Social Justice

Duane Shank 04-04-2012

Forty-five years ago today, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his now-famous speech at Riverside Church in New York City, declaring his opposition to the war in Vietnam. One year later -- 44 years ago today -- he was murdered by an assassin.

It is fitting that these anniversaries occur this year during the week we commemorate the death and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.

Dr. King’s Riverside speech is frequently quoted, with his scathing political indictment of the war and the systems of exploitation and oppression that led to it. But how often do we remember that he began that speech by noting that while the Nobel Peace Prize was “a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before,” it was not the most important thing. He continued by saying that:

This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I'm speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all … Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the One who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them?

Dr. King was able to be the leader he was, take the risks he did, and ultimately make the final sacrifice, because he knew who called him and who he followed. He knew that the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus was a living presence in his life and gave him the hope to follow. 

For him, as well as us, believing in Jesus means being a follower and a disciple in bringing the kingdom he lived and taught. By raising Jesus, by vindicating his life and death, God vindicated his message – the kingdom he proclaimed has come and will come. And because God raised Jesus from death, his living presence continues among us and we are empowered to follow him and to live the kingdom. The resurrection is the event on which our faith and hope depends.   

That faith sustained Dr. King, and it can sustain us.

Photo courtesy of Living Waters for the World.

Photo courtesy of Living Waters for the World.

This Thursday, March 22nd, is World Water Day. The April 2012 issue of Sojourners includes Ched Myers’ 'Everything Will Live Where the River Goes', a Bible study on water, God, and redemption.

The following hymn celebrates our need for clean water and the Living Water:

Once a Woman Seeking Water

BEACH SPRING 8.7.8.7. D (“God, Whose Giving Knows No Ending”)

Once a woman seeking water at a well not far from home

Met a thirsty, waiting stranger from a people not her own.

Would she give a drink of water and respond to human need?

Could she know the joy and wonder she, the giver, would receive?...

Photo by Peter Kramer/NBC/via Getty Images.

"KONY 2012" filmmaker Jason Russell in an appearance on the "Today Show" March 9. Photo by Peter Kramer/NBC/via Getty Images.

After returning to the U.S., they produced a film titled Invisible Children and then set up a non-profit organization by the same name as the vehicle through which they could use the film to raise awareness of the child soldiers.

I believe that the centrality of film and social media to Invisible Children’s organizing strategy places it at the forefront of new innovative forms of global activism that have to capacity to create a degree of intimacy between people living on opposite sides of the globe that could not have been possible in the past. Social media as an organizing tool also opens up the possibility of creating extensive webs of interactions between activists across the globe. It allows story-telling to be a global enterprise.

 The use of social media also has the power to unleash much greater local initiative and innovation by enabling direct communication between activists in different geographic locations across the global, without information first needing to flow up through traditional hierarchical organizational structures to a national staff that perhaps sends it back down again to activists in other local areas. 

Matthew Soerens 02-08-2012
Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/Washington Post via Getty Images.

Immigrant families are fleeing Alabama in the wake of the new law. Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/Washington Post via Getty Images.

Whenever possible, I plan my Saturday errands such that I’ll be able catch part of “This American Life” on public radio as I drive and I’ve often found myself sitting in the grocery store parking lot to hear the end of a story. 

One recent Saturday, the show’s theme — which ties together each of its non-fiction stories — was the biblical truism that “you reap what you sow” (Galatians 6:7), and most of the program was dedicated to examining the consequences — intended and otherwise — of Alabama’s controversial, toughest-in-the-nation immigration law, HB 56, which passed last June. 

Whether what is happening in Alabama as a result of this law — and, as the program reveals, a great deal is happening, even if most of us outside of the state aren’t paying attention — was the intention of the bill’s authors and supporters is not entirely clear. What is clear, from a Christian perspective, is that the effects are devastating. 

What most saddened me in the program was the statement of a young undocumented woman named Gabriella that, since the passage of HB 56, she finds herself unwelcome everywhere. “Even in the church,” she says, “you find people that… don't want to talk at you. And they don't want to give the peace to you.”

Sheila Stroup 02-04-2012
Alison McCrary

Alison McCrary

Alison McCrary starts her mornings with prayer and meditation.

Sometimes she writes in her journal, other times she draws geometric mandalas. It's a way of silencing her mind.

She thinks about what grace she wants to ask for that day. Patience? Gratitude? Understanding?
   
"Humility is a big one," she says. "I ask, 'How can I increase God and decrease me?'"
   
McCrary graduated from law school in May and is in formation to become a nun in the Congregation of St. Joseph. She lives with a group of sisters in a house, and every night they sit down to eat together and share after-dinner prayers.
   
McCrary tries to strike a balance between prayer and ministry. The young lawyer, who turns 30 in February, spends her days as an advocate and organizer working with a grassroots group, Safe Streets/Strong Communities.
   
"People are always asking me, 'Why don't you get burned out?' But I feel like the more you give, the more you get back," she says.
   
Often, her ministry takes her to the streets of the city, monitoring second-line parades for any police misconduct, or sitting in a bar talking to Mardi Gras groups about noise ordinances or curfews that threaten native traditions.
  

Cathleen Falsani 02-02-2012
Bill and Melinda Gates via http://bit.ly/xO2DkP

Bill and Melinda Gates. Image via http://bit.ly/xO2DkP

"‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven.'"
~ Matthew 5:21 (NRSV)

Because it's never too late to say thank you, I didn't want to let the best news I heard out of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last week go unnoticed or unacknowleged.

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, announced during the forum that they would inject an additional $750 million into the United Nation's Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, a public-private organization founded a decade ago to combat three of the world's most devastating diseases that have claimed millions of lives, particularly among the poorest of the poor in the developing world.

The Gates' new gift joins more than $650 million the couple already has given to the Global Fund since its inception. And their latest gesture of epic generosity couldn't come at a more opportune time, especially after news (a few days before the Gates' announcement at Davos) that the fund's executive director, Michel Kazatchkine, was stepping down from his post early, amidst allegations of misuse of funds and cutbacks in funding.

Timothy King 01-18-2012
Tea Party Jesus from AVN

Tea Party Jesus from AVN

The video will be a satirical take on the Sermon on the Mount with various quotes, signs and policy positions of the Tea Party. While I don’t think the creators of the video would argue that this same test be applied to every piece of legislation Congress considers, it is an interesting experiment.

How often do we divorce the things we say and do or the beliefs we hold from what we read in the Gospels about the person and teachings of Jesus?

This video will drive some conservative Christians nuts for two reasons.

First, because there are conservative Christians, such as Chuck Colson, who have spoken out against Ayn Rand and don’t want to be lumped in with her followers.

Second, because Rand’s influence is real and it’s not a good thing.

Rand’s extreme individualism turns Christian virtue into vice and vice into virtue. Her worldview feeds selfishness and a disregard for our neighbors. I read all 1,046 pages of my paperback copy her Atlas Shrugged and I would like at least 700 pages worth of my time back.

Joshua Witchger 01-12-2012

TV's award winning comedy 30 Rock debuts tonight, create your own remixes with Mono's customer appreciation page, discover hidden features on the iPhone, Hostess nears bankruptcy, GOOD's new social justice efforts, and more. Plus videos of chain reaction mechanics performing mundane tasks and a backstage glimpse into the gospel vibes of Wilco, Mavis Staples, and Nick Lowe. 

Cathleen Falsani 01-08-2012

The Great Conversation that we invite our readers to join here at Sojo.net must, by definition, be both civil and respectful. Our comments sections should be a safe harbor, different from the comments sections of any other websites and blogs that deal with the busy intersection of religion, politics and culture.

To that end, during the last few weeks Sojourners staff and management have had a great many discussions about how we might best address the issue of incivility in our comments sections and correct it. We are committed to preserving the comments sections as a vital part of our community and that Great Conversation, but not at the cost of hearts and minds that have been wounded by their experiences here.

We can disagree, and we must when our conscience so demands, but we must do it with kindness, open minds and open hearts.

Matthew Santoro 12-20-2011

http://youtu.be/IxNUxlWOgZE

Quit hitting the snooze button. 

It’s time for the church to wake up! 

According to a Laura Sessions Stepp at CNN.com, evangelical churches are finally acknowledging a trend that statisticians have been tracking for years: young evangelicals are leaving the church in droves.

In the new report, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church and Rethinking Faith, Barna Group President David Kinnaman notes a 43 percent drop in Christian church attendance between the teen and early adult years.

Perhaps most intriguing is that research indicates younger people are not only departing from their elders on “social issues,” such as same-sex marriage and abortion, but on wealth distribution and care for the environment, as well.

According to a report in The Christian Science Monitor, three out of four millennials say that wealthy corporations and financiers have too much power and that taxes should be raised on the very wealthy. Two out of three say financial institutions should be regulated more closely.

While the issue of jobs and higher wages remain as important to millennials as they do to older voters, the widening “black hole” of church attendance in the 18-29 age demographic indicates a larger trend — young people are thirsting for social justice, and simply not finding those principles in the pews.

Timothy King 12-14-2011

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) released a letter  to Congress on Monday concerning unemployment benefits. Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Toledo, Ohio, the letter's signatory, makes the argument that unemployment benefits are a “right to life” or pro-life issue.

This is a time of “prolonged and pervasive economic pain.” The letter cites the median length of joblessness as 10 months and that there are 4 job seekers for every 1 job opening. Blaire then quotes from Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Laborem Exercens:

The obligation to provide unemployment benefits, that is to say, the duty to make suitable grants indispensable for the subsistence of unemployed workers and their families, is a duty springing from the fundamental principle of . . . the right to life and subsistence.

If Glenn Beck still had that black board, Pope John Paul II might end up receiving the posthumous honor of having a smiling photo added to it.

the Web Editors 12-09-2011
Arthur Brooks, Gordon's President D. Michael Lindsay and Sojourners CEO Jim Wall

Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute, Gordon's President D. Michael Lindsay and Sojourners CEO Jim Wallis.

On Nov. 30, at Gordon College in Wenham, Mass., Sojourners CEO Jim Wallis and Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute, debated the question, "Is Free Enterprise Moral?"

The event was sponsored by the Center for Christian Studies and the Jerusalem and Athens Forum at Gordon as part of the college's ongoing "Faith Seeking Understanding" lecture series.

Watch complete video of the debate inside...

Timothy King 12-08-2011

Social justice is redundant.

Justice, properly understood in a biblical sense, always has social implications.

Personal salvation is redundant in the same way. Salvation, properly understood in a biblical sense, while it may have broader implications, is always personal in nature.

Why the modifiers?

Jack Palmer 11-30-2011

If we look at what is happening this week – elections in Egypt and the Democratic Republic of Congo, an aid effectiveness conference in South Korea, the continuing Arab Spring in Syria and beyond, World Aids Day Thursday – and in the coming weeks -- the U.N. climate change conference, COP17 -- we cannot pretend that these events have no impact on our lives here and now.

Every one of these events is a matter of justice. The citizens of Egypt and the Democratic Republic of Congo deserve the opportunity to express freely, without fear of intimidation or violence, how they believe their country should be governed. Having spent some time in the region, I believe that the people of the DRC deserve more than any other to live in a country where they are safe and secure.

How we assist other countries in their development is an issue of justice.

Washington D.C. high school student, Chidiki Jones-Whitley, created this video to demonstrate the financial challenges faced by poor Americans on Thanksgiving -- when the cost of turkey alone has gone up nearly 25 percent since last year.

Juan Martinez 11-22-2011

http://youtu.be/XZrI35EmBRc

On November 3, "Shattered Families," a report on the status of U.S.-born children whose parents have been detained or deported by immigration agents reported that there are more than 5,000 American children who are in foster care and are unable to be reunited with their detained or deported parents.

Of course, this figure does not include children who have been left in the custody of relatives because their parents have been deported or detained by U.S. authorities. This situation has become increasingly problematic as the U.S. government has increased the number of deportations and detentions to record-breaking levels.

These children are U.S. citizens, so they cannot be deported. And yet the system is practically turning them into orphans.

“Oh my God” was the refrain that kept going through my mind as I watched the Republican presidential candidates talk about their positions on foreign policy at their debate over the weekend. 

I did not expect the surprises that I heard. At least two candidates supported torture, saying it was necessary to acquire acquire information to protect America.

Oh my God.

Jack Palmer 11-14-2011

 Cain: God Convinced Me To Run For President. OpEd: Whatever Happened To Discipline And Hard Work? Bob Jones III Unplugged. GOP Candidates Hammer Obama On His Iran Policy During South Carolina Debate. Jon Huntsman Blasts "Sound-Bite Campaigning." OpEd: Christian Politics Create Unholy Alliances. Would Cracking Down On Illegal Immigration Really Cut Unemployment? And the Poor Are With Us, However You Count Them.

Jeremy John 11-10-2011
Foreclosure sign

Foreclosure sign

Alone, we do not have the power of Christ to forgive sins. But as the church, the body of Christ on earth, we do. I believe there is a seed of our faith that has been planted by the dissident occupiers, towards the forgiveness of debt that was Christ's deep desire for us, so much so that he told us to repeat it in our daily prayer. It's this way that we, by our holy treatment of our community's economic relations, water the seed of faith, until it grows into a sheltering oak, the Kingdom of God.

If our structures, our societies, do not allow us to practice Jubilee, or forgive debt as Jesus teaches, we need to work to change that. Christians must clamor for debt forgiveness. We need to be the voice, as Jesus was, proclaiming Jubilee.

But I don't believe that we are helpless. I believe that we live in an age of peaceful, nonviolent protest where we can carry the witness of Christ's radically forgiving love into the streets.

Jack Palmer 11-08-2011

Human trafficking and sex slavery thrives in the U.S. and abroad. Census Bureau measure more Americans living in poverty. Debate brews over new method of measuring poverty. Poll finds voters deeply torn. Faith important in 2012 presidential election, but skepticism about Mormonism remains. Health tab for climate change: $14 billion. What do the Copts mean for Arab Spring?

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