faith leaders

God of Love Wouldn’t Embrace An Arsenal

Photo by Krystal Brewer / Sojourners

Protestors march for common sense gun legislation in Washington, D.C. Photo by Krystal Brewer / Sojourners

So you might think that religious folks for the most part are not big fans of guns, and for the most part you’d be right.

And then you run across these comments from a California legislator, who said guns are “essential to living the way God intended.” That was Rep. Tim Donnelly, who told a Christian radio show Jan. 16 that guns “are used to defend human life. They are used to defend our property and our families and our faith and our freedom.”

Well, yes, guns are used that way. They are used in lots of other ways too — to kill people we don’t like, to hold up banks, to commit suicide. It’s harder to wrap those under the banner of God’s intent.

For Christians, it’s hard to square the deification of guns with Jesus telling his followers to put away their swords, even as he was being arrested and led off to death.

That’s why a wide coalition of religious voices are speaking out in the great national debate about how we can live up to the Second Amendment’s call for having a “well-regulated militia.” Notice the words “well-regulated.”

As the Very Rev. Gary Hall, the new dean of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., said two days after the horrific shootings at Newtown: “I believe the gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby.”

Religious Coalition Takes on the Gun Lobby


Jim Wallis speaks during a press conference at the United Methodist Building. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Dozens of the nation’s faith leaders said on Tuesday that they’re ready to take on the gun lobby and demanded that politicians take quick and concrete steps to stem gun violence.

At a Capitol Hill press conference and in a letter to Congress, more than 45 clergy and heads of religious groups — representing the spectrum of American religious life — petitioned lawmakers to reinstitute a ban on assault weapons, require background checks on all gun buyers, and make gun trafficking a federal crime.

Organized by the two-year-old coalition Faiths United To Prevent Gun Violence, the signers said the slayings at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school last month had pushed them to redouble their efforts, and created an opportunity to beat back the gun lobby.

The Rev. Jim Wallis, the evangelical who heads the progressive Christian group Sojourners, took on Wayne LaPierre, the outspoken executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, directly.

LaPierre’s statement after Newtown that the “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” is “morally mistaken” and “religiously repugnant,” Wallis said.

Faith Leaders Want Americans to Pray for Collegiality

RNS photo by spleeness via Flickr (

The U.S. Capitol building at sunset. RNS photo by spleeness via Flickr (

WASHINGTON — At a time when the ideals of compromise and collegiality seem like a distant dream in the nation’s capital, an unusually diverse coalition of religious leaders is asking Americans to pray for civility.

“Through daily prayer, we are calling on the ‘better angels of our nature’ needed to sustain our nation and solve problems,” said the Rev. Peg Chemberlin, immediate past president of the National Council of Churches and one of the faith leaders taking part in “18 days of Prayer for the Nation.”

Prayers began Thursday, the first day of the new Congress, and end on Jan. 21, the day of President Obama’s second inauguration.

Faith leaders from left, right and center have signed on, including Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Richard Land of the Southern Baptists’ Ethics, and Religious Liberty Commission and Richard Cizik, president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good.

The Faith & Politics Institute, a nonpartisan group that nurtures the spiritual life of members of Congress and their staffs and presses political foes toward civil debate, organized the days of prayer and an online “commitment to prayer” page to document participation.

Turning the Tide on AIDS

A palpable feeling of hope and urgency hung heavy in the air of Washington, D.C., this week as thousands of activists descended on the nation’s capital to encourage and inspire colleagues and decision-makers to “turn the tide on AIDS.”

The International AIDS Conference 2012 has returned to the United States, thanks in part to the lifting of the HIV/AIDS travel ban by the Obama Administration in 2010, which followed work from President George W. Bush also to lift the ban.

As part of the Conference, faith leaders from across the world were invited Tuesday morning to a forum hosted by the White House. It was an opportunity to hear from U.S. and international experts and officials, as well as come together as a community of faith, standing up against the stigma and isolation which have been two of the biggest roadblocks to achieving the goal of an AIDS-free generation.

Tuesday’s event centered around two panel discussions — one examining what the faith community uniquely brings to the table in tackling the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the other focusing on the relationship between governments and people of faith in building the effective partnerships needed to tackle it.

The tone of the discussions was, in many ways, extremely positive. We heard about vast improvements in treatments and holistic care, services often administered by faith-based organizations around the world.

“Hope,” as White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships Executive Director, Joshua DuBois, noted, is overcoming “fear.”

The Missing Religious Principle in Our Budget Debates

Sojourners CEO, the Rev. Jim Wallis.

Sojourners CEO, the Rev. Jim Wallis.

Both Republicans and Democrats have a religion problem and it has nothing to do with same-sex marriage, abortion or religious liberty. Rather it is budgets, deficits, and debt ceiling deadlines that are their serious stumbling blocks.

That’s right, in a city deeply divided between the political right and left there is a growing consensus from religious leaders about getting our fiscal house in order and protecting low-income people at the same time. Together, many of us are saying that there is a fundamental religious principle missing in most of our political infighting: the protection of the ones about whom our scriptures say God is so concerned.

Indeed, the phrase “a budget is a moral document” originated in the faith community, and has entered the debate. But those always in most in jeopardy during Washington’s debates and decisions are precisely the persons the Bible instructs us clearly to protect and care for —  the poorest and most vulnerable. They have virtually none of the lobbyists that all the other players do in these hugely important discussions about how public resources will be allocated.

For us, this is definitely not a partisan issue, but a spiritual and biblical one that resides at the very heart of our faith. It is the singular issue which has brought together the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Salvation Army, and the leaders of church denominations, congregations, and faith-based organizations across the nation.

Obama Rejects Keystone Pipeline, Faith Leaders Respond

Oil pipeline in Jefferson Co, Texas. Via Wylio

Oil pipeline in Jefferson Co, Texas. Via Wylio

Late Wedesday (1/18), leaders from Christian and other faith communities welcomed the news that the Obama administration has rejected the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The controversial project, which would have run for 1,700 miles from Alberta, Canada, through the American Heartland to the Gulf of Mexico, would have been a backward step in the administration’s professed commitment to investing in clean and renewable energy sources.

In August 2011, more than 1,200 peaceful protestors were arrested as part of a sustained campaign to demonstrate against the pipeline project. In November 2011, Sojourners CEO Jim Wallis, along with other Sojourners staffers and 15,000 members of the public, peacefully (and prayerfully) encircled the White House to urge President Obama to stop the project.

Sojourners welcomed the Obama’s decision in November to postpone the permitting of the pipeline until an environmental impact report was completed. While this new decision is a clear step forward, TransCanada has the opportunity to reapply for the permit along a different route and leaders have pledged to remain vigilant and watch the issue closely.

Follow the Golden Calf: Washington, D.C.


Where in the world is the Golden Calf? 

Remember that huge golden replica of the Wall Street Bull that led the faithful of New York to Zuccotti Park a couple months ago? Well, it’s back! And this time the iconic sculpture is serving as more than spectacle. 

Members of Catholics United, along with faith leaders and residents of Occupy DC, marched with the Golden Calf from McPherson Square to the Capitol on Thursday to deliver a petition in support of a bill that would raise taxes on the rich.

“If we’re really concerned with the ‘least’ of our brothers and sisters, then cutting their resources isn’t the way to do it,” said Jason Miller, one of the artists who worked on the Calf and a member of Catholics United. “We need to get rid of the deficit, but not on the backs of the poor.”

Supercommittee's Failure is a Moral Failure

The Supercommittee. Illustration by DonkeyHotey via Wylio (

The Supercommittee. Illustration by DonkeyHotey via Wylio (

Sixty percent of white evangelicals support raising taxes on those making more than a million a year and 58 percent oppose cutting federal programs that support low-income people.

The Republicans have been taken over by an extreme ideology that their political base doesn't even support. And the power of money has corrupted our political system.

What was lost with the supercommittee was a responsible and balanced way to reduce the deficit, while protecting both the poor and the common good. Very sad and alarming for the future.

Corporate Greed, Meet Coconut Theology

Coconut vessels. Images via Wylio.

Coconut vessels. Images via Wylio.

It's a clear sign something's wrong when talks on "free trade" turn an island paradise into an armed camp.

Hawaii is on lockdown this week while the U.S. tries to hammer out a regional trade agreement that's being called "NAFTA for the Pacific." While some mean this as a compliment, Hawaii's faith and labor leaders are lifting their voices against an agreement they believe will put profits for banks and corporations above workers' rights, indigenous culture, and local communities. Those leaders are drawing on the Pacific region's indigenous "Coconut Theology" to provide an alternative vision of the common good.

"Coconut Theology came out of our contextual understanding of the Gospel in the Pacific," said Rev. Piula Alailima, pastor of Wesley Methodist Church in Honolulu and a core leader in the community organizing group Faith Action for Community Equity (FACE). "When we break the body of the coconut and partake of the juice, it's a symbol of the body and blood of Christ, of sacrifice, of community and the common good."

Join a Circle of Protection on Nov. 16: Standing For and With the Poor

The New York City Human Circle will be replicated throughout across the nation, when faith leaders host Human Circles as members of the Sojourners National Mobilizing Circle, which is bringing together faith and community leaders to organize faith-rooted actions in their communities.

The purpose of these circles is not only to lobby for the poor but also with them.