The Common Good


Sojomail - March 10, 2000

              ****S O J O   M A I L****

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++++++++++++++++++++ 10-March-2000 ++++++++++++++++++++

Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k
    *Margaret Mead on changing the world

H e a r t s  &  M i n d s
    *The media spin on God and politics 

N e t w o r k  N e w s
    *Big wave surfing on SojoNet Radio

C u l t u r e  W a t c h
    *All I Needed to Know I Learned from Hank Williams

F u n n y  B u s i n e s s
    *Cracking up the Sunday morning pews

T e r r a s c o p e
    *Custody battle over holographic child

B o o m e r a n g
    *SojoMail readers hit reply

T h e  L a u g h i n g  S a l m o n  D i g e s t
    *My job defies description

O n  the  W i r e
    *SojoNet in the nation's media

F o r  M e r c y ' s  S a k e
    *Mongolia in critical condition

W e b  S c e n e
    *Art design for hipsters


Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful,
committed citizens can change the world;
indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

                              -- Margaret Mead


H e a r t s  &  M i n d s

Religion in the News
By Jim Wallis

Last week, the "religion issue" in this political
primary season emerged around the ultra-fundamentalist
Bob Jones University. Bush went there to speak and
didn't say anything about the university's infamous
racist and anti-Catholic ideology.

McCain then used that, hoping to attract Catholic
voters. Bush got Catholics to say how un-anti-
Catholic he was, and finally apologized for going
there in the first place. This is a big story?

Let me save the pundits some time and research.
First, Bob Jones University is is an utterly
marginal institution to the vast majority of
American Christians, most of whom have never
even heard of it. It sits on the far-Right end
of the American religious spectrum and is, quite
frankly, run by wackos. It is indeed a racist
place and stupidly anti-Catholic. On the day
after Martin Luther King Jr. was shot, Bob
Jones II proudly proclaimed, "We will not
lower our school's flag for an apostate!" A
friend of mine got kicked out of the school
for complaining about this event.

Who cares what Bob Jones thinks about anything?
George Bush didn't go there because he is racist
or anti-Catholic, but because he was a desperate
politician after New Hampshire, and politicians
of both parties literally go anywhere for votes.

The two biggest religion and politics stories
this election year are being missed. The first
is how both parties' likely nominees are talking
about new "partnerships" with faith-based
organizations to solve entrenched social
problems like poverty and youth violence. Such
partnerships have the potential to reinvigorate
the civil society, move the political discussion
beyond old Left/Right categories, and actually
find some answers to dilemmas that Democrats and
Republicans have left unresolved.

Secondly, rising economic inequality in the face
of record prosperity is becoming a religious issue
that the media has yet to comprehend. Two weeks ago,
I reported here about a remarkably broad spectrum of
leaders from the nation's mainstream churches and
faith-based organizations who together issued a
"Covenant to Overcome Poverty" and a 10-year
campaign to implement it from the East Steps
of the U.S. Capitol. The group, including conservative
Evangelical and Catholic leaders, suggested
that how candidates treated the poor might become
the new moral litmus test of politics for many believers.

Can you imagine "voter guides" issued by churches
and other religious groups on how candidates treat
the poor? Now isn't that more interesting and
important than Bob Jones?


You can preorder your copy of Jim Wallis' new book, Faith
Works, from the Sojourners Resource Center at 1-800-714-7474,
or go to:

Here's what Rabbi Michael Lerner, Editor of Tikkun magazine,
has to say about Faith Works:

"Responding to Wallis' call for renewal should be
our most immediate individual and societal priority -
and this book should be our handbook as we evaluate
politicians, social policy, and our own individual
life paths."


N e t w o r k   N e w s

SojoNet Radio

On March 12, surfer legend Jeff Clark visits 
SojoNet Radio. This week Clark hosted the Mavericks 
surf contest - pitting the best surfers in the world
against each other on waves up to 30 feet in
height. For nearly 15 years Clark had Mavericks to
himself; he couldn't find anyone else to ride the
Northern California wave (near Half Moon Bay) with
him. Clark will share with SojoNet Radio listeners
the secrets of his craft, and the spirituality 
that inspires him.

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can
set your radio dial to KUSF 90.3 FM at 8:30 a.m.
PST. Anywhere else in the world, you can listen
in live over the Internet:


C U L T U R E   W A T C H

Country Music on Right Livin'
By David Fillingim

Country music is, of course, a commercial
product. During most of the 1990s, country
music held the largest market share of all
radio formats, and its audience became the
most educated and highest paid of all radio

But country music traces its roots to the
dirt poor rural populations of Appalachia,
the cotton belt, and the dust bowl, and
emerged as a commercial genre during the
urban migrations of rural Americans
following the Great Depression. Working
folks struggling to survive amid intractable
economic conditions--these are Hank Williams'
people. Elements of country's core values
survive despite country's repeated drifts
in and out of the cultural mainstream.

Hank William's message can be encapsulated
in propositions expressed in three of Hank's
song titles:

"Wealth Won't Save Your Soul."
Money is no measure of a person's value.

"I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive."
Life is disconcertingly difficult and unfair.

"Your Cheatin' Heart Will Tell On You."
Actions have consequences.

See the entire article as it appeared in Sojourners
magazine at:




F U N N Y   B U S I N E S S

Now Announcing...

Actual Church Bulletin Bloopers from the United
Methodist Church:





T e r r a s c o p e

Dateline: March 10, 2042
          2042.2.19  ShengXiao: Year of the Dog
          San Francisco
          Republic of the Americas
by Sam Mendoza
Hong Kong Media Network

The Tolia-Kew custody case likely came up in
a conversation you had this week no matter
where on the globe you call home. Not only did
the judge render a landmark decision, but events 
transpiring after the verdict have stirred 
up an equal dose of controversy.

Folks have been designing holographic kids for
quite a few years. Virtual children have been 
especially compelling to individuals or couples 
who want to parent, but whose lifestyles do not 
lend themselves to taking on all of its demands. 
Consider the advantages: A holographic kid does 
not wet the bed, require a babysitter for an 
evening out, turn you into an overachieving 
chauffeur, or learn to hate you as a teenager. 
And holographic kids are the ultimate immortality 
project. With an efficiency that far surpasses 
genetically-engineered kids, "parents" can design 
kids with all their ideal features and personality 

It's often hard for someone who has never
birthed a holographic child to understand the
depth of attachment these parents develop. But
holographic kids do change and grow with the
passage of time, and become a repository and
reflection of their families' experiences.

All of these elements are at play in this
first custody battle over a holographic child.
When Mohan Tolia and Jenny Kew split, they
did not suspect that the major source of acrimony
in their settlement would be over Biri. But
neither party was willing to leave him in the
care of the estranged partner.

In court, Mr. Tolia claimed IP (intellectual
property) rights over the child because he had
done almost all of the original technical
designing. He was, in his own words, "the boy's
creator." Ms. Kew, on the other hand, argued
that it was she who had nurtured Biri over the
last seven years since he came into being, a
claim that Mr. Tolia did not challenge. She
went so far as to suggest that her husband
does not even know the boy that Biri has

Judge Sheila Sullivan wisely ruled that neither
parent need be separated from their child
since his code can be duplicated and passed
along to both parents. Yet neither Ms. Kew
nor Mr. Tolia was pleased with her decision,
saying that Biri was a unique individual that
was being treated like any other common string
of software code. But both came to accept
Judge Sullivan's decision.

Or so it seemed. Police now report that Mr.
Tolia came home from the courthouse and deleted
Biri's entire system including all back-up files.
Security agents have tried unsucessfully to
reconstruct the file. Biri is gone forever.

Ms. Kew now wants her estranged husband to be
charged with murder. Holographic parents everywhere
tend to agree. But can we really make such a radical
presumption equating holographic and organic life?

I think not. Surely Mr. Tolia should be punished
for so brashly violating the court's verdict, and
for destroying property of which he was only part
owner. Our emotional ties do not turn the virtual 
into organic form no matter how credible our 
relationship to it becomes.


B o o m e r a n g

Sheila Thompson from Madison, Wisconsin, wrote:

I would love to live in Sam Mendoza's world.
While some people fear the future, the pictures
that Mendoza paints are full of potential and
peril. He is lucky to testify to its unfolding.
Please, keep Terrascope coming!


Lee Alley, from London, England, wrote:

Danny Schechter said [in last week's SojoMail]: 
"...There is little evidence that the 
world--and the fawning press that publicizes 
its every quarterly earnings report--cares 
one whit about noncommercial sites or the
democratic potential of the Internet."

Funny, Linux (a free computer operating system
developed over the Internet as a very successful
alternative to Microsoft products) is one of the
hottest things to have hit the online and offline
world. It was developed into the giant killer
it is today because of the democratic and
cooperative spirit of the Internet and Internet
enthusiasts, AND it's still free!

There's no reason the dot.orgs can't grab some
of the publicity the dot.coms have. It's just
that whereas the dot.coms have every incentive
to do so, the dot.orgs have to motivate themselves
because of mission. It can be
(sorry boomerangers, it has to be said) has done
this spectacularly! It's got nothing to do with
being commercial or noncommercial; it's just
hard work! I think Schechter should quit
moaning and (to paraphrase Doris "GrannyD"
Haddock) "pick up the ball, do your part and
join in!"


John McLuckie, from Glasgow, Scotland, wrote:

I was greatly heartened to read Ched Myers' 
account of a peoples' Bible reading 
( Here in 
Glasgow there is a five-year old group committed 
to just such an enterprise, the West of
Scotland Contextual Bible Study group, an 
ecumenical group of trained readers and 
facilitators. We inherited our approach from 
Gerald West, a socially engaged South African 
biblical scholar, and have adapted it to 
the culture of the West of Scotland. 

I recognize the joy of seeing the liberative 
resources of the Bible working to open up 
possibilities of real change in hard places. 
Our group has worked with socially engaged poor 
urban parishes, justice and peace groups, 
community initiatives in the fields of drugs 
rehab and work with ex-offenders, ecumenical 
groups, and groups at the margin of the churches.

We would love to be in touch with other groups 
with similar experiences. Anyone who wants to 
network with us--a bit of solidarity in this 
particular struggle can go a long way!--
contact me at:


Don't like the news? Make your own...send Boomerang
e-mails to the editor: ""


T h e   L a u g h i n g   S a l m o n   D i g e s t

Other Duties as Assigned

Amidst my regular duties of planning a civil
disobedience training, unjamming the copier,
writing an editorial on small farms, waiting
for the Brita to filter, and researching an
article on white supremacist "churches," I
took a phone call from the wife of a colleague
who wanted help finding a job for her son's
Hungarian girlfriend.

I was tempted to determine that this fell
outside even "other duties as assigned," but
the Angel of Absurdity stayed my shrinking
spirit just in time. The Hungarian girlfriend
has degrees in International Law and Conflict
Mediation. Who am I to place a stumbling block
on the superhighway to world peace?

I looked up the requisite phone numbers and
smiled at the sign over my desk that reads,
"Thank you for not laughing at my method of
making a living."

                    --The Laughing Salmon


O n  t he  W i r e:
In case you missed SojoNet in the nation's media....

"Ethnic Websites," by David Batstone,

A number of recent studies suggest that the 
"digital divide" has as much, or more, to do 
with income as it does race. A study released 
in September 1999 by the Joint Center for 
Political and Economic Studies, a nonprofit 
Washington think tank, found that among those 
reporting household incomes of more than $90,000, 
Net usage was slightly higher for African 
Americans than among the general population.

See the full story at:,6378,ART17699_CHL11_CNT56,00.html


F O R   M E R C Y ' S   S A K E

Extraordinarily harsh winter weather in 
Mongolia has killed more than 1,000,000 animals--
the cattle, horses, goats, and camels that many 
nomadic Mongolians rely on for survival.

Many of Mongolia's 2.7 million people depend 
on livestock for food and hides, and make their 
living selling their goats' much-prized cashmere 
wool. "Animals are the foundation of Mongolia's 
economy," says Mercy Corps' Program Officer for 
Mongolia, Rachel Lieber. "The impact will be 
felt even more in the spring when herders 
normally sell the cashmere and skins, and the
resources aren't going to be there."

The government of Mongolia has declared this 
the worst disaster to befall Mongolia in 30 years.  
They have worked hard to respond to the
crisis but now are appealing for international 
aid to address this emergency.

Mercy Corps International, a member of the Call 
to Renewal, has been on the ground in Mongolia
since February 1999. The nonprofit humanitarian
aid agency will be distributing emergency clothing
and boots. Nike has donated more than 13,000
pieces of men's, women's, and children's clothing
from its Pakistan facilities, as well as partial
shipping costs. Mercy Corps will also purchase
animal feed in Mongolia for immediate distribution.

If you want to find out how you can lend a
helping hand to Mongolia, go to:
or call 1-800-292-3355 x250


W e b  S c e n e
One of the hippest Web sites you're ever likely
to stumble upon...

Andrew Skwish is an illustrator from the San 
Francisco Bay Area. Not only does he present 
a great deal of his own work online,
he collates a list of some of the best Web 
magazines and indie music sites on the Net.

Put on your dark shades, black pants, and go to:


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