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1995: Call to Renewal and the "Cry for Renewal" Declaration

Call to Renewal: History

Call to Renewal evolved from a gathering on May 23, 1995, in which nearly 100 religious leaders addressed the need for a renewed political vision-- one that depended upon spiritual values. They endorsed a document - the "Cry for Renewal" - which declared that the "old political language and solutions of Right and Left, liberal and conservative are almost completely dysfunctional now and helpless to lead us into a different future. But if politics will be renewed more by values than by partisan warfare, the religious community must play a more positive role." Since then Evangelical, Catholic, and Protestant leaders have raised African American, Latino, white, Asian, and Native American voices for a moral direction in the political process.

Call to Renewal is based upon four values: overcoming poverty, dismantling racism, affirming life, and rebuilding family and community.

The Cry for Renewal is broken into seven subsections:

* Overview
* Faith and Idealogy
* Old Options, False Choices, New Directions
* "The Least of These"
* Spiritual Politics
* Spiritual Renewal
* New Voices


Our times cry out for renewed political vision. And vision depends upon spiritual values. We believe that the language of morality and faith can make a critical contribution to political discourse. The crisis we face is a spiritual crisis and must be responded to by solutions that address the "spirit" of the times that often lies beneath our political and economic problems. We believe further that the old political language and solutions of Right and Left, liberal and conservative are almost completely dysfunctional now and helpless to lead us into a different future. But if politics will be renewed more by moral values than by partisan warfare, the religious community must play a more positive role.

Christian faith must not become another casualty of the culture wars. Indeed, religious communities should be the ones calling for a cease-fire. The ideological polarization of the churches will not contribute to the spiritual discernment of politics the country most needs. Inflamed rhetoric and name calling is no substitute for real and prayerful dialogue between different constituencies with legitimate concerns and a gospel of love which can bring people together.

We are Evangelical voices who seek a biblical approach to politics, not an ideological agenda. We are Catholic voices who assert our own church's social teachings as a vital alternative to both the Left and the Right. We are Orthodox voices who have long stressed the role of spirituality in nurturing culture. We are African American, Latino, white, Asian, and Native American church voices whose commitment to personal faith and social justice leads us to visions of transformation beyond both political parties. We are voices from all the Protestant churches who feel represented neither by old religious liberalism nor new right fundamentalism.

Together, we proclaim an evangelical, biblical, orthodox, and catholic faith that must address a nation in crisis. We believe that our impoverished political process needs the moral direction and energy that spiritual and religious values can contribute to the public debate. Separation of church and state rightly prevents the official establishment of any religion, but does not and must not prohibit the positive influence of religious communities on the nation's moral and political climate.

Faith and Ideology

The question is not whether religious faith should make a political contribution, but how. If religious values are to influence the public square, as we believe they should, they ought to make our political discourse more honest, moral, civil, and spiritually sensitive, especially to those without the voice and power to be fairly represented.

Recently, the increased influence of religion in politics has too often made our political debate even more divisive, polarized, and less sensitive to the poor and dispossessed.

At stake is not just politics, but the meaning of faith itself. We challenge any political litmus test that distorts the independent moral conscience that faith can bring to politics. We are dismayed by those who would undermine the integrity of religious conviction that does not conform to a narrow ideological agenda. And we are deeply concerned about the subversion of prophetic religion when wealth and power are extolled rather than held accountable, and when the gospel message is turned upside down to bring more comfort to those on the top of society than to those at the bottom.

True biblical faith focuses on the moral values that must be recovered to heal the torn political fabric; ideological faith would rend the fabric further in the pursuit of power. Biblical faith tries to find common ground between warring factions by taking the public discourse to higher ground; ideological faith fuels the rhetoric of "us and them" and breeds a climate for hate and even violence. Biblical faith holds up the virtues of compassion and community; ideological faith appeals to personal and group self-interest. Biblical faith understands our identity as the children of God as a call to humility and reconciliation rather than the basis for attacking those who are less righteous.

Old Options, False Choices, New Directions

Conformity to the old options offered by either the Religious Right or the Religious Left will not take us forward. Both conservative and liberal religion have too often become culturally captive forces that merely cheer on the ideological camps with which they are now identified. But religion as a political cheerleader is inevitably false as religion.

The almost total identification of the Religious Right with the new Republican majority in Washington is a dangerous liaison of religion with political power. With the ascendancy and influence of the Christian Right in party circles, the religious critique of power has been replaced with the religious competition for power.

Likewise, the continuing close identification of religious liberalism with political liberalism and the Democratic Party has demonstrated a public witness often lacking in moral imagination or prophetic integrity. Liberal religious leaders have sought access and influence with those in power no less than their Religious Right counter-parts. Neither right-wing religious nationalism nor left-wing religious lobbying will serve us at this critical historical juncture. Such faith is often more ideological than truly evangelical.

Today, the body politic is buffeted by polarized extremes. Instead of helping a politically war weary public find common concerns and values, the religious community, on both sides, has often given sanction to the perpetuation of tragic divisions.

We refuse the false choices between personal responsibility or social justice, between good values or good jobs, between strong families or strong neighborhoods, between sexual morality or civil rights for homosexuals, between the sacredness of life or the rights of women, between fighting cultural corrosion or battling racism. We call ourselves and our churches back to a biblical focus that transcends the Left and the Right. We call the Christian community to carefully consider each social and political issue, diligently apply the values of faith, and be willing to break out of traditional political categories. By seeking the biblical virtues of justice and righteousness, the Christian community could help a cynical public find new political ground.

We believe the American people are disgusted with politics as usual and hungry for political vision with spiritual values that transcends the old and failed categories that still imprison public discourse and stifle our creativity. The religious community should help lead that discussion and action toward new political and economic alternatives. We commit ourselves to that task and to dialogue with all sectors of the religious community toward that end.

"The Least of These"

We are especially concerned with the harsh rhetoric toward the powerless coming from the nation's capitol. It is indeed time to re-examine old solutions that control the poor instead of empowering them. We will join with anyone in the search for new solutions rooted in local communities, moral values, and social responsibility. Many of our congregations and communities are already taking a leadership role in that task. But those Jesus told us to especially remember as "the least of these" must be neither forgotten or scapegoated. To abandon or blame the poor for their oppression and affirm the affluent in their complacency would be a moral and religious failure, and is no alternative to social policies which have not succeeded.

Spiritual Politics

We would speak another word and offer clear criteria by which to morally judge our nation's political policies.

We serve a God who upholds the dignity and hope of the poor and a Savior who loved the little children. We must save all of our children and not punish those who are disadvantaged.

We follow the One who called us to be peacemakers and gave his life to reconcile a broken humanity. We must stop the violence that has overtaken the nation, and address its root causes in the distorted spiritual values and unjust social structures in which we are all complicit.

We have a faith that invites us to conversion. We must revive the lapsed virtues of personal responsibility and character, and repent for our social sins of racism, sexism, and poverty.

We love a Creator who calls for justice and stewardship. We must begin to judge our economic and environmental habits and policies by their impact on the next generation, rather than just our own.

We are compelled to a lifestyle of service and compassion. We must seek healing from the materialism which has made us less caring and more selfish creatures, isolated us from one another, enshrined the power of money over our political processes, wounded our natural world, and poisoned the hearts of our children-rich and poor alike.

We are led by our faith into community. We must rejuvenate the moral values and political will to rebuild our disintegrating family systems, our shattered neighborhoods, and our divided nation.

Spiritual Renewal

Politics cannot solve all our problems. Spiritual renewal will be required-of our personal values and communal virtues, of our religious congregations and neighborhood organizations, of our educational institutions and economic enterprises. But genuine spiritual renewal must not be self-righteous or mean-spirited. And spiritual sensitivity must replace ideological predictability as the touchstone of religion in politics.

Our definitions of politics must be widened to include new solutions and leadership. In particular, new community-based and value-centered solutions must be found to our seemingly intractable problems. The wall between "public" and "private" solutions must come down in favor of new partnerships and configurations that involve everyone. And our religious communities must become meeting places and experimentation grounds where those new solutions are shaped and carried out in partnership with other cultural, economic, and political institutions.

New Voices

The issues of political morality we now confront are too important to be left to only one voice. We testify that there are other visions of faith and politics in the land. New voices are critically needed. We especially appeal to the media to let new voices now be heard. We appeal to the politicians to listen to the voices of religion rather than seeking to manipulate them.

Our commitment is to diligently apply spiritual values to the vexing questions of our public life and, where necessary, to offer a Christian alternative to ideological religion. Let a new dialogue begin at national, regional, and local levels around the country. Let politicized religion be replaced with prophetic faith to forge new coalitions of Christian conscience across the land.
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