The Common Good


Sojomail - April 28, 2000

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

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           spirituality, politics, and culture meet

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+++++++++++++++++++++++++ 28-April-2000 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k
    *Latch-key kids in an absentee democracy

H e a r t s  &  M i n d s
    *Snapshots on the state of affairs

F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
    *Israelites sue God

T e r r a s c o p e
    *Name that tune

    *Benetton's ads open eyes. Can they save lives?

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

S p i r i t u a l   P r a c t i c e s
    *Art of the inner meal

O n  the  W i r e
    *Estranged religious cousins unite on poverty

B u i l d i n g   a   N e t w o r k
    *Global peace force gains momentum
    *More on the IMF/World Bank protests

W e b  S c e n e
    *Self-help law center on the Web

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

"Corporations have become surrogate parents in
the eyes of our representatives, the latch-key
kids of an absentee democracy."

              -- Ben Price, the Alliance for Democracy



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

Three Chords and the Truth
By Jim Wallis

I don't like Fidel Castro. Never have. He's a
dictator, not a democrat. And I've never
understood why some people on the religious
Left seem to defend his oppressive regime. I
guess it's because the U.S. government hates
Castro so much, they think they should make
apologies for him. I've always thought that's
a mistake.

Years ago, I was invited on one of those religious
delegations to visit Cuba. They asked what I
wanted to see. When I expressed the desire to talk
to political prisoners who had fought in the Cuban
revolution but were jailed for disagreeing with
Castro's five-year plans, and to talk to black
Cubans about racism in their country, I was quickly
uninvited. The group of famous liberal religious
leaders from America had a personal meeting with
Fidel himself, and I was suspicious.

But because Castro is not a very nice fellow,
should we try and kidnap all the Cuban children
from their parents so they can experience the
freedom to go to Disney World and make videos
about their wonderful new lives in America? I
appreciate the conservative Republicans like
Rep. Steve Largent who have placed "family
values" and a boy's relationship with his father
ahead of the Miami Cubans' political hatred of
Fidel Castro. And did anybody really think the
people who virtually kidnapped this six-year-old
boy -- and have also kidnapped U.S. policy toward
Cuba -- were going voluntarily to give Elian up?

On another note: The Jubilee 2000 campaign to
cancel the crushing debt of the world's most
impoverished nations is a moral movement that
is gaining ground every day. Billy Graham and
even Pat Robertson now support the justice of
debt cancellation. So why did the media
virtually ignore the religiously inspired
Jubilee 2000 gatherings in Seattle, and then
in D.C., to focus instead on marginal and
irresponsible IMF protest groups like "Ruckus,"
which like to fight with the police and break
windows at Starbucks?

It's time to parse these protests. Asking for
debt cancellation and fair trading rules that
protect workers, children, and the environment
are good causes, and anarchist street violence
is not. The religious community should stand up
and take a leadership role now in the debate
over globalization by being willing to denounce
and separate from the violent and destructive,
just as Martin Luther King Jr. did during the
civil rights movement.

Finally: Earlier this week a teenager opened fire
on a crowd of children at the National Zoo in
Washington D.C. We take our son Luke to the zoo
all the time. He might have been caught in the
gunfire that wounded seven kids. When are we
going to admit the deep sickness that has
taken over this country, that has children
shooting children, and has taken away all our
safe places?


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


F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
Israelites Sue God


Attorneys representing the Tribe of Abraham
filed suit against God in New York's Southern
District Court on Monday, citing 117 specific
instances of breach of covenant.

...The Israelites say they have a case. "For 5760
years, the plaintiffs have honored their side of
the contract, worshipping the Defendant with total
devotion," said Marvin Sachs, the Manhattan lawyer
bringing the suit on behalf of the Israelites.
"But in return they have gotten nothing. They
trusted Him to protect them, and He threw them
to everyone from the Egyptians to the Cossacks
to the Nazis to the Palestinians. I'd have a
hard time believing that anyone even remotely
familiar with the plaintiff's history would argue
that they're not victims of detrimental reliance."

Keith Harrigan, chief legal counsel for the Lord,
responded that God's case is clear under the
provisions of New York's commercial code. "We have
yet to determine whether the Jews are arguing for
the Covenant of Abraham, which covers homeland and
birthright issues, the Davidic Covenant, under
which they say they were guaranteed a Messiah, or
some combination of the two. But one thing is
clear: standard assumptions for any legal contract
in this district specifically state that the
Defendant is not responsible for acts of God."

See the entire spoof at:


T e r r a s c o p e

Dateline: April 28, 2042
          2042.3.9 ShengXiao: Year of the Dog
          San Francisco
          Republic of the Americas
by Sam Mendoza
Hong Kong Media Network

The swirling storm of controversy that follows
IC-Music touched down once again last week with
violent riots that tore apart a popular
Japanese dance club. The incident resembles in
so many ways the tragedy that left 35 dead
in a Miami nightclub last New Year's Eve. The
Miami club, of course, also featured IC-Music.

The "IC" refers to Inner Consciousness, and
stands as a metaphor for our neural center that
decodes patterns in a wave of distinct sounds.
In IC-Music, the "notes" appear to be spontaneously
generated by a bit box, but the artist actually
links them using a complex series of algorithms
that mirror neural functioning. Its harshest
critics are loathe to even call it music, since
it does not share the tonal structure that has
dominated music in the Western world for

IC-Music was mid-wifed into existence in the
early 2030s by a team of Canadian scientists
who were trying to create AI models of human
emotions. They invented a way to elicit a
specific range of emotions in their human subjects
through the use of sonar pulses. With remarkable
consistency subjects could be made to experience
joy, anger, fear, compassion, relief,
disappointment, and even jealousy.

Fascinating stuff when confined with the walls
of a laboratory, but terrifying when set loose
in the free-for-all of a dance club. Last week's
incident at the Galaxy Club in Toyko underscores
that point. Its clientele draws from among
the city's elite, not a bunch of street thugs.
But eyewitnesses report that the bit-box master
played wildly with the crowd's emotions on the
night in question, essentially transforming the
club into a mad hive of bees. It soon turned
violent, patrons bashing each other and even
innocent bystanders with furniture and bottles
and grabbing each other by the throat with
their bare hands. Eighty-five people lay dead
by the time the police arrived to break up
the melee.

Is an outright ban on IC-Music the answer? The bit
box master who played the night of the Miami
debacle, who simply goes by the name Series D,
claims the music is innocent: "I just make people
feel more alive; what spills out is what's already
there lurking on the edge of their own mind."
I would hope artists and dance clubs would
take more responsibility. All the same, how do
we censure music and the responses individuals
have to it? Frankly, it would be impossible unless
we banned all music, and very few of us are willing
to pay that price.

Music long has been cherished as a key that opens
the human heart. The proliferation of IC-Music
makes us all wonder whether we can change the locks.


P. O. V.

Image is...well, something
by Kari Jo Verhulst

Benetton's latest import is "We, On Death Row,"
a $15 million dollar print and billboard campaign.
The centerpiece, a 96-page outsert bound with the
February 2000 issue of Tina Brown's Talk magazine...
profiles 25 men and one woman living on death row
in the United States.

The piece is evocative, well-written, and cleanly
designed -- and 100 percent celebrity-free. Full-page
photos accompany excerpts from interviews conducted
by journalist Ken Shulman, who asked inmates about
their families, prison food, what they dream, and
what they miss. The participants were not permitted
to discuss the details of their crimes. Instead they
talk about the lack of adequate attention given
to kids in trouble, the ineffectiveness of the death
penalty as a deterrent, the need for time and space
to assess life and turn around. Every four or five
pages, a single quote is spread -- such as "Each day
in my cell I paint butterflies" -- with the kelly
green "United Colors of Benetton" logo stamped below.

The campaign has incensed victims' rights groups
who argue that the omission of crime details --
particularly information about the victims --
generates false sympathy, and that Benetton is
exploiting their loss to sell sweaters. Missouri
Attorney General Jay Nixon is suing Benetton for
fraud, alleging that the company's representatives
deliberately misled prison officials about the
purpose of their project. "Death row is not for
sale," Nixon told the LA Times.

It has also evoked reaction from the ad world
itself. Commentators in Advertising Weekly and
on NPR's "Marketplace" criticized Benetton for
crossing the line of insensitivity in using
death to get attention.

We like our advertisers to limit their crassness
to sex and cars, not to extend their grasp to
social ills. Politicians, activists, preachers,
and motivational speakers use images of death or
miscarried justice to sell visions, platforms,
and books. We count on them to do so. But with
corporations fast becoming international policy
shapers, why not use that power to spark debate
on social issues?

See Verhulst's entire commentary at:




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

Father Sava from the Serbian Orthodox Diocese
of Kosovo and Meohija wrote:

Dear Friends,

The recent film "CRUCIFIED KOSOVO" which was
made according to the blessing of Bishop Artemije
is available on the Internet in Real Video
format. We suggest you to visit our site
and see the film which is covering the life of
our Church and the community before and after
the war in Kosovo and Metohija.


Sue Easton from Hillsborough, California, wrote:

In correspondence with an alleged journalist,
I attempted to point out that freedom was a
valuable commodity, something to be prized
and cherished and thus Elian should be spared
a return life as a state-owned possession on
a communist prison island. In her reply, she
chided me that this was a ridiculous position
to take. "If you are correct, why don't we go
down to Cuba and rescue all the children?" she

I guess this lady thinks Raoul Wallenberg was
an ass for trying to rescue a few Jews from the
Nazis, that Schindler's list was a waste of
perfectly useful paper, and that since not all
African Americans are rich, we ought to make them
all go back to being slaves. After all, you
can't save everybody, why bother saving anyone
at all?

I spoke to one of our two adopted Russian
daughters yesterday evening. She said when she
awoke to the news on Saturday morning, she couldn't
believe her eyes. She thought that she was back
in the old Soviet Union and that America had
been nothing but a dream. Alas, I think she is
on to something.


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


S p i r i t u a l   P r a c t i c e s

The Way of Tea
by Donald Altman

At first glance, the inner meal practice of the
Japanese tea ceremony unifies the concepts of
offering and receiving. Actually, it does much
more than that. The secular tea ceremony derives
from an approach to life and a school of thought
known as Chado, or the Way of Tea. The tea ceremony
simply provides an exquisite model for bridging
the gap that exists in our modern lives between
harmony and commotion, thoughtfulness and
carelessness, aesthetics and coarseness, respect
and selfishness.

Roots of the Tea Ceremony trace back to 12th-
century China and Zen Buddhism. Traditionally,
Chinese monks used tea to increase their
awareness and concentration during meditation.
Japanese monks who visited China brought tea
back with them to Japan. The sect of Buddhism,
which Houston Smith calls "the Buddhism that
Taoism profoundly influenced, namely Ch'an
(Zen in Japanese)," asks us to look for the
greatest meaning in the smallest of life's events.
As inherent in the minimalist Zen phrase "chop wood;
carry water," meaning comes not from what we do,
but from the way in which we do our daily work.

Opening up to the Way of Tea means looking at
the kitchen, the meal, the guests, and the hosts
in an entirely new way. Here, everything is used
in creating the inner meal. Nothing is tossed out;
nothing is wasted. These principles form the
cornerstone of the Urasenke School of Tea -- with
its more than 2 million followers worldwide.
The four basic principles that guide this
school's Way of Tea are the values of harmony,
purity, respect, and tranquility. Through
practicing these principles, we complete what
is incomplete -- within ourselves and within
the world around us. This means finding peace
in our anxiety, confidence in our unease,
and harmony in the surrounding chaos.

It is almost magical to think that a single
tea ceremony can hold all these energies
simultaneously in the same place. Somehow,
through the almost alchemical application
of diligence, mindful action, and serenity,
it succeeds...."

Explore Donald Altman's new book, "Art of
the Inner Meal: Eating as a Spiritual Path"


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

"Christian Groups Unite to Help Poor," by
Donald Lattin, San Francisco Chronicle, April
21, 2000

Tired of arguing among themselves over abortion and
gay rights, liberal Protestants, conservative
evangelicals, and Roman Catholics have joined forces
in a new political alliance to help the poor at
home and abroad....

"Religious groups bring a kind of stability and moral
compass that can help mature the youthful, anarchist,
cultural rebellion," [Jim Wallis] said." Church
folks don't want to bust up Starbucks' windows or
smash the WTO. They just want to see that the rules
of global trade are fair to workers, the environment,
and ordinary people."

See the full story at:


"Social activist will use forum to tell the truth 
about poverty," by Nancy Haught, The Oregonian, 
April 26, 2000

Imagine attending a town meeting on ending poverty 
and coming away feeling hopeful instead of hopeless... 

See the fully story at:


B u i l d i n g   a   N e t w o r k
Global Peace Force Gains Momentum

In May 1999 a group of activists gathered at
the Hague Appeal for Peace to explore how to
bring nonviolent peacemaking to a new level.
A proposal for a Global Nonviolent Peace Force
emerged from those meetings and has been gaining
momentum around the world.

The Global Peace Force aims to mobilize and
train a multicultural nonviolent peace force.
The Peace Force will deploy to conflict areas
to help create the space for local groups to
struggle, dialogue, and seek peaceful resolution
while protecting human rights and preventing
death and destruction.

Supporters of the Global Peace Force include
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne
of Sri Lanka, U.N. Volunteers Humanitarian
Affairs Unit, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, U.N.
Ambassador Anwarul Karim Chowdhury of
Bangladesh, Elise Boulding of the Peace Research
Association, Per Gahrton of the European Parliament,
the Fellowship of Reconciliation, SIPAZ in Mexico,
and the National Forum for Peace and Reconciliation
in Sierra Leone.

To find out more, check out:
or contact


More on the IMF/World Bank Protests...

It's a Start
The protests have raised long-neglected issues

by Ryan Beiler

Looking back on my days of fire-breathing
idealistic student activism with some sheepishness,
I tended to take on an air of jaded bemusement at
the proceedings of last weekend. As I talked to
college students (that was a whole two years ago
for me) and heard them chanting the
somewhat-oversimplified rhetoric that was once
my bread and butter, I sighed knowingly, "Oh,
those were the days when right was right and
wrong was wrong. Everything was so clear
then -- before I understood the world and
its complexities with the sophistication I have

But for the most part, they're right. The IMF
and World Bank (and the WTO) do promote policies
that hurt the poor. Whether these institutions
should be razed or reformed and how is subject
to debate -- a debate that wasn't taking place
in the mainstream until students, steelworkers,
and people in turtle suits marched on Seattle
and Washington.

For the rest of the essay, visit:


W e b  S c e n e
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++'s self-help law center

Ever run into legal quandaries with immigration,
making a will, registering your trademark,
settling an estate? Maybe you don't need to
pay expensive lawyers for help. Try Nolo.

Nolo's mission: To increase the average
person's access to the law. When the company
began back in 1971, a book was the best way
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published paperbacks that gave folks the
step-by-step instructions and forms they
needed to handle day-to-day legal tasks.

Now the Web is the best tool for making
useful, up-to-date legal information
available to almost everyone. Don't want
to buy a whole book? Just select the form
you need, or download a short "eGuide" on
a particular topic. Nolo specializes in
customizing legal information to your needs.

Go to:


R o a d  S h o w s

Saturday, April 29, 8:00 pm - WASHINGTON, DC
Keynote plenary speech at Summit on Values, Spirituality and Governance
Georgetown University Conference Center
CONTACT: Center for Visionary Leadership, 202-237-2800

Sunday, May 7, 7:00 pm - TORONTO
Forum at Holy Trinity Anglican Church
10 Trinity Square
CONTACT: Wendy McCarroll-Gallegos email:

Tuesday, May 9, 7:00 pm - DENVER
University Park Methodist Church
2180 South University Blvd.
CONTACT: Doug Maben 303-985-8733

Thursday, May 11, 7:00-9:00 pm- ATLANTA
Forum at Interdenominational Theological Center Chapel
700 MLK, SW
CONTACT: Jay Francis Springs 404-885-7208

Monday, May 15, 7:00-9:00 pm - MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL
Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church
3751 Sheridan Ave. N
CONTACT: Bob Hulteen 612-870-3600

Wednesday, May 17, 5:00-8:00 pm - MADISON, WI (tickets required)
Christ Presbyterian Church
944 East Gorham Street
CONTACT: Madison Urban Ministry 608-256-0906

Thursday, May 18, 7:00 pm - MILWAUKEE
Archbishop Cousins Center
3501 S. Lake Drive
CONTACT: Marcus White 414-276-9050


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