President

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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A New Faith Coalition

As we approach the inauguration of President Barack Obama, it is worth a final reflection on the election that brought him (and us) to this point. Most elections are just power rearrangements; this one was a transformational moment in our history. First of all, this represents a watershed moment in the life of our country. Regardless of how you voted, our entire nation can celebrate the milestone of our first African-American president. We can all embrace this profound opportunity for deeper racial reconciliation and social justice.

This is also a moment to recognize that fundamental shifts are taking place in America— political, cultural, racial, generational, and religious shifts.

The leadership of African-American and La­­tino Christ­ians, along with that of a new generation of the faithful in white America, is ending an age of narrow and divisive religion. This new faith coalition voted for a broad new moral agenda for faith in public life. Racial and economic justice, creation care, peacemaking, and a more consistent ethic of life will be the keystones of this growing shift.

This changing face of religion in America was noted right after the election, when The Wall Street Journal reported, “A concerted effort since 2004 helped Barack Obama and the Democrats make significant inroads with religious voters. Reversing his party’s poor showing among faith-based voters in the 2004 presidential election, Mr. Obama won among Catholics, 54 percent to 45 percent, made gains among regular churchgoers, and eroded a bit of the evangelical support that has been a fixture of Republican electoral success for years.”

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Sojourners Magazine January 2009
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