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Thursday, December 30, 2004
Excerpts from a Newsweek interview with Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu...

"Tutu spoke to NEWSWEEK’s Arlene Getz from his home in Johannesburg about the tsunami tragedy, God, Iraq and his astonishment at the re-election of George W. Bush.

The United Nations relief coordinator has accused wealthy Western nations of being “stingy” in their aid to the affected nations. What type of aid would you like to see?

One just hopes that the world will continue to respond with what is usually remarkable generosity and compassion. Obviously, the more prosperous you are, the more one would hope you would be able to do that.

You said George Bush should admit that he made a mistake. Were you surprised at his re-election?

[Laughs] I still can't believe that it really could have happened. Just look at the facts on the table: He’d gone into a war having misled people—whether deliberately or not—about why he went to war. You would think that would have knocked him out [of the race.] It didn’t. Look at the number of American soldiers who have died since he claimed that the war had ended. And yet it seems this doesn't make most Americans worry too much. I was teaching in Jacksonville, Fla., [during the election campaign] and I was shocked, because I had naively believed all these many years that Americans genuinely believed in freedom of speech. [But I] discovered there that when you made an utterance that was remotely contrary to what the White House was saying, then they attacked you. For a South African the déjà vu was frightening. They behaved exactly the same way that used to happen here [during apartheid]—vilifying those who are putting forward a slightly different view.

Talking about religion, much has been said about the role it played in the White House race. What do you say to those who believe that Bush was chosen by God?

[Laughs] I keep having to remind people that religion in and of itself is morally neutral. Religion is like a knife. When you use a knife for cutting up bread to prepare sandwiches, a knife is good. If you use the same knife to stick into somebody’s guts, a knife is bad. Religion in and of itself is not good or bad—it is what it makes you do… Frequently, fundamentalists will say this person is the anointed of God if the particular person is supporting their own positions on for instance, homosexuality, or abortion. [I] feel so deeply saddened [about it]. Do you really believe that the Jesus who was depicted in the Scriptures as being on the side of those who were vilified, those who were marginalized, that this Jesus would actually be supporting groups that clobber a group that is already persecuted? That’s a Christ I would not worship. I'm glad that I believe very fervently that Jesus would not be on the side of gay bashers. To think that people say, as they used to say, that AIDS was God’s punishment for homosexuality. Abominable. Abominable.

Is this bigotry masquerading as faith?

No. I think there are people who do believe things genuinely. Bush followed the example of President [Ronald] Reagan—to be very simplistic. Bush said we are the goodies, those are the baddies, [just] as Reagan said about the Soviets—that they were the evil empire. President Bush has found much the same kind of thing: that people don't like ambiguities.

Bono on AIDS, the Poor and the Church

Another good quote:

"I'm still going to go there. I'm going to represent a broad movement. We will be back next year and you'll be hearing from me. You'll be hearing from the sleeping giant that is the church.

I mean, what is going on with the churches? It is incredible. I tell these evangelicals in the United States there are 2,300 verses of scripture about the poor. It's the central message outside of personal redemption, the idea of dealing with the poor. And I'm asking them, where are they? Where are they on this?

On a recent poll of evangelical churches, only six per cent said they wanted to do something about AIDS. It is unbelievable, the leprosy of our time if you like. But it's starting to turn; the Church is starting to wake up."

-- Bono

Frantic Orthodoxy

Wednesday, December 29, 2004
A great quote I just stumbled over:

"Frantic orthodoxy is never rooted in faith but in doubt. It is when we are unsure that we are doubly sure."

-- Reinhold Niebuhr

Wallis Editorial in USA Today...

Monday, December 27, 2004
Here are some excerpts but you should really check out the whole thing.

"Right now, neither party gets the values question right. The Democrats seem uncomfortable with the language of faith and values, preferring in recent decades the secular approach of restricting such matters to the private sphere. But where would we be if Martin Luther King Jr. had kept his faith to himself? The separation of church and state does not require the segregation of moral language and values from public life. The Republicans are comfortable with the language of religion and values. But the GOP wants to narrow the focus to hot-button social issues it then uses as wedges in political campaigns, while ignoring or obstructing the application of such values where they would threaten its agenda.

We should welcome the discussion of “moral values.” And I believe the values debate should be the future of American politics. But how narrowly or widely will values be defined and how partisan will the discussion be? Will the moral-values debate cut both ways in politics, challenging both the political left and the political right? Will values be used as wedges and weapons to divide and destroy us, or as bridges to bring us together — to find common ground by moving to higher ground?

We must ask two questions: Where is the real debate in the moral-values conversation? (Because there are real differences in America on the values issues.) And where can we find common ground?"

Just an awesome blog: slacktivist

slacktivist... Great writing from this blog I now check out daily....

A Very Good Idea

ICTHUS: Progressive Christian Bloggers Network

"This would be a very open and loose network - no theological creeds or doctrinal statements, no dues or obligation, and it would be nice to have a diversity of (non-?)traditions represented. But if you identify with a more progressive Christianity, rooted in a politics of Jesus and the cross, or if you increasingly find your self to be a "resident alien" living in country that thinks its God's gift to the world, you probably know who you are, you probably blog about these things, and it might be good to network together. Perhaps some good could come out of this. Such a network would be "free" to join but perhaps bloggers could pimp a link back to the Network website."

Confessing Christ in a World of Violence

A very important statement initially endorsed by more than 200 Christian theologians and ethicists, and "signed" by over 118 thousand Christians online... you can also check out the complete list of signers...

"Confessing Christ in a World of Violence

Our world is wracked with violence and war. But Jesus said: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God" (Matt. 5:9). Innocent people, at home and abroad, are increasingly threatened by terrorist attacks. But Jesus said: "Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you" (Matt. 5:44). These words, which have never been easy, seem all the more difficult today.

Nevertheless, a time comes when silence is betrayal. How many churches have heard sermons on these texts since the terrorist atrocities of September 11? Where is the serious debate about what it means to confess Christ in a world of violence? Does Christian "realism" mean resigning ourselves to an endless future of "pre-emptive wars"? Does it mean turning a blind eye to torture and massive civilian casualties? Does it mean acting out of fear and resentment rather than intelligence and restraint?

Faithfully confessing Christ is the church's task, and never more so than when its confession is co-opted by militarism and nationalism.

- A "theology of war," emanating from the highest circles of American government, is seeping into our churches as well.

- The language of "righteous empire" is employed with growing frequency.

- The roles of God, church, and nation are confused by talk of an American "mission" and "divine appointment" to "rid the world of evil."

The security issues before our nation allow no easy solutions. No one has a monopoly on the truth. But a policy that rejects the wisdom of international consultation should not be baptized by religiosity. The danger today is political idolatry exacerbated by the politics of fear.

In this time of crisis, we need a new confession of Christ.

1. Jesus Christ, as attested in Holy Scripture, knows no national boundaries. Those who confess his name are found throughout the earth. Our allegiance to Christ takes priority over national identity. Whenever Christianity compromises with empire, the gospel of Christ is discredited.

We reject the false teaching that any nation-state can ever be described with the words, "the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it." These words, used in scripture, apply only to Christ. No political or religious leader has the right to twist them in the service of war.

2. Christ commits Christians to a strong presumption against war. The wanton destructiveness of modern warfare strengthens this obligation. Standing in the shadow of the Cross, Christians have a responsibility to count the cost, speak out for the victims, and explore every alternative before a nation goes to war. We are committed to international cooperation rather than unilateral policies.

We reject the false teaching that a war on terrorism takes precedence over ethical and legal norms. Some things ought never be done - torture, the deliberate bombing of civilians, the use of indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction - regardless of the consequences.

3. Christ commands us to see not only the splinter in our adversary's eye, but also the beam in our own. The distinction between good and evil does not run between one nation and another, or one group and another. It runs straight through every human heart.

We reject the false teaching that America is a "Christian nation," representing only virtue, while its adversaries are nothing but vicious. We reject the belief that America has nothing to repent of, even as we reject that it represents most of the world's evil. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23).

4. Christ shows us that enemy-love is the heart of the gospel. While we were yet enemies, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8, 10). We are to show love to our enemies even as we believe God in Christ has shown love to us and the whole world. Enemy-love does not mean capitulating to hostile agendas or domination. It does mean refusing to demonize any human being created in God's image.

We reject the false teaching that any human being can be defined as outside the law's protection. We reject the demonization of perceived enemies, which only paves the way to abuse; and we reject the mistreatment of prisoners, regardless of supposed benefits to their captors.

5. Christ teaches us that humility is the virtue befitting forgiven sinners. It tempers all political disagreements, and it allows that our own political perceptions, in a complex world, may be wrong.

We reject the false teaching that those who are not for the United States politically are against it or that those who fundamentally question American policies must be with the "evil-doers." Such crude distinctions, especially when used by Christians, are expressions of the Manichaean heresy, in which the world is divided into forces of absolute good and absolute evil.

The Lord Jesus Christ is either authoritative for Christians, or he is not. His Lordship cannot be set aside by any earthly power. His words may not be distorted for propagandistic purposes. No nation-state may usurp the place of God.

We believe that acknowledging these truths is indispensable for followers of Christ. We urge them to remember these principles in making their decisions as citizens. Peacemaking is central to our vocation in a troubled world where Christ is Lord."


Monday, December 20, 2004
faithforward a new small blog for progressive Christians...

Tom Sine: "Transcending Ideology of Left and Right"

Sunday, December 19, 2004
Excerpts from several posts from author Tom Sine, from the website of his organization, Mustard Seed Associates:

"My most serious concern about the religious right in America is that their world view is indistinguishable from the ideology of political right in the US. You can't get a piece of tissue paper between the views of the religious right and the political right.

For example, on everything from advocating an America first foreign policy and opposition to any gun legislation to favoring tax policies that benefit the wealthiest citizens and social policies that favor cut backs for our poorest neighbors their views are identical. Is is possible that the far right in the US stumbled on a biblical world view and then belatedly American evangelicals discovered the far right had it right all the time? Is it only a question of time until evangelicals in other countries finally acknowledge that the world view of the far right in America is what God had in mind?

I realize I am being provocative but I am very concerned about how many of my fellow American evangelicals in my country all subscribe to the same uniform right wing world view on all topics. It makes me wonder whether their views come from their own serious biblical reflection or conformity to the politically correct viewpoint that is constantly reinforced by right wing talk radio and much of Christian radio.

I am convinced that a biblical world view wouldn't be identical to the far right or the far left. I believe a biblical faith transcends Republicans and Democrats... right and left. I believe a serious study of scripture would lead us to recognize that we are part of a third way... challenging those on both ends of the spectrum.

I do have to report as I work with evangelicals around this country who are conservatives their world views don't generally reflect the sophisticated differences you are describing. In fact it is amazing to me how similar their views are on economic and political issues. It is as though they are all reading from the same script drafted by Fox News, Rush and religous right leaders like James Dobson. They are remarkably "on message" and are not usually open to talk with evangelicals who don't subscribe to the politically correct message.

I find they are not interested in hearing from other evangelicals that tend to see the world in a little broader and less ideological terms. Their economic views support a very conservative tax policy that tends to favor the rich. Their political views tend to support a very nationalistic foreign policy including unquestioning support for neo-con pursuit of American supremacy in the world... without really understanding it. And evangelicals in other countries are very put-off by the extent their cousins in the US tend to confuse the what's good for America with good for God's kingdom. They believe a biblical faith should be a trans-national faith.

For example, Christian leaders like James Skillen working from a reformed Christian world view intentionally uses scripture to respond to the complex issues that fill our world. Ron Sider does the same thing from an anabaptist Christian world view. And the Catholic Bishop in America work from both scripture and tradition and have formulated some very thoughtful statements regarding the American economy.

Quite honestly I find both my friends on the religious right and the politically correct left in mainline churches tend to both define their political and economic views almost exclusively from the ideologies of the right and left. Neither group is very good at bringing scripture to bear on the discussion.

As a consequence when leaders on the Christian right write on economic topics they simply attempt to baptize the very conservative economic views they have embraced. They don't seem to realize their views are powerfully shaped by ideas of western progress and free market economics born of the Enlightenment and very conservative economic theory fashioned by secular economists like Milton Friedman. I find that their writings are often in serious tensions with scriptural views that reflect God's purposes for the stewardship of the planet.

Let me recommend one book that attempts to explore a view of important topic of economics that starts with scripture rather than starting from secular theories born of the Enlightenment. It is enitled God the Economist by M. Douglas Meeks. As you read this book it immediately becomes clear when you start from a different beginning place you wind up with a very different view of how one does economics and politics...a view based on biblical ethics.

I know of no other way to be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ than rejecting the ideologies of the left and right and seeking a third way based upon a biblical world view based that is committed to seeing the purposes of God's kingdom finding expression io our fallen world."

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.

The 1993 Chicago Declaration II

The background story for the 1993 Chicago Declaration II, as told by Sojourner's magazine:

But by 1980 a new evangelical foray into politics emerged, known as the "Religious Right." The following years of Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons made evangelicalism synonymous with the political Right. The promise of Chicago was effectively derailed - at least in the public perception - by this development. In the meantime, evangelical social concern, especially for the poor, has continued to grow quietly across the country and around the world. This leaves us with a fundamental paradox. Never in this century has there been more evident evangelical commitment to social justice in America than now. Yet, "evangelical" means "right wing" to most people in this country.

That paradox was foremost on the minds of those who gathered again in Chicago on November 19-21, 1993, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the first Chicago Declaration and to issue a new one. "Chicago Declaration II: A Call for Evangelical Renewal" celebrated the many signs of evangelical commitment to compassion and justice; wept over evangelical complicity in racism, economic oppression, broken family and personal relationships, and escalating violence; and dreamed of an evangel that is truly good news to the poor and proclaims the whole gospel of Jesus Christ.

Another new generation of evangelical leaders was present along with the veterans of 1973. Together they forged an alliance for a new evangelical witness in our time. In part, the new statement reads:

The 1993 Chicago Declaration

Chicago Declaration II: A Call for Evangelical Renewal -- November 21, 1993

Twenty years ago a group of evangelical Christians, committed to the Lord Jesus Christ and the full authority of Scripture, gathered in Chicago to offer a declaration of social concern. Today in 1993, evangelicals sharing these same concerns and convictions have gathered again in Chicago to reflect and reconsider what we should do in the midst of a worsening social and moral crisis.

We Give Thanks

We give thanks for the Christian communities that are living out the sacrificial and compassionate demonstration of the reconciling love of God. Their faithfulness encourages us to follow Christ more closely in the power of the Holy Spirit. While we acknowledge our weaknesses and confess our failures, we take heart from the love of God at work in their lives and communities.

We Weep and Dream

We weep for those who do not know and confess Jesus Christ, the hope of the world. We dream of a missionary church that, by its witness and love, draws people into a living relationship with our Lord.

We weep over the persistence of racism, the broken relationships and barriers that divide races and ethnic groups. We dream of churches that demonstrate the reconciling Gospel of Christ, uniting believers from every nation, tribe, and tongue.

We weep over the growing disparity between the rich and the poor, the scandal of hunger, and the growing number of people who live in oppressive conditions, insecurity, and danger. We dream of churches that work for education, economic empowerment and justice, both at the personal and structural levels, and that address the causes and the symptoms of poverty.

We weep over escalating violence, abuse, disregard for the sanctity of human life, and addiction to weapons --in both nations and neighborhoods--that destroy lives and breed fear. We dream of faith communities that model loving ways of resolving conflict, seek to be peacemakers rather than passive spectators, calling the nations to justice and righteousness.

We weep over the brokenness expressed in relationships between generations, between men and women, in families, in distorted sexualities, and in cruel judgmentalism. We dream of faith communities that honor and protect both our elders and our children, foster a genuine partnership and mutual submission between men and women, nourish healthy families, affirm celibate singleness, work for healing and compassion for all, and for the keeping of marriage covenants.

We weep over the spiritual emptiness and alienation of modern secular society. We dream of a redemptive church that restores personal identity, provides loving community, offers purpose in life, and brings transcendent values and moral conscience to the public square.

We weep over our exploitative practices and consumerist lifestyles that destroy God's good creation. We dream of a church that leads in caring for creation and calls Christians to serve as faithful partners of God in renewing and sustaining God's handiwork.

In all of these, we have fallen so far short of God's glory and awesome holiness, yet we rejoice that in the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, we are called by God to the obedience that comes from faith.

We Commit

Because of the hope we have in the Gospel, we dare to commit ourselves to the kingdom of God and oppose the demonic spiritual forces that seek to undermine the reign of God in this world. Because of our faith we dare to risk and seek the future that God has promised, and we give ourselves to works of love.

We recommit ourselves to grow in the knowledge and the love of God, drinking from the well of worship and praise, word and sacrament. We commit ourselves to sacrificial and loving engagement with God, with all other Christians, and with a needy world.

We commit ourselves to share the good news of Jesus Christ, by living and announcing the Gospel of the kingdom, so that all may come to know, love and serve God.

We repent of our complacency, our reliance on technique, and our complicity with the evils of the status quo. We repudiate the idolatries of nation and economic system, and zealously dedicate ourselves to Christ and his kingdom's values. We turn away from obsession with power, possessions, self-fulfillment, security, and safety, and willingly risk discomfort and conflict as we live our dreams.

In 1973, we called evangelicals to social engagement: this call still stands. We are thankful that more social engagement is emerging, yet tragically it has frequently divided us along ideological lines. Too often recent evangelical political engagement has been uncivil and polarizing, has demonized opponents, and lacked careful analysis and biblical integrity. Faithfulness to the full authority of the Scriptures transcends traditional categories of left and right.

The Gospel is not divided--it embraces both the call to conversion and the summons to justice. Obedience to Jesus' teaching and example demands congregations that integrate prayer, worship, evangelism, and social transformation.

We Pray

In the face of such complex and unremitting problems, we claim the promise of God to give wisdom to those who ask. Therefore we ask: 0 God, Giver and Sustainer of life, Holy Redeemer and Lord, comforting and empowering Spirit, teach us your ways, show us your will, give us your presence and pour out your power. Amen. Come Lord Jesus.

November 21, 1993.

1973: Chicago Declaration of Evangelical Social Concern

Historical background:

After World War II, several of the younger leaders of American Protestant evangelicals became concerned over what they saw as a lack of commitment among evangelicals to the proclamation and achievement of social justice. Partly this was a legacy of the most publicized split between the "fundamentalists" and "liberals" in the early years of the century which made many evangelicals suspicious of the so-called social gospel.

However, in the 1960's and 1970's some evangelical preachers, theologians, and educators began to feel that they had gotten too far away from the Biblical injunctions on helping the poor and oppressed.

Some of these men and women gathered together in Chicago in 1973 to prepare a statement on the need for Christian social action. According to the letter of invitation which went out, "At a recent conference at Calvin College, a planning committee (John Alexander, Myron Augsburger, Paul Henry, Rufus Jones, David O. Moberg, William Pannell, Richard Pierard, Ronald J. Sider, Lewis Smedes, and Jim Wallis) was formed to plan a Thanksgiving Workshop on Evangelicals and Social Concern.

At this workshop, a statement called "A Declaration of Evangelical Social Concern" (also known as the Chicago Declaration) was signed by participants. In this statement they admitted that they had individually and corporately participated in forms of racism and exploitation and pledged themselves, according to a press release, to "rethink their lifestyle and work for a more just distribution of the world's resources."

Chicago Declaration of Social Concern

"As evangelical Christians committed to the Lord Jesus Christ and the full authority of the Word of God, we affirm that God lays total claim upon the lives of his people. We cannot, therefore, separate our lives from the situation in which God has placed us in the United States and the world.

We confess that we have not acknowledged the complete claim of God on our lives.

We acknowledge that God requires love. But we have not demonstrated the love of God to those suffering social abuses.

We acknowledge that God requires justice. But we have not proclaimed or demonstrated his justice to an unjust American society. Although the Lord calls us to defend the social and economic rights of the poor and oppressed, we have mostly remained silent. We deplore the historic involvement of the church in America with racism and the conspicuous responsibility of the evangelical community for perpetuating the personal attitudes and institutional structures that have divided the body of Christ along color lines. Further, we have failed to condemn the exploitation of racism at home and abroad by our economic system.

We affirm that God abounds in mercy and that he forgives all who repent and turn from their sins. So we call our fellow evangelical Christians to demonstrate repentance in a Christian discipleship that confronts the social and political injustice of our nation.

We must attack the materialism of our culture and the maldistribution of the nation's wealth and services. We recognize that as a nation we play a crucial role in the imbalance and injustice of international trade and development. Before God and a billion hungry neighbors, we must rethink our values regarding our present standard of living and promote a more just acquisition and distribution of the world's resources.

We acknowledge our Christian responsibilities of citizenship. Therefore, we must challenge the misplaced trust of the nation in economic and military might - a proud trust that promotes a national pathology of war and violence which victimizes our neighbors at home and abroad. We must resist the temptation to make the nation and its institutions objects of near-religious loyalty.

We acknowledge that we have encouraged men to prideful domination and women to irresponsible passivity. So we call both men and women to mutual submission and active discipleship.

We proclaim no new gospel, but the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ who, through the power of the Holy Spirit, frees people from sin so that they might praise God through works of righteousness.

By this declaration, we endorse no political ideology or party, but call our nation's leaders and people to that righteousness which exalts a nation.

We make this declaration in the biblical hope that Christ is coming to consummate the Kingdom and we accept his claim on our total discipleship until he comes.

November 25, 1973, Chicago, Illinois"

Obama Newsweek Excerpts: 'The Audacity of Hope'

Excerpts from this week's Newsweek cover story below:

"One party seems to be defending a moribund status quo, and the other is defending an oligarchy," he says coolly. "It's not a very attractive choice."

Obama doesn't believe that John Kerry lost because of "moral values." It's much more complicated than that. But he knows that the cultural divide and issues like gay marriage and abortion played a role, and that Kerry actually lost among his fellow Roman Catholics.

"My mother saw religion as an impediment to broader values, like tolerance and racial inclusivity. She remembered churchgoing folks [in Kansas and Texas] who also called people niggers. But she was a deeply spiritual person, and when I moved to Chicago [after graduating from Columbia] and worked with church-based community organizations, I kept hearing her values expressed in the church." That tapped into "the hurt and pain" he felt as a fatherless biracial child and spoke to his sense of "the fragility and power and mystery of life."

The Democrats, Obama believes, need to speak to that power and mystery, too. He stops short of calling for a "religious left" to counter the political power of the religious right, but he wants the party to reconnect to what he sees as its roots in a moral imperative: "This shouldn't be hard to do. Martin Luther King did it. The abolitionists did it. Dorothy Day [of the Catholic Workers] did it. Most of the reform movements that have changed this country have been grounded in religious models. We don't have to start from scratch."

But Obama does call for a "new narrative" that simultaneously offers fresh solutions for problems like outsourcing (he hastens to add that he doesn't have them yet) and restores "timeless values." Unlike many liberals, he readily admits that a faction of the Democratic Party during the 1960s twisted the American tradition of individualism into "licentiousness" and rejected the party's older values of family, community and faith. Ever since, he says, the Republicans have caricatured the Democrats for ignoring these values, a line of assault that has proved especially effective because communal and moral values were exactly what gave the Democrats their advantage in the mid-20th century.

"They attacked our strengths," Obama says. When Democrats lost these deeper moorings, their economic message rang hollow: "People figured, 'At least with Bush, I can go hunt with my friends and my wife can go to church'," he says, adding that for men who remember hunting with their dads, say, or women who enjoyed going to church with their grandmother or granddaughter, these cultural concerns become family issues that cut deep.

The task now, Obama says, is not to back off on any particular
issue but to at least open these cultural subjects for discussion again—and for Democrats to "reclaim and reassert in very explicit language that our best ideas rise out of communal values."

And Obama remains concerned about how some Democrats may go about finding religion. "It's dangerous to try to engineer this in some synthetic way through the party. If it's not organic, it comes off as phony. People can sniff it out," he cautions. "Democrats have to say to themselves, 'What are the values we care most deeply about?' then do the hard spiritual work ahead of time. You can't every once in a while just throw in the word 'God'."

Garisson Keilor

Saturday, December 18, 2004
From his book, Hometown Democrat:

"I am a Democrat, which was nothing I decided for myself but simply the way I was brought up, starting with the idea of Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, which is the basis of the simple social compact by which we live...

The democracy of the gospel. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. All we like sheep have gone astray. These articles of faith, plus our common tongue and a fondness for jokes and the American landscape, bind us together in a union of souls, each one free, each one devoted to the union."

Evil and What to Do About It

Excerpt from this posting at the ironically named a badchristian blog...

"Michael at Baalam's Ass made a post that got my liberal panties in a twist. (That was a metaphor...I'm a boxer guy.) It's short so I'll copy the post here too:

'After reading and hearing some of the commentaries following the re-election of George W. Bush, I am again reminded that his opponents simply do not want to believe that evil is real. Whatever it is--gay marriage, the war in Iraq, or terrorism--they simply do not want to believe in the presence of evil in this world. And so when you have President Bush actually trying to do something about that evil, people are just upset.'

Michael is right about one thing, people are upset. A record number of people voted for John Kerry. In any other election in this nation's history, John Kerry would've won a landslide victory. A short aside, that's why this 'mandate' talk from the Republican HQ seems so offensive to folk like me. We've heard again and again how GWB got a larger margin of voters than ever! He did. All because more voters than ever turned out. It's time for the spin-meisters to go home for a long needed rest (or to give the country a long needed rest, I'm not sure which.)

Anyway, Michael's post. I would like to say that

1) I believe that evil exists.
2)I believe that evil is much bigger than that selective list of Michael's
3)I believe that John Kerry had a viable solution to evils that GWB did not have a solution to...that's why I voted for him.

For some reason, this post just strikes me very wrong. I find it arrogant. In the comments below this post, Michael conceeded that he also felt that world hunger, social justice causes, the environment, etc, were evil. That said, John Kerry ran on a platform that he would try to solve some of these domestic problems. Michael probably voted for GWB, I don't know, but I suspect it. His 'evil hierarchy' probably goes something like this: abortion, gay-marriage, terrorism at the top. I have no problem with this. Believe what you like.

Yes, Michael, you should have voted for GWB if this is what your hierarchy looks like. BUT, just because my hierarchy is similar to my friend Matt's hierarchy it is painfully bad logic to assume that I don't believe in evil because we don't share issues of importance.

I bring this up because I know that folks like Michael aren't alone. His voice is a representative voice. Many are out there who believe that the moral issues are the three cited by Michael (coincidentally, the same three cited by the Republican administration and orchestrated by Karl Rove.)

If you wish, you may mark this day, I'm about to go on the record with a shocker.
I believe that President Bush believes that he is dealing with the problem of evil.
I believe that he thinks he is in the right.
I believe that he believes his solutions will be successful.

What I do not believe however, is that he's right."

C.S. Lewis: "...the nearer any government approaches to Theocracy the worse it will be"

"I am a democrat because I believe that no man or group of men is good enough to be trusted with uncontrolled power over others. And the higher the pretensions of such power, the more dangerous I think it both to rulers and to the subjects. Hence Theocracy is the worst of all governments.

If we must have a tyrant a robber barron is far better than an inquisitor. The baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity at some point may be sated; and since he dimly knows he is doing wrong he may possibly repent. But the inquisitor who mistakes his own cruelty and lust of power and fear for the voice of Heaven will torment us infinitely more because he torments us with the approval of his own conscience and his better impulses appear to him as temptations.

And since Theocracy is the worst, the nearer any government approaches to Theocracy the worse it will be.

A metaphysic held by the rulers with the force of a religion, is a bad sign. It forbids them, like the inquisitor, to admit any grain of truth or good in their opponents, it abrogates the ordinary rules of morality, and it gives a seemingly high, super-personal sanction to all the very ordinary human passions by which, like other men, the rulers will frequently be actuated.

In a word, it forbids wholesome doubt.

A political programme can never in reality be more than probably right. We never know all the facts about the present and we can only guess the future. To attach to a party programme -- whose highest claim is to reasonable prudence -- the sort of assent which we should reserve for demonstrable theorems, is a kind of intoxication."

Environmental Concern and the Christain Community

Friday, December 17, 2004
AlterNet: Election 2004: Did Jesus Wear Birkenstocks?

Wondering where the environment might fit into the Christian Right's constellation of moral obsessions, I called the Christian Coalition's Florida headquarters. Since the state has taken a biblical battering of extreme storms and droughts over the last few years, and since worse is predicted as ocean temperatures continue to rise, I thought the Christian Coalition Florida office might be ahead of the curve on the issue, at least compared to the mothership in Washington.

I asked Bill Stephens, executive director for the Sunshine State, what he thought about the fact that some Christians feel a religious duty to protect the environment. He didn't seem to understand the question, so I rephrased it. Could he imagine one day including the environment among the Christian Coalition's current stable of issues?

After a long pause, Stephens emitted a verbal shrug. "To be honest, I've never really thought about it," he said.

Other idea mills working to keep a biblical sheen on anti-green politics are the National Center for Public Policy Research and the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, both of which publish papers warning against the lure of "creation care." In one such article, Samuel Casey Carter decries the "swarm of seemingly mainstream Protestant organizations conjur[ing] support for their activist programs through specious readings of disconnected biblical texts." The truth is, writes Carter, "the whole of nature has been delivered over to man for him to use as he sees fit. Man is not simply the head of the natural order, rather, that order was made for him."

Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly . INTERVIEW . Evangelical Democrat Tony Campolo . April 23, 2004 | PBS

Thursday, December 16, 2004
Quotes From a PBS inerview with Tony Campolo:

"George Bernard Shaw once said that God created us in his image, and we decided to return the favor. I think that's what happened. Many evangelicals have re-created God in the image of a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant Republican. And they end up worshipping a God that is an incarnation of their own values, instead of worshipping a God that emerges out of Scripture when we read it with honesty.

The God that emerges out of Scripture, I think, would be angry with both parties. I think that the policies of the biblical Jesus would, in fact, stand in opposition to both the Democrats and the Republicans.

The reason why I buy into the Democratic Party more than the Republican Party is because there are over 2,000 verses of Scripture that deal with responding to the needs of the poor. Note: 2,000 verses. On the contrary, when you take the issue of homosexuality, which has become the defining issue among evangelicals, I love to ask this question: What does Jesus say about homosexuality? And they always look at me blankly. And I say, "That's right. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. What does he say about responding to poor people? A great deal."

So I really would like to see both parties respond to the poor with greater commitment. But I've got to tell you, the Democrats, I feel, are doing a better job in that respect than Republicans are."

A Perpetual Revolution

G. K. Chesterton, as quoted in the Dime Store Guru blog:

“We have remarked that one reason offered for being a progressive is that things naturally tend to grow better.
But the only real reason for being a progressive is that things naturally tend to grow worse.

The corruption in things is not only the best argument for being progressive; it is also the only argument against being conservative.
The conservative theory would really be quite sweeping and unanswerable if it were not for this one fact. But all conservatism is based upon the idea that if you leave things alone, you leave them as they are. But you do not.

If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change. If you leave a white post alone it will soon be a black post. If you particularly want it to be white you must be always painting it again; that is, you must be always having a revolution.

Briefly, if you want the old white post you must have a new white post. But this which is true even of inanimate things is in a quite special and terrible sense true of all human things. An almost unnatural vigilance is really required of the citizen because of the horrible rapidity with which human institutions grow old. It is the custom in passing romance and journalism to talk of men suffering under old tyrannies. But, as a fact, men have almost always suffered under new tyrannies; under tyrannies that had been public liberties hardly twenty years before.”

"We need to stop unilaterally disarming ourselves..."

Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Excerpts from a posting a little while back on the Daily Kos blog:

"I, like many people on this blog, am still in shock that George Bush has managed to win this election. Although there are certainly still some questions about whether there was voter fraud in Ohio and Florida, one thing is for certain. In election after election, support for progressive Democratic canditates continues to erode among people who consider themselves evangelical Christians and Christians in general.

This phenomenon is occurring in large part because we have disarmed ourselves in this cultural battle. We have allowed Conservatives to define what it means to be a Christian and essentially hijack the Christian faith without even trying to explain how our worldview is more consistent with the tenets of Christianity. It's not always been this way. Remember how Christians led the way during the Civil Rights movement?...

First, progressive minded Christians need to inspire a renassaince within the Christian church. We need to argue our case, and we need to stop unilaterally disarming ourselves. There are many liberal Christian denominations and sects throughout the U.S....These churches already tend to support progressive causes and candidates. We need to grow these progressive minded churches.

Second, progressive evangelical Christians need to start talking about how their political idealogy is informed by their Christian faith. Although they are a minority in their congregations, there are many liberals in evangelical churches throughout this nation...

Unfortunately, in contrast to the conservatives in our church, the liberal democrats tended to avoid conversations about politics. Progressive Christians of all denominations must stop avoiding such conversations. Instead, they must explain how their political leanings are influenced by the tenets of their faith.

Third, in the so called "red states" and particularly in the South, we must start running progressive candidates for local, state, and federal offices, who aren't afraid to discuss how their progressive ideals are informed by their religious and moral beliefs. Gone are the days when politicians can expect any sphere of privacy, and this extends to the spiritual realm as well. Unfortunately, those who fail to openly discuss how their religious faith informs policies will be looked upon with suspicion. In contrast, progressive candidates who articulate how their policy positions are informed by their religion or sense of morality are likely to garner more support among people who consider faith an important part of their life.

The bottom line is that by at least engaging this dialogue, we can get our point of view out there in public. Currently, the cultural war is commonly seen mainly as a battle between the Christian Right, and the secularists. We desperately need to change this erroneous perception. There are many liberal Christians of all stripes throughout this nation, and its high time that we stand up for what we believe!"

A Democratic evangelical Christian on Democrats, values, and faith

Great article written immediately after last month's election from Beliefnet...

"I spent the last three weeks "living" this Presidential election, as my family and I have been in Crawford County, Ohio volunteering on the Kerry/Edwards Campaign. When I decided to leave Los Angeles last summer, I thought it would not only be a unique opportunity to spend time traveling and reflecting on life with my family, but also to participate in the democratic process, and work for the values that have been important to me for most of my life.

Interestingly, as time passed and I shared my plans to volunteer in this election, the responses I received from family, friends, and even strangers were as varied as the people themselves. Many of my friends who are liberal Democrats were excited that I was going to a "swing state" to help defeat the man they consider one of the most divisive Presidents in the history of our country. On the other hand, many of my conservative Republican friends chided me for supporting a "Massachusetts liberal" who if elected would destroy our economy and create the largest, most bureaucratic government in the history of our nation.

And since I am an evangelical minister who grew up in a conservative evangelical church (The Church of the Nazarene), many of my evangelical Christian friends couldn't believe I was both a Christian and a Democrat, since many of them seem to think all Christians must be Republicans. Of course there were also many other evangelical Christians, typically silent about their political views, who shared with me their fear to admit publicly that their faith motivates them to reject the Republican party line because it does not represent all the values they hold dear."

(the full article is at beliefnet)

Evangelical Progressives: Exhibits A through G

From an article by the Rev. Chris Emerson is pastor of the First Congregational Church in Manchester...

"Evangelicals are a diverse lot, spanning the spectrum, and some of us are called progressive evangelicals. We are evangelical because our spiritual and moral grounding is firm in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but our eager application of that glorious Word to modern life is more flexible and responsive than our conservative cousins. We are progressive because we believe in an interactive, open engagement with a changing world.

It's not hard to find progressive evangelicals.

Exhibit A: "Sojourners" is a fellowship and a magazine that for many years has preached radical discipleship, aggressive social action, spiritual renewal and bridge-building community reconciliation, all based on a strong evangelical faith in the redemptive power of Jesus Christ.

Exhibit B: Tony Campolo, a self-described progressive evangelical, has just published a book called "Speaking My Mind: The Radical Evangelical Prophet Tackles the Tough Issues Christians Are Afraid to Face." As he said in a recent interview, "There's a difference between evangelical and being a part of the Religious Right."

Exhibit C: Ron Sider is a progressive evangelical whose passion for the poor and disgust with 'litmus test" Christianity has been eloquently sounded for decades. Building on the Hebrew prophets and Jesus' own engagement with the poor, Sider worries about Christians whose faith is being increasingly politicized by the right.

Exhibit D: Tom Sine, a professor at fundamentalist Fuller Theological Seminary, also calls himself a progressive evangelical. Using terms like "radical Christian generosity," he takes a Biblical view of social responsibility in housing. "The call to follow Christ is first and foremost a call to whole-life discipleship in which all of life's decisions, including how we house ourselves, are discipleship decisions," he writes.

Exhibit E: Earlham School of Religion, in the Quaker tradition, holds that "The term 'progressive evangelical' refers to persons who maintain traditional Christian doctrines but who are open to learning with and from persons who have different points of view."

Exhibit F: In a few days the American Academy of Religion will meet in San Antonio. A paper will be presented by Brantley Gastaway of the University of North Carolina, subtitled "The Progressive Evangelical Critique of the Bush Administration." The abstract says, "This paper demonstrates how the indivisible commitment of progressive evangelicals to both social justice and personal faith shapes their political engagement and distances them from conservative public expressions of evangelicalism."

Exhibit G: Me. I am a progressive evangelical, which for me means that I am passionately devoted to Jesus Christ as the walking, talking God and feel compelled to share and show his spirit to this aching world. I equally believe Jesus calls us to build bridges not divisions, to exercise magnanimity in our relations with those who differ, to be open to learning from others and to be patient and humble in letting God guide my steps.

A radical centrist and a passionate proponent of the free church, I am intrigued and disgusted by the shrill voices from the left and the bombast from the right. I am worried by the widening culture war which bodes poorly for us all. I particularly deplore how the media has declared that all Christian evangelicals are conservative and that no liberal can be Christian. "

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