The Common Good

We Must Pray and Act for Japan

Sojomail - March 17, 2011


"It's a very dangerous climate for reporters right now. It's a reminder that these are real people, and they are putting themselves at real risk to bring information out of these places."

- Clothilde Le Coz, Washington director for Reporters Without Borders, speaking of four New York Times journalists missing in Libya. (Source: Boston Globe/AP)

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

Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

We Must Pray and Act for Japan

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

Once again, we are seeing human and environmental tragedy. In Japan, a natural disaster has destroyed all human attempts for control. Half a world away from the United States, a nation is in shock and the mourning has just begun. Japan and its people will never be the same. The world is seeing, once again, incredible stories of pain and loss, and, in the midst of all the suffering, other stories of hope and heroism. There is no satisfying theological explanation of why such things happen; the earth shifts and the oceans rage. Why here? Why now? Nobody really knows. In a very sad way, these catastrophes bring people together. Around the globe, people have been moved to help. It's often somebody else's pain and loss that reminds us of what is important and what is not -- and even what it means to be human.

Of course, there is a very human temptation to just turn off the TV, to shut off your heart and your mind, and say that it is all just too much to take in. Yet, the images that are hard to see and the stories that are hard to hear are often the ones that change us most, and indeed they should. As a Christian, I don't have easy answers to this kind of human suffering, but I believe it breaks the heart of God -- and that means it should break our hearts too. We should feel pain when we see others in pain.

This disaster has another dimension that is still unfolding -- a potential nuclear crisis. The size of the quake and the surge of the waters were more than the "completely safe" nuclear power plants could handle. "Completely safe," as they say, has just left the house. It's like the "completely safe" off-shore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Or maybe "clean coal" or the "real doubts" about climate change. All of this goes out the window when the impossible happens. Yesterday, on a morning show, I heard a debate between going nuclear, which risks the deaths of thousands of people and the contamination of whole areas of the globe, versus the complete destruction of the planet due to global warming. Lovely choices. Are these really the only ones? We now need to discuss this at a much deeper level. What if we finally pushed all the huge special interests of the energy industries aside and decided to push for the best future options? What if we told them that their interests are simply not in line with the common good and their disasters are no longer acceptable to us? What would that look like? Could we build a safe energy future?

But the immediate challenge today is to allow the images and the stories from Japan to make us more connected with the world around us. When we see others suffer like this, the worst thing to do is to listen to public officials who tell us, "Don't worry, it couldn't happen here." Of course it could. To be human is to be vulnerable, and there is no way to take this away. A shared sense of vulnerability is what could change us all for the better.

Seeing the pain of others can help us to open up our hearts and our lives. Instead of just being spectators, we can always find a way to help. Christians are always called to pray and act. Our prayers are not in vain. As Lent has started, I am reminded that our fasting is not in vain either. Our Lenten practices are more than just personal, spiritual exercises; rather, prayer and fasting must lead to actions that change us and the world.

In the face of Japan's overwhelming tragedy, we should not turn away or simply become just gawking spectators. As Christians we always have the responsibility to respond in some way. May God's peace and healing be with the people of Japan, and may their suffering bring the church to prayer and action towards a more peaceful global future.

Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: A Guide for Economic and Moral Recovery, and CEO of Sojourners. He blogs at Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.

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

  Building a Movement

Stand Up For Immigrants in Your State

Our current immigration system is broken and does not reflect our nation's best values. We need reform at the national level, but Congress continues to drag its feet. Some states have decided to tackle the problem on their own. As people of faith, we must call upon our state legislators to stop supporting bad legislation and work towards holistic solutions, including national reform.

Send a letter to your local representatives urging them to support comprehensive immigration reform.

  Inside Sojourners Magazine

Meet Enuma Okoro

Enuma Okoro grew up in four countries, including Nigeria and the Ivory Coast, and describes her religious education as "doses of Roman Catholicism washed down with long gulps of multiflavored Protestant theology."

Perhaps because of this broad personal experience, Okoro has a down-to-earth, generous perspective on churches, worship, tradition, and the sometimes circuitous path to spiritual community.

+Read Sojourners magazine's extended interview with Enuma Okoro in the March 2011 issue.


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

Is Nuclear Power a 'Bargain with the Devil'?
by Jim Rice

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson wonders, in the midst of the ongoing horror in Japan, if nuclear power is a "bargain with the devil."
+ Click to continue

Seeking Peace and Dignity in Jordan
by Trish Edwards-Konic

When I announced my plans to go to Jordan several weeks ago for a press trip, my son replied, "You are the only person wanting to go to the Middle East right now."
+ Click to continue

Wisconsin Strengthens Ties Between Labor and Environment
by Bryan Farrell

Corporations have long used the false rhetoric of "jobs versus the environment" to pit what would be natural allies -- environmentalists and labor activists -- against one another.
+ Click to continue

One World: Of Earthquakes and Interdependence
by Debra Dean Murphy

As Americans were complaining about all the snow this winter, arguing about the value of NPR and PBS, and learning that we suffer from an "enlargement of self," the Japanese were dying by the thousands as solid ground gave way and the sea roiled and raged, consuming whole cities.
+ Click to continue

Who Goes to Hell is Not the Most Important Question
by Kiran Thadhani

"Reality check: Gandhi's in hell." "Really? Gandhi's in hell? And we have confirmation of this?" These words in Rob Bell's newest book and promotional video for Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived have created quite a dilemma in the church world in recent weeks.
+ Click to continue

In the Wake of Japan Disaster, Must We Accept Nuclear Power?
by Rose Marie Berger

The U.S. Navy reported today that it had detected low levels of airborne radiation at the Yokosuka and Atsugi bases, about 200 miles to the north of the Japan's Fukushima nuclear reactors.
+ Click to continue

Rediscovering Values for Lent: Seeing Signs of Sickness
by Jim Wallis

We all need to recognize the signs of sickness in our society as a whole, within our families and friends, and even in ourselves. The beliefs that greed is good, it's all about me, and I want it now ended up being not only bad for ourselves, but harmful to those around us and disastrous for our economy.
+ Click to continue

What Does Rob Bell Really Say? (A Review of the Actual Book Itself)
by Julie Clawson

Let me first get the controversial stuff out of the way. Is Bell a universalist? If by that we mean that God is reconciling all creation to Godself, and that we shouldn't assume that God will fail at this, then yes, Bell is a universalist.
+ Click to continue

Finding the Way Out: Why It's Time to End the War in Afghanistan
by David Cortright

The clock is ticking toward a July decision by President Obama to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, as he has promised.
+ Click to continue

Flood of Refugees from Libya Pose New Opportunities for Welcoming the Stranger
by Maryada Vallet

Indeed, the uprisings of the Arab world have revealed the double-standard of Europe and the United States when it comes to the promotion of democracy and human rights.
+ Click to continue

A Revelation on Community During Jury Duty
by Andrew Hyun

I count it a privilege to be a pastor in this community, and although some tend to think that religious people see the world through a black-and-white, right-and-wrong lens, being part of such a diverse community has shown me that there are more shades of gray when it comes to the problems we all face.
+ Click to continue

How Do We Pray For Japan?
by Christine Sine

The earthquake and tsunami in Japan has left many of us reeling, particularly as it came so soon after the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand.
+ Click to continue

Friday Links Round Up: Budget Cuts. King Philip IV. Japan.
by Jeannie Choi

Budget Cuts. King Phillip IV. Japan. Here's a little round up of links from around the Web you may have missed this week.
+ Click to continue

Lent: Giving Up Coffee, or My Life?
by Eugene Cho

I don't want to knock those who give stuff up. In fact, I understand the significance of self-denial, but if we're not careful, we can so easily just fall into religious practice for the sake of religious practice.
+ Click to continue

Rep. Keith Ellison Testifies Against Hateful Bigotry
by Peggy Flanagan

During my Lenten journey this year, I will be looking to my Muslim brother, Congressman Keith Ellison, to understand what it truly means to live a life grounded in love, respect, inclusivity, and justice.
+ Click to continue

Mr. President, Please Count the Costs in Libya
by Aaron Taylor

I'm glad I'm not the president right now. I can't imagine what it would be like to be the commander in chief of the most powerful military in the world and have to grapple with a question as serious as, "Should I use my power to establish a no-fly zone over Libya?"
+ Click to continue

America's Greatest Deficit is Spiritual, Not Merely Financial
by Brian McLaren

With all the angst about the economy, the deficit, and a looming government shut-down, I'm still concerned that we're treating symptoms rather than diagnosing the underlying disease.
+ Click to continue

Rep. King is Saying 'No' in the Face of Jesus
by Lisa Sharon Harper

The most shameful part of this anti-Muslim-American melodrama is that King's Long Island constituents, his party, and those who share his Roman Catholic Christian faith are being forced to partake in the legacy of King's like-minded historical players.
+ Click to continue


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

Top Stories:

What would Jesus cut?
The Courier (Houma, LA)
A moral test of any society is how it treats its poor and most vulnerable.

Question of Faith: What would Jesus cut from the budget?
Lexington Herald-Leader
Economist and minister David Beckmann wrote in The Washington Post that the federal budget is a moral document "that reveals, starkly and undeniably, our nation's priorities. ... When Jesus talked about how God will judge nations, he said God will focus on what we did or did not do for the neediest among us."

Reader's view: Public spending and taxation a moral issue

Duluth News Tribune (Minnesota)

By the time this is printed, we may or may not have seen a federal-government shutdown and job losses in Wisconsin due to shared state revenue withheld from localities and school districts. Either way, shame on us. How we address public spending and taxation is a moral issue.

"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!

Eco-friendly retreats, sabbaticals, internships and more. White Violet Center for Eco-Justice at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind., a ministry of the Sisters of Providence, is a working organic farm with a herd of alpacas. Learn more.

Christians and Islam: Do we share more than we realize? This new discussion guide looks at the shared history, theological similarities and differences, and hopes for social justice that both Christians and Muslims share. Download now.

2011 Calendar Laptop Skin: Featuring Cornel West's quote, "Justice is what love looks like in public." Just $4.95 in the SojoStore.

Every Christian is an "undocumented foreigner" - in the world but not of it. Learn more about Strangers in the Land, a six-week devotional on immigration, the church and the Bible. From the editors of Sojourners magazine.

Free Gandhi poster with a new subscription to Sojourners magazine! Learn more.

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.