The Common Good

A Covenant for Civility

Sojomail - April 8, 2010


We do not approve of the occupation, and Easter is a way to pray for strength to endure.

- Ramzi Mustafa, a Christian pilgrim from Egypt visiting Jerusalem, commenting on his determination to come to the holy city in spite of pressure applied by activists discouraging such visits because of their opposition to normalized relations with Israel. He said his participation in processions on Via Dolorosa on Good Friday is a way of showing support for the Palestinians and the need for peace. Most Palestininan Christians in the West Bank and Gaza are barred from entering Jerusalem. (Source: The Christian Science Monitor)

+ Sign up to receive "Verse and Voice" - our daily quote and Bible verse e-mail

Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

A Covenant for Civility

Get a free trial issue of Sojourners Get a free issue of Sojourners
Donate to Support Sojourners
Donate to support

The political polarization of our society has now reached a new and dangerous level. Honest disagreements over policy issues have turned into a growing vitriolic rage against political opponents, and even threats of violence against lawmakers are now being credibly reported.

Just a few months ago, a deeply concerned, veteran member of Congress called me to express real despair about the alarming level of disrespect, personal attacks, and even hateful rhetoric that was occurring among her colleagues -- reflecting a degeneration of public debate in our national culture. This month, another member of Congress called to express real fear about threats of violence he and other elected officials had experienced against themselves and their family members. Political debate, even vigorous debate, is a healthy thing for a democracy; but to question the integrity, patriotism, and even faith of those with whom we disagree is destructive to democratic discourse, and to threaten or even imply the possibility of violence toward those whose politics or worldview differs from ours is a sign of moral danger, and indeed, a sign of democracy’s unraveling.

Both members are people of faith and were calling to ask for help from the community of faith to lead in this dangerous moment and to begin to help heal what was becoming an increasingly alarming and frightening situation. I recently had lunch with a friend, a political conservative with whom I both agree and disagree on various policy issues. He expressed his real discouragement over how more and more Americans now get their news and information from only highly ideological and partisan media sources with whom they already agree, and who daily fuel the most passionate emotions of their loyal followers -- on both sides of the political aisle.

So for several months, a group of Christian leaders have been praying, talking, and discerning how the churches might lead by example to help create a more civil and moral tone in our national politics. We have confessed that, too often, Christians have merely reflected the political divisions in the body politic instead of trying to heal them in the body of Christ. People of faith from all our religious traditions could help create much-needed safe, civil, and even sacred spaces for better public discourse at this critical moment in our nation’s history. What has come from our prayerful discernment is “A Covenant for Civility: Come Let Us Reason Together.” Church leaders from across the political and theological spectrum -- who have voted Democratic, Republican, and Independent in recent elections -- have come together around this civility covenant, and the breadth of the signatories is a powerful statement in and of itself. Together we offer what we feel is a strong biblical statement motivated by deep concern about our present situation; we are now inviting thousands of other pastors and lay people in all of our churches to sign this covenant and then seek to implement it in our congregations, communities, and nation.

The Covenant for Civility begins:

As Christian pastors and leaders with diverse theological and political beliefs, we have come together to make this covenant with each other, and to commend it to the church, faith-based organizations, and individuals, so that together we can contribute to a more civil national discourse. The church in the United States can offer a message of hope and reconciliation to a nation that is deeply divided by political and cultural differences. Too often, however, we have reflected the political divisions of our culture rather than the unity we have in the body of Christ. We come together to urge those who claim the name of Christ to “put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).

I offer the full text of the covenant here (as well as a link to the list of initial signers) and ask our readers and friends to consider both signing on and acting to make the commitments of this covenant in our lives and faith communities -- and offer a much-needed prophetic witness to the nation at this time of crisis.

We need to behave differently, for both the sake of our spiritual integrity and the health of our democracy. We have forgotten some of the key values of faith: respect, truth, honesty, humility, patience, kindness, confession, forgiveness, prayer, and the unity of the body of Christ. It is time to recover them again. Let the change we call for begin with us.

E-mail E-mail this article to friends
Facebook Share this article on Facebook
Comment Comment on this article on the God's Politics Blog


Colombian Paramilitary Death Threat

“We are going to wipe you out and clean up the area. Pastor, we are not fooled.”

With these words scrawled on a four-page letter, a paramilitary organization delivered a death threat against a local Colombian pastor. Read the rest of this letter, as well as a commentary from Janna Hunter-Bowman titled "They’re Back," which describes the stark toll that murderous paramilitaries are taking on Colombian churches in this month’s Sojourners.



Conspire: Faith and Justice Network Training

From June 3-5, Sojourners will be hosting the National Faith & Justice Network for CONSPIRE! A Training Conference on Building a Faith and Justice Movement in Your City.

There is a growing movement springing up in cities across this country. Christians are joining hands to put their faith into action around issues of poverty and justice. They are committing to bring Biblical justice to the systems and structures in their cities. Are Christians in your community voicing a desire to be more holistic -- to address the root causes of poverty and injustice in addition to charitable giving and compassionate ministries? Have people been convening to find new ways to address old ills? Do you want to be a leader in this movement and not just a follower? If so, this is for you!

For more information and to register, click here.


+ See what's new on the blog of Jim Wallis and friends

The Inevitable Results of War: Sins as Well as Crimes
by Rabbi Arthur Waskow

The end of Passover is said to mark the anniversary of the moment when Pharaoh's imperial horse-chariot army met disaster in the Red Sea. Just as the festival was ending this year, flashes of truth about our own imperial army appeared in the ways prophetic truth rises up in our day -- unveiled videotape, unmuzzled journalism. One from the Iraq War, one from the Afghanistan War. In one of these flashes of truth, a U.S. helicopter machine-guns two journalists ... In the other, U.S. Special Forces kill three Afghan women -- two of them pregnant -- and a local police chief and prosecutor, all on the way to a baby shower.
+ Click to continue

The Catholic Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal and the Paradoxical Legacy of Pope John Paul II
by César Baldelomar

As someone who has recently rejoined the Catholic church, I find it painful to write about the unethical consequences of John Paul II's repressive rule. It is also a struggle for me to write about the late pope himself, since I once admired him. But with the evidence of his mismanagement coming into full view, I now have to reconsider the legacy of this paradoxical figure.
+ Click to continue

Baseball, Tiger Woods, March Madness, and the American Soul
by Diana Butler Bass

I'm not much of a sports person, but I have to admit that April 5 was a remarkable day for sports -- especially sports and religion. With baseball's opening day, Tiger Woods' spiritual transformation, and the miraculous NCAA championship game, one only needed to watch American sports to see that the national soul is alive and well.
+ Click to continue

West Virginia Mine Disaster: Mourning in the Mountains
by Rose Marie Berger

There was a lovely reflection in today's NYT by novelist Denise Giardina about the Upper Big Branch mine explosion in West Virginia. Denise spent some time with Sojourners community in the late '70s and early '80s when she was working on her first book, Storming Heaven.
+ Click to continue

Glenn Beck's Faulty Logic
by Valerie Elverton Dixon

I do not usually watch Glenn Beck's program. However, on April 6, while working on another project, my intuitive mind told me to watch Glenn Beck. So, I did. When I joined the program, Beck was saying that President Obama was an intelligent man who chose to surround himself with Marxists. Beck played a sound bite of Rev. Jim Wallis talking about redistribution of wealth.
+ Click to continue

What Our New Nuclear Policy Really Means
by David Cortright

The new U.S. Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) is a significant step toward reducing nuclear dangers, advancing global nonproliferation norms, and facilitating further reduction and the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons.
+ Click to continue

Video of Civilian Deaths in Iraq and America's Culture of Violence
by Logan Laituri

If you have the stomach for it, I recommend watching at least the 17 minute clip released by WikiLeaks. Several years ago, I would not have encouraged folks to watch such a graphic depiction of morbid carnage. However, my current belief is that we as a society have become detrimentally detached from the violence our government presumes to be conducting in our name, essentially giving our leaders a blank check for military force while we immerse ourselves in the latest release from Apple, Inc. or episode of American Idol.
+ Click to continue

Looking at Christ Through Cultural Lenses
by Allison Ash

Looking at me, pale-skinned and blonde-haired, you would not know that I come from a diverse background with an African-American great-grandmother and an American-Indian great-grandfather. Though I grew up in a white neighborhood, I felt a call to racial reconciliation after learning about the issues of racism and racial injustice partly through the stories of my family members and the hardships they faced because of their race. Early on, I learned that this ministry needed to start with honest dialogue within a caring community where I would gain an awareness of my own lack of understanding and my limited cultural lens.
+ Click to continue

Sojourners Cover Story on Race and the Emerging Church Already Making Waves
by Jeannie Choi

It looks like folks are already talking about an upcoming Sojourners article on the emerging church that will be featured in the May issue of the magazine (you can subscribe and receive the May issue here). I hope, though, that all sides will maintain civility and open hearts as we examine the important issue of race and the church.
+ Click to continue

Social Justice Christians at White House Easter Prayer Breakfast
by Jim Wallis

President Obama hosted an Easter prayer breakfast for a group of church leaders at the White House. The room was full of Christians for "social justice" just as Glenn Beck has warned us about -- they were sitting at the same tables with or near the president, and clearly having an influence on him!
+ Click to continue

Evangelical Border Perspective: If Seeing is Believing
by Maryada Vallet

I recently guided a national group of evangelical leaders to the Arizona-Mexico border. The visit was momentous and timely for many reasons. As leaders with influence, board members of the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) and Neighborhood Ministries, the ripples of this border perspective could reach far and wide. It is important for this group of compassionate and active people to see the literal ground zero of border enforcement, resulting in the every day loss of human life and dignity.
+ Click to continue

Jesus and the Klan
by César Baldelomar

Perhaps most upsetting to me is the Klan's appropriation of Jesus as a white supremacist. Their Web site mentions that they "come in the name of THE LORD God JESUS CHRIST, Amen." Of their several irrational ideals, the hate of Jews seems particularly foolish. After all, Jesus was a Jew. But this compassionate Jewish peasant also would have prayed for their conversion, ultimately leading to his forgiving them for their wrongs.
+ Click to continue

Christian Militias and Litmus Tests
by Julie Clawson

I've had friends who have been told that they are obviously not Christians because they have tattoos, because they are gay, and because they don't go to church every Sunday. Given the fine tradition in the church of adding such litmus tests to the gospel, I found it fascinating to hear from diverse sources last week that the Hutaree militia (a self-described Christian group) obviously could not be Christian. I find the group disgusting and disturbed, but the question of if they are Christians haunted me.
+ Click to continue

Why Obama Needs an Ambassador for International Religious Freedom
by Jim Wallis

Religious persecution remains a major problem around the world, whether by repressive governments or by one faith against another. A position of U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom that was created more than 10 years ago to monitor religious persecution and discrimination has yet to be filled in the Obama administration.
+ Click to continue

Murder and Militant Songs Betray Mandela's Legacy
by Nontando Hadebe

As millions of Christians celebrated Easter this past weekend, their celebrations were interrupted by events in South Africa and Zimbabwe that reinforced the relevance of the message of Easter for the stability of this region. The two events were the murder of Eugene Terblanche, leader of a right wing white group in South Africa, by two of his employees. Terblanche's death came at a time of rising racial tensions triggered by the singing in public by the ANC youth league of an ANC liberation song "Dubul' ibhunu," which means "shoot the Boer."
+ Click to continue

Jesus is Risen but What Happened to the Kingdom?
by Christine Sine

Jesus is Risen, Alleluia. Most of us spent Easter praising God and singing about the resurrection. But as I sat down this morning to read my Bible I was feeling a little frustrated. What happened to the kingdom, I wondered? The gospels talk constantly about Jesus announcing the kingdom, and even in Acts 1 we read that during the 40 days between his resurrection and ascension he "spoke about the kingdom of God." Why doesn't it say any more?
+ Click to continue

The Burning Patience of Easter
by Chris Rice

It seems impossible, holding together pain and beauty. In the journey from Jerusalem to the cross, Jesus suffered -- grieving, in pain, the tears of blood in Gethsemane, abandonment by friends, and a cry of forsakenness to the Father. Yet along that agonizing journey, Jesus was not once desperate. Even in his enormous suffering Jesus internalized a different time.
+ Click to continue

What If Resurrection Is A Choice?
by Jessica Coblentz

Recently, I have been struggling to believe in the resurrection -- perhaps more than ever before. While I have faith in the historical reality of Christ's rising from the dead, my convictions about the resurrection have long centered on a once unshakable belief in the persistence of the resurrection in our world today. Or so I thought.
+ Click to continue

The Radical Love of Jesus
by Valerie Elverton Dixon

We await the Easter dawn when the sun will shout the glory and power of God who gives us victory over death and despair. However, in our Holy Week and Easter celebrations, I wonder if we have forgotten the love that is the driving force behind the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It was the love of God who is Love itself that gave us the example of Jesus.
+ Click to continue

The Darkness of Easy Hate and the Light of Easter's Love
by Ernesto Tinajero

Hate is easy and the domain of the lazy. This insight came in the darkness of the early morning. I wish I could say that it was due to a Lenten meditation that pierced my own darkness, but alas, it rose as I got up too late to do my study. As I rushed around trying to beat my car pool's arrival, I suddenly thought about Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4.
+ Click to continue


+ Sign up to receive our "Daily Digest" e-mail - the latest headlines on critical issues

Top Stories:

Quick Fact: Beck again distorts Wallis' remarks on "redistribution of wealth" to attack him as a "Marxist"
Media Matters
Glenn Beck again distorted comments made by Rev. Jim Wallis to claim Wallis is a "Marxist." In fact, in the interview Beck selectively clipped, Wallis actually discussed individuals who "transformed" their lives to focus on charity, highlighting how Bill and Melinda Gates have been "doing a redistribution of wealth" through their philanthropy. +Click to continue

"Thou shalt not lie": Beck denies equating social justice with communism, Nazism
Media Matters
Responding to Rev. Jim Wallis' statements about him in The Washington Post, Glenn Beck stated, "Thou shalt not lie." However, contrary to Beck's denials, Wallis' Post op-ed accurately described Beck's repeated statements that social justice is code for communism and Nazism and his advice to his listeners to "run as fast as you can" from churches espousing social justice. +Click to continue

On Glenn Beck's Slander of Jim Wallis
The Huffington Post

Glenn Beck's War on Easter Backfires
The Nation (NY) blog

Glenn Beck Is Right to Fear Dorothy Day
The Huffington Post

Bad times can bring out the best in us
South Bend Tribune

Seeking moral clarity: ‘Greed is not good’
The Capital Times (Madison)

"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.

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Scared of being ‘left behind’? What does Revelation really teach us? Explore this question with Sojourners’ four-part study guide, Christians and the Apocalypse. Use it this Sunday with your small group - available online. Click here.

Stickers! Magnets! Buttons! Show your stuff with pithy statements from Sojourners. Order yours today.

Click Here!

GIVE TO SOJOURNERS: Donate now to support this voice for justice and peace.

GET THE MAGAZINE: Subscribe today

CONTACT US: General inquiries: | Advertising: | About Us

PRIVACY NOTICE: Sojourners won't trade, sell, or give away your e-mail address. Read our privacy policy.