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I attended a conference on Politics and Spirituality conference at the Pasadena Civic auditorium recently, where the speakers were Jim Wallis, author of the book God’s Politics and editor of Sojourners Magazine; Anne Lamott, author of “Traveling Mercies” and columnist for Salon.com; and Richard Rohr, directer of the Center for Action and Contemplation in New Mexico. The emphasis throughout the conference was that social change is most effective when it is driven by inner spiritual transformation. William Wilburforce, a leader in the movement to end slavery; Martin Luther King Jr., a leader in the civil rights movement; Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement; and dozens of others were cited as examples of those who sensed that God was the source of their desire to see people treated with equality. Even the account of Moses encountering God through a burning bush in the desert was an example. After Moses encounters the transcendent, he is told to confront Pharaoh about his oppression of the Hebrew slaves. Moses speaks to power, with power. Without the inner transformation, social change efforts lead to cynicism and burnout, the speakers said.

It seems to me that Christians would not look so intolerant, gullible and judgmental if they spent more time with the more than 2,000 verses of Scripture that instruct us to take responsibility for the poor (affordable housing, anyone?), the imprisoned (prison reform?), the hungry, the foreigner (immigration reform?), the widowed, the sick (healthcare reform?), and let that influence our politics. Budgets are moral documents, Jim Wallis says. It’s another way of saying where you treasure is, that’s where your heart is also. This is not about tearing down the separation of church and state. This is about living lives that bear witness to what the Bible instructs us to do, which is to take care of each other. What would our politics look like if, instead of a quest for power, we had a quest for justice, compassion, mercy and responsibility?

DEAN NELSON

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