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Letters to the Editor
As a Caucasian who is passionate about race reconciliation, I was over-the-moon thrilled when I read the piece by Kathy Khang, “Opting Out of the Black-White Binary,” in the November 2016 issue. I have long advocated to move beyond the black-white binary, as it excludes so many others from entering the conversation or sharing their own struggles and experiences with racism. I can’t wait to share this with others or read the book she co-authored!
New Life, Old Problems
The fact that only 20 percent of the members of Congress are women should be understood as evidence that women are not seen as intelligent and as capable of wise judgment as men (“Welcome to Post-Sexist America,” by Jim Rice, November 2016). Women possess intelligence and judgment because they are, like men, human persons.
A post-sexist America would reflect this truth in the make-up of our governing body. However, a post-sexist America would also be called upon to recognize and support women in the aspect of their humanity which men do not share—women’s ability to carry and give birth to new life. Yet in this matter America is woefully remiss. The United States ranks 61st in maternal health. The risk of maternal death is higher here than in any developed country. We rank 29th in infant mortality—behind Cuba. While seven babies out of 1,000 live births die by the age of 5 in America, only three babies out of 1,000 live births die in Singapore. Surely, these figures would change dramatically in a post-sexist America.
Tesse Hartigan Donnelly
Oak Park, Illinois
Why Not Pro-Love?
David Gushee’s article (“The Abortion Impasse,” November 2016) suggests that “reducing demand” for abortions is the only meaningful path forward for us. Perhaps we can expedite this as a people by reminding ourselves that the summum bonum, or “highest good,” as far as Christian ethics has been able to articulate it, is love. Not life. Not freedom. Love. The problem love recognizes is that to choose life or freedom sometimes means death to someone. Love maximizes both life and freedom and will also sacrifice both for love. We can only be “pro-choice” and “pro-life” by being “pro-love.”
Port Angeles, Washington
God’s heart for justice
Thank you for having the courage to print Brandon Wrencher’s November 2016 “Living the Word.” I’m a 73-year-old white lady who didn’t begin to understand God’s heart for the poor, the oppressed, and justice until I was in my 40s. For about 20 years now, I’ve been sojourning mostly with black Christians, under black pastoral leadership, and studying a plethora of books by black authors. In the lives of my black friends I have seen the truths that Pastor Wrencher has brought to light. I’m praying that I can better articulate his concepts to my white brothers and sisters.
St. Louis, Missouri
Clarification: The 1963 encyclical “Peace on Earth” was from Pope John XXIII, not from the Second Vatican Council as we stated in our December issue.
About Loving Thine Enemies...
LOVING THY NEIGHBOR may be one of the greatest commandments, but loving thy enemies is surely the hardest. In the past few months, we’ve seen an outpouring of the former: crowds rallying at airports to welcome refugees; churches, cities, and campuses establishing sanctuary for undocumented immigrants; courageous bystanders intervening to protect strangers from harassment and violence.
But when it comes to loving the very people who have caused real harm to us and our neighbors—for example, peddlers of fake news, white nationalists, and members of certain presidential administrations—the crowd grows thin. And understandably so: Why should we extend love to those who perpetuate a politics of hate? What would loving those people even look like?
Former white nationalist Tony McAleer has an answer. As co-founder of Life After Hate, a nonprofit that helps people leave extremist groups, McAleer has seen how small gestures of compassion can transform those consumed by hate. So when McAleer met a young veteran inching toward anti-Islam extremism, he took him to meet a local imam. “It’s incredibly powerful to receive compassion from someone you’ve dehumanized,” McAleer tells Jason Byassee in our cover story.
Of course, loving your enemies does not mean condoning their actions. Neither does it mean a disregard for the safety or well-being of those who an enemy may harm, including ourselves. Yet even with these caveats, it’s impossible to domesticate Jesus’ commandment: Seeking restoration rather than retribution for those who do evil is truly radical. As Martin Luther King Jr. put it, nonviolent enemy-love forces us to recognize “that evildoers are also victims and are not evil people.” Try thinking about that the next time you see a sound bite of your least favorite politician.
Read Jason Byassee's profile of Tony McAleer, "Confessions of a Former White Supremacist," in the August 2017 issue.
New & Noteworthy
Woman of Valor
Coretta Scott King walked alongside her husband Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights struggle—and kept on working for social justice after his assassination, until her death in 2006. My Life, My Love, My Legacy is her perspective, as told to Barbara Reynolds. Henry Holt
In Embrace: God’s Radical Shalom for a Divided World, Leroy Barber draws from decades of ministry among diverse people to argue for the centrality of relationships across differences to achieving not just reconciliation, but true justice. Encouraging, openhearted words for divisive times. IVP Books
Sometimes, liberal Christians feel they need to apologize for the behavior of other Christians or churches. In Tired of Apologizing for a Church I Don’t Belong To: Spirituality without Stereotypes, Religion without Ranting, writer and pastor Lillian Daniel encourages you instead to boldly tell your own story of faith and sacred relationship. Faith Words
The Revolution Has Come , by Rev. Sekou & The Holy Ghost, was released in early 2016—but its gritty mix of R&B and gospel, freedom and resistance is more relevant every day. Activists/artists Osagyefo Sekou and Jay-Marie Hill met at a Black Lives Matter protest, and street movements permeate the songs. rshgmusic.com
Letters to the Editor
Pricing Carbon Fuels
Thank you for your fine article on climate change (“Shattering the Silence on Climate Change” by Teresa Myers, Connie Roser-Renouf, and Edward Maibach, May 2017). There is no larger long-term challenge facing humankind. The mention of Citizen’s Climate Lobby deserves expansion. This grassroots, nonpartisan, national group has a very workable, market-friendly proposal to help us move forward: enacting a steadily rising federal fee on all carbon-based fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas). The net revenues from this fee would be returned on an equal per capita basis to all legal U.S. residents. Such a fee would correct a failure of the market to properly price the environmental and social costs associated with use of these resources. It would have a positive impact on economic growth, would favor a transition to nonpolluting energy resources, and would be fair to low-income residents.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
The Pride of Milwaukee
One of the names in Lisa Sharon Harper’s “Find the Cost of Freedom” (May 2017) was instantly familiar to me: James Cameron, the only young man “spared” from lynching, by imprisonment. I only wish Harper could have gone further in highlighting Cameron’s life. Having lived most of my life in the Milwaukee metro area, I have heard so much about Cameron—an extremely studious man and founder of the Black Holocaust Museum, a one-of-a-kind exhibition. Cameron was an exemplary man. He should be much more well-known than he is, and for much more than that he escaped a lynching. He was (and still is, as his heritage lives on) a very important man for Milwaukee residents.
Heartless Housing Policy
I was very happy to read the recent article “Raise Your Hand if You Live in Subsidized Housing,” by Neeraj Mehta (June 2017). It helps to uncover how we “allocate resources to people we value” and shows the inequality of how we subsidize housing in America. From my work with Hearts for Homes in Macomb County, Mich., it is clear to me that negative biases and stereotypes of low-income renters justify inaction on the part of policy makers and middle-class Americans. With the numbers of homeless children on the rise, at a time when employment is the highest since 2001, we still easily blame the poor as “not being responsible” or “having bad spending habits.” However, we seem unable to acknowledge or take responsibility for a housing system that requires many families to pay more than half of their income in housing expenses, putting many at risk of homelessness.
Mt. Clemens, Michigan
Reading Danny Duncan Collum’s piece on Reinhold Niebuhr (“The Niebuhr We Need,” April 2017) and viewing the new documentary by Martin Doblmeier sent me back to my own review of America’s cold war theologian (“Apologist of Power,” March 1987). I write to commend James Cone’s chapter on Niebuhr in The Cross and the Lynching Tree (Orbis, 2011). Cone argues that Niebuhr’s theology of the cross was so abstract that it never occurred to him to recognize the most obvious representation of the former in the latter. Though still faculty at Union Seminary, Cone was not interviewed for the film.
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Letters to the editors from Sojourners readers.
We Cannot Rest; We Must Rest
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.”
New & Noteworthy: May 2018
From Stage to Screen
Pulitzer Prize finalist Anna Deavere Smith brings her critically acclaimed play Notes from the Field to the screen. Based on hundreds of interviews with students, teachers, parents, and administrators, the production brilliantly highlights the disturbing U.S. school-to-prison pipeline. HBO
Love for Creation
Creation Care: A Biblical Theology of the Natural World presents practical, faithful responses to environmental issues. With scientific data and comprehensive biblical theology, Douglas J. Moo and Jonathan A. Moo invite readers to explore their relationship with creation and the Creator. Zondervan
New & Noteworthy
Yes, She Can
Dolores Huerta changed the course of history when she formed what became the United Farm Workers union with César Chávez. Often overshadowed by her co-founder, Huerta’s defiant resistance, struggle, and sacrifice take center stage in Peter Bratt’s captivating documentary, Dolores. Premieres March 27 on PBS. doloresthemovie.com
An Emerging Voice
Folk singer Azniv Korkejian was born in Aleppo, Syria, to an Armenian family. Relocated to Saudi Arabia and then to the U.S., Korkejian’s moniker, “Bedouine,” is drawn from the name of a nomadic group. With gentle guitar and smooth vocals, her self-titled debut album affirms her identity as a wanderer. Spacebomb
The Present Political Quagmire
The February 2018 issue raises big questions for our country and the evangelical church. The authors of “Is This a Bonhoeffer Moment?” (Lori Brandt Hale and Reggie L. Williams) and “When Seminary Becomes a Threat” (Wesley Granberg-Michaelson) rightly point out the risks of making parallels between two different historical contexts (Germany in the 1930s and 21st century America). Yet there are striking similarities, particularly the ease with which evangelical Christians, in America today and in Germany then, accepted populist movements and their nationalistic programs. In both cases, the populist forces were able to exploit societal anxieties and make a sentimental appeal to a cultural form of Christianity that served its purposes.
The slogan of the Nazified German Christians was “Germany our goal, Christ our power!” Based on a distorted interpretation of Lutheran theology, a group of theologians at the time issued a document, known as the Ansbacher Ratschlag, opposing the Barmen Declaration. It was addressed to the National Socialist Evangelical Union of Pastors and included this statement: “... we as believing Christians thank the Lord God that in this hour of need he has given our people the Fuhrer as a ‘good and faithful sovereign,’ and that in the Nationalistic Socialist state he is endeavoring to provide us with disciplined and honorable ‘good government.’” This distant mirror of attitudes—and even words—that are with us today should give Christians great concern. The vulnerability of the American church did not come about in the presidential election of November 2016. The present political quagmire has only exposed it.
I have just read “‘A Terrorist War Against Women,’” by Serene Jones (February 2018). Reading stories of sexual violence against women gives me hope that something can be done about that evil. But there is one voice that is not heard too often. It is that of sexual violence against men by male authority figures. I suspect there are many men out there who trusted a male authority figure and were assaulted. We are hurting.
On Rage and Apathy
IN THIS ISSUE, Victoria Newton Ford writes about Ava DuVernay’s forthcoming movie adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s bestselling fantasy novel A Wrinkle in Time. As in the book, Meg Murry travels through time to find her missing father. But DuVernay, who also directed Selma (2014) and 13th (2016), adds a twist. In the film, Meg and her brother, Charles Wallace, are black. For Ford, this delivers something the novel cannot: “a hero of the universe who, in our current political space and time, is afforded the least agency.” In other words, writes Ford, “Meg is an angry black girl.”
A film that depicts a black protagonist—in all her fury, pain, and love—is especially radical, Ford explains, because America has continually “sought to conscript ... black [women] into a toolbox for the country’s deliverance.” She points to the political heroization of Oprah, Michelle Obama, and the black women voters in Alabama who defeated Roy Moore’s senatorial bid.
New & Noteworthy
A Returning Voice
Songwriter Audrey Assad, daughter of a Syrian refugee, releases her first album of original material in four years. Evergreen features songs about “rebirth, the rebuilding of trust, and the discovery of joy and love.” PledgeMusic
Respect for Refugees
Artist and activist Ai Weiwei brings the global refugee crisis to the big screen through his captivating documentary Human Flow. Filmed in 23 countries, the documentary features stories of desperation, courage, and resilience and speaks to our shared humanity. humanflow.com
A Prophetic Exchange
“How God Intervenes” (January 2018), with Kenyatta Gilbert and Walter Brueggemann, is a wonderful interview. How blessed we are to have these two wise and articulate prophets among us. There is so much insight in their challenging and inspiring exchange.
Political Drama, Then and Now
““DRAMATIC, POLITICAL, incendiary.” They seem like words you’d see splashed across the dust jacket of Fire and Fury, the controversial account of the Trump White House that generated a firestorm of presidential tweets when it was released earlier this year. But in this issue, Bible scholar Reta Halteman Finger uses those words to describe an older form of political drama: the book of Revelation.
Despite Revelation’s reputation as a harbinger of doom, Finger explains that the final book in the New Testament needs to be understood as an example of apocalyptic resistance literature, a genre of writing originally “intended to bring hope during times of political uncertainty or persecution.” This hope isn’t rooted in imperial acts of violence; it’s rooted in the victory of the Lamb, slaughtered but resurrected.
New & Noteworthy
A Voice of Compassion
Artist and activist Mavis Staples speaks to the increasing social divide in her latest album, If All I Was Was Black. In this interracial and multigenerational project, Staples doesn’t shy away from anger but, as always, her ultimate message is the promise of positive change. Anti- Records
Peacemaking with Purpose
Jon Huckins and Jer Swigart, co-founders of The Global Immersion Project, believe peacemaking practices should be grounded in Jesus’ teachings. Mending the Divides: Creative Love in a Conflicted World is full of stories, insights, and questions for discussion and shows what it means to live as a true global citizen. InterVarsity Press
Letters to the editor from Sojourners readers.
Beyond a Caricatured Hero
THE PAGES OF this magazine rarely feature scathing reviews, but in 2011 we made an exception.
That year, in our February issue, we published Nancy Lukens’ critique of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy, by Eric Metaxas. Lukens, a German professor who translated many of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s works into English, described the book as “stunningly flawed,” and lambasted Metaxas for trying to sculpt the 20th-century German pastor into an evangelical warrior on a crusade against liberal Christianity. Metaxas “does both Bonhoeffer and contemporary readers a gross disservice in implying that evangelicals are immune from the tragic error of merging nationalistic fervor with Christian piety,” wrote Lukens.
Fast forward seven years: Metaxas’ Bonhoeffer biography boasts a bestseller sticker, and a resurgence of nationalistic fervor helped win Donald Trump the White House—and the explicit support of many white evangelical leaders, including Metaxas.
Dreaming of A New World
IN WALTER BRUEGGEMANN'S first article for Sojourners, published in November 1983, he described the “radical break” we prepare for in Advent as “the Bible’s effort to break our imagination.”
In the decades that followed, Brueggemann’s keen analysis of scripture has called out some of the darkest practices of American empire, including consumerism, gun violence, financial corruption, environmental exploitation, and sexual assault. But while he’s never shied from speaking truth to power, Brueggemann has repeatedly emphasized that the core of the prophetic vocation isn’t merely to rebuke unjust systems, but rather, as he wrote in 1983, “to think a genuinely new thought, to dream of a genuinely new world that will displace the old failed one.”
New & Noteworthy
Faith in the Dark
Indie rock singer and Memphis native Julien Baker examines sexual identity, Christianity, and mental health in her latest album, Turn Out the Lights. Influenced by the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer, Baker’s album is a meditation on empathy and unity. Matador Records
Memoir of Survival
Nadia Murad was just 21 years old when she was forced into the ISIS slave trade in northern Iraq. Now a human rights activist, Murad details her narrow escape in The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State. Tim Duggan Books
Letters to the editor from Sojourners readers