The Common Good

Seven Ways to Change the World

Sojomail - May 29, 2008


What I do know is that war should only be waged when necessary, and the Iraq war was not necessary.

- Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan, in his new book, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception, in which he describes the administration as "manipulating sources of public opinion" and "downplaying the major reason for going to war." (Source: The Washington Post)

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Seven Ways to Change the World

I’m in the U.K. this week on a speaking and book tour. It’s always good to be here. My wife, Joy Carroll, is a Brit, and we frequently get across the pond. Both of my children are “bilingual,” speaking both the English of the English and the English of the Americans, and we love both countries.

The U.K. edition of The Great Awakening is titled Seven Ways to Change the World, and these commitments are already well under way in the U.K. The British people are generally much more globally aware and concerned than many Americans, and they have a strong sense of “the common good” in their social life together, which is a central theme of this book. The “Jubilee 2000” movement at the turn of the century around global debt relief and the recent “Make Poverty History” campaign in 2005 are discussed in the book as models for how people of faith can help catalyze social movements in society.

After being here again, I am still convinced that Britain’s leadership on issues of global poverty, climate change, human rights, and a better path to security could significantly influence U.S. policies and offer a better kind of leadership “by example,” rather than “by empire.” This morning’s news of more 100 countries reaching an agreement to ban cluster bombs reinforced that belief, as the news stories reported:

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whose personal intervention Wednesday led to final agreement among representatives of 111 countries gathered in Dublin, called the ban a "big step forward to make the world a safer place."

I’ve spoken to a variety of audiences this week in London, Manchester, and Edinburgh, Scotland. There have been book launch events at several churches, World Vision leadership breakfasts, and media appearances. Here are reports on the book launch in London and the World Vision breakfast. I was on one of BBC Radio Five’s most popular broadcasts, the Simon Mayo Show – here’s an audio link where you can listen to the show.

It’s been a good tour so far, with more to come next week, including Liverpool and a Parliament event.

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Danger and Opportunity in Zimbabwe and South Africa (by Nontando Hadebe)

For many citizens from both countries, the crisis has become an opportunity to express their values of compassion and generosity. In the past week, there has been an outpouring of aid from many local citizens in the form of provision of clothing, food, and shelter for people displaced by the recent spate of xenophobic violence. Faith-based organisations, communities, and individuals have joined forces to give a different message to victims of violence. There are reports of some communities making a stand against xenophobic violence. The crisis has created opportunities to express one’s values.

Feeling the Love on Daily Kos (by Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

Jim Wallis and the progressive shift within the evangelical community just got a little shout-out on a Daily Kos diary—which is great: "... this conservative Christian college is showing signs of a real shift in perspective. Being overtly Christian is no longer linked to Republican policies. In fact a real re-alignment is, I think, taking place." ... But almost more fascinating were the reader comments. Compared with the criticism from our more conservative reader comments on this site (that claim Jim is pro-abortion, etc.), these snippets are a fascinating journey through the looking glass to a place where people think Jim is too conservative: "... we should simply learn to recognize that he is a leader of the religious right ...."

There is No Divide between Us (by Jim Wallis)

The genocidal situation in Darfur continues to worsen, with more killings and increased attacks on peacekeepers. All the efforts to date by the U.N., the U.S., and other governments have failed to stop the atrocities. In this morning’s New York Times, the Save Darfur coalition ran an ad with the message: "We stand united and demand that the genocide and violence in Darfur be brought to an end." It was signed by the three remaining presidential candidates – Hillary Rodham Clinton, John McCain, and Barack Obama.

In Memory of Maria -- and Millions More (by Eugene Cho)

... I’ve been surprised at how Maria Sue’s death has impacted so many. I figured a handful of Christian news sources would cover the story, but it’s been very widespread and still remains one of the top items on search engines. The last time I checked, 18,301 well wishes, blessings, condolences, and prayers were left on a tribute blog titled, "In Memory of Maria." Perhaps it speaks to the many ways Chapman has ministered to so many people through his music. Or perhaps it speaks to how Steven and Mary Beth have demonstrated the beauty of the gospel through their lives – not just through his music but their advocacy for adoption through Shaohannah's Hope, "a charity organization which offers grants to qualifying families to help defray the cost of adopting, at home and abroad," along with numerous other expressions of justice and compassion.

Burger King Agrees to Raise Wages for Tomato Workers (by Elizabeth Denlinger)

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers announced Friday that after a prolonged and often heated campaign, Burger King has agreed to award tomato pickers 1.5 cents per pound of tomatoes picked, the equivalent of a 71 percent increase in wages. The decision was announced on Capitol Hill last Friday. Watch the press conference. Sojourners has been involved with the campaign since June 2007, and in little less than a year, more than 25,000 of our activists sent more than 125,000 letters to the fast-food chain and its supporters. Given the slavery indictments in regions of south <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 />Florida, the agreement also includes zero tolerance guidelines for unlawful activities of any grower from the Burger King supply chain.

Thabo Mbeki Must Intervene in Zimbabwe (by Seth Naicker)

In the back and forth concerning the role South Africa must play in the crisis of human rights abuses under the reign of Robert Mugabe and his cronies, it is my belief that we must see some form of serious intervention. I understand the need for diplomacy, which always calls for "you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours." But when endless reports have been publicized of the atrocities that the people of Zimbabwe are facing, South African President Thabo Mbeki must engage ways to ensure that we as a South African people do not repeat history in our failure to act for justice -- as Bishop Tutu rightfully pointed out in the tragedy of Rwanda.

Drive-by Diplomacy Doesn't Cut It in Darfur (by Elizabeth Palmberg)

We know that the government of Sudan responds to civil war by targeting innocent civilians—a strategy based on its weakness as well as its evil. This is the strategy the Khartoum regime used in southern Sudan until the international community pressured it into a 2005 peace accord. It’s what the regime is doing now in Sudan’s western area, Darfur. So it’s not surprising that, after one of Darfur’s rebel groups attacked targets on the outskirts of Khartoum two weeks ago, the regime has responded by rounding up civilians from Darfuri ethnic groups living in Khartoum, killing some, torturing others, and hiding many God knows where.

Taking Names: Witness Against Torture Gets Personal (by Frida Berrigan)

Thirty-five of us go to trial for an action at the U.S. Supreme Court. On Jan. 11, a day that marked six years of torture and abuse at the U.S. Naval Base, 80 of us were arrested there. In the statement we read there, we explained that "We are here to bring their plight and the plight of all prisoners from this current war, to the 'highest court in the land.' We are here to make their suffering visible, to make their voices heard, to make their humanity felt." And we continued that after we were arrested -- many of us were taken into custody under the name of a Guantanamo prisoner. And in a new twist on traditional protest, we will continue to carry those names into the courtroom.

Don't Let the Empire Limit Our Movement's Imagination (by Zack Exley)

I was organizing for "big" solutions and staying away from all the "little" stuff that to me just seemed too messy and complicated to ever solve anyway. But these young Christians I was meeting were "falling in love with each other across class and racial lines," and wrestling with demons of poverty, addiction, community violence, family violence, sexual abuse, depression, hopeless schools, and all the other troubles that plague American life. They were "making redemptive history" by healing wounds and repairing families and communities one at a time. It's really the most beautiful thing I've ever seen, and I've had the opportunity to witness it up close in a dozen states and scores of giant mega-churches and tiny house groups. And so it is with great hesitation that I have been trying to make a suggestion for an amendment to this movement.

'Come Let Us Reason' with Iran (by Amanda Hendler-Voss)

On May 20, The Jerusalem Post reported that "a senior member in the entourage of President Bush" said during closed meetings that Bush and Cheney "were of the opinion that military action against Iran was called for." The White House denied the story, which claims that the reservations of Secretaries Rice and Gates are the remaining levies holding back the floodwaters of war. Tensions mount as Senators McCain and Obama spar over appropriate engagement with Iran.


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