Training for Change
Sojomail - April 3, 2008
The church is not something that [Mugabe] or someone else can play with, or something that can be given away to the politicians. The politicians need to come to the church, not the church bowing to the politicians.
- Rev. Ray Motsi, pastor of a Baptist church in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. (Source: The Christian Science Monitor)
Training for Change
We've heard from many of you that rather than a conventional conference, you want to go deeper in learning real skills to take back to your local communities and congregations as advocates for social and economic justice in our Vote Out Poverty campaign. So, we are offering in-depth, practical training from Sojourners' staff and other experienced organizers (including Jennifer Kotler of Let Justice Roll, Rachel Anderson of the Boston Faith and Justice Network, Peggy Flanagan of Wellstone Action, and Lisa Sharon-Harper of New York Faith and Justice, among others) who will facilitate small group workshops that teach practical skills. Following each group learning experience, participants will engage in facilitated small group discussions to take the learning to the next level.
Of course, we'll still have some of our traditional things. We'll have worship services (I will preach on Friday evening) with great music -- Derek Webb will join us both Friday and Saturday evenings.
We will also be hearing from our seventh annual Amos and Joseph Award recipients. This year's "Joseph" - a person who faithfully uses a position of influence to benefit those in poverty - is one of our nation's great civil rights and economic justice leaders, Rev. James Lawson. Our "Amos" - a person who comes from a humble background to serve God and community - is Rev. Alexia Salvatierra, from Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice in Los Angeles.
And, for the fifth year, our Emerging Leaders program (for faith-inspired activists younger than 30) will include Brian McLaren, author of Everything Must Change, musician Derek Webb, and myself. A special campus organizing workshop will help you be an effective advocate and faithful leader on your campus, and there will be networking opportunities to build and strengthen the growing numbers of emerging leaders across the country.
Click here to learn more about Pentecost 2008, June 13 through 16 in Washington, D.C.!
I hope to see you in Washington in June.
GARRISON: When you reflect over your years of doing Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, how would you assess the role of religion in America?
ABERENETHY: I think one of other things that is going to be more and more interesting and important is figuring out how the three major Abrahamic religions can live together peacefully and respectfully. Efforts to figure out how Christianity and Islam can coexist in respectful ways will be a good long running story. I hope to do some things on that. Also, I would hope that after a generation of declining numbers and aging membership that the Protestant mainline would pick itself up and develop a little confidence in its tradition. I'd like to see them get on with the business of being a church and helping everybody around it.
Friday, April 4, 2008, marks the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was 39-years-old, yet had already spent 15y ears in a grassroots movement that radically reshaped the racial landscape in the United States. He was not only a great preacher and civil rights leader, a Nobel Peace prize winner and a courageous voice for peace and justice - King was also a "windchanger."
On CNN’s Situation Room, Jim Wallis and the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins talk about evangelical attitudes in the election. Watch it:
I have become increasingly convinced that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has become the victim of identity theft. Too often we domesticate King, sanitizing his radical message and selectively choosing his words. Our nation embraces the King of Montgomery and Selma but suffers amnesia about the King of Memphis who called for a living wage, or the King of Riverside who spoke out boldly against the war in Vietnam. Dr. King would be deeply disturbed by the crass materialism and naked narcissism of American society today, and he would resist the prosperity gospel that has infiltrated our churches - a message that pimps the gospel and places the crown before the cross.
During the closing days of January, more than 15,000 Baptists from 30 different Baptist denominations gathered together at the Convention Center in Atlanta. Although all Baptist groups were invited to join in what was called The New Baptist Covenant, official representatives from the largest Baptist group in the U.S., the Southern Baptist Convention, were conspicuously absent. Although they were invited, the SBC officials chose not to attend. There were good reasons for that.
A few of us around Sojourners have been reading award-winning Haitian-born writer Edwidge Danticat since she published her first novel Breath, Eyes, Memory in 1994. Ten years later we were thrilled when she sent us a lovely vignette, Indigo Girl, which we published in December 2004. It might be the only short story Sojourners has ever published. When we heard that her newest book, Brother I'm Dying, dealt with the death of Danticat's 81-year-old uncle, the Reverend Joseph Dantica, who died in the custody of U.S. immigration officials while seeking political asylum, we knew we wanted her to tell Sojourners that story—and what it says about the deadly debacle that is our immigration policy today.
Here is a brilliant video from an action around the 5th anniversary of the war ... Yes Lord, more holy mischief! Watch it:
Yesterday NPR ran a story about the on going Senate investigation of the so-called Grassley Six; Crefflo and Taffi Dollar, Paula and Randy White, Eddie Long, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland and Joyce Meyer – prosperity gospel preachers whose 501(c)(3) status is being questioned in light of the Bentleys and Leer jets being purchased with "non-profit" funds from their respective churches. As a Lutheran, I fully reject the gospel of prosperity, primarily on the grounds that I'm pretty sure it makes Jesus throw up in his mouth a little bit every time he thinks of it.
The patience of the people of Zimbabwe is absolutely incredible. They've been living a nightmare for years (inflation is so high that a second cup of coffee in half an hour can cost twice as much as the first) and they just endured a election campaign with serious instances of vote-rigging - from ghosts on the voters' registry to bribes offered for voting for the ruling party (ZANU-PF) - yet amazing hope was the dominant emotion as people went to the polls on March 29. The voting process was calm, and the day unusually quiet.
Over the weekend, James Dobson backed off his earlier assertion that he would not cast a vote for president this year if John McCain clinched the GOP nomination. Voting is a "God-given responsibility," Dobson told host Sean Hannity Sunday night on Hannity's America, and one that he plans to fulfill despite his disenchantment with all three leading candidates. But where does that leave Dobson? Will he backpedal and now throw his support behind McCain?
When I spent time in Zimbabwe last summer, banks were open, but they had no money. American dollars were coveted, but hyperinflation made them impossible to use. The Zimbabwean government had fixed the exchange rate so that, even as its own dollar lost value by the hour, individuals seeking to legally exchange American dollars for Zim dollars would do just as well to simply give the banks their money.
We've gotten enough calls and e-mails from folks concerned about my state of mind for me to think it's probably time for a more upbeat post. If you've been among those worried, you can rest assured that I'm far from despair. On the contrary, I can't remember ever feeling more alive than I have these past few years in Cincinnati, in spite of all the trouble and confusion we've found here. My worldview surely has been shaken some, but my soul is safe and sound.
The United States prides itself on being a country of laws. There is the settled conviction that here citizens obey the laws of the land and that those who do not are duly punished according to the nature of the violation. Christians who oppose the presence of undocumented immigrants turn to Romans 13 to emphasize that these people are breaking local and national laws and that the appropriate penalties should be applied. This passage is a quandary, too, for some of those who are more sympathetic to the plight of immigrants. They are torn between the harshness and contradictions of the laws and this biblical mandate to submit to the authorities.
Because this issue is now about much more than a candidate or an election, but about the issue of race in America, the poll results and the voice of the highest-ranking black official in the country provide a small glimmer of hope that the nation may be ready to try and take a step forward.
Apocalyptic hope is one of the distinctive marks of black preaching. We pay lip service to this tradition in our annual Martin Luther King Day services, but we are tempted to water it down. We overlook the fact that Martin Luther King, Jr. spent the last year of his life criticizing America's role in the Vietnam War. It is almost never mentioned that on April 4, 1968, just hours before he was assassinated, King phoned Ebeneezer Baptist Church to say that his sermon title for the next Sunday would be "Why America May Go to Hell."
This is Zimbabwe, a blog by the protest group Sokwanele, offers on-the-ground info, including a Google Maps-based schematic of places where the government has taken steps to rig the election. At the bottom right, there's a list of other Zimbabwe-themed blogs.
Liberal evangelicals hope to link faith, social justice
"I have been very deeply moved by the history of these great awakenings in our national life, where there was a revival of faith that led to big change in our society," said Jim Wallis, CEO of Sojourners/Call to Renewal. +read more
Audio Reviews: March 31st
Recognizing that America's faithful have subverted their evangelical Christian ideology into a conservative political ideology, [Jim] Wallis reminds readers that to follow the spirit of Christianity truly does mean to go beyond the simple two-party system and understand the greater principles of the faith. +read more
Why are pro-life Democrats marginalized?
Get Religion Blog
Move over U.S. Religious Right, here’s the evangelical center
FaithWorld: Reuters blog
Progressive evangelicals succeeding US religious right
In 2008 race, US religious vote fragmenting
Agence France Presse
For the Religious Right, "The Times They Are A-Changin'"
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