Let It Shine

Image via /Shutterstock

In the face of wars, refugee crises, weapon proliferation, and unaddressed climate change impacts, let us echo the common sense of children. Let goodness shine.

Or, as our young friends in Afghanistan have put it, #Enough! They write the word, in Dari, on the palms of their hands and show it to cameras, wanting to shout out their desire to abolish all wars.

This past summer, collaborating with Wisconsin activists, we decided to feature this refrain on signs and announcements for a 90-mile walk campaigning to end targeted drone assassinations abroad, and the similarly racist impunity granted to an increasingly militarized police force when they kill brown and black people within the U.S.

Finding the Way of Hope

ONLY SOCIAL MOVEMENTS really change history. Developing, nurturing, and supporting a new generation of leaders is central to the long-term success of these movements. As leaders like me get older and look to the future, mentoring young leaders is particularly important. More and more of my time is spent doing that mentoring, not only broadly but in relationship to particularly promising young leaders whom I have met. It is some of the most important and enjoyable work that I do.

For many years, Sojourners called together large conferences on biblical justice and peace. Thousands of people came year after year, and many positive things happened—new relationships, connections, projects, and organizations—even marriages and families! Now, several other groups are having justice and peace conferences, which is exactly the kind of “competition” Sojourners has always hoped for.

Last year, some of our younger staff came up with a great idea—to have a leadership “Summit” for people already providing leadership for the biblical vision of justice and peace. All the participants would have to be nominated by credible leaders doing this work, and instead of Justice 101 with big speakers and standing ovations, this would become a new, creative environment for moving justice agendas forward—Justice 202. We didn’t publicly advertise these gatherings—instead, the invitation spread by word of mouth as leaders, especially younger ones, were drawn together by experienced justice leaders who nominated them.

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Rewriting a Prison Sentence

Photo courtesy Free Minds

CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM in the United States is gaining momentum with each graphic video showing fatal police abuse. In the aftermath of the many deaths of unarmed black men and women and the city-wide protests that erupted in Ferguson, Baltimore, and Cleveland, it is not surprising that presidential hopefuls are making bold public statements about the need to change a system that is profoundly unjust, overly punitive, and excessively costly to run.

At the other end of the spectrum, away from TV cameras and political wrangling, activists such as Tara Libert and Kelli Taylor, co-founders of the Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop, are dealing with decades of draconian anti-crime policies that have resulted in mass incarceration rates marked by racial disparities that have had a devastating impact on families and communities.

The numbers speak for themselves. Although the United States makes up less than 5 percent of the world’s population, it has nearly 25 percent of its prison population. According to The Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy organization working to reform the U.S. criminal justice system, more than 2.2 million Americans are now locked up in prisons and jails across the country—a 500-percent increase over the past 30 years. Furthermore, those who are incarcerated come largely from the most disadvantaged segments of the population.

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This Thanksgiving, Sojourners is Thankful for You

Photo: Thanks illustration, © karen roach /

Photo: Thanks illustration, © karen roach /

This Thanksgiving, we at Sojourners are thankful for each of you — for your activism, your readership, your donations, your prayers. We could not do any of this work without your support. So today, we’d like to highlight just a few of the ways your participation and contributions have helped affect real change in Washington, across the country in your communities, and truly worldwide.

Introducing The Emerging Voices Project: One Vision. Many Voices.

Today, Sojourners is launching a new project called Emerging Voices, and it’s one of the most exciting things I have been involved with for a long time. It aims to mentor, develop, and promote the most dynamic up-and-coming communicators — speakers, preachers, and teachers — who so clearly are called to lead and publicly articulate the biblical call to social justice.

The vision for this project is exciting and something to be celebrated. It also calls to mind a critical observation: Our world often wants saviors, not prophets; new messiahs, not leaders.

We want heroes with superhuman strength who save the day, not mere mortals who speak the truths we typically don’t want to hear. Even the modern day giants of social justice — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day, and Mahatma Gandhi, for example —were at best prophets, but never saviors.
It’s easy to slip into the mentality that one person, one voice will rise up in a generation, and that he or she will change the world as we know it. Perhaps we even think, “Maybe I will change the world.”

Shane Claiborne: Of Slingshots, Plowshares, and Kitchen Hammers

The Y-12 Three: Michael R. Walli, Sister Megan Rice, and Greg Boertje-Obed.

The Y-12 Three: Michael R. Walli, Sister Megan Rice, and Greg Boertje-Obed.

I just arrived in Tennessee for a little sabbatical in the hills where I grew up. As I settled into my old childhood room again for a week or so of rest, I noticed a pile of newspaper articles my mom placed by the toilet. She's gotten into the habit of putting clippings of articles there that she thinks I'll enjoy reading while having my special time in the bathroom.

One of the articles was an extraordinary front-page story in the Knoxville News Sentinel about three peace activists who shut down the Y-12 nuclear plant last month in Oak Ridge for more than weeks.

In the predawn hours of July 28, three unarmed peace activists entered the Y-12 nuclear plant and, over a matter of hours, made their unprecedented way through the layers of security to the very heart of the facility, where they performed a prayerful service, hung "crime-scene" tape and poured human blood as a symbol of the violence of nuclear weapons. One of the intruders was an 82-year-old nun who is now an international celebrity. It's a contemporary story of David and Goliath, the shepherd boy who took on a giant with nothing but a slingshot.

The article makes a spectacle of how these three folks, whose average age was 67, managed to mosey into one of the most highly secure and potentially deadly facilities in the world. But they chose the spot for a reason.

The Oak Ridge Y-12 plant was responsible for the explosives of the Hiroshima bomb. It has been called "the Fort Knox of Uranium." The Y-12 plant is the nation's primary supplier of bomb-grade uranium, and has played a role in the manufacture of every nuclear weapon in the U.S. arsenal, which now flaunts the capacity of more than 50,000 Hiroshima-size bombs.

Chick-fil-A Draws Crowds (Not Just for the Waffle Fries)

It could get pretty crowded at Chick-fil-A this week — and not because of the fast-food restaurant's famous waffle fries. 

Supporters and opponents of gay marriage plan to appear at Chick-fil-A locations nationwide after the company's president strongly denounced same-sex relationships.

The restaurant chain with Christian roots — “closed Sunday,” it proudly proclaims — is run by owners with conservative values. Now company President and CEO Dan Cathy has sparked a nationwide food fight by saying he is "guilty as charged" for supporting traditional marriage.

"We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives," Cathy told the Biblical Recorder newspaper. The article was reprinted by Baptist Press on July 16.

Former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has spearheaded “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day’’ and, as of Tuesday, more than 500,000 people had pledged on its Facebook page to show up or give support to the restaurant via social media on Wednesday. [Editor's Note: As of 9:30 a.m. EST Wednesday, 853,482 people had said they were "attending" or "maybe attending" Huckabee's event at the fast-food chain.)