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Sojourners Magazine: September/October 2010

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When radio and TV personality Glenn Beck spits out the phrase “community organizers,” it sounds like a curse. President Obama, of course, was a community organizer in the Altgeld Gardens public housing project in Chicago when he was in his early 20s. That fact alone seems enough to sour Beck on organizers, about whom he has said, “These people are bullies. These people are thugs.” At other times he’s called them “agitators” bent on establishing a “thugocracy.”

As writer Danny Duncan Collum explains in this issue, Christians are involved in community organizing as public witness to their faith. Churches recognize that sin is not only personal, but also social and economic. Community organizing empowers disenfranchised people to redress the structural sin that leaves them in poverty or at the mercy of corporate greed. When churches address issues of social justice and act with dignity in the public square, they provide an effective—and evangelical—witness to the gospel.

Beck articulates the fears of the rich and powerful when he warns, “So, while these community organizers appear to be agitating for one seemingly noble goal or another, their underlying mission is ... ‘how the have-nots can take power from the haves.’” On that score, Beck may be right. Congregation-based community organizing puts into action Mary’s Magnificat: “God has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; God has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away” (Luke 1:52-53).

Cover Story

The Main Reason: They upend the power structure to give people at the bottom a better chance.

Feature

Insights on being the first in the family to graduate from college.
Trinity University found the future of education -- hiding in its own neighborhood.

Commentary

Why do so many try to lighten the impact of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech?
Looking forward after Katrina and the BP spill.
The moral implications of our growing debt burden.

Columns

In the DRC, soldiers use women's bodies as a battlefield.
Politicians can't help it when they lie.
Soldiers are dying for a failed, arrogant, theologically unjust, and immoral war policy.
College campuses have been in the vanguard of most major social movements.

Culture Watch

A school claims video games help students learn to "manage complexity." But will they understand culture?
Consider All the Works
Is Sabbath only for the privileged few -- or for all of us?
Comedian Omid Djalili on being funny about faith.
The ArchAndroid, by Janelle Monáe, Atlantic Records.
George Lucas may have had a role in my childhood, but it's not up to him to tell my story for me.

Departments

I very much appreciated “The Art of Dying” by Lisa Sowle Cahill (June 2010).
September 2010: 'Come, Rejoice With Me'; October 2010: The Nature of Faith
I live in Los Angeles and work among progressively minded folks (Jesus-following and not). During and since the Proposition 8 vote, I have found a great deal of secular commentary on gay marriage.
It is sad to me that Jim Wallis’ editorial on the Arizona immigration law (“Is Christian Ministry Illegal in Arizona?” July 2010) said nothing about reconciliation.
In her generally fine article, Lisa Sowle Cahill states, “euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide is not an acceptable answer to the stress of human death.”
No, nothing, she says, that is not God’s, and we approach a crow ripping the entrails of a truck-crushed fox, and the crow flees

Web Extra

In the September-October issue, Danny Duncan Collum cuts through paranoid misrepresentations of community organizing to the quiet, hopeful truth: Congregation-based organizing groups are helping pe