Archives

From the Archives: July-August 1995

NATALIA61 / Shutterstock
NATALIA61 / Shutterstock

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. ...

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From the Archives: June 1982

NATALIA61 / Shutterstock
NATALIA61 / Shutterstock

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.

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From the Archives: May 2004

NATALIA61 / Shutterstock
NATALIA61 / Shutterstock

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.”

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From the Archives: April 1991

NATALIA61 / Shutterstock
NATALIA61 / Shutterstock

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.

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From the Archives: February 1988

NATALIA61 / Shutterstock
NATALIA61 / Shutterstock

[JAMES BALDWIN] spoke the truth to us all and frightened many of us with such declarations as, “There is simply no possibility of a real change in the Negro’s situation without the most radical and far-reaching changes in the American political and social structure.” But he would not allow us to take the easy route of mesmerizing guilt or undemanding fear. For he was a child of the black church who had fought his own demon-possessed interior battles of the wilderness. So in his essay [“Down at the Cross”], Jimmy demanded that we hear him when he added to his socio-political challenge these words: “Whoever wishes to become a truly moral being...must first divorce himself from all the prohibitions, crimes, and hypocrisies of the Christian church. If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got rid of Him.”

And, of course, many of us knew that with Jimmy it was never simply a matter of hurling such words into the darkness and retiring to his typewriter. We knew of his wrestling with the Divine. We had seen him too often on the edges of the Southern battlegrounds, moving in, taking his place in the marches, speaking words of inspiration to us, raising money for the cause—in other words, experiencing in a variety of ways what it meant to be “down at the cross.”

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From the Archives: December 1993

NATALIA61 / Shutterstock
NATALIA61 / Shutterstock

“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.

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From the Archives: November 1985

NATALIA61 / Shutterstock
NATALIA61 / Shutterstock 

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.

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From the Archives: August 1981

Once upon a time, Anthony, with a bulging grocery bag full of clothes under one brown arm and  a faded pink, one-eyed “teddy dog” under the other, came to live with eight Sojourners grownups. Ant was used to living with a lot of people; after all, he did have 10 brothers and sisters, not to mention his Mama. But because their house had recently burned down, his family had no place where they could all stay together. The eight Sojourners said, with some reluctance, “Come live with us.” ...

Even with familiar objects around him, the darkness of night still held a mysterious terror. Sometimes Anthony would wake up with an anguished yell. What sorts of dreams haunt little boys separated from their families? ... Anthony needed a substitute family. We had space in our home, and he worked his way into spaces in our hearts. Little by little, our abstract, theological love for him became personal. He badly needed our consistent love, our playfulness, our fairness in discipline. We badly needed what he had to teach us eight, busy, single individuals about loving through the inconveniences of age and cultural differences. ... In these transient, insecure times, everyone, including an 8-year-old boy, needs to have a private place he can call his own. In light of even harsher times ahead for the poor, we will continue to confront those places in ourselves that are still reluctant to give, to be inconvenienced, to warmly receive whatever needs come our way.

Dolores Arroyo King was a member of Sojourners community when this article appeared.

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From the Archives: July-August 1996

“This year we’re going to march together into the Promised Land,” Dallas anti-violence activist Blanca Martinez told a group of young, mostly Latino pilgrims recently at a peace summit in Washington, D.C. Her statement may be prophetic indeed, for after years of wandering in the American political wilderness, Latinos are poised to ford the mainstream and make a stronger political impact than ever before.

For some time now the political juice of the Latino community has been boiling around issues such as April’s videotaped beating of undocumented immigrants by Riverside County police, California’s Prop 187, affirmative action rollbacks, and sharp new punitive measures that are applied disproportionately to people of color. Left with few alternatives, the diverse—and, at times, antagonistic—political, racial, and cultural factions of the U.S. Latino community are taking advantage of this election year to defend their rights—and perhaps some of America’s most preciously held values as well ...

It’s not often that you hear teenagers—most of whom are too young to vote—talking about building multiracial coalitions of people to create change through the ballot box. But the time has come for these young people, who have already seen too many friends and relatives die violently on the streets of their communities. They understand the urgency that is needed for the healing of their communities.

Aaron McCarroll Gallegos was a member of Sojourners editorial staff when this article appeared.

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From the Archives: April 1981

And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night; the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.—Exodus 13:21-22

There are, thanks be to God, times in our lives when we have known the presence of God. There are times when we have experienced clarity about what we are called upon to do or say; times when a command seems embedded in our circumstances, and we are irresistibly drawn to follow that command into decision. There are times when a person comes into our life as a gift of grace, offering us the opportunity to love again. That person may be a child, a relative, a friend, or a stranger, and through that individual we experience a claim on our lives.

And then there are those rare moments when the glass through which we see so darkly is, however briefly, transparent; we are allowed to see deeply into the nature of things, and we are convinced once again that life has meaning and we are not alone. In those moments we have been given the sight to see the orchestration of God’s grace which we suspect lies all around us every moment of every day but which we usually do not see.

I call such times as these “the presence of God.”

Melanie Morrison was a minister of the United Church of Christ in Bronson, Michigan, when this article appeared.

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