A Year of Advocacy in Review
Sojomail - December 13, 2007
We have the technology to create the most highly advanced military system, but when these veterans come home they find an understaffed, under-funded and under-equipped VA mental-health system that has so many challenges to get through it that many just give up trying.
- Mike Bowman, father of Timothy Bowman, a 23-year-old Illinois National Guardsman who committed suicide eight months after returning home from Iraq. (Source: McClatchy Newspapers)
What We've Accomplished Together
Mindful of God’s special concern for the "least of these," our first priority has been to support policies to overcome poverty, both in the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 />
In May, Congress passed, and President Bush signed, legislation to raise the minimum wage for the first time in nearly 10 years, an important step towards ensuring that everyone who works in
Your calls and letters helped to build a bipartisan majority in Congress for an unprecedented expansion in health care for low-income families through the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Unfortunately, President Bush twice vetoed the legislation, and negotiations have so far failed to produce a compromise - but we’ll continue to advocate for children’s health care in 2008.
In other cases, our political leaders have continued to fail us. Congress became deadlocked over a comprehensive immigration bill in May. Meanwhile, instead of heeding the biblical injunction that "the alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you" (Leviticus 19:34), too many voices in politics and the media have sought to hatefully scapegoat immigrant families – and we’ve responded by lifting up Christian voices to present a more compassionate point of view.
This year, Congress was charged with renewing the Farm Bill, a mammoth piece of legislation that includes crop subsidies that overwhelmingly benefit big agribusiness and absentee landlords at the expense of desperately poor farmers who struggle to feed their families. Though your e-mails and phone calls have helped make a real difference in convincing key senators to vote for meaningful reform, the Senate is today poised to join the House in passing a bill which largely misses an important opportunity to alleviate the plight of the world’s poorest.
But we’ve also won a few victories outside the halls of the Congress. In September, more than 20,000 of you joined us in demanding that the Federal Bureau of Prisons reverse a policy which censored many books on religion that did not appear on a short list of officially-approved titles. Overwhelmed by opposition from Christians across the theological and political spectrum, the Bureau relented, and plans to return the books to library shelves.
In April, McDonald’s heeded calls from the faith community, including Sojourners, to pay an extra penny per pound to tomato pickers in
Meanwhile, Sojourners made history in June with the first-ever candidates forum on faith, values, and poverty, which was broadcast live on CNN. Hundreds of you organized local watch parties, and together we sent a powerful message that Christians want to hear about a broad range of issues before we cast our votes in November 2008.
As we come to the end of another year of the war in
Then in September, as Gen. Petraeus testified before Congress on the progress of the Bush administration’s troop surge, we delivered a surge of our own to Congress: more than 17,000 prayers for an end to the war, two of which were later read by Rep. Rosa DeLauro on the floor of the U.S. House!
While many challenges continue to need our voice, our prayers, and our action, please join with us and give thanks for the many victories and successes we have accomplished. None of the victories would have been possible without your help, for which we are deeply grateful.
This Advent, as we wait together for the coming of Jesus in our midst, we pause and offer praise to God for calling us to "speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy" (Proverbs 31:9).
The Policy team at Sojourners
It happened again. A presidential candidate's debate in two languages. Just as the Democratic presidential candidates had done before, the Republicans have followed suit - a presidential candidates debate on Spanish-language channel, Univision. (Tom Tancredo was the only candidate who did not attend the debate). I blogged on the earlier Democratic debate and thought it only equitable to do the same again.
Advent Awakenings to the Jackhammer on the Roof (by Karen Ward)
Both the modern liberal and the modern conservative frameworks for being church are crashing down around us. From these ruins, both we and our more conservative friends need new to forge new alternatives and pathways forward for being church and working together on the core things we hold in common: Love of Triune God, the creed of Nicea, the dominical sacraments, the story of Jesus recorded in the scriptures, (albeit with varying frameworks for interpreting the scriptures among the churches) the call to mission, the call to reconciled relationships with one another reflective of the relational being of God, and the call to loving service, in and for God's world.
Providence and Politics (by Diana Butler Bass)
Last week, a Liberty University student asked Gov. Mike Huckabee to account for his recent surge in the polls. "There's only one explanation for it, and it is not a human one," Huckabee claimed, "It is the same power that helped a little boy with two fishes and five loaves feed a crowd of 5,000 people. And that's the only way our campaign could be doing what it is doing." In other words, God apparently wants Mike Huckabee to be president—or, at the very least, win the Iowa caucuses. And, evidently, Mike Huckabee wants evangelical Christians to think that God has uniquely chosen him for office, as many believed God chose George W. Bush. There is good reason for Christians to take theological offense at these claims—and that would be upon the basis the doctrine of providence.
Creative Cures for the Common Christmas (by Shane Claiborne)
A few years ago I remember a pastor friend telling me they tried something a little different for their Christmas services. Instead of the usual holiday décor and clutter of the sanctuary, they brought in a bunch of manure and hay and scattered it under the pews so the place would really smell like the stank manger where it all began. I remember laughing hysterically as he described everyone coming in, in all their best Christmas attire, only to sit in the rank smell of a barn. They even brought a donkey in during the opening of the service that dropped a special gift as it moseyed down the aisle. Folks looked awkwardly at each other, and then busted out laughing.
Blog Comment Housekeeping (by Ryan Rodrick Beiler)
This is an announcement mostly for those who post comments on this blog. As many have complained, our comments are often less a respectful dialogue, and more a reflection of our polarized partisan culture in which the most strident voices dominate. A typical complaint: "I think sometimes I get offended by the arrogant curmudgeon types that act incurious but find space and time to belligerently persist, usually to the point where people tune her or him out. We all know them. It's distracting and not a fun time."
Man Bites Dog of War (by Jim Wallis)
Confronting the gross inequities and extreme poverty in so much of our world would do far more for both national and global security than constantly increasing military budgets. Swords will be beaten into plowshares, the prophet Micah tells us, when each person has their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid.
Important steps were taken at Annapolis. The leaders of Israel and Palestine publicly pledged to negotiate a permanent peace before President Bush leaves office. They have promised to meet personally every two weeks. And the U.S., especially Condoleezza Rice, is committed to working vigorously to use America's enormous influence to facilitate the process.
My policy views on health care reform are very public. But this morning made it all very personal. Every parent, no matter who they are and where they live, can easily have the kind of trauma over the health of a child that we had. And every parent should have the medical care that we got. It's just wrong if they don't. What I realized most was how important it is for those who have that care to fight for those who don't.
As you all encounter pictures of "jolly, old St. Nick" this season, remember that St. Nicholas the Wonderworker was a real Christian hero. He spent his life working for freedom and justice for the poor and powerless. In particular, he is known for saving three women from being sold into prostitution and preventing the execution of three men who were wrongfully convicted.
Reverend Billy preaches the gospel of the church of stop-shopping
Don't Shop, and Ye Shall Be Saved!
In God They Trust
Evangelicals Carry Darfur-Olympic Torch
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