This Month's Cover

Sojourners Magazine: May 2011

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At Sojourners, we have always been advocates of principled nonviolence. (Our founder called it "loving your enemy.") But all too often, conventional wisdom has seen nonviolence as passivity, even in the face of injustice.

The events in Egypt and elsewhere in the region this year were vivid reminders of the power of civil resistance -- and demonstrate once again that nonviolent action is anything but passive or quiescent. That's why Gandhi referred to it as "satyagraha," or truth force. And why the heroes of the civil rights movement are often called freedom fighters. History has shown that justice rarely happens naturally or on its own; it is usually the fruit of long, hard, determined struggle by those directly affected and their allies.

Erica Chenoweth has studied a century of civil resistance, and she has identified elements that make for a successful campaign. Among her most important findings: Nonviolent actions are actually more likely to work than those that use violence. But one essential aspect of such actions is that proper preparation and training take place before people take it to the streets. And that's exactly what happened in the months and years before the Jan. 25 uprising in Egypt. Such training was also key to the success of the U.S. civil rights movement, as Bernard Lafayette explains in our interview this month -- one way we mark the 50th anniversary of the first freedom rides.

Finally, it is with deep appreciation that we say farewell (for now) to biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann, who for the past 18 months has brought his always-provocative wisdom and insight to our Living the Word commentaries -- and helped us see that the deepest roots for social action are firmly planted in God's Word.

Cover Story

What the Egyptians did right: a Cairo-based nonviolence trainer looks at what the Jan. 25 activists did right.
Bernard Lafayette, a leader in the civil rights movement and teacher of nonviolence, discusses lunch counter sit-ins, Martin Luther King Jr., and the challenges and victories of nonviolent movement.
Does bloody civil war in Libya mean nonviolence has its limits?
From Cairo, Egypt, to Madison, Wisconsin, civil society is fighting back through massive nonviolent resistance. But what makes for a successful campaign? The data is in.
The roots of Egypt's revolt: the story of Egypt's long preparation for nonviolent revolution.


Mark's gospel tells us that healing, like suffering, should unite us. A Bible study for the health-care debate.
In the world's newest country, South Sudan, seminaries have taken on an unusual subject.
The KKK bomb that killed four girls did not have the last word. An eyewitness account.


Obama's outreach to CEOs does little to stem the return of the economy's bad old days. 
Will uprisings change the religious persecution faced by Middle East's Christians?
Genetically modified  alfalfa is certain to contaminate normal fields -- but not to meet farmers needs.


Even the weakest faith can give us the strength to move mountains -- or climb them.
Speaking of my granddaughter, I was changing her diaper the other day, and in the contents I'm pretty sure I saw ...
Tough choices are now upon us -- but they must be smart, courageous, and compassionate. 
There is a light in me now, and it is taking over the darkness.

Culture Watch

Six books on the ongoing search for peace and justice in the Middle East and beyond.
Books on migration and the immigrant experience.
... Voices from Africa
In 1886, members of America's fledgling labor movement called a general strike for May 1 to demand an eight-hour work day.
The sacred tradition of integrating feminist insight into religious texts
Women's ongoing search, in life and texts, for equality and empowerment.


These Easter readings line out the new life lived by the community of Jesus. They show, on the one hand, that Easter life is dangerous and demanding.
Bio: Volunteer with Latinos United for Clean Air (LUCA) in Fresno, California

Web Extra

In 1958, Bernard Lafayette was 19 years old and a student at American Baptist College in Nashville, Tennessee, when his life changed.
Erica Chenoweth is an assistant professor of government at Wesleyan University and co-author with Maria J.
Studies, Films, Websites, and Books on Nonviolence