The Common Good

This Lent -- Looking Inward, Looking Outward

Sojomail - February 17, 2011

  QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"That is straight out of Gandhi. If people are not afraid of the dictatorship, that dictatorship is in big trouble. … If you fight with violence, you are fighting with your enemy’s best weapon, and you may be a brave but dead hero."

-- Gene Sharp, a leading theoretician of nonviolence, whose writings inspired the student movement in Egypt, commenting on their discipline in remaining peaceful and their lack of fear.
(Source: New York Times)

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Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

This Lent -- Looking Inward, Looking Outward

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Congress is working on the federal budget for the rest of the fiscal year 2011. It is now clear that some of the proposed budget cuts would slash programs that save the lives of some of the poorest people on the planet. These programs have been championed by Republicans and Democrats in the past, but now some of the best programs our government funds to help combat pandemic diseases and eliminate poverty are on the chopping block. Here is a snapshot of what that looks like.

If just one of the proposed cuts is passed -- $450 million in contributions to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis -- approximately 10.4 million bed nets that help prevent malaria will not reach people who need them; 6 million treatments for malaria will not be given; 3.7 million people will not be tested for HIV; and 372,000 tests and treatments for tuberculosis will not be administered.

While the White House has done much better than Congress in protecting critical international aid, President Obama's proposed budget for the fiscal year 2012, which he just released this week, shows deep cuts to domestic anti-poverty programs. Grants that state and local governments use to fund the most effective anti-poverty programs in their area would be cut by $300 million, including assistance for low-income people with heat and energy bills, which would be cut up to $2.5 billion. Obama's proposed budget left me asking, should poor families have to survive harsh winters without heating oil because politicians are not willing to take on much bigger and far less effective areas of exorbitant spending?

Both the fight around the rest of the fiscal year 2011 budget and Obama's proposal for the fiscal year 2012 show the bad priorities of Washington. If the Republicans go through with these cuts to international aid, they should stop talking about family values and being pro-life. And if the Democrats don't fulfill their historic role of defending low-income people, we must ask, what good are they as a party? When I read the gospels, the narrative is clear: Defend the poor and pray for the rich. But our political leaders have taken to defending the rich, and if the poor are lucky, they might get a prayer.


It's time for the prophetic voice of the churches to be heard
.

Excessive deficits are indeed a moral issue -- but how we got into this deficit and how we now address it are also moral concerns. We certainly did not get into this much fiscal trouble by spending too much on the poor, and trying to reduce the deficit now at the expense of our most vulnerable people is simply morally unacceptable. It's time to look at our bloated military budgets, our endless wars, our corporate bailouts and subsidies, and, yes, our middle class entitlements.

But how can we prepare for the moral fight that is ahead of us? Our prophetic role is never divorced from our own personal responsibility and transformation. We've heard from many pastors and lay leaders about the increasing burdens they feel as their churches are still being hit hard by the effects of the economic crisis. We want to offer resources and encouragement to those who are on the front lines of helping those in need, especially during the upcoming season of Lent, which is a time to look at ourselves, examine our own choices and priorities, and test the love of Christ in our own lives.

I want to offer two resources to you. First, Sojourners is hosting a conference call with Elizabeth Warren, head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; Noel Castellanos, CEO of Christian Community Development Association; and Rev. Joel Hunter, Senior Pastor of Northland, A Church Distributed. They will share reports on what is happening on the ground across the country, best practices for how churches are meeting new challenges, and what kinds of structural changes we need as a country around bad loans and bad credit. You can sign up for the call for free here.

Second, we have put together a Lenten study for groups called Rediscovering Values this Lent. This study is in seven parts and will bring your church or small group through various Lenten themes, while challenging how we view money and the economy. As you are preparing for Lent this year, we hope you will take advantage of these resources.

This Lent we must look both inward to ourselves and outward to holding our political leaders accountable. Sojourners wants to help you do both. This dual focus -- inward and outward -- runs deep in our faith tradition and is essential to our own faithful integrity. Let's make this Lent both a pastoral and prophetic season of reflection and action. God bless you.

Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street -- A Moral Compass for the New Economy, and CEO of Sojourners. He blogs at www.godspolitics.com. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.

 

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  Inside Sojourners Magazine

Ending the War in Afghanistan

As America's longest war drags on toward the 10-year mark this fall, costing trillions of dollars and thousands of lives, a consensus is growing that the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable by military means. This war won't be ended by the politicians who have been running it -- not without pressure from outside of Washington.

+Read Sojourners' March 2011 issue on ending the war in Afghanistan.



  ON THE GOD'S POLITICS BLOG

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

Fighting For My Daughter's Life, and Against the Insurance Company
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My 8-month-old daughter is a prime example of how absurd the pre-existing condition concept is.
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Why Does a Yemeni Woman Have Pictures of Gandhi, King, and Mandela?
by Rose Marie Berger

As I read Sudarsan Raghavan's Washington Post article yesterday on Yemen's women activists, I was reminded that America's very best export is the civil rights movement.
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Come Together to Combat Torture
by Becky Garrison

Due to a very effective campaign of fear, many Christians in the United States have tacitly accepted torture as a practice we must just, well ... both ignore and accept.
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What Would You Do With $1 Trillion?
by Hannah Lythe

What would you do with $1 trillion? The National Priorities Project and the American Friends Service Committee asked youth around the country to answer this question by making a three-minute film in their own community.
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Xenophobic Border Watch Groups are Domestic Terrorists
by César Baldelomar

On May 30, 2009, a terrorist attack in Arizona ended the lives of two U.S. citizens -- a Latino man and his 9-year-old daughter.
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Obama's Budget Battle Hurts the Poor
by Chris LaTondresse

President Obama released his budget proposal Monday, officially staking his position in what will amount to a political knife-fight of epic proportions between his administration and congressional Republicans over America's fiscal future in the weeks ahead.
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How Child Sex Trafficking is Being Overcome in the Philippines
by Holly Burkhalter

Project Lantern was launched by International Justice Mission (IJM) in Cebu, a province in the Philippines, four years ago, with generous funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The purpose of the project was to rescue children from prostitution and arrest and prosecute trafficking perpetrators.
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When is Nationalism Healthy?
by Aaron Taylor

When love of nation surpasses religious tribalism, that, to me, is a healthy nationalism. If nationalism can sometimes be a good thing (especially when it overrides woes like tribalism and racism), what are some ways that followers of Jesus can direct nationalism towards positive ends?
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Democratization: Another Mountain to Climb in Egypt
by Valerie Elverton Dixon

There is a Haitian proverb that says after every mountain, there is another mountain. We work to accomplish one goal, but the next goal is as difficult as or more difficult than the preceding goal. Such is the case in the first days of the post-Mubarak era in Egypt.
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Tahrir Square: The Many Little Revolutions
by Lynne Hybels

In Arabic the word "Tahrir" means liberation, but it is a present continuous verb. Tahrir -- liberation -- is the work of every day and it may never be over.
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Indiana Immigration: Hoosier Neighbor?
by Betsy Shirley

I love Indiana. I love driving through cornfields, playing Euchre, and getting swept up in basketball-mania.But I don't love the bill approved last week by Indiana's Senate committee.
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Wendell Berry Won't Quit Trying to Save the Mountains
by Rose Marie Berger

Fourteen mountain-top removal protesters -- including author Wendell Berry -- are in their third day of a sit-in/sleep-in at the Kentucky Governor's Office in Frankfort.
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Political Winter Storms in the West Virginia Coalfields
by Allen Johnson

This winter, the politics of coal is burning red-hot. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) vetoed an earlier permit granted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that would expand Arch Coal's Spruce Number 1 mountaintop removal mine.
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Egypt: Another Step Towards Mainstreaming Nonviolence
by Ken Butigan

The movement that ended President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year autocratic rule has not only created a spectacular breakthrough for Egyptian democracy, it has bequeathed a priceless gift to the rest of us in every part of the planet.
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Friday Links Round Up: The Day of Departure. Mubarak. Egypt.
by Jeannie Choi

Here's a little round up of links from around the Web you may have missed this week.
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Yes, NPR, Ordinary People Care About Financial Reform!
by Elizabeth Palmberg

Dear Planet Money, My faith tells me that everyone is my neighbor -- so, when I see that poor people worldwide experienced hunger in 2008, and are already starting to do so again, in part because of Wall Street speculation, I have a responsibility to act.
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The Power of the People of Egypt
by Duane Shank

After 18 days of ever-growing protests, Egyptian Vice-President Omar Suleiman went on state television with a terse announcement.
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Should Egyptians Trust Their Military?
by Nathan Schneider

Throughout the coverage of the uprising in Egypt, we've been repeatedly told that Egyptians trust their military more than any other part of the government, that it is a revered institution in the country.
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A Letter to Young Egyptian Protesters, From a Veteran U.S. Activist
by Jim Wallis

I hope that somehow, through the vast network we call social media, this gets to you in Tahrir Square, even on this momentous Friday. You have changed the world.
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  SOJOURNERS IN THE NEWS

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Top Stories:

Evangelicals argue morality of national debt
USA Today Faith and Reason Blog
In a piece from USA Today religion writer Cathy Lynn Grossman, Rev. Wallis says that when it comes to making a national budget, our morality must stay consistent.


How Obama's Budget Battle Hurts the Poor
Recovering Evangelical
Writing for Recovering Evangelical, Chris LaTondresse criticizes President Obama's proposed budget and mentions Sojourners' efforts to stand up for the weak and vulnerable.


House GOP agenda: Curtailing abortion, cutting kids
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
In an opinion column for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Joel Connelly expounds on the inconsistency of values demonstrated by suggested tax cuts from the U.S. House of Representatives and mentions a question posed by Rev. Wallis -- what would Jesus cut?


Scott Kennedy: Muslims unfairly painted with 'terrorist' brush
Santa Cruz Sentinel
In his opinion piece for the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Scott Kennedy quotes Rev. Wallis while responding to anti-Muslim hate mail that he has received.


Religion is Evolving Before Our Eyes
The Huffington Post
Paul Pardi, of Philosophy News Service, writes on the evolution of religion in the U.S., and quotes a previously-written piece by Rev. Wallis.

"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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