Customer Service 101

Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Customer examines myriad soft drink choices in a NJ Wal-Mart. Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Imagine a Catholic Church that stopped catering to its tiny cadre of old male bishops and heard instead the cries of its people. Or a fundamentalist movement that stopped defending its franchise by nonsensical attacks on evolution and modernity, and instead took Scripture seriously.

Imagine a conservative Christian movement that dropped its relentless assault on women's rights and instead sought a fresh vision of family and values. Or a progressive movement that listened to people, rather than lecturing them.

Too many "providers" — in politics, business and religion — come across as having a low opinion of their constituents. People tend to be good judges of what matters to them. Voters know this recession better than their would-be leaders seem to know it. Believers seem to take their faith more seriously than those institutions that seek to enroll them as members.

Must Watch: Richard Wilkinson's TED Talk

Richard Wilkinson on How economic inequality harms societies

We feel instinctively that societies with huge income gaps are somehow going wrong. Richard Wilkinson charts the hard data on economic inequality, and shows what gets worse when rich and poor are too far apart: real effects on health, lifespan, even such basic values as trust.

Watch Wilkinson's TED talk inside the blog...

The Price of "Betterness"

Umair Haque via Wylio

Umair Haque speaking at the 2009 NEXT conference in Berlin. Via Wylio

If you’re on Twitter, you may well have a few people that you follow with such enthusiasm that it occasionally feels a little like you’re stalking them. You re-tweet every article they post, nod along with every inspiring tweet they type and include them in your Follow Friday list every week.

Even if that’s not true for you, it’s certainly true for me of one person in particular — Umair Haque.

Haque is a self-titled “author, blogger, thinker, reformer.” But the more I read of his work, the more inclined I am to add the title “prophet” to that list of descriptors.

Haque is a prophet in the sense that he is preaching a message that is for a specific group of people (those who are disenfranchised but not quite cynical enough to give up yet) at a specific point in time (now, in a time of economic malaise). His words cut right to the heart of what has been going wrong in our world, and they are words that many, many people need to hear.

So it was with great relish that I purchased his new digital book, Betterness: Economics for Humans, excited to hear these words.

The Afternoon News: Wednesday Nov. 23, 2011

The Afternoon News

The Afternoon News

Older, Suburban And Struggling, ‘Near Poor’ Startle The Census. OWS Campers: What Can We Occupy Next. Social Conservatives Hold Covert Meeting To Stop Romney. In Season Of Giving Thanks, Signs That Gratitude Is Back. What Christians Want In A President. Could Gingrich’s Immigration Stance Boost His 2012 Chances? And States’ Immigration Laws Fill Leadership Void Left by President and Congress.

You Make Me Almost Want To Be a Christian

A demonstrator at Sunday's anti-Keystone XL pipeline rally in Washington, D.C. P

A demonstrator at Sunday's anti-Keystone XL pipeline rally in Washington, D.C. Photo for Sojourners by Joan Bisset.

I always notice something when speaking to a mostly secular audience. Many people have been so hurt or rejected by the bad religion in which they were raised or have encountered elsewhere over the course of their lives, and, quite understandably, they are skeptical and wary of the faith community. But when someone looks like a faith leader (this is where the ecclesial robe helps ) and says things that are different from what they expect or are used to, their response is one of gratitude and the moment becomes an opportunity for healing.

After I spoke Sunday and joined the circle around the White House, person after person came up to me to express their thanks or simply to talk.

My favorite comment of the day came from a woman who quietly whispered in my ear, "You make me almost want to be a Christian."

A Robin Hood for Wall Street

With the opening of the G20 Summit in Cannes, France today, an idea that's been around for awhile is in the news again and gaining more attention as a result of the #OWS movement: The so-called "Robin Hood tax," a minimal tax on all financial transactions with the resulting revenue dedicated to anti-poverty programs....Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, in his response to the occupation of St. Paul's Cathedral in London, endorsed the Vatican proposals. Williams observed that "people are frustrated beyond measure at what they see as the disastrous effects of global capitalism," and urged a full debate on "a Financial Transaction Tax