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From the Editors: Voting Counts
HOW MANY WAYS can you say “resist”? In recent issues, we’ve urged people of faith to “challenge,” “subvert,” and “defy” the leaders and systems that run counter to Jesus’ message of abundance, inclusion, and love. We’ve shared stories of faith-fueled ways to “protest, “persist,” and “persevere.” And on more than one occasion, we’ve indulged in the old prophetic standby: “Speak truth to power.”
But the best synonyms for “resist” aren’t in a thesaurus. They’re words like “organize,” “accompany,” and, as we explore in this issue, “vote.” “Voting is simply the easiest part of the whole process for making positive change,” explains Randy Woodley. We agree: Voting should be easy, though as Carol Anderson explains in “It’s Not Just the Russians,” some officials are intentionally restricting voting access, especially for people of color. So don’t be tempted to think your vote is meaningless; it’s the very power of voting that such efforts seek to curtail. If you read nothing else in this issue, read this: Check your local voting guidelines and ensure you cast your ballot on Nov. 6.
New & Noteworthy: September/October 2018
Singing in Exile
On A Liturgy for the Perseverance of the Saints, Taiwanese-American artist SueAnn Shiah reimagines hymns “for those who have been driven out of the church because of their race, gender, or sexuality.” With warm vocals and spare arrangements, Shiah invokes hope for those currently “stranded in the wilderness.” sueannshiah.bandcamp.com
Faith and Imagination
In A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L’Engle, Sarah Arthur digs deep into the personal journey of the influential and sometimes controversial A Wrinkle in Time author, revealing what L’Engle can continue to teach us. Zondervan
Letters: September/October 2018
Letters to editors from Sojourners readers.
Turning Off the Friday Night Lights
FORMER SAN FRANCISCO 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was presented Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience award this spring—previous winners have included Nobel Prize winners such as Nelson Mandela and Malala Yousafzai—for “his refusal to ignore or accept racial discrimination.” Kaepernick’s “take a knee” protests against police violence sparked a movement, across football and other sports, and they rest upon a rich tradition of athletes who have stood up for justice in the broader society.
Our cover feature this month looks at one of the pre-eminent justice issues for the players themselves, particularly in football: brain injuries. We talked with Dr. Bennet Omalu, the forensic pathologist who discovered pervasive brain trauma in NFL players. Omalu, whose research on chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, was chronicled in the 2015 Will Smith movie Concussion, argues in his latest book, Brain Damage in Contact Sports, that no child under 18 should play football.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or Letters, Sojourners, 408 C Street NE, Washington, DC 20002. Include your name, city, and state. Letters may be edited.
New & Noteworthy
Forcing the Law
Do Not Resist , the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival’s Best Documentary winner, directed by Craig Atkinson, is a critical glimpse into the militarization of policing in the U.S. Where will hyped-up police training, battle armor, weaponry, and surveillance technology take us? Vanish Films
Wary of science, or seeking a way to engage those who are? How I Changed My Mind About Evolution: Evangelicals Reflect on Faith and Science gathers stories from pastors, biblical scholars, theologians, and scientists. Edited by Kathryn Applegate and J.B. Stump. IVP Academic
In Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation, Rev. angel Kyodo williams, Lama Rod Owens, and Jasmine Syedullah are igniting conversations in Buddhist communities around the country about the legacy of racial injustice and white supremacy in their religion. North Atlantic Books
Through diverse writers and his own experience, Orthodox priest Michael Plekon looks beyond the formal and liturgical in Uncommon Prayer: Prayer in Everyday Experience. What are the permutations of the “Prayer of Pierogi Making”? Why should we not fear the “Prayer of Darkness”? Notre Dame Press
New & Noteworthy
Choosing a Different Way
The documentary film Disturbing the Peace describes the path former Israeli soldiers and Palestinian fighters took from armed conflict to nonviolent peace activism, resulting in the creation of Combatants for Peace. A model for overcoming polarization and rejecting violence, in an unlikely place. disturbingthepeacefilm.com
Author Melvin Bray presents a creative, questioning, culturally engaged approach to our sacred stories as a path to a stronger, more just, and loving faith. Better: Waking Up to Who We Could Be is a resource for Christians “for whom uncritical certitude is no longer working.” Chalice Press
Global Migration: What’s Happening, Why, and a Just Response explains key issues linked to contemporary migration and practical responses, guided by principles of Catholic social teaching. By Elizabeth W. Collier and Charles R. Strain with input from Catholic Relief Services. Anselm Academic
Prophets of Profit
In Brand® New Theology: The Wal-Martization of T.D. Jakes and the New Black Church , Paula L. McGee encourages pastors and scholars to see prosperity churches as a formidable force. She explores such churches’ troubling interweaving of commerce and faith and how they disempower their majority-female congregations. Orbis Books
Seven Elements of Just Peace
In April 2016, Roman Catholics from around the world gathered at the Vatican to discuss how the church might embrace the principles of nonviolence and just peace more deeply (see "Game Changer?" in the December 2016 issue of Sojourners.)
And what does "just peace" include? Here are seven key principles:
Just cause: protecting, defending, and restoring the fundamental dignity of all human life and the common good
Right intention: aiming to create a positive peace
Participatory process: respecting human dignity by including societal stakeholders—state and nonstate actors as well as previous parties to the conflict
Right relationship: creating or restoring just social relationships both vertically and horizontally; strategic systemic change requires that horizontal and vertical relationships move in tandem on an equal basis
Reconciliation: a concept of justice that envisions a holistic healing of the wounds of war
Restoration: repair of the material, psychological, and spiritual human infrastructure
Sustainability: developing structures that can help peace endure over time
Adapted from “What Kind of Peace Do We Seek?” by Maryann Cusimano Love, associate professor of international relations at the Catholic University of America, in Peacebuilding (Orbis Books, 2010).
From Just War to Just Peace
1. Continue developing Catholic social teaching on nonviolence. In particular, we call on Pope Francis to share with the world an encyclical on nonviolence and just peace.
2. Integrate gospel nonviolence explicitly into the life, including the sacramental life, and work of the church through dioceses, parishes, agencies, schools, universities, seminaries, religious orders, voluntary associations, and others.
3. Promote nonviolent practices and strategies (e.g., nonviolent resistance, restorative justice, trauma healing, unarmed civilian protection, conflict transformation, and peacebuilding strategies).
4. Initiate a global conversation on nonviolence within the church, with people of other faiths, and with the larger world to respond to the monumental crises of our time with the vision and strategies of nonviolence and just peace.
5. No longer use or teach “just war theory”; continue advocating for the abolition of war and nuclear weapons.
6. Lift up the prophetic voice of the church to challenge unjust world powers and to support and defend those nonviolent activists whose work for peace and justice puts their lives at risk.
The Catholic Nonviolence Initiative is a consortium of attendees from the Rome conference and others who are advocating for a papal encyclical on nonviolence. Read the full statement at nonviolencejustpeace.net.
Letters to the Editor
A Red Flag?
Regarding the Episcopal church called “The Cathedral of the Confederacy” (“Robert E. Lee Worshipped Here,” by Betsy Shirley, April 2017): Token efforts of repentance such as the removal of the Confederate flag will not suffice; full biblical repentance requires massive restitution in order to repair the enormous oppression and damage done to African-American people over the centuries.
It’s always great to read about an entrepreneur who shows that justice can be good business (“Grocery Store Inequity,” by Courtney Hall Lee, April 2017). I was interested to read of Jeff Brown’s effort to introduce quality, convenient shopping to low-income areas of Philadelphia because I lived in the southwest Germantown part of that city for two years back in the mid-1980s. I quickly noticed, when visiting the suburbs, that perishable food was much more plentiful and varied and lasted longer than food I bought at the “supermarket” a mile away from my apartment. One can only suppose that low-income folk did not find expensive, quickly spoiled food appealing and, since they didn’t buy it, healthy, fresh food was harder and harder to get. People are too often blamed for their own poor health habits. Please keep informing about the barriers faced in the name of “just business.”
Spivey’s Still Got It
Regarding “The Trump Presidency, One Year Later,” by Ed Spivey (April 2017): I laughed so many times that my wife wanted to read it! I think humor may be one of the best antidotes for the toxicity of our times. Spivey’s humor is also self-deprecating, which is more effective than the self-righteousness I feel and express so often. Thank you, Ed, for making us laugh while reminding us that we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God.
Charles R. Crawley
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Don’t Discount Adam Smith
Several points from your interview with Chuck Collins (“Wealth and the Common Good,” March 2017) illustrate the compatibility of his ideas with the economic system of capitalism proposed by Adam Smith. Smith sharply criticized stark economic inequalities. He advocated good wages for workers, writing that efficiencies in the division of labor made it possible to spread wealth even to the lowest ranks of the people. He advocated progressive taxation. And he argued that people were the same—no “myths of deservedness” for Smith. Finally, while Smith did not say anything about campaign finance reform, his excoriating comments on the political power of the wealthy are potent. The clear inference is that the wealthy should not have disproportionate electoral power.
For too long, American political discourse has featured a false dichotomy between capitalism and socialism. This dichotomy has been based on a gross distortion of Smith’s system. It is time to change the conversation to what kind of capitalism would be best for the country and the world: the savage capitalism of recent decades, or the capitalism with justice and equal opportunity that Smith advocated.
John E. Hill
“But what about ...?” 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.
Letters to the Editor
I was glad to see “Convicted of the Gospel” by Darlene Nicgorski included in the September/October issue. The “ministry of sanctuary” that she mentioned is an important and timely way to show the world we are Christians through our love. I have been lobbying my members of Congress and letting them know why my faith motivates my advocacy. The faith voice is crucial to immigration reform’s success and is necessary if we want any reforms to reflect our beliefs in human dignity, equality, and justice. I hope that the church around the country will join in the sanctuary movement, whether it is through advocacy, charity, or sheltering those who face the immediate threat of deportation.
You cannot reform the police state or our culture of incarceration (“Black and Blue,” by Ryan Hammill, September/October 2016) without a critique of our country’s values that proliferate fear and aggression. It’s how we were built and how we’ve sustained our way of life. Until then, taxpayers need to demand transparency from law enforcement, stop the flow of tax dollars to militarize them, and advocate for laws to protect citizens—especially citizens of color.
Prophets On the Loose
I read about the Tennessee weapons plant protest (“An 82-Year-Old Nun Did What?” by Rosalie Riegle, September/October 2016) in the news when it happened. I appreciate the update. I did not know that the “prophets of Oak Ridge” were released. Few realize the danger we all face; nuclear war cannot be allowed to happen. Pray for peace and the destruction of these weapons.