A good read


Sojourners magazine is available at Borders, or on the web at <a href="http://www.sojo.net/">www.sojo.net</a>.

Sojourners magazine is available at Borders, or on the web at www.sojo.net.

I’m often surprised when I come across something really cool that the rest of the world seems to know about and is right up my alley, and yet somehow it has never crossed my self-centered field of view. I like to think of myself as more aware than that. Quite some time ago, my friend Matt Becker suggested I review Sojourners magazine for Filet of Soul. Once, I even called the local bookstores looking for it to no avail, but this week, it practically leapt into my hand at Borders.

Sojourners is a Bible-based magazine that intellectually examines society, faith, politics and current culture through a Christian social justice lens.

This is a magazine many RN&R readers will like. I mean, if we were as smart as the editors at Sojourners are, we’d write things like: “It feels as if civility has died in America, and urgent pleas for a more truthful and respectful public discourse from religious leaders and former lawmakers from both parties have been ignored by a media that loves a perpetual conflict narrative. But many in the country still long for a more civil tone in our political discussion.”

In the wake of Saturday’s shooting and assassination attempt in Tucson, this is one of the themes contained in this issue of the RN&R. And the fact that the January Sojourners cover story, written before the Arizona events, asks the question, “Is God Violent?” while covering both answers to the inquiry in an intellectually honest way, seems more than coincidental. If nothing else, it shows how relevant and prevalent the issue of political violence has become in our country.

Not to spoil the article for anyone, but the author, Brian McLaren, comes up with several answers to this question, all of which have the ring of truth. I’ll paraphrase: 1) God is violent, and as we’re made in God’s image, we’re free and in some cases required to be violent. 2) God is violent, but in a holy way that humans are incapable of. 3) God is not violent so human violence is always tragic. 4) God is not violent so human violence is always sinful.

McLaren expounds a bit on each of these ideas, using biblical examples from both testaments, reaching a personal conclusion that will be left to those who read the article.

I was struck, too, with the relevance of the second feature “Apocalypse (Then and) Now: What does the book of Daniel have to say about empire today” by Anathea Portier-Young. The author redefines the cultural definition of “apocalypse” to mean “collapse of empire,” but she firmly places her arguments in historical fact. But then, her logic develops what “empire” means to include transnational corporations and how we can’t profit from their industry without owning their evil deeds. I’m reminded of a John Cougar Mellencamp lyric, “Hey, calling it your job … sure don’t make it right.”

And in Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego “surrendered their bodies to death rather than forsake the practices of their faith or worship another god,” in the fiery pit. The book of Daniel shows a nonviolent resistance to political power that predated Jesus Christ on the cross and was emulated by people from Mahatma Gandhi to Martin Luther King Jr. Sometimes, you can’t beat ’em, but you can never join ’em.

The 52-page Sojourners magazine has enough diverse opinion to fuel both sides of any barroom discussion, a 30-minute sermon, or even a congenial dinner conversation. This is the type of magazine that can be read before bed without inciting the passions, and it may even help the reader sleep knowing there are other people in the world thinking about these issues.