The Common Good


Sojomail - April 14, 2000

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+++++++++++++++++++++++++ 14-April-2000 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k
    *Are you conservative or liberal?

H e a r t s  &  M i n d s
    *Town meetings show faith working

F u n n y  B u s i n e s s
    *Out of the mouths of babes

T e r r a s c o p e

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

P. O. V.
    *Internet dilemma: Free speech or privacy

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

W e b  S c e n e
    *Coolest siting of the week

F o r   M e r c y ' s   S a k e
    *The children of Iraq have suffered enough

O n  the  W i r e
    *SojoNet in the national media

N e t w o r k  N e w s
    *"You really love us"...Sojourners wins magazine awards

R o a d  S h o w s
    *We're coming to a city near you


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

"Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored
of existing evils as distinguished from the Liberal,
who wishes to replace them with others."

-- Ambrose Bierce

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

A Book Tour Becomes a Series of Town Meetings
By Jim Wallis

Publishers like to send authors out to do media
interviews and sign books in bookstores. We decided
to do town meetings instead for my new book. The
first week demonstrated the message of the book:
there is a movement in the making across this country.
"Faith Works Forums" are sponsored by local churches
and faith-based groups that are doing the work that is
changing communities. The book is really about them.

For example, the book tells the story of my visit
to Sing Sing prison in upstate New York two years
ago. The inmates invited me to come speak to them,
and when I asked when, they said, "Well, we're
here most nights. We're kind of a captive audience!"
It was an amazing night with the New York Theological
Seminary program inside the walls that prepares
prisoners for ministry. One brother spoke movingly
of a "train" that leaves poor neighborhoods like his,
"You get on the train when you are 9 or 10 years old,
and it ends here at Sing Sing." He vowed that night
to go back to his neighborhood when he got out and
help stop that train. At the first "Faith Works
Forum" in New York City, some of the men I met at
Sing Sing were helping to lead the town meeting.
They were home now, doing just what they had

Also in the book, and sponsoring the Forum, was
the People of Faith Network, based out of the
Lafayette Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn. One
middle-sized church has taken on the issue of
sweatshops, built a network of 8,000 churches,
and won a code of conduct from the Gap when a
Jewish rabbi threatened to tell his congregation
of 2,000 that shopping at the sweatshop-using Gap
"violates Jewish law and ethics!"

The town meeting in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood
featured testimonies from the Ten Point Coalition,
whose inner-city ministers have been given credit
by the police department for a dramatic drop in
youth homicides in the city. "The Boston miracle"
is prominently featured in Faith Works, and the
model is now being taken around the country.

The Greater Boston Interfaith Organization told
how they were organizing churches to fight for
affordable housing, mirroring similar church-based
organizing efforts around the country. Our forum at
Harvard on "The Faith Factor in Politics" drew a
capacity crowd of students and faculty who discussed
how even the presidential candidates are debating
the role of faith-based organizations (FBOs) in
solving some of our most entrenched social problems.

Already, this tour is about joining a movement, and
not just buying a book. Tomorrow we head to the West
Coast. Stay tuned.

Next Faith Works forum:
Oakland, California
Monday, April 17, 7:30 pm, at Rockridge UMC
303 Hudson Street, Oakland
(Corner of College Ave. and Hudson)
Contact: Rev. David McKeithen, (510)652-4155

See "Road Shows" below for other upcoming events,
or visit:


F u n n y   B u s i n e s s

This just in from SojoMail reader John Cowan,
a school teacher in Chico, California:

A first grade teacher presented her class with
the first half of well-known proverbs, asking
the children to come up with the second half
of the proverb. Their insight may surprise you.

* Better to be safe than .............punch a 5th grader
* Strike while the ...................bug is close
* It's always darkest before .........Daylight Savings Time
* Don't bite the hand that ...........looks dirty
* No news is .........................impossible
* A miss is as good as a .............Mr.
* You can't teach an old dog new .....math
* If you lie down with dogs, you'll...stink in the morning
* The pen is mightier than the ...... pigs
* An idle mind is ....................the best way to relax
* Where there's smoke there's ........pollution
* Happy the bride who ................gets all the presents
* A penny saved is ...................not much
* Two's company, three's .............the Musketeers
* Don't put off till tomorrow what put on to go to bed
* Children should be seen and not ....spanked or grounded
* If at first you don't succeed ......get new batteries
* You get out of something what you ..see pictured on the box
* When the blind leadeth the blind ...get out of the way
* Better late than ...................pregnant




T e r r a s c o p e

Dateline: April 21, 2042
          2042.3.2 ShengXiao: Year of the Dog
          San Francisco
          Republic of the Americas
by Sam Mendoza
Hong Kong Media Network

God has disappeared for most of the twenty-
first century. Last week I visited one of his

My cousin belongs to a religious movement that
calls itself the Theophites. She invited me to
attend a peculiar ritual at their Chicago temple.
To be honest, I really didn't want to go. Not only
do I think their philosophy is ludicrous, but it's
spooky what their members are expected to give up
in order to liberate themselves from this world.
But I practically grew up with my cousin, and I
owed her my concern since I couldn't offer my

The Theophites completely eschew technology. In
the year 2018, their founder, Sarah Hopkins, claimed
that while she was working in her garden in rural
Kansas, a divine being named Yub revealed to her the
destruction of our technological society sometime
at the end of the 21st century. Ms. Hopkins was
directed to start a new spiritual discipline aiming
"to free the human mind from its bondage to the
machine." Yub, evidently, did not claim to be the
supreme ruler of the universe, but an avatar of a
much greater spiritual force that has no name. Yub
did condemn most followers of the old religions for
making peace with the insidious force of the machine.
"Using its tools, they become one with it," is the
message Ms.Hopkins recalled.

The occasion for my visit to the Theophite temple
marked my cousin's "ascension to the world of spirit."
Although her physical body will not die, she claims
total freedom from material forms of intelligence.
Following the discipline laid out by Hopkins, she
has spent 10 years training her mind to "think by
the spirit." They eat only raw fish, vegetables, and
fruits, don't travel anywhere that can't be reached
by foot, communicate only by word of mouth, rise at
sunrise and bed down at sunset, and spend a minimum
of 6 hours a day in silent meditation.

So I didn't know what to expect when I entered the
temple on a sunny Chicago afternoon. I arrived a bit
late from the airport (call me a Yub-less pagan,
but I wasn't going to walk all the way from San
Francisco), and encountered a circle of close to
100 people kneeling. In the center, also kneeling
was my cousin, dressed in a bright, white robe.

I can recall this initial sight, but frankly it
was hard to see past the blaring noise. Yes, noise,
for the Theophites in the circle, which were the
majority, each held in front of them a networked
bot, gadget, box, or screen, all spitting out some
message or other at full volume. After 10 minutes
of head-splitting cacophany, the Theophites one-by-
one killed the sound on their devices. As each
individual completed their ritualistic act, they
quietly got up and walked out of the room. I took
my cue and left the circle as well. Before departing
the hall, however, I turned back to see my cousin
alone now, head bowed, in the center of a circle
of "lifeless" machines.

She had ascended.



B o o m e r a n g
Messages we've received from SojoMail readers:

Thomas Ramey Watson, Ph.D. from Denver, Colorado wrote:

If you sign the End Poverty pledge, which overall
seems a good thing, I urge you to write a note on
the pledge form urging them to think not just of
material poverty but the many other kinds of
poverty that afflict so many in our country, namely
spiritual, intellectual, emotional poverty. To be
poor in these more subtle ways is really the root
of oppressing others....

To wake up and do something to help stop ignorance
and bigotry, to enjoy fuller emotional ranges, and
thus a deeper spiritual connection with all of
life, is surely more closely in line with the
Gospel than so much of the propaganda infecting
people everywhere.


Tom Baker from Princeton, New Jersey wrote:

Just a note to tell you I enjoyed David Batstone's
piece about so-called employee work-life benefits sites
It struck home particularly since, the day before I
read it, I was called by a headhunter about a position
with an anonymous organization that was "involved in
raising the quality of life for working people," and
it turned out upon inspection to be one of these
get-10 percent-off-your-dry-cleaning service aggregators.
Quality of life indeed. As Lily Tomlin once said: No
matter how cynical you get, it's impossible to keep up.


Lisa Wright of Church World Service in Washington,
D.C., wrote:

Friends, is doing a poll on whether
the U.S. should support debt cancellation. So far
the results are 80 percent in favor, but not many
respondents. Go ahead and vote - share this
with others too!


Want to raise your voice? Send Boomerang e-mails to
the editor: ""


P. O. V.
Privacy vs. Free Speech

Excerpts from an interview with John Gilmore and
Austin Hill, conducted by David Batstone and Bill
Bennett at the University of San Francisco on
March 22, 2000.

John Gilmore was employee #4 at Sun Microsystems
and co-founder of Cygnus Solutions, Electronic
Frontier Foundation (EEF), Cypherpunks, The Little
Garden, and "alt" Usenet groups.

Austin Hill is co-founder and CEO of ZeroKnowledge,
best known for its "Freedom" privacy software.

Gilmore: There's a tension between privacy and free
speech. All the people who collect data about what you
do -- what Web site you went to, what you bought in the
grocery store with your slide-through card -- say, "Wait
a second, these are facts. We could have put someone
in that store to say, 'Hello, Jennifer, nice to see you're
buying chocolate and tampons.'" Instead, they just put
a little machine in there, and the machine tells them
facts about the world that anybody could look at.
Making a law to say you can't look at the world and
tell somebody else what you saw would be a big
restriction on free speech. For example, it would
mean the elimination of newspapers. Newspapers have
this tension between privacy and reporting what's
newsworthy. Sometimes they tread the line fairly
thin, and that's called libel suits.

Hill: On the other side, privacy and accountability have
a similar tension. Let's say we wanted an absolute system
in place, where you could walk around invisible. All of
a sudden, you have the ability to avoid responsibility for
your action, whether that's shoplifting or robbing a bank.
We face the same issues online. If I can be completely
anonymous, what's to stop me from libeling someone, what's
to stop me from breaking a computer system, or trading
illegal images. So there's always that balance....

Gilmore: Or making illegal thoughts even....

Hill: You can take one situation, like a Chinese
dissident, and say, "I would love for that person to
have absolute privacy to speak out against his
government without fear." You could take another
person in the U.S., and he's publishing a thousand
people's credit card numbers or financial records, and
he's doing it anonymously, and we can't hold that person
accountable. So there is a balance with anonymity.
Communities are not built with people who walk around
with paper bags over their heads. But neither are they
built with cameras over their shoulders taping
everything that's going on.

For more excerpts from the interview, go to:^0@.ee6ec91


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

So I'm answering phones at work over lunch.
(It's one of those egalitarian things that we all
share in case the world falls apart while we are
taking a break and we don't know about it.) Mostly
I'm doing my best impression of a Dial-M-for-Murder
operator of the 1940s. "What extension, please? I'm
sooo sorry. She's away from her desk right now or
perhaps downtown destabilizing the International
Monetary Fund. Would you like to leave a message
on her voicemail?"

And even though we are a magazine, I for one am
not at all capable of handling a simple subscription
question, so I leave the real receptionist somewhat
less than 100,000 renewal requests on small sticky notes
casually placed across his desktop.

So this time at lunch with the handset already warm
and sweaty, I yank it off the cradle and hear a broken-
down man's voice saying, "Is this Sojourners? I need
you to pray for me." Then the line went dead.

Even though I am Catholic and there's probably
something in the rule book that says only bishops
are supposed to "lay on hands," I put both hands on
the phone and prayed with all my might.

Wherever you are, sir, may the angels escort you.

                           --The Laughing Salmon

W e b  S c e n e
The Shalom Center's Web site offers a home for
Jews looking to link spirituality and justice.
If you're looking for insightful content and
vibrant community in the Jewish ethical tradition,
there's none finer.

Go to:


F o r   M e r c y ' s   S a k e

A 10-member interfaith delegation (Christian,
Jewish, Muslim) from the U.S. completed a 10-day
fact-finding visit to Iraq in March by calling
for an end to the sanctions against Iraq.

The delegation's visit represents the inauguration
of a national "Campaign of Conscience" designed
to broaden the anti-sanctions movement,
co-sponsored by the Fellowship of Reconciliation,
the nation's oldest interfaith peace and justice
organization, and the American Friends Service
Committee. A leader of the delegation was Rev.
James M. Lawson, a United Methodist pastor known
for his work in the civil rights movement as a
colleague of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

According to documentation by the United Nations,
as many as 5,000 children under the age of 5
die every month in Iraq for reasons directly related
to the economic sanctions. Altogether, more than
one million Iraqis have died because of a
combination of poor nutrition, contaminated water,
and the lack of most basic levels of health care and

"One has to ask who is employing weapons of mass
destruction in the Middle East?" said Ken Sehested,
a member of the delegation and executive director
of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America.

The delegation, traveling under threat of
imprisonment and fines by the U.S. Treasury
Department, saw first-hand the disastrous
consequences of nearly 10 years of sanctions
and continued bombings that have virtually cut
Iraq off from the rest of the world. Visits
to hospitals, schools, sewer treatment plants,
and other institutions demonstrated how Iraq's
water system has been poisoned, the country's
infrastructure destroyed, its health care and
educational systems starved of resources.

"Most U.S. citizens are oblivious to the tragedy,
to what one U.S. congressional leader has termed
'infanticide masquerading as policy,'" Sehested
said, noting that 70 congressional representatives
have now signed on to a letter calling for an
end to the sanctions.

Last week delegation members spoke to congressional
and administrative leaders in Washington, D.C., on
April 4. The Campaign of Conscience has called for
a rally and march in the nation's capital on August
6, the 10th anniversary of the implementation of
the sanctions, to call attention to the
humanitarian crisis in Iraq.

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

"Wielding Faith Against Poverty"
FBOs are increasingly being cited as effective
tools for fighting poverty. But some say it's
government's role
By William Bole

In many ways, it was an unlikely setting for a
call to spiritual arms. But the scene at one of
the nation's elite secular institutions of
policy studies was reflective of a booming
interest in so-called faith-based organizations.

The recent forum at Harvard University's John
F. Kennedy School of Government drew a capacity
crowd that wanted to hear what churches and
synagogues can do to stem poverty in the
richest nation on Earth.

"There are no easy religious answers to hard
political questions--let's get that straight,
right off," the Rev. Jim Wallis, a
self-described activist preacher, told an
overflow audience of about 300 students and
faculty members at the April 5 event.

See the full story at:


"Stirring up spiritual revolution in the
soup kitchen?"
by Marilyn Gardner, Christian Science Monitor

In addition to material poverty, [Jim] Wallis
describes a civic poverty shadowed by widespread
cynicism and a coarsening of public debate. He
also sees a deep spiritual and moral poverty
affecting many poor children who lack caring
adults in their lives. Simply recruiting volunteers
to spend time with children will not be enough,
he cautions, explaining that Americans "must also
change the culture that is killing them."

See the full story at:


N e t w o r k   N e w s

And the Winner is...

The Associated Church Press presented awards in 43 categories
of religious journalism at its annual convention this month in
Chicago. Sojourners won 11 awards, including four firsts and the
Best-In-Class for general interest magazines.

Take a peek at the award-winning articles...


Critical Review
"Glimpses of God Outside the Temple"
by Rose Marie Berger

"Are You Y2K Ready?"
by Ed Spivey Jr.

"Crooked Little Faith" (interview with Anne Lamott)
by Kimberly Burge

Topic of the Year (Millennium)
"Apocalypse Soon?"
by Wes Howard-Brook

Best-In-Class (general interest magazine)


Media Review Section
"Books of the Year"
by Sojourners editors

Devotional/Inspirational (less than 1,200 words)
"Choosing the Better Part"
Grace Matters column by Chris Rice

Feature Article
"Stone Upon Stone"
by Hans Hallundback

Magazine Editorial
"We've Lost the War on Drugs"
by Will Campbell

Media Kit
By Kari Verhulst, with Ed Spivey Jr.


Magazine opinion piece
"Lessons (Not) Learned"
by Jim Wallis & Wes Granberg-Michaelson

R o a d  S h o w s

* Washington, D.C., April 27 - 30
Georgetown University Conference Center
"Re-Igniting the Spirit of America: A Summit
on Values, Spirituality, and Governance"
Sponsored by the Center for Visionary
Leadership. Jim Wallis addresses the conference
Saturday, April 29, 8 pm. Other speakers include
Michael Lerner, Marianne Williamson, and Tyrone
Parker. For more information go to or call (202) 237-2800

Jim Wallis' Faith Works Book Tour/Call To Renewal

*Seattle, Washington, Tuesday, April 25, 7 pm
First Free Methodist Church
Seattle Pacific University

*Portland, Oregon, Wednesday, April 26, 7 pm
First United Methodist Church
18th and Jefferson SW

For further info on future forums
(say *that* three times fast!), visit

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