Video: A Mall of Crosses Since Newtown Massacre

This is an example of the amazing work that Sojourners interns do. I’m so awed by and proud of them.

As a staff we worked on building the crosses to represent the gun deaths in the U.S. SINCE the Newtown massacre. (Although, I kept reminding them that there was a time Christians got their crosses handed to them rather than having to make their own.)

Web intern Brandon Hook is brilliant with the video camera and put together this moving 2 minute clip.

Sign the letter to Congress, standing with Newtown clergy, to demand effective gun laws.

Rose Marie Berger: ‘For God So Loved the World’ Christians & Climate Change

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Free digital edition (May)
http://digital.sojo.net/i/121090

Finally! The May issue of Sojo on Climate Change is available. I’ve been working on this for months! Thanks to everybody out there who are sitting in trees, and lobbying Congress, and saying prayers, and on and on. I guess what I do is write. So here’s an excerpt:

In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, the United States launched two ground wars and a worldwide “war on terror.” Within two months, Congress federalized the Transportation Security Administration to secure airports. More than 263 government organizations were either created or reorganized. Some 1,931 private companies were put to work on counterterrorism, homeland security, and intelligence. Rightly or wrongly, America moved heaven and earth to stop terrorism in its tracks. It was seen as both an ongoing threat and a moral affront that had to be dealt with.

What about Climate Change?

In February, a New York State Senate task force on Superstorm Sandy compared the hurricane that affected 24 states to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. “[On 9/11] there were more than 3,000 souls lost, but in terms of the geographic destruction, it was isolated to Lower Manhattan,” said Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island). “[After Sandy] we have miles and miles and miles of destruction. Hundreds of thousands of homes affected, 60 … New Yorkers killed, 250,000 to 260,000 businesses affected.”

Hurricane Sandy killed 253 people in seven countries. It was the second largest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded—and the most expensive. It smashed into the East Coast with barely three days’ warning. Like hurricanes Katrina and Rita before it, Sandy was a disaster of biblical proportions.

After 9/11, Americans knew in our gut that something was seriously wrong. Our moral intuition had been sucker punched.

Climate change—and its deadly implications—has been harder to grasp. There’s a lot of complicated science involved. Instead of a single incident, we’re inundated with seemingly disconnected events. And, despite the evidence, we often fail to see it as a “crime.”

But global warming is a clear and present danger—with perpetrators, victims, and, most important, solutions.

Read more.

Keystone Pipeline Will Be Stopped By A Miracle

200 Christians and other faiths gather at pre-rally prayer service.

People of Faith are in the ‘miracle business’

An estimated 200 people of faith gathered in Washington, D.C., on Sunday morning in preparation for the Forward on Climate Rally on the National Mall. The brief prayer service preceded the larger rally of an estimated 40,000 people urging President Barack Obama to take action against climate change and to reject the Keystone XL pipeline.

Mirele Goldsmith of Jews Against Hydrofracking reminded the gathering of faithful that in Jewish teaching “if something is right it is kosher and if it is wrong it is not kosher.” Climate change, she said, is “not kosher.” Opening the Alberta tar sands to exploitation is “not kosher.” She offered a traditional Jewish blessing to be said when one encounters natural wonders.

Alycia Ashburn, climate change organizer for the Christian social justice group Sojourners, offered a rousing roll call of the groups present for the prayer service in sub-freezing temperatures with a 20 mph wind, including co-sponsor Interfaith Power & Light (MD.DC.NoVA), Catholic Workers, Franciscan Action Network, The Shalom Center, Christians for the Mountains, Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, Green Faith, Interfaith Moral Action on Climate, Karuna Buddhist Vihara, Kids vs Global Warming, Maryknoll, and Green Hevra.

Sojourners’ Rose Berger fired up the group by saying, “Some people claim it will take a miracle to turn the oil companies around. Some people say it will take a miracle to reverse climate change. It’s a good thing we are people in the miracle business. We understand the mechanics of miracles and we are going to make it happen. As people of faith, we are the leaven, the yeast of this movement. We are the catalyst. Let’s move forward on climate in the wonder-working power of the Spirit.”

As the interreligious, multi-faith rally marched down the National Mall toward the Washington Monument, they joined forces with Unitarian Universalists and Jews for Peace as they all moved into the main body of the demonstration. On stage the Rev. Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus and Methodist environmentalist Bill McKibben stirred up the crowd by preaching “By God, we are going to stop this [Keystone XL] pipeline and get this country to take action on climate change.”

Correction: An earlier version of this post identified Mirele Goldsmith as with Greater Washington Interfaith Power & Light, which is now known as Interfaith Power & Light (MD.DC.NoVA).

See more coverage here:

http://www.usatoday.com/videos/news/nation/2013/02/17/1926493/
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/18/business/energy-environment/obamas-keystone-pipeline-decision-risks-new-problems-either-way.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-02-17/thousands-protest-keystone-pipeline-in-washington-march.html

Belle Fox-Martin: ‘Come – Thanksgiving’

I’m grateful to the lovely poet Belle Fox-Martin for sending me this Thanksgiving poem and prayer.

Belle is a United Church of Christ licensed minister, artist, and writer living in western Massachusetts. (Sojourners ran her poem “Against the Night” in March 2012.)

Come – Thanksgiving

Find your way
over the quiet earth,
under the charged skies.
Look across the emptied fields
and up at the geese
in their ordered disarray.
See the few apples
still holding to the stem.

Come to the table.
Find your way.
Don’t deny hunger leaning
hard against your door.
Remember those things
easy to forget.
Uplift the lost
and blessings made manifest.

Find your way.
Come to the table.
Let thanks and giving
brush sweet against your cheek,
then watch the deer step
into the deeper wood;
as you raise your glass
and mouth prayers
into the chill.

–Belle Fox-Martin

Short Documentary: ‘The Line’ from Sojourners

Mitt Romney bravely mentioned the “poor” once and “poverty” twice in his acceptance speech before the Republican National Convention. Last night, Bill Clinton also raised the P-word (“poor” seven times and “poverty” three times) at the Democratic National Convention. Will President Obama address this critical issue tonight in his acceptance speech before the Dems? 46.2 million Americans living below the poverty line want to know.

Sojourners believes Christians need to raise up the stories of the poor and powerless. Poverty needs to be back on the public agenda. Sojourners worked with an Emmy-award winning writer and producer to create a new film called The Line that reveals what poverty in America looks like today.

This 30-minute documentary features real people, their economic struggles, and their inspiring and creative responses to the challenges they face. This resource will help break through traditional political divides, foster honest dialogue, and re-focus our society on the common good.

The film will premiere at 8 p.m. EDT October 2, and we’re organizing viewing parties of The Line across the nation. It’ll be a powerful tool for your churches, communities, families, and organizations to use in raising awareness and fostering conversation about poverty’s effects and potential solutions.

I’m sharing the film’s trailer here in hopes that you’ll ask your friends, family, and community to host screenings. Additional details about the film and information on arranging a viewing can be found at www.thelinemovie.com.

This film is really good! I’m proud to be part of this Sojourners project. (And you get to see some footage of my Columbia Heights neighborhood.)

‘The Struggle Over Women’s Authority Runs Right Through the Body of Christ’

Today, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in the U.S. begins a week of contemplative discernment in St. Louis, MO, to “reason together” about how they will respond to the Vatican’s crackdown on their organization and their work.

We have an opportunity to watch two starkly different modes of leadership at work. The Vatican uses a command-control model aimed at maintaining homogeneity and the status quo. The Catholic Sisters communities draw on a more ancient model that develops shared leadership, communal shaping of vision, and is agile enough to address the “signs of the times,” as well as remain resilient amid diversity.

Not only are U.S. Catholic laity watching and praying for the LCWR this week, but so are Catholic orders and laity around the world. Your prayer this week will be greatly appreciated (LCWR prayer)

Below is an excerpt of my latest column in Sojourners magazine, addressing these issues:

The Presumption of Equality by Rose Marie Berger

…These Catholic sisters represent an unbroken, cohesive expression of faith in the history of American Catholicism and in women’s presumption of equality, completeness, and active moral agency both under law and under God—a presumption that is a shining light for women around the world. The sisters might have once shared accolades for faithful servant leadership with their brother priests, bishops, and cardinals, but over the course of nearly 30 years of unfolding pedophilia scandal and blasphemous mob-like cover-up, the laity has learned to look to the sisters alone for examples of Catholic gospel witness and Christian maturity, strength, and just plain grit.

But let’s not sideline this issue as “a Catholic thing.” We don’t get off that easy. The struggle over women’s authority runs right through the denominational diaspora of the body of Christ.

“Christian churches have long been ambivalent about us,” wrote Protestant female theologians in a letter of support to the women of LCWR. “Women’s roles have been embraced in private, not public forums. Women leaders are affirmed as long as they are seen, but not heard (at least too much).” And as long as what the women say doesn’t contradict male authorities.

Even in Christian denominations that ordain women to leadership, too often they are forced to operate as second-class citizens. Women pastors don’t get called to prominent congregations; they’re not allowed to prioritize the most urgent needs in their parishes; and they face constant friction. Time and again, we see the ideas of men described (and funded) as “entrepreneurial,” “innovative,” and “bold,” while women’s initiatives are “unorthodox,” “suspect,” and “back-burner, support-staff kind of thinking.”

“The plight of the powerless is familiar to the women of the church,” continue the Protestant scholars. “We, however, do not believe that authorities in any church should take away women’s power to determine for ourselves a vision for our ministries and vocations.” Many women—and men—have raised questions similar to those asked by Catholic women religious. Did God plan for an exclusively male priesthood or did it form as a result of the sin of misogyny? Do our baptismal vows anoint girls into the fullness of ministry as “priest, prophet, and king” in Christ or do they not? Is providing for the poor, the outcast, the sick, the prisoner, and the foreigner at the core of the gospel message or is it not?

“What we see in this struggle is not a lack of our sisters’ integrity and authentic witness to Christian faith,” the open letter continues, “but a struggle that has been too familiar for all women of faith—a struggle over authority and who should have the power to define true faith.”…

Rose Marie Berger, author of Who Killed Donte Manning? is a Catholic peace activist and a Sojourners associate editor. Read the whole article here, the September-October 2012 issue of Sojourners magazine.

Richard Rohr: ‘Letting Go’

We had an excellent sermon preached at Sojourners last month by Sarabeth Goodwin from the Episcopal Church St. Stephen and the Incarnation. She framed her reflections with stories of sorting through boxes and boxes of paper in her study, trying to decide what to keep and what to let go. It made me realize what a contest with the personal ego this process is! On the flip side, for me, when I’m anguishing about holding on to notes I took at a lecture in 1981, then it is a clear signal of an opportunity to embrace change and release the private ego. Here’s Richard Rohr on a similar topic:

“Once Jesus’ great and good news became a reward-punishment system that only checked into place in the next world instead of a transformational system in this world, Christianity in effect moved away from a religion of letting go and became a religion of holding on. Religion’s very purpose for many people was to protect the status quo of empire, power, war, money, and the private ego. So in many ways, we have not been a force for liberation, peacemaking, or change in the world. One thing for sure is that healthy religion is always telling us to change instead of giving us ammunition to try to change others. Authentic Christianity is a religion of constantly letting go of the false self so the True Self in God can stand revealed—now.”–Richard Rohr, OFM

Adapted from The Art of Letting Go

Lynne Hybels: Dangerous Women Creed

Lynne in blue dress in Congo.

Lynne Hybels, co-founder of the evangelical mega-church Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago, has branched beyond Willow Creek to become a leading Christian voice for women around the world. While proofing her regular column for Sojourners, I found this prayer below.

How wonderful if we read this aloud in our churches! (And since some still cling to the notion that “man” should be interpreted universally, then I think we could do the same for “woman” and interpret it universally.)

Dangerous Women Creed
by Lynne Hybels

Dear God, please make us dangerous women.
May we be women who acknowledge our power to change, and grow,
and be radically alive for God.
May we be healers of wounds and righters of wrongs.
May we weep with those who weep and speak for those who cannot
speak for themselves.
May we cherish children, embrace the elderly, and empower the poor.
May we pray deeply and teach wisely.
May we be strong and gentle leaders.
May we sing songs of joy and talk down fear.
May we never hesitate to let passion push us, conviction compel us,
and righteous anger energize us.
May we strike fear into all that is unjust and evil in the world.
May we dismantle abusive systems and silence lies with truth.
May we shine like stars in a darkened generation.
May we overflow with goodness in the name of God and by the power of Jesus.
And in that name and by that power, may we change the world.
Dear God, please make us dangerous women. Amen.

Latina Liberation Theology: ‘Thank You, Ada Maria’

Here’s an excerpt from my column from Sojourners (July 2012) honoring mujerista theologian Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz who died suddenly in May. I’m firmly convinced that her work will, in the not too distant future as demographics in the U.S. continue to shift, be seen as critically important to understanding the future of American Christian feminism. I’m grateful for the generous comments I received from Rosemary Radford Reuther, Fernando Segovia, Gabriel Salguero, and others remembering Ada Maria:

… Ada was “a pioneer,” Catholic theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether told Sojourners. “She gave us a vision of justice and integrity for Latina women in the U.S. and the world that was inspiring”; her work is “an integral part of feminist theological thought.”

Ada María Isasi-Díaz was born in Cuba in 1943, the third of six sisters and two brothers. Her father worked in the sugar cane mills, and her mother nourished in Ada a love of Catholic religious practices and the importance of staying in the struggle (la lucha) for what one believes. Her family fled Cuba after years of civil war, and in 1960, at age 17, Ada arrived in the U.S. as a political refugee. Soon she joined the Ursuline sisters and, in 1967, was sent to Lima, Peru, as a missionary.

“I lived there for three years,” Ada wrote. “This experience marked me for life … It was there that the poor taught me the gospel message of justice. It was there that I learned to respect and admire the religious understandings and practices of the poor and the oppressed and the importance of their everyday struggles, of lo cotidiano.”

Her research on lo cotidiano—the dynamic daily lives of Latino/as—argued that theology didn’t have to be only about God in the abstract, but should include what people know about God and how they acquire that knowledge. In this way she identified Latinas and their community, traditions, habits, moral judgments, and self-definition as the primary source material for learning about their God experience. By relocating her primary theological sources out of the academy and to the kitchens, laundromats, home altars, and familias of Latina women, Ada flipped the locus of power, authority, and agency. …–Rose Marie Berger

Read the whole column here.