The Common Good

Called to Act in Faith

Sojomail - August 23, 2006

Quote of the Week : Stephen Colbert on true satire
Biloxi Journal : We're called to act in faith
Middle East Journal : 'Fear Not!' for 'The Root of War Is Fear'
Sojourners in the News : This week's media roundup
Boomerang : Readers write
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Thank God It's (almost) Friday!

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"I love my church, and I'm a Catholic who was raised by intellectuals who were very devout. I was raised to believe that you could question the church and still be a Catholic. What is worthy of satire is the misuse of religion for destructive or political gains. That's totally different from the Word, the blood, the body, and the Christ. His kingdom is not of this earth."

- Stephen Colbert, of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.

Source: TimeOut New York

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We're called to act in faith
by Nadia Stefko

Editor's note: This is the second of two reflections on a weeklong trip to the Gulf Coast made by Sojourners/Call to Renewal staff members in July to help in home rebuilding.

+ See and hear the stories of Katrina survivors.
I spent my first day in Biloxi hammering nails into the floorboards in Geralyn Wilson's house on Nichols Street. By the end of our first seven-hour workday, our six-person team had finished the subflooring for half of her double-wide trailer home. Before our trip was over, we would finish the subflooring that Wilson and her nephews' feet will never touch. But before she can move back in, another group of workers will have to lay new tile or carpet. And then, of course, the house would need some walls.

By the end of that first workday, I had lost the ability to grip with my right hand. I needed both hands to swing the hammer to drive in the one-inch nails.

At our other work site, Miss Eva's house on Elmer Street, one of our crew members spent five hours sanding down the first spackling of one room's newly-erected walls. The next day, she would return to apply a second spackling. The day after that, the room would be sanded once again. The painting would have to wait until the next work crew arrived.

I gazed out the window at the miles and miles of roofless homes, destroyed bridges, abandoned businesses, and mountains of debris as we drove to our host church at the end of our first workday. This is the new coastal landscape. It was clear that a hurricane had come through here. What wasn't clear was that it had happened a year ago, not last week.

At that moment, I was overwhelmed by the smallness of our progress. A feeling of despair crept through my exhausted body and down my sore and swollen forearms. How will I do this again tomorrow? Can I really get through three more days of this? So much remains to be done - what's the point of coming, only to leave at the end of a week?

That week I was both humbled and sustained by prophetic wisdom inspired by Archbishop Oscar Romero. In the oft-quoted prayer, "Ministers to the Future," Cardinal John Dearden of Detroit wrote of Romero, "We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very, very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and to do the rest."

This week we were blessed with opportunities to visit with and hear the stories of the people of Biloxi and Gulfport, Mississippi. What we found were communities exhausted by what they have seen and lived through in the past year but waiting and working in patient hope for the resurrection of their homes, churches, and communities. They - and now we - have learned that resurrection is not going to come at the hands of the federal government alone. It will only come, with God's grace, at the dusty and splintered hands of friends and neighbors distant and near who come to bear witness and lend their time and their labor to the journey of rebuilding.

Just moments before his death at the altar, Archbishop Romero proclaimed from the pulpit, "We know that every effort to improve society ... is an effort that God blesses, that God wants, that God demands of us."

We cannot rebuild the levees - only the federal government can do that. But we are called to do what we can, and to do it in faith and with love. The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10) concludes with Christ's command to "go and do likewise." A year after Katrina, the need remains vast. And our faith still compels us to act.

Nadia Stefko is organizing assistant with Sojourners.

+ Hear Geralyn Wilson's story in her own words

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For mercy's sake

Within 24 hours of Hurricane Katrina touching ground in the Gulf Coast region last year, Civic Action created - pairing more than 30,000 evacuees with MoveOn members willing to open their homes. Palace Press International's new book It Takes a Nation tells the story of how thousands of American families were brought together in the face of an extraordinary natural disaster - regardless of race, economic background, religious, or political differences.

Volunteers brought aid to evacuees by providing much-needed housing, cars, jobs, clothes, health care, and most importantly, community - offering a positive contrast to the national shame that was widely felt about the government's handling of the Katrina crisis. It Takes a Nation presents an oral history and candid first-person accounts of evacuees within the first two weeks of Hurricane Katrina, as well as stunning photographs to chronicle their stories.

+ Learn more about It Takes a Nation

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'Fear Not!' for 'The Root of War Is Fear'
by Timothy Seidel

Every Thursday at the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem, staff members hold a simple communion service. During this service, instead of delivering a sermon, Sabeel's director Rev. Naim Ateek offers a few reflections on the day's texts and encourages the rest of us to do the same. Specifically, Ateek challenges us to reflect on scripture in the context of the situation that surrounds us, seeking to hear the word that God has for those suffering under the weight of violence, oppression, and injustice.

One of the texts read this past Thursday was from the gospel of Mark. In it, Jesus goes to meet his disciples on the Sea of Galilee, offering the words of comfort that are repeated time and time again in the gospels: "Do not be afraid" (Mark 6:50).

"Do not be afraid." How appropriate right now. These words brought me immediately to another reflection that is all too relevant. It was written by Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk, many years ago and titled "The Root of War Is Fear" (from New Seeds of Contemplation). Merton wrote: "At the root of all war is fear: not so much the fear that men have of one another as the fear they have of everything. It is not merely that they do not trust one another; they do not even trust themselves. ... They cannot trust anything because they have ceased to believe in God."

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What the Waters Revealed: Christians and Hurricane Katrina
A discussion guide from the editors of Sojourners

It's been nearly a year since Hurricane Katrina shattered the Gulf Coast. But what have we really learned? Have we allowed this tragedy to serve as a turning point for our personal and national priorities? Unless we remember the truths about poverty and race revealed by Katrina, we cannot be led to real change.

What the Waters Revealed is a 34-page discussion guide designed to spark discussion, thought, and action about how to live out God's call for justice.

It's a perfect teaching tool for leaders of small groups or classrooms.

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


Dispatches from the desert
by Maryada Vallet

It's mid-afternoon and the sun has taken its harsh toll since the morning hours of meeting deportation buses. By 10 a.m. we have given water, food, and medical care to more than 200 people. Hundreds and hundreds of tired eyes, blistered feet, and hungry stomachs.

"We have another bus," shouts a volunteer who sees the large white Homeland Security bus pull up next to the U.S. customs and immigration building at the Mariposa Truck Port of Nogales, Arizona, and Sonora, Mexico. By now we know the drill and we station ourselves to be a team of hospitality. Volunteers hand out fliers with information about migrant shelters and aid for migrants in Nogales, distribute baggies of bean burritos and 1-liter bottles of water, conduct interviews for abuse documentation and general statistics, and stand ready to provide medical care.

From a distance we watch and count: 23 ... 38 ... 52 ... a full bus. My stomach sinks, however, when I see that among those walking in a line through the port and in our direction are quite a few smaller figures.

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Sisters Online is a collaborative ministry of religious women committed to global kinship; a website focusing on spirituality & justice, seeking to be voices for right relationships, agents of economic/social change.

Sojourners Job Openings: Sojourners seeks qualified applicants for a variety of positions in our growing work to articulate the biblical call for social justice. Click here to learn more.

Uncle Grumps -- a website of Books, Music and Ideas. This week Jane reviews Diane Eck's book, Encountering God - A Spiritual Journey from Bozeman to Banaras. Last week Neema wrote about Salmon and Students. Come visit.


This week's media roundup

Religious Liberals Join Forces for Political Comeback Columbus Dispatch
Thirty years behind, less organized but equally motivated, liberal churches are coming together to counter their conservative brethren in the political arena. Conservative Christians no longer control the agenda, said Jim Wallis, a preacher, theologian, founder of Sojourners and author of the popular book God's Politics. "The monologue is over ... and a new dialogue has begun." Wallis has been rallying people who he said "didn't feel spoken for by anyone" in either party.

Faith & Values Forum: The First Amendment Should be Read Completely Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
I know that [Rev. Greg] Boyd is a devoted evangelical Christian, but he also clearly cherishes the Constitution. He would like nothing better, I believe, than if everyone accepted Jesus today. What cheers me is that he isn't the only evangelical Christian who is starting to say that religious conservatives are going too far. Jim Wallis, an avowed evangelical, wrote the book God's Politics, which says similar things, and has been on bestseller lists.

"Sojourners in the news" articles are the most recent news clippings that mention Sojourners in any way - favorably or unfavorably. Though we provide the text on our site for your convenience, we do not necessarily endorse the views of these articles or their source publications.

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Readers write

Rev. Jeanie McGowan writes from Jefferson City, Missouri:

Jim Wallis' review of where Sojourners began and some of the journey to where they are now reminded me of how much Sojourners has been instrumental and instructional to my faith journey ["Big changes at Sojourners," SojoMail 8/16/2006]. I was introduced to Sojourners in the mid-'70s, at the same time a variety of people and other publications were brought to my attention. That was only the beginning of 25-plus years of searching to figure out what God was calling me to do, and changing my ultra-conservative, legalistic, and narrow Baptist perspective of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

Eventually, at age 50-something, I acknowledged a call to be a pastor, of all things! A female pastor was not even on my radar screen in the mid-'70s, so I had never considered that. This September I will be celebrating 10 years of ministry on the staff of the church where I have been a member for 42 years! I cannot say enough about the faithful witness of Sojourners during all that time. Praise God for Jim and for all the staff who continue to bring social justice issues to the forefront for all of us!


Pastor Ric Hudgens, lead pastor of Reba Place Church, writes from Evanston, Illinois:

I am excited about the proposed organizational renewal of Sojourners/Call to Renewal. What a great time to be a Christian! The Holy Spirit is moving in powerful ways to renew and empower her church today. What a great place to live as a Christian; here in the heart of the "empire" with the opportunity to work for spiritual renewal at one of the places where it is most needed! What a great task to be proclaiming the good news of Jesus and the kingdom, which is indeed "God's total answer to our total need" (E. Stanley Jones)! Reba Place Church wants to continue to be at the center of God's will, partnering with organizations like Sojourners/Call to Renewal in proclaiming a new prophetic politics. May the Lord's blessing be upon you.


Nathaniel Koven writes from Boston, Massachusetts:

Navigating the constituencies of both Sojourners and Call to Renewal is a potentially divisive move, gambling the constituencies of both organizations. However, I think this decision was the right move at the right time for the right reasons, and it looks to be beautifully executed to allow everyone invested in either, both, or neither Sojourners and Call to Renewal a fair and open voice in the direction of the new joined organization. Thanks and blessings to all those who helped strategize and plan this great step forward!


Edy Korthals Altes writes from The Hague, The Netherlands:

Congratulations on reorganization! I am very impressed by your consistent efforts to translate the essence of faith in Jesus Christ into political/social reality. This was a motivating force for my public stand on the madness of the arms race in 1986, which led to my resignation as ambassador to Madrid. Since then, I've been active in peace/security and spiritual renewal.


Lindsay writes from Portland, Maine:

Just wanted to let you know how excited I was to see you writing about David Bazan ["The art of being David Bazan," SojoMail 8/9/2006]. Pedro the Lion has been one of my favorite bands for a long time, but rarely have I had the opportunity to do more than speculate about where Bazan is coming from when he writes his songs. It's not often you find an article that can at once be described as Christian, hip, and thoughtful.


Want to make your voice heard? Click here to respond to SojoMail articles. Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of views, though we reserve the right to edit published responses for length and clarity.

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