Last week, Jim Wallis appeared on Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Watch the video at http://www.sojo.net/Godspolitics and then read our readers' responses in Boomerang (below). Help grow the progressive faith movement by sharing the clip with your family and friends!
"Many of the same people who worked in Saddam's time are still doing those jobs today. So there is a continuity of personnel and of mind-set. I think the Iraqi people themselves thought there was going to be a different system. Every day, they are finding it is not so different."
- Hania Mufti, Baghdad director of Human Rights Watch and chief author of a report detailing continuing human rights abuses by Iraqi authorities since the occupation by U.S. forces.
It's only the second week of the book tour for God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It, but already I'm convinced that the country is ready for a new discussion of faith and politics - one the Religious Right will not control. All the venues so far have been packed with audiences more diverse than we've ever seen. And we've had lots of fun with the media appearances that have brought a progressive faith message to more and more people.
One of the most fun was The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. You can read my behind-the-scenes reflections on that experience in the blog I've started at www.sojo.net/Godspolitics.
Perhaps the most gratifying thing to me about the past two weeks has been the flood of e-mails, many from young people, in response to The Daily Show and other appearances. Most were personal and heartfelt. Many said they had lost their faith because of "Republican religion," George W. Bush, television preachers, or the war in Iraq. Others said they never knew people of faith could be against the war, concerned about poverty, or care about the environment. What became clear is how many people have never seen, heard, or imagined a progressive faith option, a Christian social conscience, or a connection between their spiritual hunger and their passion for social justice. People have come up to my family in restaurants, stopped me in train stations, or walked up to me on the street just to say "Thank you," or "I feel like we have a voice now," or "I am young, religious, progressive, and you speak for me." Often they say that they feel the possibility of faith again - or for the first time - and hope that we could make a difference.
Many said that the Terry Gross interview on NPR really felt like "fresh air" to them in offering a new spiritual and political option. I got to quote Amos during NBC's inaugural coverage: "Take away from me the noise of your solemn assemblies, but let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." I was able to share Jesus' words about "the least of these" from Matthew 25 - on Comedy Central! On Hardball, Chris Matthews (who was one of the few television journalists consistently critical of the war in Iraq) and I talked about how the Bush doctrine of extending "freedom" just ends up killing people, and we raised the issue of tens of thousands of civilians killed in Iraq. And on Charlie Rose, we had one of the first conversations about religion, values, and politics I've ever seen on his show.
Now we're traveling city to city, to almost every region of the country. We're doing public forums in campuses, churches, and bookstores. Check our Web site to see when the tour comes near you, or organize new events that could offer a different perspective on faith and politics in your community, as many people are now doing.
We also were gratified (actually, "stunned" best describes my reaction) when God's Politics quickly climbed up the Amazon best-seller list (thanks almost exclusively to SojoMail readers like you who bought the book early), and we were told it will appear on this Sunday's New York Times best-seller list. That means that a progressive religious option will be in the front of bookstores across America. At last, we'll be better able to present the culture with an alternative to the Religious Right. This book tour is fast becoming a movement tour. Thanks be to God.
As a small gesture of our appreciation, we are now offering 100 free autographed copies of God's Politics to our SojoMail readers (as part of a campaign to help grow this movement). - The Editors
Blessed are the peacemakers, for
they will be called children of God. - Matthew 5:9
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Please join us for a discussion at the conference on:
THE SCANDAL OF THE EVANGELICAL CONSCIENCE Assessing the Scandal - Mark Noll, Wheaton College
What Went Wrong - Randall Balmer, Columbia University
What Can Be Done - David Neff, Christianity Today
March 6-7, 2005, at Eastern Seminary, Philadelphia, PA
Register with ESA www.esa-online.org, (800) 650-6600, $75
Telling the truth about casualties - on both sides
by George A. Lopez
Since the start of the Iraq war, we in the United States have failed to speak openly and honestly regarding civilian casualties. Why can't we investigate and articulate what we know is happening in Iraq: that innocent civilians - already indiscriminately targeted by insurgents, jihadists, and thugs - are now dying in larger numbers at the hands of U.S. forces, most notably from aerial bombing and our use of heavy attack weapons?
At the war's outset the Pentagon announced that it had no obligation to provide information on the number of Iraqi soldiers killed or wounded. The policy adopted regarding civilians mirrored that of the first Gulf war: "We don't do body counts," as Gen. Tommy Franks put it. The government has made this policy stick. The practice is followed by embedded journalists.
But civilian casualties are not the only ones obfuscated. This fall, the European edition of the military newspaper Stars and Stripes claimed that nearly 21,000 wounded U.S. soldiers had been treated at Landstuhl Medical Centre in Germany. On November 24, the Pentagon's official injury count claimed that 9,300 U.S. troops have been wounded in Iraq. What accounts for an 11,000+ discrepancy?
CALLING ALL PARENTS, GRANDPARENTS, TEACHERS, CAREGIVERS!
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The question of the authority and interpretation of the Bible, that indispensable source of the church's knowledge of God's word and revelation, is critical for the church. Although we all wish that debates about the Bible would go away, leaving us to get on with the all-important task of living out its message, a better understanding of its nature and authority is still needed in many parts of the church, and the quest to achieve it cannot be put aside.
In North America, at least in Protestant circles, there is a serious polarization between "liberal" elements, which have let the subject drop out of sight, and "conservative" forces, which have raised the stakes by inflating the categories involved. This has opened a major chasm in popular theology and church life. Somehow we have to transcend this gulf and bring about reconciliation by proposing an understanding of biblical authority that is really comprehensive and satisfying. I believe that the doctrinal model or key that could enable us to heal the rift contains the three elements found in a significant statement of Paul's: "We have this treasure in earthen vessels to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us" (2 Corinthians 4:7).
The Bible is a rich treasure, the word of God, mediated to us in a human vehicle and capable of being, in the power of the Spirit, the place where we can hear God speak to us today.
The full text of this article is available in the February 6, 2005, edition of our scripture study and sermon preparation resource, Preaching the Word.
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Does Social Security need fixing? Not according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Economist Mark Weisbrot argues that the current administration is abusing taxpayer dollars, broadcasting exaggerated numbers, and promoting "post-factual" policymaking for Medicare, Social Security, and other programs. The results could be hasty action and misled citizens.
$60,000 in prizes for effective faith-based organizations!
Announcing the 2004 Partners in Transformation Awards Contest, co-sponsored by FASTEN and the Points of Light Foundation. Is your faith-based organization running an effective community service program with positive, demonstrated, tangible results? Are you doing the program in partnership with some group OUTSIDE the faith community (e.g., schools, police, government)? If so, you could win $5,000 and public recognition in your state and among numerous private charitable foundations.
Apologies and payouts for protesters wrongfully arrested
As reported by The Washington Post:
"The District of Columbia government agreed yesterday to pay a total of $425,000 to seven people caught up in a mass arrest at a downtown park in September 2002, acknowledging that they were wrongfully arrested and promising to adopt changes in police procedures.
The agreement settles a lawsuit in which the seven alleged that D.C. police violated their constitutional rights and department policy during the roundup of about 400 protesters and bystanders in Pershing Park. The settlement also requires D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey to send a personal letter of apology to each of the plaintiffs."
Make a tax-deductible donation to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.
Your donation will provide emergency health kits, medical supplies, water purification tablets, and shelter for children during times of crisis. www.unicefusa.org/tsunami
Doing Our Own Work is an intensive, three-weekend seminar for anti-racist white women. For information about the seminars being held in the Chicago area, New York City area, and Philadelphia, visit: http://www.leaven.org/doow.htm
WILLIAM SLOANE COFFIN: A Lover's Quarrel with America. One of the great prophets of our time inspires us to take responsibility for our nation and our world - to put ourselves "where the fighting is fiercest." Video with discussion guide. $19.95 VHS/$34.95 DVD. http://www.olddogdocumentaries.com/films.html
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I just finished watching your appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and I just wanted to say that you impressed the, um, heck, out of this self-professed New York liberal agnostic. I think what you are doing is magnificent, and I look forward to purchasing your book. This country is facing a revolution of values, and we need more people like you to unite the religious and secular communities under the common goal of creating a better world for our children.
Shelley Davenport writes from State College, Pennsylvania:
Thank you so much for appearing on Jon Stewart. I stayed up late to watch it, and I'm glad I did. Thank you for giving those of us who are appalled and terrified by Bush, and yet were unable to identify with Kerry, a voice. I have felt that I have no place in this country anymore. I can't fully support the Right or the Left, although I am a born-again Christian. Thank you for bringing this movement into the light of the popular media so that people can see there are alternatives to "religious and secular fundamentalism." It was wonderful to hear the audience voluntarily cheer at your points. And thank you for quoting Matthew 25 on live TV to a nationwide audience. I cannot express how wonderful it was to hear Christ's words spoken like that. I slept well! Jon Stewart's show is increasingly the place that young people like myself go to get our news, simply because the major networks scare us to death and leave us with no hope for change. So I believe it was a very wise decision on your part.
Aaron Cassidy writes from Buffalo, New York:
I am writing specifically to thank you for your wonderful and deeply moving interview with Jon Stewart. Though brief, I am quite sure the time you spent on that program did more to advance the cause of the Religious Left (how wonderful that such a term has emerged in recent months!) than any single event in the last 20-30 years.
The argument that you make that resonates so strongly with me (and, I imagine, with many of my generation) is that religion does not have a monopoly on morality. It is so crucially important that the point is made to those of my generation who care about that which is good and true and honest that they need not dismiss religion, or, perhaps more relevantly, that they not dismiss those who are committed to their faith. The battles of our day are indeed moral battles, and the values taught by those of the Christian faith are as important now as they have ever been.
Howard Heiner writes:
Thank you for bringing to our attention the continued use of death squads by the U.S. government ["The 'Democracy Option' disappears in Iraq," SojoMail 1/19/2005]. As a United Methodist missionary in Bolivia and Chile during the '70s and in Nicaragua during the '80s, I have witnessed firsthand the use of death squads by our government. In those days the code name was the "Phoenix plan" which was initiated during the Vietnam War. My first years in Bolivia I became friends with a U.S. embassy employee and was discussing the murder of local Indian leaders with him. "Oh," he said, "that is part of the Phoenix plan." I was green to U.S. foreign policy at that time and asked him, "What is the Phoenix plan?" I got a full run-down on the strategy - it is sickening. So, it is not surprising it will now be used in Iraq. The warped thinking of an empire mentality!
Alison L. Prevost writes from Takoma Park, Maryland:
I'm not usually one to hit reply, but the recent publicity push has me a little concerned. It seems to me that there is a danger in the ways in which we measure the "success" of what we as a progressive Christian community do. I worry that we are simply using the same cultural yardsticks (TV appearances, book sales, etc) as that which we seem to be struggling against to determine the value of what we have to say. Maybe I should have a little bit more faith in what we are about, but I think there is a lesson to be learned from the rise of the "Christian Right" about how power can corrupt core gospel values. This is not meant to be an indictment, but rather a caveat to not give in to commericalism and to the popularity contests that seem to inevitably come with it.
Richard L. Salmonson writes from Plankinton, South Dakota:
David Etherington [Boomerang 1/19/2005] raised some concerns about the promotion of Jim Wallis' recent book, God's Politics. I do not believe that there is a conflict of interest nor is it self-serving to promote the book. In fact, sometimes Christians need to use some of the strategies of the secular sector in order to get heard as long as their integrity is not being compromised. I remember Jesus' admoniton that we are to be "innocent as doves and wise as serpents." Of course, questions like David's need to be raised to "test the spirits," if you will.
Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of views that do not necessarily represent those of Sojourners. Please include your name, hometown, and state/province/country in a concise e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org. We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity. Because of the volume of letters to the editor and article submissions, we are unable to respond to all e-mails.
THE DIALECTICAL DEVELOPMENT OF DOCTRINE: A Methodological Proposal
by Charles Dickinson
If Christianity - without losing its soul - is yet to avoid losing touch with the world, it must constantly update itself by dialogue with all the intellectual currents of today. To this end, the author proposes a necessary two-way dialectic between theology and the world, an ongoing dialectic ultimately essential to both church and world. $25 hardcover. To order call (313) 624-9784. Dove Booksellers, 13904 Michigan Avenue, Dearborn, Michigan, 48126. http://www.dovebook.com
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