The Common Good

Red letter Christians challenge religious right to a broader, deeper dialogue on faith in America

Date: September 19, 2006

For Immediate Release<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Media contacts:

<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Jack Pannell, 202/745-4614

Elise Elzinga and Colin Mathewson, 202/745-4625



*******Press Release*******




Diverse Chorus of Progressive Christian Voices Call on Both Political Parties to Craft Significant Poverty Reduction Plans by 2008 Election


Washington, D.C. — The Red Letter Christians, a newly formed group of progressive religious leaders, launched its Voting Our Values campaign with Sojourners/Call to Renewal at the National Press Club yesterday. The Red Letter Christians, who are a mix of evangelical, mainline Protestant, and Catholic leaders, speak in a diverse chorus of voices on the importance of a broader and deeper national conversation on faith and politics.


“Many of the pressing problems we face in society have a pressing moral character,” said Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners/Call to Renewal and author of the best-selling book God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It. “When we read Jesus’ words in the Bible—the red letters—we cannot ignore his broader moral agenda. It’s arrogant to assume that only two issues, same-sex marriage and abortion, are moral values. By 2008, we want to see the candidates of both parties present their plans for significant poverty reductions.”


Each of the fifteen Red Letter Christians attending the press conference shared their thoughts on why they decided to join this new effort, some of which follow.


  • “We are eager to put the actual words of Jesus at the heart of our national dialogue. We seek to build a society that works for the needs of all, not just an elite few.” —Alexia Kelley, principal founder of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good


  • “Such narrow conversations on moral values that emphasize abortion and gay marriage can only be undertaken by people who are disengaged from addressing the real challenges faced by American families. These wedge issues allow ultraconservatives to hide in their offices and cower behind their pulpit, rather than stand beside the people that need them most. That’s the difference between prophetic ministry and pathetic ministry. The convening of Red Letter Christians allows us to draw attention to the words of Jesus and hear what he has to say about justice, liberation, and equality for all people.” —Rev. Romal J. Tune, President and CEO of Clergy Strategic Alliance, LLC


  • “There’s a real danger when faith is identified too closely with a particular ideology, or in the recent case, the current administration.” —Dr. Randall Balmer, professor of American religious history at Columbia University


  • “People in poverty need more than sermons about personal responsibility and prosperity plans.” —Rev. Robert Michael Franklin, Jr., professor of social ethics at Emory University


  • “Mainline Protestants in America are concerned with the intermixture of church and state.They want a lively discussion on faith and politics, but they do not want a Christian America or government. Instead, they want Christians to participate in the conversation about what it means to vote their values.”—Dr. Diana Butler Bass, Virginia Theological Seminary adjunct faculty


  • “We challenge the Religious Right to do something about the poor of this country. If they’re really serious about reducing the number of abortions, then overcoming poverty must be a central goal. America is losing its moral stature with the rest of the world.” —Dr. Tony Campolo, founder of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education


  • “Christianity should be solving problems, instead of exacerbating them.” —Michael Battle, associate professor of theology at Virginia Theological Seminary


  • “I am terribly frustrated with our political discourse. We polarize and paralyze and somehow miss the deep and profound questions that need to be raised that are now matters of our own survival.” —Brian McLaren, founding pastor of the Cedar Ridge Community Church


  • “What is at stake right now in the world is not just the reputation of America but the identity of Christianity.” —Shane Claiborne, founding partner of The Simple Way Community


  • “The Red Letter Christians are about a different kind of partisanship: a partisanship for peace, and on behalf of the least, the last, and the lost among us.” —Adam Taylor, director of campaigns and organizing at Sojourners/Call to Renewal


  • “An increasing number of young Christians are disillusioned with the polarities of left and right, whether it be in politics or the church. This group is about pushing through the polarities into God’s future.” —Tony Jones, national coordinator of Emergent Village


For more information on the Red Letter Christians and media interviews with its members, visit or call Jack Pannell at 202/745-4614.