crisis World.” Because of the economic crisis, values have become a central conversation at Davos 2010.

We were joined by several CEOs, and all seemed to agree that underneath the economic crisis is also a crisis of values. Last year at Davos, I said that asking “When will the crisis end” was the wrong question, and the right question to ask was “How will this crisis change us?” So a year later, our panel took up the question of how much we are changing. I said that massive bank bonuses in the face of massive economic suffering were a moral scandal, but they were only the symptom of a deeper erosion of societal values. Many seemed to agree, and the word “greed” was lifted up as a primary cause of this crisis, as were “selfishness” and “short-termism.” The market is supposed to be a means, not an end in itself. The creation of wealth, necessary goods and services, and jobs -- including the goal of helping lift people out of poverty -- were all set aside for the narrowest goals of simply making as much money as possible. I talked about the need to build “a common good economy” with multiple stakeholders and not just shareholders; and Muhammad Yunus explained his concept of “social business” based on “selflessness” instead of selfishness. One CEO said, “the critics of capitalism are now rising up, and this time, they’re not Marxists.”

In his opening address later that day, World Economic Forum founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab warned against the danger of thinking the crisis had passed and quickly getting back to “business as usual.” Schwab said the WEF was committed to “re-thinking our values, re-designing our systems, and re-building our institutions.” If we don’t do that, he said, the financial crisis will become a social crisis.

He then introduced Nicolas Sarkozy, the president of France, who was surprisingly candid and clear about the causes of this crisis: “the entrepreneur gave way to the speculator” out for a “fast buck.” It was an economics only for “here and now” resulting in a “depreciation of the future.” He asked, “How can we return the economy to the service of humankind?” Sarkozy suggested that it was time to put environmental law, labor law, and health law on the same level as trade law and even to consider taxing financial transactions. Banks, he said, have the job of assessing the risks of lending in order to finance the growth of the economy, not speculating for their own huge profits -- agreeing with President Obama’s efforts to dissuade banks from proprietary speculation.

And the French president specifically said we can no longer “relegate half of humanity to the sidelines” -- a theme I presented earlier in the day to a “social ideas laboratory” of leaders from business, politics, and civil society. I pointed out that even before this crisis, the global economic system was already failing half of God's children -- three billion people living on less than $2 per day. This is the time to bring them in and include them in the global economy.

These were not the issues at the center of discussion at Davos in past years. The shift shows the opportunity within crisis -- one that we dare not miss.

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


Interview with Efrem Smith

efrem-smithEfrem Smith leads a multi-ethnic, multi-generational congregation as senior pastor of The Sanctuary Covenant Church in Minneapolis. In the February issue of Sojourners Magazine, Smith spoke with assistant editor Elizabeth Palmberg to discuss his trials, triumphs, and deepest joys in ministry. Read the interview here, and peruse the entire February issue live online!


'Continue the Work of Fixing Our Broken Immigration System'

In his State of the Union address last night, President Obama said, “We should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system -- to secure our borders, enforce our laws, and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nation.” Sojourners has been working on this issue for years through our Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform campaign, and we think significant progress is long overdue. Join us in supporting a better immigration system -- one that respects human dignity and the rule of law.

Sign our petition for comprehensive immigration reform.


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

The State of the Union: Unfinished Business
by Jim Wallis

After one tumultuous year in office, President Barack Obama used his first State of the Union address last evening to re-state his agenda. But rather than the inspiring rhetoric of a campaign speech, it was a more sober reflection on unfinished business.
+ Click to continue

Howard Zinn's Last Advice to Me (and America): 'Independence from the Military-Corporation'
by Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Howard died yesterday, at 87. He was one of the wisest, gentlest, dryly good-humored of progressive thinkers and activists. The best of the America he celebrated in his bottom-up history, in which the energies and currents of Blacks, of workers, of women, of religious minorities, of war resisters, were the center -- not presidents and senators. I share with you this last exchange I'll be able to have with him -- perhaps the last commentary he made on the American political scene.
+ Click to continue

Americans Listening to Palestinians Listening to Israelis
by Brian McLaren

We'd heard heart-shattering stories of Palestinians being arrested without cause, tortured, humiliated, re-arrested, re-tortured ... told quietly and calmly by people who experienced these things first hand. But what is especially powerful -- and what keeps us from being overwhelmed with cynicism or anger -- is the lack of hatred among the Palestinians we are meeting with -- both Christians and Muslims. Again and again we hear the word "nonviolent" and we see a desire not for revenge or even isolation ... but for reconciliation.
+ Click to continue

Interview with Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove on Friendship and Leadership
by Multiple Authors

Claiborne: Leadership chose me more than I chose it. When we started our community we were very suspicious of leadership. We had sort of an anarchistic mantra, "a strong people need no leader"; that was pretty sweet for a week or two.
+ Click to continue

Greed is God: Exporting the Values of America's Prosperity Heresy
by Sondra Shepley

In the absence of a global gospel witness that includes social justice, poor nations will eagerly receive a false prosperity gospel hungering to hear the incredible sliver of truth: God cares about them! All of them, not just their soul, but their whole physical and spiritual well-being.
+ Click to continue

Peaceful Coexistence of Science and Faith: Interview with NIH Director Francis Collins
by Jeannie Choi

As an evangelical Christian and advocate for the peaceful coexistence of faith and science, Collins is a controversial and puzzling figure for many. Conservatives call him a heretic for suggesting that Darwinian evolution is not just truth, but God's truth, and liberals protested his appointment last summer as head of the National Institutes of Health, claiming his faith makes him unfit to be the director of a major scientific organization.
+ Click to continue

My Son's Struggle with Christianity vs. Christ
by Chandra White-Cummings

Whoa. What was my boy saying? And how was he able to draw this distinction between Christ and Christianity? I assumed he considered them to be one and the same. But he confessed to me that he is bored with our packaging of what is supposed to be a dynamic, life-giving, robust sojourn with our Lord. In the midst of all this revelation, another thought hit me. I am probably one of those "Christians" to whom my son is referring.
+ Click to continue

Five Observations from Bethlehem
by Brian McLaren

We'll be meeting with and learning from peacemakers -- some of whom are Muslim, some Christian, some Jewish -- and through them and one another we'll seek to better understand what's happened, what's happening, and what can happen in this important corner of God's world. A highlight of our time was hearing Palestinian Lutheran pastor Rev. Mitri Raheb share five observations about this part of the world...
+ Click to continue

Saying Good-Bye to the Pause After the Hyphen
by Kathy Khang

I can't remember when I didn't consider myself a hyphenated American. Asian-American, Korean-American. Always something-American. Sure, there are those who will argue that it should be just "American," but I don't believe that "American" should be a melting pot or salad bowl. There are just too many cultural gifts we are able to bring freely when we come to America. However, knowing that legally I wasn't an American, I would often hesitate when describing myself. The pause after the hyphen.
+ Click to continue

Video: Haitians Organize to Meet their Needs
by John Engle

Watch this video to see how people in Darbonne are organizing, getting the information they need, and analyzing so that they can address problems caused by earthquake.
+ Click to continue

Prophets and Profits
by Rev. Samuel Rodriguez

In essence, our nation began with and still reflects the mitochondrial strains of faith and markets, prophets and profits, cathedrals and banks. At times it seems Plymouth Rock and Jamestown stand juxtaposed, facing opposite directions, at odds, indifferent and empathic in defense of the status quo.
+ Click to continue

Seeking Justice for Haiti's Oppressed, Orphans, and Widows
by Elizabeth Denlinger Reaves

How to apply the prophet's words in this situation? Give money, sure. Pray, without a doubt. But what else? A small group of orphans from Haiti have been allowed to enter the United States for adoption, and Temporary Protected Status has been granted for Haitians currently living in the United States without documentation. In addition, many activists are calling to cancel Haiti's international debt. But what about the widows? What about the oppressed?
+ Click to continue

Married for Money: The Unnatural Union of Government and Business
by LaVonne Neff

I understand why many people are afraid of Big Government. What I don't understand is why some of the same people seem unafraid of Big Business, which -- if unrestrained -- has even greater potential of doing harm.
+ Click to continue

Video: My Adopted Family Reunion in Haiti
by Kent Annan

It was wonderful to finally be with our "adopted family" after the earthquake -- though heartbreaking to see their family homes ruined. This video shares the story of getting back to this town after the earthquake.
+ Click to continue

Learning from Iraqi Good Samaritans
by Logan Laituri

Just a few days ago, I returned from a short trip into Iraq with a small group of Christian peacemakers. Most of us had been to the country before, but under varying circumstances: I was on a combat deployment in 2004; Greg Barrett, our organizer, went as a journalist in the run-up to the invasion in 2003; and four were part of a peace team protesting the bombing campaign during that same period. Shane Claiborne, Cliff Kindy, Weldon Nisly, and Peggy Gish were leaving Iraq in March 2003 when one of their vehicles was involved in an accident, leaving Cliff and Weldon with life-threatening injuries. Had it not been for a few Iraqi Good Samaritans, they may have never made it out alive. This more recent journey was meant to reconnect with the Iraqi folks who saved lives and moved hearts.
+ Click to continue

What Would Jesus Do in Palestine?
by Stephen Flohr

As followers of Jesus, our answer is crafted from the loving words and actions of the Good Shepherd who is both Jewish and Palestinian. Side by side with self-proclaimed atheist anarchists, I found myself at times unnerved by the cavalier attitude of tank-chasers and the hostility of those who sought to provoke violence for the sake of their own aggrandizement.
+ Click to continue

Maladjusted to Injustice
by Neeraj Mehta

I wonder sometimes if we have become too adjusted and complacent with the suffering and pain that exists around us (both near and far), allowing things to feel normal that should never be made to feel normal.
+ Click to continue

Video: Jim Wallis' Conversation with McKinsey Quarterly
by Jim Wallis

In this video interview, Wallis reflects on the opportunity that the crisis affords for reestablishing ethics in our lives and in the marketplace.
+ Click to continue

Haiti, Aftershocks and Tremors: One week and two days later
by Martha St. Jean

While the rest of the world has been pondering the economic and social fate of the recently earthquake-devastated island nation of Haiti, Haitian-Americans alone have asked, "What will happen to our culture?" As a first generation Haitian-American, I like many others have striven to find the balance between the traditions of my Haitian forefathers and the modern value system of America. How do we relocate culture, without simultaneously losing its authenticity?
+ Click to continue

'We Hunt People for Jesus': Are U.S. Soldiers Proselytising in Afghanistan?
by Heather Wilson

While the story of bible-verses-on-gun-scopes is getting more press, I am just (if not more) disturbed to read of a U.S. chaplain in Afghanistan encouraging soldiers to "hunt people for Jesus," and encouraging the distribution of Bibles translated into Dari and Pashto, according to video footage shot by a former soldier and documentary filmmaker ...
+ Click to continue

MLK and the Supreme Court: Why Campaign Finance Reform is a Civil Rights Issue
by Myrna Pérez

These laws are not about discrimination based on characteristics like race, gender, or sexual orientation. In fact, limitations on corporate expenditures are not even about people, but are instead about state-created institutions -- corporations -- which can have perpetual life without conscience or soul. But at their core, campaign finance rules are about power imbalance.
+ Click to continue

Can Compassion for Haitians Extend to Other Immigrants?
by Juliana Schnur

Though we are pleased by Secretary Napolitano's swift action on TPS, these 30,000 Haitian immigrants are just a fraction of the more than 12 million undocumented individuals residing within our borders who must be drawn out of the shadows.
+ Click to continue

Campaign Finance Outrage: Democracy for the Highest Bidder
by Jim Wallis

At a time when financial reform is at the forefront of people's concerns, giving big banks and corporations a green light to even further influence our political process is an outrage and an assault to democracy.
+ Click to continue


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

Top Stories:

Supreme Court has changed the rules of democracy
Author Jim Wallis said, “Yesterday's Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance law will give a huge boost to the special interests that already exercise a stranglehold on our political system, allowing them to tighten their grip and further prevent any meaningful change. Dismissing the practice of the last century and overturning two major precedents, the Court ruled 5-4 that corporations have the same First Amendment rights as persons, and that those rights include spending corporate funds to influence elections.” +Click to continue

Jim Wallis, American prophet
On Faith
In my work as Executive Director of Interfaith Youth Core, I get to be on stage with a lot of experts. I don't get to be on stage with that many heroes. Last night was different - I had the privilege of interviewing Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners, for an event at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. +Click to continue

He's No Ted Kennedy
Christianity Today blog

Rediscovering Values on Morning Joe

Conan O'Brien for Treasury Secretary
The Nation (NY) blog

Rediscovering Values event
Chicago Public Radio

Religious Leaders Urge Obama to Show 'Active Leadership' in Health-Care Debate
The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Groups React to Supreme Court Decision on Campaign Finance
Christianity Today blog

New evangelical group calls for cancellation of Haiti's debt
Associated Baptist Press

"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!

New book from Jim Wallis - Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street and Your Street -- A Moral Compass for the New Economy. Order here and a portion of your purchase supports Sojourners.

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

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

Let your laptop speak with the words of Micah 6:8 -- Act Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly. Get your reusuable, long-lasting Sojourners laptop skin today. Click here.

Scared of being ‘left behind’? What does Revelation really teach us? Explore this question with Sojourners’ four-part study guide, Christians and the Apocalypse. Use it this Sunday with your small group -- available online. Click here.

Get a faithful perspective on the Economic Crisis. Explore with Sojourners’ new discussion guide -- Faith and Finances: Christians and the Economic Crisis. Downloadable at the SojoStore.

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.