The Common Good

'God's Politics' in the U.K.

Sojomail - February 22, 2006

Warning: Satire : The gospel according to Candorville
Hearts & Minds : Jim Wallis: 'God's Politics' in the U.K.
Quote of the Week : A Christian descendent of German Jews on anti-Semitism
Soul Works : Naked and unashamed
Globe Watch : Yahoo! in China: The year of the rat
On the Ground : When Jesus lost his head in New Orleans
Sojourners in the News : This week's media roundup
Boomerang : Readers write
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Jim Wallis: "Read this book, and learn how to be an effective leader who has moral and spiritual integrity."

Christian leadership today requires people of character who are capable of creating a climate of trust, identifying values, building integrity, and sustaining vision. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, author, preacher, activist, and general secretary of the Reformed Church in America, discusses techniques for effective leadership and addresses the spiritual transformation each leader must experience in order to be successful in his book Leadership from Inside Out (Crossroad).

LEADERSHIP FROM INSIDE OUT: Spirituality and Organizational Change available on


by Darrin Bell

"Candorville" ©2006 Darrin Bell / reprinted with permission.

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'God's Politics' in the U.K.
by Jim Wallis

I just returned from the United Kingdom, where God's Politics was launched last week. Because the book was written primarily for an American audience, we weren't sure exactly what the response would be in Britain, a more secular country in which -- unlike the U.S. - the subject of religion and politics is far less central.

Yet from the first day, it was apparent that something new and important was happening. First, the media coverage was extensive, both from political and religious sources-especially the mainstream political media. British radio listeners and television viewers were pleasantly surprised to hear a different religious voice from America. Many people in the U.K. and throughout Europe suspect that most or all American Christians agree with the loudest of America's television preachers - such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell - and that almost all Christians here probably voted for the Christian President George W. Bush.

Suddenly they heard an American religious leader (an evangelical, even) say God is neither an American, nor merely a Republican who cares mainly about gay marriage and abortion. To hear an American Christian link faith to the urgent issues of poverty, HIV/AIDS, the environment, human rights, and the ethics of war seemed to the British public like a breath of fresh air. I continually said that the two greatest hungers in the world today were for spiritual integrity on the one hand and for social justice on the other - and that the connection between the two is what the world is waiting for. That struck a deeply responsive chord in Britain. And to hear an American Christian critique the war in Iraq was especially heartening to a country in which a majority opposed it, despite the decisions of Prime Minister Tony Blair. The book talks about the meeting several of us American church leaders had with Blair just before the war broke out.

The big news story in Britain the last few weeks has been the likely succession of Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown to become prime minister. Blair has vowed not to run again and the British system allows the ruling party to replace a prime minister with a new party leader before the next election. Because my longtime friend Gordon Brown had warmly endorsed God's Politics for the book's cover, the book became part of the political succession story. There was much media speculation about Brown, Blair, and Bush (whose praying picture was superimposed on the book's front cover with the red, white, and blue background of the stars and stripes). David Cameron, the new Tory leader, even brought the book up in the weekly Prime Minister's Question Time in Parliament, noting that Brown had endorsed the book although it opposed the war in Iraq. What does that say about the kind of prime minister he will be? the media kept asking. I said that I greatly respect Gordon Brown's political values and especially admire his moral leadership on Africa and global poverty. I believe Gordon Brown could become the Western political leader who cares most about global poverty. I wrote in God's Politics that both he and Bono often remind me of the tones of the prophet Micah when they talk about the subject.

But perhaps the most heartening aspect of the trip to me was the turnout at the speaking venues. Not only were the crowds large, but they were also full of young people, which is especially unusual for events in Britain having to do with faith. Many of the event sponsors were astounded and grateful to see so many young Britons coming out for serious discussions of spirituality and politics. Just as we have found all over America, a new generation is looking for an agenda worthy of their gifts, energy, commitment, and lives. The best conversations I had in the U.K. were with talented young men and women who really want to make a difference in their world - just like in the U.S.

Soon the book was in the front of many key bookstores. Borders and Waterstone's have already reordered the book, and God's Politics made Amazon U.K.'s top 30 list in its first week - and remains in the top 10 for religion and spirituality. Because religious books don't often reach broad popularity over there, according to the publisher, Lion Hudson, our friends and allies in Britain began to hope that the same thing would happen there that has happened in the U.S. - a book that helps to open the space for many more voices talking about prophetic biblical faith and its relationship to the urgent issues of our time. That's why I wrote God's Politics in the first place, and nothing would make me happier. And nothing would make my English wife, Joy Carroll, happier than more opportunities for both of us, and our two boys, to visit the U.K. more often!

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"[T]he main objective of my writing today, is to nail the lie that to reject Zionism as it is practised today is in effect to be anti-Semitic, to be an inheritor of Hitler's racism. That argument, with the Holocaust in the background, is nothing other than moral blackmail. It is highly effective. It condemns many to silence who fear to be thought anti-Semitic. They are often the very opposite. They are often people whose heart bleeds at Israel's betrayal of its true heritage."

- Paul Oestreicher, chaplain at the University of Sussex, former member of the Church of England's general synod, and director of the Centre for International Reconciliation.

Oestreicher describes his heritage: "I say this as the child of a German Jewish-born father who escaped in time. His mother did not. I say it as a half-Jewish German child chased around a British playground in the second world war and taunted with 'he's not just a German, he's a Jew.' A double insult. But I say this too as a Christian priest who shares the historic guilt of all the churches. All Christians share a bloody inheritance."

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Naked and unashamed
by Titilayo Tinubu

My first "F" was on a paper that I wrote for my Advanced Composition class freshman year at Spelman College. I don't recall getting low grades on many assignments and especially not in English class. Needless to say, the experience broke me down and caused me to rethink some things. To understand why, you'll have to know the reason why Dr. Gebre-Hewitt gave me that grade (or, more responsibly said, the reason I earned that "F"). It was not because of grammar mistakes, broken syntax, or poor transitions. It wasn't even because I turned it in late (which I often did). According to my professor, I earned that "F" because I was not writing the truth, and the first law of every writer should be to speak his or her truth. Sure, the paper was pretty, it was perfect, it was exactly according to the instructions that she had given in the previous class, but it wasn't the truth. Somehow she knew that I was writing for her and for the grade and not as an expression of my unique voice. And for that, she broke me down.

How many of us live our lives like that? How many of us work arduously to perfect the external all the while neglecting the truth of who we are? How many of us spend the bulk of our lives in pretense, only to end up being pretty, perfect, and just what others ask for, but not the truth?

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Hell's Abyss, Heaven's Grace: War and Christian Spirituality, by Lawrence D. Hart
ISBN: 1-56101-241-6

"We desperately need a spirituality to lead us beyond the warlike mind, and only an authentic spirituality will do the job. Religion, up to now, has largely failed. Father Lawrence Hart offers you a very readable but believable spirituality of peacemaking. This will console your heart and challenge your mind at the same time."

- Richard Rohr, OFM, Center for Action and Contemplation, Albuquerque, New Mexico


Yahoo! in China: The year of the rat
by James Ferguson

Li Zhi, a 35-year-old civil servant, and Shi Tao, a reporter, will spend much of the next decade in Chinese jails because of pro-democracy e-mails they wrote, and a U.S.-based Internet company allegedly helped put them behind bars.

Reporters Without Borders, an international press freedom advocacy group based in Paris, has accused Yahoo! of systematically aiding the Chinese government in digging up evidence on political dissidents. According to the organization, last year Yahoo!'s Chinese partner had turned over e-mail and search data to assist in jailing Tao for 10 years. Reporters Without Borders alleges it has now discovered that in 2003 Yahoo! China also turned over Zhi's personal e-mails, contributing to his prosecution for making contact with the China Democracy Party and posting writings critical of corrupt local politicians. Zhi was sentenced to eight years in prison for "inciting subversion."

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When Jesus lost his head in New Orleans
by Karen Spears Zacharias

Just around the corner from Jackson Barracks, just off St. Claude Avenue, stands a two-foot high statue of Jesus. His arms are open wide, ready to embrace any and all who are willing. But there's something terribly amiss with this Jesus.

The yard in which he stands is littered with debris. Blue jeans, a red shirt, and shiny tinsel hang from a tree. A child's motor scooter is upended on a rooftop. The houses, stores, and churches in the surrounding neighborhood are tilted up on corners, broken in the middle, or bent over double like an aging man with a walker.

And this statue of Jesus has lost its head. It's gone. All of it. Somewhere in the chaos of Katrina, this Jesus was decapitated.

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Justice/Peace conference on Palestine/Israel in Washington, D.C. March 3 to 4. Speakers include Jeff Halper, Afif Safieh, Naim Ateek, Jean Zaru, Sara Roy, Don Wagner, and Susan Akram! For information and registration visit, or call (202) 258-0569.

WESTMONT COLLEGE Presidential Search Committee seeks nominations and expressions of interest for the position of president. Persons interested in candidacy are invited to review the institutional profile and leadership criteria posted at

VOLUNTEER IN AFRICA OR LATIN AMERICA The Comboni Lay Missionary Program is accepting preliminary applications from Catholics desiring to live out a three-year commitment working in Guatemala, Peru, Kenya, South Africa, or Eritrea. Visit

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ENGAGE: NONVIOLENT OPTIONS FOR OUR LIVES AND OUR WORLD. Pace e Bene's Engage Study and Action Book offers tools for the nonviolent journey and for taking action for peace and justice. Get engaged at:

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This week's media roundup

Top stories:

Gordon Can Speak for Himself by Jim Wallis in The Observer
In the conversations I have had with the Chancellor, I do believe that on ending extreme global poverty, 'the deep commitment and motivation within him is moral and personal, not just political'. In several speeches, he has called for a new Marshall Plan of aid to developing countries in order to accomplish the ambitious Millennium Development Goals to cut extreme global poverty in half by 2015. I and many others in the churches share that goal and are happy to work with the Chancellor to achieve it.

US right Has Hijacked Religious Vote, Says Evangelical Guardian Unlimited
One of the most influential religious figures in the US has called on progressive Christians to seize the religious agenda from the right. Jim Wallis - who has been consulted by US presidents as well as Tony Blair and Gordon Brown - yesterday urged liberal Christians to move the agenda from the right's focus of sexual morality to a less partisan approach.

Budget Battle Christianity Today
In December, Capitol Police arrested 115 religious activists, including Jim Wallis and John Perkins, during a protest against the budget when they blocked the entrance to a House office building. Wallis, founder and head of Call to Renewal, said the cuts reflect misplaced government priorities. "Do millionaires really need tax breaks so they can make $20,000 more? My biblical logic would say no."

More Sojourners in the news:

Bono's New Tune Religion News Service

Just Faith Puts a Face on Catholic Social Teaching Catholic Sentinel

Democrats misplay "God Card"

Editorial: A bad budget for Wisconsin The Capital Times (Madison)

Jim Wallis & Faithworks Call for Political Engagement Christian Today

UK launch of 'God's Politics' Ekklesia

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Readers write

Rev. Robert Carpenter writes from Haverhill, Massachusetts:

This dyed-in-the-wool lifelong Democrat sure wishes that his party could develop a budget policy around Yonce Shelton's article instead of continuing as nattering nabobs of negativity ["The budget's bottom line," SojoMail 2/15/2006]. Of course, standing for something requires political backbone, of which I see precious little among candidates of either party. Mr. Shelton, unlike our vice president, knows how to shoot straight!


Steve Sidwell writes from Dana Point, Calfornia:

One hundred programs cut...but how effective were they in achieving their purpose? You do not address this question. It appears from your article that any government program should not be reduced or eliminated if it addresses the poor in any way. A more effective approach would be to spend the money efficiently rather than on huge bureaucracies. Look at FEMA and Katrina - the poor certainly were not served there.


Stephanie Highley writes from St. Paul, Minnesota:

While I agree with so much in this article about the need of Westerners to engage more thoughtfully and empathatically with the Muslim world, I find his thesis that the Western tradition of individualism is the primary obstacle to this engagement deeply disturbing ["Loving our global neighbors - and enemies," SojoMail 2/15/2006]. The right of each individual to express himself or herself without fear of violence is a triumph of civil societies all over the world. The exercise of this often poorly supported right has been central to the great social justice movements throughout our global village. If it allows some to be rude, vulgar, and grotesque, it allows others to demand accountability, equality, and opportunity for themselves and their communities.

As Rizk points out, there is a lack of charity between the East and West, but let us acknowledge that this failure is a struggle that has had many manifestations over the centuries, and is not merely a clash of current cultural conditions. As for the current manifestation, I pray that God will bless and amplify the voices of those who choose to speak in love.


Jeffrey Carpenter writes from Palos Heights, Illinois:

I hope in their Dane-bashing fury the offended Muslims don't forget that during the Jew-bashing fury of the Holocaust, the Christian king of Nazi-occupied Denmark - along with a majority of his people - wore the yellow star of David, expressing peaceable protest against the trampling of human rights, including freedom of speech, as well as showing a measure of sympathy for and solidarity with the oppressed. I hope also that the Danes remember their own same history, and be judicious in their exercise of free speech: is it used to defend and protect the persecuted, or is it used to promote and assert power and position?


B.J. Hickman writes from Huntington Beach, California:

In response to Carol Honderich's letter to Boomerang [SojoMail 2/15/2006]: I did read The Prayer of Jabez, and while I agree with you that it does not blatantly offer monetary wealth in return for praying Jabez's prayer, it most certainly endorses what I refer to as the "blessing vending machine" theology. Put in the prayer, out come the blessings. If I do A, B, and C, God will reward me with D, E, and F.

On my own, I am completely unworthy of any of God's blessings. Purchased with the blood of Christ and rendered complete in him, God chooses to bless me in countless ways. It has nothing to do with my good works. It's just purely God's grace and mercy. Jabez's prayer was for Jabez to pray, not the rest of us. Christ's sacrifice on the cross takes care of our needs.


Lesley Green writes from Cape Town, South Africa:

Perhaps Bruce Wilkinson could consider the prayers of Job in his next book? As a South African, I am sad that so many Americans' good intentions are such an unholy mix of grandiosity and naivety. For the Jabez reading of scripture seems to echo more the texts of global multinational capital than they do a Jesus who was born into a donkey's feed tray.

My prayer for Wilkinson and the many who bought into his Jabez myth is that in this time when they must surely feel like Job, they would discover the truths of the book of Job: that in poverty, despair, failure, and loss, God remains present, faithful, compassionate. The irony: perhaps through what must be an unbearable humiliation for Wilkinson and his team, the American evangelical church will begin to break out of its cultural cocoon and discover the presence of God in small things and unimagined places.


NOTE: BOOMERANG'S ADDRESS HAS CHANGED! Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of views. Want to make your voice heard? We've created an online form where you can respond to SojoMail articles. Visit:

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