The Common Good

The Huffington Post

The Huffington Post Press Items
Why? On Tuesday, I met 100 reasons: 100 young people brought to this country by their parents, from 100 different situations, to 100 different futures. But each one has something in common. They want to commit themselves to this country and to public service. Each one is already working hard, building their community, and planning for the future, but their options are limited. While for most of these young people America is the only home they have ever known, they don't have the papers to say so.
While American troops will be working through the Christmas holidays, putting their lives on the line for our safety and while millions of Christians prepare to celebrate the birth of the "Prince of Peace," Senators Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Jim DeMint (R-SC) brazenly choose to distort and manipulate this most holy of days for their own political means.
The election of Barack Obama in 2008 as the nation’s first African American president suggests that the Christian Right — at least as defined and shaped by leaders like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, D. James Kennedy, Paul Weyrich and James Dobson — was falling into disarray.
"He should have fought this one. The richest 2 percent of the country just got an extension of tax cuts they didn't need at great cost to us all." -Rev. Wallis
Most Americans, including Christians, now support equal rights for gays and lesbians serving in the U.S. military.
It is always appropriate and necessary for the faith community to question and challenge political leadership on the biggest moral issues -- indeed it is our prophetic vocation to do so. That means lifting up the now growing rates of poverty in America and around the world, even when both parties only want to talk about the middle class.
An election like this one always calls for both moral centering and political recalibration. Leaders of both parties were talking the morning after the election about cooperation to solve the nation's problems. We'll see, but that will likely also take a movement.
Tooley used a recent apology from Lutherans -- for violent persecution of 16th-century Anabaptists -- to emphasize a "neo-Anabaptist movement" that demands all Christians and society "bend to pacifism." He says the views of neo-Anabaptist religious leaders such as Stanley Hauerwas, Greg Boyd, Shane Claiborne and Jim Wallis are "especially pervasive" and "permit a naughty sense of rebellion" -- evidence of how the Anabaptist message has mainstream appeal, especially its pacifism.
The power of an inside/outside strategy has been compromised by the problem of access which many leaders from social movements got after the election of Barack Obama. I remember seeing many friends in the building which served as the administration's transition headquarters, all of us attending meeting after meeting on the policies the new administration hoped to enact. Some of us attended so many meetings on so many varied topics that some security guards joked that we ought to have cots in the transition headquarters to avoid going back and forth from home so much.
There are endless comparisons made between Obama, Clinton and Reagan -- how badly each did in their first midterm elections, and how to recover and not be a one-term president like Jimmy Carter. But in the case of Obama, the better historical models are FDR and the JFK/Johnson period. It was the robust activism of those independent progressive movements of the past that created the space for major reforms and made other presidencies memorable. That's because social change does not ultimately rest on who is in the White House, but a movement outside of Washington, D.C., that makes fundamental reforms possible. What we need to re-learn now is the choreography of the "outside/inside dance" that real social change always requires.