Fuller Seminary, Jim Wallis, and me

This week’s SEMI (Fuller’s student publication) features an interview with my boss, Jim Wallis, and an article by me telling some of the story of how I ended up at Sojourners. For those of you at Fuller, pick up a copy and let me know your thoughts! And if you’re not in Pasadena, drop me a comment and I’ll email you an electronic copy.

Also, for Pasadena friends, Jim will be speaking at All Saints Church tomorrow (25th) at 7pm. Go say hey!

The Obama Budget 2011

Jim Wallis says that budgets are moral documents, and that how we spend our money shows what our values are. Introduced today, President Obama’s $3.83 trillion budget treads a delicate balance between trying to get the economy going again and trying to bring down the massive inherited budget deficit.*

Anyway, the budget for FY 2011 is fairly pessimistic one in that it presumes a gloomier economic outlook for the near future and budgets more for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Moreover, it actually expands the deficit in the short-term in order to bring it down in the long-term. As David Rogers at POLITICO writes,

In fact, it’s not until 2014 and 2015— when Obama hopes to be in his second term— that he has any hope of deficits approaching a sustainable level. Even then he is banking heavily on a new bipartisan fiscal commission to really finish the job.

It shouldn’t need to be said (but it clearly does) that comprehensive reform of the health care system–not just piecemeal and insubstantial legislative change–would help curb exploding costs. Tom Friedman reports from Davos that we’re making the rest of world a little nervous, due to the state of our economy, the political logjam in which we find ourselves, and notably the fact that we still can’t push through something as remedial as curative as health care reform.

And while we’re at it, reforming the financial system would help create a more stable and sound economy, less blown by the winds of bubbles and busts. Paul Volcker, chairman of the President’s Economic Advisory Board, says:

I’ve been there — as regulator, as central banker, as commercial bank official and director — for almost 60 years. I have observed how memories dim. Individuals change. Institutional and political pressures to “lay off” tough regulation will remain — most notably in the fair weather that inevitably precedes the storm.

The implication is clear. We need to face up to needed structural changes, and place them into law. To do less will simply mean ultimate failure — failure to accept responsibility for learning from the lessons of the past and anticipating the needs of the future.

* The NY Times evaluates the history of our country’s red ink, concluding that “President Obama’s agenda, ambitious as it may be, is responsible for only a sliver of the deficits, despite what many of his Republican critics are saying.”

God loves the poor; do we?

Original post: March 7, 2008; update: January 27, 2010. It’s certainly interesting to look back on the journey that I’ve been on over the last couple years.

It so happens that I’ve been reading Jim Wallis’s The Great Awakening at the same time as I’ve started going through Isaiah, and at the same time, God continues to nudge me towards what I may well end up doing. Both texts are challenging, especially with regard to the crisis of poverty, something which I’m learning more about and something I’m learning to care more about.

Reading through the Scriptures over the years, I’ve come to know one thing that I wasn’t taught in Sunday School: God is with the poor. God cares about the oppressed, the downtrodden, those who have no one to speak out for them, those who are suffering under the weight of injustice and an unjust system. And when about half the population of the world live on less than two dollars a day (including more than a billion people living on less than one dollar per day), you’ve got to think that God is doing an awful lot of caring.

At the National Prayer Breakfast in 2006, Bono said:

The one thing we can all agree, all faiths and ideologies, is that God is with the vulnerable and poor. God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them.

From charity to justice, the good news is yet to come. There is much more to do. There’s a gigantic chasm between the scale of the emergency and the scale of the response. And finally, it’s not about charity after all, is it? It’s about justice. Let me repeat that: It’s not about charity, it’s about justice.

And that’s too bad. Because you’re good at charity. Americans, like the Irish, are good at it. We like to give, and we give a lot, even those who can’t afford it. But justice is a higher standard.

Africa makes a fool of our idea of justice; it makes a farce of our idea of equality. It mocks our pieties, it doubts our concern, it questions our commitment. Sixty-five hundred Africans are still dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease, for lack of drugs we can buy at any drug store. This is not about charity, this is about justice and equality.

Jim notes, “low-income people have the lowest voter turnout of any group in society (and don’t make many political donations either!)” (107) so it’s no wonder that advocates on their behalf are hard to find on Capitol Hill.

Broken systems need fixing, unjust institutions need correction, change needs to happen at an institutional level—it all seems rather daunting. But God is bigger than broken systems and unjust institutions. And he is on the side of the poor: “Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker. Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord.” (Proverbs 14:31; 19:17).

It’s as much a challenge to me: what am I doing to get involved in God’s story? What am I doing as I learn more and more of God’s heart? When we love someone, we come to love the things that they love. God loves the poor. Do we?

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.” (Luke 4:18, cf. Isaiah 61).

Links of the Day, January 4

Welcome to 2010! (Here’s Jon Stewart’s review of 2009.)

Since there was ZERO net job creation in the US over the last decade, let’s hope the next ten years go a little better, shall we?

News

Health care

  • From Foolocracy: "Rush Limbaugh praised the American health care system while in a Hawaiian hospital for a couple of days during the last week. What he did not mention is that Hawaii has the most socialized system of any of the 50 states and, with its near universal healthcare, resembles the Obama health care plan."

Immigration

Miscellaneous

A letter to President Obama on Afghanistan

President Obama, currently on his Asia trip, says he’s “very close” to making a decision on Afghanistan. Jim Wallis, Sojourners, and other faith leaders drafted this letter, asking for something more creative than just sending more troops and burning more money–we’ve spent eight years and $128 billion in Afghanistan. Sign on if you agree.

Links of the Day, August 26

I’m back! Pics from the crazy busy, but super fun, weekend will be up soon.

News

Human trafficking

Miscellaneous