Go behind the faÃ§ade of any major town or city in the world today and you are likely to find a thriving commerce in human beings. Nearly 200,000 people live enslaved at this moment in the United States, and an additional 17,500 new victims are trafficked across our borders every year.
Sold into slave labor and prostitution, they staff our favorite local restaurants and work the streets just fifteen blocks from our nation’s capital.
NOT FOR SALE: The Return of the Global Slave Trade–And How We Can Fight It by award-winning journalist and professor David Batstone shines a light on this 32 billion dollar industry. Batstone traveled to five continents, chronicling a shocking investigation into the world of human trafficking and the heroic abolitionists combating this global epidemic.
Go to the campaign You Tube site for more videos of David Batstone talking about the campaign to stop human trafficking.
This week a huge coordinated effort to free the 27 million people in slavery kicked off. Visual artists, businesses, students, people of faith, athletes, actors and many others have formed a new global abolition movement.
On Feb. 23, Bristol Bay Productions (Ray) releases a major motion picture on the life of William Wilberforce who combined his Christian faith with a dogged commitment to abolition. I saw the film and it actually mixes a compelling story and a serious call to faith-based social justice.
There appears to only be one blog (this one) covering the Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference in New Orleans. With 1500 in attendance it was the largest gathering of clergy in New Orleans since hurricane Katrina struck.
Here’s Mos Def offering a lil’ “Katrina Klap” as a reminder to us all (not just Bush) about what’s at stake.
On Talk to Action, Frederick Clarkson notes that Bush’s Religious Right Swat Team Takes Aim at Methodists.
Speaking of comity, here’s some atheists under attack by Christians? Catholic blogger Eamon posts video and takes on First Things.
At the Beatitudes Society Blog, food activist and writer Sara Miles relates the story behind her conversion by communion:
“that at the heart of Christianity is a power which continues to speak to and transform us. As I found to my surprise and alarm, it could speak even to me: not in the sappy, Jesus-and-cookies tone of mild-mannered liberal Christianity, or the blustering, blaming hellfire of the religious right. What I heard, and continue to hear, is a voice that can crack religious and political convictions open, that advocates for the least qualified, least official, least likely; that upsets the established order and makes a joke of certainty.”
At Street Prophets: The Warewolf Prophet writes about the bought silence of former New Life pastor Ted Haggard. Pastor Dan provides a two part post on bigots and notes the rise of the KKK and its ideological connection to opine wingers like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Michele Malkin.
Zeus takes on Racism, Sexism, Moralism, Christianism: Right-wing Idolatry as Vulgarized Christianity for CrossLeft.
Rev. Jennifer Butler writes to us live from the Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference in New Orleans. She’ll check in throughout the event with updates on this important gathering.
The Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference launched last night with a night. With 1500 in attendance it was the largest gathering of clergy in New Orleans since hurricane Katrina struck. Dr Iva Carruthers, the conference’s General Secretary, has made this conference the “go to place” for social justice oriented African American clergy. The conference is especially attentive to raising a new generation of leaders-150 seminarians from 32 seminaries are present.
The conference opened with a remembrance of the Rev. Samuel Dewitt Proctor. The Reverend Dr. James Forbes spoke to how Proctor mentored generations of social justice oriented black clergy. Proctor once wrote, “Some pastors have given up on filling the shoes of Amos, Micah, Isaiah, or Jeremiah… God bless those pastors who stand tall and who, in love, tell the truth.” Forbes reminded the 1,500 participants that its not enough just to show up; they must “tangibilitate” the Gospel-that is make it tangible and live it out.
The conference opened with two women clergy speaking truth to power. The Reverend Dr. Susan K Smith of Advent United Church of Christ in Columbus Ohio and the Rev. Liz Walker of Bethel AME in Jamaica Plain Masachucetts raised the roof, challenging us on our personal faith journey as well as taking on our national leaders on issues like the genocide in Darfur, the War in Iraq, Katrina, the American culture of materialism and corporate welfare.
Most noted by all speakers was the fact that President Bush had failed to even mention the Katrina disaster in his State of the Union Address. Conference leaders in response vowed to meet in New Orleans again next year to continue with this year’s theme, “In the Wake of Katrina: Lest We Forget… Call to Renewal.” Many of the clergy arrived early to tour the Ninth Ward and other affected areas. Tomorrow, conference leaders will hold a sunrise service on the Claiborne Street Bridge, where many of the city’s poor were stopped by police while trying to escape the city.
It’s been an inspired gathering so far, with much more to come!
Many film critics believe that we exist in the golden age of documentary filmmaking. Several recent films shown at the recent Sundance Film Festival fuel the fight for justice and human rights.
Here’s Ghosts of Abu Ghraib by Rory Kennedy who is, yes, the daughter of RFK. I really like her film because it explores why ordinary people all too often commit extraordinary acts of violence.
In an interview with New York magazine, Rory says:
I had planned on making a film exploring the question of how ordinary people commit extraordinary acts of evil, and Abu Ghraib kept coming up. It was really with the intention of doing a psychological profile of the MPs –were these people psychopaths? Or was it the pressure of working under these conditions?
So, what did you find?
They’re perfectly normal in many ways. Javal Davis–there’s a sweetness to his eyes, an honesty to him. They did horrible things, but it was pretty obvious that these guys were told to do 95 percent of what they did.
This film will play on HBO on February 22.
Another excellent documentary to appear this year at Sundance is The Bible Tells Me So.
This film is “an exploration of the religious right’s use of the Bible to justify shutting homosexuals out of the faiths in which they’ve grown up.One of the central figures in For the Bible Tells Me So is Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the first-ever openly gay man to be elected a Bishop of the Episcopalian Church. Robinson’s consecration in 2003 (at which he had to wear a bullet-proof vest due to death threats) was a historical occasion that caused a rift in the Episcopal church.” The doc also includes conversations with Desmond Tutu, Rabbi Brian Zachary Mayer, the Rev. Susan Sparks, Crissy Gephardt daughter of former Presidential hopeful Dick Gephardt, and “the Poteats, an African-American family in which both parents are preachers still struggling to accept that their daughter, Tonia, is a lesbian.”
There’s been quite a bit of dust kicked up recently over the political consulting of Common Good Strategies, a group headed by Mara Vanderslice and Eric Sapp. Some on the left say they’re selling out progressivism. Others on the right say they’re communists in sheep’s clothing. The debates offer a window into the highly charged ground that CGS is treading. Must be interesting to take hits from both your right and your left…
“Mara Vanderslice’s attempt to convince Christians to vote for pro-abortion, pro-homosexual Democrats (who hide their real goals behind claims of ‘faith’) is working — and the Republican Party should take note,â€ said TVC Executive Director Andrea Lafferty. “Tragically, Vanderslice’s brand of ‘progressive’ Christianity has more in common with Marxist-Leninist ideals than with orthodox Christianity. I pray that Christians will not be fooled in 2008 — as many were in 2006. Because many evangelicals voted for liberals in 2006, we face a Congress that is openly hostile to biblical values.â€
Casey should have ignored Vanderslice’s reckless counsel for a variety of reasons, including that there was no reason to seek additional support from those who would never provide it. Contrary to Vanderslice’s notions, engaging the leadership of the hard Religious Right does not demonstrate respect for “people of faith.” Instead it sends a clear message of capitulation to the long discredited Aristotelian notion of inherent inequality. Any continued acceptance of this unnecessary strategy of pandering will have its ultimate end in the furthering weakening of liberal democracy.