Justice

Visiting Jesus in Jail

Prison photo, luxorphoto / Shutterstock.com
Prison photo, luxorphoto / Shutterstock.com

What struck me as he spoke was the sheer human potential of this my client, wasted. That matters for all of us because of an unflinching Scriptural text about how we can enter the kingdom of God: “for I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me….just as you did it to the least of those who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matt. 25:35-40)

That’s the test. Not beliefs or intentions. Actions. 

Specific actions: Jesus tells us to visit people considered the worst among us, those accused of breaking the law. 

It’s not just innocent prisoners we are to see; it’s prisoners. They are all Jesus. 

Six Questions for Leila Sansour

Bio: Catholic Palestinian film director and founder of the nonprofit Open Bethlehem.
Website: operationbethlehem.com

1. How did Open Bethlehem get started?
Growing up in Bethlehem, I always wanted to leave. I settled in London, but when events started becoming worse and worse in the region, I wanted to do something. So I went back and started working on a film. My cousin encouraged me and said, “Look at what’s happening to our city. Why don’t you do more than just a film?” And so together, in 2005, we started a campaign called Open Bethlehem.

2. What is its main goal?
The idea is to use Bethlehem as a doorway into the region. We created the Bethlehem Passport, which is like an honorary citizenship, inviting people to partake in the town that stands for joy and goodwill to all. The passport is an appeal to everybody to do something to help bring peace to the Middle East. We aim mostly at educating people abroad—policymakers, the media, and church leaders—about the plight of Bethlehem, its Christian community, and the diversity of the city.

3. What’s the focus of your documentary Operation Bethlehem?
It’s about how and why we created this campaign. There were a lot of people that I loved in this town that were no longer there because Israel started building the wall. That became a big challenge to the community, so I wanted to remember their legacy.

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Being Like Deborah

Since the establishment of The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood in 1987 and J.I. Packer’s 1991 article “Let’s Stop Making Women Presbyters” in Christianity Today, there’s been a resurgence of traditionalist theology among some American churches. Instead of advocating “male headship,” they now promote “complementarianism.” Instead of portraying women as intrinsically “serving, subordinate, and supportive,” they now advocate “biblical womanhood.” But it’s the same patriarchal heresy, just with new language.

Rachel Held Evans, a Tennessee-based evangelical Christian raised in conservative Christian churches, decided to turn the tables. She vowed to take all of the Bible’s instructions for women as literally as possible for a year. A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband Master is the often-hilarious, engaging, well-researched, deadly serious result.  (You can read all about her adventures at rachelheldevans.com). Former Sojourners editorial assistant Betsy Shirley, a student at Yale Divinity School, interviewed Evans in August 2012.

Betsy Shirley: So how does a nice, liberated woman like you find herself covering her head and calling her husband “master”?

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Isolation, Integration, and the International Day of Peace

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the United States currently spends more than  $711 billion per year on military expenditures, which is – by far – the most of any country in the world. 

In fact, if one were to combine the totals of the next fourteen nations on the list (China, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, Saudi Arabia, India, Germany, Brazil, India, South Korea, Australia, Canada, and Turkey), their combined amount is similar to the USA.  All together, the USA provides about 43 percent of worldwide military costs, and in addition, the USA per capita ($2,240) and percent of Gross Domestic Product (4.8 percent) in relation to military funding is far greater than any other nation in the world.

With these statistics in mind, one is provoked to ponder some important questions. For example, what is revealed to us about the USA – and our world in general – when military expenses constitute such a significant percentage of a government budget? 

In specifics, why does the USA spend far more on its military than any other country?  In addition, what is revealed to us about the condition of our global village when $1.73 trillion is allocated each year to military funding? As stated by Sojourners CEO Jim Wallis, “A budget is a moral document.  It clearly demonstrates the priorities of a family, a church, an organization, or a government. A budget shows what we most care about.”  
 

Wild Goose West: Wild Spirit, Wonderful New Friends

Michael Gungor performs at Wild Goose West. Photo by Bill Dahl for Wild Goose.
Michael Gungor performs at Wild Goose West. Photo by Bill Dahl for Wild Goose.

Hello fellow Sojourners!

This is a brief missive for your enjoyment. I just returned from the Wild Goose Festival in Corvallis, Ore.

Yes, Oregon and not North Carolina. You see, in a fit of wisdom, the good people of Wild Goose found a west coast location. I hope it worked well for them because I'm sold on the place.

I wish you could have been there. It was amazing. To tantalize you into attending next year, here (in no particular order) are Nine Good Reasons to Attend The Wild Goose Festival.

1. There are no bugs.

None. Well, some flies, but this is Oregon and not North Carolina and though the nights are chilly and the mornings moreso (I awoke the last morning to see my breath in the air), the sun arose and everything warmed up to make for some of the most beautiful weather you'll ever experience.

2. All the notables are there.

Rachel, Richard (and Richard), Brian, Nadia, Gareth, Bruce, Christian, Amy, Yvette, Hilary, Greg, Steve...So many people to meet and to know.

Caring for the Poor is Government's Biblical Role

Jim Wallis
JIm Wallis

There is hardly a more controversial political battle in America today than that around the role of government. The ideological sides have lined up, and the arguments rage about the size of government: how big, how small should it be? Some famously have said government should be shrunk so small that it "could be drowned in a bathtub."

But I want to suggest that what size the government should be is the wrong question. A more useful discussion would be about the purposes of government and whether ours is fulfilling them. So let's look at what the Bible says.

The words of Paul in the 13th chapter of Romans are perhaps the most extensive teaching in the New Testament about the role and purposes of government. Paul says those purposes are twofold: to restrain evil by punishing evildoers and to serve peace and orderly conduct by rewarding good behavior. Civil authority is designed to be "God's servant for your good" (13:4). Today we might say "the common good" is to be the focus and goal of government.

So the purpose of government, according to Paul, is to protect and promote. Protect from the evil and promote the good, and we are even instructed to pay taxes for those purposes. So to disparage government per se  to see government as the central problem in society — is simply not a biblical position.

The HIV Minister (VIDEO)

The Rev. Andrena Ingram
The Rev. Andrena Ingram

The Rev. Andrena Ingram is currently the only known Lutheran ordained pastor living openly with HIV. Her husband's death from an AIDS-related illness, and the shame that he felt, inspired the pastor to be open about her own diagnosis with HIV. She is known as "The HIV Minister" – a title that has helped others with HIV reach out to her for help.

Listen to Ingram tell her story inside the blog...

Turning the Tide on AIDS

A palpable feeling of hope and urgency hung heavy in the air of Washington, D.C., this week as thousands of activists descended on the nation’s capital to encourage and inspire colleagues and decision-makers to “turn the tide on AIDS.”

The International AIDS Conference 2012 has returned to the United States, thanks in part to the lifting of the HIV/AIDS travel ban by the Obama Administration in 2010, which followed work from President George W. Bush also to lift the ban.

As part of the Conference, faith leaders from across the world were invited Tuesday morning to a forum hosted by the White House. It was an opportunity to hear from U.S. and international experts and officials, as well as come together as a community of faith, standing up against the stigma and isolation which have been two of the biggest roadblocks to achieving the goal of an AIDS-free generation.

Tuesday’s event centered around two panel discussions — one examining what the faith community uniquely brings to the table in tackling the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the other focusing on the relationship between governments and people of faith in building the effective partnerships needed to tackle it.

The tone of the discussions was, in many ways, extremely positive. We heard about vast improvements in treatments and holistic care, services often administered by faith-based organizations around the world.

“Hope,” as White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships Executive Director, Joshua DuBois, noted, is overcoming “fear.”

Breaking the Bubble Wrap

“TAMARA” GREW UP in an affluent, middle-to-upper-class neighborhood. Her friends, including the ones she knew from church, were her cousins, neighbors, and other kids who were a lot like her. Her parents worked hard at building a “safe zone” to protect her from harm—but, as Tamara looks back on her childhood, she can see the lasting fear that it instilled in her.

After she got her driver’s license, she always double-checked that her car doors were locked as soon as she was in the vehicle, and she avoided her city’s small downtown area. To this day, she detests large cities and is constantly worried that someone will rob her. Tamara suffers from “mean world” syndrome: a hyper-vigilant state in which strangers are to be ignored and avoided, new experiences are to be feared, and other people’s problems are just that. It’s a survival mode based on scarcity, hoarding, looking out for number one. Too often, it involves shrinking back from active involvement in the biblical call to social justice.

Sadly, many parents put children in a kind of quarantine—not seeking justice, but fearing contamination. The view that children are pure and the world is corrupt has led well-intentioned adults to (over)protect children from poverty, disease, violence, and other “pollutants.” (Of course, this isn’t to say that all children grow up sheltered; many experience situations of poverty, violence, and oppression that sheltered families can’t even imagine.) Ironically, as children are quarantined from the harmful realities of the world, they’re often exposed to virtual violence through television, music, and video games. This is a recipe for creating kids who, like Tamara, are afraid of the unknown that exists beyond their bubble-wrapped microcosms.

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Health Care and Judgment Day (Part 2)

On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government does hold the constitutional power to mandate that most American's purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. This power is maintained in Congress’s ability to levy taxes.

The justices also ruled that the federal government does hold the constitutional power to expand Medicaid, making more people eligible to receive the benefit, but, like the original Medicaid law of 1965, states can opt out of the expansion if they so choose.

What does this mean? And what does this mean for Jesus followers?

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