Book Review: Straight from the Heart

Straight from the Heart

Author: Jesse L. Jackson

Publisher: Fortress Press

324 pages, plus Preface and Editors’ Introduction, hardcover

Reviewed by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

The Reverend Jesse Jackson is an ordained Baptist minister, who has a passion for social justice. He has travelled widely, and been active in a variety of human rights organisations. In some respects, he has served as a contemporary prophet on behalf of African-Americans—following the tradition of the ancient biblical prophets. He was also an unsuccessful candidate who ran for President of the U.S.A.

An articulate public speaker, this volume consists of Reverend Jackson’s speeches, divided into the following chapters: Political Progressive, Human Rights Advocate, Preacher, Comforter, Evangelist for Educational Excellence, Peacemaker, and Corporate and Cultural Critic. Each of these chapters contain several addresses.

Reverend Jackson is a rhetorical master at catchy turns of phrases. The speeches reflect the ‘signs of the times’ of mainly the U.S.A. during the 1970s and 1980s—with some references to other nations and contexts, e.g., apartheid in South Africa. One of the more tedious characteristics of Jackson’s addresses is that some of the same material shows up over and over again.

The following quotations epitomize the Reverend Jackson as prophet, social justice and human rights advocate, political analyst, and spiritual mentor for African-Americans.

When the Word (the spiritual) becomes flesh (the actual) and dwells in our hearts, that’s called good religion.” (p. ix)

The absence of segregation is not the presence of social justice or equality.” (p. 20)

We must choose the human race over the nuclear race.” (p. 21)

Centuries of crime and terror upon which this nation was built are beginning to show their effect and result.” (p. 49)

Our nation has become divided with narcissism, self-love, and white-skin worship.” (p. 49)

Reganomics wants to use the powers of the federal government to redistribute income and wealth upward from the poor to the rich.” (p. 52)

Not everyone can be famous, that is, well known; but everyone can be great because greatness lies in service, and everybody can serve.” (p. 77)

This day the God that we serve—if we will just trust him in all our ways—will still raise us from the guttermost to the uttermost. He will raise all of us from disgrace to amazing grace.” (p. 113)

Conscience is the pursuit of higher law, the authority to discern just law from unjust law. It is a just law because it has universal character.” (p. 147)

I know it is not your aptitude but your attitude that determines your altitude, with a little intestinal fortitude. No matter what yesterday’s strife, today is still the first day of the rest of your life.” (pp. 154-155)

When the philosophers have philosophized and the theologians have theologized and the poets have framed their verse, we are all driven to rely on the everlasting arms of Almighty God.” (p. 163)

And so we say, “Down with dope; up with hope” because we cannot be what we ought to be if we push dope in our veins rather than hope in our brains.” (p. 206)

Wherever racism manifests itself, the seeds of insecurity, ignorance, fear, hatred, and genocide are always present.” (p. 252)

The black church—whatever it is and ain’t—historically has been and today remains the greatest contributor to sustaining us and allowing us to progress.” (p. 305)

For we believe that in the end might is not right, but right is might. We believe that the pen is mightier than the sword, that a nation’s conscience can be stirred and moved if the truth is told with conviction and with power.” (p. 324)

Even though the Reverend Jackson’s speeches date back to the 1970s and 1980s, there is much here that remains applicable to our contemporary context.

Those interested in social justice, human rights, faith, ethics, and African-American history, religion and culture shall likely find this volume worthwhile.

Is there a right of return?

Sometimes we wrestle with the truth of issues for years ethically, spiritually, and politically. We live with more ambiguity than we would like as we seek to be a people of faith and life and love. Recently I came across this article, which, for me, shed light on this question, which I had thought rather ambiguous until I read it. Hope you too find the article helpful.  -Dim Lamp

Is There a  Right of Return ?

We often hear and read statements asserting that the Palestinian Refugees from 1948 now have a right to return to the state of Israel —   the so-called “right of return.”   This phrase has a good deal of superficial appeal and sounds like a benign call for justice — but upon close scrutiny it is revealed as a call for the destruction of the Jewish homeland.

The Modern State of Israel was founded to be the homeland of the Jewish people.

•           After the collapse of the ottoman Empire, the area that includes modern day Israel, modern day Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza was given to the British, under the Articles of the League of Nations, to hold in trust for a Jewish homeland. This was the British Mandate for Palestine.

•           In November1947 after World War II, the United Nations General Assembly recommended a partition of the British Mandate for Palestine into a specifically Jewish state and a specifically Arab state.  The U.N. partition plan was based on population demographics — majority Jewish areas would be part of Israel, majority Arab areas would be part of a new Arab state.

•           The Jewish Agency (the precursor of the Israeli government) accepted the U.N. partition plan. The Arab League met in December 17, 1947 however, and announced that it would prevent partition by force if necessary.  The Arab nations did resort to force, jointly attacking the new Jewish state after it declared independence in May 1948.

The 1948 War created both Jewish and Palestinian refugees

•           Israel declared independence on May 14, 1948. Over the next few days the Arab States surrounding Israel (Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq ) each invaded the new Jewish state, vowing to wipe it off the face of the earth. The resulting war lasted from May 1948 until February 1949.

•               There was a lot of dispossession on both sides as a result of this war. Arab and Jewish and in roughly equal numbers. People dispute the exact numbers, but some 650,000- 800,000 Palestinians left their homes in 1947-48 and for a variety of reasons.  Some Arabs were forced out by the Israelis — especially Arabs living along supply routes and borders. Thousands of wealthy Arabs left in anticipation of a war. Once the war started some left to get out of harm’s way. Others left not to appear to be traitors. Many Arabs left after being told by the attacking Arab nations that they would destroy the Jewish state and then the Arabs could go back. Jews were likewise forced out or fled from both the Arab nations and what became the Palestinian Territories after they were seized by Jordan and Egypt.

The Jewish refugees were absorbed by Israel, but the Palestinians that fled or were forced out became refugees

•           The Arabs that stayed in what became the borders of Israel became Israeli citizens. The Arabs that left, for the most part,  were never resettled and the United Nations maintained and continues to maintain them as refugees in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and in the Palestinian Territories under a special agency created only for Palestinian refugees — United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA).

There is no such thing in International Law as a “right of return” for refugees

•           Throughout history, war and conflicts have produced refugees.  Nowhere has a “right of return” been recognized for any of these refugees.

•           Millions of people were displaced after the partition of the Indian subcontinent into India and Pakistan in 1947.  It resulted in the largest human movement in history, an exchange of 18,000,000 Hindus from Pakistan and Muslims from India.

•           In November 1975, the Moroccan government coordinated the Green March invasion, and  forced Spain to hand over the disputed, autonomous semi-metropolitan Spanish Province of Sahara to Morocco.  This resulted in the creation of thousands of refugees.

•           More than 15 million Germans were expelled from Czechoslovakia and Poland at the end of World War II.

•           In 1974, following a period of violence between Greek and Turkish Cypriots and an attempted Greek-sponsored coup, Turkey invaded and occupied one third of the island; this led to the establishment of a separate Turkish Cypriot regime to govern the invaded area in the north and the displacement of thousands of Cypriots.

•           None of these or countless other refugees has raised a “right of return” and the International Community has never recognized such a right on their behalf.

To read the whole article go here.

What is happening in Iran?

The following collection of pictures and commentary presents a rather disturbing perspective on what is happening in Iran. By and large, the media coverage on Iran in the Western world seems rather scant at best, and tends to downplay the rather than profile the human rights violations in that nation. I therefore appreciate the following presentation from the folks at

Amnesty International launches human rights mission to South Sudan

Amnesty International Canada’s Secretary-General Alex Neve arrives today in South Sudan. He is joining an important human rights research mission called to investigate attacks on villages and aerial bombings of the tens of thousands of civilians living in vulnerable conditions along the border region of Sudan and the world’s newest country, South Sudan.

   We wish Alex and the team of AI researchers our best, and pray for their safety as they travel to remote and volatile areas, doing the important work of gathering first-hand reports from those affected by the violence in the region.



The depraved United Nations

On September 20, the vast majority of the 192 member countries of the United Nations will probably “recognize” a Palestinian state.

The “recognition” will not be accompanied with caveats about dismantling PA terrorist organizations such as Al- Aksa Martyrs Brigades or ending the incitement to hatred and murder of Jews and Israelis that pervades all levels of Palestinian society. There will be no requirements for demilitarization. Nor will negotiations by the PA to unite with the genocidal Hamas be curtailed. The Palestinians will not be obliged to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and will continue demanding the Arab right of return to it.

Renewal of negotiations with Israel are unlikely because the Palestinians realize that their goals can be more effectively achieved by leveraging international pressure on us to make further unilateral concessions – and dismantle us in stages.

This event will be followed by Durban III, a UN endorsed hate fest designed to delegitimize and demonize the Jewish state. The principal participant will be Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who recently predicted that the UN recognition of Palestinian statehood would represent the first step toward the inevitable elimination of the Jewish state. Like the preceding meetings in 2001 and 2009, this purportedly “anti-racist conference” will overwhelmingly concentrate on spewing venom against Israel.

The founders of the United Nations, who after the defeat of Nazism endorsed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, could never have visualized that the organization they created would become controlled by dictatorships and tyrannies and transformed into a platform for promoting genocide.

You can read the whole article here.

Aung San Suu Kyi sentenced again

Aung San Suu Kyi sentenced again

The Burma Nobel Prize Winner and human rights activist, Aung San Suu Kyi (pronounced Chi) has been sentenced once again to another 18 months of house arrest. She has spent 14 of the last 20 years in Burma either in prison or under house arrest, even though she won a democratically held election back in the 90s. Over against the hue and cry of world opinion, the Burma military state refuses to unconditionally release her, when there were no legitimate grounds for arresting her in the first place. Yet, she is gifted and graced with an indomitable spirit, passionately striving for justice and peace, and democracy in her native land. U2 recently paid her tribute in this YouTube video, which really rocks, check it out here. Amnesty International honoured Aung San Suu Kyi this year with the Ambassador of Conscience award. Readers can call for her release by signing AI’s petition here. Thank you! May God grant Aung San Suu Kyi her long awaited freedom and may God bless all of her endeavours to continue the righteous quest for peace, justice and democracy in Burma.

The refugees in Darfur and Chad

The refugees in Darfur and Chad

As you long term, regular readers of this blog know, I appreciate some of the work of Amnesty International—especially as AI works to improve the basic, universal human rights of all human beings and speak out on behalf of the world’s poorest and often forgotten peoples. Recently AI members visited Darfur and Chad and were heartbroken by the ongoing, desperate plight of so many refugees there. I ask you to remember the refugees in Darfur and Chad in your prayers and, if the Spirit moves you, to support financially the work of benevolent organisations like AI, Church NGOs, and others who are working on the front lines to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of people living a hand-to-mouth existence in refugee camps in fear of their lives. Thank you. May the LORD of life and love have mercy on these his precious people who suffer more in one day than many of us do in one year or perhaps even a life-time. You can read more about the AI visit here.

Light a candle

It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. You can participate in Amnesty International’s light a candle to support human rights and end censorship in China campaign here, which will be given to the Chinese ambassador. Thank you!

China, Olympics and Human Rights

China continues to violate the basic, universal human rights of its citizens, even though their leaders campaigned to host the Olympics on the promise that human rights would improve in China. Sadly, that has not been the case. Many civil rights advocates who are peaceful citizens have been imprisoned, and censored. Chinese journalists, for example, so far are not given the same privileges as international journalists covering the Olympics. Also, a Google version search engine in China censors such words as: human rights and Amnesty International. For more on the suppression of human rights in China go to Amnesty’s You Tube video here.