The Common Good

This Election Season, Let's Focus on Truth and Civility

Sojomail - September 23, 2010

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"All of the animals, plants, and microbes we use in our food system, our agricultural system, are genetically modified in one way or another. That or they’re wild."

- Bruce Chassy of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, on genetic changes in food due to selective breeding and hybridization. (Source: Boston Globe)

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

Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

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

This Election Season, Let's Focus on Truth and Civility

Let's try it. For the next six weeks before the election, let's focus on truth and civility.

Why? Because it's getting worse. With the campaign season in full swing, the level of our public discourse has hit new lows. From politicians to commentators, I keep hearing the same thing, "We've never seen it get this bad." And some of them are clearly helping to make things worse. The "birther" movement is alive and well, with its evangelists trying to convince the American public that Obama has stolen his Social Security number. Others are trying to convince voters nationally that the biggest issue on the ballot this year is that Delaware Senate hopeful Christine O'Donnell told Bill Maher that she "dabbled in witchcraft" before she became a Christian in college. Democrats are all described as "radicals" and "socialists," while all Republicans are described as "crazy" and "wingnuts."

Truth and civility have often been casualties of elections; but this election and its aftermath promise to be the worst in a very long time. We saw things get pretty ugly in the last presidential election. After his acceptance speech, I defended Barack Obama against real vitriol by holding up examples of Christians who disagreed with him but did so respectfully. I defended Sarah Palin from what I saw as unfair and unnecessary obsession with her wardrobe and rumors about her family. But as the midterm elections get closer, things seem to be getting worse.

How did we get to this place? Last year, I interviewed Michael Sandel, a Harvard professor and author of the book Justice: What’s the Right Thing To Do? He said, "I think the reason for the breakdown of civil discourse is not that we have too much moral argument in politics, but that we have too little. What we really have are ideological food fights. Assertions hurled back and forth on cable news …. But what we don't have is a serious engagement with the competing moral and spiritual convictions that citizens bring to public life." We don't need to give up our values, water them down, or throw out our convictions to have civil discourse. It is exactly these beliefs that allow us to engage in real dialogue. (Watch the interview with Sandel to hear why.)

On the blog, through personal commitments, and through online advocacy Sojourners is going to try and lift up positive examples of civil discourse and call out failures in this area. Civil debate and disagreement is possible. A good example was a debate Richard Land and I had at the conservative Family Research Council's "Values Voter Summit" last fall. Another example is when I was joined this spring by Christian leaders across the theological and political spectrum, including Chuck Colson and other political conservatives, in signing a "Civility Covenant," each signer, including thousands of you, committed to civil discourse in his or her life and church.

Between now and the election, I think there are three lessons of particular importance.

First, we Christians are politically different, but unified in Christ. Too often the church has reflected the political divisions of our culture rather than the unity we have in the body of Christ. The church in the United States can offer a message of hope and reconciliation to a nation that is deeply divided by political and cultural differences. We can disagree, but how we disagree with one another is a question of our witness for Christ.

Second, we should speak the truth and seek it. It is morally irresponsible to forward "rumor emails" without first checking the facts. Too often we focus on media caricatures of political figures. It might be the belief that Obama is a "secret Muslim" or that Sarah Palin actually said, "I can see Russia from my house." (That was actually said by Tina Fey during her parody of Palin.)

Third, we must hold to the statement, “out of many, one.” “E pluribus unum” was not an admission of weakness but a proclamation of strength. The health of our democracy depends not only upon the outcomes of elections but also how those elections happen. We should all be able to say, in the words of Jon Stewart, "I disagree with you, but I'm pretty sure you're not Hitler." In Sojourners magazine this past December, I wrote about the urgent need for civility. Today, the need is even greater. I hope you will join us over the next six weeks as we model civil discourse, and call our media, politicians, and nation to accountability. Truth and civility are too important to lose.

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

Inside Sojourners Magazine


The Worst Place on Earth to be a Woman

"The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a beautiful, lush country, with fertile soil and rich minerals. But it has suffered from an ongoing civil war that is fueled by greed and corruption and inflamed by outside forces that exploit the DRC’s natural resources at the expense of the Congolese people. ... In addition, thousands of women and girls have been brutally raped as soldiers use women’s bodies as a battlefield, where the goal is to destroy the stability of a village by destroying the bodies and spirits of its women. While rape has often been used as a weapon of war, never has it been used as freely and brutally as in the DRC."
-- Lynne Hybels

+Read more from Lynne Hybels about human atrocities in the Congo in this month's Sojourners magazine.

Building a Movement


Prayers for the DREAM Act

This week the U.S. Senate deferred considering the DREAM Act, falling short of the 60 senators needed on a procedural vote to move the legislation forward. The DREAM Act would provide a path to citizenship for immigrant students who have grown up in the U.S. if they attend college or serve in the U.S. military. It is our commitment, as people of faith, to show compassion to the strangers among us. We ask that you send out your prayers for all the undocumented children -- all the DREAMers -- in the United States. Pray for reconciliation and a nationwide embrace of our brothers and sisters as we push forward to the ratification of the DREAM Act at a future date.

+Send an email to your senators telling them to pass the DREAM Act.

ON THE GOD'S POLITICS BLOG

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

God Loves Gays, and So Should We
by Ron Sider

Marin has an incredible story. During the summer after his freshman year at a prominent evangelical university, three of his best (Christian) friends told him they were gay/lesbian. In response, Marin, a straight, thoroughly evangelical Christian, felt called by God to immerse himself in the gay and lesbian community.
+ Click to continue

Why We Must Not Give Up on the DREAM Act
by Steve Pavey

The DREAM Act did not pass with the National Defense Authorization Act yesterday, but we must not give up. While it is far from comprehensive immigration reform, it does address the largely ignored plight of nearly 1.8 million undocumented children living in the United States.
+ Click to continue

Tearing Down Walls in Memphis
by Amy Barger

On a muggy Memphis night last week, Tiffany Kelly and Imani Phipps, both juniors at local high schools, sat at the top of the historic Levitt Shell amphitheater as chants of "One Memphis, One Love" floated over the crowd.
+ Click to continue

Justice in the Hole: A New Way to Educate
by Ernesto Tinajero

I think about the gospel as being a new way of seeing the world. Jesus would empower people that usually did not have power in their normal day to day life.
+ Click to continue

Our DREAMS Deferred, Our Hearts Emboldened
by Allison Johnson

Over the past five days, we've asked you and urged you to contact your senators in support of the DREAM Act -- legislation that creates a pathway to legalization for high-achieving undocumented youth.
+ Click to continue

A Peace Movement Victory Against Drones
by John Dear

"Fourteen anti-war activists may have made history today in a Las Vegas courtroom when they turned a misdemeanor trespassing trial into a possible referendum on America's newfound taste for remote-controlled warfare." That's how one Las Vegas newspaper summed up our stunning day in court on Tuesday, when 14 of us stood trial for walking on to Creech Air Force Base last year on April 9, 2009 to protest the U.S. drones.
+ Click to continue

DREAM Act 101: What You Need to Know
by Andrew Simpson

In the last few weeks, the DREAM Act has become a source of hope for many and a source of debate and speculation for others. However, what some have construed to be a complex piece of legislation is, in fact, very straightforward.
+ Click to continue

Standing Up for Justice
by Julie Clawson

Should you not walk in the fear of our God? This is the question Nehemiah addresses to the people of Judah when he sees the way they are treating the poor in the land.
+ Click to continue

George W. Bush Led on AIDS. Will Obama?
by Jim Wallis

The world needs President Barack Obama to be a global leader on HIV/AIDS. It was not that long ago that faith leaders and millions of activists organized across the globe to press President George W. Bush to respond to the AIDS pandemic and fund solutions to end extreme global poverty.
+ Click to continue

43.6 Million: Census Declares More Americans are in Poverty than Ever Before
by Claire Lorentzen

It is the highest number America has ever seen: 43.6 million people are living in poverty in the United States, the wealthiest country in the world. According to new data released yesterday by the Census Bureau, the 2009 U.S. poverty rate was at 14.3 percent, up from 13.2 percent in 2008.
+ Click to continue

Give 60 Seconds of Prayer for Peace
by Valerie Elverton Dixon

It is the time it takes to say the Lord's Prayer three times. Sixty seconds. One minute. On September 21, 2010, U.N. International Day of Peace and Global Cease Fire, people throughout the world and of every religious faith will stop for one minute, at noon their local time, to pray for peace.
+ Click to continue

Globalized Justice: A Promise to the Poor
by Rev. Joel Edwards

Last month I was in a meeting of African bishops discussing the transformation of Africa when a speaker strayed from his specific topic and gave a list of details which outlined the impact of extreme poverty on child development and education.
+ Click to continue

The Immigration System: So Much To Fix
by Crissy Brooks

The DREAM Act is a bill that provides a conditional path to citizenship for young people who were educated and raised in the United States and yet have no way of legally working.
+ Click to continue

Friday Links Round Up: Commuter Traffic. October 30. DREAMers.
by Jeannie Choi

Commuter Traffic. October 30. DREAMers. Here's a little round up of links from around the web you may have missed this week.
+ Click to continue

Welcome, Elizabeth Warren!
by Elizabeth Palmberg

It's a great thing that Elizabeth Warren has just been appointed an advisor to the newly-created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which will help protect consumers from incomprehensible and predatory credit card agreements, mortgages, and other financial instruments.
+ Click to continue

Remember the DREAMers, Remember Their Dreams
by God's Politics Editor

Various undocumented students (otherwise known as "DREAMers") have staged sit-ins in key senatorial offices to pressure Congress to pass the DREAM Act.
+ Click to continue

Women in Ministry: Following Christ's Example
by Efrem Smith

I believe the Bible is authoritative and central for living. Within this belief, I believe the works of God, which include the works of Jesus, should speak louder than the words of Paul.
+ Click to continue

Poverty is Not a Dirty Word
by Jim Wallis

Just a few years ago, I remember how often people would be surprised when I told them that one in six children lived in poverty in America. In the richest nation in the world, how could more than 16 percent of our nation's children be poor? Well, it just got worse.
+ Click to continue

The New Consumer: Has the Recession Changed Us?
by Tracey Bianchi

As young kids, my sister and I always loved to rummage through my grandmother's basement. Creaky wooden steps that my dad once scampered across led to a rectangle with smooth concrete walls, warmed by piles of discarded clothing and linens.
+ Click to continue

Salvation Through Doctrine or Christ?
by Aaron Taylor

I've been getting into trouble lately. It all started when I asked myself the simple question, "What did the apostles preach when they presented the gospel to non-believers?"
+ Click to continue

What Kind of Church Do We Want?
by Adam Phillips

My wife Sarah and I recently moved to Baltimore and are knee-deep in that time-honored tradition of relocation: church shopping.
+ Click to continue

The Woman With the Bent Back
by Nadia Bolz-Weber

We think of this text in Luke as a healing narrative, but really it was nothing less than an exorcism. Well that, and another opportunity for Jesus to pick a fight with the nice religious folks since all of this happened on the sabbath.
+ Click to continue

SOJOURNERS IN THE NEWS

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

Top Stories:

My Take: George W. Bush led on AIDS. Will Obama?
CNN.com Belief blog
Barack Obama campaigned on a promise to continue that leadership. But today, his promise has yet to be kept. Fortunately, it's not too late for him to do so.
+Click to continue


Jim Wallis on the story behind Pastor Terry Jones's change of heart
The Washington Post
Although the media focused on the role that political and military officials, including President Obama and Gen. David Petraeus, played in getting Jones to back down from his plan for a Koran bonfire, the faith community also had a key part.
+Click to continue


Amid furor, 'ground zero mosque' imam leans on interfaith crisis management team
CNN.com Belief blog
A handful of Christian leaders discouraged Rauf from meeting the Rev. Terry Jones -- who’d threatened to burn Qurans unless Rauf moved his proposed Islamic center and mosque further from ground zero -- and organized a phone call with Jones last weekend to urge him to cancel his Quran burning.
+Click to continue

"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!






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, sermon preparation. Download now.

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

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.

Is God green? What does the Bible tell us about protecting the earth? Find out with Sojourners’ four-part study guide, Christians and the Environment. Learn more.






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.