Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 1 year 48 weeks ago
The 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution was the third in a triad of amendments crafted to protect the rights of recently emancipated African Americans. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery. The 14th Amendment granted citizenship to people who were once enslaved, regardless of race. The 15th Amendment, which was passed by Congress February 26, 1869 and ratified February 3, 1870, reads: Section 1.The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude —Section 2.The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.It took nearly a century of blood, terror, and tears, but in 1965 President Lyndon B Johnson and the 89th U.S. Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965; legislation to enforce the 15th Amendment. Finally.One year more than a decade later, in 1976, I walked hand-in-hand with my mother trudging up and down city blocks lined with row houses in our West Oak Lane neighborhood of Philadelphia. Each time we knocked and a neighbor came to the door, my mom, who served as the judge of elections for our neighborhood, asked: “Are you registered to vote?” If they weren’t, out came the clipboard.I didn’t understand the legacy we were a part of that day, but with each sweep of the clipboard we were brandishing a non-violent weapon in the long fight of our ancestors to be and stay free. For 100 years — that’s five generations — they faced down the terror of burning crosses, threats to life and livelihood, and the elaborate labyrinth of Jim Crow voting laws — all set up to suppress their votes, all set up to crush their ability to exercise dominion. So, when the Supreme Court announced recently that one of the cases it would take up in this session was a challenge to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the hairs rose on the back of my neck.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 1 year 49 weeks ago
Editor's Note: This is the third article in Lisa Sharon Harper’s election season blog series, Watch the Vote. You can read the last article here. With 28 days to go until our nation chooses its 45th president, a string of court victories have knocked down Jim-Crow-style barriers to voting that have been erected in states across the nation. But 13 states are still under the oppressive weight of laws designed to suppress the vote. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, starting in early 2011, 41 states introduced legislation to restrict voting laws. Nineteen quietly passed 25 laws and two executive actions, some of which require government-issued photo IDs, proof of citizenship, fewer early-voting days, the elimination of Election Day voter registration, created barriers to voter registration drives, and created more obstacles for citizens with past criminal convictions. The good news is that over the past few months we have seen one court case after another block the enactment of the worst provisions of these new Jim Crow laws. According to a recent Brennan Center study, 10 courts have blocked or blunted restrictive voting laws — and the Department of Justice blocked one more — since Oct. 3.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 1 year 51 weeks ago
Editor's Note: This is the second article in Lisa Sharon Harper’s election season blog series, Watch the Vote. Read the first HERE.A few folks got a brilliant idea and brought a bunch of organizations together to declare September 25, 2012 as the first ever National Voter Registration Day! Aka, for the Twitterverse, #925NVRD. Woot, woot!Maybe, like me, you’ve moved since the last election. Or maybe you’ve just turned 18. Or maybe, somehow, you managed to sleep through the last two elections. Don’t know how you did it, and I’m not judging, but brother, son, sister, daughter, today is the day to get right with the Lord. In times like these no one can afford to sit back and watch this one like a reality show on Bravo TV. Exercise your dominion; register to vote today!
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 1 day ago
[Editor's Note: This is the first article in an election season blog series called Watch the Vote.] In today's hyper-politicized climate, all of the hoo-hah about voter suppression can sound like a bunch of partisan pandering on both sides.If you're just tuning now, it can easily look like Democrats are whining and crafting conspiracy theories over something that really won't matter in the end, anyway — so why waste your breath?Or, for the even more cynical, sure, it might matter, but there's nothing we can do about it — so again, why waste our breath? Here's why. Check this out.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 2 weeks ago
Someone asked me recently what I thought of something “as a member of the Christian Left.” My insides tightened and screeched into a ball. It was as if Freddy Krueger had run his sharpened fingernails across the black board in history class. Christian Left? Left of what? When did I sign that membership card? Maybe it’s the title of my last book, Left, Right and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics, which was co-written with a Tea-Partier who is also an evangelical Christian. The book does frame me as the one on the left, but if you read my chapters you’ll see that is not my mind or my heart.In times like these, when politicians are sweating to sway voters to their side, or frame their opponents as the polar opposite—the enemy—it is tempting to begin to define ourselves and each other through the frame of politics. We place each other in convenient little political boxes—boxes not made by scripture or the church, but by politicians and the media.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 4 weeks ago
Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is a modern-day sage. A leader in the New Monastic movement, Hartgrove offers New Monastics and the church at-large profound lessons revealed through the practices of catechism — the spiritual disciplines of Christian faith. Tempted by the powers of isolation, consumerism, pride, and violence this generation is drawn to the calls to community and simple living for reasons it hardly knows. Wilson-Hartgrove explains the “why." Through the stories of well-established intentional Christian communities, Wilson-Hartgrove offers windows into the catechisms of the Christian faith. Communion and the Eucharist, fasting, integrity, community, non-violence, and public witness each serve as windows into much deeper philosophical and theological discussions.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 4 weeks ago
It was the summer of 1994 and about 10 friends and I sat huddled around Bibles in my friend’s living room. It was a “scripture party.” The lights were dim and the air was full of anticipation and mystery. We did not know what God might reveal as we opened the book of Revelation and read it out loud, in community, in one night. This bears resemblance to the way the early church would have read the scripture. They were an oral culture, not a written one. The Hebrew Bible was written on scrolls that were read aloud to congregations. Most of the New Testament was written as letters to the worshiping bodies of whole cities (i.e. the saints in Ephesus, the church in Philippi, the body in Corinth, etc.). When received, the letters would be read out loud to the whole church community and received as God’s instruction revealed through the apostles for the edification of their communities.Imagine being one of the very first followers of the Jesus “Way” (Acts 9:2). Imagine being a persecuted religious group. You have to use code — the sign of the ichthys — to identify yourself to other believers for fear of religious persecution. Only when you are gathered together in secret can you speak openly about your faith. Only then can you be fully known and appreciated for the whole image of God that lives inside of you.Imagine huddling in a secret meeting place and reading the Apostle John’s Revelation of Jesus Christ for your nascent faith community in Ephesus or Smyrna, or Pergamum, or Thyatira, or Sardis, or Philadelphia, or Laodicea (Revelation 2-3). Imagine living in Ephesus and reading Paul’s prayer for your church to understand its hope and inheritance (Ephesians 1:17-2:22). And imagine being rich in the early church and hearing James’ letter warning: “Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your field, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.”Imagine hearing it all for the first time. It all feels so real. The call to holiness feels so urgent because God feels so present.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 6 weeks ago
I’m on day 14 of my Ramadan fast — almost the halfway point. My schedule has been so scattershot with travel that I haven’t been able to make it to a mosque yet. Nonetheless, lightheadedness brought on by lack of water and sleep has become my new normal. I asked Daisy Khan, Imam Feisal’s wife and the Executive Director of the American Society of Muslim Advancement: “What about sleep? How do people do it?” She explained, during Ramadan we live like angels. Angels don’t need sleep. They don’t need food or water.“But how do they do it, physically?” I pressed.“Spiritual energy,” Daisy said.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 8 weeks ago
After two days of deep and unwavering pangs of hunger and thirst that had to wait for sundown to be filled, I had an epiphany: In the same way that I waited eagerly for the breaking of the Ramadan fast each night — counting it as something to celebrate — on the day Jesus comes again, we will celebrate. On that day there will be no injustice anymore. Imagine it! There will be no hunger anymore! There will be no one who is thirsty anymore! All will have their fill! All will taste the sweetness of life! All will be free of oppression! All will be able to laugh and play, and no one will be lonely any more.Then it struck me: Ramadan offers an emphatic example of what is to come. Just as the community of creation suffers and groans waiting for all the relationships broken at the Fall to be made right again (Romans 8:18-23), so the communities that practice Ramadan suffer and grow together each day, waiting for their very bodies to be made right again each night through the intake of food and water.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf 2 years 8 weeks ago
EDITOR'S NOTE: Ramadan's first day of fasting began today at dawn. This year, Sojourners' Director of Mobilizing, Lisa Sharon Harper, has chosen to keep the fast during the Muslim holy month alongside our friend, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. Both Lisa and Imam Feisal will be blogging regularly during the coming days and weeks of Ramadan, sharing with our readers their personal reflections on what the holy month, the fast and journeying together as a Christian and a Muslim means to them. To learn more about Ramadan and its sunrise-to-sunset monthlong fast, click HERE. LISA SHARON HARPER:In 2004 I led a group of Intervarsity students on a journey through Croatia, Bosnia, and Serbia on a Pilgrimage for Reconciliation. For four weeks we traveled throughout all three countries investigating the roots of conflict and seeds of peace being planted between the Catholic Croatians, Muslim Bosniaks, and Orthodox Serbs. Along the way, we met with Miroslav Volf, who was vacationing in his home country of Croatia at the time. One of my students asked Volf the same question I asked my mentor years before: “How do you engage in interfaith activity without watering down your own faith?” Volf answered with one word: “Respect.” He explained that Jesus says the greatest commandment is to love God and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Love requires respect. We may not agree with our neighbors, but we must respect their minds and their ability to choose the faith they will practice... That is why I have chosen to embrace my Muslim neighbors by practicing the Fast of Ramadan this year with a spiritual leader who I admire and look forward to learning from, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 9 weeks ago
In the name of protecting the “middle class” some politicians have been pressing for extensions of the Bush Tax Cuts for all earnings up to $1 million. They are calling folks in the top 1 percent “middle class.” This week, President Obama announced that he would extend the Bush era tax cuts for all earnings up to $250,000, but not beyond this threshold. Still hard to swallow the idea of those being “middle class” tax breaks but it’s an improvement from calling millionaires “middle class.”While Jesus loves everybody, there is no Christian tradition of teaching God’s “preferential option for the middle class.” For Christians, it’s still about the poorest and most vulnerable, and here is why these tax issues matter to those Jesus called “the least of these.”
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 11 weeks ago
We have listened to many of the modern-day prophets of our times. They have pointed the way toward justice and restoration. We have prayed together and moved our bodies together and exercised the discipline of silence together in order to get a glimpse at God’s kind of justice. In more ways than one, we have had a mountaintop experience, but most of us don’t live on mountaintops. We live back down in the valleys, in cities and town, in the commotion of life and work and love. And so, it is necessary that we take time while on the mountaintop to reflect on all that God has given us in this special place. To imagine the implications of these truths, these questions, these stories on how we will live our lives.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 11 weeks ago
On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government does hold the constitutional power to mandate that most American's purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. This power is maintained in Congress’s ability to levy taxes.The justices also ruled that the federal government does hold the constitutional power to expand Medicaid, making more people eligible to receive the benefit, but, like the original Medicaid law of 1965, states can opt out of the expansion if they so choose.What does this mean? And what does this mean for Jesus followers?
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 12 weeks ago
Brewer’s law had four legs. Now it has one—a lame one. The Supreme Court’s ruling was not a vindication of Brewer, rather it issued a death sentence for an unjust law. The law is not dead yet, but it may as well be a dead man walking. Now, all eyes turn toward Congress. Our U.S. Immigration system is still broken and something must be done. The Supreme Court has made it clear, that action must come from Congress. Now is the time for comprehensive immigration reform. Now is the time to declare, in concert with the Evangelical Immigration Table and the thousands of people who have signed the Statement of Principles for Immigration Reform, released two weeks ago today: “We call for a bipartisan solution on immigration that:• Respects the God-given dignity of every person• Protects the unity of the immediate family• Respects the rule of law• Guarantees secure national borders • Ensures fairness to taxpayers• Establishes a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and who wish to become permanent residents”
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 13 weeks ago
Within the next couple of weeks the Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, SB1070, which mandates racial profiling by police officers and deputizes them to act as an extension of ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement). Since the passage of SB1070, states across the country have introduced copycat measures into their state legislatures. Chief among them was Alabama’s HB658—the most draconian measure of them all. The crafters of HB658 intentionally pushed immigrants to the point where life was so miserable in their state that they chose to “self-deport.”This week our nation is witnessing a new level of low. Even as we await the Supreme Court’s ruling on states’ rights to pass their own immigration laws, some Senate Republicans are arguing for two sets of federal legislation even worse than the state bills. These new federal bills aim to take money and food from children—American children.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 14 weeks ago
Monday marked the 93rd anniversary of the congressional passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution on June 4, 1919. After 71 years of movement forward and pushes back, the proposed Amendment to guarantee every woman in the United States the right to vote prevailed in the Senate. But it still had 36 more hurdles to jump before ratification; 36 of the then 48 states had to pass the Amendment in their state legislatures. On August 18, 1920 Tennessee became the 36th state to pass the Amendment and on that day women’s suffrage became the law of the land. Florida missed that boat. The sunshine state had never voted on the 19th Amendment before it was ratified. A year later, the Florida state legislature passed its own law guaranteeing the vote to all citizens, but Florida’s legislature didn’t actually ratify the 19th Amendment until it took a symbolic vote in 1969. As a woman I am grateful for the fact that in 1969 someone thought it might be a good idea to at least symbolically say, “Yeah, man, we’re cool with the ladies voting. We can groove with that.” But the current news about Florida’s voter purge has me wondering what happened in the 43 years between Florida’s symbolic thumbs up for suffrage and today’s current voter suppression? The answer: The year 2000 happened.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper, Ivone Guillen 2 years 16 weeks ago
Last week, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley made a morally indefensible decision. He signed HB 658, which intensifies the climate of fear that already hangs over Alabama like low dark clouds before a hurricane. Bentley once claimed that HB 658 would simplify HB 56 — the current anti-immigrant legislation that catapulted Alabama to the national stage. If this is simplification, then I’d like to see Bentley’s version of messed up. HB 658’s additional punitive measures now have created a more problematic situation that exacerbates the current oppression of some of the most vulnerable souls in Alabama. The new law is reckless. HB 658 calls for the creation of an online public database to expose the names of all undocumented immigrants who have appeared in court. In addition, the law targets innocent children by requiring schools to check the immigration status of students.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 19 weeks ago
When we look deeply into our mothers’ eyes we see the beauty and power of grace; their grace offered to us and our grace offered to them.And so their abuse is unthinkable …and the thought that their abuse would be deemed unworthy of protection by the state—for any reason—is unconscionable.Why, then, is the House GOP insisting on a scaled down version of the bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act that the Senate reauthorized with bipartisan support in April? Because they have decided certain women are worth protecting and others are not.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 21 weeks ago
I was asked recently, is there really any hope for Israel? The answer is yes, there is.First, the state of Israel has lived its entire existence in the foxhole of the war paradigm. It is time to come out of the foxhole. It is time for Israel to exercise profound concern, not only for its own security and its own peace, but also for the security and peace of its neighbors—the Palestinians.Second, It is time for Palestinians to recognize Israel’s right to be secure. Israeli mothers should never have to worry if their daughters and sons will return from a walk to the market. Every Israeli should not have to live in extreme fear and the ever present threat of war.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 22 weeks ago
Editor’s note: The following written testimony was submitted by Lisa Sharon Harper, on behalf of Sojourners, to be included in today’s U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights Hearing on “Ending Racial Profiling in America.”As a Christian organization, Sojourners is compelled to consider the pattern and institution of racial profiling practices abhorrent and a direct threat to the maintenance and cultivation of the inherent dignity of every human being living and working within the boundaries of the United States. We believe every human being is made in the image of God and therefore equally worthy of protection of human and civil rights under the law. Racial profiling not only threatens the psychological and emotional well-being of targeted communities. As demonstrated above, the practice can lead to death.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 24 weeks ago
One year after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s April 2011 crack down on civilian protests against his regime’s torture of students who had put up anti-government graffiti, the U.S. and the world are still figuring out what to do about it.On March 21 the United Nations Security Council announced that it backed a six-point peace plan put forward by former UN General Secretary Kofi Annan. By March 27, Annan reported that al-Assad had accepted the cease-fire plan that will take effect April 10. But even as al-Assad met with Annan, reports of escalated crackdowns surfaced. Then on April 3 reports of military escalation in four major urban centers dashed hopes that al-Assad’s April 10 military withdrawal will actually take place.And so the world waits for Tuesday. Then we will know what legitimate courses of action may come next. If al-Assad abides by the peace plan, then the world can exhale and allow peace to have its process. If not, then multiple questions step to the fore.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 25 weeks ago
When I left the Sojourners office Monday evening in the formerly blighted, now Disney-fied, Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, D.C., I walked a half-block and joined a multiethnic, multigenerational crowd that had gathered in front of the luxury Park Triangle apartments. In the middle of an open square shared by the entire Columbia Heights community, nearly 100 people stood in a circle braving the decidedly un-springlike arctic chill.We listened intently as an ordinary D.C. resident stood in the middle of the circle with a bullhorn and shared from the heart. “Forgive us," the unnamed gentleman pleaded. "George Zimmerman was Latino. The horrible atrocity that has rocked our nation was committed by a Latino man. I am Latino. I ask for your forgiveness on behalf of my community.”Then he went on to explain how there have been long-standing tensions between African-Americans and Latinos and that we must begin to deal with them.“Forgive us,” he pleaded again.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 25 weeks ago
Remember Rep. Paul Ryan’s 2011 budget, The Path to Prosperity? Well, it’s baaa-aaack — and this time the path is smoother and wider and offers a quicker trip to judgment. Christianity and most of the world’s faith traditions explicitly demand protection for the poor and the preservation of the lives and dignity of all. Well, the Chair of the House Budget Committee, Ryan, high-tails it down his Path, budget rolled in-hand, in the exact opposite direction from those moral commitments. Bob Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), concluded that the Ryan budget “is Robin Hood in reverse — on steroids. It would likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history and likely increase poverty and inequality more than any other budget in recent times (and possibly in the nation's history)." Any responsible budget plan requires a balanced approach that would both increase revenue and reduce spending. This proposal would cut taxes, merely hope for revenue, increase military spending, and slash most everything else that isn’t protected by large corporate interests.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 26 weeks ago
It’s about to rain. A rolling explosion of thunder just shook the ground my home rests on. Flashes light the sky and moments later … thunder rolls. That’s how it feels when I think of the last moments of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin’s life and the fact that the Sanford Police Department determined after a nearly non-investigation that Trayvon’s killer, 28-year-old George Zimmerman, did no wrong—nothing wrong. Like the thunder rattling my apartment, the death of Trayvon Miller is rattling my soul. Like millions of Americans, I marveled over the fact that I had heard nothing on the news about the slaying in the three weeks since the incident took place. Then, when the Sanford Police released the 911 tapes over the weekend, and the nation heard Trayvon’s horrified cries for help before the single shot that ended his life, the story exploded—like my own heart. Something broke in me. I actually sat paralyzed in front of my television—shocked. Then thunder cracked open my soul and I wailed. I mean I keened … and I couldn’t stop. Trayvon looked like several of my nephews. He could have been any of them. He was just living his life on February 26—walking home from the convenience store before the big game, talking on his cellphonewith his friend. That’s all. Then in the last moments of his life, he was chased, cornered, beaten and shot by a white man he didn’t know for reasons never explained to him—except the accusation from his assailant that he didn’t belong there.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 26 weeks ago
Christianity Today’s film This is Our City is provocative because of its gritty, grounded honesty. This is not a film about political pundits who banter back and forth exchanging policy talking points. No. This short film reveals the lives and thinking of two very ordinary people, their deep faith in Jesus, and how that faith is leading them to engage two of the most consequential grassroots movements of our time. These two movements share one beautiful thing in common; they are groundswells of ordinary citizens reengaging their democratic civic duty—to let their messages by heard and considered in the public square. D.C. Innes rightly points out in his reflections that the film’s title, “Liberty or Justice for All,” and its structure seem to pit the virtues of liberty and justice against one another. Within the first minute of this nearly seven-minute film, liberty is clearly the motivation for Emmett Bailey’s Virginia Tea Party involvement, while the motivation for Pam Hogeweide’s Occupy Portland involvement is clearly “justice.” And both subjects say their involvement is an outworking of their faith.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 27 weeks ago
Rep. Paul Ryan’s (Chairman of House Budget Committee) FY2012 plan, A Roadmap for America’s Future, garnered princely praise in early April 2011, but it was quickly trailed by intense scrutiny when Ryan’s botched math and skewed priorities became apparent upon his budget’s review. Hailed as visionary and courageous upon submission, Ryan’s budget plan ultimately revealed his ideologically entrenched disregard for the poor.A few weeks ago President Barack Obama announced his FY2013 Budget. Within a few weeks, Ryan will submit his FY2013 budget plan for review. Dr. Ronald J. Sider’s new book, Fixing the Moral Deficit (February 2012), comes just in time!Sider has offered practical, balanced, and highly informed guidance for Christian engagement in the public sphere since publication of his first and seminal book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger (1977). Sider draws from his Just Generosity: A New Vision for Overcoming Poverty in America (Sider, 1999) to lay the philosophical foundation for this latest analysis in Fixing the Moral Deficit.Sider starts with a simple premise: We have a deficit crisis. We also have a poverty crisis. Together these crises are producing a moral crisis in America.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 28 weeks ago
February was Black History Month. I ended it by pressing for immigration reform in the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement.When I landed in Birmingham, Alabama two weeks ago, it struck me that I was on my way to Samford University — the flagship University of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). It struck me that the Southern Baptist Convention is the largest evangelical denomination in the country and among the most conservative. It struck me that Alabama used to boast that it had the harshest Jim Crow laws and law enforcement during the Civil Rights era. Now it boasts the harshest anti-immigrant law in the nation.Passed into law on June 9, 2011, HB56 criminalizes Alabamans’ daily associations with immigrants who cannot prove their legal status. Giving an undocumented immigrant a ride can result in criminal arrest. The legislation also prohibits all businesses (including schools, the water company, and the telephone company among others) from conducting business transactions on any level with anyone who cannot prove their legal status. Tens of thousands of Latino families fled Alabama within weeks of the law’s passage. Businesses closed, schools lost huge percentages of their students, and vegetables were left to rot in the fields.I was in Birmingham to speak at the G92 South Conference, a one-day conference for students and pastors hosted on Samford’s sprawling campus. G92 is a reference to the 92 times the Hebrew word Ger is used in the Bible. Ger means stranger or sojourner. The conference began last autumn at Cedarville University in Ohio. It is now being replicated on Christian college campuses across the country. Samford University was the second campus to agree to host the conference.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 28 weeks ago
When Franklin Graham expressed doubts about President Obama’s Christian faith during and interview on Morning Joe last week, it reminded me of an uncomfortable dinner I had in the late ‘90s.I sat down for a pleasant meal in the home of two great friends — one of them a white evangelical faith leader deeply committed to social justice. Well into the evening’s conversation —when we’d dropped all our pretenses and our exchanges moved well past mealtime niceties — one friend asked me something that caught me entirely off guard.“Do you think Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Christian?” he said.I was dumbstruck. I had never heard anyone actually ask that question before.“Yes,” I replied. “What would make you doubt that?”As he explained, it became clear: My friend wasn’t sure whether Dr. King was a Christian because King’s Christianity didn’t look like my friend’s Christianity.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 32 weeks ago
“You don’t know what you have here in America, you know?” said the cabby who drove me home from the airport. When his father died in Ethiopia, he had to drop out of his American university where he was studying computer engineering to start driving cabs to support his family back in Ethiopia. Ethiopia has no social safety net.“In America,” said my cab driver, “you have services and programs that help keep families together in hard times.” He hasn’t seen his family in nine years. His cab-drivers’ salary is hardly enough to pay for a plane ticket to Ethiopia. Besides, if he takes time off, that would be less food, education, and possible eviction for his mother, brothers and sisters.While it is true that America has a social safety net, it is weaker than it was just forty years ago and it’s come under more intense attack in recent years. The deficit is the justification for shredding the net now. And extremists are pushing the party that claims a lock on “family values” to nullify the programs that protect at-risk American families from slipping into poverty.In the name of “fiscal responsibility,” the Tea Party-led House GOP passed H.R. 1956, a bill that takes cash from the hands of America’s poorest working families in order to protect the richest of the rich. H.R. 1956 requires workers to present a Social Security Number rather than an IRS issued Individual Tax Identification Number to claim the child tax credit. Seems simple enough, but the bill is crafted to target working immigrant families the hardest, even if they are legal residents or have children that are American citizens. The GOP called this a compromise. H.R. 1956 is what they offered in return for the extension of the Payroll Tax cut. Congress could have paid for that extension by ending the Bush era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, which were set to expire on January 1, 2012. But the GOP said absolutely not. Instead, they crafted H.R. 1956.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 33 weeks ago
During a roundtable chat with a group of emerging young evangelical leaders recently, someone posed the question: “Has America become a post racial society?”Well, we haven’t had a race riot in a while — does that mean race isn’t relevant anymore?A black president just gave the State of the Union Address. How about that? Does that mean America’s OK with the race thing?Our nation is a more ethnically diverse nation than it’s ever been. Does that count for anything?Scholars across disciplines agree that what we think of as “race” literally was invented here in the 17th century to delineate castes within a system of extreme privilege and subjugation.So, rather than thinking about the dreaded word, “racism,” to answer the question, perhaps it would be more helpful to think about how our society has been “racialized” and then ask if such a racialization still exists or reverberates in today's American culture.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 35 weeks ago
Have you ever heard of healing prayer?Richard Foster writes about it in his seminal book, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home. Healing prayer is different than prayers of supplication or intercession — the kind of prayer where we get to ask God for stuff. It’s different from contemplative prayer — the kind where we get to sit and soak in the presence of God.Healing prayer goes deep into the soul of the prayer with one purpose — to heal hearts and souls broken by life. In healing prayer, the one on their knees invites Jesus to go deep — to reveal core lies she or he has believed about themselves, God, the world, their relationships; to identify the point when that lie took root in the soul; and then to renounce the lie and invite in the truth.I was in the middle of my second year as a volunteer staff member with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship in 1996, when I had my first experience of healing prayer. It was a hard year for various reasons, so a good friend offered to pray for me. She starting by asking Jesus to come a join our circle of prayer — to sit with us and talk with us in the spiritual realm.Then she got down to it: “Reveal the lies, Jesus,” she prayed.We met weekly for spiritual surgery. One by one over the course of a year, Jesus revealed lie after lie that I had believed about myself, God, and my relationships. And the good doctor (Mark 2:17) took out the scalpel and cut that cancer from my soul and replaced lies with truth. The affect was dramatic.Today (Jan. 16), we celebrate the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — a man who called America to face the lies embedded in its soul.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 36 weeks ago
My adoptive dad’s family goes back five generations in Mississippi. They endured the most ruthless lashes of American slavery and the most brutal state-sponsored terrorism during the Jim Crow legal regime. In fact, my dad personally had a brush with the Klan as a child. The Ku Klux Klan broke up an evening meeting at his grandparents’ church in the early 1950s. He doesn’t remember much about the night, except the terror. In his adult years, he looks back and realizes they were probably organizing. Organizing… in Mississippi… before Rosa Parks said “No” in Montgomery, Ala. My grandparents were organizing. Yet even my family history—along with images of sneering white southerners during the desegregation of Little Rock High School, complicit whites riding near-empty buses during the Montgomery bus boycott, and white officers hosing down black children in Birmingham, Alabama—did not prepare me for what I encountered when I traveled to Montgomery, Alabama, last month. I boarded a plane in Washington, D.C., to fly to Montgomery early on December 17. There I would conduct Sojourners Organizing training for Immigration Reform in partnership with the Greater Birmingham Ministries (GBM), a faith-based organization dedicated to building more just communities and systems in Alabama.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 39 weeks ago
Lowes pulled its ad dollars from a show that aims to tighten the tapestry we call America because of a faux controversy drummed up by a hate group that said, through its claims of “propaganda," that it's not possible for Muslims to be American.But the fabric of our nation exists because of the genius of our nation’s founder, who, in the very first amendment to our Constitution, protected the integrity of religion by forbidding the establishment of any one religion as the religion of the state.In every single society before the founding of our Union, religion and state were married. History has taught us that religion co-opted by the state loses its integrity and its prophetic power. Ours was a grand experiment that built America into a grand tapestry of ethnic and religious groups that thrive side by side in relative peace—more so than in any other nation in the world.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 41 weeks ago
The 99 percent offers work and wealthto the commonswith blessing and prayer.In returnschools, fire stations, police officers,Medicare, Social Security, and Food StampsAre snatched from open hands.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 41 weeks ago
HIV/AIDS is a justice issue. The most vulnerable and poorest people still don’t have access to the treatments that save lives. Jesus’ concern for the lives of the sick in Matthew 25 calls Christ-followers to do everything in our power to make these life-saving treatments available to every person in need.“America is a great idea,” Bono said.Fundamental to that idea is the belief that all people are created equal and endowed by their creator with the intrinsic right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.The right to life, the right to liberty, and the right to pursue happiness each demand the will and resources make an AIDS-free generation a reality by 2015.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 43 weeks ago
Do we want to be the kind of America that faces an historic deficit and chooses to extend $690 billion in tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of our citizens while cutting $650 billion in aid to children who need special education, student aid, and additional resources for low-income schools?Do we want to be the kind of America that protects $44 billion in subsidies for oil and gas companies while cutting $47 billion in energy grants to help poor families heat their homes in the winter?Right now the wealthiest Americans are wealthier than they’ve ever been and people living beneath the poverty line make up a larger slice of the American pie than they have since the Great Depression.Is that really what we want? Really?
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 44 weeks ago
It’s time for people of faith to get up off the couch, out of the pews, and MOBILIZE!THIS WEDNESDAY Sojourners and other groups in support of the Circle of Protection will coordinate Human Circles of Protection, a national effort by people faith to show congress and the world that Jesus followers want an America where our credo is bond: liberty and justice for all!
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper, D.C. Innes 2 years 45 weeks ago
Yesterday (Nov. 8), Mississippi voters defeated Ballot Measure 26, "the Personhood Amendment," which would have granted the status of legal person to a fertilized egg. The measure effectively would have outlawed abortion in all circumstances within the state, deeming it murder. It would have made the protection of the mother's life a criminal offense, if that protection risked the life of the fertilized egg.There were lots of points of controversy over this measure. It was so extreme that even the Catholic Bishops denounced it. For me the most haunting question was this: "Who would it harm most?" My conclusion: families -- especially poor ones. When mothers -- especially poor ones -- die of complications in childbirth, families fold.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 46 weeks ago
Nearly 50 million Americans are currently living below the poverty line (that is $22,000 for a household of four) and half of them are working full time jobs.In our current economic system, the "happiness" of the super-elite is secured while the lives, liberty, and access to basic needs of the rest suffer. This isn't the American Dream and it isn't God's dream either.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 46 weeks ago
Nearly 50 million Americans are currently living below the poverty line (that is $22,000 for a household of four) and half of them are working full time jobs.In our current economic system, the “happiness” of the super-elite is secured while the lives, liberty, and access to basic needs of the rest suffer. This isn’t the American Dream and it isn’t God’s dream either.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 47 weeks ago
As you are reading this, the Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (a.k.a. The Super Committee) is making choices about who and what our nation will protect. Will we protect the wealthiest 2 percent by preserving $690 billion in Bush era tax cuts? Or will we protect children by preserving $650 billion in special education, student aid, and assistance to low-income schools? Will we protect corporations by preserving $97.5 billion in subsidies for big business or will we protect families by preserving $98 billion in Head Start and child care programs? We have 32 days left to remind Congress that, "Oppressing the poor in order to enrich oneself, and giving to the rich, will lead only to loss" (Proverbs 22:16).
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 48 weeks ago
Editor's Note: HuffPost Religion is running a series of posts by Sojourners' Director of Mobilizing Lisa Sharon Harper and D.C. Innes, her co-author on the new book, Left, Right and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics, about how Christians should view social issues. Their first issue is Occupy Wall Street.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 49 weeks ago
From the Catalyst Conference for evangelical Christian leaders in Atlanta, Sojourners' Director of Mobilizing, Lisa Sharon Harper, gives her answer to, "What is an Evangelical?"
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 2 years 50 weeks ago
Dear Herman, On September 28, you actually called African-Americans "brainwashed" for their support of the Democratic Party.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 3 years 2 weeks ago
Did anyone else get the feeling, as we watched weather reporters wave their arms frantically in swirling motions across oversized maps of the eastern seaboard -- with their eyes bulging as they pushed out whole paragraphs without a single breath for a period -- that this was all hype? Last weekend, as Irene passed over town after town in the mid-Atlantic, memories of Katrina did not materialize. By the time Irene huffed over New York City on Sunday morning, and the flood of the century was actually just a really big puddle in Battery Park and a floating lifeguard stand in Long Beach, my fear had transformed into complacency. From there I became cynical. By Sunday afternoon I found myself watching the weatherman's bulging eyes as he repeated the mantra of the day: "It's not as bad as we thought it would be, but it's not over." And I thought: "Boy, they'll do anything for ratings." But it wasn't all hype.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 3 years 4 weeks ago
Picture this: Hundreds of thousands of women, men, and children plod across barren cracked earth. Dead cows and human corpses litter the roads, revealing to us evidence of two things: 1) the hottest summer on record in Somalia, which caused the worst drought and famine in 60 years; and 2) twenty years of a truly failed Somali government swallowed up in cycles of violence. Picture this: Posturing politicians claim to stand up for the rights of Americans, even as they hijack the proverbial steering wheel of America. They hold a proverbial gun to the heads of every American, and say outright that they'd have no problem driving us all off a proverbial cliff if millionaires and billionaires don't remain protected from raised taxes, and if we don't cut more programs that protect working and poor people.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 3 years 5 weeks ago
They say at some point in their lives great leaders experience a "dark night of the soul," or a period in life when your feet, knees, and face scrape and stick to the proverbial bottom." It is a time when even your soul feels forsaken. Ultimately, the dark night is not about the suffering that is inflicted from outside oneself, even though that could trigger it. It is about the existential suffering rooted from within. St. John of the Cross, the 16th century Carmelite priest, described it as a confrontation, or a healing and process of purification of what lies within on the journey toward union with God. "Whenever you face trials of any kind," explained the apostle James, "consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4)
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 3 years 8 weeks ago
Shakespeare said a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Maybe, but a Stink Rose by any other name (say... garlic?) might get more play. On July 19, Campus Crusade for Christ announced its plan to officially change its name to Cru in early 2012. Brown v. Board of Education had not yet been fought in the Supreme Court when Bill and Vonetta Bright christened their evangelical campus-based ministry Campus Crusade for Christ in 1951. The evangelical church context was overwhelmingly white, middle class, and suburban. The nation and the church had not yet been pressed to look its racist past and present in the face. The world had not yet been rocked by the international fall of colonialism, the rise of the Civil Rights movement, the disillusionment of the Vietnam War, the burnt bras of the women's liberation movement, the fall of the Berlin Wall, or the rise of the Black middle class (more African Americans now live in the suburbs than in inner cities). In short, theirs was not the world we live in today. So, the name Campus Crusade for Christ smelled sweet. Over the past 20 years, though, it has become a Stink Rose ... warding off many who might otherwise have come near.
Posted by Lisa Sharon Harper 3 years 23 weeks ago