Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Covenant for a New America

A number of people have asked about the coming mid-term elections and the responsibility of people of faith in the political process at this crucial moment in our nation's history.

In the summer, Jim Wallis and Call to Renewal issued a comprehensive, non-partisan strategy for overcoming poverty in our nation, while taking worldwide poverty and hunger more seriously as a people.

The result was "A Covenant for a New America."

What follows here is a summation of the covenant and links to the key sites for learning more and for securing the materials you need to spread the word about this national movement of faith and justice.

I'd love to hear your reactions to the materials. If you would like to receive information about how to join the "Covenant Campaign," just email me!

Throughout the Bible, God shows a special concern for those in poverty and acts in history to lift them up. As Christians who are called to be the people of God, we share that concern.

Our times call for a new moral and political will that merges personal and social responsibility, a commitment to reverse family breakdown, and a more honest assessment of both the individual decisions and social systems that trap people in poverty. Low-income families are too often stuck between liberal and conservative arguments, while neither political party has made the needs of poor families a top priority. Our country needs a new grand alliance between liberals and conservatives that makes overcoming poverty a nonpartisan agenda and a bipartisan cause.
In a time when political and social issues threaten to divide the church, religious leaders from across the theological and political spectrum are building new common ground around a fundamental commitment to the most vulnerable who were such a special concern of Jesus.

We can overcome poverty, but only if we act together and are willing to be held accountable to outcomes. Restoring the hope of our poorest families will require nothing less than a national change of heart. It is a challenge the church and political leaders should embrace. Our vision is:

Work must work and provide for family economic success and security. Those who work responsibly should have a living family income in which a combination of a family's earnings, and supports for transportation, health care, nutrition, child care, education, housing, and other basic needs provide a decent standard of living. Those unable to work should be supported with dignity

Children should not be poor. We also need specific and concrete commitments to brighter futures for our youngest and most vulnerable citizens. We will never end the cycle of poverty if we continue to allow lack of opportunity to be the formative aspect of a child's life. Our nation should develop and commit to a plan that reduces child poverty by half over 10 years.

Extreme global poverty must end. The U.S. should support effective aid, good governance, just trade policies, and debt cancellation in order to lift billions of people out of extreme poverty. U.S. international development assistance should be increased by an additional one percent of the federal budget to honor our commitment to the Millennium Development Goals, designed to cut global poverty in half by the year 2015.

We commit to recognize the valid concerns of both sides in the political debate, and then move to higher ground by working together to make overcoming poverty a moral priority. We embrace this covenant— in the spirit of shared responsibility - and invite God's help as we commit to:

Personal renewal and action,grounding ourselves in prayer and in the Word of God, and living under the call of Jesus to "bring good news to the poor" (Luke 4:18).

Congregational renewal and engagement,serving and working alongside the poor in our cities and communities in the name of Christ and challenging local leaders and institutions to honor their needs.

Societal renewal through the advocacy of voice and witness,holding our national political leaders accountable to seeking the common good for our nation and the world, for all our citizens, especially the most vulnerable.

The Covenant for a New America was launched during Sojourners/Call to Renewal's Pentecost 2006: Building a Covenant for a New America mobilization on June 26-28 in Washington, D.C.

+ See what bipartisan Congressional leaders said during the launch.

Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy. - Proverbs 31:9

»read the full text
»download a one-page summary
»download a bulletin version

SOJOURNERS/CALL TO RENEWAL's mission is to articulate the biblical call to social justice, inspiring hope and building a movement to transform individuals, communities, the church, and the world. We work with a national network of churches, faith-based organizations, and individuals to overcome poverty in America.

Sojourners/Call to Renewal 3333 14th St. NW, Suite 200 Washington, DC 20010 202-328-8842


RC said...

I get so mad when I read your posts and sometimes there are no comments. Maybe it is because people can digest baseball better than poverty. The banker who won the Nobel Peace Prize really caught my attention. I need to read more about him, but his idea of lending very poor people in under developed countries small amounts of venture capital was interesting. I would love to hear your comments.

Chris said...

OK, here's a comment. Jim Wallis is a leftist from the word go and I doubt if anything non-partisan and come from him.

By the way, the economy is going gang busters now. Have you been following the stock market lately?

Anonymous said...

Comments from people like Chris show a very narrow view of what the real world is about. The fact that the stockmarket is doing well seldom impacts those in need. Yes, I benefit from the way the economy is going but if I am not willing to help those in need, then I will be held accountable for my deeds when I leave this life. I may not agree totally with either Larry or Jim Wallis but the dialog must continue. The Bible is full of example of how we should treat those in need.

Chris said...

Sorry I don't appear to know what the real world is about. Actually, I grew up fairly poor. My dad, who lived through the depression, often asked me how much money I was saving. Saving? My salary was barely enough to sustain me. A better question would have been, how are you investing. I didn't know anything about financial planning until I married an accountant. Now I know that just investing a small amount each month will amount to thousands over a period of years. Your investments double every seven years, all things being equal. I believe financial planning should be taught in every high school, better yet, middle school. I know poor people can't afford to invest much, but perhaps if they knew more about it they could find a few dollars each month.

KentF said...

RC - don't get angry, just get a few more friends to read Larry. I'm reading every day I can.

Chris - the reason Jim's words are stinging to you is because they are true. Can you fathom walking up to a poor person in Dallas, slapping on the back and saying "hey friend, IBM was up a buck today?" That's how silly your comment about the stock market is as it relates to poverty. Providing a pithy word of wisdom about savings to a 6 year old who hasn't eaten a good meal over an entire weekend is something Jesus preached against. We can all do better, but first we must get over our own over-inflated, over-caffeinated egos and personal portfolios.

Larry James said...

rc, great question about the work of Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Prize winner and founder of the Grameen Bank in his native Bangladesh. Check out the great read on this subject, The Price of a Dream: The Story of the Grameen Bank by David Bornstein. Amazing story!

Part of Yunus' genius has to do with the way loans are made. Everyone who borrows must join a loan group. No one in a loan group can borrow more funds unless everyone in the group is current or paid off on their loan balances. This insures accountablity at a very grassroots level! At last reading for me, the Bank had made well over $1 billion in small loans, mainly to women who wanted to start or expand cottage industry-type businesses. Their default rate was amazingly low. Dallas has one of the first U. S. branches of Grameen Bank. Central Dallas Ministries hosted a loan group for years here in our Resource Center.

Chris, a word about your comments. No one here would disagree with the wisdom of saving and investing. The problem is possessing the extra capital to take such moves. Jim Wallis and others, including me, are talking about a level of poverty that just doesn't make this possible very often. We also believe that our faith values direct us to argue for just, fair systemic reforms that would allow more people to do what you suggest. There are ways to accomplish this. What is lacking today is political will and creativity to get the job done. I would urge you to read Jim's book, God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It. I think you might be surprised. Thanks for your post and please, stay with us!

RC said...

One reason why I get so much out of Larry's blog is that even though I often disagree with his politics he never puts people down. Some of the words written to Chris are just not productive. They come across as a personal put down. Before I finished this post Larry posted and supported my point in a beautiful way. We could all learn from him. He promotes healthy dialogue, and as a result I am much more inclined to give him a fair listen.

RC said...

One reason why I get so much out of Larry's blog is that even though I often disagree with his politics he never puts people down. Some of the words written to Chris are just not productive. They come across as a personal put down. Before I finished this post Larry posted and supported my point in a beautiful way. We could all learn from him. He promotes healthy dialogue, and as a result I am much more inclined to give him a fair listen.