I shared with many of you last week that I was honored to be selected by Sojourners as one of 50 “Greatest Social Justice Leaders We've Never Heard Of”. Sojourners has invited me to attend their inaugural Summit, “World Change Through Faith and Justice” to be held at Georgetown University in Washington DC next month. I have long been an admirer of Sojourners, a community started in the early 1970s by a group of students at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School whose motto is “Faith in Action for Social Justice”.
Vincent Harding died on Monday. One of my most important and dearest mentors is gone; there are countless other people across America -- indeed, around the world -- who are feeling the same as me.
In a blistering editorial in the January 1978 issue of Sojourners, Jim Wallis castigated the president for failure to attend adequately to the needs of the poor. “The biblical demands for justice and compassion bring the harshest kind of judgment to the system of wealth and power upon which Jimmy Carter has built his presidency,” Wallis wrote. “It is these standards of social righteousness that our evangelical president has set aside during his first year in office.” John F. Alexander of The Other Side, another signatory to the Chicago Declaration in 1973, was almost flippant about the 1980 election. Although he acknowledged the moral rectitude of Carter’s policy on human rights—“we can be reasonably sure that fewer people are being tortured now than if Ford had been elected”—Alexander expressed doubts that an evangelical in the White House made any difference whatsoever. While he applauded Carter’s cancellation of the B-1 bomber, Alexander criticized the president’s approval of the MX missile. “Personally I see little point in not voting,” he concluded, although he suggested that his readers cast their ballots for Donald Duck.
To the contrary, based on the early vision for evangelicalism developed by Carl Henry, it seems that true evangelicalism is more closely aligned with the work of organizations like Sojourners, The BioLogos Foundation, Red Letter Christians, and Evangelicals for Social Action than with The Gospel Coalition, Answers In Genesis, or Focus On the Family. Why? Because the evangelicalism that Henry and his peers envisioned was a movement of bible-believing Christians who engaged honestly with academia.
In the 1970s, evangelicalism had not yet become tethered to conservative politics. Carter, a Democrat, received almost 50 percent of the evangelical vote (Nixon had received 84 percent in 1972). The evangelical left of Ron Sider and Jim Wallis took shape in the 1970s too. In that decade evangelicalism seemed noteworthy less for being conservative than for being cool.
Editor’s Note: Rev. William Barber will speak atthe New Populism Conference on May 22. We share this piece by Rev. Barber that was originally posted at Sojourners. We will waive conference registration fee for people who want to attend starting after 2:30 p.m., to hear Sen. Bernie Sanders (at 4 p.m.), and Rev. William Barber (at 4:30 p.m.) who will close the conference.
In Atlanta, Dr. Harding joined the department of history and sociology atSpelman College, becoming the department chairman. At the same time, he contributed speeches for Dr. King. His most memorable, described in 2007 by Sojourners, the progressive Christian magazine, as “one of the most important speeches in American history,” was commissioned amid the United States’ escalating involvement in Vietnam.
"Don't go left, don't go right, go deeper." This has been the longtime mantra of Jim Wallis and his organization Sojourners, a Christian social justice group that he presides over and helped found in the 1970s. Today Wallis is a leading voice on the intersection of faith and politics, one often known to counterbalance the religious right (though he himself doesn't identify as liberal).
There was Obama press secretary Jay Carney’s daughter (Carney hitched a ride in the motorcade to catch the game). Jim Wallis’s (a former member of Obama’s faith council) son. On one team was senior Obama adviser David Plouffe’s son. And NBC’s “Meet the Press” host David Gregory’s son and daughter are teammates with Carney’s kid.
Some of the most inspiring words in the entire Bible are found in the opening pages of Genesis. Here we are told that humans were created in God’s image and given a divine mandate to care for Creation (Gen. 1:26-31). Our vocation—our calling—is to partner with God in preserving and sustaining the earth with all the creatures and species that God has made. The word used in most translations is “dominion,” and the true meaning is what we would today call “stewardship.”