The Common Good

Sacred Places to Civic Spaces

Sojomail - October 8, 2004

Quote of the Week Voter turnoff
Hearts & Minds Jim Wallis: Sacred places to civic spaces
Media Watch Sojourners in the news
Good News Blair makes progress on Darfur
Politically Connect What Martha Stewart, Nelson Mandela, and radical nuns have in common
On the Ground Costly peacemaking in Palestine
By the Numbers Of bases and boondoggles
Web Sitings Direct to video | Global debt, simplified | Klingons for Kerry?
Boomerang Readers write
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NEW BUMPER STICKERS! Order "Overcoming poverty is a religious issue" bumper stickers today, and 50% of the proceeds will help fund the Rolling to Overcome Poverty bus tour. Only $3.97 (volume discounts apply). Order today!


"If we do not suppress the Detroit vote, we're going to have a tough time in this election."

- John Pappageorge, who is white, and a Republican state legislator in Michigan. Pappageorge has since apologized for the statement, saying he never intended anything racist or illegal should be done - but he has also reiterated that he did indeed mean that the vote in Detroit needed to be kept down. Source: The Mercury News

+ Read more about race and the election in Sojourners magazine


Sacred places to civic spaces
by Jim Wallis

I'm writing from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul - the first stop on our Call to Renewal "Rolling to Overcome Poverty" bus tour. We began Wednesday morning with a "Pilgrimage to Overcome Poverty," a four-mile walk through St. Paul to the Minnesota State Capitol for a noon rally.

It was a beautiful fall day for a good walk as we stopped along the way at significant places. The first was St. Luke's IHM Catholic School. All the young students came out to greet us, passing out water bottles and holding up the posters they had made to show their commitment and illustrate Catholic social teaching on poverty. My own son Luke is 6 years old now and in first grade, and I walked up to a class of kids about his size. A 7-year-old girl was holding a poster she had made that said, "Every person is sacred. Stop Poverty!" When I smiled at her, she looked up at me and simply said, "Thank you for doing this." That kept me going the rest of the day.

We also stopped at the House of Hope Presbyterian Church, which is sheltering homeless families from the "overflow" of the county shelter. The director of the church program came out to greet us and told us that three families had stayed there overnight with 11 children under the age of 6, including seven-month-old and two-month-old babies. They would be back to stay again tonight after their parents did their best to get the older kids to and from school. The lack of stability in the lives of those kids made my parent's heart hurt.

Poverty is on the rise in America and, according to the Bible, that is a religious issue. And that is the message of the Call to Renewal bus tour - poverty is a religious issue, and should also be an electoral issue in this election year. Those two stops in the first leg of the journey showed us both children with no place to call home and children being taught that their faith commanded them to do something about it. And therein lies the hope.

The bus is beautiful with a big Call to Renewal logo, big bold letters announcing the "Rolling to Overcome Poverty Tour," and VOTE 2004. On the bus are Call staff and organizers, a contingent of young "emerging leaders" who are joining the tour to help out, and preachers and musicians who will join us for parts of the journey to offer their gifts at events across the Midwest. From here, we go to Madison, Milwaukee, Chicago, Grand Rapids, Detroit, Toledo, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Akron, and concluding in Pittsburg, and Philadelphia.

The day we arrive in Philadelphia, Oct. 16, has now been designated a "National Day of Action" by many progressive religious groups across the country. "From Sacred Places to Civic Spaces - Vote ALL your values" is the message and call to action. In Philadelphia, a clergy-led march will make another pilgrimage through the streets of this historic American city and culminate in a service in Philadephia (Episcopal) Cathedral led by Rev. James Forbes and I, along with many other leaders from the faith community. I invite you to come to Philadelphia if you live near enough for this important day of witness and worship.

The progressive religious organizations are also inviting people to act in their local communities, on the Oct. 16 day of action and afterward, to move from "sacred places to civic spaces" with the clear message of "voting all our values." Single congregations can respond to that call, or groups of congregations, or ecumenical and interfaith networks and councils, in whatever ways are most appropriate and possible for each community - with marches, rallies, and vigils in symbolic public places. Together we will offer a message of hope and our values of "truth at all times, justice for all peoples, and community among all nations and faiths," as the interfaith leaders' "Call to Conscience" statement reads. Instead of focusing on a narrow set of values, or suggesting that all of our religious ethics and values can be reduced to one or two hot-button social issues, we will call on all Americans, and especially people of faith, to "Vote ALL Your Values."

We are also joining together for the critically important task of mobilizing our communities in a nonpartisan voter turn-out campaign that will focus on millions of low-income and first-time voters who have recently registered. Religious communities and their members assisting low-income people to vote is a very appropriate civic mission as we approach Election Day. For Sojourners and Call to Renewal, urging and assisting these citizens to vote and have a real voice in democracy is an extension of all our work this election year. And it could play a decisive role in our nation's future.

I urge you to be part of this effort by organizing a get-out-the-vote team in your congregation or faith community, or by just calling voters from your own home. For information about get-out-the-vote efforts, and for more about organizing around the National Day of Action, visit the website the religious organizations have set up. It's at, and wil provide you with the instructions and technology you will need.

Finally, pray. Pray for the bus tour, pray for the day of action, pray that many people will come out to vote on November 2, pray for our country. Some religious leaders will be fasting during the days leading up to the election and invite you to join them. As we have been saying at Sojourners during this election year, "Think. Pray. Vote."

+ Join Sojourners and Call to Renewal for our Day of Action event in Philadelphia

+ Read about the launch of the bus tour in today's Minneapolis Star Tribune [requires free registration]

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Sojourners in the news

Both sides putting faith in appeals to religious voters
+ The Chicago Tribune

Wooing the Faithful
+ Christianity Today

'God is not a Republican or a Democrat'
+ Tallahassee Democrat

Mixed on war, evangelicals back Bush
+ Columbus Dispatch

Democrats target religious voters, too
+ St. Louis Post-Dispatch

God, Country, and Perpetual Fear
+ AlterNet

God does not choose sides in politics
+ Centre Daily


Faith, Scripture, and Tradition:
An Interfaith Initiative for Economic Justice in America

Oct. 27 and 28

Keynote speaker: Joseph C. Hough Jr. is president of the faculty and professor of social ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Theme: "An Abrahamic Call for Economic Justice." Contact Brenda Grubb at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio, for details on the entire conference, (614) 235-4136. Or write to The Foundation For Contemporary Theology of Ohio at or Brenda at


Blair makes progress on Darfur

Under pressure from British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the government of Sudan has agreed to accept 3,500 African Union troops as ceasefire monitors in the genocide-wracked state of Darfur. This is a good step, but only one step toward reigning in the government-armed, ethnically Arab militias that have killed 50,000 African villagers, raped many women, and driven 1.5 million people into refugee camps. International pressure needs to stay on the government to fulfill its promises, and to widen the monitors' mandate to include protecting refugees and disarming militias. The African Union mission will need funding and logistical support. And rebel groups in the area (who formed the initial pretext for the government's unpardonable slaughter of civilians) must also sit down at the negotiating table.

+ Read more


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    What Martha Stewart, Nelson Mandela, and radical nuns have in common
    by Stephen Kobasa

    When reflecting on her imminent imprisonment during a recent interview, Martha Stewart declared that "good people go to jail," offering Nelson Mandela, a man who was given a life sentence for his anti-apartheid leadership and who spent most of his 27 years of imprisonment in solitary confinement, as a case in point. Aside from her outrageous implication that she should be included in this category, her basic contention is indeed true: there are many good people imprisoned in this country, some of them for having acted morally.

    + Read the full article


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    ON THE GROUND ^top

    Costly peacemaking in Palestine
    from Christian Peacemaker Teams

    On the morning of Sept. 29, Israeli settlers attacked Christian Peacemaker Team members Chris Brown and Kim Lamberty as they accompanied Palestinian children to school. Because settlers have harassed the children since school began in September, and the Israeli police would not intervene to prevent the attacks, villagers had sought the protection of international accompaniment.

    Five settlers, dressed in black and wearing masks, came from an outpost of the nearby Ma'on settlement and attacked Brown and Lamberty with a chain and bat. All of the children escaped injury by running back to their homes. The settlers pushed Brown to the ground, whipped him with a chain, and kicked him in the chest, which punctured his lung. They kicked and beat Lamberty's legs. She is not able to walk because of an injury to her knee and has a broken arm. The settlers also stole Lamberty's waistpack, which held her passport, money, and cellular phone.

    + Read the full CPT report

    + Read coverage by the Israeli newspaper, Ha'aretz

    + Read more about Christian Peacemaker Teams in Sojourners magazine


    by Charles Dickinson

    If Christianity - without losing its soul - is yet to avoid losing touch with the world, it must constantly update itself by dialogue with all the intellectual currents of today. To this end, the author proposes a necessary two-way dialectic between theology and the world, an ongoing dialectic ultimately essential to both church and world. $25 hardcover. To order call (313) 624-9784. Dove Booksellers, 13904 Michigan Avenue, Dearborn, Michigan, 48126.


    Of bases and boondoggles

    12 Minimum number of "enduring bases" under construction by the U.S. military in Iraq. (1)
    80 Percentage of Iraqis that want the U.S. military to leave (1)
    890 Total number of U.S. military installations in foreign countries (1)
    20% Minimum estimate of the effectiveness, according to the Pentagon's chief weapons evaluator, of the missile defense system being prepared for activation this fall (2)
    80% Estimate of effectiveness offered by the Missile Defense Agency, which is responsible for developing the system, and has been exempted from the traditional oversight rules meant to ensure that new weapons serve the needs of military commanders (2)
    $100 billion Estimaged total cost of the missile defense system (2)
    14 Percent of the total Pentagon research-and-development budget dedicated to missile defense - more than any other project (2)
    8 Number of tests of the system before deployment (2)
    5 Number of hits (2)
    0 Number of hits under conditions approximating a realistic attack scenario (2)

    (1) The Christian Science Monitor
    (2) The Washington Post


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    WEB SITINGS ^top

    Direct to video

    Want to see the facts on the ground about the World Bank and IMF? A new clearinghouse puts you within clicking distance of 60-plus (mostly short) documentaries that are NOT coming soon to a corporately owned movie store near you. Film subjects range from Argentina to Zambia.

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    Global debt, simplified

    What if your family were a country facing the international debt crisis? Joan Chittister, OSB, makes it clear just how simple the problem is. At the recent G7 meetings, the rich countries of the world discussed canceling the debt of 30 poor countries, but failed to act; debt activists will keep up the pressure in advance of July's G8 meeting in Scotland.

    + This time, it's personal

    Klingons for Kerry?

    Lest we seem partisan for offering this link, we're really not sure this helps either candidate. A poll of Klingons (in the Portland, Oregon, area) found that 75% support Kerry, 25% plan to write in "Satan," and zero support Bush. And from there it only gets weirder.

    + Boldly click where no one has clicked before


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    BOOMERANG ^top

    Readers write

    Ellen Hampton writes from Wooster, Ohio:

    Jim Wallis' recent article ["Republicans say 'liberals' will ban the Bible," SojoMail 9/28/2004] struck a chord with me, as a conservative relative of mine e-mailed me this link in the past week: . I read through the Web page, looking at hot-button issue after hot-button issue - then was surprised to see in tiny print at the bottom of the page, "Paid for by the Republican National Committee," and not some evangelical Christian organization. Since when does the RNC decide which issues are "wrong for evangelicals" and deign to speak for them all? There are so many other issues, such as concern for the poor, education, and the war in Iraq, where I find Bush's record antithetical to my evangelical faith. Thank you for giving me the resources by which to take action over this issue.


    Sally Houck writes from Edmond, Oklahoma:

    I am appalled by the simplistic attack by the RNC through the flyers that suggest voting against Bush will mean banning the Bible and supporting gay marriages. I am happy to take action. I have also supported the ad efforts by Sojourners. But I would also urge Jim Wallis to be clear as he writes and talks about this. Sometimes he refers to "the RNC," sometimes to "conservative Republicans," sometimes to "top Republican operatives" or to "the Republican Party." I think all of these could apply to the authors of the flyers, but he also refers in general to "Republicans" several times. I know there are Republicans who will also be appalled by these flyers - and I hope they will also take action. But I doubt if they would like to be lumped in with those who see it as the RNC does.


    Paul Seal writes:

    I am a registered Republican and even I am turned-off, embarrassed, and livid about the whole "dirt-slinging" attacks by the president and the GOP. I am also alarmed by the poor choice of candidates we have from which to choose during this year's national election. Neither the president nor Mr. Kerry present a viable, trustworthy choice for the voter (in my opinion). Keep up your excellent reporting of the news and its slant on religious issues. You are definitely providing the public with information that helps to cut through the spin both political parties are spewing forth as gospel.


    Vicki Holland writes from Cheshire, England:

    I believe there may be many people out there like Rev. Laird [Boomerang 9/28/2004]. We rightly condemn all violence against homosexuals but we continue to support the biblical standard of marriage as between one man and one woman. Because a number of us evangelicals are opposed to the war in Iraq, we somehow find we are assumed to be in favor of gay marriages. It's a curious aspect of the American mentality that one has to be herded into one of two "sides" - despite there being a wide variety of issues.

    Although born in the U.S., I've lived in England for almost 40 years and find it most interesting that there is not that same tendency here. Christians are not boxed into one party or obliged to have the same opinion on all social issues. There is more independence of thought. Sometimes I wish that my fellow Americans did not feel so threatened when one voiced a different opinion to that heard on FOX News. Christians above all should respect their neighbor's right to disagree on any one issue. Sadly, when I come home, I know I must tread carefully around my fellow Christians and avoid criticism of the appalling costs of U.S. health care or the shame of poverty in so many U.S. cities. But I know I can count on eager agreement if I condemn gay marriages! Only then am I on "their" territory!


    Lisa Brough writes:

    I hate to disappoint you - but God is a Republican. There are issues here that God takes a definitive stand on. We will just start with abortion. It is never right under any circumstance to kill an unborn child according to God's Word, the Bible. Bush's initiative to protect God's definitions of marriage is another key issue. It bothers me tremendously that Democrats seem to believe that the government is their source rather than God - government should not be made an idol. The Democratic candidate, Kerry, is not a man of principle but a man of man's opinion. I won't bother to quote the scripture on this one. I am not bothered by the negative opinions of those who disagree with Bush's beliefs. I expect it and it validates my position that God is, in this case, a Republican.


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