When Prayer Is More Powerful Than Politics
Sojomail - October 17, 2013
When Prayer Is More Powerful Than Politics
Watching the dysfunction in Washington over the past two weeks has been painful. Our leaders have grown too comfortable with pushing the limits, and we let a few dozen of our own representatives — the people elected to promote the common good, or “general welfare,” as the Constitution calls for— hold the nation's economy hostage for the sake of their political self-interest.
But after the storm comes the promise — the hope of lessons learned and new ways forward together. A few key groups of people have renewed my faith that this is possible.
First, I want to thank the women of the Senate, both Republican and Democrat, who helped lead us to choose the common good over ideological agendas.
Second, I want to acknowledge the mysterious influence and power of prayer that spread across the nation to help reopen our broken political process and protect the nation from more catastrophe. Yesterday morning, your prayers connected with those very same senators who spearheaded the deal — Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Susan Collins (R-Maine) — as they joined us to pray over Congress on the Capitol lawn before walking in to work on ending the shutdown.
And finally, I am grateful for the spiritual discipline we engaged in this past week of reading all 2,000 verses in the Bible about poverty and justice every day the Congress was in session over the shutdown during our #FaithfulFilibuster. We now stand prepared for the upcoming budget battles that will again threaten the lives of poor and vulnerable people.
Ultimately, disaster was averted — for now. Last night, Congress agreed to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling despite lingering opposition from the ideological fringe. Thankfully people will be put back to work, critical services will restart, and our country's credit rating remains intact (though certainly blemished by all this mess).
But moments of crisis are also times of opportunity, as multiple experiences over the past two weeks have revealed to me.
On a stormy Thursday morning, a young woman who had been furloughed by the shutdown approached me on the second day of our Faithful Filibuster. Angela had come to observe, but then joined us to read. I was so encouraged by her willingness to join us, but didn’t realize that God used us to encourage her:
A couple of days later, our Filibuster was joined by a young pastor who brought a carload of parishioners with her from Ohio just to read with us. Rev. Kate Shaner encouraged me with her joy in declaring God’s word:
Yesterday, on our last day of the Filibuster, a group of pastors in Iowa shared that they went to their congressman’s office and held a vigil of their own. Here is an excerpt of their prayer:
And finally, one of Sojourners’ own interns, who participated in the Filibuster almost daily, reminded me today why it is that we do this:
Those who have been blessed by God are here to be a blessing. Thank you to each of these women for their faithfulness and for helping us weather this recent storm. You’ve reminded me that despite the dire forecasts, the common good remains.
Jim Wallis is president of Sojourners. His book, On God's Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned About Serving the Common Good, is now available. Watch the Story of the Common Good HERE. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.
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The 'S' Word, the 'D' Word, and '12 Years a Slave'
by Lisa Sharon Harper
I once spoke to a writing class at a respected evangelical university on the Good Samaritan, a basic message about God's call to love everyone. In the course of my hour-long lecture, I mentioned the word "slavery" once. One time.
That one mention was met with this one question during the Q-and-A time: "What does slavery have to do with anything?"
The young evangelical proceeded to tell me, "slavery only lasted about 50 years and it wasn't even that bad. I mean they were better off because of it, right? They got Christianity, didn't they?"
Within the evangelical Christian universe, few things are more damning than being labeled 'Legalistic.' The term evokes images of strict rules, ruthlessness, enforced doctrines, unforgiving judges, and worst of all —unpopularity.
When churches, schools, pastors, institutions, and communities are viewed as legalistic, they are demonized and shunned — sometimes rightfully so.
One disturbing trend I've noticed — especially among young believers — is to assume that everything associated with a few of legalism's attributes: structure, requirements, consequences, and work, is legalistic — it's not.
Malala Yousafzai has captured our love and imagination.
Malala was recently a guest on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. By the end of the interview, Stewart was so enamored with Malala that he asked if he could adopt her. The remark was hilarious because it was true. After 5 minutes with this girl, who wouldn't want to adopt her?
Malala is the 16-year-old Pakistani girl who fought for education in the face of persecution from the Taliban. She explained on the show that, "Education is the power for women and that's why the terrorists are afraid of education. They do not want women to get education because then women would become more powerful."
Since the production of The Birth of a Nation, Hollywood has lived with the mythic world imagined by artists who view the lives of people of color as footnotes and props. From Gone With The Wind to Django Unchained, the most difficult type of film for Hollywood to get right is the antebellum story of people of color.
Steve McQueen's 12 Years A Slave, on the other hand, sits within and outside the Hollywood fantasy of antebellum life. I say it sits within, because the archetypes forged by the celluloid bigotry of D.W. Griffith are present. But, in the hands of the gifted auteur, Steve McQueen, they are obliterated and re-imagined as complex people caught in a system of evil constructed by the immorality of markets, betrothed to mythical, biological, white supremacy.
Setting an away email with no date of return was almost as odd as leaving work and not and knowing when I'd be back. This unexpected time off gave me the opportunity to do everything on my to-do list and spend ridiculous amounts of time at the dog park. But this past Wednesday I was beginning to feel a bit hopeless about the whole situation.
Scrolling through Facebook I noticed Sojourners updates on its #FaithfulFilibuster and it truly made me ashamed of my hopelessness. I was ashamed because I forgot who was in charge. I was ashamed because I forgot where my hope lies.
On Thursday I saw another update from Sojourners, and despite the rain, I felt compelled to go check it out. I expected to do nothing but observe and admire faith leaders stepping out to reclaim hope and speak for the millions of silenced voices in this country. However, when I arrived, something different happened. I was asked if I wanted to participate, handed a Bible, and stepped to the podium to read.
Find out why one couple chose Everence when they bought their Medicare supplement plan. Everence Association Inc., a fraternal benefit society, is a member-owned, not-for-profit Christian company.
Join Impact: Holy Land, a conversation among Jesus followers about peace with justice. December 4-6 in Philadelphia. Students may register for free, and live-streaming is also available!
What can we learn from the Bible about the proper role of government, including its role in fostering the common good and economic justice? Explore this issue with Sojourners' four-part study, Christians and The Role of Government.
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