Hearts & Minds

Racial Politics

RACE WAS THE issue that changed the direction of my life. Growing up in Detroit in the early 1960s, the realities of white racism upended the world and church that I lived in.

What I saw and heard as a teenager painfully showed me that something was terribly wrong with my country and my religion. Trying to confront it got me virtually kicked out of my childhood church, led me into the civil rights and student movements, introduced me to the black churches, and set me on a path that would eventually bring me back to the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ—which calls for social, racial, and economic justice. The historical tragedy, the “original sin,” of white racism in the United States is still a fundamental starting point to how I see the world.

So when I look at this election involving the first African-American president in U.S. history, I can’t help but go back to the critical questions of race. Let me be clear: To disagree with policies of President Obama and his administration is not racist. Agreements and disagreements are just that, and should not be correlated to race. And regardless of how we vote, we should all appreciate the fact that the role model of the Obama family living in the White House has convinced millions of young black men and women, and youth of all races—many for the first time—that they are really a part of this country and that they too could someday be president of the United States.

But I am concerned about how race has again distorted our politics. I want to speak directly to what those racial politics are and how people of faith should call them out and oppose them, no matter how we vote or what we think of the policies of the president.

Read the Full Article

​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

How to Change Politics

THIS SUMMER, in a historic development, nearly 150 evangelical leaders signed an “Evangelical Statement of Principles for Immigration Reform.” Signers came from across the spectrum of evangelicalism, from leading Latino evangelical organizations to pastors Max Lucado, Bill Hybels, Joel Hunter, and Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family.

No, that isn’t a typo. Sojourners stood side by side with Focus on the Family to draw attention to the plight of millions who have been caught up in a broken system. It was exciting to see a unity across the traditional political spectrum that rarely happens in Washington.

Make no mistake: There are still big gaps in theology and politics among those in the group. But rather than politics, we focused on the things we agreed were fundamental moral issues and biblical imperatives. Instead of ideology, we came together because of morality and common sense.

Big things don’t change in Washington first; they change in the nation’s capital last. You’d think that with all the lobbyists on K Street and the billions of dollars being spent, Washington must be the country’s most important place. But this is the place where things don’t change, where politics maintains the status quo and the special interests maintain their own interests. Both Republicans and Democrats are more concerned with their political bases and getting re-elected than with the people and families whose lives are being crushed.

Things change when hearts and minds across the country change. Things change when people’s understandings change, when families rethink their values, when congregations examine their faith, when communities get mobilized, and when nations are moved by moral imperatives. Things change when people believe that more than politics is at stake, that human lives, human dignity, and even faith are at stake. And when moral values change, culture changes—and then change comes to Washington.

Read the Full Article

​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Life Lessons From Baseball

Baseball on the infield chalk, David Lee / Shutterstock.com

I have been a Little League baseball coach for both of my sons’ teams for many years. And I’ve learned that baseball can teach us life lessons.

Just a few weeks ago, my 9-year-old’s team was down 5-0, and we had already lost our first two games. It didn’t look good. But all of a sudden, our bats came alive; all our practice and preparation suddenly showed itself. Best of all, our rally started in the bottom half of the order, with our weakest hitters. Two kids got on with walks, and our least experienced player came to the plate. With international parents, he had never played baseball before, and you could tell he didn’t have a clue. But somehow he hit the ball, and it went into the outfield. Our first two runs scored, and he ended up on second base. Being from a British Commonwealth culture, he began to walk over to the shortstop and second baseman and shake their hands! “Stefan,” I shouted. “You have to stay on the base!” “Oh,” he said. “I’ve never been here before.”

Inspired, other kids who had never got hits before also got them now. Then the best hitters started to hit, and we came back to win 11 to 6. In a long team meeting afterward, the kids couldn’t stop telling each other what they had learned. “We didn’t give up, and we came back!” “Our rally started with the bottom of the order.” “Sometimes you get what you need from unexpected places.” “We all just kept cheering for each other.” “Everybody helped us win today.” Finally, our star player said, “This just goes to show you: You can’t ever give up on hope. We always have to keep on hoping no matter what.”

Read the Full Article

​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

The Politics of Aslan

Politics is a true American idol, and the 2012 election will dramatically demonstrate that reality.

People of faith should never worship at the altar of politics, because we worship God; the kingdom of God is never the same as the kingdoms of politics. Our worship of God should shape our engagement with politics. When politics shapes our religion, it distorts our true worship.

Rather than becoming the chaplains or enablers of political idolatry, the faith community should confront it. The idols of politics are many: the idol of money over democracy, the idol of celebrity over leadership, the idol of individualism over community, the idol of ideology over civility, and the idol of winning over governing. Both sides take a problem and do two things: make us afraid of it, and then blame it on the other side. What they don’t do is work together to solve our problems, finding solutions for the common good.

What caused me to rethink these questions of faith and politics was my encounter earlier this year with a lion in a monastic community overlooking the Pacific Ocean at the beginning of my sabbatical. Entering into solitude and silence with monks, punctuated only by Vigils, Lauds, Eucharist, and Vespers, can alter a person’s perspective. In the monastery’s guest kitchen library, I spotted the Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis, and decided to reread them. Aslan the lion is the creator and leader of Narnia, the true and good king, and the stories’ Christ figure. Because I was beginning to write a book about the common good, with Jesus as the inspiration for it, I was again drawn to Aslan.

Read the Full Article

​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Iraq: It's Finally Over -- and It Was Wrong

My son Jack was born just days before the war in Iraq began. So for these last nearly nine years, it’s been easy for me to remember how long this horrible conflict has been going on. Finally, as President Obama announced, the American war will soon be over, with most of the 44,000 American troops still in Iraq coming home in time to be with their families for Christmas.

The initial feelings that rushed over me after hearing the White House announcement were of deep relief. But then they turned to deep sadness over the terrible cost of a war that was, from the beginning, wrong—intellectually, politically, strategically, and, above all, morally wrong.

The war in Iraq was fundamentally a war of choice, and it was the wrong choice. From the outset, this war was fought on false pretenses, with false information, and for false purposes. And the official decisions to argue for this war and then to carry it out represented the height of political and moral irresponsibility—especially when we see the failed results and consider both the human and financial costs.

Saddam Hussein and Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks on 9/11, as was falsely implied, and had no weapons of mass destruction, as was falsely claimed and endlessly repeated.  The intelligence on Iraq was manipulated and distorted to justify going to war. This was clearly a war of choice and a war that was painfully unnecessary. We were misled into war and, so far, nobody has been held accountable for it.

The war was sold to the American public with the claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Many believed it at the time, and an invasion was mounted on what turned out to be false information. A decade of sanctions and United Nations inspections had already undermined the allegations. And in the almost nine years of war, not a single WMD has been found in Iraq.

Read the Full Article

​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Defining 'Evangelicals' in an Election Year

Here we go again. Presidential elections are coming, and the role of “evangelicals” is predictably becoming a hot political story. Voices on both the Religious Right and secular Left describe evangelicals as zealous members of the ultra-conservative political base.

Why? Perhaps because some conservative Republicans want to claim a religious legitimacy and constituency for their ideological agenda, and some political liberals seem determined to portray religious people as intellectually flawed, right-wing crazies with dangerous plans for the country.

Let me be clear as someone who is part of a faith community that is, once again, being misrepresented and manipulated. Most people see me as politically progressive. And I am an evangelical Christian.

I believe in one God, the centrality and Lordship of God’s son, Jesus Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit, the authority of the scriptures, the saving death of the crucified Christ, and his bodily resurrection.

I love my liberal church friends, but I am more theologically conservative. I have many allies on the religious Left, but I am not a member of it. I work closely with brothers and sisters of other faith traditions where we have common concerns, but I will never compromise the truth of my own faith. I collaborate with people of no religious affiliation—religion has no monopoly on morality. But I also believe in evangelism, and I have called and led people to faith in Jesus Christ.

Read the Full Article

​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

An Open Letter to Occupy Wall Street

You have awakened the sleeping giant, too long dormant but ever present, deep in the American democratic spirit. You have given voice to the unspoken feelings of countless others that something has gone terribly wrong in our society. And you have sparked a flame from the embers of both frustration and hope that have been building, steadily, in the hearts of so many of us for quite some time.

Throughout history, that task, which sometimes means saying and doing what others only think, has often fallen to young people. You have articulated, loudly and clearly, the internal monologue of a nation.

Some of you have told me that you expected only to foment a short-lived protest and that you were as surprised by this “movement” as anyone else. While there are some who may misunderstand your motives and message, know that you are an inspiration to many more.

One of you told me in New York City that you are trying to build something in Liberty Park that you aspire to create for our global village—a more cooperative society. I asked one of the non-leaders who helped lead the first days of the Occupation what most drew him to get involved, and he replied, “I want to have children someday, and this is becoming a world not good for children.” It is precisely those deepest, most authentic feelings and motivations that should preoccupy you.

You are raising very basic questions about an economy that has become increasingly unfair and unsustainable for a growing number of people. Those same questions are being asked by many others—even by some at the top of the economic pecking order. Keep pressing those values questions, because they will move people more than a set of demands or policy suggestions. Those can come later.

Read the Full Article

​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

What is 'Biblical Politics'?

Sojourners has always tried to understand and advocate for “biblical politics.” But what does that mean now, especially as we approach another major election?

I was talking the other day to a Christian leader who has given his life to working with the poor. His approach is very grassroots—he lives in a poor, virtually all-minority community and provides basic services for low-income people. He said, “If you work with and for the poor, you inevitably run into injustice.”

In other words, poverty isn’t caused by accident. There are unjust systems and structures that create and perpetuate poverty and human suffering. And service alone is never enough; working to change both the attitudes and institutional arrangements that cause poverty is required.

To change injustice, you must confront politics. British abolitionist William Wilberforce, for example, didn’t only call upon English Christians to release slaves; he wanted to end the slave trade, and that required a long political campaign. Martin Luther King Jr. wasn’t content to only ask U.S. Christians not to personally practice discrimination against black people; he understood that the nation needed a civil rights law and a voting rights act. Both took leadership from the White House and votes in Congress. All these changes took politics to accomplish.

Another friend of mine recently told me that she had watched the powerful movie about Wilberforce, Amazing Grace, five times this year and was deeply inspired. I was too when I first watched the story of the Wesleyan convert who made ending slavery the mission of his life. But I’ve always thought that the movie focused too much on the man and not enough on the movement that swept the United Kingdom and made the political victory possible.

Read the Full Article

​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

9/11: What Have We Learned?

Ten years ago, terrorists hijacked four airplanes over the United States. Two were flown into the World Trade Center in New York City, a third into the Pentagon, and the fourth was crashed into a field in rural Pennsylvania. By the latest count, 2,996 people died, including the 19 hijackers and 2,977 victims.

A few weeks after that tragedy, more than 4,000 religious leaders of all faiths signed a statement that was printed as an ad in The New York Times. We spoke of the moral response to terrorism: "We must not allow this terror to drive us away from being the people God has called us to be," the statement said. "We assert the vision of community, tolerance, compassion, justice, and the sacredness of human life, which lies at the heart of all our religious traditions. America must be a safe place for all our citizens in all their diversity. It is especially important that our citizens who share national origins, ethnicity, or religion with whoever attacked us are, themselves, protected among us."

On this 10th anniversary it is appropriate to ask what we have learned. How have we grown as a country? How have we healed, or how have we, in our hurt, turned around and hurt others? In two critical ways, we have shown that we did not learn the right lessons.

First, we have spent much of the past decade deeply engaged in two wars. Less than a month after the 9/11 attacks, President Bush began the bombing of Afghanistan, which was followed with U.S. troops. The stated objectives were to capture or kill al Qaeda and to overthrow the Taliban government. Al Qaeda was quickly dispersed, and the Taliban removed from power. Osama bin Laden was, of course, killed this spring, not by the war of occupation but with rigorous intelligence and special forces. Yet more than 100,000 U.S. troops continue to occupy the country.

Read the Full Article

​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Men Behaving Badly

It's a consistent storyline in the media, involving powerful men in politics, sports, business, and religion: Men behave with utter disregard for the dignity and humanity of women -- using and abusing them at will, and acting as if they believe that they are entitled to do so. These men seem to think that the ordinary rules of decent behavior do not apply to them. We have a never-ending cavalcade of disgusting stories about men cheating on their wives and abandoning old wives for new ones; engaging in serial philandering as a way of life; sexually harassing and assaulting women; and even committing rape. But when all is said and done, the perpetrators are still playing basketball, football, and golf; they are still holding or running for political office; and they are still at the helm of the institutions of the economy and even the church.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Donald Trump, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the (now former) chief of the International Monetary Fund, John Edwards, and Anthony Weiner have all been in the media lately for sins and crimes past, present, and accused. The stories have recently come out about a longtime affair Schwarzenegger had with a member of his house staff, Trump’s long and blatant history of sexism, John Edward’s indictment for campaign finance law violations in covering up an affair, Anthony Weiner's tweeting lewd photos of himself, and, most gravely serious of all, Strauss-Kahn’s alleged sexual assault against a hotel maid.

Read the Full Article

​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Pages

Subscribe