Mission Trip Story #1: The Ladder Story
Singin' the Old Hymns

"We are called to the fight of our lives."

That's how Bill Moyers ended his address to the Call to Renewal's Pentecost 2004 conference, which address became the cover article for the most recent issue of Sojourners magazine. I encourage you all to read the entire address.

Veteran journalist and ordained Baptist minister Moyers declares that the American experiment of democracy and religious tolerance is under attack by an alliance of corporate interests and the Religious Right. He speaks first about his heritage as a Baptist and as an American. He talks about America's & religion's checkered pasts when it comes to tolerance and equality. Then he asks these questions:

How do we nurture the healing side of religion over the killing side? How do we protect the soul of democracy against the contagion of a triumphalist theology in the service of an imperial state?

Moyers preaches that "There are two Americas today" and gives startling statistics on the gap between the wealth and the poor, on the decline in social services, on lack of health care. He writes, "a broad range of the American commons is undergoing a powerful shift in the direction of private control."

Knowing what his critics will say he writes:

I know: This sounds very much like a call for class war. But the class war was declared a generation ago . . . By the end of the '70s, corporate America had begun a stealthy assault on the rest of our society and the principles of our democracy. Looking backward, it all seems so clear that we wonder how we could have ignored the warnings signs at the time. What has been happening to the middle and working classes is not the result of Adam Smith's invisible hand but the direct consequence of corporate activism, intellectual collusion, the rise of a religious orthodoxy that has made an idol of wealth and power, and a host of political decisions favoring the powerful monied interests who were determined to get back the privileges they had lost with the Depression and the New Deal.


And they built alliances with the Religious Right . . . who happily contrived a cultural war as a smokescreen to hide the economic plunder of the very people who were enlisted as foot soldiers in the war. . . . The corporate conservatives and their allies in the political and Religious Right are achieving a vast transformation of American life that only they understand because they are its advocates, its architects, and its beneficiaries. . . . It calls for righteous indignation and action. Otherwise our democracy will degenerate into a shell of itself in which the privileged and the powerful sustain their own way of life at the expense of others and the United States becomes another Latin America with a small crust of the rich at the top governing a nation of serfs.

He writes that they hijacked Jesus. "Hijacked, he was made over into a militarist, hedonist, and lobbyist, sent prowling the halls of Congress in Guccis, seeking tax breaks and loopholes for the powerful, costly new weapon systems that don't work, and punitive public policies."

Finally, Moyers writes that we need to take Jesus back, and he reminds us of Christians who helped to reform society for the common good, like Dorothy Day and Martin Luther King, Jr. He calls us to a new politics of justice that is not partisan because both parties are corrupt. But we are to enact this new justice in love. Not sentimentality but an active, committed love.

Moyers is calling us to live boldly as people of faith and citizens of our democracy. His comments remind me of Cicero, whose calls to oppose the growing power interests were not heeded and the Roman Republic fell.

These are important times in which we live. We cannot afford to be timid.


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I am not in anyway being cynical or negative here. I agree whole heartedly with what has been written and quoted above, but I must say, these days I feel absolutely helpless to do anything. What is it exactly Scott that you are proposing we are not timid about? All I know to do is pray, and try to stand up for what I believe to be right in my very small place in this world, what more can we do? New parties??? I know I am not nearly as educated about politics as alot of other people are, but the only thing I know to do is go out and vote for what I consider to be the lesser of two evils. Is there something I am missing? Is there some way to get a good, honorable, uncorrupt, and greed driven man, or woman, elected to be our next president? If there is I'd sure love to sign on as a volunteer. Who do you consider (if there is anybody) to be a Martin Luther King Jr. of our days? How exactly do we go about "taking Jesus back"? What do we do with our limited resources to help the people who are suffering so badly due to the greed of corporate America? I think about these issues all the time, and I've said to you before that it bothers me deeply. Through all my pondering (and at times I've threatened to go into politics) I can't find the answer. And I am almost sick to tears of feeling so completely helpless to make a difference for the better.

Jacob Zimmer

Christen, I think that you are feeling helpless because you are focused on the notion that the only solution is radical change from great leaders at the top. I would suggest that you do things on a more individual basis and within your own community to set an example of proper living.

To quote some cliche's: Be the change that you seek in the world. -Ghandi. Think Globally, Act Locally - Bumper Sticker. Ride your bike to work, recycle, volunteer at the homelesss mission, give to the poor and beggars and so on.

Also, research has concluded that people are most influencable (is that a word?) at ages 5-6. Work with those children to teach them not to hit their friends and share their toys so that when they are the leaders they will share the wealth and be seek non-violent solutions to conflict.


Thanks Jacob! That makes me feel better. Hope you are well.

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