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Sojourners Magazine: December 2011

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Even while Occupy Wall Street and the worldwide movement it has helped ignite captured the public’s attention this fall, some observers claimed not to understand what the protests were all about. They wanted a clear list of demands, or a detailed plan for fixing what ails our economy and our society in general.

Many of the attacks on the Occupy protests seemed a bit disingenuous. After all, it’s pretty much impossible to deny the destructive role played by an under-regulated financial sector—that would be the “Wall Street” that’s being occupied—in sparking the Great Recession. But the transgressions of Wall Street itself are really only the tip of the filthy-lucre iceberg, as the gap between the super-wealthy and the rest has grown to titanic proportions. The statistics, which should serve as icons for our reflection and enlightenment—they’re that crucial—tell a heartbreaking story. What does it mean when the country’s top 1 percent has more wealth than the bottom 90 percent? It means that many, many people are suffering, while (and because) a very few thrive.

In his open letter to the Occupiers, Jim Wallis encourages the protesters to deepen their understanding of, and their commitment to, nonviolence, and he points to the fundamental importance of spiritual resources for such a movement. And in our CultureWatch section, Robert Hirschfield visits the New York demonstrations and sees connections with nonviolent efforts across the globe, particularly the Arab Spring actions in the Middle East. Hirschfield reports that those gathered understand that their actions are intricately connected with efforts to end the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and with other anti-corruption and anti-poverty efforts at home and abroad. And that work—such as the efforts for affordable housing outlined by Jill Shook in our lead feature—are indeed part of the same phenomena, a movement for justice that faith-based people have engaged in for thousands of years. We’ve known it as “occupying” the Kingdom of God.

Feature

Despite foreclosures and rising poverty, there are models -- lots of them -- to help put decent housing within reach.
A vibrant spirituality for our troubled times grows out of a centuries-old tradition.
A study on the Bible's "two religions."
Historically, traditional marriage was based on a subordinate view of women. An egalitarian model of mutual respect promises healthier relationships and a more just society.
An Arab Christian works -- person by person and block by block -- to bring Muslims and Christians together in Jordan.

Commentary

The U.S. should put publicly funded medicines in reach of the world's poor.
Advent loops past the second coming to the first -- and to us, stuck waiting in the mud of existence.
U.S. troops will finally withdraw from Iraq -- but what about the contractors?

Columns

Nonviolence is not just a critical tactic but a necessary commitment.
No one could stop Troy Davis' execution -- despite his apparent innocence.
Tarantulas are not insects. They're arachnids. Really big ones.
The real work has been done for years by indigenous leaders on both sides of the border.
The solution must be a partnership among all of us.

Culture Watch

Joking for Jesus, The Courage to Love, Body Meets Soul, Rethinking War.
What is valued in God's economy?
Finding connections between the past, present, and future at Occupy Wall Street.
How blind commitment to 'free trade' throws working people under the bus.
Dorothy Day's deep love of God and her unwavering ability to see God in those the world shuns.
Clooney's new movie, The Ides of March, serves as a thoughtful and entertaining mirror for next year's presidential election.
'Does the bullet know Christian from Muslim? Does the bullet choose?'

Departments

Father Jacek Orzechowski’s name was misspelled in our November 2011 issue. We apologize for the error.
The amaryllis bulb, dumb as dirt, inert, how can anything spring from this clod, this stone, the pit of some subtropical, atypical, likely inedible fruit?
Reflections on the Common Lectionary.
Your excellent article on the good work being done by ECHO (“Ending the Hunger Season,” by Fred Bahnson, August 2011) was marred by its stringent [implied] criticism of the millions of small family farmers who feed the world, of whom I am one.
Your article on Heartsong Church and the Memphis Islamic Center (“Peace Be Upon Them,” by Bob Smietana, September-October 2011) reminded me of the power and the responsibilities of those raised in the common Abrahamic traditions. Thank you for repeating the uplifting story.
Even while Occupy Wall Street and the worldwide movement it has helped ignite captured the public’s attention this fall, some observers claimed not to understand what the protests were all about.