social change

Our Endorsement for President

ELECTIONS CAN BE challenging times for nonprofit organizations, especially those of us deeply committed to social change. Sojourners is incorporated under the IRS Code as a 501(c)(3) organization, which means that we are prohibited from “directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”

While scrupulously avoiding “intervening” in any partisan activities, we of course remain committed to our mission, which is to “articulate the biblical call to social justice, inspiring hope and building a movement to transform individuals, communities, the church, and the world.”

Those two poles—staying neutral in partisan campaigns, on the one hand, and working to build a movement to “change the world,” on the other—define the space within which we work, during an election year and at any other time.

We believe that elections matter—especially, from a biblical point of view, because they profoundly affect those that scripture calls the “least of these,” the likelihood of war or peace, and the health of our planet. (See Jim Wallis’ article “How to Choose a President” for more on that theme.) And many of us have strong convictions about which candidates, and which party’s approach, better reflect those biblical commitments.

Individually, in our personal lives, we have the indisputable right to make our convictions known, to advocate for candidates, even to run for office if we so choose. But as an incorporated nonprofit, Sojourners must do its best to maintain electoral nonpartisanship.

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Leave No Change Behind

How can pastors foster change in church? Not the kind placed in offering plates, but change of another sort. Change—alteration in character, attitude, and behavior, and the priceless gift of a new, or at least better, world.

 Many people are rightly agonizing over volatile financial markets and companies defaulting on their fiscal promises. There should be equal or greater concern about the balances in our moral accounts, lest insufficient funds lead to bankruptcy of our souls and foreclosure on the common good. Often when we think about mechanisms for social change, we conjure images of Washington politicians and Wall Street profits. Yet, to fix our broken world, we need more than profits. We need prophets—faithful, fearless people willing to invest in social change through prophetic proclamation in word and deed.

As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel astutely suggested, prophets are more interested in knowing what they see than in seeing what they know. Do we see the tragedy of the wealthiest nation in the world failing to provide health insurance for its most vulnerable citizens? Do we see the irony of building state-of-the-art prisons while our public schools have to beg legislatures for financial support? Do we see how many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people suffer emotional and physical violence, while many churches and cultural institutions remain eerily silent about their civil rights and moral equality? The priceless change so desperately needed in our world will arise when we are less concerned about making profits and more concerned about becoming prophets.

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Pastoral Resources for Preaching on Social Change

In a world desperate for change, pastor and homiletics professor Brad Braxton, in his Sojourners article "Leave No Change Behind" (August 2012), offers advice on how to preach for social transformation with passion, courage, and artistry. Here are some resources he recommends—good for preachers and lay people who want to go deeper in speaking about faith-based social change.

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Young Pastor at the Forefront of Social Change in Australia

Jarrod McKenna, courtesy Jarrod McKenna
Jarrod McKenna, courtesy Jarrod McKenna

He’s been arrested more times than he cares to mention, but that’s life when you typify the new generation of Christian leaders who are seeking to not just preach Christ’s gospel, but live it. Young pastor Jarrod McKenna describes it as “rolling up our sleeves and just getting on with the practical work of loving our neighbors.” 

A regular at anti-war protests, Jarrod is no stranger to the handcuffs of authority. But he’s also highly sought-after at home and abroad as a social change facilitator and speaker.

“There’s been a real cultural shift in Australia, with many Gen Y-ers wanting to engage issues differently,” says the 31-year-old. “I get to mentor a lot of people from all around Australia who are coming from across the board – from the Hillsong type mega-churches to Sydney Anglican conservatism, from Charismatics to Baptists and Pentecostals. All of them are saying, ‘We don’t want to walk away from faith, we want to share in a faith that’s more authentic than we’ve been offered before’.”

Soundtrack for the #Occupation Grows

It's always encouraging to see musicians using their unique platform to inspire social change.

When it comes to an indie supergroup such as  New Party Systems — compirsed of members from TV on the Radio, Notekillers, and Liturgy — disparate audiences are drawn together for common purpose: economic justice.

New Party Systems's song "We Are," which dropped on the web yesterday, draws attention back to what the Occupy Movement is: A place of rising consciousness, full of energy and passion to bring about change.

While it may seem that the Occupy Movement is losing its steam, this expression reminds us its the spirit is alive — and growing.

Why Does Glenn Beck Hate Community Organizers?

When Ryan Bell took over as pastor of Hollywood Adventist Church in California, it was a withering congregation with only about 50 active members. And, he says, “We had a homeless ministry we couldn’t afford and a debt that was about to kill the church.” Bell reluctantly closed the feeding program for the homeless but resolved to find a more practical way to address the issue.

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Sojourners Magazine September/October 2010
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Campuses Take the Lead

In early February of last year, I was standing in the Oval Office with President Obama and two dozen faith-based and secular leaders who were serving on the Advisory Council for the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. It was my first time meeting the president, and needless to say I was somewhat at a loss for words.

Obama started talking about the importance of building bridges of interfaith cooperation through service between diverse faith communities—and I got a literal nudge in the ribs from my friend Jim Wallis. He whispered to me, “I think he’s talking about the interfaith youth movement, Eboo.” I realized it was time to speak up.

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Sojourners Magazine September/October 2010
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Free for All

When Kevin Barbieux became homeless in 1982, he was new to Nashville. At first, he relates in an e-mail interview, he spent his days hovering around a rescue mission. Then, as he met other homeless people who introduced him to the city’s attractions, he began to explore. He took long walks by the Cumberland River, visited the Tennessee State Museum—and found himself browsing the stacks of the downtown library.

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Sojourners Magazine May 2010
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The Power of Story

The summer that I was 17 years old, I, who was born of missionary parents in China, was rooming with a friend whose parents were missionaries in Africa. Although our mothers had been friends long before we were born, Mary and I first met as summer employees at our denomination’s conference center when she came back to the States to go to college. World War II had driven my parents out of China, so I had lived, since the age of 8, in various places in the southern United States.

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Sojourners Magazine May 2010
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An Interview with Morgan Spurlock

Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock is not afraid to get messy. When tackling an issue on film, he gets right down in the trenches, often compromising his own health and well-being to unveil systemic problems in America with microscopic scrutiny. He did it most notably with Super Size Me, a documentary in which he examined the problem of obesity by eating at McDonald's for every meal for 30 days. His declining health and subsequent depression was enough to send longtime McDonald's patrons running to the nearest farmers market.

Spurlock spoke with Sojourners editors Jim Wallis and Jeannie Choi about his newest project, The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special in 3-D on Ice, and explains that though his projects be madness, there is method to them.

 

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Sojourners Magazine January 2010
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