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Sojourners Magazine: August 2014

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On a church retreat last fall, Doris Bartel told Sojourners editor Jim Rice an intriguing story about bride kidnapping in rural parts of the Eurasian country of Georgia.

Bartel—senior director for gender and empowerment for CARE, which works on gender-based violence and other issues in countries around the world—told Rice about one of her early visits to the tiny village of Natanebi, on the far western edge of Georgia, near the Black Sea. When she first met the teenagers of the village, they were very shy. “In fact,” Bartel said, “they had squished themselves into a corner of the room together like a pile of puppies, giggling and pushing to get to the back and avoiding eye contact with us.” They were the “good kids,” she said, who had agreed to a meeting they didn’t really want. The teenagers who had not come were a few hundred yards away, smoking and acting as cool as James Dean under the tallest tree in the village.

As her group worked with local activists to analyze the culture of influence among the youth of the area, they realized that the “cool boys”—the James Dean types—had a huge influence on how youth, as a group, thought and acted. And as they pondered how to reach that group—and begin to address centuries-old attitudes toward women and girls—they came to see that a surprising answer was found in Georgia’s rich tradition of music, dance, and other performing arts. In this issue, Bartel tells the encouraging story of how community theater and narrative storytelling helped a village talk about age-old traditions in new ways—and begin the difficult process of change.

Cover Story

Ninety-five percent of all economic gains in the U.S. since the Great Recession went to the top 1 percent. What does our growing wealth inequality mean for the future of democracy?

Feature

How community theater helped change a centuries-old tradition of kidnapping girls for marriage
Once an abandoned structure, the Bell Building offers "housing first"—and hope—to Detroit's homeless.
The Child Evangelism Fellowship targets children as young as 4—threatening them with hellfire and damnation—and runs "Good News Clubs" in public schools. Some parents have a problem with that.
The Gullah/Geechee Nation, extending from North Carolina to Florida, battles against corporate encroachment, environmental racism, and climate change.

Commentary

Fifty years later, does the political will exist to win the "War on Poverty"?
Christians and Muslims in Nigeria support interfaith efforts for reconciliation.
Police killing of black people is not a black problem. It is an American problem.

Columns

We stood by as our addiction to fossil fuel ran Genesis in reverse.
The targeting of tens of thousands of civilians was a barbaric act.
Vincent's warmth lifted the temperatures of those around him.
"Please report to Window #12. And bring your Bible."
Do you have faith the size of a mustard seed? That's all we need.

Culture Watch

In scholarship and life, Walter Wink sought the truth with passion.
"Tea Party Catholic: The Catholic Case for Limited Government, a Free Economy, and Human Flourishing," The Crossroad Publishing Company
"Faith-Rooted Organizing: Mobilizing the Church in Service to the World," IVP Books
"Thermonuclear Monarchy: Choosing Between Democracy and Doom," W.W. Norton and Company
Studios have been realizing that there is an audience for long-form storytelling that is willing to think.
Seven words the FCC needs to hear this summer
Four August 2014 culture recommendations from our editors

Departments

Letter to the Editors
Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary, Cycle A

Web Extra

Why is the Good News Club threatening children with hellfire and damnation?
Comedian John Oliver on how economic inequality is killing the American dream
A study guide for engaging Muslim-Christian relations