Inside Story

Inside Story

Associate editor Rose Marie Berger joined a January delegation to Venezuela organized by Marie Dennis of the Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns. The group followed an exhaustive (and exhausting) itinerary, visiting civil society groups and the U.S. Embassy, youth clubs and base Christian communities. And, for five long hours one Sunday, they were in the studio audience for the Venezuelan president’s weekly call-in television show, Aló Presidente.

At a farming cooperative called Alianza, high in the Andes, the delegates were led on a tour of the various farm projects, from the dairy (where they enjoyed fresh yogurt) to composting bins to strawberry fields. When a farmer rode up on his horse to get milk and yogurt to take along into the fields, Rose practiced her Spanish on the horse. The horse, of course, was the only one who would listen.

On Rose’s return the rest of the staff happily listened to accounts of her trip, even though she brought no fresh yogurt to share. She did, however, bring back stories from many Venezuelan people of faith who—while always suspicious of power—are finding cause for hope in a politics that seems to take seriously the real needs of poor people. And that, of course, will always be central to a resurrection faith that does justice to the least of these. —The Editors

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Sojourners Magazine May 2004
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Inside Story

Our interns keep us going at Sojourners. This is not just idle praise; it is gospel truth. Along with doing essential (but sometimes less-than-stimulating) jobs, they help shape our work with their experience, skills, insights, questions, and challenges.

For the editorial assistant intern, one of the more time-consuming and tiring tasks is transcribing interviews for the magazine. We've been interviewing a lot of people lately, and our current editorial assistant, Jesse Holcomb, has spent many hours typing and listening, listening and typing. So perhaps he was especially poised to jump on a chance to do some of the talking for once. Culture Watch editor Molly Marsh sent out an e-mail to the rest of the editorial staff, letting us know that she was arranging a last-minute interview with singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn, who was just back from a trip to Iraq. Jesse was at her door "momentarily." A second-generation fan, Jesse literally grew up with Cockburn's music. When Molly offered him the chance to do the interview, Jesse did not hesitate. The excellent fruit of his efforts is found on page 38.
And yes, Jesse transcribed his own interview.

OUR FRIEND AND consultant Henry Freeman was in a bookstore paging through The Best Christian Writing 2004 anthology and was pleased and surprised to find that two staff-written Sojourners articles (by executive editor David Batstone and associate editor Julie Polter) were included. So take it from Henry-next time you're in your local bookstore, look for us (in the company of other fine writers and journals) in The Best Christian Writing 2004.

-The Editors

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Sojourners Magazine April 2004
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Inside Story

Care of the environment has long been an issue of great importance to our readers. Now-under an administration with one of the worst environmental records ever, in a time of intensifying policy debate despite ever-more-clear scientific consensus on the damage being done by human behavior, and with a presidential election just months away-these issues are more crucial than ever. We approach this concern in the same way that we approach all the news of our time: by looking to scripture and Christian tradition and exploring where they lead us today.

In case you fear that "environment" will mean nothing but technical articles on global warming and pollution or sentimental exhortations to "love the Earth," be assured that you'll be going places in this issue. Our writers will take you from fishing boats in the North Atlantic to the Peruvian rain forest, from a rural retreat in Washington state to a Maryland bog, from the Garden of Eden to the highways and byways. And you'll find practical discussion of a faithful relationship with God's creation that ranges from our individual spiritual lives and habits to our collective shaping of policy.

If you notice a favorite department or column missing, don't fear: It'll be back next month. In this special issue, we gave some of our sections a sabbath to free up more space for our in-depth look at what theology has to offer the movement to serve and preserve God's good Earth.

-The Editors

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Sojourners Magazine March 2004
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Inside Story

Best-selling writer Philip Yancey has described himself as at times a reluctant Christian, plagued by doubts and 'in recovery' from bad church encounters. Yancey's many books have been marked by similar honesty about his own questions and struggles, as well as a thoughtful, probing take on faith and the world. He has received many accolades, especially in the evangelical Christian community all the while pushing back the stereotypes of what it means to be evangelical. Yancey and his wife, Janet, visited Sojourners in November and were interviewed by Jim Wallis. In this issue, you can read some of their conversation (more is on our Web site). Among the topics at hand: rejecting and returning to God, evidence of the divine, how the United States is both the most and least Christian country in the world...and what Joe Millionaire and the mating habits of elk have in common (you can't get that on Animal Planet). In the winter months, most of us who have a house or apartment in which to live are especially grateful for shelter-and aware that there are many close at hand who don't have this necessity, or are struggling financially to keep a roof overhead. Statistics show a worsening shortage of affordable housing in many regions of the United States. Stacia Brown writes for us about several hopeful, faith-rooted initiatives that have given some low-income people a place to call home. How many more people might be housed if these models were replicated? It's an exciting thing to ponder and pursue. The Editors

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Sojourners Magazine February 2004
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Inside Story

Perhaps you have noticed that this issue of Sojourners has fewer pages than usual (if you hadn't noticed, take our word for it). No, we're not trying to short-sheet you. In fact in the long run you'll be getting more Sojourners, not less.

How? After nine years as a bimonthly publication, we're returning to our roots as a monthly. So you'll be receiving our take on faith, politics, and culture 12 times a year instead of six. While each issue is somewhat shorter, the higher frequency means that in the course of a year you'll receive substantially more pages of content.

Publishing at a monthly frequency allows us to respond more rapidly to world events, cultural phenomena, and manifestations of the Spirit, while still providing the thoughtful perspective that is key to our mission.

We're also pleased about the Gold Award bestowed at this fall's Folio "Editorial Excellence Awards" competition in New York City - the largest and most-comprehensive conference for the magazine industry - honoring Sojourners as the best Religious/Spiritual magazine of 2003.

The Editors

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Sojourners Magazine January 2004
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Inside Story

The presence of CIA employees - even former ones - in our offices is not a frequent occurrence, as far as we know. But in late August we were happy to welcome two ex-CIA analysts, Ray McGovern and David MacMichael, to be interviewed by Rose Berger and Jim Rice for this issue's cover article.

We first interviewed David for our August 1984 issue. He'd found while working for the CIA that some of the Reagan administration's primary justification for the contra war against Nicaragua was, in fact, false. This discovery, and how the information he found was stifled within the agency, eventually led him both to a spiritual re-awakening and to a public challenge to the Reagan policy in The New York Times.

Ray was a CIA analyst for 27 years, but his Catholic faith and other life twists have led him to very different work. He is co-director of the Servant Leadership School, an outreach and training ministry located just a few blocks west of our office. He has been outspoken for the past year about the false and faulty intelligence that's been used to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Both David and Ray continue to respect the professionalism and high ethics of many government analysts - which only makes them more outraged at the apparent lies told by the Bush administration in defense of its invasion of Iraq. As David said in his first Sojourners interview nearly 20 years ago, "a policy based on insufficient or misinterpreted evidence is one that is bound to come to grief."

In that light, our current political climate does not seem to be a vast improvement from the mid-1980s. But close to home, David could point to one small, clear, positive: He said our office coffee is much better than it was in 1984.

The Editors

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Sojourners Magazine November-December 2003
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Inside Story

In this issue Jim Wallis examines apparent recent shifts in President George W. Bush's theological framework and how those shifts may spur or sustain dangerous politics. While many of the administration's policies have thoroughly secular sources (see Duane Shank's related feature, "The Project for a New American Empire"), our commander-in-chief seems confident that these policies are spiritually sound, if not divinely ordained.

But, as theologian and ethicist Lewis Smedes once said, "bad theology kills." At the very least - in the hands of a president - bad theology can lead to bad, and often dangerous, foreign policy.

One trademark of Bush's foreign policy has been an apparent disdain for the United Nations - and especially for any U.N. action that involves the relinquishment of U.S. control. That tendency, as author Tad Daley explains, can be deadly in places like Africa, which the United States has often treated, at best, with benign neglect - even in the face of atrocities like the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. And while U.S. involvement in Liberia was much needed, it's also a tragic case of too-little, too-late. The situation provides a compelling argument for the establishment of an international force that's capable, and ready, to stop future atrocities before they happen.

That, at least, is a kind of pre-emption the world can live with - and perhaps can't live without.

- The Editors

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 2003
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Inside Story

In early March Sojourners hosted a daylong roundtable on faith, art, and activism. A variety of artists shared honest conversation and examples of their work-words, music, and images of beauty, truth, and provocation.

A performance at day's end by singer and musician Michelle Shocked provided a fitting benediction. Shocked fights for the causes and the music she believes in, and she brings similar passion to her Christian faith. Shocked sings like an angel-not some sweet greeting card angel, but the real deal, a window-rattling messenger of God. Her voice both digs deep and soars, a soul-shaking blend of earth, flame, thunder, and whispering wind. Shocked even managed to redeem "Kumbayah" from campfire cliche with a bluesed-out rendition that made palpable the heart's yearning for God's presence.

We bring some of the power of that day to this issue. Shocked speaks with writer Beth Isaacson about forgiveness, music, and standing for what you believe. In the "CultureWatch" section are musings on art and challenging the status quo by Washington, D.C.-based poet and actor Quique Avilés, also a roundtable participant. Civil rights veteran Rosemarie Harding was not part of the roundtable, but writes with her daughter Rachel about the role manners and music played in sustaining the black freedom movement.

In the midst of hard days, we need food for heart and soul as much as for body and mind.

-The Editors

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 2003
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Inside Story

By the time you read this, the snow in Washington, D.C., will have melted, we think. (To all northern readers: Yes, we are wimpy down here.) Our editorial intern, Elizabeth Palmberg, had multiple opportunities to instigate staff sledding parties in the park across the street. Stepping out on hope, she brought two sledding inner tubes with her to normally snow-scant D.C. Her hope was amply rewarded, and interns will never be allowed to bring snow gear again.

The snow occasionally slowed, but did not stop the work and travel of Sojourners. Web editor Ryan Beiler joined a Mennonite Central Committee delegation to Colombia. A photo essay from his trip is featured in this issue. Jim Wallis went to London with a delegation of religious leaders who met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in an effort to prevent war with Iraq. Intern Nathan Johnston didn't go far geographically, but created a packet of Web-based campus teach-in materials on Iraq and alternatives to war. A team made up of publisher/ managing director Karen Lattea Kline, associate editor Rose Marie Berger, and interns Kate Bowman and Rachel Medema wrapped up work on a roundtable on faith, arts, and activism held in early March. Too many other projects and coworkers to name here also kept the building hopping.

We trust that the warmth of springtime and the resurrection power of Easter, along with your prayers and support, will help us keep up the pace!

-The Editors

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 2003
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Inside Story

Catholic peace activist Philip Berrigan died in December, only a few months after he was diagnosed with cancer. His funeral fell on the opening day of Sojourners biannual board meeting, so a contingent of board members missed the beginning sessions in order to pay their respects in Baltimore. Phil's family invited those who attended the funeral to bring banners, puppets, and other protest signs and join them in a snowy procession from Jonah House, the community that Phil and Elizabeth McAlister founded, to the church where the service was held. Cumulatively, Phil spent more than a decade in prison for various acts of civil disobedience, so it is appropriate that his transition was made with a communal statement of loving resistance to the powers of violence and injustice. We are honored to have in this issue the eulogy given by Phil and Elizabeth's daughters, Frida and Kate. Kate has appeared in Sojourners before, as one of the people interviewed for "A Passionate Education," an article in our January-February 2002 issue about growing up with activist parents. Frida, Kate, and their brother Jerry are all in their own ways continuing the peace and justice work of their parents, and, as with their father's funeral procession, invite everyone else to come along. -The Editors

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Sojourners Magazine March-April 2003
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