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New & Noteworthy

by The Editors 04-25-2018
Four February culture recommendations from our editors.
Wherever You Go ...

In Why Am I Here?, by Constance Ørbeck-Nilssen and Akin Duzakin, a picture book for ages 5 to 9, a child ponders the many different places she could be: a huge city, an isolated forest, a war zone, fleeing to a strange land. A book that encourages empathy and acknowledges the big questions that kids ask themselves. Eerdmans

Faith for the Struggle

Shannon Daley-Harris, religious affairs adviser for the Children’s Defense Fund, offers scriptural meditations to inspire and sustain advocates and nurturers in Hope for the Future: Answering God’s Call to Justice for Our Children. Includes questions for faithful response. Westminster John Knox

No Easy Road

Activist and artist Anthony Papa writes about the challenges of rebuilding his life after serving 12 years for a nonviolent drug offense, his work to change oppressive drug-sentencing laws, and memories of prison in This Side of Freedom: Life After Clemency15yearstolife.com

Life Out of Death

“I did not understand how people changed so much: Some became executioners, others became victims,” writes Holocaust survivor Magda Hollander-Lafon in Four Scraps of Bread, a slim volume of piercing, simple-yet-profound reflections on her journey through hell and back. Notre Dame Press

Having Our Cake?

by The Editors 04-25-2018
We want to support religious freedom and protect civil liberties...but is that even possible?

IN THE TERM that begins this fall, the Supreme Court will hear the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The nine justices will decide: Is a baker with sincerely held religious objections to same-sex marriage obliged—by anti-discrimination laws—to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple?

But underneath the frosting, the case exemplifies a much broader conversation in which religious liberty is pitted against civil liberties. In this ongoing fight, sides are often split down partisan lines, with conservatives championing religious liberty and liberals defending civil rights.

This religious-freedom-vs.-civil-liberties split is frustrating to many. After all, religious liberty isn’t just for conservatives; the First Amendment offers important protections to all people of faith, from Muslims who seek permits to build mosques to Christians who are conscientious objectors to war. At the same time, we care deeply about civil rights, especially in an era when so many Americans face discrimination because of their gender, sexual orientation, race, or ethnicity. In a nutshell, we want to support religious freedom for all while also protecting the civil liberties of LGBTQ folks and other minorities. But is that even possible?

Baptist minister and constitutional lawyer Oliver Thomas is optimistic, but not naive. In “Clash of Liberties,” he explains how religious liberty laws morphed from bipartisan efforts to ensure religious liberty for all into tools used by conservatives and liberals alike to press their own advantage. If we’re serious about protecting both, Thomas writes, we’re going to have to do something that’s easier said than done: lay aside our ideological differences and work for the common good.

Letters to the Editor

by The Editors 04-25-2018
Letters to the Editor from Sojourners readers
Spirit of Compassion

I read with great interest the article on Northmead Assembly of God’s Circle of Hope AIDS clinic in Zambia (“When the Spirit Comes Down,” by Wonsuk Ma, January 2017), because I spent six months in 2011 conducting research there with support groups for people living with HIV. Clinic clients I interviewed reaffirmed my observations about staff members’ dedication, often reporting that they were grateful that the clinic was in their low-income neighborhood. Most crucially, I noted how staff members showed acceptance and compassion toward all clients. While the clinic faces challenges—long lines, clients who sometimes do not adhere to their medications, excellent staff members who may be “poached” by other donors—it does important work in Zambia’s AIDS response.

Amy Patterson
Sewanee, Tennessee

Charismatic Failure

It is encouraging to hear about the good work being done in Pentecostal churches around the globe (“When the Spirit Comes Down”). However, there was not one word in the article about the plight of homosexuals living in these societies. These churches are often at the forefront of oppressing gay people in the name of religion. Until we all confront the horrific situation of gay people (ostracism, forced marriage, beatings, prison, and execution) in so many places, especially Africa and the Caribbean, I can’t take these churches or their brand of religion seriously.

Robin Van Liew
Holden, Massachusetts

Crowning Achievement?

Thank you for providing a magazine that I am able to count on for intelligence and sensitivity in both your writing and reporting. However, I must take exception to the claim that Elizabeth I “founded” the Anglican Church (“Entering my ‘Power Decade,’” by Catherine Woodiwiss, January 2017). While it is true she is credited for the eponymous settlement, those acts of Parliament did not “found” anything that did not already exist. They smoothed the waters so that the English church could proclaim the gospel in relative peace.

Carlton Kelley
Traverse City, Michigan

Hillbilly Business

I want to thank you for publishing the article by Susan K. Smith on John Rush in your December 2016 issue (“Can Business Be Beautiful?”). It presents a different (and more accurate) example of Appalachia than does J.D. Vance’s book Hillbilly Elegy. As a born-and-bred hillbilly, I take great umbrage at Vance’s book. It is a very courageous memoir of one family, but that’s what it is—the story of one very dysfunctional family and the salutary effects of the Marines on one very mixed-up young man. Most poor and working-class Appalachians have not become as disoriented and dysfunctional as Vance’s family. Many of them, like Rush, have started enterprises of their own or are otherwise engaged at jobs they find rewarding. While not all these businesses are social enterprises as is Rush’s, they all nevertheless indicate successful adjustments to situations in which people find themselves.

Mike Smathers
Crossville, Tennessee

Assets in Heaven

Please do more articles on businesses that have doing good in the world as their bottom line (“Can Business Be Beautiful?”). Business owner John Rush makes a point about the profit-making business model that it is the love of money that is a problem, not having money itself. A current line of research, however, is showing that it isn’t as simple as that; money and decision-making power over others quickly reduce compassionate awareness and behavior. Jesus was right about wealth: Good motivations and intentions are not enough. Any condition that reduces our sense of shared vulnerability with others works against our ability to live lives of universal love.

Arden Mahlberg
Madison, Wisconsin

Letters to the Editor

by The Editors 04-25-2018
Letters to the editor from Sojourners readers
Hipster Privilege

D.L. Mayfield’s article (“Church Planting and The Gospel of Gentrification,” July 2017) hit home and is an important conversation. Out of economic necessity after a bout of homelessness, I moved into a neighborhood jokingly referred to as “meth alley” by the uptown people. Our neighborhood health statistics were dismal because of poor access to anything resembling fresh food. When we became the object of “saving” by some churches from the other side of town that wanted to be missional, they didn’t ask us what we needed. We became the project of outreach by young, white, educated, privileged religionists intoxicated by their specialness. The exuberant youths were quite clueless that we had some wisdom about what our neighborhood could use. Most were from two local Bible colleges and had grand ideas about urban outreach.

They planned a hipster coffee shop that the evangelical whites with privilege would use as a base of operation, providing tutoring to our youth. They believed they would open their doors to the unfortunate of my dismal neighborhood and we would come flooding in to be saved by their great goodness from our great need.

I just wanted to recover and get a job. What my saviors failed to see without exception were my strengths—my resilience, the gifts I wanted to bring to my community, and my long experience with making do in the most hostile of circumstances. They could have asked, and I would have told them patiently, but they weren’t listening because they knew all there was to know about poverty and how to fix it.

I didn’t have the gas money to get to church; they were going to Hawaii for a break from us.

My suggestion: If any church or Bible college wants to be missional, ask the community what they most need. Ask who the community leaders already are and help them! Jobs and microloans to small neighborhood businesses are a place to start. Transportation opportunities to those jobs and access to good food are tangible helps. Without giving neighbors the dignity of being understood as people that have much to contribute to our own communities, being “missional” alienates and harms.

Grace Boyd
Sequim, Washington

Summer Psalms

Thanks to Danny Duncan Collum for introducing me to Jessi Colter’s album The Psalms (“Strange and Beautiful Psalms,” July 2017). It is a balm to me during this summer’s heat. Once you hear it, there’s no turning back.

Dennis Abney
Orlando, Florida

New Language Needed

Regarding Leslie Copeland-Tune’s article “What Are Block Grants” in the June 2017 issue: I am frustrated when Medicare and Social Security are called “entitlement” programs. Of course, all who have contributed into each fund during their working lives are entitled to the benefits we receive, but Medicare is a federal health insurance program and Social Security is a federal retirement program. Unfortunately, both funds have been raided by Congress for other purposes and are now in some jeopardy. Perhaps if we used language other than “entitlements,” which gives the impression of being undeserved, these programs would be held in higher regard and protected.

Susan Holcomb
Newberg, Oregon

New & Noteworthy

by The Editors 04-25-2018
Four March cultural recommendations from our editors.
Righteous Rage

For the critically acclaimed film I Am Not Your Negro, filmmaker Raoul Peck drew upon an unfinished manuscript by writer James Baldwin and archival footage to fashion a searing narration about race in America. Opens in theaters in February. Magnolia Pictures

People of the Book

In Islam: What Non-Muslims Should Know, John Kaltner, a Rhodes College professor of Muslim-Christian relations, explains the basics of Islam, including frequently misunderstood practices. Originally released in 2003, this is a newly revised and expanded edition. Fortress Press

Multiplying Gifts

A Chicago church divided a financial windfall among its members, $500 each, telling them to use it to do good in God’s world. Laura Sumner Truax and Amalya Campbell tell the practical and inspiring lessons learned in Love Let Go: Radical Generosity for the Real World. Wm. B. Eerdmans

Displaced Prophets

Mishwar Music , by The Homsies, is a three-song EP recorded in a refugee camp in Akkar, Lebanon, with a team of youth from Homs, Syria. It is available for download on Bandcamp. mishwar.org

New & Noteworthy

by The Editors 04-25-2018
Four September cultural recommendations from our editors.
Miami2you / Shutterstock.com

A scene from outside the Pulse nightclub, October 2016. Miami2you / Shutterstock.com

Piety’s Dark Side

Love the Sinner is a short documentary narrated by queer filmmaker Jessica Devaney, who grew up in a conservative evangelical church. In the wake of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting, she takes a hard look at the connection between Christianity and homophobia. lovethesinnerfilm.com

Crisis and Conscience

Simone Campbell, Kelly Brown Douglas, Jacqueline M. Hildago, George “Tink” Tinker, Kwok Pui-lan, Jim Wallis, and others write about the “confessional crisis” of our political era and possible faithful responses in Faith and Resistance in the Age of Trump. Edited by Miguel A. De La Torre. Orbis

A Lifetime Adventure

Calling All Years Good: Christian Vocation throughout Life’s Seasons explores calling as something we wrestle with not just as young adults but “from infancy to old age,” combining social science insights with practical theology. Edited by Kathleen A. Cahalan and Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore. Eerdmans

Hard-Won Wisdom

John M. Perkins, co-founder of the Christian Community Development Association, has spent decades working for a gospel that is inseparable from racial and economic justice. In the memoir Dream With Me: Race, Love, and the Struggle We Must Win, he reminds us, “It all comes down to love.” Baker Books

Letters to the Editor

by The Editors 04-25-2018
Letters to the editor from Sojourners readers
Eye of the Beholder

In “Where Protestantism Went Wrong” (February 2017), Wesley Granberg-Michaelson rightly critiques some of the consequences of the Reformation. Surely he is inaccurate, however, in arguing that “the Reformation bred a mistrust of aesthetics.” It would be more accurate to state that it promoted a different aesthetic than that prevalent in Catholicism. New England Puritans, for example, developed a “plain style” in literature and architecture evident in the accessible prose of William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation and the beauty of many Congregational churches still standing in town squares. This plain style influenced modern literature and the “form follows function” aesthetic of much modern architecture. Sometimes, to quote a fine expression of the Protestant aesthetic, “ ’tis a gift to be simple.”

Walter Hesford
Moscow, Idaho

Name Drop

Jim Wallis has asked the question that I, and I am sure others, have been wrestling with for some time: “What is an evangelical?” (“White Evangelicals and the Election,” January 2017). As an 81-year-old Lutheran pastor, I have been advocating that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America drop the word “evangelical” from our name. The word has been hijacked; the original meaning has been perverted! Retaining the word in our church’s name distorts the very heart of our identity. The change should not be that significant for Lutherans; when “evangelicals” meet, the ELCA is usually absent. It is sad but true that other words must be employed to convey the powerful identity that the word evangelical once held.

Bernard Kern
North Richland Hills, Texas

Stick to the Facts

I was disappointed in your January 2017 issue’s exclusive focus on the danger Trump poses because of a “racist, misogynistic, ethnocentric brand of nationalism” and policies that likely will hurt poor, vulnerable people (“Is America Possible?” by Heath W. Carter). What of his cavalier attitude toward facts, evidence, and truth, such as his disputing the overwhelming scientific evidence for human-caused global warming? When our culture is on a binge of finding “truth” in unwarranted places, and people are believing what they want to believe no matter how far off the mark (with the encouragement of our president), our democracy is in serious, long-term danger.

Roger Brooks
Madison, Wisconsin

Stop Talking

In David Gushee’s November 2016 piece on abortion (“The Abortion Impasse”), where are women’s voices? Where is the acknowledgment that there are no women’s voices here? Gushee supports not banning abortion. In some cases. I get that. But the rhetoric, implicit and explicit, embodied in such statements and phrases as “abortion is the sad song that never ends,” “the everyday ‘garden variety abortions’ go on and on,” and “that miserable drive to the abortion clinic” send chills of exclusivity, domination, privilege down this reader’s spine. “What is an anxious Christian to do about all this?” Listen to women’s and girls’ stories. Listen. And listen. And listen.

Priscilla Atkins
Holland, Michigan

 

New & Noteworthy

by The Editors 04-25-2018
Four April cultural recommendations from our editors.
An Enduring Voice

Theologian of Resistance: The Life and Thought of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, by Christiane Tietz, is an accessible and compact biography of this German theologian, executed by the Nazis, whose writings on Christian community, resistance, and conscience hold continuing power in our times. Fortress Press

Come Together

Deidra Riggs explores God’s call to love in a way that crosses all divisions (even race and political affiliation) in One: United in a Divided World. She reflects on the aftermath of police shootings of black men as well as the fissures in everyday life. BakerBooks

Song and Poetry

The two-volume Celebrating Wendell Berry in Music features essayist, poet, and farmer Berry reading his work, music by Grammy-nominated bluesman Eric Bibb, and choral and art song settings by composer Andrew Maxfield based on Berry’s work. Volume 2, All the Earth Shall Sing, was recently released.
wendellberrymusic.org

We Gon’ Be Alright

Stakes Is High: Race, Faith, and Hope for America is a collection of essays by A.M.E. pastor, Huffington Post contributor, and social commentator Michael W. Waters. He is both blunt and lyrical as he meditates on police violence, racism, hip-hop, and the power of faith. Chalice Press

Letters to the Editor

by The Editors 04-25-2018
Letters to the editor from Sojourners readers
Veterans’ Affairs

Wonderful to see Standing Rock featured on the front cover and within the February 2017 issue (“A Chorus of Resistance,” by Gregg Brekke). One other moment people might have missed: Some among the thousands of veterans supporting the water protectors went down on their knees to apologize for the atrocities committed by Army units against the Sioux people over the centuries of white hegemony. The elders forgave them. I, for one, wept at the grace of this.

Katharine Preston
Essex, New York

Where Two or More Are Gathered ...

There are some things in the article “Where Protestantism Went Wrong” (by Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, February 2017) that leave me unsettled. The article seems to indicate that a single person (a bishop or whomever) is a better arbiter of the truth than a council or a group (presbytery, synod, etc.). By declaring the priesthood of all believers, the Reformation raised up the importance of all people—educated, ordinary, or otherwise. My experience has been that, on the whole, a council or group is more likely to arrive at a truthful, correct, or workable solution to whatever issue is before them than any one individual in the group.

Mike Smathers
Crossville, Tennessee

‘Duck’ And Cover?

I finished my reading of Rose Marie Berger’s “Mosquito Manifesto” (February 2017) with a positive feeling. Almost immediately, however, another image flashed through my mind: a short cartoon in which Donald Duck goes on vacation. Sitting in his lounge chair on the lawn, relaxing at last, Donald is set upon by a lone mosquito. Those who know the temperament of Donald Duck can guess the outcome. The final scene shows the mosquito escaping into the sky as Donald destroys his mountain cabin with shotgun blasts in a last vain attempt to rid the world of this pesky mosquito.

Is there not a real danger that instead of bringing down the giant, Lilliputian style, we mosquitos might actually provoke annihilation, not just of ourselves but of many unintended victims of the wrath of the powerful who will not care who they hurt in their attempts to rid the world of us?

David Tidball
Roseville, Minnesota

Not Alter Egos

In the February 2017 issue of Sojourners, Will Willimon makes an excellent case for the need to address racism from the pulpit (“Preaching the Devil Out”). However, as a Christian mental health professional, I disagree with his contrast between preaching and psychotherapy. I agree the two are separate, but one is not inferior to the other. Willimon characterizes psychotherapy as a luxury only privileged people use. This is based on historical fact, dating back to Freud, when psychoanalysis was provided only to the very richest. Today, however, mental health is constantly striving to be available to the poor and culturally diverse. I can think of no other institution, including the American church, that is more dedicated in practice to understanding and spreading unity among diverse people groups. I suggest that therapists and pastors pursue this goal together, using our unique talents in tandem, instead of trying to become an alternative to the other.

Nick Schollars
via email

“On the other hand…” Write to letters@sojo.net or Letters, Sojourners, 408 C Street NE, Washington, DC 20002. Include your name, city, and state. Letters may be edited.

New & Notworthy

by The Editors 04-25-2018
Four May cultural recommendations from our editors.
Prison Nightmares

Rikers: An American Jail , a documentary film from journalist Bill Moyers, draws on interviews with former detainees at a notorious facility, New York City’s Rikers Island, for insight into the violence and futility of U.S. mass incarceration. Airing on PBS in May, with faith-based viewers’ guide available for download. rikersfilm.org

Not Just a Game

Jackie Robinson: A Spiritual Biography , by Michael G. Long and Chris Lamb, details how faith helped Robinson, the first black baseball player in the major leagues, endure abuse and fight for civil rights, on and off the field. WJK

Mind the Gap

Economist Thomas Piketty’s landmark 2014 book on growing wealth inequality, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, is brilliant, but daunting at more than 600 pages. Enter Pocket Piketty, by inequality data specialist Jesper Roine, a portable and accessible introduction to Piketty’s vital and evermore-timely ideas and analysis. OR Books

Love and Dissent

With both love songs and protest anthems such as “Corrupción,” Ani Cordero’s new Latin rock album, Querido Mundo (Dear World), is a full-hearted call to embrace life and social justice in the face of disturbing politics in the U.S. and around the world. anicordero.info

Letters to the Editor

by The Editors 04-25-2018
Letters to the editor from Sojourners readers
Unfounded Intimations?

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.

Itai Bardov
Embassy of Israel
Washington, D.C.

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 letters@sojo.net or Letters, Sojourners, 408 C Street NE, Washington, DC 20002. Include your name, city, and state. Letters may be edited.

Letters to the Editor

by The Editors 04-25-2018
Letters to the editors from Sojourners readers
Everett Historical / Shutterstock
Unchaining Hope

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.

John Fogleman
Ontario, Canada

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

New & Noteworthy

by The Editors 04-25-2018
Four June cultural recommendations from our editors.
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

Faith Remix

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

Displaced People

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

New & Noteworthy

by The Editors 04-25-2018
Four November culture recommendations from our editors.
Image from IMDB.com

Image from IMDB.com

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

Inquiring Minds

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

Just Insights

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

Worldly Prayer

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

Seven Elements of Just Peace

by The Editors 04-25-2018
So what exactly does "just peace" mean?
Ivonne Wierink / Shutterstock

Ivonne Wierink / Shutterstock

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

by The Editors 04-25-2018
An Appeal to the Roman Catholic Church to Re-Commit to the Centrality of Gospel Nonviolence
Lee Nanjoo / Shutterstock.com

Lee Nanjoo / Shutterstock.com

A statement titled “An Appeal to the Roman Catholic Church to Re-Commit to the Centrality of Gospel Nonviolence” was released at the conclusion of the Rome conference in April. More than 1,300 individuals and 170 organizations have endorsed its direction, including all the Catholic bishops of Japan.
 
The statement calls on the Catholic Church to:
 

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

by The Editors 04-25-2018
Letters to the editor from Sojourners readers
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.

Lowell Noble
Riceville, Iowa

Spoiler Alert

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.”

Ann Larson
Essex, Vermont

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
Quincy, Massachusetts

“But what about ...?” Write to letters@sojo.net or Letters, Sojourners, 408 C Street NE, Washington, DC 20002. Include your name, city, and state. Letters may be edited.

Letters to the Editor

by The Editors 04-25-2018
Letters to the editors from Sojourners readers
Everett Historical / Shutterstock

Everett Historical / Shutterstock

Gimme Shelter

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.

Thomas Cassidy
Norman, Oklahoma

Base Values

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.

Tamara Cedre
via Facebook

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.

Jim Halliday
Lafayette, Georgia

Letters

by The Editors 04-24-2018
Letters to the editors from Sojourners readers.
Everett Historical / Shutterstock

Letters to the editors from Sojourners readers.

We Cannot Rest; We Must Rest

by The Editors 04-24-2018
We cannot afford to abandon the rites and rhythms that sustain us.

HERE'S A PARADOX: If justice delayed is justice denied, we cannot rest while anyone suffers; at the same time, we can’t work tirelessly for justice without rest. It’s the kind of pesky conundrum we face just as we’re settling in for a night of sweatpants and Netflix: The prophets in the Bible decried those who sit on fine couches while their neighbors go hungry ... but does that mean it’s wrong to re-watch the entire season of Queer Eye when we could be doing something more productive?

In this issue, Baptist minister J. Dana Trent uses the fourth commandment (“Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.”) to reframe our quandary. Through this commandment to practice “ritual rest from our labor,” writes Trent, “we opt out of tyranny and opt into care for one another.” At its heart, Sabbath rest isn’t a pause from justice work; it’s a way of disrupting a culture of what Walter Brueggemann describes as “endless desire, endless productivity, and endless restlessness.”