Letters

Weapons of War

I was struck by the letter from Richard Tillinger regarding his love of machine guns (“Misfire?” September-October 2008). As a former member of the National Rifle Association, I understand the fascination with guns, but mine was toward hunting arms, specifically rifles and shotguns, as were most people I know. Machine guns are specifically de­signed for killing people, as weapons of war. They have no place in the “toys for boys” category, especially for those of us who profess the Christian faith. So no alcohol is allowed? Big deal. While that is important, we must always be asking ourselves “What is distracting us from becoming peacemakers?” Playing with weapons of war seems to be an obvious way to escape the challenges of today’s troubled world. What would Jesus do?

Tom Hubers, Rockville, Maryland

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine January 2009
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Equal-Access Programs

Shame on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the Prison Entrepreneurship Program for not accepting sex offenders (“Investing in Second Chances,” by Catherine Cuellar, July 2008). The author writes, “Being identified solely by the worst thing they’ve ever done undercuts the inmates’ self-esteem, and overcoming that isn’t easy.” How can no one see that denying sex offenders access to an important program such as PEP does exactly what the above quote says PEP attempts to avoid?

Catherine Rohr and Rev. Luis Romo view PEP as a ministry. To deliberately exclude sex offenders is not following Jesus’ commands to love thy neighbor as thyself or to not judge others lest ye be judged.

Sex offenders are no different than other felons facing difficult transitions to society upon being freed. I pray to read in a future Sojourners about ministries and initiatives like PEP that are open to all prisoners, regardless of their crime. Society and those released will be better for it.

Christopher W. Fuerst, Buckingham Correctional Center, Dillwyn, Virginia

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine December 2008
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Unequal Burdens

In her September-October 2008 letter (“Don’t Speak for Me”), Lisa Clark writes that she is not guilty for taking part in slavery, and that she does not want her state representatives apologizing for slavery on her behalf.

I would have agreed with her until I had the good fortune to sit in seminary classes with students of color, of many ethnicities, with descendants of slaves and interned Japanese-Americans. In my 73 years I have been discriminated against as a woman, but I have never been excluded from renting or buying a home, from adequate schooling, or from admission to college or hiring for a job because of my race. I have never had my voting rights questioned or been insulted in this country solely for my race. I have never been concerned about my acceptance in any group because of my race. On the other hand, my family and I owe much of our social, professional, and financial standing to generations of work, school, and the social advantages of being white in America. And unlike my schoolmates, we have never had the burden of having to teach others about what it means to be a person of our race or ethnic identity.

I would like our local and national representatives to embody apology to all who have been discriminated against by action for social justice rather than by knuckling under to the influence of the privileged. In this way they would speak for me and with me.

Lilyan Snow, Mercer Island, Washington

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine December 2008
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Who is Worthy?

In her article “Changing Our Minds” (September-October 2008), Frances Moore Lappé suggests that the real barriers to an egalitarian society are the assumptions we have about poverty and its causes. Lappé is correct to say that our perceptions of poverty are all wrong. Conspicuously absent from her article is the term “welfare.” The U.S. welfare state has generally expanded and contracted as a countercyclical response to the economy. As Lappé points out, social policy succeeded in dramatically reducing poverty from the 1950s to the ’70s.

But our welfare state has always made a distinction between the “worthy” (working) poor and the “unworthy” (able-bodied and non-working) poor. A critical myth she did not mention concerns the image of the “unworthy” poor. In order to bust this myth, the non-poor in this country need to come to terms with the barriers that have given them unequal access to the opportunity structure. Fighting poverty must begin with our mistaken ideas about us as the “worthy.”

Ben Roth, Chicago, Illinois

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine December 2008
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Time for Single-Payer

The article by Elizabeth Edwards (“Heal Thyself?”) raises troubling questions regarding the path to a just system of health care in this country.

After so wonderfully defining the problem, Edwards stops short of following her own call for a just system. The caring and powerful language becomes the language of caution and compromised goals. Edwards says we should not “abandon our principles”—but this seems to refer to her call to “make our present system work.” It is difficult to understand how someone so well aware of the abuses of the present system, and of the political and financial power of the private insurance industry, could end her compassionate challenge with the suggestion that we could—or should—waste precious time and additional billions trying to “reclaim the concept of insurance” through our present system.

Edwards ends the article with a strong call to “universal health care.” Unfortunately, this call is compromised by her language implying reform of the present system, a system whose incentives are for profit and power, not caring for sick people. The call is further compromised by the fact that the phrase “universal health care” generally refers to approaches to pay the insurance industry even greater amounts of public dollars to take care of the people they have chosen not to care for in the first place.

Only a publicly funded, privately provided system—one that exists solely to care for all people without exclusion—can bring us the type of just system that she, and I, envision. This is what single-payer health care will do. There are many models to study in dozens of other countries. Families, and the governments, pay a fraction of what we now pay for our insurance industry-driven approach. Edwards’ compassion and commitment to social justice is evident. We all need to be clear about where the call leads.

Claudia Detwiler, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine November 2008
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Hard Questions

There is a reason we don’t have universal health care, and it’s not because we lack compassion for the sick. What’s stopping us is the lack of good answers to hard questions, such as: “How will we coerce physicians who do not want to participate in a government-run universal health care program to do so?” “How will we avoid a two-tier health care system in which those with money purchase better medical care while those with less money are restricted to government care?” “How do we hold people accountable for their own health decisions (wearing motorcycle helmets, ceasing obesity-producing behaviors, no smoking, etc.) rather than enabling behaviors that undermine good health?” We would do better to shift the debate from a focus on health insurance to health care. Insurance doesn’t treat anyone; medical care does.

Tony R. Nester, Sioux City, Iowa

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine November 2008
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Equal Treatment

I read with great interest Elizabeth Edwards’ piece on health care (“Heal Thyself?” August 2008). I am insured (and pay way too much for it), but I am eager to understand the arguments and issues around the uninsured. I appreciated her critique of the private health care system, and I read on looking for an equal treatment of the options. Her statement at the end of the article came out of the blue for me: “Universal health care does just that.”

I have read enough to know that universal health care is no panacea itself, though it may be better than what we have. But if we go that way I would like to go into it with my eyes open. Are you going to publish a similar critique of universal health care so that readers like me can understand the costs as well as the benefits of such a system?

Dave Keane, Gilbert, Arizona

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine November 2008
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Don't Speak for Me

Slavery is a lingering scar on North America. Lives were destroyed. People were mistreated. Some died at the hands of cruel masters. But should state governments, standing as the representatives of their citizens, be the ones to apologize for slavery?

Donald Shriver Jr. thinks so (“It’s a Start,” June 2008). In fact, he sees such admission of culpability as only the precursor in the fight against racial discrimination in our country. And he has a point.

But I’m not guilty for slavery. One set of my grandparents emigrated from Germany to the United States. My other grandmother’s roots go back to Canada and Ireland, and who knows where before that? It hardly matters. My point is this: As far as I know, none of my ancestors took part in slavery. I’m not sure that any of them even lived in this country at the time of slavery. So why should I apologize for slavery?

As individuals, and perhaps as the church in our nation, there are sins we should repent for: rampant consumerism, idolatry in the form of greed and racism, and the failure to live as salt and light in the world around us. As a country, we might even consider repenting from hostility toward other nations (Iraq, to name just one). But I don’t want my state representatives speaking on my behalf and confessing something I never took part in. Address the social issues, but please leave me out of the apology.

Lisa Clark

Port Matilda, Pennsylvania

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine September/October 2008
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Misfire?

More disappointing than the cheap sarcasm in Ed Spivey Jr.’s column, “One Man, One Clip” (“H’rumphs,” June 2008), was his ignorance of gun owners, evidenced by his statement referring to “any bunch of fun-loving guys with a few beers and a machine gun.” Spivey has obviously never been to a machine-gun shoot. The characteristic common to all of them is the complete absence of alcohol. The people at these events are friendly and hospitable, there because they enjoy the technology and the camaraderie. However, any­one acting irresponsibly is immediately ejected from the event and never al­lowed to return. I wonder if Spivey is aware that since the registering of machine guns began in 1934, only two crimes have ever been committed with a legally registered weapon, and one of those was committed by a policeman.

Spivey, however, didn’t bother to learn about this culture. Instead he relied on a negative stereotype fueled by his personal prejudice. Unfor­tunately, gun owners have not been proactive enough in educating their fellow citizens. Sadly, because of political correctness, most gun defenders have retreated to arguing for hunting and self-defense. These are quite valid reasons to allow guns, but the predominant reason people shoot guns is because they enjoy it. That argument is enough to keep alcohol legal. Despite all the death and harm caused by alcohol—drunk drivers, fights, shootings, domestic violence—no one dares to outlaw alcohol because so many people enjoy it.

The problem is not the gun. A gun is merely a tool. Ironically, the only people who obey gun laws are law-abiding citizens. Criminals don’t care. For a magazine that usually explores the true root causes of social conditions, this commentary was sadly below standard.

Richard Tillinger

Dayton, Ohio

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine September/October 2008
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Spending Our Future

Thanks for your column in the June issue about the military budget (“A Theft from Those Who Hunger,” by Frida Berrigan). I am the director of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia and deal firsthand with the opportunity costs of militarism, both in the reductions of vital social programs and the backdoor draft of the economically disadvantaged who have no other choice but to join the armed services.

I believe Chalmers Johnson represents a reputable source from academia, and after a caveat about the complexities of military spending, he concluded a conservative figure for fiscal year 2008 military spending would be $1.1 trillion!

John S. Rausch

Stanton, Kentucky

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine August 2008
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Pages

Subscribe