Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Costly, Faithful Witness

In the Baptist Peace Fellowship (and similar groups) I always meet the most incredible people of faith who are willing to suffer to follow the leading of God in their lives. Here is Linda Mashburn who was arrested and sentenced to several months in federal prison for nonviolent civil disobedience. She “crossed the line” (criminal trespass) with many others at Ft. Benning, GA as part of the movement to close the notorious “School of the Americas” (renamed WHINSEC in a vain attempt to keep critics from calling it the “School of Assassins”) where U.S. tax dollars are used to train most of the leaders of human rights abuses in Latin America.

Wearing prison gray in solidarity with her former fellow inmates, Linda shared with us the plight of the growing population of women in prison–many innocent through a misapplication of conspiracy laws, and all but a tiny fraction of whom were convicted of nonviolent offenses that would have drawn probation or fines for wealthy white males accused of the same crimes. Prisons are the new slave labor as more and more industries, especially clothing, use prison labor for new sweatshops. Despite Matt. 25’s parable of Sheep and Goats, very few U.S. Christians know anyone in prison, nor have we made much of an effort to investigate and challenge the injustices of the prison system–now the fasted growing industry in the U.S. When we are involved in prison ministries, these tend to be restricted to evangelistic efforts. Those are noble and should be continued–but our ministry should also include investigation and addressing of the injustices of the prison system. Jesus is in prison waiting for us.


July 27, 2006 Posted by | saints | Comments Off on Costly, Faithful Witness

Teaching Children Fair Trade

Husband/wife team Andy Loving and Susan Taylor are two of the great treasures of my church, Jeff Street Baptist Community at Liberty. (Yeah, I know, but I lost the vote for a shorter name.) Andy is seminary trained and has been involved in a number of organizations working with and for poor people. Susan has a Ph.D. in economics, but dislikes both the banking and academic scenes. They run a socially-responsible investment company called “Just Money Advisors” and, in the words of my pastor, “are always finding new ways to turn money into justice.” Here they are leading the children’s sessions at the Baptist Peace Fellowship’s “peace camp,” teaching about the Fair Trade movement and how it differs from so-called “free trade.” They taught the kids about Fair Trade Chocolate and led them to make and sell Fair Trade Brownies with the proceeds going to help the Fair Trade Chocolate movement bringing sustainable income to African farmers. They were tasty. Who knew economic justice could be fun and tasty?

July 27, 2006 Posted by | economic justice | 2 Comments

Angry Religion vs. Merciful God

Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Senior Pastor of Allen Temple Baptist Church, Oakland, CA was the featured preacher for Baptist Peace Fellowship’s summer “peace camp.” One evening, using the Book of Jonah, Dr. Smith’s sermon contrasted angry religion (hoping that God will smite our enemies) and the God of mercy, who continues to save those we’d rather God didn’t. In Jonah’s case, he’d have preferred that God destroy rather than save the Ninevites. Will angry Hezbollah find God’s surprising salvation of Israel? Will angry Israelis be surprised to find God save the Lebanese or the Palestinians? Will my angry self find that God saves: the Religious Right? Al Mohler? George W. Bush?

July 27, 2006 Posted by | Baptists | 3 Comments

Abolishing Nukes

Yesterday, U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) introduced legislation (H.R.950) calling on the president to begin multilateral talks to abolish nuclear weapons. See http://www.commondreams.org/news2006/0726-26.htm for details. In the midst of all the war and suffering in Iraq, Gaza, Lebanon, and so many other places, and remembering that 06 August in the 61st anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan (a civilian city and not a military target) when the U.S. became the first and only nation to use nuclear weapons in war, I find Congressman Kucinich’s legislation to be an incredible act of HOPE. Hope that the dead need not have died in vain and hope that humanity can turn from the path of our own destruction, with God’s grace. Kucinich keeps plugging away as one of the few voices of peace (in EITHER major political party) in war-numb, violence-deaf, cynical Washington, D.C. Kucinich voted against the Iraq war and keeps calling for a quick timetable for withdrawal (HR 35), rejecting permanent U.S. bases in Iraq (H.R. 197), co-sponsors the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Bill (HR 2631), sponsors the creation of the cabinet-level Dept. of Peace (HR 3760). Regarding the spiral of violence and the apparent lack of concern of the Bush administration, Kucinich asked, “What are they waiting for, the Apocalypse?” See http://www.commondreams.org/news2006/0721-11.htm (Unfortunately, I fear that some really are wanting this Middle East war to jump-start Armageddon.)

Let’s share Dennis Kucinich’s politics of hope and reject the pervasive politics of fear. Call your own Representative on the House switchboard, 202-225-3121 and urge your Congressperson to support HR 950 and work to end ALL nuclear weapons. While you have her or him on the line, urge passing one of these other wonderful actions for peace, too. Now, with phone in hand, call the White House comment line ( 202-456-1111) and ask WHY Sec. of State Rice rejected an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Lebanon (at the cost of how many more lives?). Ask the White House, “What are you waiting for? How many more must die before the time is “right” to end this bloodshed?” Then sit down and write a quick letter to the editor of your local paper DEMANDING that the president intervene for peace before one more innocent life is lost.
After all, hundreds of dead civilians and thousands of displaced persons are not really part of a “culture of life,” right?

July 27, 2006 Posted by | nuclear weapons, peacemaking | Comments Off on Abolishing Nukes