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Sojourners Magazine: January 2011

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In 1984, members of the Sojourners community founded a community center in southern Columbia Heights, an impoverished neighborhood in inner-city Washington, D.C. Over the years, community members worked with others in the neighborhood to secure tenants' rights, tutor children, distribute emergency food to hundreds of families, and serve as advocates and partners with their neighbors.

In the '80s, Columbia Heights had the dreadful distinction of hosting the highest concentration of murders in the city -- at a time when D.C. was the "murder capital" of the country. The neighborhood (where Sojourners magazine is still located) has changed much in the intervening years, but some things remain the same. Decades of gradual-then-rapid gentrification in the area haven't eliminated the violence that still roams the streets.

Long time community member, neighborhood resident, and Sojourners magazine associate editor Rose Marie Berger tells the tragic story of Donte Manning, a 9-year-old boy gunned down in Columbia Heights on Holy Thursday in 2005, in her new book Who Killed Donte Manning? Berger reads Donte's story as parable and metaphor for the state of our neighborhoods and our nation.

What does such apparently random violence tell us about the nature of God? The Bible -- particularly the Old Testament -- is filled with stories that make contemporary urban atrocities pale in comparison. And yet, as Brian McLaren explains, violence is only part of the biblical picture; the central motif is one of compassionate and unconditional love -- culminating in the ultimate rejection of violence: the cross. In Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, we find not only the antidote to the perpetrators of violence in our world, but the clearest and deepest exemplar of the true heart of God.

Cover Story

mjones / Shutterstock
What does the violence in the Bible tell us about the nature of God?

Feature

A 9-year-old's murder tells us much about his neighborhood—and about America.
The diary of an undocumented student
A Bible study on the book of Daniel and empire

Commentary

In the Middle East, people step in where governments fail.
Financial regulatory reform will work—or fail—depending on the rules written this year.
The world, and the world church, must stand with Sudan at this crucial time.

Columns

In politics there is always a spiritual choice to be made—a choice between hope and fear.
Jan. 20, 2011, marks the 50th anniversary of the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy, our nation's first (and still only) Roman Catholic head of state.
Nonviolent civil disobedience has been a less effective tactic in this country in the past few decades for a variety of reasons.
It's often good to have a donkey with you when you pray. They provide a natural antidote to excessive piety. Take my recent retreat day at the Jonah House Catholic Worker community in Baltimore.
The Tea Party has spoken, or maybe gurgled.

Culture Watch

Poet and journalist Eliza Griswold tells stories from the 10th parallel, where Isam and Christianity meet.
The makers of the film "Earth Made of Glass" on finding truth after genocide
Four January 2011 culture recommendations from our editors
"Blessed Are the Organized" by Jeffrey Stout, Princeton University Press
"The Gifts of the Small Church" by Jason Byassee, Abingdon Press
It's a golden age for documentaries.
Corporations don't have to breathe the air or drink the water—so why are they "people" too?

Web Extra

1. Dive! The United States throws out 263 million pounds of food per day, much of which is perfectly good to eat.
I met Eliza Griswold in a Starbucks round the corner from her apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
Felipe Matos, 24, was sent to the United States from the slums of Brazil by his mother who longed for him to find a better life and achieve his dreams.