The Common Good

Welcoming the Stranger

Sojomail - March 15, 2006

Quote of the Week : A slight correction
Faith in Action : Welcoming the Stranger
Middle East Journal : Why I wore an orange jumpsuit in Congress
Building a Movement : Raise your voice for housing justice - Adopt D.C.!
In Memoriam : The legacy of Anne Braden
Sojourners in the News : This week's media roundup
Boomerang : Readers write
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by Laura Slattery, Ken Butigan, Veronica Pelicaric, and Ken Preston-Pile
ISBN: 0-9669783-15

Engage: Exploring Nonviolent Living offers you and your community a step-by-step process for putting your faith into creative nonviolent action for peace and justice.

With Engage's dynamic process, learn skills for nonviolent communication, practice strategies for effective social change, and help translate the vision of the beloved community into action. Engage is a journey "from violence to wholeness" based on hundreds of workshops led by Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service. Learn more about Engage here!


"Correction: In the original version of this report, Newsweek misquoted [Jerry] Falwell as referring to 'assault ministry.' In fact, Falwell was referring to 'a salt ministry' a reference to Matthew 5:13, where Jesus says 'Ye are the salt of the earth.' We regret the error."

- Newsweek editors, in a story on Liberty University's debate team

Source: Newsweek

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What the Waters Revealed: Christians and Hurricane Katrina
This 34-page discussion guide from the editors of Sojourners explores the deep issues of race and poverty that became a central part of the national conversation in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. What the Waters Revealed is designed to spark discussion, thought, and action about how to live out God's call for justice in our nation and our world.

This is a perfect tool for teachers and leaders in classes and small groups!

To purchase a copy of What the Waters Revealed click here.


Welcoming the Stranger
by Jeff Carr

When was the last time you heard a Catholic cardinal calling his flock to civil disobedience? That's what Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony did in his Lenten message, urging his people to make room "for the stranger in our midst, praying for the courage and strength to offer our spiritual and pastoral ministry to all who come to us." The strangers to whom he was referring are the estimated 11.5 to 12 million undocumented immigrants living on the margins of our society.

The simmering immigration debate heated up this past week, as the Senate Judiciary Committee began to discuss a bill by Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) to reform immigration laws and create a guest worker program. This comes on the heels of a bill passed in December by the House (H.R. 4437) focusing primarily on how to secure our borders from undocumented migrants, mostly from Mexico and other Latin American countries. Much of the debate up to this point has been focused on border security, the job market, and political bargaining. All that changed, however, when Mahony added the moral dimension to the debate.

He and many other religious leaders are particularly concerned about a provision in H.R. 4437 (also in Specter's bill) that would impose sanctions on anyone who assists undocumented immigrants in remaining in the U.S. If enacted into law, this bill would criminalize social service workers and others who provide compassionate or humanitarian aid to undocumented people, including churches and faith-based organizations. The crime would be a felony, potentially punishable by stiff fines and up to five years in prison. According to the Los Angeles Times, Mahony said that if Congress passes the bill, he will instruct the priests in his 288 parishes to defy the law in open civil disobedience.

Prior to coming to Sojourners, I spent 17 years living and working a few miles west of the cardinal's cathedral in one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in Los Angeles. I was privileged to direct the Bresee Community Center, a faith-based organization that provides educational programs, job training, health care, and basic social services for young people and their families. Through the years, I developed personal relationships with hundreds of children and families who didn't possess a piece of paper that afforded them legal status in this country. If the law being considered by Congress were passed while I was directing the center, I would surely have gone to jail.

We certainly need humane immigration reform in this country, but a mean-spirited criminalization approach that focuses only on border security is not the answer. We can't realistically deport nearly 12 million people, and if we somehow could, our economy would go into a tailspin. Most of the undocumented people I knew were some of the most hardworking, family-oriented people in my neighborhood. They came to this country for the same reasons people have come here for during the past 400 years: economic, religious, and political freedom. Many of them fled civil war in their countries or economic conditions so desperate that risking everything to come to this country really wasn't a choice. And most of the young people I worked with had come here at such a young age they had no memories of their home country. They assimilated into our community, learned to speak the language, and educated themselves; yet by no choice of their own, they live in legal limbo.

One young woman I knew fled civil war in a Latin American country, arriving in our community at age 5. She learned English, and, though she went to underperforming local public schools, was a model student, worked hard, graduated from high school with honors, and attended an Ivy League school. With private scholarships, her own money, and the help of her parents, she graduated with a degree in political science in three years. When she returned to our community, her sole desire was to invest herself through her work in the lives of other Latina-Latino young people who faced the same odds she did. Due to her undocumented status, however, she is working in the underground economy earning wages that barely make it possible to survive economically.

It is not realistic to think this young woman will return to her war torn country just because we decide to make her a felon. There is nothing to return to. She is smart, capable, and could be part of helping make our communities stronger. And if this bill passes, millions of people like her won't go home; they will go further underground and become part of the permanent underclass in our society. Instead of rewarding her for hard work, we will penalize her and her family for wanting a better life. That's not America, and it's wrongheaded.

We should follow the outline for immigration reform developed by the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops and other church organizations in their "Justice for Immigrants" campaign:

  • More visas for family members of migrants to reduce what can be decades-long waits to reunify;
  • A guest worker program with a path to permanent residency;
  • Better legal processes to guarantee immigrant rights;
  • Legalization of undocumented migrants;
  • Economic development in poor countries to reduce the need to migrate.

As a person of faith, I believe we should take seriously the writer of Leviticus who says, "When a foreigner lives with you in your land, don't take advantage of him. Treat the foreigner the same as a native. Love him like one of your own. Remember that you were once foreigners in Egypt. I am God, your God" (Leviticus 19:33-34, The Message).

I hope Mahony would have room to welcome an evangelical Christian minister such as me to join him and his fellow priests in civil disobedience. It's time for people of faith to stand up on behalf of our immigrant brothers and sisters whom I am confident Jesus would have included when he said "I was a stranger and you welcomed me."

Jeff Carr is chief operating officer for Sojourners.

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Derek Webb - Mockingbird

A musically-compelling look at God, politics, and social issues

I love Derek Webb's CD, Mockingbird - everything about it.... It's rich and tasteful from beginning to end. A lot of us have been waiting for a "someday" and "someone" - when a committed Christian musician would start to lead in the areas of social justice and peace.... Derek is exactly the kind of artist we've been waiting for. - Brian McLaren, author and activist (

To hear samples and learn more about the album that is generating comments and conversation check out the following Web sites: / /


Why I wore an orange jumpsuit in Congress
by Kathy Ogle

Wearing orange jumpsuits, 14 people walked the halls of all the congressional office buildings. Across their mouths were black strip of cloths with the word torture emblazoned on them. Each walked slowly down the middle of one of the House or Senate office building halls looking straight ahead and saying nothing.

I was one of them.

The Torture Abolition and Survivor's Support Coalition, an organization of torture survivors from around the world, sponsored this ghost walk on March 2. I was proud to be part of it.

The ghost walk coincided with a press conference on torture at the nearby Methodist Building. Speakers included: Kristine Huskey, an attorney representing Kuwaiti detainees in Guantanamo; Anthony Chukwudi, a Nigerian survivor of torture; Dr. Stephen Xenakis, a retired brigadier general of the Army Medical Corps and a member of Physicians for Human Rights; and Jennifer Harbury, the widow of a Guatemalan resistance leader believed to have been tortured and killed at the hands of a CIA asset.

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SERVING GOD IN THE WORKPLACE: People Making a Difference

Sojourners: Be equipped and inspired to take your Christian faith to work. Are you a worker, pastor, craftsperson, manager, or professional Monday through Saturday in the factory, boardroom, film studio, home, school, or other workplace? Do you seek to bring your ethics and spirituality into your work? Meet role models and colleagues seeking to do the same. Join us for the 14th annual International Consultation of the Coalition for Ministry in Daily Life, April 21 to 23, 2006, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California. Register by April 13: $169 ($129 before Mar. 21).


Raise your voice for housing justice - Adopt D.C.!

We, the residents of the District of Columbia, are political exiles. We live in a state of taxation without representation in Congress and we have no way to advocate for ourselves on Capitol Hill. In Acts 16 a Macedonian man begs Paul, in a vision, to come and help his community. In the same way we, the residents of Washington, D.C., are pleading for help from those with voting power to advocate on our behalf especially around the issue of affordable housing in our nation and city.

Here's the low-down: Congressional subcommittees make budgetary decisions for Washington, D.C., as well as for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the government agency that affects all federal affordable housing. Yet, in the capital of the world's greatest democracy, nearly 700,000 tax paying citizens have no voting rights in Congress! D.C. residents have no direct way to educate and solicit support from these critical lawmakers about our own needs within the district! Imagine that: In our nation's capital, we don't have representation on decisions that directly concern our own issues of affordable housing!

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Please sign up to Adopt D.C. and cast your vote for affordable housing!

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For travelers on this path of faith in modern times, Road to Emmaus is a most worthy companion. An international journal of contemporary Orthodox Christianity, Road to Emmaus is a passport to a world of insight on topics of perennial interest - spirituality, art, family life, politics, monasticism, ethics, and history.

"Thoughtful, insightful, and interesting." - Frederica Mathewes-Green, author, Facing East

"What a splendid journal! A gift not only to Orthodoxy but to all who wish to return fully to true worship of and true belief in the living God." - Dr. H. Tristram Engelhardt Jr., author, Foundations of Christian Bioethics


The legacy of Anne Braden
by Jennifer Coulter Stapleton

On March 6, Anne Braden, long-time social justice activist and journalist, died at 81. Braden, a white Southerner residing Louisville, Kentucky, worked against white supremacy and for racial justice in the segregated South of the 1950s, '60s, and beyond. Spanning nearly six decades, her social activism encompassed, in addition to racial justice, issues of peace and human rights, including women's liberation, police brutality, civil liberties, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights....

In a 1997 interview with The Veterans of Hope Project, Braden discussed how religion impacted her work for social justice. As a child, she took the gospel very seriously. "The gospel I read made sense when I was a little girl," she said. "Nobody had told me that I wasn't supposed to believe all of it. That maybe Jesus didn't really mean it when he said to feed all the hungry people. That maybe he just meant to feed some."

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The Romero Memorial Tree Project Oscar Romero, spiritual patron of the Americas, was martyred for speaking out for the poor and oppressed in El Salvador. He ministered for a peaceful, wholesome life that included respect of nature. His legacy lives on through the at the Foundation for Self Sufficiency in Central America (FSSCA). In celebration of his memory, FSSCA will plant 50,000 trees in the communities of El Salvador. + Your gift of $10 will plant a tree in his memory and help to reforest El Salvador.


Top stories:

Duke values summit topics break norm Herald Sun
Evangelical Christian activist Jim Wallis says he sees a new generation of prophets rising up across the country - one concerned with poverty more than any other moral value.

Prophetic Politics Goes to Washington? Virtue Online
When Jim Wallis speaks at Christian colleges, as he did at Gordon College last week, his message is clear and concise: Evangelical Christians engage in selective moral crusades, he says. On life and sexuality issues, they take strong orthodox stances. Then Wallis pauses, looks out at his evangelical audience, and declares that these are indeed serious moral issues. But why, he protests, do evangelicals overlook the Bible's 2,000 references to the poor and fail to mount moral campaigns to end poverty?

Orthodox Coalition Forces Grow Worldwide Virtue Online

Dubai Deal May Be the Last Straw Paradise Post

Where's the outrage about Iraq? The Roanoke Times

More Sojourners in the news:

Theologian's Ideas, Not Heroics, Noted Newhouse News Service

Bible bashers get a bashing Taipei Times

'Spiritual crisis' driving rush to conservatism, rabbi says The Miami Herald

Left tries to regain religion The News and Observer (North Carolina)

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We Need Help! If you live in the Washington, D.C., area and have a few hours to help us out for some volunteer projects in the coming months, we would love to talk with you. Click here to check out our current volunteer openings.

Foundry United Methodist Church, a reconciling congregation in Washington, D.C., seeks an associate pastor to support our program staff team to develop disciples, support small groups, and encourage passions and talents. For further details:

Engage your congregation in the pursuit of social, political, and economic justice, along with community faith-building, through congregation-based organizing. Christians Supporting Community Organizing.

VOLUNTEER IN AFRICA OR LATIN AMERICA The Comboni Lay Missionary Program is accepting preliminary applications from Catholics desiring to live out a three-year commitment working in Guatemala, Peru, Kenya, South Africa, or Eritrea. Visit:


Readers write

Rev. Dawn Rolke writes from Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada:

Thank you, Sojourners, for being so quick to speak to us about Tom Fox's death, and to offer sources where we can hear other voices raise up his life and commitments ["Remembering Tom Fox, Christian Peacemaker" SojoMail 3/13/2006]. How sorry we are for the ending of this life, and how important that you can connect us across these many provinces, states, and countries.


Yoshiko Ikuta writes from Lakewood, Ohio:

Thank you for this message even if it is a sad one. I met some of the CPT members in Hebron in 2001 and I was very impressed by their commitment and integrity and courage My heart is filled with sadness but also with my gratitude to all CPT members who dare to do what their hearts and minds tell them to do. The terrorists (including the terrorists made in U.S.A.) can kill bodies of activists but not their spirits. I know the supporters and activists will multiply in face of this tragedy. In the end, righteousness will prevail.


Erik Beutler writes from Evergreen, Colorado:

Our moral choice is to decide: Are we going to continue spending energy on our non-religious, conveniently spiritual politicians or do we focus that energy on changing our church and our immediate community? ["Our Moral Choice," SojoMail 3/8/2006] It is our community that elects these politicians and leaders. It is our responsibility to first change hearts before we change laws. Christ did not spend time talking to senators and representatives of the Roman empire. He spent his energy on the people, the crippled, the widowed, and the children. It is about time we realize how to influence our government. It is through the people that elect the lawmakers. Congress has a responsibility to accurately represent those that elected them. None of us should be spending more energy changing a politician than we spend changing or influencing a neighbor or friend.


Suzy Nauman writes from Arlington, Massachusetts:

For decades I have looked to Sojourners for inspiration and hope, and have found comfort in knowing there are other progressive Christians out there. That is why it pains me to have to take issue with your praise of Cardinal Roger Mahony ["Making room for the strangers in our midst" SojoMail 3/8/2006]. Have you not been paying attention? This "prince of the Church" has done anything but "attend to the last, littlest, lowest, and least in society and in the church." Those who suffered sexual abuse as children by his priests suffer even more today as a result of Mahony's stonewalling and use of legal hardball tactics against them. Children - including, and perhaps especially, immigrant children - remain vulnerable to the sexual predators he will not name. How can he be so right about immigrants while being so dead wrong in his dealings with victims of sexual abuse by clergy? Where is his "faithfulness to the gospel on this issue and his courageous commitment to justice"?


Steven Muir writes from Christchurch, New Zealand:

I liked the article by Melissa Bixler on cycling as a spiritual discipline for Lent ["Biking as a Lenten practice" SojoMail 3/1/2006]. In Christchurch we have developed cycling even further viewing it as an act of worship and usually find it a more meaningful way of expressing our faith than singing songs or listening to sermons. A humourous book has been produced called PROSACC - Profound Revelations Of Sunday Afternoon Cycling Church and details are available on if you'd like to discover more about the spiritual benefits of cycling.


Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of views. Want to make your voice heard? We've created an online form where you can respond to SojoMail articles. Visit:

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RADICAL OPTIMISM: Creating a Culture of Peace
A Shalem Retreat, March 31 to April 2, 2006
Marriottsville, Maryland

"Peace in the world cannot be made without peace in the heart." - Henri Nouwen

For those drawn to peacemaking-either in their personal lives and communities or in a more formal way in their ministries or jobs-this time will be an oasis for prayerful reflection and spiritual deepening. Sponsored by the Shalem Institute and set in the Maryland countryside, the retreat will offer personal nourishment through stories, shared reflections, and corporate silence. Click here for more details.

Donate now to support this voice for justice and peace.

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