Social Justice

Christopher Hale 2-06-2015
Pope Francis in October in St. Peter's Square. giulio napolitano / Shutterstock.

Pope Francis in October in St. Peter's Square. giulio napolitano / Shutterstock.com

The Francis Revolution is crossing the Atlantic and coming to the heart of the nation’s Capitol. News broke yesterday that Pope Francis has accepted Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to address a rare joint session of Congress during his upcoming trip to the United States on Sept. 24.

This is the first time that a pope has addressed Congress and provides a world-class opportunity for the Holy Father to lift up the Gospel’s social justice message to the most powerful legislative body in the world.

So what will the Jesuit from Argentina talk about? Studying his nearly two-year tenure as the Bishop of Rome suggests that Pope Francis will focus particularly on the scandal of inequality and exclusion.

Last April, Pope Francis tweeted that “inequality is the root of all social evil.” The seven-word tweet caused an uproar in American media, but the truth is that Francis had been saying the same thing for years. In his 2013 letter Joy of the Gospel, Francis wrote “just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills.”

With reports last fall suggesting that economic inequality in the United States is at its highest levels since the Great Depression, Pope Francis will likely call on our elected leaders to transform our economy into one where no one is left behind.

Catherine Woodiwiss 11-18-2014
Still frame from Sojo Stories: OVERRATED. Image courtesy Sojourners.

Still frame from Sojo Stories: OVERRATED. Image courtesy Sojourners.

Eugene Cho is overrated.

At least that’s what he’ll tell you in his new book, Overrated: Are We More in Love with the Idea of Changing the World Than Actually Changing the World?

Cho, pastor at Quest Church in Seattleand founder of One Day’s Wages and Q Café, is an outspoken Christian voice for social justice. His first book is a self-professed confession of the risks of personal platform in the work of justice — and a call to humble self-awareness for Christians in an age of social change-idealism. When justice and changemaking are buzzwords, how do we embrace the long challenge of bettering the world while remaining humble about our place in it?

Watch the interview below.

Sikivu Hutchinson, a well-known atheist speaker and member of Los Angeles’ Black Skeptics. Photo courtesy of Diane Arellano/RNS.

Absolutely, say organizers of a first-of-its-kind conference to be held by atheists of color in Los Angeles this weekend. And, they add, it’s about time those issues got some attention.

Called “Moving Social Justice,” the conference will tackle topics beyond the usual atheist conference fare of confronting religious believers and promoting science education. Instead, organizers hope to examine issues of special interest to nonwhite atheists, especially the ills rooted in economic and social inequality.

“Atheism is not a monolithic, monochromatic movement,” said Sikivu Hutchinson, an atheist activist, author and founder of Los Angeles’ Black Skeptics, one member of a coalition of black atheist and humanist groups staging the conference.

“By addressing issues that are culturally and politically relevant to communities of color, we are addressing a range of things that are not typically addressed within the mainstream atheist movement.”

The conference is unusual for an atheist gathering in another important way — its lineup of speakers includes members of the religious community. Hutchinson, often an outspoken critic of religion, described the conference as “effectively an interfaith conference.”

Eugene Cho 8-26-2014
Sabphoto / Shutterstock.com

Sabphoto / Shutterstock.com

Over the years, I’ve been given by some the mini-reputation as a leader in the field of justice. At first, I took it as a compliment and of course, I still do because I care a lot about justice. I know that people mean well. But I care about justice not just for the sake of justice. I care about justice … because I care much about the Gospel.

And sometimes, when I hear folks talk about justice in the church, I cringe …

I cringe because if we’re not careful, we’re again compartmentalizing justice rather than seeing it as part of the whole Gospel; We need to see justice as a critical part of God’s character and thus, our discipleship and worship.

Just like we shouldn’t extract the character of “love” or “grace” or “holiness” from God’s character, such must be the case with justice.

People often ask me, “What’s the most critical part about seeking justice?”

My answer:

We must not just seek justice but live justly. Justice work and just living are part of our discipleship. Justice contributes to our worship of God. Justice is worship.

Cindy Brandt 8-18-2014
via CreationSwap.com

via CreationSwap.com

It was the beauty on the outside that drew me away.

Before social justice became trendy among evangelicals, people of all denominations, faiths, and philosophies had already been steadily working in the trenches without fanfare, caring for the least of these with a quiet strength.

Through seminary, I learned to grapple with justice being at the heart of the Christian Gospel — dignity, equality, and right to life for all — I marched out into the real world with zeal and vigor to champion the rights of the oppressed in the name of Jesus. However, I discovered the people who were doing this work often had no identification with Christianity, that those outside of church were behaving more Christian-ly than some inside.

I admired Nicholas Kristof, a self proclaimed nonreligious reporter, who tirelessly sheds light on humanitarian concerns.

I adored Malala, a Muslim, who stood up to the Taliban to bravely demand a right to education for girls.

I reflected on the justice heroes of recent history, people like Gandhi and countless other humanitarian workers who don’t claim the Christian faith for their own.

It disoriented me because for so long I believed it was only through Christ that one can walk in righteous paths; that without the Truth (which had been so narrowly summed up for me in John 3:16), everything was meaningless. I didn’t have an interpretive lens to categorize beauty that existed outside of the vessel I was told contained the only beauty to be found: the evangelical Christian church.

8-06-2014
C. Christopher Smith is editor of The Englewood Review of Books, and a member of the Englewood Christian Church community on the urban Near Eastside of Indianapolis. Englewood is one of the churches whose experiences gave root to the concept of Slow Church. Chris’s recent work has appeared in Books and Culture, Sojourners, The Christian Century and Indiana Green Living.
Troy Jackson 7-14-2014
Man on a wheel, Hermin / Shutterstock.com

Man on a wheel, Hermin / Shutterstock.com

In July 2010 I joined with around 100 freedom fighters in Chicago, many of whom had traded the previous year of their lives to fight for comprehensive immigration reform. And we knew it was not going to happen in 2010, at least as we had imagined. Many in the room were exhausted, and defeated, and spent. The response from the campaign was to talk about the next hill to climb rather than deal with the pain and exhaustion in the room.

Doing justice is hard and exhausting work. We are compelled to action by the urgency of the suffering and pain and evil that mark life for so many in God’s world. And the work is never done. Win or lose, there is always another hill, another peak, another challenge that lies ahead. So the temptation is to keep on keeping on, and to rise to the next challenge.

For the past 20 years, I have either been a pastor or a community organizer, and for many of those years I have been both. For pastors and organizers, there is always one more email to write, one more call to make, and one more strategy to be explored. To be blunt, burnout and exhaustion are the order of the day.

Nancy Chan 7-01-2014
Hands hold a seedling. Image courtesy AlessandroZocc/shutterstock.com.

Hands hold a seedling. Image courtesy AlessandroZocc/shutterstock.com.

The concept of social entrepreneurship, which can be defined as the use of entrepreneurial and innovation principles to promote social change, is not new. It’s been rebranded with a trendy name, but the concept of developing new ways to solve social problems has existed for ages as a key mechanism to promoting social justice. So why aren’t more Christians prominent in today’s social entrepreneurship movement? 

6-09-2014
Our understanding of biblical justice has been diminished by how the Greek and Hebrew words that were originally used have been translated. In Hebrew, there were at least three words to articulate the concept of justice as we understand it today — each with its own nuances and subtleties.
5-22-2014
In Atlanta, Dr. Harding joined the department of history and sociology atSpelman College, becoming the department chairman. At the same time, he contributed speeches for Dr. King. His most memorable, described in 2007 by Sojourners, the progressive Christian magazine, as “one of the most important speeches in American history,” was commissioned amid the United States’ escalating involvement in Vietnam.
5-22-2014
In his book, The Great Awakening (2008), Jim Wallis notes that the most common biblical support for an exclusive focus on internal piety is Jesus’s statement in John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world.” The assumption is that this means God is not concerned about this world but rather on interior and other-worldly matters. Wallis suggests that such a conclusion is not warranted. He notes that Jesus’ kingdom is not “of” this world in the sense that it is not “from” this realm. This is corroborated in the final part of the verse which says, “But now my kingdom is from another place.” Perhaps the Phillips translation says it best with “My kingdom is not founded in this world.”
5-22-2014
Catherine Cuellar serves as executive director of the Dallas Arts District, the largest contiguous urban cultural neighborhood in the United States and world headquarters of the Global Cultural Districts Network. For two decades she has worked as an award-winning multimedia journalist for national public radio stations and programs, Sojourners magazine and The Dallas Morning News among others. Previously, Ms. Cuellar spent five years as communications manager for the sixth-largest electric power grid in the U.S., Oncor.
5-22-2014
The idea for Change the World started in 2010. Slaughter wrote a book called “Change the World: Recovering the Message and Mission of Jesus.” It challenged Christians to step outside the church walls and get out into their communities. Sojourners CEO Jim Wallis, in his forward to the book, wrote, “Mike’s challenge is simple and direct: Quit worrying about getting people into your church and start finding new opportunities to move people who are already there out into God’s service.”
5-19-2014
Jo Ellen Green Kaiser is the executive director of The Media Consortium. Passionate about mission-driven independent media, Jo Ellen has worked for a succession of independent magazines, including stints as executive director and editor-in-chief of Zeek, managing editor and associate publisher of Tikkun, and publisher of LiP: Informed Revolt. She is driven by a belief that democratic societies thrive only when their members have access to accurate information and informed opinion. She is the co-editor of Righteous Indignation: A Jewish Response to Justice (Jewish Lights) and co-led the Righteous Indignation Project. She has written about Jewish social justice publications including the Jewish Daily Forward, Sojourners, Tikkun and Interfaithfamily.com. She is ZEEK’s board chair.
Derek Penwell 5-09-2014
elements from CreationSwap.com

elements from CreationSwap.com

Dear Church,

I received some distressing news today. Oh, I know you thought you’d kept it secret, but I answered the phone when the doctor’s office called to change your chemo appointment.

Chemo? Seriously? What, you thought I wouldn’t find out eventually? I know I seem preoccupied sometimes, but I’m not an idiot. I can see the signs.

I knew something was up when I saw you shrinking, little by little over time. Maybe other people couldn’t tell, but I suspected something bad was going on. You can paste on a smile, and listen to your happy music, and buy new stuff. But anyone who really knows you, realizes your body has been slowly betraying you.

Dying happens. I get that. What really makes me mad, though, is that you didn’t trust me enough to tell me. Maybe you didn’t know for awhile. I guess that’s possible. But the doctor had to have told you, right? I mean, at some point you decided to do something about it — if only to keep it a secret. And if you didn’t know, then you’re not who I thought you were.

5-05-2014
Sojourners is an organization whose mission is to articulate the biblical call to social justice, inspiring hope and building a movement to transform individuals, communities, the church and the world.
Jonathan Barrett 4-09-2014
Jarrod McKenna and Zopho, photo by Aaron Bunch, AFR

Jarrod McKenna and Zopho, photo by Aaron Bunch, AFR

Editor's Note: The following story originally appeared HERE in The Australian Financial Review.

Jarrod McKenna is in trouble. It's not that the dreadlocked Christian activist is at risk of being arrested, as he has been at several anti-war and anti-coal protests. Rather, he has let five-year-old Congolese refugee Zephanta Baganizi eat the leftovers of our very late lunch, shortly before dinner time.

"Have you asked your mum if it's OK?" McKenna asks "Zopho," who is gazing at several pieces of bolani, a vegan flat-bread meal from Afghanistan. Transfixed by the food, Zopho doesn't respond.

"Just a small piece, then."

Zopho grabs the biggest piece. He runs off to his family's apartment, mouth overflowing with fried bread and vegetable filling.

"I'm in trouble," McKenna says.

The interaction between Australian, Congolese and Afghan food, people and culture is not uncommon at a large block at the end of Dudley Street in the outer Perth suburb of Midland.

It is the location of First Home Project; a former methamphetamine lab transformed into three apartments that provide medium-term accommodation at below-market rates for refugees transitioning into their new Australian lives.

4-07-2014
In his popular arena workshop, the Rev. Jim Wallis urged people to be “examples of hope” in a secular world. “Our vocation as Christians is to offer unexpected hope,” he said, walking the stage, side to side. “And Pope Francis is the delightful surprise today.”
Brandan Robertson 4-04-2014
Young people at a coffee shop, wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock.com

Young people at a coffee shop, wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock.com

Yesterday morning, an op-ed piece went live on CNN by a young evangelical author named Daniel Darling, titled " Millennials and the false ‘gospel of nice.’ Darling’s piece is clearly written in response to many recent articles — like Rachel Held Evans’ recent piece "How evangelicals won a culture war and lost a generation " — which argue that many of the leaders of evangelical Christianity have abandoned the core convictions and teachings of Jesus Christ and instead have leveraged their faith as a weapon to be used against anyone who disagrees with their political and moral principles that they claim are rooted in Scripture.

All of this is very fresh in our minds as news broke yesterday that Christian relief organization World Vision lost more than 10,000 child sponsorships from people who disagreed with the organization’s policy change on hiring people in legal same-sex marriages. To many who watched this controversy unfold, this is an utter travesty. It seems simply unfathomable that anyone who claims to follow Christ could justify removing support from the impoverished children that they know by name because they disagreed with the organization’s hiring policy.

In his op-ed piece, Darling argues that the cry of many progressive and millennial evangelicals is:

"If only orthodox evangelical leaders would give up their antiquated beliefs, get more in step with the real Jesus, the church and the world would be better off."

He then continues by saying that:

"embedded in this narrative are two presuppositions: Young evangelicals are fleeing the church at a rapid pace [and] the real message of Jesus looks nothing like orthodox Christianity."

When I read these comments in Darling’s piece, I was utterly fascinated. Because as a millennial evangelical, and one who is participating in these conversations on a national and international level, I have never heard a single person call for "evangelical leaders to give up their antiquated beliefs." I have never heard anyone say "the real message of Jesus looks nothing like orthodox Christianity." When I read Darling’s piece, it became crystal clear to me what the key problem is that is causing so much friction between the "old guard" in evangelicalism and us millennials:

The old guard has confused orthodoxy with their political and moral interpretations of Scripture.

Pope Francis greets a crowd on his way to a meeting with cardinals at the Vatican on Feb. 21, 2014. RNS photo by David Gibson.

When President Obama and Pope Francis sit down at the Vatican on Thursday, the meeting may well offer a vision of what could have been for Democrats and the Catholic Church over the last six years: a leader of the state and a leader of the church working on the many issues where they agree while working through the issues where they don’t.

Of course, that’s not exactly how it’s gone for Obama and the U.S. hierarchy, even though Obama and the church both stress economic justice and the priority of the common good, universal health care, robust government support for the needy and comprehensive immigration reform.

The potential for a robust alliance fizzled almost from the start of Obama’s candidacy in 2007, and a relationship that began badly went downhill when he was elected.

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