Darfur at the Movies: “Sand and Sorrow”

May 25, 2007, 12:04 pm | Posted by

“Sand and Sorrow,” a new film about Darfur narrated by George Clooney, is on the verge of public screenings nationwide. The documentary highlights the historical events in Sudan that led to genocide as well as the logistical reasons for the United States’ weak and delayed response.

There are few issues that have brought together a broader coalition of religious leaders, human rights activists, political pundits, and journalists than Darfur. In the film, Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Barack Obama (D-IL) sit side by side pleading for action in Darfur — Brownback, an icon of the religious right, motivated by his views on respect for life, and Obama, an icon of the religious left, motivated by a grotesque violation of human rights.

The genocide in Darfur brought a coalition of religious groups together across ideological lines in an effort to convince the White House that more action is needed. The Save Darfur Coalition consists of over 170 faith based organizations speaking out against the genocide. This coalition includes leaders active within Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Evangelical, Baptist, Humanist, and Buddhist (among other) religious groups and there is no shortage of religious activism around the issue.

Sand and Sorrow is a documentary worth watching, it clearly illustrates that the pressure placed on the government about Darfur comes from both pro-life conservatives on the right and religious human rights activists on the left.

This film is a prime example of how people of faith can work together for the common good, ending genocide, and that certain issues have the potential to make strange bedfellows who can have a unique impact on public debates.

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No Brainer on Family Values?

May 24, 2007, 11:14 am | Posted by

The current immigration deal under consideration in the Senate needs a family values fix. Right now, there are “an estimated 1.5 million legal immigrants in the United States who have been waiting as long as seven years to bring husbands, wives and small children to live with them.” The current immigration bill does NOTHING to fix this, and in fact, reduces the number of family reunification visas available each year. This means that the backlog of families waiting to be reunited will only continue to grow.

Fortunately, there’s a bipartisan amendment by Sens. Clinton, Hagel, and Menendez that provides a family values fix. This amendment would declare the spouses and minor children of legal residents to be “immediate relatives”, exempting them from the visa caps. It could come up for a vote as soon as TODAY.

Several religious leaders appeared at a press conference yesterday in support of this amendment. But shouldn’t there be a lot more noise on this from the faith community, from the left and right? Shouldn’t all groups who claims to be pro-family be firing up their constituencies in support of of this family values fix? Here are the statements from religious leaders and organizations that we have seen so far… anyone seen any more?

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

“The amendment to be offered by Senators Clinton, Hagel and Menendez helps restore an element of family unity to the Senate compromise bill. As proposed, the legislation leaves family values at the Rio Grande,” said Kevin Appleby, Director, Migration and Refugee Policy, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

World Relief

“Families are the building blocks of an ordered and procreative society through which people are able to grow and experience the love of God. Our government must promote laws and policies that strengthen the well-being of all families- including immigrant families. It is through families that our communities are more stable and stronger and the Clinton-Hagel amendment would allow those who have waited legally, the right way, to be more quickly reunited with their loved ones. World Relief commends Senator Clinton, Senator Hagel and Senator Menendez’s commitment to the issue of family reunification within the Comprehensive Immigration Reform debate and looks to their leadership to continue to place priority on the value of family,” said Dan Kosten, Director of the World Relief Refugee and Immigration Programs.

Esperanza

“Senator Clinton has consistently provided leadership on this issue. She has never lost sight of the real families and children impacted by our broken immigration system,” said Reverend Luis Cortés, Founder and President of Esperanza, the largest Hispanic Evangelical organization. “Senator Clinton’s amendment would help reunite families now torn apart because of an unfair policy, and I want to thank her for her courage and commitment to fixing this injustice.”

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service

“The Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service applauds Senators Clinton, Hagel and Menendez for putting the principle of ‘families first’ back into this legislation. This amendment makes it possible for thousands of spouses and young children who have been separated from their families for an average of nearly 5 years to reunite far more quickly. Bringing families together is a core American value that LIRS stands firmly behind,” said Gregory Chen, Director for Legislative Affairs, the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

Rev. Derrick Harkins, posted on Sojourner’s God’s Politics blog, from his testimony to the Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law in the House of Representatives on May 22, 2007.

Family, in its strongest and most stable structure, is an essential pillar of our society…The limitation of family-based immigration by the reduction of family reunification visas would impair that family structure in significant measure. Siblings, adult children, and parents (those directly affected by any potential reduction) are in many examples and cultural contexts core, and not merely “extended,” family.

The Episcopal Church:

The Episcopal Church’s 2006 legislative body, General Convention, expressed strong support for comprehensive immigration legislation and regarded family unity as an imperative of any reformed system. …Sadly, the Senate compromise legislation includes provisions that devalue family sponsored immigration. Family reunification offers the stability and support needed for immigrants to thrive in our communities and as workers to meet the economic needs of our country. By passing the Clinton-Hagel amendment that would exempt spouses and minor children of lawful permanent residents from the visa cap, the Senate would allow for more expeditious unification of immediate family members.

NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

Because, as a faith community, we believe in the importance of family, we strongly oppose provisions that will split families apart. Support of family unification has been a bedrock value of U.S. immigration policies because it has long been recognized that family unity fosters stable communities and provides needed support for workers while in the U.S.

Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, spoke in favor of the Clinton-Hagel-Menendez amendment at yesterday’s press conference.

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What’s new in the neighborhood?

May 24, 2007, 8:36 am | Posted by

Evangelicals after Falwell

The Rev. Chuck Currie notes the story about the Liberty U. student who was caught with several bombs prepared in connection with Falwell’s funeral. He adds, “Falwell preached hate and division his entire life while Jesus taught us to love our enemies. What a sad and pathetic end to Falwell’s story.”

And Talk to Action’s Max Blumenthal visits the students MySpace page and finds some interesting things.

At Street Prophets, Pastor Dan lists eight of the next generation of conservative Christian leaders: Frank Page, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels (Willow Creek), David Barton (Wallbuilders), Joel Hunter (Orlando pastor blackballed from presidency of Christian Coalition), Richard Land, Richard Cizik, T.D. Jakes. And he writes:

“. . .when we’re talking about Rick Warren or Joel Osteen (or Jim Wallis and Ron Sider, for that matter), what matters isn’t so much their specific policy positions as it is their reluctance to “go to war” over them. They’re not interested in mobilizing an activist base to redefine the ways Americans connect on certain issues, in other words. Nor are they interested in promoting the idea of a broad-based Culture War for their own ends, as Falwell and his cronies were.”

Pastor Dan also writes on the new Agenda and the myth of the values voter.

CrossLeft appreciates Jerry Falwell, writing “So, thank you Falwell for helping us to find our place, identify our beliefs, and take a stand not against what you believed, but for our beliefs!”

And the Rev. Debra Haffner says that people shouldn’t be so sure that Falwell’s passing means anything, especially regarding marriage equality.

Faith in Public Life’s Katie has a massive roundup on how the rhetoric about “evangelical issues” has changed.

Food and Fair Trade

Faithfully Liberal marks the end of the Food Stamp Challenge completed by U.S. Representatives James McGovern (D-MA), Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Tim Ryan (D-OH). I’ve heard several news pieces on this bi-partisan awareness event so it appears to have worked pretty well. Food Stamps are funded in the Farm Bill, which is up for reauthorization soon.

Larry’s Urban Daily adds more to exploding the myth of widespread Welfare wealth.

Speaking of food, Provoke Radio has a great show on Fair Trade chocolate, coffee, and what faith has to do with it.

If you are not provoked enough, check out Radical Torah‘s post on the Torah of Fair Trade.

Immigration

Remember Rev. Derrick Harkins setting CNN’s Lou Dobbs straight about Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform? Here he points out that to support compassionate immigration is to value families.

Johnny’s Cache writes on Friedman’s call for a “sane” immigration policy.

Interfaith in Public Life

JSpot lists which members of Congress are endorsing which presidential candidates. Sen. Clinton has the most.

At God’s Politics, Diana Butler Bass tackles American Muslims and Religious Freedom.

Mainstream Baptist quotes Al Gore’s recent comments on faith in public life.

Chaplain Danny has two must reads: The WaPo’s Crises in Darfur video and the first Buddhist military chaplain writes about religious discrimination.

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Pew Poll on American Muslims

May 23, 2007, 5:31 pm | Posted by

The Pew Forum released a major poll on American Muslims yesterday. It’s title strikes an optimistic note: Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream. Among its encouraging conclusions: Muslims in America have a high degree of optimism regarding their future prospects for living a good life, do well economically, and are far more integrated into American society than European Muslim communities. These conclusions resulted in headlines like this one from the Los Angeles Times: American Muslims: Mostly moderate, not monolithic.

However, the right wing is not to be placated by such good news. Conservative bloggers and media commentators have picked up on findings that show that very small percentages of the Muslim community express limited support for suicide bombing to reinforce their calls to ship American Muslims to internment camps. Glenn Greenwald does a nice job of taking this apart over at Salon.

There is some cause for concern, particularly regarding the fact that younger Muslims are more prone to supporting violence than their older co-religionists. Still, it bears remembering that the American Muslim community is more integrated, and more concerned about Islamic extremism, than anywhere in Europe. If the right wing wants to protect America, they won’t make the same mistake as our European allies of alienating their Islamic communities and cutting them off from mainstream culture.

See the below video from Anderson Cooper to get a sense of how the Pew report is playing in the press.

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The New Conventional Wisdom on Evangelical Christians

May 21, 2007, 5:54 pm | Posted by

It was not so long ago that I regularly spent a portion of my morning sending reporters compilations of news articles demonstrating evangelical activism agenda around issues such as climate change, global AIDS, Darfur, and immigration, to make the case that evangelicals are not in fact monolithic. Alan Cooperman’s Washington Post story, “Evangelicals Broaden Their Moral Agenda” (October 16, 2006), signaled a shift, but it was a seen a break with conventional wisdom.

The coverage of evangelicalism following Rev. Jerry Falwell’s passing has convinced me that my morning routine is no longer necessary. The old conventional wisdom about evangelicals — that they care only about abortion and same-sex marriage — is out. And the new conventional wisdom — that evangelicals are not monolithic and care about a broad range of compassion issues — is in.

AP, Rachel Zoll: Even before his death, religious right had been looking beyond Falwell for new leaders

Many conservative Christians active in politics today believe that the way Falwell confronted political foes made evangelicals seem hateful. The younger leaders also have been pressing for a broader policy agenda beyond abortion and traditional marriage by trying to include AIDS care, environmental protection and education.

New York Times, Michael Luo and Laurie Goodstein: Emphasis Shifts for New Breed of Evangelicals

The evangelical Christian movement, which has been pivotal in reshaping the country’s political landscape since the 1980s, has shifted in potentially momentous ways in recent years, broadening its agenda and exposing new fissures.

The death of the Rev. Jerry Falwell last week highlighted the fact that many of the movement’s fiery old guard who helped lead conservative Christians into the embrace of the Republican Party are aging and slowly receding from the scene. In their stead, a new generation of leaders who have mostly avoided the openly partisan and confrontational approach of their forebears have become increasingly influential.

Typified by megachurch pastors like the Rev. Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Orange County, Calif., and the Rev. Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church outside Chicago, the new breed of evangelical leaders — often to the dismay of those who came before them — are more likely to speak out about more liberal causes like AIDS, Darfur, poverty and global warming than controversial social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.

NPR, Barbara Bradley Haggerty: Evangelical Voters May Be Up for Grabs in ’08

But change is afoot in the evangelical world. Comments from high-profile evangelical leaders like Falwell, Pat Robertson and James Dobson are no longer taken as gospel truth.

To get an idea of how far some evangelicals have traveled since Falwell’s heyday, I visited Joel Hunter at his mega-church in Orlando, Fla. Hunter’s vision of the “correct” evangelical view of the environment seems to come from a different continent — or a different God.

TIME Magazine, Nancy Gibbs: The Movement that Left Falwell Behind

Today’s young evangelicals on campus still have their heroes and their causes, but it’s less likely to be Falwell and James Dobson fighting abortion and gay marriage than Bono and Rick Warren leading the way on addressing poverty and “creation care” and AIDS in Africa. … It is only partly wishful thinking when a progressive evangelical counterforce to Falwell like Jim Wallis declares, “The Evangelicals have left the Right. They now reside with Jesus.”

Washington Post, Hannah Rosin: For New Generation of Evangelicals, Falwell Was Old News

In reality, [Falwell, Robertson and Dobson] represent a small fraction of evangelicals, and a fraction that is dying out.

CNN, American Morning: Delia Gallagher, CNN Correspondent:

However, if you think of somebody like Rick Warren today, you know, he is somebody that we think of who has the face of the evangelical movement today, and his issues, they are still those of Jerry Falwell, but they are also poverty, AIDS, the environment.

So there is a change now. There’s a generational change and there is a small shift in what the evangelical movement is embracing. But the movement itself isn’t defined by just one person as maybe it was in 1979.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360:

Conventional wisdom is not an easy thing to shift. But shift it has. Welcome to the new CW.

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