The Common Good

Doing Kingdom Work

Sojomail - May 7, 2009


Delaying medical care is a characteristic of poverty. For people living close to the edge, taking off a day to visit a doctor or staying home sick is literally taking food out of their mouths.

- Paul J. Gertler, a professor of economics at the School of Public Health at the University of California at Berkeley, in response to why some in Mexico self-medicated before receiving hospital treatment for swine flu. (Source: The Washington Post)

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Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

Doing Kingdom Work

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There were some remarkable outcomes to last week’s Mobilization to End Poverty, with nearly 50 sponsors and partners. The week’s events brought together Christian leaders and grassroots activists committed to overcoming poverty -- both domestically and internationally. Here are some of the statistics from the event: There were 1,153 people who attended, from 44 states (and The District of Columbia) and six countries. The quality of the various presentations at the Mobilization was widely praised as excellent—both the inspirational plenary sessions and the in depth training workshops. Morning Bible studies were led by John Perkins and Vincent Harding, and there were three nights of uplifting worship with powerful preaching by Rep. John Lewis, Pastor Freddie Haynes, and Bishop Vashti McKenzie, and music by Martin Smith and Vicky Beeching. Awards were given to exemplary grassroots activists and to national figures, such as Tavis Smiley, who are willing to speak out on the crucial issues of economic and racial justice.

We all know how busy President Obama’s schedule is, but he was kind enough to send a personal video, which was presented the first morning of the Mobilization, thanking the activists from the faith community for coming to Washington and for what they do back home. To further highlight the administration’s sense of the importance of the event, the video was followed by a panel discussion with top White House staff working on the anti-poverty agenda, including the Director of the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Joshua DuBois; the administration’s point person on poverty, Martha Coven; and Special Adviser for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Van Jones, who showed that he is still a preacher despite now being part of a presidential administration.

The next day we went to Capitol Hill for an advocacy day. Faith leaders got appointments in the offices of 82 senators and 210 representatives! That is almost unheard of for one group in one day. Our advocacy teams urged Congress to commit to reducing poverty by half in the next 10 years, fully funding the foreign assistance budget, and supporting health care reform. At a rousing afternoon rally, five members of the Senate or House came to speak to us, including the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.

The diversity of the participants was also encouraging in many ways. Twenty-four denominations and dozens of faith-based organizations were represented from across the spectrum – progressives, moderates, and conservatives – further demonstrating Sojourners’ commitment to reaching across the theological and political spectrum and uniting the church in the fight against poverty. Given Sojourners’ firm commitment to progressive evangelicalism, we were delighted to see the growth in folks who self-identify in this way. It was also delightful to see a much larger percentage of the younger generation than many of our previous conferences, as well as greater racial and ethnic diversity than ever before.

Participants left the Mobilization committed to watching what will now happen in Congress on issues impacting low-income families and vulnerable people, praying for policy makers to do the right thing, standing with those in poverty, educating their churches and communities, and continuing to build relationships and advocating to hold their members of Congress accountable to a bold anti-poverty agenda. We are firmly committed to a series of follow-up steps that will make it clear that the Mobilization was another big step in our campaign to overcome poverty. That goal must become a bipartisan commitment and a nonpartisan cause, a vision that was clearly seen last week in all those who came to Washington. Some issues transcend politics, but we need good political strategy to see results. And that was a real part of the outcome of the Mobilization to End Poverty.

My favorite story from the week was that of a poor young women who had been sexually trafficked in a major East Coast city. And when civic crusaders closed the brothel where she lived, she became homeless. But she got hooked up with one of our partner groups in that city, and they brought her to the Mobilization. And here, at this gathering, she heard about a Jesus she had never heard about before—one that wanted to save people like her. So on their delegation’s way to the Capitol, this young woman gave her life to Jesus Christ at the corner of “10th and D,” as I was told. And that’s the vision I have—of believers doing the work of the kingdom of God in the world, for justice and peace, and people coming to faith because of their witness. Thanks be to God!

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A New Kind of "Green"

In the midst of economic crisis, some communities are saving their green dollars by going green. In the May issue of Sojourners Magazine, we featured some of the people who are surviving by thinking outside the box.

What will it take for Detroit to rise again? Bill Wylie-Kellerman writes about Detroit’s Garden Resource Program Collaborative—a collection of three farms and more than 200 school and community gardens bloomed in open spaces, plus nearly 400 family plots—and other ways community members are revolutionizing the way people survive economic collapse.

Climate Change has already begun impacting the global South. Listen as Assistant Editor Elizabeth Palmberg interviews two religious leaders from Fiji and Nigeria to hear how climate change has impacted their communities.

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New Hope in the Movement for Immigrant Rights
by Jimmy McCarty

This past Friday, May 1, 2009, I joined with thousands of others across the country in marching for immigrant and worker's rights ... We marched, waved "We are Human" signs, chanted "Si se Puede!" and sang "La Bamba." It was an honor to march in solidarity with those seeking justice in their lives.
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The Glue of Society: Celebrating Mother's Day
by Johann Christoph Arnold

Thank God for mothers! Mother's Day is an opportunity to make life special for them. It is a chance to celebrate family. I thank God for my mother, who died some years ago. There is one thing I regret: for too many years I did not appreciate her enough and took her for granted.
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Are Christians Bad for an Empire's Economy? Should They Be?
by Julie Clawson

Mike recently brought to my attention a letter written by Pliny the Younger to the Emperor Trajan written around 111 C.E. concerning persecution of Christians ... Pliny obviously was trying to figure out what to do with this strange bunch of heretics and was seeking advice from the Emperor as to how he should proceed in the persecutions. I found it interesting, from an egalitarian perspective, that when he wanted to find out more about these Christians, Pliny mentions capturing and torturing two slave girls who were deaconesses in the church.
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The Two Futures Project: Who Would Jesus Bomb?
by Shane Claiborne

In light of headlines that dozens of kids and families were killed in U.S. bombings of Afghanistan on Tuesday, this conversation seems as urgent as ever. God help us. It was a beautiful thing to join my friend and brotha Rob Bell, Baptist minister Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, former Secretary of State George Schultz, author and mega-church co-founder Lynne Hybels, and Southern Baptist leader Jonathan Merritt as we launched the Two Futures Project last week, an ambitious new initiative to abolish nuclear weapons.
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Mother's Peace Day
by Amanda Hendler-Voss

In 1872 Julia Ward Howe -- mother, abolitionist, poet, and suffragist -- envisioned that for one day each year the women of the world would call for peace. She named it Mother's Peace Day. This year, I want to honor the mothers of Afghanistan by calling for a renewed commitment to a democratic and peaceful Afghanistan built by women and men on equal footing.
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A Moment or a Movement? Sustaining Momentum after the Mobilization to End Poverty
by Troy Jackson

Last week my son and I spent three days in Washington, D.C., as part of the Mobilization to End Poverty. We heard challenging speakers. We shared meals and conversations with passionate Christ-followers who are on the front lines to bring biblical justice to their communities, to this nation, and to the world. We spent time lobbying the offices of our elected representatives in the Senate and the House. The mobilization resulted in some real momentum in the lives of over a thousand of us who gathered in D.C. last week. But there are many obstacles and barriers that threaten to stop the momentum God accelerated last week.
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Jack Kemp: Bleeding-Heart Conservative
by Jim Wallis

In 1965, in a last minute move, the American Football League switched its All-Star game from New Orleans to Houston. In New Orleans, black football players had been denied entry to restaurants and taxi cabs because of the color of their skin and had begun a boycott in protest. A star quarterback, who was also the founder and president of the AFL players union, named Jack Kemp, refused to sit idly by in the face of racism, supported the boycott, and helped to get the game moved.
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You Go J-O!
by Becky Garrison

When I found out A Night of Hope with Joel & Victoria would be playing in New York City, at the brand new $1.5 billion Yankee Stadium, I knew I had to attend this concert. (Sorry, but if you charge admission, I no longer call it a worship service). Prior to the show, Joel and Victoria Osteen held a 15-minute press conference.
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Video: Eugene Cho Interviews Jim Wallis
by Eugene Cho

Recently, I had the privilege of spending some time in Washington, D.C., - where I also announced my entrance (and short-lived career) into politics. There, I met some old friends, made some new friends, and was also able to spend some time and interview Jim Wallis. In the interview, I attempted to break him down, reduce him to tears, talk trash about his alma mater Michigan State, and tried to compel him to jump up and down on his chair professing his love for his wife and children -- but alas, we just talked about life, family, scriptures, following Christ, and the pursuit of justice.
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God's Image and Caesar's Image: Torture and the Currency of Empire
by Rabbi Arthur Waskow

One of the central teachings of Torah is that all human beings are made in the Image of God. That teaching and what flows from it are at the heart of Jewish prohibitions on the use of torture -- and perhaps at the heart of Christian opposition to torture as well. Indeed, the Rabbis – living under the Roman Empire – enriched that teaching about the Image as a direct challenge to the power of Rome, the Imperial fount of torture.
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Spiritual Gifts Are Not Bound by Prejudice
by Mimi Haddad

Many of you have attended a class at church designed to help you discern your spiritual gifts. Thankfully, over the years, excellent biblical resources have been produced that equip believers to discover and develop the gifts God has given each of us for service. But what scripture has revealed about our service in God's covenant community was as counter-cultural in the ancient world as it is for some people today.
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Mark Driscoll, St. Francis, and the Megachurch
by Jarrod McKenna

I rarely agree with Mark Driscoll. Yet he points to something when he said, "This generation can be a whiny bunch of idealists getting together in small groups to complain about megachurches and the religious right rather than doing something." You don't need to have read René Girard to know it's easier to unite "AGAINST" than it is to let God develop in us the humility to risk ourselves in being "FOR" the kingdom.
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White Evangelicals for Torture
by Brian McLaren

Too many white evangelicals stand for torture, according to a recent Pew Forum study reported by "White evangelical Protestants were the religious group most likely to say torture is often or sometimes justified -- more than six in 10 supported it. People unaffiliated with any religious organization were least likely to back it. Only four in 10 of them did." These are disturbing statistics, and I hope they engender some dialogue among white evangelicals.
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The Burden of Inclusion Should Rest Upon 'Insiders'
by Julie Clawson

As I process the conversations I had recently at EVDC09 (a gathering of emerging church participants to discuss the future of Emergent Village), I realized that one of the topics that keeps surfacing in relation to Emergent Village is that of the inclusivity of all voices. Critiques have been made (with good reason) regarding how EV often seems like a club for insiders.
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Anyone wanting to meet young evangelicals who voted for President Obama would have done well to drop by Sojourners' "Mobilization to End Poverty" conference this past week. More than 1,000 of them were there to help build AIDS caregiver kits, attend a "justice as an act of worship" service, and figure out ways to make their campuses more aware of world hunger.

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