Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

The New Altar Call

Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

The New Altar Call

Article excerpt

I just finished the book tour for God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It. From the first week, book signings turned into town meetings and book store events into revivals. We toured for 21 weeks, traveling to 48 cities, doing 85 events, speaking face-to-face to almost 75,000 people, and reaching millions more through hundreds of interviews. A book on faith--and, even more amazingly, faith and politics--jumped to number two on Amazon its first week, and then onto the New York Times bestseller list for 15 weeks.

Right from the start, I realized something important was happening, and that it was about more than a book. God's Politics became the right book at the right rime, and revealed what was already there waiting to be expressed. Many people of faith felt their voice was not being heard in the national debate over faith and politics and found something to point to. I soon realized the large numbers of people were not just coming to hear my voice, but also to express their voice. I'm still amazed how much the national conversation about faith and politics has already changed as a result.

Our basic message has not fundamentally changed, but the openness to it in the church, political world, media, and culture has changed dramatically. That is due to many factors: the 2004 election, the heightened role of religion and "moral values" in out political discourse, the reaction among a large number of other people of faith to the Religious Right's hubris and pursuit of power, and, perhaps most important, the essential moral and spiritual character of the most pressing issues our society confronts--the massive nature of global and even domestic poverty, the crisis of the environment, the cost and consequences of war, the selective moralities of both Left and Right in regard to the sanctity of life, the breakdown of both family and community.

WE NOW FACE a new moment of opportunity and possibility and must rise to the occasion--both spiritually and politically. The issues that were consistently raised on the book tour and which caused the greatest response include the following.

Poverty--both global and domestic--was the most unifying and galvanizing issue. Out of the tour a real clarity arose around the nature of a "new altar call" for these rimes: Make Poverty History (which is the compelling slogan of the British campaign against global poverty). Overcoming poverty is seen by many, especially young people, as the natural outcome of faith, even as a test of faith in out time.

The issues of war and peace, conflict and its resolution, were also central. The critical need for a "moral response to terrorism" and an alternative to unilateral and pre-emptive war became a rallying cry. The observation that conflicts around the world are deeply connected to poverty and are not being resolved by war is increasingly apparent.

Protecting the environment--God's creation--is a deeply rooted and growing commitment. Again the alarming crisis of the environment is also socially and spiritually connected to the issues of poverty and war.

The partisan manipulation of issues surrounding the sanctity of life is of vital concern to many. Neither the political Left or Right is practicing a "consistent ethic" of life where all the threats to the dignity and sacredness of life are addressed--connecting issues such as abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, war, pandemics such as HIV/AIDS and malaria, and, of course, poverty. …

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