Activists

Finding Our Prophetic Voices

Though I have stood weekly at a vigil for the last five years, been in several marches, and even participated in civil disobedience, I have never had the opportunity to do direct action in an intentionally Christian witness. This has been an experience like no other, right up there in power and importance with my experience of getting married, or giving birth to my son. I felt as if I was at the birth of a new movement, one of such moral force that it will grow and grow. As we reclaim our beautiful, injured, co-opted religion, we find our true prophetic voices.

Although only two of us from our tiny church participated physically in the action, our personal cloud of witnesses were the individuals in our congregation who supported us financially and emotionally as we made this journey of faith. They are finding their voice as well.

Khristine Hopkins attends St. Mary of the Harbor Episcopal Church in Provincetown, Mass.

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Sojourners Magazine June 2007
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The Journey

It's about the journey. As the cathedral dean, Rev. Samuel Lloyd, so eloquently described the travails of the four people from Spokane who drove cross-country through ice and snow, only to have their vehicle totaled, and yet summoned the courage to hitchhike the rest of the way here, I was humbled by how very little we had suffered in the undertaking.

It's about the journey. We came with our children. I selected this venue with care, wanting them to experience a protest of the war that was not secular but grounded in the faith that drives my belief in a better way. I wanted to expose them to some of the tragedy and suffering of the war, but not to destroy their innocence. I wanted them to know peace as an outgrowth of God's mercy and love, and not merely a word on a poster.

It's about the journey in solidarity with so many others. As we traveled, our local parish held a prayer vigil for the protesters, for those serving in Iraq, for the Indiana residents who have lost their lives in the war, for the Iraqi people who have lost so much in this travesty. It's about arriving at the cathedral at the precise moment that others from our church arrive, finding one another in the crowd, sharing hugs and travel stories. About the strangers who shared our journey in spirit—the hotel desk clerk, the taxi driver, the security guard who said: "This is so needed."

Carol Brophy of West Lafayette, Ind., attended with her husband, Sean, and her children, Erin (11) and Ryan (13).

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Sojourners Magazine June 2007
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A Calm, Hopeful Fire

No one person, and yet seemingly every person in on the planning of this event, was in charge. In the prayers that opened and closed each planning conference call, we asked that one larger than us all would have the final say. And the morning of the witness, we offered our efforts to God as humbly and as fearlessly as we could. I freely relinquished the control I always thought I needed. As we faced rain, hail, gusts of snow; buses that arrived late and processions that began early; impromptu liturgies and all-night arrests—a calm, hopeful fire burned within.

Colin Mathewson is media intern at Sojourners/Call to Renewal.

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Sojourners Magazine June 2007
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An Ocean of Tears

I am Celeste Zappala, of the First United Methodist Church of Germantown in Philadelphia, of Military Families Speak Out, and, sadly, of Gold Star Families Speak Out, because I am the mother of a fallen soldier. My son, Sgt. Sherwood Baker, was killed in Baghdad on April 26, 2004.

Since Sherwood died protecting the Iraq survey group as they looked for weapons of mass destruction, 2,483 more American lives have been lost, and how many limbs and how many eyes and how much blood? And what happens to the souls of soldiers who have picked up their friends in pieces or fearfully fired into a moving car—to discover a shattered Iraqi family a moment later?

In Iraq, shamefully, no one could say how many children and old people have died; those counts are only kept in the hearts of those who have loved them.

Please hold these people in your heart: An Iraqi mother searches a morgue for the familiar curve of the hand of her child beneath a pale sheet; an American father watches his son beheaded on videotape; an Iraqi child wakes up in a shabby hospital in excruciating pain without his arm; an American girl writes letters to her dead soldier father; a young vet wraps a garden hose around his neck and leaps away from the nightmares that beset him.

And an ocean of tears spreads across both countries. ... A wail rises from the throat of all who love these people and shakes our hearts as it reaches for the crucified open arms of Jesus.

We are here tonight as the church. Each one of us is a witness to this war and to our own complicity in it—when were we silent and should have spoken, whose eyes would we not meet to face the truth?

Now we are prostrate at this altar—begging: Lord help us. War is our failure to love you, and peace is your command. Peace is not the easy way out; its creation is the most confounding, the hardest thing we can do. Help us.

Celeste Zappala spoke these words at the National Cathedral service.

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Sojourners Magazine June 2007
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Halleluyah, YO!

"The wind blows wherever it pleases." Word?
The scene is played out. We need some Eden!
Were Abba the DJ, He'd spin hymns
To slay. A hybrid of Gospel Blues Jungle
Copeland and Kundimans for a camouflaged choir.
Strobe lights bounce off converted monks, now
Punks, who die and dye their hair. Who cares?
Graffiti overflows wall to wall, inspired
By the Kotel: tattoo artists perform
Miracles, I share a bottle of Mountain Dew
With my bro, while Bhangra beats lull homeless
Ravers too tired from the blessed breakdance.
Elders with glowsticks trade skateboard stickers
And croon in vintage threads the Salvation
Armies donated. Just nudge me, aight? You can
Hock my iPod, mobile phone, knapsack, shades.
I wanna go where the sun rises best. Shalom.

Clifford Rivera is a performance poet and lives in Spring Valley, New York.

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Sojourners Magazine April 2007
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Modern Prophets

Climate change activists carried out what they called an “art attack” in November by screening political messages on the sides of several London landmarks. Using powerful projection equipment, a group called the Prophets of Hope targeted Battersea Power Station, the Houses of Parliament, and one other building with the messages “How ironic to live in fear of terrorism and die because of climate change” and “The ultimate terror threat is climate change.” According to their MySpace page, Prophets of Hope exists “to fight the bleak situation that is climate change with the light of hope.”

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Sojourners Magazine February 2007
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HABEAS CORPUS (1787-2006)

In October, as President Bush signed the Military Commissions Act of 2006, 200 members of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture protested in front of the White House against what they called the “death of civil liberties” (apparently without the benefit of spellcheck). When they tried to deliver a statement rejecting the act as a gross violation of the U.S. Constitution and the Geneva Conventions, 16 were arrested. Amnesty International warned that the act “threatens to deprive an unknown number of U.S.-held ‘war on terror’ detainees held in U.S. custody of fundamental safeguards against human rights violations, and to facilitate impunity for such violations.”

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Sojourners Magazine January 2007
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Singing for Clean Water

He seems relatively amused when people quote lines from the most famous song he’s ever recorded, but this day he was pretty serious. So as I walked the streets of Gualey with Richie Furay, I kept this thought to myself: There’s something happening here; what it is ain’t exactly clear.

Furay was moved by both the poverty of the people and the fact that they were getting clean water from their local church.

“I had to wipe tears from my eyes when I walked through that community,” he said later. “People are living like that, and we’re quibbling over the price of gasoline for our cars.”

Furay, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 as a founding member of both Buffalo Springfield and Poco, has been a Calvary Chapel pastor for more than 20 years in Broomfield, Colorado. He has a new book out this year, Pickin’ Up the Pieces, and a new CD, Heartbeat of Love, which features Neil Young, Jim Messina, and other former bandmates who went on to start groups such as Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young; Loggins and Messina; and the Eagles.

Furay doesn’t talk much about his days in the rock world, although when pressed he will provide some details about the weekend he spent in jail with Eric Clapton. Most of what Furay has to say about those days is in the book For What It’s Worth: The Story of Buffalo Springfield.

But he has started to tour more. A recent concert he gave was a benefit for Healing Waters International. A month later he traveled to the Dominican Republic to see the fruits of that concert firsthand.

“I couldn’t wait to get home and tell my church about what I saw,” he said. “I know that Jesus said, ‘The poor you will have with you always,’ but what we saw there was off the charts. This is life and death.”

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Sojourners Magazine July 2006
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A Life Of Enduring Impact

Anne Braden, who died in March at age 81, was not as famous as Rosa Parks or Coretta Scott King. But her contributions to social change in our country were just as important as theirs, and for many her example was just as inspiring.

Anne Braden was a white Southerner. She was born in Louisville, Ky., and raised in Anniston, Ala., in a fairly well-off Episcopalian family during the 1920s and ’30s, when segregation and white supremacy were pervasive and virtually unquestioned. After college in Virginia, she returned to Alabama as a newspaper reporter. In later years, Braden often said that covering the Birmingham courthouse, where unequal justice was handed out according to skin color, was what really radicalized her.

When she took a job at the (now defunct) Louisville Times, Braden began to find ways to act on her growing outrage at racial injustice. She met and married Carl Braden, who at the time was the labor reporter at The (Louisville) Courier-Journal. Carl was from a working-class southern Indiana family, and through his involvement with the labor movement was connected with a network of left-wing activists in the city—the remnants of the New Deal era’s communist-led Popular Front.

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Sojourners Magazine June 2006
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Who is the Enemy?

Everyone wants to be happy and to fulfill their dreams. For many who live in war zones, prisons, and places of poverty, those dreams aren’t likely to come true. While it’s a reality that gives rise to fear and despair, Kathy Kelly offers antidotes of courage and compassionate action in her new book Other Lands Have Dreams.

Kelly has been bringing to life Jesus’ teachings of love and nonviolence for more than 20 years through radical activism, teaching, and writing. Walking in the footsteps of Dorothy Day, David Dellinger, Daniel Berrigan, and Martin Luther King Jr., Kelly has served the poor, comforted the wounded, and led international efforts to noncooperate with systems of violence.

Written mostly in small hotels in Iraq and Jordan and in U.S. prisons, the book chronicles Kelly’s tireless journey of noncooperation with injustice and war. She has been arrested numerous times for nonviolent direct actions, including planting corn on nuclear missile silos in Missouri, protesting draft registration, and opposing U.S. military violence in Central America and Iraq.

Kelly has participated in and helped organize nonviolent direct action teams in Iraq (1991), Bosnia (1992 and 1993), and Haiti (1994), and has been a war tax resister for 23 years. She has been nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize—in 2000 (with Dennis Halliday, U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq), 2001, and 2003 (with Voices in the Wilderness).

Other Lands Have Dreams highlights the motives of punishment and revenge that lie underneath both U.S. military violence abroad and domestic poverty and imprisonment at home. “Military and prison structures don’t train recruits to view ‘the enemy’ or ‘the inmate’ as precious and valuable humans deserving forgiveness, mercy, and respect, even if they have trespassed against us,” Kelly writes.

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Sojourners Magazine June 2006
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