The Common Good

Center for American Progress

Center for American Progress Press Items
As we near the March 25 arguments in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius, it can feel as though men have the monopoly on religious activism in America. After all, 38 protestant theologians signed on to an amicus brief suggesting that a business owner’s religious beliefs should dictate the consciences and actions of female employees – none of those theologians were women... This article was originally published in Sojourners.
3. The “Fast for Families” participants mobilize on behalf of immigration reform legislation. Of the various faith-led protests for immigration reform in 2013, few garnered as much attention as the “Fast for Families” campaign. Organized as a partnership between labor groups, religious organizations, and immigration advocates, a rotating band of participants fasted for weeks in a tent on the National Mall to pressure the House of Representatives to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation. Led by the storied labor organizer Eliseo Medina, fasters hailed from a variety of professions and backgrounds and included several undocumented immigrants and DREAMers. But organizers also listed a fair number of high-profile religious leaders as participants, such as Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition; Sister Simone Campbell, the executive director of NETWORK; Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; and Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners.
The Fast for Families represents a depth of commitment to immigration reform beyond anything I’ve seen before. The four original fasters—Eliseo Medina, Dae Joong Yoon of NAKASEC, Lisa Sharon Harper of Sojourners, and Cristian Avila of Mi Familia Vota—come from different backgrounds and showcase the diversity within the immigration movement. I watched Eliseo go gaunt before my eyes, losing 25 pounds and having his hair turn completely white. I watched DJ Yoon be taken to the hospital, and then immediately return after being discharged the following day.
Lisa Sharon Harper, a dynamic voice and a mobilizing force on issues of poverty and racial justice. Harper is the director of mobilizing for Sojourners, a nationwide Christian social justice network based in Washington. This year Harper mobilized communities of faith to speak out against draconian immigration laws; supported Human Circles of Protection, a grassroots initiative to protect federal funding for critical social services; and pressed policymakers to treat their budgets as “moral documents”—that is, with an understanding of how budgeted federal funds have significant ramifications for vulnerable communities who rely on government-supported services. An author, regular blogger, and speaker on social justice concerns, she also published her second book on morality, faith, and politics, Left, Right & Christ, in October 2011.
This is precisely what President Obama believes. In a speech delivered at evangelical writer Jim Wallis’s “Call to Renewal” conference on June 26, 2006, then-Sen. Obama articulated a vision of how religious views and public policies can—and should—face citizen scrutiny. “Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religious-specific, values,” he said. “Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality.”
A less-reported but equally significant success lies in faith groups’ increasingly enthusiastic embrace of the movement. Progressive Christian groups such as Sojourners—an early supporter of the protests—are being joined by growing numbers of Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Protestant, and Catholic congregations, as well as interfaith groups that are lending their voices, bodies, buildings, and pulpits.
The Hunger Fast campaign is joining supporters together to fast and raise awareness of the unacceptable level of hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world.
Glenn Beck is a particular focus of progressive faith activism because he has frequently attacked the idea that Christians should be committed to social justice. In March, he urged his listeners to leave their churches if pastors talked about social justice. Beck verbally attacked an evangelical pastor, the Rev. Jim Wallis, several times on his programs, and ridiculed the antipoverty commitments of , the Christian organization founded by Wallis. Ever the faith activist, Wallis challenged Beck to learn more about what social justice really means in a one-on-one discussion. Instead of meeting Wallis head on, Beck instead threatened him, saying “the hammer is coming…and when the hammer comes it is going to be coming hard and all through the night, over and over…”
This perhaps makes for good television, evoking a violent and threatening image. Do I think Beck is threatening bodily harm to Rev. Wallis? Of course not. But I do worry that such provocative and incendiary language might sound to a less than stable person like a call to arms—real arms against Rev. Wallis.
Hundreds of diverse faith communities have been active independently and within larger organizations. Mainline Protestant denominations, Catholic parishes, Jewish congregations, and others, along with groups such as PICO, the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, Sojourners, Catholic Social Services, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Families United, and Gamaliel have stood up and spoken out on behalf of immigrants and their families.