Combating Cynicism

"According to the White House Press Office, President Clinton is throwing his weight behind a bill to expand the definition of a hate crime to include violence against homosexuals." Upon hearing this long-overdue news, I remembered my struggles alongside members of the religious advocacy community to pass this very bill two years ago. I had left Washington, D.C., and my work with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker peace and social justice organization, long before Congress began to take the bill seriously.

In the process of working with the AFSC, I attempted to bring Quaker perspectives on human dignity and social justice to bear in the domestic social policy debate. I quickly abandoned my fresh-out-of-college optimism and felt as if I was trying to polish the U.S. Capitol with a very small toothbrush.

In Soul of a Citizen: Living With Conviction in a Cynical Time, Paul Rogat Loeb challenges such feelings of hopelessness among those of us working for social change, and he issues a call to action to those who crave peace and justice. Using powerful examples of ordinary citizens who create extraordinary results, Soul of a Citizen also provides persuasive suggestions to deepen our commitment to meaningful change—from coping with burnout to balancing our social involvement with work and family.

In addition to exploring these themes, Rogat Loeb condemns the current socio-economic order and offers "pieces of a vision" for the future. Unfortunately, the pieces of his vision—promoting human dignity, preserving the environment, and creating economic security—are neither original nor specific. Though Rogat Loeb admits that he is merely suggesting alternatives, it is clear that his expertise does not lie in offering prescriptions for the future or analyzing the roots of our socio-economic dysfunction.

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 1999
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