The Virtue of Irrelevance

John Alexander, longtime friend, teacher, and mentor of Christian activists across the country—including us at Sojourners—died on Good Friday of leukemia. In 1968 Alexander started The Other Side magazine (then called Freedom Now) with his father and served as editor from 1973-1984. He was most recently a member of the Church of the Sojourners in San Francisco, where at the time of his death he was working on a book titled Stop Going to Church and Be the Church—the book's draft was saved on his computer as The Love Book. At Alexander's memorial service, the eulogist, Jack Bernard, said, "John's life was about one thing: to understand the will of God in order to do it and to call others to do likewise." —The Editors

At 50, John Alexander looked like a relic from the '60s with his rainbow-colored tie-dye T-shirt. It was 1992. I knew Alexander as a celebrity from the "Who's Who" of Christian social activists, an author, and a magazine editor. But something was amiss. Eight years earlier John had disappeared off the national radar screen. Suddenly I ran into him at a conference in his new identity as pastor for an obscure little house church in San Francisco.

Later that year, five members of the Church of the Sojourners community—including John and his wife Judy—drove 40 hours to our Antioch Christian community in Mississippi just to paint the foyer of our house, cook with us, wash dishes, and hang out.

Through many subsequent visits, it gradually dawned on me that John and Judy had been sent to us with a message from God. While my African-American co-worker Spencer Perkins and I told the nation how to do racial reconciliation, we often weren't reconciled between us. John and Judy had a lot to say about this, and I usually didn't like it. Most of the blame, they said, was mine. They said I was lost in jealousy and envy of Spencer.

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 2001
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