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Letters: August 2018
Letters to the editors from Sojourners readers
New & Noteworthy: August 2018
Time to Test
The documentary film I Am Evidence sheds light on the growing number of untested rape kits in the U.S. Featuring testimonies of survivors, prosecutors, and advocates, the documentary investigates why this backlog exists and calls attention to those fighting for justice. HBO
Fifteen years ago, Bryan Bliss witnessed an execution that propelled him to seminary, a stint teaching classes at correctional facilities, and, ultimately, into writing We’ll Fly Away. This young adult novel tells the story of two friends, Luke and Toby, through Luke’s letters from death row. Greenwillow Books
EARLIER THIS YEAR, we lost theologian James H. Cone. “Yes, he was a world historical figure in contemporary theology, no doubt about that,” said professor Cornel West at Cone’s funeral, “a towering prophetic figure engaging in his mighty critiques and indictments of contemporary Christendom from the vantage point of the least of these ... But oh,” West added. “I think he would want us to view him through the lens of the cross—the blood at the foot of that cross.”
More than any other theologian, Cone taught us that we cannot divorce the gospel—Jesus’ suffering and redemption—from the history of violence against black people in the U.S. “Until we can see the cross and the lynching tree together, until we can identify Christ with a ‘recrucified’ black body hanging from a lynching tree, there can be no genuine understanding of Christian identity in America,” wrote Cone in The Cross and the Lynching Tree, “and no deliverance from the brutal legacy of slavery and white supremacy.”
The same week Cone died, the Equal Justice Initiative opened the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Ala., the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the more than 4,400 victims of racial violence, including lynching, between 1877 and 1950.
New & Noteworthy: July 2018
Dignity in Displacement
Struck by the tragic stories of immigrants trying to enter eastern and southern Europe, Patrick Chamoiseau, a French author from Martinique, explores what it means to be a global community in a time of mass displacement in Migrant Brothers: A Poet’s Declaration of Human Dignity. Yale University Press
Based on real events, September (originally released as Septiembre, Un Llanto En Silencio) depicts the coming-of-age of Theresa, a young girl who loses her hearing during a guerrilla terrorist bombing in Guatemala. Guatemalan director Kenneth Müller captures Theresa’s struggle as she navigates a grieving nation. Netflix
Letters: July 2018
Conversations Worth Having
EVERY SUMMER, we pause our magazine work to spend a few days at The Summit for Change, a gathering of faith and justice leaders hosted by Sojourners. Held at historic Gallaudet University, The Summit is Sojourners’ homecoming for old friends and new and also a time to practice two overlooked justice activities: honoring and blessing.
The first group of people we honor at The Summit are elders, leaders who’ve paved the way for us to follow. The elders we’ve honored over the years—including Rep. John Lewis, Marie Dennis, Walter Brueggemann, Ruby Sales, John Perkins—are heroes. We thank them for their pioneering leadership, learn from their wisdom, and ask for their blessing on our own work.
But we also honor new leaders—folks whose names may not be widely known but whose commitment to social justice is unmistakable. We recognize them for their efforts to create a more equitable and peaceful world before we offer our blessing on their work that lies ahead.
Is It Okay to Punch a Neo-Nazi?
NEO-NAZIS AND WHITE SUPREMACISTS are marching again. Counterprotesters are opposing and disrupting. Where do Christians stand? In April, Sojourners senior associate editor Rose Marie Berger launched this question on social media: Is it okay for a Christian to punch a Nazi? A lively conversation followed, eventually generating nearly 100 replies—and about as many different understandings (and misunderstandings) of Christian nonviolence. Excerpts from the conversation below are edited and used with permission. —The Editors
Rose: Is it okay for a Christian to punch a Nazi? Discuss.
Maureen: Last time I checked it is not okay to punch anyone, no matter who you are. Right?
Nate: Yes. Pacifism doesn’t work against genocide. You have to have an opponent who can feel shame. Nazis call for the extinction of my people and have proven they are willing to try and carry that out.
Rose: Is pacifism the same as organized unarmed resistance?
Nate: In my head it has the same results against Nazis. Nazis are my only punching exception.
Larry: Ask Dietrich Bonhoeffer ...
Nate: Show me where Bonhoeffer succeeded in stopping the Nazis. I’ll wait.
Larry: He didn’t, but he didn’t resist passively.
Korla: Choosing to accept death for yourself is substantially different from choosing to accept it for other people, particularly from a position where you’re incredibly low on the list of targets. That’s cowardly and colonial.
New & Noteworthy: June 2018
Four culture recommendations from the editors.
Letters to the Editor
Thank you for uplifting one of North America’s most prophetic and inspirational persons of our time, Daniel Berrigan, SJ (“The Unchained Life of Daniel Berrigan,” August 2016). He was one of the most hopeful people for change in a time and an era when many of us felt little hope for change in the status quo. I never met him personally but was inspired by both who he was as a person and his commitment to a theology of personal involvement and activism for peacemaking.
Shame and Blame
Jim Wallis’ analysis of “intersectionality” (“The Categories That Divide Humanity,” July 2016) felt to me like an attack on local, traditional cultures, particularly those that are “white.” As a lifelong rural pastor, I know well the propensity of rural communities toward ethnocentrism. And within the context of American society, all white traditional cultures certainly bear the burden of racism. But the solution is not to dismantle all local, traditional cultures, but to fashion communities that value their heritage along with the heritage of all other cultures. Wallis’ shame-and-blame language not only fails to effect positive change in local, traditional cultures but also may well be the kind of “politically correct” discourse that drives traditional “whites” to embrace political demagogues.
S. Roy Kaufman
Freeman, South Dakota
Letters to the Editor
Responding to the recent Sojourners article by Ryan Rodrick Beiler (“Undeterred by the Facts,” February 2017) regarding the arrest and detention of World Vision Gaza Director Mohammed el-Halabi, I would like to clarify the following pertinent issues.
El-Halabi has been indicted on charges of membership in a terror organization, use of material goods for terror, providing intelligence and material aid to the enemy in wartime, and illegal possession of arms and ammunition. If a plea deal will not be agreed between the sides, the Israeli state prosecution will present evidence on all these charges in a manner consistent with due process, fair trial, and maximum possible transparency given security considerations.
Hence, it is hard to understand Rodrick Beiler’s conclusion that Israel is “undeterred by the facts.” The case will move forward based only on evidentiary fact. Beiler also questions why Israel would level such charges against a Christian aid organization. The only reason is that, unfortunately, due to lack of adequate oversight, the charges appear to be true. This is probably why Western donor countries have suspended aid to World Vision Gaza operations pending trial.
We also reject and totally deny the unfounded intimations in Rodrick Beiler’s report that el-Halabi has been mistreated in Israeli custody. This is not the case. El-Halabi has also had access at all times to professional medical care and has been visited by his attorneys and family.
Embassy of Israel
Ryan Rodrick Beiler Responds:
Itai Bardov writes at length about the fair trial that Mohammed el-Halabi will be granted by the Israeli legal system. He then declares that “the charges appear to be true.” This is consistent with the Israeli foreign ministry’s campaign, as described in my article, to hype el-Halabi’s presumed guilt long before due process has had the chance to take its course.
Recent and extensive documentation by international, Israeli, and Palestinian human rights organizations (Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, B’Tselem, Al Haq, and others) has indicated routine use of torture and other forms of abuse of Palestinians within the Israeli legal system, adding credibility to el-Halabi’s allegations of such treatment.
Regarding el-Halabi’s alleged crimes, and the claim that “Western donor countries have suspended aid” to World Vision, I would direct Bardov to the recent investigation conducted by the Australian government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which “uncovered nothing to suggest any diversion of government funds” on the part of el-Halabi.
While it is doubtful that the Israeli legal system will offer el-Halabi a “fair trial and maximum possible transparency,” as Bardov claims, it is certain that World Vision, the Australian government, and the international human rights community present a very different narrative from that offered by Netanyahu’s right-wing Israeli government. Whom will you believe?
Correction: Our May 2017 issue credited climate change research to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. The surveys were actually a partnership between George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication and the Yale program.
“On the other hand…” Write to email@example.com or Letters, Sojourners, 408 C Street NE, Washington, DC 20002. Include your name, city, and state. Letters may be edited.
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