Letters

Resisting Prison Profiteers

Thank you for printing Michelle Alexander’s commentary “When the Spirit Says Go” in your March issue. Due in large part to Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow, more and more people are coming to understand—and resist—how mass incarceration devastates communities of color, locking up millions and relegating those branded as criminals to a lifetime of legalized discrimination.

Though our movement is getting bigger, we face incredible challenges. We are up against centuries of prejudice and economic subjugation, as well as a private prison industry that sees prisoners as dollar signs. Companies like GEO Group Inc. lobby for “tough on crime” legislation and harsh immigration laws to keep our increasingly privatized prisons and detention centers full and lucrative. And too few people are aware that investors such as Wells Fargo are funding them.

One way to resist is to refuse to support those who profit from this system. That is why we at the Criminal Injustice Committee of Occupy D.C. are asking organizations and individuals of conscience to boycott Wells Fargo. You can learn about our campaign at www.wellsfargoboycott.com.

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Don't Mourn—Fact Check

I am reading the March issue of Sojourners and want to correct a small error in “‘Do Not Grow Weary or Lose Heart,’” by Vincent Harding. The quote “Don’t mourn. Organize,” attributed to Mother Jones in the article, was actually an admonition from Wobbly songwriter Joe Hill—born Joseph Hillstrom—shortly before his execution in Utah on trumped-up murder charges that were designed to cripple the labor movement. Mother Jones’ most famous admonition was “Raise more hell, and less corn,” given to the miners in West Virginia, urging them to demonstrate more and drink less.

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Slavery Today

Rose Marie Berger’s article “Slaves in Our Family” (February 2012) is a reminder to us that slavery in our country didn’t end with the Emancipation Proclamation.

I retired four years ago after running a ministry for ex-offenders and homeless individuals. It wasn’t unusual for young men to come to me after escaping from a farm labor camp. They told me that someone pulled up to the homeless shelter where they were staying and offered them good-paying jobs. The homeless men were then taken to a farm labor camp where they were provided with drugs, alcohol, and the services of prostitutes, which they paid for out of their meager earnings. Within a short time they were in debt to the leaders of the camp.

 If they tried to leave, they were pistol-whipped or beaten. The men who came to me were the lucky ones who were able to escape.

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Avoiding Arrogance

I appreciated Jim Wallis’ plea for more precision in how the word “evangelical” is used in our society and especially in the media (“Defining ‘Evangelicals’ in an Election Year,” February 2012).

I attended three seminaries. The first one was in the buckle of the Bible belt, known for its fundamentalist stance with regard to the Bible’s inerrancy. The second seminary called itself “neo-evangelical,” in an attempt to distance itself from fundamentalism’s theological conundrums and self-righteous attitudes. The third was mainline Protestant and characterized itself as “neo-orthodox,” distancing itself from fundamentalism and neo-evangelicals.

All three were comfortable with the term “evangelical.” All three quoted the church fathers and the reformers as if they were members of their respective faculties. And, if the truth be told, all three preached the gospel of Jesus Christ but couched it carefully within their ideological canons. I also learned that none of the three had a corner on the gospel truth, and they often unfairly caricatured the other camps’ positions.

Ronn Garton
San Diego, California

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United in Christ

I appreciated Jim Wallis’ plea for more precision in how the word “evangelical” is used in our society and especially in the media (“Defining ‘Evangelicals’ in an Election Year,” February 2012).

I attended three seminaries. The first one was in the buckle of the Bible belt, known for its fundamentalist stance with regard to the Bible’s inerrancy. The second seminary called itself “neo-evangelical,” in an attempt to distance itself from fundamentalism’s theological conundrums and self-righteous attitudes. The third was mainline Protestant and characterized itself as “neo-orthodox,” distancing itself from fundamentalism and neo-evangelicals.

All three were comfortable with the term “evangelical.” All three quoted the church fathers and the reformers as if they were members of their respective faculties. And, if the truth be told, all three preached the gospel of Jesus Christ but couched it carefully within their ideological canons. I also learned that none of the three had a corner on the gospel truth, and they often unfairly caricatured the other camps’ positions.

Ronn Garton
San Diego, California

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Just Say No

Thank you for your articles on human trafficking (“Ending ‘The World’s Most Savage Cruelty,’” February 2012). They played an essential role in shaping my sermon last Sunday; Jesus’ work of freeing those who are possessed makes a powerful connection with the work of rescue and restoration you highlighted.

I intend to challenge the men and youths in our congregation to take a vow: “Made aware that all forms of so-called adult entertainment—from pornography to strip clubs to prostitution—are implicated in the degradation and deaths of thousands of women and children, I vow that not one dollar, not one dime of mine will feed the demonic beast of human trafficking. If it means struggling against my own longings for titillation or missing my best friend’s bachelor party, so be it. I refuse to support those who with cruel and callous greed destroy our sisters, daughters, and young boys.”

Blessings on the voice you give to victims of injustice.

Rev. John Burow
Clawson, Michigan

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A Good Word

I was delighted to see the article on forgiveness by Brittany Shoot (“Forgive and Forget?”) in your January 2012 issue. Since she mentioned Archbishop Tutu in her article, I thought your readers would appreciate seeing an original quote from one of his 2007 speeches. The archbishop said, “Forgiveness does not mean ‘forgive and forget.’ It stares the beast in the eye, names the hurt, and refuses to return it, seeking not to punish but to heal.” There could be no better description of the amazing and Christlike response of the Amish community in the face of tragedy.

Jeffrey Faust
Brewton, Alabama

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Schema For Peace

In “Critical Mass” (January 2012), Karen Sue Smith’s summary of changes in the U.S. Catholic Church since Vatican II, I was dismayed not to see any mention of the profound influence of the sections on peace in “The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World.”

Catholic Worker co-founder Dorothy Day and her friend Jim Douglass were both in Rome during the time of the Council, Day to fast for peace and Douglass to lobby bishops for a strong peace stance. And one was forthcoming: “Schema 13,” as it’s often called, gave Vatican grounding to the many Catholics who follow Day’s lead and oppose war and preparations for war.

Douglass is one of those Catholics. He and his wife, Shelley, led the campaign against the Trident nuclear submarines, culminating in the formation of the ecumenical Agape communities. These groups tracked the ominous White Train as it traveled across the heartland of the country, bringing nuclear components to the Bangor, Washington naval base. Sojourners featured this campaign in its February 1984 issue, and those chilling articles and calls to resistance were my introduction to the magazine.

In a recent oral history project that collected the stories of faith-based resisters for peace, I learned of many other Catholics—lay, clergy, and vowed religious—who were inspired by Vatican II to take their Christianity into the world in life-altering ways. Their voices continue to challenge the peace movement.             

Rosalie G. Riegle
Evanston, Illinois

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Reading Too Much In?

Harry Potter is no Gandhi. Though Bill Wylie-Kellermann (“Harry and the Principalities,” November 2011) believes that Harry “never kills anyone,” the whole mission of book seven was to find and destroy Horcruxes, parts of Tom Riddle’s (Voldemort’s) soul.  Harry is not opposed to the use of force, even if it reluctantly leads to his enemy’s demise.                       

Steve Bisset
Laurel, Maryland

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Treaty Against Trafficking

The fact that the February 2012 issue contained three articles about human trafficking (“Humankind’s Most Savage Cruelty,” by Stewart Burns; “Here?” by Abayea Pelt; “Works of Mercy” by Sylvia Yu) is encouraging. However, none of them mentioned the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. Nothing will completely stop the evil of trafficking, since it is so profitable, but the Convention has potential for reducing it more than any other device or activity. The Convention was developed in 1989, and 194 U.N. countries have ratified it. Only two have not—Somalia and the United States. Sojourners readers should ask the president to refer the Convention to the Senate and also ask their senators to ratify it.   

Jake Terpstra
Grand Rapids, Michigan

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