The Common Good

Faithful Work Both Sides of the Aisle

Sojomail - June 8, 2007


"They have taken language hostage. We wanted numbers but this is bureaubabble. ... It is not real in any language. We are looking for accountable language and numbers. I might be a rock star but I can count."

- Bono, denouncing G-8 leaders for a lack of timelines and other substantive details in their recent pledge to fight AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. (Source: Reuters)

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Faithful Work Both Sides of the Aisle

On Monday night, we saw the three Democratic front-runners for the presidential nomination deal with questions about faith in a comfortable way. They showed that faith is both personal and real for them.

When John Edwards spoke of how he and his wife Elizabeth were actually "dysfunctional" for a time after the tragic death of their son, and how only "the Lord" got him through that – nobody on either side of the political aisle could have doubted the authenticity. After what many thought was an inappropriate question about Hillary Clinton’s marriage, the Senator responded with a spiritual depth and maturity that deeply impressed everyone who was watching – even her political enemies. The questions about faith, as they often do, ended up revealing more of the honest humanity of these candidates than we often see, and took them off their stump speeches.

But at the same time, and very significantly, these three Senators showed an easy capacity to connect their personal faith with the great moral and public issues of the day – to poverty in particular, to criminal justice, to immigration, health care, energy, and even to the problems of good and evil, and war and peace. John Edwards said his faith compels him to spend the rest of his life seeking to end poverty, Barack Obama insightfully argued how believing God to be on your side is so dangerous in making foreign policy decisions, and Hillary Clinton, in response to a question from a representative from Catholic Charities, showed a deep understanding of the religious notion of "the common good" and applied it to what good political leadership requires.

Several political pundits and media commentators described the forum as "unprecedented" or "groundbreaking." And I think it might well have been for two big reasons. First, the presidential forum on "faith, values, and poverty" clearly showed that faith is alive and well on both sides of the political aisle, and that God is, indeed, not a Republican or Democrat. It served to help "level the playing field" on faith and politics, where the Republicans have enjoyed a decided advantage for several decades now. Second, it clearly moved the faith and politics debate far beyond the narrow two-issue agenda of abortion and gay marriage, which have for so long been "the religious issues."

This time the religious issues focused in on the fundamental biblical issues at stake in how we treat the poor. And the traditional hot-button issues were even brought in, with a very thoughtful exchange between evangelical pastor Joel Hunter and Hillary Clinton on how we might actually find some needed common ground on the divisive matter of abortion. But this time religion focused on social justice and that was a welcome relief from the discussion over many years now.

All this holds great promise for the future. And I am convinced that the discussion of faith and politics, religion and public life, will be a very different one – and far better one – in the election cycle of 2008 than it has been for a very long time. That broader conversation, with both sides participating fully, will better for the country, for politics, and for the faith community.

This commentary also appeared as part of the Washington Post/Newsweek On Faith online discussion.

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The candidates forum is being rebroadcast by CNN on Friday (6/8), Saturday (6/9), and Sunday (6/10) at 8 p.m. Eastern Time. (Check listings in other time zones.)

Video: Highlights from the candidates forum

Transcript: Presidential Forum on Faith, Values, and Poverty


Pledge to Vote Out Poverty

Martin Luther King Jr. famously warned that "a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death." Yet despite King's caution, we are spending hundreds of billions of dollars on a disastrous war in Iraq while 37 million Americans are living in poverty and 3 billion people worldwide live on less than $2 a day.

This election season, we can answer Jesus' call to care for the "least of these" by demanding that candidates go on the record with real plans for addressing poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

+ Click here to send a message to the presidential candidates: “In 2008, I’m voting out poverty.”


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Ryan Rodrick Beiler: Colbert Can't Believe It

Stephen ColbertStephen, I have a "wag of the finger" for you. Wednesday night you opened your show by talking about our recent presidential forum on faith, values, and poverty by saying, "CNN gives the Democratic candidates an hour to talk about God. Wonder what they did with the other 58 minutes." Well, let me tell you what they did with those 58 minutes. They helped dismantle the tired myth that the GOP is "God's One Party," or the more recent angle that Democrats are only getting religion as a crass election strategy. Instead, these candidates described a faith that is both sincere and authentic.

Video: Vote Out Poverty March and Rally
Watch it.

Sue Badeau: Personal and Corporate Responsibility
I was in the audience at Monday night’s presidential candidates forum and have been reading and reflecting on the blog entries and press coverage of the event. I heard one important point that has so far escaped comment by bloggers and journalists alike. Each of the candidates clearly articulated the idea that living a faith-centered, faith-informed life involves both personal and collective, or corporate, responsibility.

Diana Butler Bass: The Rebirth of Irony
Monday night I attended Sojourners' presidential candidates forum on faith, values, and poverty, featuring Democrats John Edwards, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton. I expected to hear how their faith informed their policies, but I also longed to hear something of the candidates’ stories and their perspectives on theology and ethics. They met my first expectation. But the conversation buoyed me with surprise as to my second hope.

Ryan Rodrick Beiler: Faith Blog Round-up on Candidates Forum
Several of the faith bloggers did live blogging during our presidential candidates forum last night. I also include a few conservative blogs to be "fair and balanced."

Video: Pentecost 2007 Justice Revival!
From day one of the Pentecost 2007: Taking the Vision to the Streets conference - Derek Webb, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, and Jim Wallis call a packed sanctuary at National City Christian Church to take God's concern for the poor seriously and commit to "Vote Out Poverty."

Erika Fox: Why I'm at Pentecost
Over the course of the past year, especially this semester, I have been thinking a lot about what it means to live out justice and to be an activist. I have been trying to figure out where that fits into my goals and in my life, and whether my impact will be directly helping individuals or working to change social structures.

Brian McLaren: Correcting Media Myopia
Many people are happily conservative in their religion and politics. For them, the dangers of what could happen for the worse are greater than the injustices of what currently is, so their bias is generally against change and toward preserving (conserving) or returning to the way we were, or the way we are. Many people are happily liberal in their religion and politics. For them, the injustices of what has been and what currently is are so great that it's worth risking the dangers of what could happen in order to seek a better and freer (liberal) world. Both sides, it seems to me, have a point.

Jim Wallis: Billy Graham's Integrity and Humility
One of God’s true servants on earth, Billy Graham, was honored yesterday with the opening of a library and museum in Charlotte, North Carolina. The facility will hold memorabilia of Graham’s long preaching career, including photos and video footage of his evangelistic campaigns.

Becky Garrison: Pete Seeger and the U2charist
During the Tribeca Film Festival, I happened to catch the world premiere of the documentary Pete Seeger: The Power of Song. I have vague recollections of attending the Newport Folk Festival as a toddler, long before it became commercialized as the Dunkin’ Donuts Newport Folk Festival. So, I was curious to learn more about the man that taught me to sing such songs as “Little Boxes,” “If I Had a Hammer,” and “Turn, Turn, Turn.” Also, through my brief interactions with the nonprofit organization Clearwater, I heard how he lent his voice to a grassroots movement to clean up the Hudson River, thus enabling me to sail, fish, and even kayak in what was once deemed a toxic waste dump.


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Top Stories:

Edwards, Clinton and Obama Describe Journeys of Faith
The New York Times
Each is aiming to make historic inroads among evangelical Christians and other committed churchgoers who have up to now been most linked with the Republican base. The candidates appeared eager not just to discuss their policies but also to discuss their personal faith journeys as they spoke, one after another, at George Washington University.

Clinton, Edwards and Obama Discuss Their Faith at Forum
The Washington Post
The candidate forum was part of an annual Sojourners conference called Pentecost, where leaders on the religious left gather. Obama spoke at the event last year.

Top Democrats Discuss Faith
The Chicago Tribune
The forum, aired on CNN and sponsored by Sojourners/Call to Renewal, an evangelical Christian organization that emphasizes progressive social causes, was intended to provide voters a greater insight into the values that inform presidential candidates.

Democratic Candidates Talk Faith
The Associated Press

2008: Democrats on Their Faith
The New York Times

What's Faith Got to Do With It?
Tribune Media Services

Will Poverty Make a Political Comeback?
The Chicago Tribune

Closer, My God, to Thee
The Globe and Mail

Why Conservatives Dominate Religious News
Scripps Howard News Service

Democrats' White House Hopefuls Call on the Almighty
The Financial Times

Can the Religious Left Sway the '08 Race?
The Christian Science Monitor

The Democrats' Leap of Faith
The Washington Post

Democrats Put Best Faith Forward
The Columbus Dispatch

Democratic Candidates Lift the Veil on Private Faith
Religion News Service

The Missing Issues . . .
The Washington Post

2008 Democrats Play God's Politics
Agence France-Presse

Democratic Hopefuls Talk of Faith
Forth Worth Star-Telegram

Key Democrats Appear at Faith-Based Forum
McClatchy Newspapers

Faith Factor: Dems Discuss Religion, Values
ABC News

Faith Playing Larger Role in 2008 Race
The Associated Press

The Religious Left Lifts its Voice in Campaign 2008
The Miami Herald

Religion, Politics Go Hand-in-Hand in '08 Race
The Associated Press

Liberal Evangelicals Host Presidential Forum
U.S. News and World Report

Top Democrats Open Up on Faith
The Washington Times

"Sojourners in the news" articles are the most recent news clippings that mention Sojourners in any way - whether favorably or unfavorably. Though we provide the text on our site for your convenience, we do not necessarily endorse the views of these articles or their source publications.


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