Rose, a native of the West Coast, lives in Washington, D.C. She has been on Sojourners staff since 1986.
For more than 30 years, Rose has rooted herself with Sojourners magazine and ministry. She is author of Bending the Arch: Poems (2019), Drawn By God: A History of the Society of Catholic Medical Missionaries from 1967 to 1991 (with Janet Gottschalk, 2012), and Who Killed Donte Manning? The Story of an American Neighborhood.
A native of the West Coast, Rose has lived in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, D.C. since the mid-1980s. In the course of a 30 plus-year career in faith-based activism, advocacy journalism, and pastoral leadership, she has proven to be a skilled organizer, exceptional writer, visionary pastoral leader, and innovative teacher of biblical literacy.
With Sojourners, Rose has worked as an organizer on peace and environmental issues, internship program director, liturgist, community pastor, poetry editor, and, currently, as a Senior Associate Editor of Sojourners magazine, where she writes a regular column on spirituality and justice. She is responsible for the Living the Word section, poetry, Bible studies, and interviews – and oversees the production of study guides, discussion guides, and the online bible study Preaching the Word. She is also a religion reviewer for Publishers Weekly and a Huffington Post commentator. Her work has appeared in National Catholic Reporter, Publishers Weekly, Religion News Service, Radical Grace-Oneing, The Merton Seasonal, U.S. Catholic, and elsewhere.
Rose has a veteran history in social justice activism, including: organizing inter-religious witness against the Keystone XL pipeline; educating and training groups in nonviolence; leading retreats in spirituality and justice; writing on topics as diverse as the “Spiritual Vision of Van Gogh, O'Keeffe, and Warhol,” the war in the Balkans, interviews with black activists Vincent Harding and Yvonne Delk, the Love Canal's Lois Gibbs, and Mexican archbishop Ruiz, cultural commentary on the Catholic church and the peace movement, reviews of movies, books, and music.
A founding member of a small creative writing group, Rose Berger has taught writing and poetry workshops for children and adults. She’s completed her MFA in poetry through the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast program. Her poetry has been published in Sojourners, The Other Side, Radix and D.C. Poets Against the War.
Rose grew up in the Central Valley of California, located in the rich flood plains of the Sacramento and American rivers. Raised in radical Catholic communities heavily influenced by Franciscans and the Catholic Worker movement, she served for nine years on the pastoral team for Sojourners Community Church; five as its co-pastor. She directed Sojourners internship program from 1990-1999. She is currently Senior Associate Editor and Poetry Editor for Sojourners magazine.
She has traveled throughout the United States, and also in Israel/Palestine, Costa Rica, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosova, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, and El Salvador visiting primarily with faith communities working for peace in situations of conflict.
Rose’s articles include:
- Pursuing the Secret of Joy: What is joy when it's not promiscuously tied to happiness, Hallmark, or hedonism?
- Nonviolence in Najaf?: Will we recognize an Islamic peace movement when we see it?
- A Presidential Option for the Poor? :Venezuela's Hugo Chavez stirs up fierce criticism - and hope.
- Of Love's Risen Body: The poetry of Denise Levertov, 1923-1997
- Glimpses of God Outside the Temple: The spiritual vision of Vincent Van Gogh, Georgia O'Keefe, and Andy Warhol.
- Damnation Will Not Be Televised: Almost everything I know about hell I learned from watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer
She lives in the Southern Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, D.C., in the Anacostia watershed on traditional Piscataway lands.
Posts By This Author
Piracy and Puritanism at Wells Fargo
I OPENED MY first savings account at Wells Fargo in Sacramento, Calif., when I was 8 years old. I remember the bronze stagecoach penny bank they gave me to help me practice saving. When I moved to Washington, D.C., I put my money into a D.C.-based bank, soon bought out by Wells Fargo. But it wasn’t the same Wells Fargo I’d grown up with.
In 2012, the Justice Department found Wells Fargo guilty of discriminating against both African-American and Latino borrowers during the subprime mortgage heist. It’s one of the top two banks invested in the Corrections Corporation of America, which is one of the largest for-profit prison companies in the U.S. In 2015, Wells Fargo was the world’s largest bank.
This fall, Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf, who abruptly resigned in October, was called before a congressional investigative committee to answer accusations that thousands of Wells Fargo employees secretly opened 2 million fraudulent accounts without customers’ permission or knowledge, and were incentivized by the company to do so. Employees opened false banking and credit card accounts, transferred funds, and created phony access codes and email addresses. “The frauds violate federal and state statutes against bank fraud and identity theft,” William K. Black Jr., white-collar criminologist and cofounder of Bank Whistleblowers United, told Sojourners. Customers incurred charges and fines; in some cases, their credit ratings were damaged.
CEO Stumpf accepted “full responsibility for all unethical sales practices in our retail banking business.” (John Steinbeck once called this kind of thing a successful combination of “piracy and puritanism.”)
Wells Fargo claims that it has fired 5,300 people since 2011 related to these practices, but details are vague; the fraud investigators were hired by Wells Fargo. We don’t know how many were fired because they couldn’t fulfill the extortionate sales quotas.
“JUST WAR IS KILLING US! There is no just war.”
That proclamation by a Catholic sister from Iraq, and others like it, resounded at a Vatican gathering this spring and fell on surprisingly receptive ears.
Sister Nazik Matty, an Iraqi Dominican, joined others from around the world in Rome in April to wrestle with how the Catholic Church could “recommit to the centrality of gospel nonviolence.” She has watched members of her religious community die for lack of medical care during war.
“Which of the wars we have been in is a just war?” asked Sister Matty, who was driven from her home in Mosul by ISIS, also known by the Arabic acronym Daesh. “In my country, there was no just war. War is the mother of ignorance, isolation, and poverty. Please tell the world there is no such thing as a just war. I say this as a daughter of war.”
The Rome gathering on Nonviolence and Just Peace was unprecedented, bringing together members of the church hierarchy with social scientists, theologians, practitioners of nonviolence, diplomats, and unarmed civilian peacekeepers to discuss Catholic nonviolence and whether in the contemporary world armed force can ever be justified.
Of course, with such diverse participants, there was not a common mind on whether just war theory, a doctrine of military ethics used by Catholic theologians, has outlived its usefulness as church teaching.
Some of the academics and diplomats—particularly from the United States and Western Europe—maintained that just war criteria, when properly applied, are useful when working within halls of power, from the Pentagon to the United Nations, for restraining excessive use of military force by a state. One participant cautioned against “broad condemnations of just war tradition, if it means closing off dialogue with our allies.” Another questioned how diplomacy could continue without the just war framework as its common language.
But Catholics who came to Rome from conflict zones—Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Palestine, Colombia, Mexico, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, and Uganda—brought a different perspective.
An Abundance of Cultural Differences
'WE CAN JOYFULLY anticipate an abundance of cultural differences and varied life experiences among the participants in the Rome Conference,” wrote Pope Francis in his welcome letter to the Nonviolence and Just Peace gathering in Rome, “and these will only enhance the exchanges and contribute to the renewal of the active witness of nonviolence as a ‘weapon’ to achieve peace.”
Nowhere were the “cultural differences” and “varied life experiences” more conspicuous than in the conversation about whether there is ever a Christian justification for armed force.
U.S. and Western European academics are thoroughly trained in the theory, theology, and application of just war theory. It’s taught in U.S. and European seminaries. It’s taught in all military academies. It provides a framework for international law.
In stark contrast, Catholics living in Iraq, Sudan, Uganda, Afghanistan, Syria, Congo, Sri Lanka, and other war-torn countries are not schooled in just war philosophy. It is not part of training for priests or academics or those in political life. When people from war-ravaged regions talk about “just war,” they speak from the experience of having been on the receiving end of “morally acceptable” drone strikes. They make a powerful argument for a paradigm shift away from just war thinking.
In regions of civil unrest, some said, where religious extremism is used as propaganda to advance partisan military and political objectives, even associating the language of “just war” with Catholicism can categorize Catholics as “combatants.”
In the case of Colombia’s brutal, 52-year-long civil war, Jesuit priest Francisco De Roux described how just war teaching misled Catholics into taking up arms. “In my Catholic country,” said De Roux, “our nuns and priests join the guerillas because of the just war paradigm. The Catholic paramilitaries pray to the Virgin before slaughtering people because of the just war paradigm.”
The Mosquito Manifesto
WHAT DO YOU do when the democratic process delivers the power of the presidency to an authoritarian leader with the strategic impulse control of a 2-year-old?
Here are a few responses I’ve observed.
OPTION 1: The Ostrich. Bury one’s head in the sand until the annoyances pass. The virulent rhetoric of Mr. Trump’s campaign, combined with his appointees and advisers, make this option available only to men of European decent. (White women may cover their heads, but shouldn’t bury them completely.)
OPTION 2: The Spaniel. Fluff up one’s coat and appear clean and eager on the doorstep of the new master. Hope for the best; hope for a bone. This option is supported by many who are well-meaning, are part of the political elite, or are dangerously naive.
OPTION 3: The Cockroach. When the light comes on, scatter into the street with a sign saying “Not My President.” Or simply hide in a dark corner hoping to pass the coming wrath undetected. This escape behavior is instinctual in creatures that are startled or undeveloped.
Since the wee hours of Nov. 9, I’ve exhibited most of these behaviors myself.
But as a Christian, I’m not allowed to live in illusions for long. In Paul’s “letter of tears,” written to the fledgling church at Corinth, he wrote, “We cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth” (2 Corinthians 13:8). Therefore, existing in a “post-truth” state is not an option.
Americans are deeply disillusioned about the state of our nation. The fundamental optimism of the “American dream” has not matched reality for at least three generations. American optimism has always been partly delusion, as evidenced by the experiences of those defined outside of it or on whose backs the “great good” was built.
An election, however, is supposed to be a tool for the nonviolent transfer and distribution of power, not a therapy session to deal with disillusionment.
Bosnian Butcher Radovan Karadžić Says Genocide Conviction Based on Jokes
"America, keep your peace. You don't know how precious it is and how terrible is war."
Bond Denied for 7 Catholic Protesters Who Prayed on Nuclear Submarine Base in Georgia
Just steps away from a decommissioned submarine buried in the ground near the main gate at the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia, anti-nuclear peace activists held a vigil Saturday morning to protest the U.S. nuclear arsenal and to show support for seven Catholic peace activists arrested early Thursday morning for unauthorized entry onto the base.
Life Inside a Tomb
IT IS HARD to tell time from inside a tomb. We cannot know how many minutes or hours Jesus’ resurrection took. Traditionally, he was in the tomb for three days. But how long does it really take for someone to rise—or be raised—from the dead?
Some resurrections start at a mundane moment. Dorothy Day, for example, was sitting at the kitchen table in a crowded apartment in New York’s East Village (writing a never-to-be published novel) when the French Catholic theologian Peter Maurin knocked on the door. “It was a long time before I really knew what Peter was talking about that first day,” wrote Day, who went on to found the Catholic Worker movement with Maurin. “But he did make three points I thought I understood: founding a newspaper for clarification of thought, starting houses of hospitality, and organizing farming communes. I did not really think then of the latter two as having anything to do with me, but I did know about newspapers.”
Some resurrections come through brutal suffering. Twenty-four-year-old Recy Taylor was left for dead in 1944 on a dark road near Abbeville, Ala., by the six white men who kidnapped and raped her as she walked home from a prayer meeting at Rock Hill Holiness Church. “A few days later, a telephone rang at the NAACP branch office in Montgomery,” wrote historian Danielle L. McGuire in At the Dark End of the Street. The president of the local branch promised to send his “best investigator” to speak with Recy Taylor. The investigator’s name was Rosa Parks. As part of Park’s organizing work on Taylor’s case, she formed what would become the Montgomery Improvement Association, the leaders responsible for instigating the bus boycott a decade later, an opening salvo of the civil rights movement.
An Outline for a Service Acknowledging War Crimes
“Has the United States ever apologized?
Or are we too big to apologize?”
—Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson
The Chaplains Handbook has no confiteor or rite,
neither Book of Common Prayer nor missalette,
for scrutinies that beg forgiveness from the torn
and desecrated dead. We come contrite
for reports of helicopter gunships,
bodies observed in a ditch, the undress
of a girl who covered only her eyes:
Noncombatant gang rape, with bayonet.
The Way of the Gun
THIRTEEN YEARS ago, on Holy Thursday, 9-year-old Donte Manning was shot around the corner from my house in Washington, D.C.
He died of his injuries four weeks later, on the Feast of Paschasius Radbertus, a ninth-century Benedictine theologian who wrote on intimacy between the body of Christ crucified and the real presence in the Eucharist. Donte’s death impacted me deeply. (I wrote a book about his murder.)
Caught in the crossfire between neighborhood rivals, Donte Manning was the real body sacrificed on the altar of this imperial city where teenage boys shoot each other over $200 Air Jordans and the Pentagon exports more than 1.45 million firearms to various security forces, just in Iraq and Afghanistan. (The Pentagon lost track of more than half of them.)
As theologian Ched Myers reminds, “Against the presence of Power is pitted the power of Presence: God with us.”
Donte Manning’s murder was never solved. It remains a cold case. Mitch Credle, the investigating detective, retired from the D.C. Metropolitan Police. In October, he decided it was time to talk about his one unsolved murder. He was interviewed by local news reporter Paul Wagner.
The Pope Makes a (Very) Long Distance Call
Pope Francis reaches to the margins. He’s washed the feet of prisoners and homeless families. Like his Assisi namesake, he’s hugged contemporary “lepers” and made common cause with garbage collectors. But I was still surprised when the pope made a 20-minute video call to the International Space Station in orbit 200 miles above the Earth.
Pope Francis wasn’t the first pontiff to make that long-distance call—his predecessor did that in 2011. But tracking stars and gazing into the heavens have been part of Judeo-Christian tradition since God asked whether Job could “bind the cluster of the Pleiades or loose the belt of Orion” (38:31) some 3,500 years ago. Despite that unfortunate Galileo kerfuffle in the 1600s over the “heresy” of believing that the Earth revolved around the sun, the Vatican has operated state-of the art telescopes since 1582.
As an enthralled 5-year-old, I made a scrapbook about the Apollo 11 spaceflight that placed the first humans on the moon. As an 18-year-old, I marveled at the elegance of physics formulas that served equally well for measuring distances in cells and solar systems. At 54, I laughed out loud when I recognized Fibonacci’s sequence in the passionflower we planted in the back alley. “The universe as a whole, in all its manifold relationships, shows forth the inexhaustible riches of God,” wrote Pope Francis.
Nonviolent Fight Club: Why U.S. Catholics Are Still Debating Nonviolence
The work of the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, born from the April 2016 Rome meeting, recognizes that most of the people with political power are not the victims of social violence. CNI is bringing the voice of grassroots Catholics in the majority of the world, who are the primary victims of social violence and war, into the ring.
Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
The coastal fog lifts to the height of soft bluffs and a man appears on the beach. The tide is low. I watch him hold a specially crafted staff in his right hand that he uses to poke, prod, and drag lines in the sand. He totters along like a modern Rumi, hand scribing an elegant poem on the strand. Perhaps in sand script it says: “Small birds destroyed an army, so you’d know they gained their strength from God.”
For the past six years, Denny Dyke has kept his morning ritual, creating intimately carved, hundred-feet-wide sand labyrinths—sacred circles, holy walkways, salt-soaked mandalas—on the Oregon coast. He draws for an hour, outlining 4,000-year-old designs and adding his own, creating ephemeral art.
I met Denny near Bandon, Ore., at a time I was desperate for spiritual rest. It has been an exhausting year. A year since the demon of white supremacy recaptured the White House. A year of rapacious capitalist thugs masquerading as legislators, callous political buffoonery inciting legislative chaos, greasy fingers tweeting too near the nuclear button, acts of hate rising like sea levels.
Why Don’t We Have a 2-Check System on Our Nuclear Weapons?
"It always requires two people, two separate actions, to launch, steal, sabotage, or tinker with an atomic warhead," Peter Zimmerman, nuclear physicist and State Department consultant wrote for USA Today. "This is the inviolable two-person rule intended to prevent misuse of a nuclear weapon."
Developers Are Trying to Build a Pipeline Through a Watershed. These Nuns Built a Chapel in Its Path.
More than 500 people gathered in a hot and dusty Pennsylvania cornfield yesterday afternoon to join the Catholic sisters of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ for the dedication of a new outdoor chapel, built on land about to be seized from them by a corporate developer planning to build a natural gas pipeline.
Down the Path of Protest and Dissent
The 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, election, and aftermath provide some data with which to diagnose how America is measuring up — not only to her to her founding principles but, for American Christians, to our confession of Christ and the laws of God.
Welcome to the Resistance. Here's Your Survival Guide.
All great resistance communities practice a two-pronged approach. Mohandas Gandhi described this as an “obstructive program” alongside long-term “constructive engagement.” Both are needed for the wheel of resistance to turn.
A Prayer for Haiti
As for us, Lord, we who are far away from the rubble and the flood,
from the sobbing and moans, but who hold them close in our hearts,
imbue us with the strength of Simon the Cyrene.
Mary Cosby, Cofounder of the Landmark Church of the Saviour, Dies at 93
Mary Campbell Cosby, cofounder of the Church of the Saviour movement she launched with her husband and partner Rev. N. Gordon Cosby in the 1940s, died this week in Washington, D.C. She was 93 years old.
News of her passing spread quickly on July 3. Kayla McClurg sent an email to family and friends saying, “I am writing to let you know that our dear Mary Cosby passed away very gently and suddenly this afternoon at Christ House.”
Making the Crooked Way Straight
On April 30, 2016, Catholic peacemaker and activist Daniel Berrigan entered life eternal. He was a teacher and friend to many in the Sojourners community. Read more reflections on Dan's life and legacy in the August 2016 issue.
"VIOLENCE ONLY EXISTS with the help of the lie!”
With these words Father Daniel Berrigan and I sealed our fate. It was summer 1995. August 6. We’d been invited to read at the Washington National Cathedral’s service commemorating the 50th year since the U.S. used atomic weapons on civilians in Japan.
The cathedral was full. I was supposed to read an adaptation from Thomas Merton’s scathing indictment of U.S. militarism, the poem “Original Child Bomb.” Dan was slated to read from Soviet-resister Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Nobel Prize lecture and from Maximilian Kolbe, the Polish priest who exchanged his life for a fellow prisoner in Auschwitz.
Minutes before the liturgy began, a member of the cathedral staff told us there was a change in the readings. Thomas Merton was too controversial; I should read from Deuteronomy. Dan should also read from scripture instead of from Solzhenitsyn and Kolbe.
Should I Care More When a Christian is Killed?
THE BASILICA OF St. Bartholomew on the Island in Rome holds the bones of the apostle St. Bartholomew, who delivered the gospel of Matthew to India, southern Arabia, and Syria. Spreading the seditious good news eventually got him killed—crucified upside down in Baku, capital of modern Azerbaijan. Bartholomew proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus until the soldiers cut off his head.
In 1999, this church nestled on an island in the Tiber River was dedicated to modern Christian martyrs. Entering its cool interior, one can walk a global Via Dolorosa—each side altar is dedicated to parts of the world where Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox have been killed for their faith.
The relics include a letter from Franz Jägerstätter, the Austrian farmer beheaded for refusing to serve in Hitler’s army, and the missal of Salvadoran Archbishop Óscar Romero left on the altar when he was assassinated during Mass in 1980.
Christians today fall out over Christian martyrs and persecution in a right/left divide. We fight about numbers. In 2015, Christian Freedom International released an often repeated statistic suggesting that Christians are “martyred for their faith every five minutes.” This has been widely debunked. But it raises questions about definitions, methodologies, and theological perspectives.
Thomas Schirrmacher directs the International Institute for Religious Freedom, which runs a research project with several universities to measure Christian persecution. He estimates that there are 7,000 to 8,000 Christian martyrs each year, a number that roughly matches the Open Doors World Watch List, which reported 7,106 Christians killed in 2015, an increase over previous years and far less than one Christian every five minutes.