Inside Story

Inside Story

West Virginia activist Julia Bonds has been interviewed many times, especially after winning the 2003 Goldman Environmental Prize. But before Beth Newberry spoke with her last Labor Day weekend for the profile in this issue, no journalist had asked Julia about her faith. She was thrilled to have the opportunity to describe how scripture and her experience of God guides her in the fight against the destructive coal mining practices of her region.

While visiting Julia, Beth was taken by organizer Bo Webb up a mountainside to see how the strip-mining near his home was taking down the mountains hill by hill. Bo had been born in the area, worked elsewhere for many years, but returned because of his love of the mountains-only to find them being slowly erased. His love is so deep that he's had a full-color rendering of the ridge he showed Beth tattooed onto one of his forearms. He held up his arm and pointed out to her the mountaintops that once had been.

The passion and dedication of Julia Bonds and her colleagues was inspiring for both Beth and the photographer who accompanied her, David Flores. David, who calls himself a "ninja Catholic," noted that at the time of their visit, in the midst of pre-election frenzy, it seemed that the only people in the news were completely focused on what the world could do for them and how to shape it to their benefit. In sharp contrast, he said, "Julia looks at what she owes the world and can do for other people." That's the kind of faith that can move mountains - or protect them. - The Editors

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Sojourners Magazine March 2005
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Inside Story

Our life around the Sojourners office has changed in the past several months. Who would have guessed that a flawed media exit poll question concerning "moral values" would result in more attention to some of our key concerns than we've seen in our lifetimes? The topic of the role of religion in the public square has been a pressing one for pockets of scholars, activists, politicians, and regular citizens for a long time (centuries, really). But it certainly has not been talked about in the United States in such a wide-ranging way for the 30-plus years that Sojourners has existed.

Because of our long experience of living out our faith in the middle of that public square, and the ways that we differ from our Religious Right brothers and sisters in some of our approaches and positions, we have found ourselves in the center of a media frenzy. Editor-in-chief Jim Wallis has appeared on many cable and network TV shows both before and after the election, as well as in print and radio outlets. Especially now when the stakes seem so high and the opportunities are both exhilarating and exhausting, we humbly ask your prayers for faithfulness and wisdom in our work.

In this issue we have an excerpt from Jim's forthcoming book, God's Politics, which talks about new ways citizens could come together to forge a more just and life-giving approach to American politics. Perhaps it can serve as a glimpse of hope and a new beginning for the many in our electorate who are feeling bruised and weary. - The Editors

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Sojourners Magazine February 2005
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Inside Story

In this issue Rich Preheim profiles Christian Peacemaker Teams and the organization's recently retired first director, Gene Stoltzfus. We feel close to CPT's work, sometimes literally, since the local reserve members used our office library for training sessions last spring.

We were horrified at the September beating of two CPT members in Hebron (see page 10). Kim Lamberty has been active in Catholic peace and justice circles around Washington, D.C., for years, and is a familiar face to many of us on staff from prayer vigils, public events, and parties. We keep her and her co-workers on the frontlines of peacemaking in our prayers.

We are privileged to have many such relationships - casual and deep, newly formed and long-term - with other organizations and people who are doing faithful and life-giving work. As with all relationships, this opens us to the possibility of loss. We were deeply saddened to learn recently that one of our oldest and closest cousins in Christian publishing, The Other Side magazine, was forced to close down operations. It was a stark reminder of the vulnerability intrinsic to magazine publishing and nonprofit justice work, and we grieve with our colleagues there.

The Other Side was a pioneer in modern scripture-anchored, evangelical advocacy for peace and justice. The courageous stands taken by their staff and the principled ways they organized their workplace and business practices challenged and heartened us. And we were nurtured by the lush art and prophetic words that filled their pages. We are honored to include in this issue some of the story of The Other Side, written by its long-time editor Dee Dee Risher. - The Editors

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Sojourners Magazine January 2005
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Inside Story

Words can provide rest, create change, and bring new life to our inner and outer worlds. Developing this special issue has given us a wonderful reminder of that. To editors, there's little more beautiful than a well-crafted sentence or an elegant turn of phrase that punctures our established ways of thinking.

Words can also be a wonderful gift-especially when they arrive unexpectedly. When we asked Haitian author Edwidge Danticat to contribute a short piece on her favorite books, she instead sent a lovely vignette in which her words bridge the distance between Haiti and the streets of Brooklyn. Her piece, like others here, marvelously enriches our understanding of the world.

The process of writing is mysterious, and we're often surprised by what can happen. When Carol, a participant in a writers workshop for homeless men and women, searched for the right words for her writing, she also found her voice. Who knows how her words will change the people around her-and us?

The breathless days of election 2004 are over and we've at last reached the quieter shores of Advent. As we anticipate the coming of God's Word, may the words here heal and stretch you, broaden your community, and enlarge your vision of the world. Breathe them in. Take them into your minds, hearts, and souls. Savor them. And rest. -The Editors

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Sojourners Magazine December 2004
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Inside Story

The upcoming presidential election still looms large in our work. We have two organizers, Matt Ching and Jennifer Stapleton, out on the road in several states as this is written, doing nonpartisan seminars on raising up peace and justice issues in the electoral process, appropriate legal behavior for faith communities in the political context, voter registration, and more. Our building is humming with activity, from mailing bumper stickers to arranging speaking engagements to proof-reading everything from e-mails to posters (and magazine articles, of course).

The election theme spills over into this issue of Sojourners, with analysis on the increased role of faith in the campaigns and a commentary on assessing media sources during the daily barrage of sound bites and scandals.

But we also remember that our sustenance and our hope is in God, no matter who is elected, and so we have many other articles to help root our souls: A Bible study on the deeper meaning of "brother" and "sister" in the New Testament. An article on the profound role clergy and other spiritual counselors can play in the grieving process. An interview with the founder of Women Waging Peace, Swanee Hunt, on her new book filled with first-person accounts of Bosnian women from all walks of life who are rebuilding their society after years of horrific war. And much more.

In these hectic and sometimes heartbreaking days, as we try to balance political discernment with spiritual vision, we humbly ask for your prayers. Know that you are remembered in ours.

-The Editors

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Sojourners Magazine November 2004
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Inside Story

As we wrapped up this issue, summer was taking its final stroll into autumn. But like many people, we've been focusing for some time on the fall and the very important Election Day we're facing. Several staff members worked to create a nonpartisan compilation of "election year gear." This resource (available at www.sojo.net) is meant to help churches and other groups generate thoughtful dialogue on contentious issues and encourage people of faith to get out the vote. We also offer a practical list of "10 things to do before the election" in our Commentary section.

In another part of our building, our sister organization Call to Renewal has been planning a "Rolling to Overcome Poverty" bus tour Oct. 6 to 17. Marches, rallies, worship services, clergy breakfasts, and candidate forums will highlight local anti-poverty work and concerns in several cities in six states. To see if the tour is coming near you and to join in, check out www.calltorenewal.org.

Of course, in the middle of all this, we still put together a magazine. This month we wrestle with the power of fear and celebrate hope straight from Tupelo, Mississippi. We offer paintings from Colombia and singing from Maryland waterways. And as always, we look at both current events and ancient scripture. We hope you enjoy it.

And hang in there - the campaign commercials will be gone in just a few weeks.

- The Editors

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Sojourners Magazine October 2004
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Inside Story

Our travel fund for editorial staff is fairly modest. So we carefully consider whether we can afford to go to a given location in order to research an article or attend an event. Since, for example, Miami might sometimes be too pricey, Mumbai, India, isn't even in the running as a destination.

Luckily, some of us have family members who get around. Assistant editor Elizabeth Palmberg, who has a passion for issues of international economic justice, wanted to attend the 2004 World Social Forum, to be held in Mumbai. Her father, a professor of ophthalmology, regularly gets invited far and wide to lecture on the treatment of glaucoma. In other words, he stacks up some serious frequent flyer miles. So Elizabeth was on her way to India. (She thinks it's ironic that since drug companies sponsor many of her dad's talks, to some extent the pharmaceutical industry unwittingly paid for her to go to the Forum.)

The World Social Forum has been described as "one of the more interesting and important civil society experiments on the planet." Elizabeth describes it as gloriously chaotic. It was started as a grassroots alternative to the annual meeting of corporate leaders and government officials at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The Social Forum gathers thousands of activists, academics, representatives of nongovernmental organizations, and regular citizens to discuss ways to deal with globalization and interconnected issues of development, the environment, and human rights.

In the midst of this amazing collection of people, Elizabeth had the rare opportunity to interview Awut Deng Acuil, a church peace activist from southern Sudan. Thanks to Deng's graciousness (and of course Dr. Palmberg's miles), we include in this issue her story, one of courage and faithfulness in the face of great loss and many setbacks.

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Sojourners Magazine September 2004
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Inside Story

Our cover feature by veteran journalist Bill Moyers is an adaptation of the keynote speech he delivered to a standing-room-only crowd at Call to Renewal's Pentecost 2004 event held here in Washington, D.C., in May. Moyers brought the house down with his passionate and populist indictment of the negative influence of money in our political process and the vital need for people of faith to stand up and be counted in the struggle for a just society. The audience's enthusiasm made the keynote address feel like a revival meeting.

Moyers began his speech with the kind of personal and professional affirmation that is rarely received but much appreciated. "I was honored by your invitation to share this day with you," Moyers told the conference attendees. "Call to Renewal is an inspiration to me and so is Jim Wallis-for his witness of faith, his generous heart, his way of life, his engagement with politics, and his magazine: I could not do without Sojourners."

Another source of excitement was the conference's "Emerging Leaders" track, featuring activists who are 30 or under. In a forum, in workshops, and in informal meetings, these leaders discussed organizing techniques, ways their faith informs their activism, and many issues connected to poverty. The best part, according to attendees of all ages, was the spirit of equal dialogue and mutual learning between young and old that came to permeate the entire gathering.

To learn more about Call to Renewal and its work against poverty, visit www.calltorenewal.com.

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Sojourners Magazine August 2004
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Inside Story

For many years we've talked about interviewing environmental and culture essayist Wendell Berry. And for many years it didn't happen: Our schedule or his would change, time would roll on, and the unfulfilled idea would turn up again at the next planning retreat. For a while, we even established a correspondence with Berry, hoping to "interview" him through the dying art of letter-writing. But this was no substitute for going to see the man himself and the parcel of Kentucky that shaped him.

Finally, this past February associate editor Rose Marie Berger and Web editor Ryan Beiler (in his preferred role of photographer) were able to make the road trip to visit Berry. In some ways the trip itself brought home the issues of environmental damage and paradoxes of progress that Berry explores. The route from Washington, D.C., took Berger and Beiler through mountains and hills, beautiful landscapes. But it also took them past one of West Virginia's largest coal-burning power plants, which produces enough steam and particulates to drastically affect cloud formations. And they rolled through oil refineries near Ashland, Kentucky - grim and grimy complexes on either side of the highway.

Berger and Beiler spent an afternoon talking with Berry at his kitchen table, on his farm near Port Royal, Kentucky. Outdoors, llamas moved among a flock of sheep - guard llamas that make a racket if predators come near. Berry took a break to go feed the birds. It was a good place to be, even for a short while, not so much a retreat from human conflicts and environmental degradation but rather an outpost of hopeful, thoughtful resistance.

- The Editors

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Sojourners Magazine July 2004
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Inside Story

This is not the annual Mother’s Day issue of Sojourners (we’ve never had such an issue). But as this month’s magazine came together in the early weeks of spring, we began to joke that it could be our mother theme issue. No, we are not including a box of chocolates, a bouquet of flowers, or a sales flyer for home electronics. (Of course you’re buying that DVD player in honor of Mom!) Okay, so maybe sentimentality and commercial tie-ins are not our strong suit.

What we do know from our own lives as children, mothers, fathers, or surrogates is that motherhood, like all human states of being, is complex. Mothering is about the personal and the political, the spiritual and the utterly grounded; it may or may not occur within the accepted biological and legal boundaries associated with "mother."

In that spirit, some of the articles in this issue won’t fit in a greeting card, but do make us think in different ways about mother themes: Josh Andersen writes about evangelical Christians who have found their understanding of the gospel expanded in amazing ways as they mentor, comfort, and protect thousands of orphans in Russia. Ivy George tells eloquently of the grief, joy, and potential that came with her and her husband’s decision to adopt a baby girl who, like them, is a native of India. Heidi Schlumpf reports on the struggle for pro-life progressives to find political candidates who understand that poverty, war, and women’s rights are life issues too.

As always, we hope you find much in this issue to nurture and challenge you—whether or not it makes you think of "mother." Now go clean your room.

-The Editors

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Sojourners Magazine June 2004
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