The Common Good

Listening for the Voice of Aslan

Sojomail - April 12, 2012


“That immigrant culture that has renewed us … has been at the core of our strength. I don’t know when immigrants became the enemy.” - Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State, speaking at Duke University. (Source: McClatchy Newspapers)

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

Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

Listening for the Voice of Aslan

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

I returned to Sojourners this week, after a three-month sabbatical. The time away was a deeply needed one, and did my soul good. It did my body good too, and I feel better than I have in years — much lighter and healthier than before.

Sunrise walks on the beach, yoga and prayer to the morning light, and then running along the waves put many things in perspective. Wonderful time with Joy and my boys — Luke and Jack — made me remember how blessed I am.

A main purpose of the sabbatical was to write a new book and, gratefully, I am now on the last chapter. It’s about “why Jesus came,” and the writing made me feel closer to him. Re-reading C.S. Lewis' Narnia chronicles, while on retreat at a monastery overlooking the Pacific Ocean at the beginning of my time away, set the tone for the sabbatical.

My favorite chapter in the new book is called “Aslan, Narnia, and the Living Teacher Who Walks Among Us.”

The new volume is also about “a gospel for the common good,” which is almost a foreign idea in our politics today. Watching politics for the last three months, but not engaging with them, showed me how depressing (a strong but accurate word) our political discourse has become — on all sides. This book attempts a response to all that — trying to lift up the common good, a new civil discourse, and the hope for common ground on important issues, even among people who will vote differently.

I spoke to those issues earlier this week at the Q Conference for young evangelical leaders here in Washington D.C., in dialogue with my friend, the Southern Baptist leader Richard Land. I haven’t been in a room with so many people for three months, and it was a little bit of a culture shock!

I said that Christians must never worship at the altar of politics. It is not our primary vocation and faith should not be squeezed into its narrow categories — that always misshapes our faith.

Our allegiance is to the kingdom of God, the new order that Jesus brought into the world and to our lives. And no political party will ever come close to representing that. People of faith should be the ultimate moral independents in politics, challenging both parties.

People of the kingdom should not serve politics; but we should serve the common good — seeking the welfare of the city we are in, as the prophet Jeremiah instructed. And we only engage politics when it is necessary to help the common good.

I suggested there are three values that Christians should try to serve in public life, and maybe especially during an election year:

  1. The common good, which both parties will compromise in order to win.
  2. Civility in our public discourse, which disappears during elections.
  3. And, if possible, Christians should try to find some areas of agreement or common ground that they might lift up, even together, despite other political differences.

For me, those areas of common ground could include:

  1. Defense of the poor, which neither party will champion during an election year — they all want donors and voters. How policies affect the most vulnerable is always the Christian political question; vital international and domestic poverty programs which allow the poor to survive and prevent their further suffering should be defended by Christians of all political stripes.
  2. A particular focus on how undocumented immigrants will be talked about and treated — the biblical “stranger” in our midst — and the urgent need for comprehensive immigration reform. Christians across political boundaries are coming together around the urgent agenda to fix a broken immigration system.
  3. Supporting policies that reduce abortion and that support strong families should be points of agreement between both liberals and conservatives, especially people of faith.
  4. Protecting religious liberty is a commitment we also share — both at home and around the world.
  5. Promoting foreign policies that seek to prevent and resolve inevitable human conflicts, instead of increasing them, should be something that Christians should also support because Jesus called us to be peacemakers.

It could be powerful and even provocative if Christians across the political spectrum were lifting up those values. Many younger believers from a new generation will not be voting for politicians or parties this election year. Instead, they will be engaging in a new post-candidate politics — voting for persons, values, and issues that compel them because of their faith.

They will be voting for those being sexually trafficked and sold, for school children who need an empowering education, for the one billion people who live on a dollar a day, for dads and moms who need to come home after multiple tours of duty in wars of occupation, for their friends who want to be judged as persons and not their immigration status, to protect the critical resources that replace poverty with opportunity, for our own children to have a cleaner planet, and for a consistent ethic of life that transcends partisan politics. Instead of voting for the candidates, the parties, and the Super-PACs, a new generation of believers will be voting for their values, their friends, and their own voices — voting for us. And that is hopeful to me.

I come back very grateful for the Sojourners team that made my sabbatical possible. Its leadership in this election year has already begun, and I hope to help out.

What I will be most looking for personally is a new balance in my life and work, to which precious sabbatical time often leads us.

And, most of all, I will be listening for the voice of Aslan, the lion who always seems to show up at the right time and place.

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

E-mailE-mail this article to friends
FacebookShare this article on Facebook
CommentComment on this article on the God's Politics Blog


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

Young Adults: Forget Church, Follow Jesus
by Christian Piatt

This all being said, there is still a significant interest in, and pursuit of, a life following the path lived out and described by Jesus. In some ways, we younger adults are starving for the very community we're wary of. But we're distracted, skeptical and even a little paranoid, especially when it comes to institutions.

Trayvon Martin: Zimmerman Charged with 2nd Degree Murder
by Cathleen Falsani

The charges come six weeks after Zimmerman, a self-appointed community watch "captain" shot the teen in what the shooter claimed was self-defense under Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which allows victims to use deadly force against an attacker if they believe their lives are in danger.

Q Conference Brings Together Christian Leaders
by Tim King

The 5th annual Q conference brings together hundreds of leaders in Christian thought and cultural. Modeled after the "TED Talks," this venue gives opportunity to a wide variety of speakers to express ideas that can—or should be—shaping Christianity and the broader culture.
Read Sojourners' highlights from Q below:


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

Top Stories:
Q Conference Seeks to Present Different Face of Evangelical Activism
Religion News Service
Part Clinton Global Initiative, part TED Talk, the conference is designed to highlight the best ideas rather than condemning the nation’s ills. That kind of format allows Q to include both Richard Land from the religious right and Jim Wallis from the religious left; both will share the stage Tuesday to discuss areas of potential agreement.

Jim Wallis & Richard Land To Take The Same Stage At ‘Q’ Evangelical Cultural Conference
The Blaze
So conservatives like Richard Land and liberals like Jim Wallis will be sharing the same stage, but will likely be illustrating very different ideals. Still, they will be seeking out areas of agreement.

"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!

Sojourners Free Teleconference on State Immigration Laws. Join us on Thursday, April 26, 2-3 p.m. EDT, as policy experts and faith leaders discuss how the recent surge in anti-immigrant state legislation across the country has been negatively affecting our communities, towns, and churches. Sign up today.

Faith and Finance: Christians and the Economic Crisis. Sojourners discussion guide gives a faithful perspective on money, power, and stewardship. Great for Sunday school classes, small groups, sermon preparation. Download now.

Christians and Democracy: Designed to spark discussion and thought about how to live out God's call for justice in our world.

Inspiring Christians to change the wind since 1971. Subscribe to Sojourners 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.