The Common Good

A Spiritual Struggle

Sojomail - April 23, 2009


Seeing these depths of human misery and degradation has a traumatic effect.

- A former intelligence official with direct knowledge of the torture of al Qaeda member Abu Zubaydah, illustrating how torture traumatizes both victim and perpetrator. Abu Zubaydah had provided much valuable information under less severe treatment, and the harsher handling produced no breakthroughs. Instead, watching his torment caused great distress to his captors. "He pleaded for his life," the official said. "But he gave up no new information. He had no more information to give." (Source: The New York Times)

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Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

A Spiritual Struggle

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Sunday evening the Mobilization to End Poverty will begin. More than 1,000 faith leaders and activists from around the country will gather to worship, fellowship, and advocate for the biblical imperative of reducing domestic and global poverty.

If you are not planning to join us, there are two things I’d like to ask you to do.

Watch with us. The federal budget has passed both the House and Senate. After a conference committee reconciles the differences between them, the final budget language will be approved. And then the real work begins.

The crucial appropriations process will continue for months, with most decisions on important programs to support low-income people yet to be decided.

Key provisions for nutrition, child care and early education, the child tax credit, affordable housing, job training, educational opportunity, health care, and vital foreign aid to combat hunger and disease will all be major struggles.

At the Mobilization, we will be equipping people to make initial contacts with their members of Congress to express our concern that those in poverty not be forgotten. And then we will return home to watch as they deliberate, and to continue advocating for new priorities. Throughout the spring and summer, we will be providing up-to-date information on the process and the critical issues as we encourage you to watch, pray, and act.

Pray with us. As people of faith, we know that “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1). Pray that the Mobilization will be an informative and inspiring experience for those who attend. Pray that God will use us to be effective witnesses to the reality of poverty in the U.S. and around the world. Pray that the members of Congress and their staffs that we visit will have open minds and hearts.

Our politics and this budget will revert naturally to old habits and bad priorities -- with the poor bearing the brunt, once again, of deficit reduction -- unless there are powerful, even spiritual, forces pushing better and newer priorities.

Now, more than ever, we need to watch and pray.

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Special Issue on the Green Economy

Sojourners MagazineHow does your economy grow? That’s a question a lot of us are asking these days. For ideas and insights on how to build an economy that’s based on community, justice, and sustainability, check out the articles in this month’s special issue on the green economy, or watch and listen to the Web extras!

Whether it's the South Bronx or rural North Carolina, visionary activist Majora Carter (pictured on the cover) argues that cleaning up our act is good for us -- and the economy. Click here to read the full interview, or listen to Majora Carter in this audio clip as she shares her favorite story of how a community garden transformed the life of a formerly incarcerated green-collar worker.

Bill McKibben videoBill McKibben, founder of, discusses how buying local is the best way to combat the economic crisis in this video interview with Sojourners. Click here to read his article about sounding the alarm on climate change around the world.

Want to learn more about the environment and building a green economy? Whether you’re a die-hard “greenie” or someone just trying to keep up with the issues, there’s a blizzard of books out there that address the perils our planet is facing. Click here for some great reads on the environment, the economy, and equity, compiled by Molly Marsh.


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Evangelicals Need to Love Gay People
by Brian McLaren

Jonathan Merritt may be the most courageous Southern Baptist in America this week for his USA Today editorial on how evangelicals need to love gay people. Even if we might take a stand that differs from his in some ways, those of us who know the world Jonathan comes from know he is showing remarkable courage to say what he's saying and should be applauded and appreciated.
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Torture Memos: 'What Is Done in the Dark'
by Valerie Elverton Dixon

Whether or not those who ordered the torture or devised the legal opinions to justify it will face prosecution remains an open question. History shows us that at some point, some way, somehow the truth comes to light.
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Equal Justice Under the Law: The Case for Cocaine Sentencing Reform
by Andrew Wilkes

Sen. Jim Webb recently sounded the alarm about the brokenness of our prison systems. His pronouncement, of course, is nothing new, but it lends visible and much-needed support to the cause of prison reform. And, to be sure, altering cocaine sentencing policy lies at heart of prison reform.
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'Race Isn't Supposed to Matter Anymore. Except When it Does.'
by Edward Gilbreath

We've "come a long way," but the cost of that progress has been a confusion about our new reality and a tendency to believe that we've tackled the problem, when in fact we've yet to have ongoing, honest communication across racial and cultural lines.
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Made in L.A.: Putting a Human Face on the Immigrant Experience
by Almudena Carracedo

Seven years ago, I set out to make a little film that would put a human face on the struggles of immigrant workers in L.A. I couldn't have imagined that Made in L.A. would one day win an Emmy or that I would be working with faith-based, grassroots, and community groups as part of a national "May Day" campaign to break down barriers and build support for humane immigration reform.
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The Social Side Effects of Global Warming
by César Baldelomar

We are at a global turning point. Rampant deforestation, mass extinction of species, global warming, the melting of polar ice caps, and the rapid depletion of fossil fuels are all symptoms of today's ecological crisis. Few, however, tend to see any relation among environmental unsustainability and poverty, political instability, and economic crisis.
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Why I Got Arrested on Good Friday
by Shane Claiborne

"Good" Friday was real good this year. We remembered Jesus, and we remembered Jesus disguised in the "least of these" -- those who continue to be tortured, spit on, slapped, insulted, misunderstood, those who ache, bleed, cry, love, forgive, and ask God "have you forsaken me?"
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Fighting Poverty with Family and Faith on the Gulf Coast
by Sharon Hanshaw

I am a native of Biloxi, Mississippi. To the rest of the world, we are the left-behind communities. I thank God on a daily basis that I have the family I have. My father was a Baptist preacher that walked the walk and not just talked the talk. That is a rare jewel that we as people don't see a lot of. We have people say things with their mouth but the action doesn't follow.
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Defining 'Progressive'
by Diana Butler Bass

There appears to be a divide in the progressive community between what my friend Del Brown calls "purists" and "accommodators," those who maintain a prophetic distance from power structures and those who form pragmatic coalitions in order to get things done.
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The Columbine Killings and the Convenience of Dehumanization
by Gareth Higgins

The 10th anniversary of the Columbine murders presents the opportunity for reflection on how the insatiable desire for quick results led to significant media distortion, which took rumor and emotiveness and turned them into a story that, it turns out, is remembered for being something very different to what it was.
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Wheels of Change in Zimbabwe
by Nontando Hadebe

Someone once said that once the wheels of change are in motion, they can't be stopped; it's as if once the sun starts to rise, there is no going back into the night. It seems as if the wheels of change are turning in Zimbabwe, slowly but surely even in the midst of forces trying to halt the change.
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Three Encouragements Toward Making Your Churches More Multicultural
by Eugene Cho

Ministry has its up and downs. Such is life. But one of the joys of planting and pastoring Quest Church is that it's one of the most unique and diverse communities I have been a part of. This isn't meant to be a slam against homogeneous churches. In fact, I believe that every community is multicultural on some level [Hint: think beyond race].
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Torture: A Crime that Requires a Verdict
by Jimmy McCarty

Perhaps those interrogators who physically administered the acts of torture were following orders, but those who gave them were not. What they did was illegal according to multiple international treaties and laws. We have prosecuted people from other nations for doing the exact same things we did. While it may be deemed unnecessary, or impractical, to prosecute all involved from the top down, someone must be held responsible.
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What President Obama's Budget Means for Poor People
by Ron Sider

The bottom line is that this budget represents a historic change. Jim Wallis told several of us in a recent call that he and others participated in a conference call with key government leaders around the time the new budget was released. Jim said the call left him in tears as he realized, first, that he had never experienced this kind of concern from top government officials before and, second, that the budget contained things that "some of us have gotten arrested for." The battle, however, has just begun.
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Torture: What Part of 'Do Not Repay Evil for Evil' Don't You Understand?
by Ryan Rodrick Beiler

The implication that definitions of right and wrong depend on the climate -- meteorological or political -- is one that should make Christians who believe in bibilical standards of morality shudder.
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American Violet and the Idolatry of Law
by Alan Bean

Hearne demonstrates the dangers of accepting the legal fiction that prosecutors, judges, and juries are fair and nonpartisan. They may aspire to these high virtues, but rarely do they come close. Human beings are inherently biased and the tortured history of the American South magnifies this tendency.
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A Christian Argument for Progressive Taxation
by Diana Butler Bass

No, taxes aren't such a bad deal. Nor are they, as might have been heard at the ersatz "tea parties" around the country, at odds with Christianity. Indeed, tax day is a day that progressives should celebrate -- as we participate in one of the greatest social reforms of the 20th century: the progressive income tax.
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Top Stories:

Faith Groups Say "No" to Conscience Clause
Opposing Views
One particular statement has captured the attention of "inside-the-Beltway" observers because it has been signed by both pro-choice religious advocates such as Rabbi David Saperstein and anti-choice leaders such as Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, who vigorously opposes access to abortion, and Jim Wallis of Sojourners, the Democratic Party's guide to anti-abortion politics. Their statement acknowledges that "conscience protections for healthcare providers" that have been in place since 1973 are "appropriate" in allowing providers with moral or religious objections to abortion and other procedures to opt out of providing them, while still allowing patients to access these services.
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United Methodist Lauds Obama for Immigration Reform Priority
The Christian Post

Echoes of Obama across the West

"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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Faith & Money Network (formerly Ministry of Money). Film: "Traces of the Trade," May 16, 7 pm, DC; Workshop: "Haiti Food Crisis," May 30, DC; Haiti Trip, June 1-9; DC immersion trip, July 25-August 2. Info & sign up: 202-737-7692 or

Order Strangers in the Land today, because greater justice leads to deeper faith. Take a six-week journey to get an in-depth look at immigration in relation to the church and the Bible. Click here.

Get a faithful perspective on the economic crisis with Sojourners’ new discussion guide -- "Faith and Finances: Christians and the Economic Crisis." Get your four-part downloadable resource today.

The Great Awakening: Seven Ways to Change the World -- Jim Wallis’ latest NY Times bestseller is now out in paperback. Order yours today and get a free downloadable study guide!

Earth Day. What does the Bible tell us about protecting the earth? Find out with Sojourners’ four-part study guide, "Christians and the Environment." Perfect for small groups and now available for download. Click here.

What Would Jesus Buy? Find out in this feature-length DVD from Morgan Spurlock of SuperSize Me. Rev. Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping discover the meaning of the Shopocalyse -- the end of humankind from consumerism, over-consumption, and the fires of eternal debt. Learn more.

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