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Sojourners Magazine: April 2012

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The recession that ushered in the suffering of the past few years was caused by numerous factors. But front and center on the list were the activities of a few mega-banks and Wall Street firms, in particular their highly speculative financial transactions and soon-to-be-toxic “products”—such as credit default swaps and other complex derivatives—made possible in the wake of the radical deregulation of the industry in the past two decades.

The practices of these huge multifaceted corporations bore little resemblance to the passbook-savings banks of days gone by.

But, as author Stacy Mitchell explains in our cover feature, it doesn’t have to be this way. Banks can actually, once again, be an asset to their communities. The Bailey Building and Loan Association—supporting families and small businesses in It’s a Wonderful Life—may have been a work of fiction, but credit unions and other community-based financial institutions that do this are very real. In the past 15 months, more than half a million people, as well as city and county governments and various organizations, have moved their accounts from the mammoth conglomerate banks to small local banks and credit unions. (San Jose, California, for instance, moved $1 billion out of the Bank of America.)

As Mitchell notes, moving your money is only one step in moving banks back to accountability. Along with personal actions, it will take changes in public policy, and some very different behavior, before banks truly serve “the rest of us.”

Cover Story

Banking used to be an agreement between neighbors, not a transaction between chairmen of the board. It's time for a new set of rules—banking policies for the 99 percent.

Feature

A Bible study on water, God, and redemption.
Forests throughout North America would not be the same today without the trailblazing work of a small Mohawk Catholic community in Quebec.
There are many reasons to abolish the death penalty. Innocents on death row may be the most compelling.

Commentary

The Supreme Court decision on the ministerial exception deserves a "hosanna" — and prayerful consideration.
The U.S. government continues to claim the authority to detain and kill without trial.
How U.S. and Israeli threats are undermining the democracy movement in Iran.

Columns

We need to build understanding as well as skills to break the cycle of poverty, because our obligation as Christians is not just help, it’s love.
Corporations want to store up treasure on earth — that's their whole, entire, complete, and utter point.
The lesson for me, as the parent of a middle school child, was to pay closer attention.
In fact, my knowledge of Brazil is limited to that tall Jesus statue overlooking a city, and the fact people can be naked on the beaches while speaking Portuguese.
More than 5 million voters could be affected by new Voter-ID laws and (coincidentally?) a disproportionate number of them are people of color.
What does God's "settlement" look like?

Culture Watch

The painter Makoto Fujimura imagines what God might say to the church about its frequent rejection of the artists.
Piano-playing cats or union organizing drives—Google and Facebook don’t care. They just keep a sieve in the flow to collect information that can be sold to advertisers.
Worship Across the Racial Divide: Religious Music and the Multiracial Congregation, by Gerardo Marti; The Forgotten Bomb; Let It Burn; Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis.
What The Hunger Games and the gospels have in common.
Pariah, written and directed by Dee Rees. Focus Features.
Gandhi and the Unspeakable: His Final Experiment with Truth, by James W. Douglass.
Along with the silent film The Artist, Haywire, and War Horse, the smartest wide-release recent movie is Chronicle, a kinetic fusion of Breakfast Club-style teenage angst with post-9/11 violence-as-a-way-of-life (or at least way-to-be-noticed).

Departments

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.                                                                 —Wordsworth         
I appreciated Jim Wallis’ plea for more precision in how the word “evangelical” is used in our society and especially in the media (“Defining ‘Evangelicals’ in an Election Year,” February 2012).
I appreciated Jim Wallis’ plea for more precision in how the word “evangelical” is used in our society and especially in the media (“Defining ‘Evangelicals’ in an Election Year,” February 2012).
Reflections on the Common Lectionary, Cycle B
Thank you for your articles on human trafficking (“Ending ‘The World’s Most Savage Cruelty,’” February 2012).