“I’m Jim Wallis, author of God’s Politics. I was surprised and grateful when Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid called to say his party wanted to set a new tone and invite, for the first time, a non-partisan religious leader to deliver their weekly radio address and speak about the values that could unite Americans at this critical time.
So, I want to be clear that I am not speaking for the Democratic Party, but as a person of faith who feels the hunger in America for a new vision of our life together, and sees the opportunity to apply our best moral values to the urgent problems we face. I am not an elected official or political partisan, but a religious leader who believes that real solutions must transcend partisan politics. For too long, we have had a politics of blame and fear, while America is eager for a politics of solutions and hope. It is time to find common ground by moving to higher ground.
Because we have lost a commitment to the common good, politics is failing to solve the deepest crises of our time. Real solutions will require our best thinking and dialogue, but also call us to transformation and renewal.
Most Americans know that the important issues we confront have an essential moral character. It is the role of faith communities to remind us of that fact. But religion has no monopoly on morality. We need a new, morally-centered discourse on politics that welcomes each of us to the table.
A government that works for the common good is central. There is a growing desire for integrity in our government across the political spectrum. Corruption in government violates our basic principles. Money and power distort our political decision-making and even our elections. We must restore trust in our government and reclaim the integrity of our democratic system.
At this moment in history, we need new directions.
Who is left out and left behind is always a religious and moral question. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the health of a society was measured by how it cared for its weakest and most vulnerable, and prosperity was to be shared by all. Jesus proclaimed a gospel that was “good news to the poor.”
I am an evangelical Christian, and a commitment to “the least of these” is central to my personal faith and compels my public actions. It is time to lift up practical policies and effective practices that “make work work” for low-income families and challenge the increasing wealth gap between rich and poor. We must find a new moral and political will to overcome poverty that combines personal and social responsibility with a commitment to support strong families.
Answering the call to lift people out of poverty will require spiritual commitment and bipartisan political leadership. Since the election, I have spoken with leaders from both parties about creating a real anti-poverty agenda in Congress. We need a grand alliance between liberals and conservatives to produce new and effective strategies.
This week, President Bush met with Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq, seeking solutions to the rapidly deteriorating situation in that civil-war torn nation. Nearly 3,000 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died. The cost and consequences of a disastrous war are moral issues our country must address. Leaders in both parties are acknowledging that the only moral and practical course is to dramatically change the direction of U.S. policy, starting with an honest national debate about how to extricate U.S. forces from Iraq with the least possible damage to everyone involved.
Our earth and the fragile atmosphere that surrounds it are God’s good creation. Yet, our environment is in jeopardy as global warming continues unchecked and our air and water are polluted. Good stewardship of our resources is a religious and moral question. Energy conservation and less dependence on fossil fuels are commitments that could change our future– from the renewal of our lifestyles to the moral redemption of our foreign policies.
A culture that promotes healthy families is necessary to raise our children with strong values, and the breakdown of family and community in our society must be addressed. But we need serious solutions, not the scapegoating of others. And wouldn’t coming together to find common ground that dramatically reduces the number of abortions be better than both the left and the right using it as an issue to divide us?
We need a new politics inspired by our deepest held values. We must summon the best in the American people, and unite to solve some of the moral issues of our time. Americans are much less concerned about what is liberal or conservative, what is Democrat or Republican. Rather, we care about what is right and what works.
The path of partisan division is well worn, but the road of compassionate priorities and social justice will lead us to a new America. Building that new America will require greater moral leadership from both Democrats and Republicans, and also from each and every one of us.
I’m Jim Wallis. Thank you and God bless you.”
For anyone who’s still in doubt, this week’s headlines certainly offer proof that there are evangelicals who care about more than banning abortion and same-sex marriage.
The week began with the resignation of Rev. Joel Hunter, president–elect of the Christian Coalition, who cited agenda disputes as the reason for his departure. Apparently the coalition wasn’t ready for a leader like Hunter who wanted to expand its agenda to include caring for the poor and protecting the environment. Over the past few years, Hunter has become know as an evangelical pastor who is seeking to broaden the range of issues that evangelicals work on beyond the traditional “pro-life, pro-familyâ€ agenda. He says that “unless we are caring as much for the vulnerable outside the womb as inside the womb, we’re not carrying out the full message of Jesus.â€
A leader among the ranks of evangelical environmentalists, Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president for government affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, was named as one the greatest proponents of ‘creation care’ in a Beliefnet profile on Thursday. According to Cizik, “you have got to care about this because when you die, God is not going to ask you about how he created the earth. He’s going to ask you, ‘What did you do with what I created?’â€
And just look at the AIDS conference taking place today in California, hosted by mega-selling author and evangelical pastor Rick Warren. Warren’s wife Kay says that it is time to “break the silenceâ€ that has paralyzed Evangelicals on the issue of AIDS because of its ties to issues of sexuality, and Warren says that he has “no doubt if Jesus were walking the Earth today, he would be hanging out with people with AIDS.” With a goal of bringing people together, the conference includes such diverse speakers as Sen. Barak Obama, Sen. Sam Brownback, Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini of the Rwandan Episcopal Church and Bono, and has attracted more than 2000 participants from across the country. Despite opposition by some evangelical groups to the invitation of the pro-choice Obama, Warren has stood by his decision, saying that, although he does not agree with Obama’s views on abortion, “the HIV/AIDS pandemic cannot be fought by Evangelicals alone.”
These stories give hope for more future collaboration on the many serious issues that our world is facing today. I think Warren said it best: “Republicans, Democrats, gay, straight, Christians, Jews, Muslims — can we not work on some of these issues together?â€
Around our world 8000 persons die every day from AIDS:
In Africa:In America:A message from Bono:
The Rev J.P. Heath of Anerela+ (African Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV/AIDS) talks about his experience of living openly as a person with HIV:
Go beyond the numbers:
The new Muslim community blog Eteraz posts a handy survey of Turkey coverage from the Times, Prospect Magazine, Cato, and the Muslim Association for Liberal Thinking.
John L. Allen Jr., over at the National Catholic Reporter, writes: “In a historic moment of inter-faith solidarity, Pope Benedict XVI visited Istanbul’s famed “Blue Mosqueâ€ this afternoon, and at one point paused for a moment of what seemed like silent prayer alongside the imam who hosted him.”
“Poverty? Global Warming? AIDS?” Chuck Currie notes, “The most important issues of our time don’t compare to gay marriage or abortion to many leaders of the Religious Right – just ask the Christian Coalition.”
Catching the same story, JSpot titles their take: “Christian Coalition Upheaval – We’re Bigots and We’re Sticking With That.”
Taking on the Focus on the Family crowd, the regulars at Talk to Action have teamed up with CrossLeft’s Institute of Progressive Christianity to condemn statements that James Dobson made on Larry King Live.
“Dr. Dobson’s claim that there is no such thing as separation of church and state is not supported by history. While it is true that the phrase separation of church and state is not found in the constitution or the first Amendment, the concept was well understood by the leading thinkers of the time. Thomas Jefferson’s’s letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, is considered by historians, legal scholars and the U.S. Supreme Court to be Jefferson’s definitive statement on the meaning of the establishment clause of the First Amendment.
As progressive Christians, IPC is steadfastly committed to the separation of church and state as stated in the Constitution of the United States. We base our belief not as an expression of hostility towards religion, but as a guarantee of its free practice whereby the position of one faith is not elevated over any other. In that manner, America will protect, as FDR proclaimed, ‘The freedom of every person to worship God in his own way.’”
Over at Street Prophets, Frederick Clarkson has some follow up. He quotes some right wing group’s reaction, “In a lengthy news release on Wednesday, the IPC rebutted Dobson’s comments one by one. But it’s not so much what the liberal Christians are saying — it’s that they’re saying it at all.”
Christo Lumen laments a nation divided by two Christianities.
Speaking of World AIDS day, over at Sexuality and Religion: What’s the Connection?,the Rev. Deb. Haffner posts two thoughtful essays.
Continuing the theme, Jesus Politics points to an article suggesting that Ted Haggard’s revelation gives Christianity a good opportunity to rethink the complexity of human sexuality.
And Johnny’s Blog finds Naomi Wolf’s recent New York magazine article on sacred sexuality, well, “quite compelling”.
Rabbi Barenblatt posts on Jacob over at Radical Torah.
For World AIDS day, Pam’s House Blend point you to a great documentary made by two rural teenagers about being gay in an average American high school.
And finally, the God’s Politics Blog features Adam Taylor writing about how to turn the “corner on AIDS in Africa.”
VIDEO: Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and Father James Martin on Pope’s Visit to Turkey
On a mission of outreach to both Muslim and Orthodox Christian communities, Pope Benedict’s controversial trip to Turkey has kicked off fairly smoothly. Hopefully this visit will serve as another helpful stage in the needed bridge-building between Muslims and Christians.