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New & Noteworthy

by The Editors 06-05-2017
Four July cultural recommendations from our editors.
Silver Soul

Memphis-born Don Bryant, who is 74 but sounds decades younger, has made a throwback-yet-fresh soul album, Don’t Give Up On Love. Along with the standout, gospel-fired “How Do I Get There?” are exuberant grooves and smooth ballads on more earthly themes. Fat Possum Records

Mutual Respect

Evangelical-rooted professors Marion H. Larson and Sara L.H. Shady believe interfaith dialogue is vital—and doesn’t demand watered-down faith. In From Bubble to Bridge: Educating Christians for a Multifaith World , they offer Christians the perspective and tools to build bridges. IVP Academic

Every Day Holy

Faithful Families: Creating Sacred Moments at Home , by Traci Smith, offers 50 do-it-yourself ideas to incorporate spiritual practice into the bustle and hum of families with children. Includes activities suitable for different age levels (including the child at heart). Chalice Press

Write Me a Letter

Shortly after the 2016 U.S. election, novelist Carolina De Robertis invited writers and activists to explore themes of hope in epistolary essays. The result is Radical Hope: Letters of Love and Dissent in Dangerous Times, with Junot Diaz, Alicia Garza, Jane Smiley, Jeff Chang, Celeste Ng, Hari Kunzru, and others. Vintage

Humility and Justice in the City

by The Editors 05-30-2017
Notes from the editors on the July 2017 issue of Sojourners

“SEEK THE WELFARE of the city.” In recent years, Jeremiah 29:7 has been the mantra of urban church planters. Yet, as D.L. Mayfield points out in our cover story, these mostly white, missional-minded Christians “talk a lot about moving in and contributing to the flourishing of a city, but say little on the negative disruption that these moves can make in the existing community.” Ask a church planter to share their theology of gentrification, says Mayfield, and you’ll likely get blank stares.

It’s a personal story for Mayfield. Despite her missionary training and experience living among the urban poor, Mayfield felt helpless when gentrification hit her low-income neighborhood. “I can love my neighbors with my entire heart and soul, but what does that mean when every month more are driven away by increasing rents?” she writes. “How is our gospel good news for anyone but the gentrifiers themselves?”

And it’s a personal story for us, too. In 1975, the Sojourners community moved from Chicago to Columbia Heights, then one of the poorer neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. For the next three decades, we loved the neighborhood as best we could: We opened a daycare center, engaged in tenant organizing, and ran “freedom schools” with our low-income neighbors. And we tried to learn from those who’d been there long before we showed up.

But when developers began eyeing the neighborhood in the early 2000s, we realized our good intentions couldn’t protect our most vulnerable neighbors. Our mere presence—a couple dozen mainly white, middle-class people—gave the appearance of a neighborhood already “safe” for those with higher incomes. Property values rose, Starbucks moved in, and long-term residents were pushed out.

Mayfield’s article is a challenge to Christians making new church homes in urban areas. As we know well, trying to walk humbly and do justice in the city is a long, often-difficult journey.

Letters to the Editor

by The Editors 05-30-2017
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.

From the Editors

by The Editors 05-08-2017
Notes on making the June 2017 issue of Sojourners.

Sojourners, June 2017

“My hope for the future is that the church will be an authentic witness to the gospel despite the cost,” Filipino Bishop Francisco F. Claver, SJ, told Sojourners in 1979, “even if it means being crushed.” In the decades that followed, Sojourners reported the involvement of Filipino Christians in the People Power movements against repressive regimes that were often aligned with U.S. military power. Christians who spoke out were branded as communists. Many were tortured and killed by the military or vigilante groups.

But the Filipino church, though pressed, was never crushed. “I’ve been very encouraged by what I have seen in our people,” Karl Gaspar said in a 1988 issue of Sojourners. Gaspar—a Filipino poet, Redemptorist brother, and longtime friend of Sojourners—spent two years in prison in the early ’80s under the regime of Ferdinand Marcos. Yet he remained hopeful, “convinced that God is present despite all that which would negate God’s presence in this village.”

In this issue, Eric Stoner reports on faith-based opposition to Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines’ president who positioned himself as a “tough on crime” political outsider and declared himself “happy to slaughter” the nation’s 3 million drug users—and seems to be making good on his promise.

New & Noteworthy

by The Editors 05-01-2017
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

Letters to the Editor

by The Editors 04-25-2017
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.

New & Notworthy

by The Editors 03-23-2017
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 03-21-2017
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 & Noteworthy

by The Editors 02-27-2017
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 02-21-2017
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

 

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