The Common Good

A New Faith Coalition

Sojomail - November 6, 2008


We join people in your country and around the world in congratulating you on becoming the President-elect of the United States. Your victory has demonstrated that no person anywhere in the world should not dare to dream of wanting to change the world for a better place. We note and applaud your commitment to supporting the cause of peace and security around the world. We trust that you will also make it the mission of your presidency to combat the scourge of poverty and disease everywhere. We wish you strength and fortitude in the challenging days and years that lie ahead. We are sure you will ultimately achieve your dream, making the United States of America a full partner in a community of nations committed to peace and prosperity for all.

- Full text of a message from Nelson Mandela, the first black president of South Africa, to Senator Barack Obama, the first black president-elect of the United States of America. (Source: The New York Times)

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Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

A New Faith Coalition

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Most elections are just power rearrangements; this one was a transformational moment in our history. A fundamental shift is taking place in America, and we saw the evidence on Nov. 4th. It is a political shift, a cultural and racial shift, a generational shift, and a religious shift.

The leadership of African-American and Latino Christians along with a new generation of the faithful in white America are ending an age of narrow and divisive religion. This new faith coalition voted for a broad new moral agenda for faith in public life. Racial and economic justice, creation care, peacemaking, and a more consistent ethic of life will be the keystones of this growing shift.

This changing face of religion in America gave Barack Obama a 4.4 million voter net gain of Protestants and Catholics over John Kerry and helped lock up key swing states across the country. Real number gains were made among a new generation of white evangelicals. In James Dobson’s home state of Colorado, the percentage of white evangelicals voting for Obama nearly doubled from those voting for Kerry. In Indiana, a state Obama won with little more than 26,000 votes, he picked up over 160,000 white evangelical votes over 2004. In Florida, Christian voters of all stripes swung hard for Obama giving him a net gain of 485,000 Catholic and Protestant voters over 2004. This year it was just about 200,000 votes in Florida that made the difference; in years past it was just a few hundred votes that swung the state.

Further polling results will help to answer the critical question of why religious voters cast their ballots the way they did. But three factors are likely key to understanding the religious shift.

First, the leadership of the African-American and Hispanic churches was more important than ever before in an American election. This time, white evangelicals played a supporting role while it was Christians of color—who are almost all “evangelical” in their theology—who led. The election results reflect a surge of support among black and Latino voters, galvanized by a campaign and a candidate who better spoke to their aspirations and values. Their overwhelming support marks a growing shift within the religious landscape toward marrying social conservatism with a deep commitment to social justice. Recent studies indicate that Latino voters are very pro-life on abortion yet also consider the debate on immigration as a key religious and “life” issue for their community.

Second, a new generation of pastors and students cast a “post-Religious Right ballot” this election. Polls leading up to the election showed a significant break from the previous generation on issues like gay marriage and abortion, which while still a top concern, it is not the only one. For those Christians, sanctity of life now includes poverty, war, genocide, and climate change. Healthy families are also still a top concern, but many Christians don’t see gay and lesbian rights as a primary cause of family breakdown. These religious voters refuse to be distracted by the culture wars of the previous generation. This new generation are not the evangelicals the country is used to seeing and hearing about in the media, and they are already reshaping the future agenda. The break is so stark that several conservative evangelical college newspapers endorsed Obama.

Third, we see a broadening of the agenda with fewer single issue voters. “Pro-life” voters are realizing that their faith calls for a consistent ethic of life from "womb to tomb.” Voters are now judging candidates based on who best addresses all the threats to human life and dignity. And for some, a more pragmatic strategy of serious abortion reduction, rather than a strategy of continuing only to try to make abortion illegal, is appealing. It is becoming a common ground that could break the ideological deadlock of the past 30 years. This consistent ethic of life has caused a significant shift in the political agenda of many Christians by expanding their definition of what it means to be pro-life. They are tired of political pandering to the issue that seems to be more about winning elections than pragmatic solutions.

Christians of color, younger white Christians, “new evangelical” pastors and leaders, and progressive Catholics and Protestants from many denominations are reaching across barriers to change the face of Christianity in this country—and also to engage with allies in other faith communities. They have learned many lessons from the mistakes of the Religious Right and aren’t about to repeat them. And they are not about to become a new “Religious Left.” When asked if they are liberal or conservative, many answer “yes,” depending on the issue. And because they don’t easily fit the political categories of left and right, they could become bridge-builders, bringing a divided nation together on the really big and politically transcendent issues like poverty, human rights, climate change, energy transformation, and the urgency of peace. And isn’t that just what our new president is calling for?

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This week, we invited our regular bloggers and many special guests to focus on this week's election and to write their "Memo to the President."

Abortion Reduction Key to Common Ground
by Richard Land

You have said you want to unite us as a nation. An excellent place to work for such unity would be for you to put your full support behind the Democrats for Life initiative known as the Pregnant Women Support Act (its goal is to reduce abortion by 95 percent over a 10-year period).
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National Service, Global Concern
by Nicholas Kristof

One of the things we've learned in trying to fight poverty over the decades is that top-down efforts are often disappointing, while grassroots efforts truly can bring about momentous change. So let's mobilize millions of people to get involved in education, health, and poverty programs.
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Black and White Evangelical Voters: A Teachable Moment
by Lisa Sharon Harper

Evangelicals did not lose on November 4. Evangelicals gained a teachable moment. The majority of the country celebrated, but 74 percent of white evangelicals mourned. Why?
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Be a Friend to Yourself and the World
by Brian McLaren

As you prepare to begin your historic presidency, I offer you these simple words from another senator of Illinois in whose footsteps you are walking. Abraham Lincoln said, "I desire so to conduct the affairs of this administration that if at the end I have lost every other friend on earth, I shall at least have one friend left, and that friend shall be down inside of me."
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Intellectual Rigor and Vigor
by John DiIulio

Probably the hardest single thing for any modern president to maintain amidst the daily storms, both real and media-manufactured, that surround and pound the White House is the personal quality that former Secretary of State Colin Powell cited when he endorsed your intellectual rigor and vigor.
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Leaders Are Only as Strong as the Citizens Who Raise Their Voices
by Marian Wright Edelman

Leaders are only as strong as the citizens who raise their voices for justice and opportunity and who hold them accountable. We know what to do to end poverty, child illiteracy, hunger, and to ensure every child and person health coverage and job-rich, safe communities. Finding the spiritual and political will to do what is right and economically sensible and necessary is the challenge you and I and our new leaders face.
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May Obama Be Protected on All Sides
by Annemie Bosch

May he be granted the courage and the strength to stand by the high morals and strong convictions and the promises of positive change he has propounded during his campaign, so that he will not be swayed by the self-seeking powerful who always gravitate toward those in authority.
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We Will Be Measured by Our Treatment of the Least and the Last
by Rich Nathan

The greatness of our nation will continue to be measured by our treatment of the least and the last. In our country the least and the last surely include the unborn and their mothers, immigrants, the medically uninsured, and those who still go to bed hungry in this land of abundance.
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President Obama: Honor Your Call to the Common Good
by Lynne Hybels

As a pastor's wife, a mother, grandmother, and advocate for global engagement, I've decided to make a simple request: that you honor your commitment to call the American people to sacrifice and selfless giving for the common good.
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All Americans at the Table
by Angela Glover Blackwell

When you reflect on the grassroots power of your campaign, you can instill that same ethic in the federal government by opening up the process and bringing the concerns of all people to the table.
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From Riot to Revelry at the Intersection of Change
by Kaitlin Barker

I will never forget being among the inaudible language of the heart last night, at the intersection of 14th and U Streets in Washington D.C. On April 4, 1968, that very pavement erupted into violent race riots as the news of Dr. King's death sunk into the hearts of the people. Their inaudible language was destruction, fear, anger, and chaos. But on Nov. 4, 2008, the language was pure jubilation, and people flooded the streets once again. Dancing, whooping, hugging; black, white, rich, poor, old, young.
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Connected to a National Community
by Julie Clawson

The 2008 election is obviously historic. But it will always be significant for me not just as a turning point in history, but as the first time during an election I felt like I was a part of a nation of voters as opposed to an individual casting her ballot.
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Midnight at the Lincoln Memorial
by Rose Marie Berger

After watching the early election returns with friends and observing a hushed moment of unbelieving silence when ABC called the election for Barack Obama, I did what has been in the back of my mind to do since Obama got the nomination. I drove through town to the Lincoln Memorial, parked my car illegally, and walked through the quiet grove to the great wide marble steps of that monument.
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A Great Bedtime Story
by Randy Woodley

I understand that Obama did not make race an issue in his campaign, that people voted for him and against him for many reasons other than his ethnicity, that a majority of white voters also elected him and that he is an American that just happens to be African-American. I get all that. But what I want the rest of America to know is what it meant to a 10-year-old American Indian child last night when I tucked him into bed.
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An Opportunity to Translate Religious Diversity into Global Stability
by Eboo Patel

America is the most religiously diverse country in the world and the most religiously devout nation in the West. President-elect Obama has an opportunity to translate this religious diversity into a pluralism that strengthens American civil society, transforms American diplomacy, and contributes to global stability.
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A Time for New Transparency
by Sister Helen Prejean

What we need most from you is regular, open communication with citizens about the inner workings of our government and the challenges that we must face and shoulder together. For far too long we citizens have been barred from responsible citizenship by political power brokers, who met behind closed doors, who were bent more on private interests than the common good.
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My Three Hopes for Obama
by Joel Hunter

Keep Jesus in mind as you shift our sense of public morality, as you set the tone for public discourse, as you choose the various leaders to carry out the vision, and as you prioritize the issues that will have the most significant benefit to the widest possible sector of humanity.
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Post-racial? No, Not Yet -- So Let's Get to Work
by Mary Nelson

I shed tears last night as I stood with thousands in Chicago's Grant Park cheering our new President-elect Obama, contrasting that with crowds' hatred and bigotry I experienced more than 40 years ago marching in Chicago behind King and Mahalia Jackson.
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I Am Barack Obama
by Soong-Chan Rah

Whenever John McCain and Sarah Palin would ask: "Who is Barack Obama?" I would cringe. The implication to me was pretty clear. Obama is an outsider. Obama is not your typical American. Obama is not like "us." He's an Arab. A Muslim. A Terrorist. I cringed because I am Barack Obama.
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A Brief Observation on Your First Morning as President-Elect
by Phyllis Tickle

Of all the rulers humankind has ever had, none is so venerated or cited or—and this is important—none so forgiven by history as is Solomon. Faced with the opportunity to enjoy unmediated power and enormous wealth, he elected instead to ask of heaven the gift of an understanding heart that he might discern between good and evil and thereby judge rightly amongst the various demands and desires of his people.
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As the World Watches
by Nontando Hadebe

The absence of violence, election rigging, and the tradition of acceptance of results and speeches of congratulations from the losing party are a testimony of what true elections and democracy are all about. Some of us can only marvel and be grateful that it exists as a vision to aspire for. Thank you that as the world watches you have risen to the occasion and have shown us a better way.
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'A Black Man Would Never Be President'
by Leroy Barber

When I was a kid I remember hearing and declaring that I could be anything I wanted to be, which included being the president of the United States. In my African-American neighborhood and school, it was routinely declared and I remember believing it. My confidence was shaped by this encouragement. When I became an adult that confidence was replaced with what I began to believe as reality. "A black man would never be president."
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Thrilled at Last to Be Thrilled to Vote
by Dee Dee Risher

I always vote. It has never taken me more than five minutes. There have never been more than two people ahead of me in line. I am totally unprepared for the spontaneous rush of tears to my eyes when I look over as we walk down that hill, before we reach the playground, and glimpse the line of voters extending far down the block.
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Top Stories:

Jim Wallis on Holding Obama Accountable
Christianity Today blog
Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners, plans to hold President-elect Barack Obama accountable for his commitment to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies. I spoke with Wallis last night, and here's his take on the evangelical vote, working with an Obama administration, and abortion. +Click to continue

Election Honeymoon
Christianity Today blog
"Barack Obama will be held accountable on a serious commitment to abortion reduction," said Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners. "He called for that, his campaign platform said that, and he should be held accountable to that. He needs prayer and accountability, support and pushing, both at the same time." +Click to continue

Moments to Remember: An Election of Firsts
Time Magazine

People of faith offer Obama their support, prayers and challenge
Episcopal News Online

Christian campuses play more visible role in campaigns
Medill Reports (Northwestern University)

Christian Leaders Back Bipartisan Abortion Ad Campaign
Christian Today

Obama's Historic "Call to Renewal" Speech

Speak Out: Politics in need of authentic Christian view
San Antonio Express-News

Voting values not so clear cut
Grand Rapids Press

As abortion foes grow more intense, a new view surfaces
The Boston Globe

Jim Wallis Demands Apology from James Dobson
Christianity Today blog

Religious Right appeals to fear as election nears
Associated Baptist Press

Young Americans diverge from elders' beliefs
York Daily Record

Shocking Radio Ad Pushes for Common Ground Abortion Reduction

"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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