Activism

Holy Resistance

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada has decided that breaking the law can be a Christian duty. "A readiness to undertake civil disobedience constitutes a part of giving unqualified primary allegiance to God," states a discussion paper published by the Ontario-based Christian association.

"Christians are involved in various types of protest to raise the profile of certain government policies," said Janet Epp Buckingham, director of the EFC's Religious Liberty Commission. "This paper will help those trying to determine if praying at an abortion clinic or protesting at global economic meetings are biblically approved or biblically condemned." The document, "Christians and Civil Disobedience" (www.evangelicalfellowship.ca), says that as governments expand their influence over the lives of citizens and as "governmental and public morality deteriorates, Christians will increasingly find themselves driven to civil disobedience."

"In the past, people would have said categorically [that] breaking the law is not appropriate for Christians unless a specific religious practice is prohibited," said Epp Buckingham. "In this paper we're taking the next step and saying there may be situations where it's appropriate." The EFC is an alliance of 32 Protestant and evangelical churches and colleges, including the Baptist Church, the Wesleyan Church, and the Salvation Army.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine September-October 2001
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Catalytic Converters

Whoever said activists lack a sense of humor hasn't met Bernice Johnson Reagon. The unforgettable alto for the a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock and a former member of the civil rights-era Freedom Singers, Reagon is living proof that working for justice and living with laughter are mutually compatible.

"The first time I ran into the term 'religion,' people were asking whether you had any. You know, some people had religion and some people didn't have religion. It wasn't a good thing if you didn't have it. If you didn't have it, you needed to go find it," Reagon recounts with a chuckle to an audience at Iliff School of Theology. Her childhood recollections and her memories of the African-American freedom movement are documented in "The Singing Warrior," a video interview conducted by the Veterans of Hope project in Denver.

Created by Vincent and Rosemarie Freeney Harding and produced with the help of Rachel Harding and Sudarshan Kapur, the Veterans video series aims to preserve and pass on what Vincent calls the "sacred history" of older activists to younger generations. Five videos have been produced; 50 more are in the works. Each offers a 40-to-50 minute interview-conversation with a "veteran" of human rights or social justice struggles, including those who struggled for civil rights within the United States and those who worked for human rights in Guatemala, Mexico, Brazil, and across the globe. And each video pays particular attention to accounts of spiritual formation—from Reagon's early years in the black church to environmental activist Valdina Pinto's work as a Candomble priestess to activist-scholar Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons' embrace of Sufi mysticism.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine July-August 2001
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

People Power II

Tens of thousands of people gathered in the streets and parks in Manila and other major cities in the Philippines early this year as People Power II erupted. With crowds swelling, cabinet members offered their massive resignation, and finally even the military deserted the president-it was clear that people power had reached its objective to push Erap Estrada to resign. There were joyful celebrations in the big cities that evening.

Despite all existing political and social theories, there is not one I know that can fully explain the people power phenomenon both in 1986 and this year. While there are material bases for the revolutionary struggle, for the believer there were just so many signs of God's intervention that was the people power. It was political, yes; but it was also very cosmic, metaphysical. There is no way the people could have won, if not but a direct divine intervention. A miracle took place.

Right now many are saying that God has given us a second gift, the first being the one given in 1986. We wasted the first gift; no radical reforms to benefit the poor took place from 1986 on. This is a second gift, and many of us say to ourselves that we should not waste it. We should learn the lessons of 1986 and not commit the same mistakes. Thus, there are calls for:

n A continuing trial of Estrada for all charges of corruption and plunder. Justice first before reconciliation and mercy. He, his kin, cronies, and all those who helped him obstruct justice should be brought to trial. This is the only way we could experience catharsis, as it happened in South Korea. Then, having undergone a fair trial, if they are found guilty they should be punished, even in a symbolic manner. Then, as the psalmist states, let justice and mercy embrace.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine March-April 2001
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Just Stop It

It might be going too far to say that Naomi Klein makes globalization fun. But the Canadian journalist does make highly engaging reading out of such nonsexy topics as how transnational corporations' marketing and money came to dominate our public life. Her 1999 book No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies even dares to be hopeful. Klein sees a grassroots global movement forming-in the streets, yes, but also in shareholders' meetings, workplaces, universities, even sweatshops-to demand "a citizen-centered alternative to the international rule of the brands."

Klein is as careful to note the excesses and co-option of some anti-corporate activism as she is to detail the dire conditions of a sweatshop or deflate corporate image-mongering. But she is certain that anti-corporate efforts are a vital part of achieving human rights and just government around the world, and that such efforts are on the increase. She talked in December 2000 with Sojourners' Julie Polter about the challenges and potential in building a movement that refuses to be branded.

JULIE Polter: Some people dismiss anti-globalization protests such as those in Seattle in November 1999 as just kids breaking windows. Is part of your work to help build credibility for this movement?

NAOMI Klein: Everybody who's involved in this movement spends a lot of time just correcting misconceptions, not just about tactics but about why people are protesting. This is a much bigger concern to me-the fact that a lot of the media coverage presents the protests as narrowly protectionist and nostalgic.

The main challenge for the movement in general is to communicate the goals of the movement better. Not just to the media, but to friends, colleagues, in organizing in general. I've been trying to do my part.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine March-April 2001
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Police! Put down the puppet, now!

As movements against the harmful effects of globalization are gaining strength in the United States, activists are increasingly outraged at some police behavior employed to control them. Civil rights lawyers claim that tactics ranging from pre-emptive arrests to outright brutality intimidate citizens from exercising their constitutional rights.

At the Democratic National Convention, according to activists, Los Angeles police used pepper spray, batons, and nonlethal ammunition indiscriminately against largely peaceful crowds instead of responding selectively to the relatively small number of violent protesters. The British newspaper The Independent reported that some protesters were shot in the back with bruising rubber bullets while trying to walk away from police with their hands joined in the air.

Pre-emptive seizures were made during the Republican National Convention protests in August, and some of those arrested allegedly received severe beatings while in custody. Several activists had their bails set at six figures, and Ruckus Society leader John Sellers was arrested and held with $1 million bail on misdemeanor charges.

Similarly, the night before last April's protests against the International Monetary Fund in Washington, D.C., police arrested—without a warning—a crowd of more than 300 people, including journalists and tourists who were observing the events. Police also raided the protesters' "convergence center," seizing puppet-making supplies, PVC pipes used for making human chains, and foodstuffs, claiming they were materials for making bombs and homemade pepper spray.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine November-December 2000
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

U2K Campaign: A Push for Universal Health Care

Perhaps the strongest effort toward health care reform is the Universal Health Care Action Network and its current U2K Campaign, "Universal Health Care in the Year 2000." U2K wants to make fundamental health care reform—defined as quality universal health care that is accessible, comprehensive, affordable, and publicly accountable—a key issue on the national political agenda during the 2000 elections and beyond.

Faith communities have been vital to U2K on a national and local level. The National Council of Churches serves as a founder, along with labor unions and advocates for the elderly. Religious groups ranging from Church Women United to the Catholic social justice lobby NETWORK have joined the campaign. But Linda Walling, U2K’s faith-based coordinator, says, "This truly is a grassroots movement. More and more, local health care coalitions are finding out about us, and calling and saying ‘Hey, how can we join?’" Walling explains that faith groups who have never had the chance to work together are given the opportunity through U2K. "It’s a natural fit," she remarks. "There is no faith community that does not have the importance of health and healing as a part of its teaching."

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine September-October 2000
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

How Rebellious Was Jesus?

Jesus is serious. John Dear became convinced of that during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the summer of 1984, as Israeli jets flew above him and dropped bombs on Lebanon. It was a few months before Dear entered the priesthood, and he had been meditating at the Chapel of the Beatitudes above the Sea of Galilee, he writes in Jesus the Rebel, Bearer of God’s Peace and Justice.

Dear looks to the gospels to explain his understanding of Jesus’ seriousness. He highlights specific narratives—from the beginning of Christ’s public ministry through the crucifixion and resurrection and post-resurrection appearances—to develop a portrait of Jesus who is beloved and contemplative. He is also radical and committed to nonviolent acts of resistance to an evil, militaristic state and the hypocritically pious authorities of his institutionalized religion. Christ’s example of revolutionary nonviolence, the author believes, calls all who would be his disciples to resist similar evil and hypocrisy.

Dear—a peace activist, author of several books on the theology of nonviolence, and director of the interfaith pacifist group Fellowship of Reconciliation—writes resolutely and directly without resorting to the latest divinity school lingo. He possesses a wonderful ability to make the gospels plain and accessible. His commentaries are enlivened by his years of studying the gospels—and trying to live their full implications. The balance of study and the lessons derived from experience—his own and that of others he believes exemplify gospel nonviolence—yield some uncommon insights that compel the reader to see the gospels in new ways.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine September-October 2000
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Communities of Character

When faced with contemporary social justice questions, churches are called to reflection and action based upon their Christian story. The Christian community is necessarily a body politic that is marked by Jesus Christ and is not a community that identifies itself with any particular socio-political philosophy or culture.

When faced with ethical dilemmas, a danger therefore lies in silent submission to activist voices laden with political ideology. A reasonable believer may appropriately feel uncomfortable when "activist" colleagues strain to gain the communal acceptance of their perspective by masking it as the only Christian thing to do. Rather than taking up the issues of the day as social causes, we are called as communities to witness lives of hope and love in Christ.

Broad-based organizing is one way to address ethical issues without falling prey to inaction or divisive activism. Broad-based organizing recreates a public by bringing together a mix of ethnicities, faith communities, and social classes—an infrequent achievement in our nation. People respond to this organizing because it does not equate Christianity or any faith tradition with the liberal democratic social system but instead organizes people around common values.

In a society where dominant ethics perspectives have focused mostly on means (rights-talk, for example), this developing model is helping people to discover ends (goods in common). While many activists’ demands for action on political identity issues often lead to immediate polarization and dissension, broad-based organizing raises up common values and virtues that communities embrace by their faith stories (Christian love of neighbor, for instance).

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine September-October 2000
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Jubilee Begins With Me

Pat Pelham lives in Birmingham, Alabama. About four years ago, she felt called to help people in need. Her pastor at Independent Presbyterian Church suggested she get their church involved in Bread for the World.

Pat and her friend Elaine Van Cleave came to hear me talk about Bread for the World at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church. After that event, Pat and Elaine started to organize. They got their church's hunger committee involved in Bread for the World.

Three years ago, they invited their member of Congress, Rep. Spencer Bachus, to a Bread for the World dinner at Independent Presbyterian. I sat on his left, and the Presbyterian Hunger Action Enabler for Birmingham - a Republican Party activist - sat on his right. We urged Bachus to cosponsor the anti-hunger legislation that Bread for the World was pushing that year. Rep. Bachus had never before sponsored such legislation. But he called Pat the next evening and said, "I doubt that this will win me many votes, but I don't want to be responsible for even one child going hungry."

At the beginning of 1999, the Jubilee 2000 network was getting organized. Rep. Bachus had become chair of the international committee of the House Banking Committee, where any congressional action on debt relief would have to start. Pat, Elaine, and two friends from Independent Presbyterian flew up to Washington, D.C., at their own expense to bring Bachus a debt relief petition with 400 signatures.

"I don't know much about economics or international finance," Elaine explained. "But I do know that about 30,000 children die every day from hunger and other preventable causes, and, as a mother, that really bothers me....it would help a lot if you would sponsor this Jubilee legislation."

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine July-August 2000
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

It's a Start

Recalling my days of fire-breathing student activism with a slight cringe, I assumed an air of aloof bemusement at the strident rhetoric of the IMF and World Bank protesters this April in Washington, D.C. Oh, for the lost days of Idealism vs. evil Establishments (for me, that was two whole years ago) - before the complexities of life in the "real world" hopelessly jaded me. Sigh.

But, for the most part, the protesters are right. The IMF and World Bank (and the WTO) do promote policies that hurt the poor. Whether these institutions should be razed or reformed is subject to debate - a debate that wasn't taking place in the mainstream until students, steelworkers, and people in turtle suits marched on Seattle and Washington, D.C.

Of course, at both events violence by police and protesters grabbed disproportionate attention. Though our local news coverage did a reasonably good job of covering the actual event, the crowd of journalists followed - and nearly outnumbered - the relatively small band of anarchists they hoped were going to "do something." Power plays in which police and activists tried to show each other who was in charge made exciting footage but focused attention on the event rather than its goal. Chants of "Whose streets? - OUR STREETS!" confused rather than clarified the real issues at stake.

More aggravating than these tangents, however, were those of the pundits. While news coverage was generally accurate, the general line on the op-ed pages of the major papers was this: These protesters are a bunch of well-intentioned but ill-informed privileged white kids desperate for something to rebel against. One letter to the editor thought it important to mention that marchers were seen wearing $150 hiking boots - obvious proof to the writer that these were just the ungrateful children of global prosperity.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine July-August 2000
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Pages

Subscribe