Dear President Obama

 

A Two-Way Street
by JIM WALLIS

We haven't seen many good models recently, from either party, about how the White House relates to religious communities. We need to do more than merely having chaplains in the corridors of power, or religion functioning as a power bloc within a party to legislate its own narrow agendas, or mere photo-ops at prayer breakfasts for faith leaders at the White House.

Let me suggest another model: the "two-way street."

One direction of the two-way street is for the faith community to offer you its prayers and support. There will be times when you are going to feel an acute need for those prayers. On that same road is the support from people of good religion and good will, whether or not they voted for you. Your election was a historic milestone in this nation's life and history. Most of us in the churches, synagogues, and mosques are celebrating that achievement. Wanting the very best for our nation at this time of crisis, and for you and your family as you seek to lead, is a bipartisan religious commitment.

THE OTHER DIRECTION of the two-way street is what the faith community can say back to you, which previous administrations, from both parties, haven't fully availed themselves of.

For example, on the issue of poverty, you know that it is often people of faith who live and work alongside the poor in the worst neighborhoods in this country. People of faith best know the families, the kids, and the streets in our neediest communities, as you know from your own experience as an organizer. Street workers and leaders from faith communities often know a great deal about what will actually work to overcome the pain and misery of poverty in America. Let the faith community help you and even serve as your eyes and ears on the ground.

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Sojourners Magazine January 2009
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