Jim Rice is a senior editor of Sojourners magazine. He has also served as editor and managing editor of the magazine, director of Sojourners Outreach Ministry, and coordinator of Sojourners Peace Ministry.
Prior to joining Sojourners, Rice was an organizer for the Center for Peace Studies at Georgetown University. He was founder and co-director of Pax Christi: Washington's Peace Education Program and producer of the multimedia "Anatomy of the Nuclear Arms Race." In addition, Rice served on the founding National Committee, Executive Committee, and Direct Action Task Force of the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign, and he was treasurer of the Nuclear Weapons Education Fund. Before moving to D.C., Rice was the hunger action coordinator for the Oregon Center for Peace and Justice in Portland, Ore., and he spent two years as a member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. He has been a member of the national advisory board for Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding and a research fellow for the New Media Project at Union Theological Seminary and Christian Theological Seminary.
Rice, a graduate of Seattle University, is a native of Richland, Wash., the bedroom community of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Rice was a long-time member of Sojourners Community, an intentional Christian renewal community located in inner-city Washington, D.C. He and his wife, Dawn, have two children, Jessica and Adam. He is a member of Hyattsville Mennonite Church outside of Washington.
Selected Sojourners articles by Jim Rice
In John Carr's view, Pope Francis is already shaking up the Catholic Church -- and the best is yet to come.
GOP attempts to circumvent the health-care law range from the inane to downright bullying.
Even at their best, toys like the American Girls Dolls send a mix message.
"Given the option of paying more for dirty power or paying less for clean power, what would you take?" May 2013
The way to stop is to stop. March 2013
Before the election, several bishops went so far as to threaten their parishioners with eternal damnation if they voted for Obama. January 2013
The constraints on political engagement by nonprofits can be frustrating for those committed to social change. November 2012
We'll never reach reconciliation between Christians and Muslims until we address root causes—and take on the haters. November 2012
Drones: War Crimes and Misdemeanors
Hey Pres. Obama: The Nobel Peace Prize committee is calling. They want their medal back. August 2012
Fairness matters, especially for people on society’s margins—and that conviction goes far beyond tax equity to every aspect of public policy. For people of the Book, it’s much more important than politics; it’s a matter of faith. June 2012
A new definition of malnutrition is emerging, as formerly developing countries are globalized into “fast-food nation” lifestyles. May 2012
More than 5 million voters could be affected by new Voter-ID laws and (coincidentally?) a disproportionate number of them are people of color. April 2012
The Occupy movement has already established its legacy -- by changing the nation's conversation about wealth inequality.March 2012
Renewable energy sources aren't just safer than nuclear power -- they're also cheaper. June 2011
An interview with Palestinian Christian activist Sami Awad on why nonviolence is key to Middle East justice. May 2010
Composting with Worms (a “how-to” video)
Sojourners editor Jim Rice and his family have been composting with worms for more than a decade. In this video how-to, he shares 7 steps to composting with worms. December 2009
The Path to Peace in the Middle East
Lessons from Gaza. March 2009
Once thought to be in the pocket of the Religious Right, many American evangelicals today are discovering a deeper understanding of what it means to be pro-life. With Jeannie Choi. November 2008
During the Second Great Awakening, the fruits of conversion included social reform. April 2008
Christian-Muslim dialogue raises hope - and suspicion. April 2008
"God's Smuggler" Brother Andrew has an odd way of breaking down barriers between Christians and Muslims. But somehow it works. March 2008
Proponents claim that nuclear energy is the power source of the future - clean, green, and safe. Are they right? Cover feature. August 2007
The church consensus is solidifying on the need to save the planet. April 2007
How would Mahatma Gandhi confront terrorism today? And what action would the apostle of nonviolence take in response to the wars waged in the name of anti-terrorism? A review of David Cortright’s “Gandhi and Beyond: Nonviolence for an Age of Terrorism.” December 2006
Out of the carnage of Middle East war, can real peace ever be achieved? September/October 2006
In the Middle East, only justice for all is justice at all. August 2005
On mourning in America. August 2004
The Burden of Truth. An interview with two former CIA analysts on the lies behind the Iraq war and the heavy weight of conscience. November-December 2003
"School Choice" Passes a Test. A victory for vouchers -- but who wins? September-October 2002
Sins of the Fathers. The deepest guilt is the church's. May-June 2002
Unfoolish Consistency. Moral principles, not politics, guide the bishops. January-February 2001
Core Values. The Broetjes, owners of the largest apple orchard in Washington state, had a crazy idea -- to treat their workers like people. November-December 2000
A Blank Check for China? China is the current battleground -- as Seattle was last fall -- over the rules of global trade. May-June 2000
Sandino Lives! Actually, even in Nicaragua, revolutionary fervor isn't what it used to be. March-April 2000
Rome Not Quite Ready for Women Priests. November-December 1998
Whatever Happened to Lt. Calley? November-December 1998
A Squandered Opportunity. The biggest obstacle to Palestinian Democracy may well be the emerging state's founding father, Yasir Arafat. July-August 1997
Why Play? Contemplation, freedom, and the spirit of leisure. January-February 1997
Bernardin's Most Important Year. November-December 1996
Beyond the Nuclear Test Ban. November-December 1996
Crack, Contras, and the CIA. November-December 1996
With "Friends" Like These. What to do about sleazy TV? May-June 1996
Justifying the Next War. The real-world effects of the just war theory. March-April 1996
Into Bosnia. Mixed motives and good fruit. January-February 1996
Getting Beyond Labels. Serpents, doves, and the Religious Right. March-April 1995
"Cautious Optimism" on Haiti. Reconciliation in Haiti must be preceded by repentance and rooted in truth. November 1994
The Armor of Righteousness. The Christian Right makes its bid for the political mainstream. November 1994
Where Angels Fear to Tread. November 1994
Shifting Terrain in Korea. Without Jimmy Carter's risky pilgrimage, the world would be a more dangerous place. September-October 1994
Too Many People? The unavoidable reality is that where there is severe poverty, adding more people makes the suffering worse. August 1994
Seeking Common Ground on Abortion. July 1994
The Last Comeback of Richard Nixon. July 1994
World Bank/IMF: 50 Years Is Enough. The Bank will not change its economic model without outside pressure. July 1994
When Dignity Is Assaulted. Biblically based Christians must forcefully oppose this deceptive, homophobic campaign of the Far Right. February-March 1994
NAFTA's Fatal Flaws. December 1993
Be Like Mike? Michael Jordan or Madonna may be worth talking about, but they arguably serve no principle beyond themselves. September-October 1993
Saying No to Bigotry. Why the church must stand up for gay rights. February-March 1993
Cultures in Conflict. Inner-city tensions explode on the streets of Washington, D.C. . July 1991
SDI-Lite: Old Wine in New Skins. May 1991
On The Front Lines Of Resistance. Conscientious objectors struggle for recognition. April 1991
Mistakes Were Made…. Will the Nuclear Industry's Post-Cold War PR Campaign Work? January 1991
Posts By This Author
The Dangers of AI (As Told by a Chatbot)
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IS all the buzz as I write this. It’s been impossible to ignore the omnipresent chatter about AI, from the deluge of online commentary to congressional hearings. As I thought about adding to the chatter — er, providing some insightful perspective from a progressive theological point of view — I wondered what more could be said. So, I decided to ask AI. I prompted Microsoft’s Bing AI chatbot to draft an essay, “from a progressive Christian perspective,” on the dangers of AI. The first line of the response: “As an AI language model, I am not capable of having a religious belief or point of view.”
Well, that’s reassuring.
Concerns about AI aren’t new — science fiction writers have painted grim pictures of machine consciousness at least since Samuel Butler’s 1872 novel Erewhon (wherein Butler wrote in his three-chapter “The Book of the Machines” that “there is reason to hope that the machines will use us kindly, for their existence will be in a great measure dependent upon ours; they will rule us with a rod of iron, but they will not eat us.” One hopes that we’ll find better reasons to hope.). Warnings of apocalyptic totalism abound: In May, Matthew Hutson wrote in The New Yorker, “In the worst-case scenario envisioned by [artificial-intelligence doomers], uncontrollable AIs could infiltrate every aspect of our technological lives, disrupting or redirecting our infrastructure, financial systems, communications, and more.”
Since the Bing chatbot is incapable of offering a theological perspective, I asked scholar Walter Brueggemann for his thoughts.
Giving Voice to Palestinian Culture With Art
WHEN BSHARA NASSAR moved to the United States in 2011, he quickly noticed that something was missing. “There was no place for our story to be told,” said Nassar, a Palestinian Christian born in Jerusalem and raised in Bethlehem. (“My family has been Christian for 2,000 years,” Nassar told Sojourners. “We didn’t convert — the faith was born here!”) But he felt the story of the Palestinian people “was always being distorted or minimized — it was always about either ‘victims’ or ‘violence.’” So, in 2015, Nassar started visiting universities, churches, and community centers with a “traveling exhibit” of only two pieces, focused on refugees from Palestine. “It took a while to build momentum,” Nassar said.
Nassar is now director of the Museum of the Palestinian People, situated in a rowhouse near Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. Through the museum, Nassar said, “We want to share our story from our perspective — who we are, where we come from. For too long our stories have been told by others, who portray us in often negative stereotypes. We want to share with the world who Palestinians truly are.”
The museum’s latest exhibition focuses on tatreez, the art of Palestinian embroidery, and looks at the role of “material culture and art history in preserving a nation’s identity,” according to exhibit curator Wafa Ghnaim. For Ghnaim, the first Palestinian embroidery instructor at the Smithsonian Museum and now a senior research fellow for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the exhibit is about addressing the question, “How do we reclaim our heritage?” The exhibit includes embroidered dresses from before and after 1948—the year of what Palestinians call the Nakba, or catastrophe, when according to the Institute for Palestine Studies, two-thirds of the Palestinian population was uprooted as the State of Israel was created. “The dresses created before 1948 reflect a village identity,” Ghnaim, an expert in Palestinian traditional dress, told Sojourners, “while dresses created after 1948 reflect a national identity.”
The Peril of Unchecked Growth
IT SEEMS PATENTLY obvious: We live in a world of limited resources. Because of that, humans simply cannot continue to relentlessly produce and consume more and more stuff and expect the planet to survive. The path of unchecked growth is, without doubt, not sustainable. And yet, mainstream economists and headline writers still seem stuck in the mantra that “growth” (by which they mean increases in misleading measures such as gross domestic product) is an unmitigated good — the alternatives being dire situations such as “stagflation” and recession, and thus to be avoided at all costs.
Prophets among us have challenged that view, and have been ostracized by “respectable” experts as a result. Pope Francis, for instance, in his 2020 book Let Us Dream, wrote that “in the wealthier parts of the world, the fixation with constant economic growth has become destabilizing, producing vast inequalities and putting the natural world out of balance.” Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, in her usual plain-spoken way, famously challenged world leaders on the subject: “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”
The Dangers of a ‘Christian Nation’
ALMOST HALF OF Americans believe the United States should be a “Christian nation,” according to a survey this fall, and a significant percentage say that the Bible should have more sway than the will of the people in shaping U.S. laws when the two conflict. The opinions expressed in the October survey by the Pew Research Center break along party lines, with three-quarters of Republicans (and less than half of Democrats) saying the founders intended for the country to be a Christian nation, and 4 in 10 Republicans (compared to 16 percent of Democrats) believing that the Bible, rather than majority rule, should be the source of the nation’s laws. (A similar percentage of Republicans — 39 percent — surveyed by the American Enterprise Institute in 2021 said that political violence may be necessary to “protect America.”) This summer, Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene declared that “We need to be the party of nationalism, and I’m a Christian, and I say it proudly, we should be Christian nationalists.”
While it may seem that a portion of one of the country’s two main parties has wandered off to never-never land, the survey doesn’t mean the country is heading toward theocracy—yet. Most of the respondents who say the U.S. should be a Christian nation, according to Pew, “are thinking of some definition of the term other than a government-imposed theocracy.” (A small minority, in the words of one respondent, view Christian nationalism as a way “to use the government to impose an extreme, fringe version of Christianity on everyone in the nation, regardless of others’ religious views. They are no different than al-Qaida or the Taliban.”)
Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Worker Justice
WHY THE RECENT surge in union activity? The nationwide shortage of workers is one factor, to be sure, as is the COVID pandemic. But another contagion might be even more important: Hope. “You see it most clearly with the Starbucks campaign where they won those initial two victories, and it was like a switch going off for people: ‘We can do this!’” labor attorney Alex van Schaick told Sojourners. “There was a contagion effect, in a positive sense. Hope is contagious — I think that’s really true.” Clayton Sinyai, executive director of the Catholic Labor Network, agreed that the confidence and resolve of workers is making a dramatic difference. “It seemed for a long time that employers had gotten so skilled at manipulating the union election process that a lot of people had become very discouraged about trying to form unions,” Sinyai said. “Now we’re seeing a generation of workers who are not taking no for an answer.”
Taking a Stand on Behalf of Peace
DURING THE “KLITSCHKO ERA,” the first decade and a half of this century, Vitali Klitschko and his brother, Wladimir, reigned over the world of heavyweight boxing—The Ring magazine listed both of them on its list of the greatest heavyweights of all time. Today, the brothers are engaged in a battle with much higher stakes than anything they faced in the ring. Vitali is now mayor of Kyiv, Ukraine. Soon after Vladimir Putin’s forces stormed into Ukraine, the brothers issued a call on social media for religious leaders and others to visit their embattled country as a sign of solidarity and support.
Are Military Chaplains Serving Two Masters?
PUTIN'S CARNAGE IN Ukraine has given us a horrendous window into the immorality of modern warfare. We may feel one side is an innocent victim and the other an egregious aggressor, but the images from bombed-out civilian sites give us daily, gruesome reminders that the waging of war today is anything but “just,” typified by indiscriminate killing, high civilian casualties, and military actions that are in no way last resorts—and behind all this brutality, the very real threat from even-more-devastating nuclear “weapons of mass destruction.” War is hell, and it always has been, but modern weaponry, tactics, and attitudes make it perhaps more hellacious than ever, especially for civilians.
In this context, who can serve as the outside moral voice, raising questions around the ethics of modern warfare? Who can bring to bear the church’s teaching on war and hold the warriors, particularly those who profess faith, to account? Who can challenge the moral framework of a war and how it is waged? The answer to those questions is probably not “military chaplains.” Tom Witt, a longtime activist and former head of the Lutheran Peace Fellowship, is concerned about the fact that military chaplains are in the military chain of command. “When chaplains are hired by, under the command of, and getting paid by the military,” Witt told Sojourners, “there’s not much chance they can be anything other than cheerleaders, or people who affirm whatever kind of war that we’re in, even if it’s not a so-called ‘just war.’” What we have, Witt said, “is a military chaplaincy rather than a chaplaincy to the military”—and such “embedded” chaplains aren’t free to oppose military doctrines or actions, even if they contradict the teachings of the church.
Why Does It Matter That We Get Mary Magdalene Right?
THE NEW TESTAMENT stories of Mary Magdalene—and the way the church has treated her since biblical times—tell us a lot about the church today, and perhaps even more about our still-patriarchal society in general. In scripture, and in other contemporaneous documents, Mary is portrayed as one of Jesus’ closest confidants; after his resurrection, Jesus appears to her first and commissions her to tell the others (John 20). But, as Kyndall Rae Rothaus explains in this issue, the church has had a difficult time accepting the biblical portrait of Mary as one of Jesus’ closest and most faithful disciples. Instead, beginning most notably with a 6th- century papal sermon that called her a prostitute, Mary has been portrayed as a “fallen woman” in need of repentance or, sometimes, as Jesus’ lover, but not as the “apostle to the apostles” she became by merit.
The Church Is in a Process of Radical Transformation
THREE ARTICLES IN this issue examine the various ways the church is in a process of radical transformation. In our cover feature, Peter Chin looks at the likely cataclysmic disruption ahead—particularly for the institutional church—as growing numbers of pastors consider leaving ministry. In our Commentary section, sociologist Michael O. Emerson draws on extensive research and concludes that many white U.S. Christians repeatedly place being white ahead of being Christian—so much that they’re practicing, in effect, a “religion of whiteness.” And Lexi McMenamin explores how some Christian colleges and universities continue to treat LGBTQ students as second-class citizens, and how alumni are stepping in to support equal rights and affirming spaces for all students.
We Need to Talk About Military Spending
THIS SPRING, THE Biden administration announced it was pursuing a military budget for next year that exceeds $813 billion, an increase of $31 billion over last year (which saw an increase of $32.5 billion from the year before). Among the Pentagon’s priorities, according to a Reuters report, is the expenditure of billions on new and upgraded (and nuclear-equipped) ballistic missile submarines, land-based missiles, and bombers. The Reuters reporter noted, “The budget would benefit the biggest U.S. defense contractors including Lockheed, Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N), and General Dynamics Corp.” That it will. Whether it will benefit the rest of us is another matter altogether. As President Dwight Eisenhower put it in his warning about the growing influence of what he called the “military-industrial complex,” these obscene levels of military spending are “a theft from those who hunger and are not fed.”
But ... is now the time to raise questions about military spending, in the context of Putin’s brutal adventurism in Ukraine? Shouldn’t we just hold our tongues at a time like this, even if we are deeply concerned that such spending makes the United States, and the world, less secure? Even as we see our infrastructure crumble due to an alleged lack of resources, our schools struggle to reach a minimally acceptable level of support, and so many other domestic programs and activities (the kinds of things that build real security) suffer from insufficient funding—while Lockheed/Northrop et al. are doing quite well, thank you very much? Shouldn’t we remain silent, even as we see the Pentagon billions supporting not “defense” of the people of the U.S. but rather the projection of empire around the globe?
From the Editor: June 2022
ON JUNE 18, 2015, 350 leaders “committed to changing the world through faith and justice” came to Catholic University in Washington, D.C., for Sojourners’ annual gathering, The Summit. The planned sessions that day included “Criminalization of Blackness, Poverty, and Youth,” “Implicit Bias 2.0,” and “An Examination of Restorative and Transformative Justice Models.” As we gathered, we began to hear news of a horrible tragedy that had occurred the night before at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. We learned that nine church members were killed by a white supremacist during a Bible study. Our gathering became a time to hold one another in prayerful lamentation and shared grief.
From the Editor: May 2022
IN OUR COVER article, Mennonite pastor Isaac Villegas looks at communities of people taking care of one another in examples of “mutual aid.” As Villegas explains, Anabaptists—the ethnic and spiritual forebears of several Christian denominations, including Mennonites—have a long history of such mutual care, tracing back not only to the Radical Reformation of the 16th century but to the earliest Christian communities, as portrayed in the New Testament book of Acts.
‘A Nuclear War Cannot Be Won and Must Never Be Fought’
President Vladimir Putin’s announcement on Sunday that he had ordered Russian nuclear forces to high alert (he called it a “special mode of combat duty”) brought to mind some of the most dangerous days of Cold War brinkmanship. For four decades, bellicose Soviet and American rhetoric and actions — from the Cuban missile crisis to Reagan administration talk of a “winnable” nuclear war — kept the world at very real risk of annhilation. (The Biden administration, to its credit, responded this week to Putin’s provocations by asserting, correctly, that “A nuclear war cannot be won, and must never be fought,” as a White House offical put it to Reuters, and declined to escalate the U.S. nuclear alert status.)
What's in a Name?
WHEN THE WASHINGTON Football Team announced its new name in February, some longtime activists were less than impressed. “The way the franchise and its fans act like the past half-century never happened,” responded Amanda Blackhorse, a member of the Navajo Nation, “like we’re supposed to cheer for something that should have happened decades ago.” For Blackhorse and many others, a symbolic step like a name change—which the team’s leadership was forced to take, “kicking and screaming,” in the face of a campaign that began in the 1960s—“feels hollow” without genuine action to back it up, beginning with acknowledging the damage and making real efforts to repair the harm done to communities.
But getting rid of offensive names, while not a replacement for reparative, structural change, isn’t without significance. And it’s not only about sports franchises—many religious institutions have their own work to do, often involving legacies that go back centuries. Princeton Theological Seminary confronted just such a case earlier this year concerning its chapel named in honor of Samuel Miller, the seminary’s second professor.
From the Editor: April 2022
OVER THE PAST four or five decades, many Christians have provided leadership and active support for movements to end U.S. wars in Vietnam and Central America, to oppose the nuclear arms race and apartheid in South Africa, and to fight for the rights of racial minorities and immigrants—standing on the side of peace and human rights for a wide variety of people. But not for everybody. Aleja Hertzler-McCain explains in this issue that individual congregations have stepped up on behalf of disability rights, but the broader church has sometimes fallen short.
From the Editor: March 2022
IN THIS MONTH'S cover feature, Lydia Wylie-Kellermann wrestles with one of the central dilemmas of parenting: the tension between protecting our children and empowering them for action. That tension is made more pointed, and the stakes elevated, by the crises we face—including, perhaps most urgently, climate change. Though I imagine that balance has been one of the more challenging aspects of raising children since the invention of parenthood.
The Truth May Set Us Free, But Not Without a Struggle
THE REVISIONIST VERSIONS of Jan. 6—some would call it gaslighting—began soon after the attempted coup at the U.S. Capitol a year ago. One Republican member of Congress likened it to “a normal tourist visit.” Others called the rioters “peaceful patriots,” and still others claimed that, no, they weren’t Trump supporters at all. These apologists for sedition seemed to want people to forget that, um, it’s all on video. It quickly became painfully evident that the Jan. 6 insurrection, like the big lie it was based on, was not only an attack on constitutional processes, but on truth itself.
Is ‘Social Justice' a Heresy?
FOR ARCHBISHOP JOSÉ Gomez of Los Angeles, social justice movements are “pseudo-religions.” In a November speech, Gomez said that “today’s critical theories” are “profoundly atheistic,” that they spring from a “Marxist cultural vision,” and that they “resemble” heresies in church history. He even blamed social justice movements for “causing new forms of social division, discrimination, intolerance, and injustice.”
Black Catholic theologians and others responded to Gomez’s remarks with a petition that read, in part, “Your speech was particularly painful and offensive to Black Catholic advocates in the United States who have organized for racial justice in the face of indifference and even hostility from many white Christians.” The National Black Sisters’ Conference pointed out that “BLM is not a pseudo-religion; nor is it a ‘dangerous substitute for true religion.’ It is a movement very much in the tradition of Catholic Social Teaching.” And someone ought to introduce Archbishop Gomez to Pope Francis who, in his message for World Youth Day this fall, encouraged young people to “Arise! Uphold social justice, truth, and integrity, human rights. Protect the persecuted, the poor and the vulnerable, those who have no voice in society, immigrants.”
From the Editor: January 2022
“MACHINES, WHETHER MECHANICAL or digital, aren’t interested in truth, beauty, or justice. Their goal is to make the world a more efficient place for more machines.” So argues journalist Andrew Nikiforuk, paraphrasing Jacques Ellul’s seminal The Technological Society. “Their proliferation combined with our growing dependence on their services inevitably led to an erosion of human freedom and unintended consequences in every sphere of life.”
A Pledge to Resist Climate Change
FOR MANY OF us, this summer felt like a cosmic wake-up call about climate change. Fire, floods, hurricanes, and other cataclysmic signs of our rapidly heating planet seemed to offer near-apocalyptic warnings that we’re approaching a make-or-break point, especially for those already vulnerable because of poverty or geographic location. We almost didn’t need the scientists—such as those who produced the dire U.N. report in August—to once again sound the alarm, as they have done so many times over the past several decades, nature already having done the job in her impossible-to-ignore fashion.
Anger seems an apt response to global warming, given that the world’s climate crisis isn’t an unavoidable act of nature; rather, it’s rooted in intentional actions by people seeking power and wealth. The main perpetrators—including ExxonMobil and its GOP enablers—knew about the causes of climate change more than four decades ago and, as Scientific American put it, “spent millions to promote misinformation” and manipulate public opinion. Some might call such duplicity “crimes against humanity” and “indictable behavior.”