Author: friendsofjustice

Bill Leonard: Double-edged Grace: Up Close (and at a Distance)

Over the years I’ve learned a lot from Appalachian serpent-handlers. They are what we call “hot gospellers” who “get saved hard,” the ultimate biblical literalists, see Mark chapter 16. They’re not crazy, but they are rather weird. They taught me this: For serpent handlers, the sacrament is alive, and it can kill you. Every time you go to worship it is a matter of life and death.

Help Friends of Justice win $5,000


Dear Friends,

Would you take five minutes, and help Friends of Justice win $5,000 to fund our work?  Friends of Justice has been nominated for the JusticeMakers Competition, which recognizes people doing innovative work for due process and human rights in the criminal justice system.  This competition includes a “People’s Choice Award”, where members of the general public can rank the different nominees and determine who gets a $5,000 prize.

Would you sign in to the JusticeMakers website, and rank our proposal?  While you’re at it, take a look at the other amazing projects out there!  It’s sure exciting to see all the amazing work that folks are doing around the world to defend equal justice for all!  I hope you’ll be inspired.

Friends of Justice is counting on you–our supporters–to put us over the top and help us win $5,000!   For a small organization like us, that prize would make a big difference–it means that when some desperate parent calls us because their child is being wrongly prosecuted, we will have the resources to investigate their case and see what can be done.  Sign in today at

Thanks for your support,

Lydia Bean

More information below…


Overcome evil with good

from Lydia:

I was just reading this passage from Romans 12 this morning, and I was reminded of the Saddleback Civil Forum.  Rick Warren asked both candidates if there was evil in the world, and if so, what should we do about it.

Both candidates gave lame answers–which reveal the weaknesses of each political party.  McCain said that evil existed, and we should “defeat it!”  The crowd ate it up.  Republicans pride themselves on recognizing the need to defeat evil.

Obama gave a long rambling answer, that only fed into popular stereotypes about Democrats–conservatives often accuse liberals of refusing to name evil.  (I don’t think that’s fair, but it’s true that many of the liberals I know are generally uncomfortable with good-and-evil rhetoric.)

Later, Tony Campolo told us what both candidates SHOULD have said.  They should have quoted Romans 12:21 “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  This morning, I found a great speech by John Paul II on this passage–I hope you find it as meaningful as I did.

And here’s the full passage from Romans 12:

14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.

17Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d]says the Lord. 20On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e] 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Who Would Jesus Torture?

Lydia here.

Conservative Christian blogger, Rod Dreher, alerted me to this Christian conversation about torture.  In her RNC speech, Sarah Palin attacked Obama for worrying about such niceties.  I’m glad more Christians are challenging Palin’s comments–shouldn’t Christians be the first ones to oppose torture?  That’s not the message of the cross.  Or maybe I’m misreading the New Testament–I’m forgetting that part when Jesus rises from the grave and says, “Ha–now it’s my turn to torture Y’ALL!”

Then again, there’s my favorite Bible verse: “Greater love hath no man, than he that tortures the living daylights out of his enemies to make Americans feel safer.”

Or that chapter when Jesus tells his disciples, “Torture your enemies, and hunt down those that persecute you.  Lo, I send you out like wolves among sheep.  Truly truly, I say unto you, bomb their village into the stone age, so that all the nations may know that the kingdom of God is at hand.”

Yes, that’s right, those godless liberals can’t pick and choose the parts of the Bible that they want to follow.  Clearly, Jesus wants us to torture our enemies.  That’s why I’m wearing a band around my wrist that says “Who Would Jesus Torture?”  When someone asks me what it means, it gives me a chance to share the gospel with them…and then subject them to a good waterboarding!

Alright, enough of my sarcasm.  Seriously, parodying the gospel takes me to a very, very bad place…because it’s so close to what some politicians are actually saying.  Here’s Rod Dreher:

If you’re not reading Culture 11 daily, you’re really missing out. One of today’s best offerings there is Joe Carter’s “Open Letter to the Religious Right.” The whole thing is great, but this passage really caught my eye:

We religious conservatives must take a firm stand against the practice of torture. Yes, there is a legitimate debate to be had about what exactly is meant by that term. Let’s have that debate. Let’s define the term in a way that consistent with our belief in human dignity. And then let’s hold every politician in the country to that standard. As John Mark Reynolds notes, “Like slavery, it debases two people and one culture: the tortured loses his soul liberty, the torturer claims to be a god, and the culture condones an ugly and wicked act.” Our silence on this issue has become embarrassing; our apologies for such practices has become disgraceful.

Palin really should be pressed hard on this. In her convention speech, she had this line:

Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America … [Obama’s] worried that someone won’t read them their rights?

What did she mean by that? Does this indicate that she cares nothing for legal principles designed to protect individuals from the state? Does this mean that she supports waterboarding? What is her thinking on this matter? More importantly, what’s John McCain’s thinking these days? I thought he was against torture once. This is an issue that Christian voters can’t afford to be unconcerned about.

Anyway, please do read all of the letter from Joe, a religious conservative of the Evangelical persuasion, and a Marine Corps veteran. There’s lots of wisdom there. If you’re a religious conservative, tell me in the comboxes which parts of Joe’s letter you found resonates most.

“Can We Talk?”: This Saturday in Austin, TX

Here’s a great event coming up this Saturday in Austin, Texas:

BridgeBuilders “Can We Talk?” Guided Conversation on Race in America

Please join us on Saturday, May 31 in a guided conversation on Race in America inspired by the issues raised in Barack Obama’s speech on race in Philadelphia.  Participants will enjoy dessert and coffee while focusing on specific questions in small table groups, followed by sharing and discussion by the whole group.  Mr. Bill Adams, former Rector at St. James Episcopal Church in Austin, and Jennifer and Ashton Cumberbatch, long-time friends of the BridgeBuilders ministry, will be our facilitators for the evening.  Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for meet and greet and refreshments.  The formal program will start at 7:00 p.m. and end at 8:30 p.m.  Location: Wesley UMC at 1160 San Bernard.  For directions to the church, contact the Wesley church office at 478-7007 or visit the church website (  BridgeBuilders member churches include Berkeley, St. Luke, St. Peter’s, University, and Wesley UMC.

Summer Internship with Friends of Justice

Do you want to help lead a multiracial movement to build a justice system that truly serves all Americans? Friends of Justice is looking for a Summer Intern. Give us three months, and we’ll give you leadership experience that will last a lifetime.

Friends of Justice is a faith-based, multiracial movement working for democratic accountability in our criminal justice system. We’re concerned that mass incarceration is corrupting our democracy, compromising the equal citizenship of poor people, and aggravating social problems in local communities. Our solution is to rally the American public behind the “Common Peace agenda,” a new moral consensus that public safety must be built on a foundation of democratic problem-solving and equal justice under the law. We achieve dramatic impact with our innovative model of “narrative-based intervention.” We investigate cases of injustice, organize the affected community to tell their story, and generate national coverage about these unfolding cases that that dramatize the need for democratic accountability in our criminal justice system.

As a Friends of Justice Intern, you will travel with our Executive Director in Texas and Louisiana to investigate cases of injustice and to organize through churches in low-income Black and Hispanic communities. You would also gain experience in new media, investigating and writing stories for our nationally recognized blog. This internship would be excellent preparation for careers in law, public policy, ministry, and civil rights leadership. (more…)