Jim Rice is editor of Sojourners magazine. He has also served as 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
Our Dolls, Our Selves
WHEN MY DAUGHTER, Jessica, was 7 years old, some of her best friends had American Girl dolls, so of course she desperately needed one as well. We asked three or four family members to chip in—these were expensive dolls—and got her one for Christmas.
Her doll, “Addy,” came with a story, as did each in the American Girl line. Addy and her mother had escaped from slavery in the American South, and they “followed the drinking gourd” north to Philadelphia, where they were eventually reunited with the rest of Addy’s family. It was a gripping story, especially for a 7-year-old. And the fact that Addy was about my daughter’s age made it all the easier for her to connect.
“It wasn’t so much that I learned ‘facts’” about slavery and race from the Addy stories, Jessica, now 27, told me recently, “but they made it all more personal. Addy was young, like me—I could relate to it.”
Other women who grew up with the dolls echoed that sense of connection with the various American Girl stories. Janelle Tupper, campaigns assistant at Sojourners, was around 7 when she received the “Kirsten” doll, a Swedish immigrant to the U.S. “My most distinct memory from the stories was that, on the boat, her best friend dies of cholera,” Tupper said. “Reading that passage was pretty devastating to me as a kid.” Other books in the American Girl series addressed issues of the day, from child labor to women’s suffrage. And while Tupper said she wasn’t aware as a child of the social justice themes in the stories—“I was just imagining life in the different time periods through the eyes of a character I identified with”—she now sees the series as addressing “societal change in terms that an 8- year-old can understand, often told through the characters’ friendships and family stories.”
Future's So Bright
EARLIER THIS YEAR, 14 solar panels were installed on my roof. Each day since—in fact, multiple times a day—I've eagerly checked our online meters, as the sun replaces coal and nuclear plants as the provider of my home's electrical needs.
I've waited a long time for this. I attended my first energy conference in the late 1970s, when I joined several other students from the hunger action group at our Jesuit college, Seattle U., for the 20-hour van ride to Denver—even then, the connection between poverty and energy issues was clear.
That conference was one of several conducted by the U.S. Catholic bishops to gather input for what became a major and still-relevant document published in 1981 under the unassuming name "Reflections on the Energy Crisis." The statement noted that "solar power can help open the way to permanent energy security, pointing beyond the end of fossil fuels."
So last summer I was thrilled to sign a contract with a company called SolarCity, which installed the solar panels on my rooftop under a lease arrangement—they own the panels, and I buy solar power from them whenever the sun shines. And there's sure a lot of sunshine to tap: Every hour of daylight on earth, the sun releases the amount of energy consumed by the entire population of the planet in one year.
From the Archives: May 1990
IN THE summer of 1969, then-Sen. Gaylord Nelson was on a conservation speaking tour of the West when he visited the beaches of Santa Barbara, at that time despoiled by one of the worst oil spills in U.S. history. The devastation affected him deeply. Later, while reading an article about the teach-ins organized by anti-Vietnam War activists, Nelson asked himself, Why not have a day for a nationwide teach-in on the environment? Thus was born Earth Day 1970.
The original Earth Day was marked by a massive public outpouring of concern for the environment. Earth Day helped spawn new laws such as the Clean Air and Water Acts and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, but it did little to staunch the more serious wounds of our dying planet. ... Much of the activity during the 20th-anniversary celebration of Earth Day this April 22 will focus on individual acts. ... But there is a danger in an overemphasis on personal acts, when the most grievous assaults on the natural world come from corporations and nations whose self-interested policies of acquisitiveness and greed have brought us to the edge of ecological cataclysm.
'A World Without Nuclear Weapons'
HOW MANY NUCLEAR weapons make us "safe"?
At the height of the Cold War, both the U.S. and the Soviet Union had tens of thousands of nuclear warheads, aimed at each other's cities, towns, and military targets. Not many felt that the world was somehow made safe by this hair-trigger, apocalypse-risking standoff.
The Soviet Union is long gone, but the Cold War mentality that fueled the era's nuclear arms race seems to linger on. According to a December report by the Federation of American Scientists, the world's combined stockpile of nuclear warheads is still more than 17,000. Of these, the report continues, "some 4,300 warheads are considered operational, of which about 1,800 U.S. and Russian warheads are on high alert, ready for use on short notice."
President Obama, for his part, has laid out what he called his "vision of a world without nuclear weapons." In a speech last March in Seoul, South Korea, Obama said the goal of a nuclear-free world "would not be reached quickly, perhaps not in my lifetime," but that it must begin "with concrete steps." He continued, the "massive nuclear arsenal we inherited from the Cold War is poorly suited for today's threats," and "we can already say with confidence that we have more nuclear weapons than we need." (That could be considered a gross understatement, since the next leading nuclear threat—China—has only about 50 warheads on ICBMs that could reach the U.S.)
Who Speaks for Catholics?
FATHER JACK MORRIS was one of those Catholic priests who ruined a lot of people for life. I'm one of them.
Father Morris passed away Sept. 30 in Spokane, Wash. He was working with the Catholic sisters and others who ran the highly regarded Copper Valley School in Alaska in the late 1950s when he took the idea of young people volunteering their time with and for Native Alaskans and helped turn it into the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. Since then, more than 12,000 people have served in the JVC, whose motto "ruined for life" reflects the fact that voluntary service often makes enduring changes in the way participants view the world. (A few years ago, Father Morris told Sojourners that the motto is "a resurrection statement"—through volunteering, he said, "you're transformed.")
I spent my first two years after college as a Jesuit Volunteer, first at the Oregon Center for Peace and Justice in Portland and then at Georgetown University's Center for Peace Studies. My mentor and boss in Portland was the center's director, Sister Michele Phiffer. She worked for years helping Catholics in Oregon understand the church's social teaching on the common good and the preferential option for people who are poor.
Perhaps needless to say, the local bishops weren't always on her side. In fact, it often appeared—even to my young eyes—that the bishops were more interested in protecting their own privilege and power than in genuinely working for the marginalized. And Sister Michele's gender seemed to be a factor in the lack of support she received from the episcopal powers that were.
Our Endorsement for President
ELECTIONS CAN BE challenging times for nonprofit organizations, especially those of us deeply committed to social change. Sojourners is incorporated under the IRS Code as a 501(c)(3) organization, which means that we are prohibited from “directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”
While scrupulously avoiding “intervening” in any partisan activities, we of course remain committed to our mission, which is to “articulate the biblical call to social justice, inspiring hope and building a movement to transform individuals, communities, the church, and the world.”
Those two poles—staying neutral in partisan campaigns, on the one hand, and working to build a movement to “change the world,” on the other—define the space within which we work, during an election year and at any other time.
We believe that elections matter—especially, from a biblical point of view, because they profoundly affect those that scripture calls the “least of these,” the likelihood of war or peace, and the health of our planet. (See Jim Wallis’ article “How to Choose a President” for more on that theme.) And many of us have strong convictions about which candidates, and which party’s approach, better reflect those biblical commitments.
'A Clash of Fanaticisms'
WHEN AMBASSADOR Chris Stevens and other embassy staff were killed in Benghazi in September, it struck close to home for us at Sojourners. The last time a U.S. ambassador was slain was in 1979, when Adolph Dubs, the American ambassador to Afghanistan, was kidnapped by Islamic extremists and later killed. His daughter, Lindsay Dubs, was Sojourners’ managing editor. The degrees of separation between world events and the home front are often slim.
Some attributed last month’s violence in the Middle East to “fanaticism,” a “blind and tragic barbarism” by “imbeciles.” Others used words such as “beyond pathetic,” “fringe,” and “extremists.”
Those descriptions were applied to both those who created the anti-Islam video that provided the spark, and those who used the hateful video as a reason, or excuse, to engage in violent protests against the United States and the “West,” including Israel.
The media repeatedly summarized the cause of the violence as resting in the intentionally offensive video, and said that Muslims, angered by the blasphemous depiction of the Prophet Muhammad, rioted in a blind and uncontrollable rage. Moustafa Bayoumi, writing for the Middle East Research and Information Project, described the process: “Islamophobes provoke. Too many Muslims respond. Non-Muslims believe Muslims are crazy. Muslims are told the West hates them, and the Islamophobic right sleeps well at night with their cozy dreams of a mission accomplished.”
War Crimes and Misdemeanors
HEY PRESIDENT OBAMA: The Nobel Peace Prize committee is calling. They want their medal back.
The coveted award, which many felt was premature, at best, when bestowed during the president’s first year in office, was seriously tarnished in the eyes of many by his escalation of the war in Afghanistan and other military endeavors.
But Obama’s role in waging drone warfare—particularly in Pakistan and Yemen—has made a mockery of the prize that Alfred Nobel said should go to the person “who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations.”
Obama’s drone attacks—according to a May investigation by The New York Times, Daniel Klaidman’s new book Kill or Capture, and other sources—are arguably in direct violation of U.S. and international law, and immoral to boot.
The drone attacks started out with clear rules: Only target those who represent a direct threat to the United States. Those rules soon went out the door—a senior U.S. official called it a “little liberalization that went on in the kill lists,” according to The Washington Post, while a former counterterrorism official said that “the elasticity of that has grown over time.”
A Spirituality of Privacy
Politically, the right to online privacy seems like a no-brainer. Just as employers, and the government, shouldn’t be allowed to snoop through one’s personal diary or journal, the privacy of our digital records should be likewise respected, in law and in practice.
But biblically, theologically, and spiritually, it gets more complicated. For instance, what would a “spirituality of privacy” look like? At the core of spirituality is a connection with the divine. That begins in our heart of hearts and is by necessity a private, solitary practice. But it doesn’t end there. Genuine, life-transforming spirituality is personal, but never “private,” in the sense of “restricted to me alone.” Rather, spirituality is about the connection between a person and the divine and about the connection between a person and other people. In other words, there is an essential communal, public aspect of spirituality. Genuine spiritual enlightenment leads not only to an enriching of our connection with God, but with one another as well. Thus in some ways the distinction between a “private” spirituality and our public face is an artificial one, and at our best these two aspects of our being will be in harmonious synchronicity.
Fairness for Whom?
It’s a good sign we’ve entered the election silly season when pundits are arguing against “fairness.” What’s next, apple pie? (Motherhood, of course, is already a battleground of the “mommy wars”—Lord help us!)
The Democrats are trying to take the pro-fairness side of the debate, in particular around the issue of tax rates for the wealthiest Americans. The so-called Buffett Rule—named after billionaire Warren Buffet, who pointed out the injustice of his paying a lower tax rate than his secretary—became a key talking point the week before April 15.
Here’s how President Obama put it: “Right now, the share of our national income flowing to the top 1 percent has climbed to levels we haven’t seen since the 1920s. And yet those same people are also paying taxes at one of the lowest rates in 50 years. That’s not fair.” (The Occupy movement arguably deserves most of the credit for that framing of the issue.)
The president’s political opponents were quick to dismiss the focus on tax fairness as campaign rhetoric aimed more at the fall elections than any meaningful policy goals. It’s a safe assumption that pretty much anything between now and November has that partisan goal in mind, and—perhaps not surprising—fairness polls well.
But the critics didn’t stop there. Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, for instance, called the Buffett Rule “nothing but a form of redistributionism,” and said that focus on the tax fairness issue “is an exercise in misdirection.” Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that having the rich pay a higher tax rate “won’t take a single person off the unemployment line.” (It also won’t end the war in Afghanistan, he didn’t add.) Others brought out the tired accusation of “class warfare.”
Obesity in a World of Hunger
IT’S EASY to make the assumption that obesity is an individual problem, having more to do with personal health than with social justice. After all, people make their own decisions about what they put on their plates and how much they put in their mouths.
But many people—and many churches—are starting to see not only the public health consequences of the obesity epidemic, but also the broader forces that contribute to it.
And “epidemic” isn’t too strong a word for the growing problem of obesity. The numbers in the U.S. are unsettling, with startling increases over the past few decades. But the worst may be yet to come, as billions of people in formerly developing countries are gradually globalized into “fast-food nation” lifestyles.
The transition has already begun. According to a recent U.N. report, more than 1 billion people around the world are overweight. Each year excess weight and obesity cause 2.8 million deaths—65 percent of the world’s population now lives in countries where being overweight kills more people than being underweight. And it’s only going to get worse: According to Olivier De Schutter, the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, by 2030 as many as 5.1 million people in poor countries will die each year before the age of 60 from unhealthy diets and diet-related diseases such as diabetes, 1.3 million more than today.
The definitions of hunger and malnutrition are changing, and as a result so are the responses—but perhaps not quickly enough.
Are Voter-ID Laws Racist?
More than 5 million voters could be affected by new Voter-ID laws and (coincidentally?) a disproportionate number of them are people of color.
Occupy the Future
Occupy has already succeeded, its legacy already established: It has changed the conversation.
Epiphany: A Light to the World
Activist theologian Bill Wylie-Kellermann wrote that the Epiphany season "begins and ends in light. From the heavenly star to the radiant robes of transfiguration, Epiphany is about revelation, the kind of sudden brightness that lights up the landscape of a mind or a community or a whole social order. The light reveals, but not passively; it summons and sends."
In popular understanding, of course, Epiphany is about the visit of the Magi, "wise men" from the East bearing gifts for the newborn Christ child. Since these Gentile visitors come from foreign lands, their search for Jesus and their homage to him have stood as sign and symbol that Christ's salvation knows no boundaries. (The parallels with our age, with the potential of digital media to transcend all boundaries, begin to suggest themselves.)
The story of the Magi has a dark side as well, mostly ignored in Christendom's celebration of Epiphany. On their way to find the babe, the travelers pay a visit first to Herod's court, where they're told to report back to him the location of the newborn. Fortunately, the wise men practice direct civil disobedience to the royal command, and thus they and the holy family escape Herod's wrath. But the children of Bethlehem, the "holy innocents," suffer the tragic consequences of Herod's duplicity. The lessons about relating to authority (i.e., the need to be "wise as serpents") are loud and clear.
What Karl Barth Says about Blog Comments
The comment code of conduct for the God's Politics blog includes familiar commitments to civility, courtesy, and respect, and even connects these pledges to biblical passages. But what if we went a step further in our understanding of blog comments -- and, for that matter, all of our online communication? What if we recognized our forays into online commentary as doing theological work?
Karl Barth invites that kind of thinking in his 1963 Evangelical Theology: An Introduction. In his chapter on the "community" -- a word that he argues is, theologically speaking, much better than "church" to describe the body of believers -- Barth makes the case that each member of the community of faith has the responsibility to bear witness to the Word. We do so, Barth says, in our very existence, in our service to "the handicapped, weak, and needy" in the world, and in our prayer. The community also does so in spoken and written words by which it "attempts to make its faith audible."
New Models of the Church in a New Media World
In his seminal 1974 book Models of the Church, theologian Avery Dulles offered five paradigms, or "models," each of which called attention to certain aspects of the worldwide Christian church. The church, Dulles wrote, is in essence a mystery -- a reality of which we cannot speak directly. Thus we must draw on analogies to understand the church in deeper ways.
Dulles developed five models, drawing on a range of theological schools and traditions, both Protestant and Catholic, to illuminate different aspects of the church. His models included church as institution, mystical communion, sacrament, herald, and servant. Dulles was careful to point out that no single model, by itself, adequately paints a complete picture of the church; each contains important insights about the nature of the church.
Are Books a Thing of the Past?
photo © 2010 Zhao ! | more info (via: Wylio)Sales of printed books are down 9 percent this year, supplanted in part by digital versions on Kindles, Nooks, and even iPhone apps. But the real threat to long-form, hard-copy reading -- that is, paper books -- is inside our heads, according to Johann Hari, a columnist for the Independent in London.
"The mental space [books] occupied is being eroded by the thousand Weapons of Mass Distraction that surround us all," Hari told me last week. "It's hard to admit, but we all sense it: it is becoming almost physically harder to read books."
[Okay, I admit I didn't actually talk with Hari. The quote is from his newspaper column. But pop over to Twitter, and you can see how, in effect, he gave me permission to paraquote him at #interviewbyhari.]
Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah, long-form reading. Hari quotes David Ulin, author of The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time, who wrote that he "became aware, in an apartment full of books, that I could no longer find within myself the quiet necessary to read." Ulin wrote that he would sit down with a book, and find his mind wandering, enticing him to check his email, or Twitter, or Facebook. "What I'm struggling with," he writes, "is the encroachment of the buzz, the sense that there's something out there that merits my attention."
Can Mindfulness Be Tweeted?
I attended a basketball game this winter at the University of Maryland, accompanied by an intern at my workplace, a man in his twenties. For much of the game, we chatted about everything from politics to how North Carolina is far superior to Duke in all the ways that really matter (on the court, of course). During the conversation, between glances at the game, my colleague maintained steady eye contact … with his smart phone.
'Power to the People'
Renewable energy sources aren't just safer than nuclear power -- they're also cheaper.