[After 9/11] Many of us feel a deep desire for revenge and violent retribution. We know how natural that is. We want to strike back at the perpetrators. And it is true: We do need to find and punish them. But we must not let that need be overwhelmed by sheer rage. We need to counter those who want to bomb indiscriminately, to “take them out” with missiles, or even to use everything in our arsenal. ...
Can we together agree that retribution is not the way of Jesus? Can we remain steadfast in nonviolence, despite the skepticism of those who embrace violence as a way of fighting violence? Can we repudiate belief in redemptive violence? Christians must behave as Christians no matter how much our society and churches ridicule nonviolence as idealistic and ineffective. If we cannot be faithful in such a crisis as we presently face, when will we?
Finally, we must cling to God by blind faith in such a time as this. To the question, Where is God in all this? we can answer, Where God always is: nearer than breathing and closer than hands or feet. But just as the clouds of dust and smoke and falling debris blotted out the sun on Sept. 11, so horror of this dimension blots out the light of God. In such a time, we cannot perhaps feel God’s presence, but it is there, and we have to cling to it even as we scream at the silence of God.
WOMEN IN almost every culture and segment of society experience violence ... that is directed specifically at them as women. In the United States, women of color—Latina, African American, Asian, and Native American—experience violence that is specifically focused against them because of both their race and their gender. When misogynist violence combines with racism, the result is a unique and deadly threat to women of oppressed races. ...
Women of different races and economic backgrounds have begun to join together in a movement to end the violence that endangers them all. The women of color who are involved in this movement, however, bear witness to the barriers that hinder such cooperation. Prominent among them is the misunderstanding or ignorance of the particular ways that both individuals and institutions perpetrate violence focused against women of color. It is clear from the historical and current experiences of women of color that racism is an inextricable factor in this violence. They reject, therefore, analyses that blame only sexism and patriarchal structures for violence against women. The problem of misogynist violence can only be fully addressed when the experiences of all women are incorporated into the perspective of the movement for change. Both racist and anti-women stereotypes and attitudes must be overcome before society can become a safe place for all women.
CAN THE words “Christian” or “faith” appear in proximity to political issues? And if they do, what should they mean? On May 23, a delegation of U.S. Christian leaders came to Washington, D.C., to proclaim to the press and the country’s political leadership that yes, faith and values are vital to the public life—and if they are genuinely expressed they should transform our discourse, policy, and social fabric. What true biblical faith doesn’t do is let religious conviction be manipulated by partisan politics.
“America is fed up with what many in the church are doing, polarizing us into Left and Right. Christians are called to a politics of reconciliation,” said Tony Campolo at a press conference held that morning. ...
IT WAS after midnight at the end of another long, busy day, and I had an early breakfast meeting the next morning. I decided to read a psalm before I turned off the light and, with no particular rhyme or reason, settled on Psalm 127. Although I have read this psalm before, I was completely unprepared for the shock it gave me that night.
Verse two caught me completely off guard: “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil.” I was struck right between the eyes. There could not have been a more vivid and disturbingly apt description of my life and the lives of most people I know here at Sojourners and elsewhere.
IN 1968, the [Latin American Catholic] bishops met in Medellín, Colombia, to examine the church’s role in social and political transformation in Latin America. Here the vision of a “preferential option for the poor,” which had been rising up from the base for several years, was first clarified.
“The Lord’s distinct commandment to evangelize the poor,” wrote the bishops at Medellín, “ought to bring us to a distribution of resources and apostolic personnel that effectively gives preference to the poorest and most needy sectors.”
AS I WRITE this, one week after the beginning of “Desert Storm,” the networks have returned to their regularly scheduled programming, responding to polls the third day of the war indicating that Americans were tiring of the coverage. (Considering what we don’t hear, “coverage” seems a wholly appropriate euphemism—just try to verify reports beginning to leak out of the war zone of 100,000 or 200,000 civilian casualties.) War news has become a mere refrain—“Allied forces continued today to pound Iraq ...”—punctuated with videotaped missile strikes or bemasked reporters and the horrific wailing of air raid sirens.
“IT IS A magic moment and we must seize it.” With those words, President Clinton called upon Congress to respond to the “ethical imperative” of “providing universal, comprehensive health care” for all Americans. In the weeks since that speech, Hillary Rodham Clinton has tirelessly explained and defended the technical details of the administration’s Health Security Act. But even in her most technical presentations, she has never failed to remind her audience of the moral dimensions of this cause.
AS A member of Sojourners Community, I make my home in Southern Columbia Heights—a place in which it’s all too easy to miss seeing the beauty and courage that lie alongside the suffering of low-income families. I see people crowded, pushed one against the other. Children are often afraid, preoccupied with fears of violence. I feel a wave of despair each time another ambulance screams past my bedroom window on its way to the hospital.
Our neighbors struggle to make ends meet, and we are trying to stand with them. But gradually my faith has worn thinner and thinner. All the old expressions of praise and faith no longer seem to hold much meaning.
Yet into the midst of this hopelessness has come a weekly hour when an entirely different side of the neighborhood comes before me. On Monday evenings a few of us from Sojourners gather with some of our neighbors at our neighborhood ministry center. We sing and pray a little, but most of all we study scripture together. ... Sometimes we sing “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.” Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarm. Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms. The words describe our total dependence on a God who wants to hold and carry us as a mother. In this world, and in this neighborhood, I need to trust that God. Thanks to my friends, I’m drawn more and more to do just that.