The Common Good

Justice Revival

Sojomail - April 17, 2008


Whether Carter's approach to conflict resolution is considered by the Israeli government as appropriate or defeatist, no one can take away from the former U.S. president his international standing, nor the fact that he brought Israel and Egypt to a signed peace that has since held. Carter's method, which says that it is necessary to talk with every one, has still not proven to be any less successful than the method that calls for boycotts and air strikes. In terms of results, at the end of the day, Carter beats out any of those who ostracize him.

- An editorial in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, discussing President Jimmy Carter's trip to the Middle East. Carter's trip has included talks with Hamas officials, and he is being snubbed by Israeli officials and denied the usual protection by Israeli security police. (Source: Haaretz )

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Justice Revival

Last evening, more than 3,500 people filled the Vineyard Church of Columbus for the opening of a three-day Justice Revival.

The Columbus Dispatch front page headline this morning read, " Faithful aim to aid poor, as Jesus did." The story said:

"Leaders of the Justice Revival hope this enthusiasm will spill past the revival and into the streets, where they want people to work to end poverty and other social problems."

Here is a video clip of some highlights:

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Immature Media or Mature Faith? (by Diana Butler Bass)

No two events in this political season stand in starker contrast than last night's ABC Democratic debate and last Sunday's CNN Compassion Forum. Rather unbelievably, ABC anchors used 50 minutes of airtime attacking Democratic candidates on tabloid issues, including a line of questioning from George Stephanopoulos lifted from right-wing pundit Sean Hannity. Almost as an afterthought, the final questions turned toward actual issues including the economy and war. The ABC Web site was flooded with complaints from viewers—both Clinton and Obama supporters—calling the debate "awful" and "asinine," and the live audience heckled and booed the moderators. In Philadelphia's Constitution Center, ABC devolved into sensationalist TV, making for an embarrassing irony between inane content and an impressive setting.

Expelled: Is Ben Stein Serious? (by Becky Garrison)

My interest in this flick was piqued when I learned that PZ Myers, a scientist interviewed for this flick, was denied entrance following a confrontation of sorts when he tried to attend an advance screening. The irony of naming a movie Expelled only to eject one of your own interviewees struck me as a rather novel, albeit bizarre, marketing move. The onslaught of negative publicity from outraged scientists represents a publicist's dream. You can't buy this kind of buzz prior to the movie's release on April 18.

Media Circus (by Gareth Higgins)

Most of us would like to believe that we have come a long way since the Roman circus – where human beings killed people for our entertainment - or even the Victorian circus - where we only abused the disabled and disadvantaged. Today's circus may look like it only mocks the powerful – with the fabulously wealthy being humiliated as they emerge drunk and bloodied from a nightclub, or photographed while getting an embarrassing haircut. But I think we're kidding ourselves if we think people are not harmed by the pornography of social humiliation offered up 24/7. Amy Winehouse's visible bruises and alleged substance abuse problem, and Britney Spears' obvious mental illness are not legitimate fodder for our entertainment, no matter how economically powerful these two women may be.

What is a Justice Revival? (part 5 of 5 by Rich Nathan)

Through the Justice Revival we want to help redefine what it means to be a Christian disciple so that thousands of Christians will understand that they can’t be good followers of Jesus without also committing to Jesus’ agenda, which includes feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, giving care to the sick, and visiting the prisoner (Matthew 25:35-36).

John F. Haught on the New 'Soft-Core Atheists' (interview by Becky Garrison)

Following the publication of The New Atheist Crusaders and Their Unholy Grail, I received hordes of books critiquing Dawkins & Co. While most of the responses tended to veer off into Kirk Cameron country, I found a few gems such as John F. Haught's God and the New Atheism: A Critical Response to Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens. Following is an interview with Dr. Haught, senior fellow of Science & Religion at Georgetown University's Woodstock Theological Center.

Border-blenders and Corner-dwellers (Part 4 of 5 by Rich Nathan)

I look forward to a day when an evangelical church that does a Justice Revival not only doesn’t create any controversy, but hardly raises an eyebrow. I look forward to a day when Christians who hear about a Justice Revival say: "So, what else is new? Of course, evangelical churches are involved in social justice. That is what Christian churches are supposed to do. We are supposed to follow Jesus, who is both the God of justification and the God of justice!"

Don Imus and VA Tech - A Year Later (by Melvin Bray)

Imuses behave as if their privilege (power and prerogative) entitles them to further marginalize and/or humiliate anyone they so desire. Well, you might say, "Crowding someone out—pushing him to the margins—doesn't give him the right to lash out." Sure. Yet I ask along with Langston Hughes, "What happens to a dream deferred"—dreams of belonging and significance, security and prosperity, dreams of equity? How do we critique his or her means of survival (those with less power and prerogative) without also critiquing our own (those with more)?

Questions of Substance at the Compassion Forum (by Jim Wallis)

The religious leaders asked questions of real substance, focusing on difficult and important policy choices. We are not so much interested in the personal testimonies of candidates - important as those are - but rather how their faith beliefs would shape their leadership and decisions. It is also worth noting that the majority of the questions of substance and depth about critical policy issues came from the religious leaders last night, and the more personal questions about the religion came from the stage moderators for CNN—just as was the case at the Sojourners/CNN Forum on "Faith, Values, and Poverty" last June.

The Year of Living Biblically: Interview with Author A.J. Jacobs (by Anna Almendrala)

In his latest book, The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible, A.J. Jacobs lives as a biblical fundamentalist so you don't have to. Jacobs describes himself as "Jewish in the way the Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant" and seeks advice from rabbis, pastors, church members, historians, and textbooks on his quest to live the "ultimate Biblical life." The book chronicles his attempt to conform to the myriad rules found in the Bible (Don't wear mixed fibers! Be fruitful and multiply! Stone adulterers! Forgive!), and the results are often pretty funny. Yes, Jacobs sets out to lampoon Biblical fundamentalists, but by the end of his experiment he finds himself changed - he reveres life more, he is a better father, and he has more respect for people of faith. I picked up this book for laughs, but was surprised when I ended up quite touched by it. A.J. Jacobs writes with the tone of a friend, and when I finished the book I felt I had found a fellow believer (he now calls himself a "reverent agnostic") walking by my side.

Lifeboat Theology vs. Ark Theology (Part 3 of 5 by Rich Nathan)

D.L. Moody, the great 19th-century evangelist, described his calling and said that he essentially understood the world as being like an ocean liner that hit an iceberg. God had said to him, "Moody, it is your job to pull as many drowning people out of the water into lifeboats as you can." Now, that may have been Moody's calling. I don't fault him at all for his understanding of his particular calling. But his "lifeboat theology," which claims that really the only thing that matters is evangelism - pulling as many folks into lifeboats as you can - has been both a blessing and a great curse for contemporary evangelicalism.

Keeping the Faith (by Bart Campolo)

On the Monday morning after my last letter, a mother and daughter from our fellowship showed up at our side door. Terry is mentally handicapped and deeply damaged. Her daughter has her own set of issues. For months we'd been planning a summer move from their dangerous, filthy, heatless apartment building into a cute little duplex we've been fixing up around the corner, but all of a sudden we were too late. "Tanya got raped in the hall last night," her mother said, and from then until now we've been walking on the dark side of love.


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