Letters

Ancient Ways to Seek God

I thought Ruth Haley Barton’s article (“Make a Joyful Silence,” February 2009) was awesome. I am the West vocational director for the Lay Cistercians of Geth­semani Abbey in Ken­tucky. We have almost 300 members nationwide and several communities. It is nice to see Protestant churches utilize the ancient method and styles of prayer. The students I am mentoring now were able to gain some insight from the article.

I believe that this lost art is a good way to build dialogue between both denominations. As I tell my students, “You don’t have to be Catholic to study and practice centering prayer or lectio divina.” All Christians can participate in these forms of prayer. They all bind us to one purpose. That purpose is to seek God through Christ.

Walter Poe, North Canton, Ohio

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Sojourners Magazine May 2009
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Ungenerous Giving

“Stingy Givers” (a review by J. Dana Trent of Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don’t Give Away More Money, March 2009) is an important article, especially now when giving seems to be the first thing to fall by the wayside. I work for Covenant House Pennsylvania, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing shelter for 18- to 21-year-olds. We rely heavily on donations, but in recent months there has been more than a 10 percent decline in giving.

Everyone is feeling the effects of our declining economy, including the homeless. Beds become scarce and funding for food becomes even scarcer. These are dangerous times for people to cut corners when it comes to giving. Clergy need to address the importance of tithing, regardless of how politically incorrect it may seem. Sometimes you need to turn over some new tables in the church.

If Christians continue to go unchallenged when it comes to generous giving, we will be unable to feed those who are hungry, give a drink to those who are thirsty, and clothe those who are naked.

Evan Cantiello, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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Sojourners Magazine May 2009
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The Limits of Military Power

I appreciated Rose Berger’s column (“Tackling the Unspeakable,” Feb­ruary 2009) and her interview with Jim Douglass about John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Thank you for some original thinking on critical issues. It is one thing to have regard for the military and their necessary role in the defense of one’s country, but that doesn’t justify turning a blind eye to the way that the military-industrial complex has run our country into the ground and stepped on so many people in other countries. May God deliver us from the illusion that military might is the answer to every problem.

Patrick Mulhaney, Boise, Idaho

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Sojourners Magazine May 2009
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Color-Free Language

It is sad to see that in an otherwise excellent editorial (“A New Faith Coalition,” January 2009), Jim Wallis reinforces racist discourse. The foundation of racist discourse in my country and the United States is that white is normal and without color. It just is, and everything else is measured against that normalcy. To speak of “Christians of color” is to buy into that discourse, because it assumes that we will know that this is a reference to people who are not white. But white is a color, it is not the measure of normalcy, and others are not to be judged in relation to that “whiteness.”

We—in both our countries—need to find another language that does not assume some false normalcy in whiteness and allows us to speak of who people are in themselves and not measured against some other standard or opposite.

Chris Budden, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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Sojourners Magazine April 2009
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Unmediated Silence

Regarding “Make a Joyful Silence,” by Ruth Haley Barton (February 2009): We Quakers figured out more than 350 years ago that the presence of God is best understood through the “gathered silence.” Without pastoral speeches (sermons), hymns, or liturgies, we find the spirit of God vital, real, and present when we meet God in honest, open, and unmediated worship. It is fascinating that only now other Protestant groups are coming to this realization.

Our modern world is one of near-constant noise—noise that so often fills our minds with meaningless distraction to the exclusion of the presence of God. There are those who see the idea of silence in worship and its attendant personal contemplation as a new fad to embrace or to be frightened of. For us as Quakers, it is the essence of what it means to be a Christian.

Douglas Bakke, Klamath Falls, Oregon

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Sojourners Magazine April 2009
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Women and Islam

Regarding Eboo Patel’s “Three Myths about Islam” (February 2009): I have to take issue with his simplistic attempt to debunk myth two. To believe Patel’s arguments, one must overlook abundant information regarding the view of Muslim women. Patel selects one privileged woman, Khadijah, in Islamic history and then casts her life as the rule rather than the exception. Patel frames her as a successful businesswoman who was a well-respected figure in her time and place. He states, “For me, that’s one model of a Muslim woman, which is powerful, independent, and equal.” That’s one in how many?

The practice of Islamic law is often discriminatory against women. For example, in some Islamic countries there are no laws against domestic violence against women; there are no formal mechanisms available for women to file complaints about discrimination; women must have the permission of their male guardian to get a license; there are restrictions on interactions between unrelated men and women; many areas of the public sphere, such as workplaces and schools, are largely segregated; and inheritance laws grant wives half the amount of inheritance of male relatives.

A recent study in the state of Qatar indicates that 42 percent of Qatari women condone beatings. Furthermore, 42 percent of Qatari women believe they deserve the physical abuse at the hands of their male relatives.

But I guess when you are viewed as evil, the Quran condones your beating, and 42 percent of your gender believe they should be beaten for disobedience, women can find refuge in Patel’s weak argument that Islam isn’t oppressive to women.

(Name withheld by request) Doha, Qatar

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Sojourners Magazine April 2009
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Work in Love, Not Fear

Thanks for Jim Wallis’ thoughts in “A Pastoral Strategy for Hard Times” (December 2008). Our church is gearing up to assist more folks in our church and local community. These activities help us keep our eyes on God by opening our hands to our neighbors. Fear is much more manageable when we work together. Blessings to you for faithfully speaking to our current time.

Mary Cole-Duvall, West Des Moines, Iowa

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Sojourners Magazine March 2009
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Reduce Military Spending

After reading (for the second time) the “Dear President Obama” letters, I was disappointed that no one mentioned the need to reduce the huge U.S. military budget. Also, our relying on the military rather than diplomacy to solve the Middle East problem was nowhere to be found. Surely the new president will need to reverse the course the nation has followed for the past eight years if we wish to be held in high esteem internationally and regain the prestige we have lost.

Victor Goering, North Newton, Kansas

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Sojourners Magazine March 2009
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Check Your Terms

[Regarding “A New Faith Coalition,” by Jim Wallis, January 2009]: Those who characterize abortion as “single-issue politics” often use the goal to “reduce the number of abortions” as justification to support a pro-choice candidate. Neither term has any place in the social justice discussion. The phrase “reduce the number of abortions” implies there is an acceptable number with which the culture may be satisfied. Social justice proponents do not use the term “reduce the number of children dying by starvation” or “reduce the number of partner abuse.”

The terms “reduction” and “single-issue politics” demonstrate an unacceptable equivocation of the issue and a complete misunderstanding of the effect of the pro-life discussion in such areas as disability rights and the rights of the elderly. Equi­vocation of the rights of the un­born guarantees equivocation of the rights of all.

Brigit M. Barnes, Dubuque, Iowa

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Sojourners Magazine March 2009
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Sharing History

During some moments of pre-Christ­mas calm, I had a chance to read the memos to President Obama (“Dear President Obama,” January 2009). As I read each essay, I became more aware of the historical moment and excitement that awaits so many of us with the newly elected leadership in Washington, D.C. My mind drifted to the great civil rights struggles that took place in my lifetime, with an appreciation for how far we have come. The essays did not shy away from the challenge and scourge of abortion. I felt at home with so many focusing on our collective responsibility to assist the least. Read­ing the memos was like being in a room with friends. We may not always agree, but it is good to share a historic moment together. That is what Sojourners has been for me these last 30 years.

David Buer, OFM, Tucson, Arizona

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Sojourners Magazine March 2009
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