A Responsibility to Care

When thousands of people displaced by Hurricane Katrina were headed to Arkansas, then-Gov. Mike Huckabee instructed state officials and volunteers to welcome the visitors the way they would want to be welcomed if they were in similar circumstances. This Golden Rule approach—and his willingness to support government programs to address social needs—didn’t win Gov. Huckabee friends among conservative Republicans, but he emphasized principle over party, telling a “values voter” gathering last year, “I do not spell G-O-D ... G-O-P. Our party may be important, but our principles are even more important than anybody’s political party.” Gov. Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, is currently a political commentator for Fox News. Sojourners editor-in-chief Jim Wallis spoke with Huckabee by telephone this summer.

Jim Wallis: What will it take to put poverty on the na­tional political agenda, and do you think that’s possible?

Mike Huckabee: It’s not only possible, it’s necessary. It’s a tragedy that in a country of extraordinary wealth, significant numbers of people every day go to bed hungry. Some people are oblivious to that reality in this country; it’s almost as if they think, “If we don’t see people, then they don’t exist.” That, to me, is one of the great tragedies—that many people who end up in the bubble of politics see only what is allowed into that bubble by the people who handle them. It’s one of the reasons I got involved—the frustration that many people in positions of authority were unaware of the very world that they were supposedly trying to lead.

Wallis: What are some of the key changes we have to make as a society to address the problem?

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Sojourners Magazine September/October 2008
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The Great Emergence

Inga Locmele / Shutterstock
Inga Locmele / Shutterstock

Rt. Rev. Mark Dyer, an Anglican bishop known for his wit as well as his wisdom, famously observes from time to time that the only way to understand what is currently happening to us as 21st-century Christians in North America is first to understand that about every 500 years the church feels compelled to hold a giant rummage sale. And, he goes on to say, we are living in and through one of those 500-year sales.

While the bishop may be using a bit of humor to make a point, his is nonetheless a deadly serious and exquisitely accurate point. Any usable discussion of the Great Emergence and what is happening in Christianity today must commence with a discussion of history. Only history can expose the patterns and confluences of the past in such a way as to help us identify the patterns and flow of our own times and occupy them more faithfully.

The first pattern we must consider as relevant to the Great Emer­gence is Bishop Dyer’s rummage sale, which, as a pattern, is not only foundational to our understanding but also psychologically very reassuring for most of us. That is, as Bishop Dyer observes, about every 500 years the empowered structures of institutionalized Christianity, whatever they may be at that time, become an intolerable carapace, or hard shell, that must be shattered in order that renewal and new growth may occur. When that mighty upheaval happens, history shows us, there are always at least three consistent results or corollary events.

First, a new, more vital form of Christianity does indeed emerge. Second, the organized expression of Christianity that up until then had been the dominant one is reconstituted into a more pure and less ossified expression of its former self. As a result of this usually energetic but rarely benign process, the church actually ends up with two new creatures where once there had been only one. That is, in the course of birthing a brand-new expression of its faith and praxis, the church also gains a grand refurbishment of the older one.

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Sojourners Magazine August 2008
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Faithful Transitions

Becky Garrison: Who is the intended audience for The Great Emergence?

Phyllis Tickle: First, I hope Christians in established denominations find an explanation—and relief—for what’s happening. Every time I talk about a Great Emergence, someone says, “Oh, thank God I didn’t cause this thing.” It’s a social phenomenon and a repeated pattern. I hope emergents themselves will find it informing, and that’s the second part of the audience. The third group, the ones who excite me the most, are those who are al­ready following emerging practices within established denominations and can’t quite figure out where the disconnect is.

What signs are there that we are in the midst of another reformation?

Superimpose everything happening to us on the Great Reformation of 1517. For example, lay the Internet on the printing press, the music Luther used to carry the theology, the science of Copernicus. The Reformation era was characterized by the rise of nation states; now we have the rise of globalization. We’ve gone from a cash-based society to an information society. The social unit has changed—the Protestant Reformation configuration of the nuclear family doesn’t occur now. We’ve gone from hierarchy to globalized networking, from the growth of the middle class to the death of the middle class.

What do you mean by a church “rummage sale”?

Bishop Mark Dyer says this; every religion is subject to incrustation given enough time. Apparently it takes the Abrahamic faiths about 500 years to institutionalize whatever the dominant form is. The religious vigor and passion burst out and scatter. Those pieces are freed of a lot of their burden and become a different form. Catholicism went through the Council of Trent and reconfigured because of the pressures of the Reformation.

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Sojourners Magazine August 2008
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Voting is Never Uncritical, Unqualified, nor Unconditional

I've been blogging lately about faith, politics, and voting. In a recent post, I reflected that this election season will require us to have thousands of conversations, millions even -- around dinner tables, sitting at the beach, during hikes and boat rides, online, in church fellowship halls, and parking lots -- about truly important issues for us as Americans and as Christians. We'll need to talk [...]

To Vote or Not to Vote

Some folks I've talked to are not going to vote in the 2008 elections. Some are disillusioned. Some don't like either candidate enough to vote. For some, not voting is an act of protest against the whole system, which they believe is hopelessly corrupt. Some believe that their citizenship in God's kingdom means they shouldn't become involved in "earthly" citizenship.

While I respect my friends who aren't going to vote -- especially those who have prayerfully thought the decision [...]

Pro-Life Democrats Call for an Abortion Reduction Plank

As a pro-life Democrat, and a member of the party's platform committee I will be pressing for the inclusion of an abortion reduction plank in this year's platform. Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life, recently unveiled the organization's "95-10 Initiative," which she believes could reduce abortions by 95 percent over the next 10 years. While I am not that optimistic I do believe that abortions could be reduced significantly if we would address the economic [...]

D#@*$% Environmentalists!

A friend of mine recalls a dinner-table conversation one day when she was a schoolgirl. Her dad had come home unusually frustrated from his job as a city planner. "D#@*$% environmentalists!" he said over dinner. "Dad, I thought you were an environmentalist," she said. "Why are you so upset?"

"All day long," he answered, "environmentalists come to me with problems and complaints, and business people come to me with ideas and projects. Why can't the environmentalists be proactive [...]

Two Firsts

The fact that an African American and a woman each ran so strongly in the long primary season of this election year speaks very well of the country. Having two "firsts" competing for the presidency, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, makes this a very historic political year. But it was perhaps unfortunate that the two firsts ended up running against each other. After a hard-fought campaign, there inevitably remain some hard feelings among the supporters of both candidates, but [...]

A Transformational Moment

When the historic legislative milestone of the Voting Rights Act finally passed in 1965, I was still a young teenager. Until then, black people in America didn't have the right to vote. And until the Civil Rights Act passed the previous year in 1964, black Americans had to drink from separate drinking fountains, eat at separate lunch counters, ride at the back of buses, and watch movies only from the balconies of theaters. Then there was all the violence. I remember a civil rights worker [...]