Social Justice

Q Conference Hopes to Present a Different Face of Evangelical Activism

Gabe Lyons thinks Christian culture warriors are on the wrong path.

His sixth annual Q Conference, which opens today in Washington, D.C., is an attempt to do things differently. With 700 participants gathered in a stately downtown auditorium, Lyons will play host to a distinct kind of Christian conference, one that seeks a respectful, constructive conversation on a host of issues confronting the nation.

Q, which stands for “question,” will allow 30 different culture leaders — from New York Times columnist David Brooks to Florida megachurch pastor Joel Hunter — to present their ideas for the common good during a two-and-a-half day confab.

“We feel we have a role to play in renewing the culture and holding back the effects of sin,” said Lyons, founder of Q, a nonprofit organization based in New York City. “We’re not to do it in an antagonistic way. We hope to do it in a hopeful way that gives witness to the rest of the world in how things ought to be.”

President Obama to Young Evangelicals: 'God’s Hand is Moving through His People'


US President Barack Obama greets visitors at the basketball court during the 134th annual Easter Egg Roll. /BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI

In a video address Tuesday, President Obama told hundreds of young evangelical Christian leaders gathered at the Q Conference in Washington, D.C., that they had a partner in the White House in their humanitarian and social justice efforts.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Ultimate Sacrifice

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.

A New Hymn for World Water Day

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 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?...

Invisible Children: Using Film and Social Media to Advance Global Justice Advocacy

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. 

Welcoming the Stranger: Immigration and G92

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.”

Young Lawyer Fights for Social Justice on Her Way to Becoming a Nun

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.

When Actions Speak Louder than Words: Bill and Melinda Gates

Bill and Melinda Gates via

Bill and Melinda Gates. Image via

"‘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.

Coming to a Computer Near You: It's Tea Party Jesus!

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.

Afternoon Links of Awesomeness: January 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.