The Common Good

It Will Take a Mission

Sojomail - June 17, 2010



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- Zukhumar Isamudinova, one of more than 10,000 ethnic Uzbek refugees fleeing to southern Kyrgyzstan after days of ethnic clashes. (Source: The Washington Post)

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Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

It Will Take a Mission

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This week, in President Barack Obama’s Oval Office speech on the oil spill, he used the term “mission.” That’s the right word. Most of the media coverage, and even much of the presidential address Tuesday night, was about “management” -- but the real and deeper meaning that is now emerging out of the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is indeed the call to a new mission.

The ongoing discussion about who’s to blame, who’s responsible, and who’s in control of the oil spill disaster -- which is now the worst environmental catastrophe in U.S. history -- has been constant in the media, and the speech was in response to many of those questions. The clear financial, and perhaps criminal, responsibility of BP is a fundamental moral and political issue here, of course; as is the continuing frustration of people in the Gulf Coast region with the government’s response and leadership in the crisis. The need for more skimmers, more boom, more equipment, more people, more help, and much more coordination in protecting and cleaning up the endangered Gulf Coast from the gushing assault of toxic oil is very clear; but missing the deeper meaning would be an even greater disaster now.

It will take a purposeful commitment to a mission of change, of transformation in the way that our entire society and culture is energized and powered, to truly respond to the epiphany in the Gulf. After Obama described what he plans to do in response to the immediate and long-term consequences of the oil spill, he returned to more moral and even theological language in admitting how “our addiction to fossil fuels” had taken us to deeper and more and more dangerous waters -- drilling more than a mile under the ocean.

“For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered,” Obama said. “For decades, we’ve talked and talked about the need to end America’s century-long addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades we have failed to act with a sense of urgency that this challenge requires. Time and again the path forward has been blocked, not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor. The consequences of our inaction are now in plain sight.”

But will the consequences in plain sight be enough to change us? Last night, Jon Stewart did a very funny and very sobering review of how the last eight Presidents now -- Obama, Bush 2, Clinton, Bush 1, Reagan, Carter, Ford, and Nixon -- have called for and promised to end our dependence on foreign oil. It’s time to indeed call this an addiction -- and it is time for an intervention.

Obama continued, "today as we look to the Gulf, we see an entire way of life being threatened by a menacing cloud of black crude. We cannot consign our children to this future. The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now. Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash American innovation and seize control of our own destiny.”

But to change our addictive oil habit -- which is killing the environment, killing wildlife, killing us, killing the Gulf, and threatening our children -- will take a mission to:

  • Change the practice of seeing oceans as mere drilling opportunities for our insatiable addictions, instead of as an integral part of Gods’ creative ecosystem.
  • Change an economic ethic based on growth at any cost to one governed by the ethics of sustainability.
  • Change corporate greed and recklessness into accountability and even commitment to the common good.
  • Change government accountability and regulation from the cozy relationship of political appointees looking for future work in the industries they allegedly oversee, to an independent and respected vocation as civil and public servants.
  • Change the vocational trajectory of millions of our poorest youth from flipping burgers to retrofitting a society for a clean energy future.
  • Change our foreign policy based on dependence on corrupt oil regimes, on sending our sons and daughters off to fight and die for their crude product, on both fueling and paying for the violent terrorism that is eventually used against us.
  • Change the political will to overcome the entrenched, special, selfish, and partisan interests of Washington.
  • Change a culture to find new ways of living, thinking, working, transporting, and even measuring success.
  • Change our values and very spirituality to rewire both ourselves and the energy grid for a cleaner and renewable energy future.
  • Convert the faith community to provide a leadership role both by example and prophetic witness and advocacy.

At the end of his speech, President Obama described the tradition on the Gulf Coast of “the blessing of the fleet” -- before the region’s fishermen head out to sea, often for weeks at a time -- and quoted a priest and fisherman who once said, “The blessing is not that God has promised to remove all obstacles and dangers. The blessing is that he is with us always, a blessing that’s granted even in the midst of a storm.” Then Obama said, “Tonight we pray for that courage, we pray for the people of the Gulf, and we pray that a hand may guide us through the storm to a brighter day.”

It will take seeing this as mission of God, and not merely our own; and it will take our faith in God to see this mission through.

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Resources on Christians and the Environment

As people of faith, how should we respond to the Gulf Coast oil spill, mountaintop removal, and other environmental disasters? How can churches discuss the moral and theological implications of environmental disasters? What are some practical ways to foster creation care in our own lives? Here is a list of resources on Christians and the Environment to help you navigate these important questions.

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Building a Movement

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ON THE GOD'S POLITICS BLOG

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

Voices from the Gulf: Our Way of Life, Forever Altered
by Amy Andrews

Living in Mobile, Alabama during the Gulf oil spill has been like watching death creep up on us. Since the explosion on April 20, the evening news has been consumed with showing us the disaster.
+ Click to continue

The Ultimate Insult? Call a Man a Woman
by Kathy Khang

Why did the Chicago Tribune think the best way to insult Flyers' Chris Pronger was to photoshop a figure skating skirt on him and title the mock-photo "Chrissy Pronger: Looks like Tarzan, skates like Jane"? Is it because we really believe "boys will be boys" and "it's all in good fun"?
+ Click to continue

Bloody Sunday and Telling the Truth
by Gareth Higgins

For 14 people in my homeland, northern Ireland -- a place whose divisions are so fully on the surface that we still can't agree what to call it (the reason I spell it with a small 'n') -- the clocks stopped on January 30, 1972.
+ Click to continue

My Initial Response to President Obama's Speech
by Brian McLaren

I was glad the president emphasized the need to break our addiction to oil in his speech last night, and I thought he did a good job of demonstrating commitment to the people of the Gulf region. But if President Obama doesn't specify the way forward by offering a legislative path, who will?
+ Click to continue

Dear Red-Headed God?
by Nadia Bolz-Weber

There has been a fair amount of conversation at House for All Sinners and Saints recently about the use of inclusive language for God.
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The Revolution of the Heart Begins in Community
by Jake Olzen

For nearly two months oil has gushed into the Gulf because of BP's government-endorsed "error." The environmental destruction has reached epic proportions. And once again, it is the poor and the marginalized -- those unheard or not welcome in the halls of power and privilege -- who will suffer the most.
+ Click to continue

Finally, the U.S. Gets Graded on Its Anti-Human Trafficking Efforts
by Justin Fung

On Monday morning, the U.S. State Department released the Trafficking in Persons Report 2010, the 10th such assessment of international efforts to combat human trafficking ... Significantly, this year was the first time the United States' efforts had been evaluated.
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Immigration, Children, and the Way of Jesus
by Debra Dean Murphy

Last month, an encounter between Michelle Obama and a Latina child in a suburban Maryland school brought into sharp relief one of the most pressing issues surrounding U.S. immigration policy: the effect that the current broken system is having -- and has had for a long time -- on the young children of immigrants.
+ Click to continue

Who Can Throw the First Stone at BP? None of Us.
by Mark Johnson

I don't know the personal, spiritual ground of those who created the situation that has become the BP oil spill disaster. I know, however, that I am in no position to "throw the first stone."
+ Click to continue

Faith & Justice Networks: New Wineskins for Justice
by Troy Jackson

Over the past decade, discussions about justice have reached a tipping point in the evangelical world. Everywhere I go, people are talking about justice: from missionary gatherings to church planting conferences, justice is hot.
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Foreclosure: Dismantling Family Ties
by Janis Bowdler

A recent study authored by National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and the Center for Community Capital at the University of North Carolina found that family bonds were profoundly distressed after experiencing foreclosure.
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President Obama Cannot Please Everyone
by Valerie Elverton Dixon

Commentary on President Obama's response to the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico says that he has not been tough enough on BP, that he has not shown sufficient leadership, that he has not shown enough emotion, that he has not demonstrated that he feels the pain of the people in the Gulf States.
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DC Catholic Charities: Penny Wise, Pound Foolish
by Bryan Cones

Few people expect their workplace benefits to be a casualty of the culture wars, but in Washington, DC, the battle over same-sex marriage hit local employees of Catholic Charities square in the pocketbook.
+ Click to continue

Uganda's Transformation Must Start With Me
by Sister Evelyn Mayanja

Since independence 47 years ago, Uganda has not experienced peace. Civil wars, coups, military regimes, you name it. People are getting fed up. We are tired of this, and we want a new regime.
+ Click to continue

What’s in a Name? Living in a "Rule of Law" City
by Crissy Brooks

Last month, the mayor of Costa Mesa -- where I live -- proposed and passed a proclamation declaring our city a "Rule of Law" city. It is not that we were in total anarchy before May. It was a statement essentially saying that we are intolerant of illegal immigrants.
+ Click to continue

10,000 Haitian Farmers March Against Monsanto
by Reverend Skye Murray

More than 10,000 farmers marched in Haiti last Friday, opposing a $4 million donation of hybrid seeds from the Monsanto Corporation that are being shipped with the support of the Haitian government and under the auspices of USAID.
+ Click to continue

An Oily, Slimy, Putrid Epiphany
by Brian McLaren

The sad likelihood is that many of us will squander the teachable moment provided by the Gulf Oil Catastrophe.
+ Click to continue

Outrage about Helen Thomas
by Jim Rice

Sometimes it feels like there's hardly enough outrage to go around. I started this post to condemn the recent, well, outrageous, words of Helen Thomas.
+ Click to continue

Focusing World Cup Fever on South Africa's Fringe
by Seth Naicker

As we anticipate the beginning of the Football World Cup 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa, there are many development goals which we can be proud of as a nation. Infrastructures have been boosted by the influx and projections made prior to this most auspicious occurrence of South Africa hosting the Football World Cup.
+ Click to continue

Stop the Crippling of the Clean Air Act
by Rabbi Arthur Waskow

The brazen chutzpah of Big Oil and Big Coal is amazing. Two months after Big Coal killed 28 workers in West Virginia, even less time since Big Oil poisoned our Gulf Coast and destroyed many livelihoods and a whole way of life -- they are trying to cripple the Clean Air Act and keep on drilling.
+ Click to continue

Seeing Our Place in the Matrix
by Kimberly B. George

I won't forget the day the 15-year-old Korean exchange student I tutored informed me she needed surgery to "correct" her eyes. I stopped my grammar lesson and had her teach me about racism.
+ Click to continue

University of Puerto Rico Students Strike
by Onleilove Alston

On April 21, 2010, students at the University of Puerto Rico went on strike to oppose budget cuts. The strike continues and has spread to 10 out of the 11 campuses in the UPR system. Furthermore, our own nation's state and city universities face budget cuts and tuition hikes.
+ Click to continue

Social Justice is a Virtue
by Cathleen Falsani

Christianity promises, by grace and through faith, that believers will spend eternity with God in paradise. But many of us believers have become so obsessed with who gets into heaven -- and who doesn't -- and how that we have missed a central question of the gospel: How are we to live this life, here and now?
+ Click to continue

Empathy and Empire are Antithetical
by Alan Bean

A University of Michigan study suggests that the college students of today are 40 percent less empathetic than students twenty or thirty years ago. Sarah Konrath, one of the researchers involved in the study, blames technology: "The increase in exposure to media during this time period could be one factor," she says.
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SOJOURNERS IN THE NEWS

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Top Stories:

Christians unite over immigration
NJ.com
Allison Johnson, campaign coordinator for Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform at Sojourners in Washington D.C., said there is a great deal of unity on the issue of the need for immigration reform in faith communities across the theological spectrum, as well as Muslims and Jews. +Click to continue

WWJD to BP and the EPA?WWJD to BP and the EPA?
Christianity Today blog
Sojourners president Jim Wallis said the spill is a result of our "oil addiction." He wrote that people need to consider making significant sacrifices, starting with listening to and praying for people and churches along the Gulf.
+Click to continue

Guest commentary: Good fences or good neighbors?
The Ames Tribune

Protestants, Evangelicals and Catholics form atypical alliance on immigration reform
Episcopal News Service

Faith leaders gather in Winnipeg to foreshadow G8 and G20 summits
Truto Daily 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.




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