Rebecca Solnit, Maria Popova, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Walter Brueggemann represent cultural figures who model “broad perspectives with specific possibilities, ones that invite or demand that we act.” Hope is necessary for action. Yet a transformed future demands contemplation, as well.
The collective turmoil people experience during political uncertainty, systemic oppression, and natural disasters have potential to unlock deep places of human connection. When collectively we are at our worst, let us look back at what we’ve overcome — and remember our deep connection to one another into the future. Contemplative practice is the figurative room in which we experience the freedom to remember and courage to respond. It is what it means to have hope as a spiritual practice.
Harper’s account of the Gospel in her new book is shalom-based. Drawing deeply from a theme that runs through the Bible but is especially strong in the Hebrew prophets, Harper tells a story of a God who acts in Jesus Christ to bring shalom, or holistic peace and justice, in every part of creation.
Why We Can’t Wait is the familiar title of Martin Luther King Jr.’s book from 1964. The volume includes his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail” (written April 16, 1963) and makes an argument to recognize 1963 as the beginning of “the Negro Revolution” while extolling the effectiveness of nonviolent resistance.
King’s “Letter” issues a call for urgency. He wrote it as a response to eight local white clergymen who had criticized his activities in Birmingham and appealed for a more patient and restrained approach to lobbying for civil rights. The “Letter” expresses King’s deep disappointment with “the white moderate,” who “paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom.”
When my oldest daughter, Hannah, was in elementary school she asked me to explain the difference between conservative and liberal. I replied, “It’s too complicated.” She said, “Try me.” So I told her my best description was a metaphor, that of life as a high-wire act. Liberals are worried that without a net below the high-wire act of life, the performer may die or suffer when they fall. Conservatives are worried that if a net is built below, the performer may not be concerned enough about falling and use the net as a hammock. She paused for a moment and responded, “Why not build a trampoline below, so if they fall it will send them right back up?” Indeed.
Would we press harder if we thought of our words not as another voice in the fracas but as God’s mandate to justice? The word of the Lord hits Amos as one who is otherwise apt to mind his own business. Those who are compelled to speak should never stop speaking.
The solution to our awful prison problem is contained in the story of Gov. Edgar, Ratliff, and Celestial Ministries: Make a preferential option for those who are most impoverished in our midst. We might fund these efforts by taking money away from the corporations promoting criminal attacks on innocent people in other lands.
I wish that the testimony of my friends who literally beat guns into garden tools could be part of the courtroom proceeding. They urge us to make guns and other weapons unnecessary, using raw tools of compassion and service to heal the conflicts in which weapons are used. I wish my young Afghan friends here in Kabul, who live under constant surveillance of Unmanned Aerial Systems, could testify about their desire to refine tools of peace making and constructive service.
My love for comedy and the communal spaces that black barber and beauty shops offer was the reason why I had to see Barber Shop: The Next Cut with some of my friends last Saturday night in New York City. As promised, the controversial jokes abounded, and we laughed, but my friends and I were also challenged by seeing the characters use what was in their hands (Exodus 4:2) — their hair care skills and the space of a small black-owned business — to respond to gang violence in Chicago.
Developing real estate is not new to justice-minded groups — religious organizations from New York City to East Africa are weighing the symbolic meaning invested in their land against practical survival plans for the mission. What makes Union’s plans particularly upsetting to campus protesters is its location. When Union announced it was in talks with a developer to build condominiums on campus, the move was met with outcry from some students, alumni, and faculty. But President Jones said this move is nothing new for the school — only now, perhaps, it’s more public.
There are women in my life I choose to breathe with. With these women, I turn our breath into sounds, sounds into words, and raise them together in solidarity across the currents of justice. Together, we fight for the environment, we fight for rights, for black lives, for women's rights — and constantly strive for peace.
READERS OFTEN ASK US: How can I incorporate a hunger for justice into my child’s spiritual formation? How do we help the youngest members of the church understand the gospel’s call to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves? Sojourners asked five Christian parents engaged in various forms of justice work to share their best tips for helping children put their faith into action. Here’s what they said. - The Editors
1. Look for Teachable Moments
by Kate Ott
MANY PARENTS FEEL unprepared to talk about sex or faith with their children. I was one of those parents until I realized age-appropriate sexuality information could empower my children and keep them safe. I also realized that teaching my kids about sexuality meant more than talking about “sex.” After all, if I didn’t talk to my kids about how Christian values of love, justice, and mutuality guide the care of our bodies and our relationship choices, who would?
So rather than planning for a single “big talk” or waiting until I know all the answers, I practice parenting through teachable moments. For example, in our house we talk about how clothing choices and hygiene reflect our thankfulness for our bodies as part of God’s good creation (including remembering to brush teeth!). As a parent, when I take a picture of my kids, I ask them for permission before posting it on social media; this encourages thinking-before-posting and consent as an active yes. And when we’re watching TV or listening to a song in the car about attraction or a relationship, I ask questions like: How would you feel in that situation? Do you think that person values their body? Does that seem like a mutual decision/relationship? Is that kind of love balancing God, neighbor, and self? In the short conversation, I always say something like, “Being in a relationship takes a lot of work and requires communication, honesty, commitment, and mutuality.” This models how to use one’s values to assess relationship choices.
But if the truth be told, black Americans do not have a monopoly on social justice exhaustion, or “justice fatigue,” as Dr. Teresa Fry Brown describes it. The fact is many people of goodwill that make up the broad rainbow coalition of those who fight for justice and inequality find themselves increasingly tired and overwhelmed these days. With all of the intractable issues in our society that seemingly won’t get right or can’t get right, many justice workers and seekers of all kinds are finding themselves in need of a refreshing well of renewal.
This raises the important questions, who cares for the care-givers? Who shows love to those who seek the expansion of love in public policy and democracy?
Sisters from the Dominican Sisters of the Sick-Poor (also now Dominican Sisters of Hope) sent representatives to marches. They saw systemic injustice firsthand in their ministries as they provided nursing services to residents of Harlem, the South Bronx, and other communities that struggled to afford healthcare.
Years after participating in equal rights and peace marches, Sister Bette Ann Jaster joined LifeWay Network, one of two organizations in the New York Metro area that provides safe housing and education for women survivors of human trafficking, as a representative for Sisters and Catholics in general. Her involvement on the committee has since declined, but Sister Bette Ann is as bothered by the issue as ever. “I keep wondering, ‘What more can we do?’” she said.
This week marks 25 years since the horrific U.S. bombing of the Amiriyah shelter in Iraq. At least 408 women and children died.
As we consider what has helped fuel the rage and hostility of extremists like ISIS, we can point to concrete events like the bombing of Amiriyah. It clearly does not justify the evil done by ISIS, but it does help us explain it.
Peace studies combine research, analysis, and practice in an attempt to answer questions of what peace actually requires, why accepted wisdom has failed to move civilization away from violence and toward peace, and how people have successfully reformed social, economic, and political relationships to achieve sustainable peace. And through this study, real-world answers are emerging.
The narrative of a retail event like Black Friday weekend is broken.
What if we could embrace a new narrative? What if that new narrative is really an old narrative just seen with new eyes?
This weekend, the global church is starting Advent, which is a time of preparation for the coming of Jesus. However, we live in a world where Jesus has already entered. How should our lives look different in response to that and as a church be part of bringing the kingdom of God to earth in this Christmas season?
After seven long years of review, the White House plans to reject the request from a Canadian company to build the Keystone XL pipeline, according to The New York Times.
Envrionmental groups across the United States, including 350.org, have begun celebrating the news as a victory for climate activists. Sojourners has long spoke out against the construction of the Keystone pipeline and celebrates this news a win for all those advocating for the protection of creation.
Francis’ road to humility was like the rest of ours: long, hard, and prideful.
“For black people, there is an unspoken script that demands the humble absorption of racist assaults, no matter the scale, because whites need to believe that it’s no big deal. But Serena refuses to keep to that script.”
We think it's wrong for a woman, much less a mother, to be angry. And so when anger inevitably, righteously, hits us — with its cousin fatigue and its brother frustration — we don't know what to do except to bury it beneath a smile that gets thinner and weaker as the day winds on.
We all get angry, though. It is a function of being human, and I daresay without anger we would never have won women the right to vote, school desegregation, or any other host of advances that came about when people got righteously angry and unleashed the power of justice and the Holy Spirit.
So be angry when you are angry. The Bible says so. Do not be ashamed to say, in the moment, "This is not right. I'm angry."
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.