The Common Good


Sojomail - May 5, 2000

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

           Promoting values at the crossroads where
           spirituality, politics, and culture meet

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+++++++++++++++++++++++++ 5-May-2000 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k
    *The accidental journey

H e a r t s  &  M i n d s
    *Want some signs of hope?

    *A blank check for China?

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
    *Floss your soul daily

O n  the  W i r e
    *A visit to the NewsHour
W e b  S c e n e
    *You're busted, Madison Avenue

R o a d  S h o w s
     *Jim Wallis in Atlanta, Denver, and Wisconsin
     *David Batstone in No. California and Sweden


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

Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: "Full experiences of God can 
never be planned or achieved. They are spontaneous 
moments of grace, almost accidental.

Bo Lozoff: Rabbi, if God-realization is just accidental,
why do we work so hard doing all these spiritual practices?

Rabbi Carlebach: "To be as accident-prone as possible."

                    --Recounted in "It's a Meaningful Life"
                      authored by Bo Lozoff (see more below)


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

Want Some Signs of Hope?
By Jim Wallis

I spent last week in the Pacific Northwest. The
Portland Oregonian story about Call to 
Renewal and our town meeting said, "Imagine 
attending a town meeting on ending poverty and 
coming away feeling hopeful instead of hopeless." 

I spoke to 2,000 high school students holding a 
mock political convention, and said that unless 
their generation helps create a "new politics" 
in this country, all our future political conventions 
were destined to be "mock" ones. The popular wisdom 
says young people don't care about public life. 
The popular wisdom is wrong. Breaking the death
grip of money over politics and dealing with 
real issues like child poverty in the midst of
prosperity are things they really care about.

Seattle featured hopeful meetings with a cross 
section of church and community leaders. But 
the most moving experience for me was a speech
given by Richard Stearns at World Vision's annual 
"Washington Forum." Rich is the new president 
of World Vision; before coming to the world's
largest relief and development organization,
he was CEO of Lenox China.

What does a successful businessman who sold fine 
china know about the poor, some critics asked 
when Stearns was named World Vision's new leader?  
In a talk he titled "A Letter to the American
Church," he cited letters to some of the earliest
churches from the biblical book of Revelations.
Stearns eloquently described the lives of two
very different churches in the world today - one
an affluent suburban American congregation, and
the other a poor rural African faith community.
You could tell he knew both churches very well.
In Rich's story, the pastor of the poor church
came to visit the rich church, and was so
excited to finally "meet the Christians who
can help my people." But as he rose to the 
beautiful pulpit and began to speak his heart, 
the visiting preacher realized that nobody was 
listening, and finally that these Christians 
couldn't even see or hear him. The poor Christian 
pastor was invisible in their midst. Desperate, 
he even followed them into the parking lot, 
pleading with them as they drove away in their 
luxury cars and SUVs. 
For his letter to the American churches, Stearns 
took every line from the scriptures themselves 
so that these would be God's words, not just his.
I have another title for this talk about the 
church's responsibility to the poor, given by 
a former CEO from one of the nation's major 
corporations. I'd call it, "The Rich Young Ruler 
Who Didn't Turn Away."






P. O. V.

A Blank Check for China?
by Jim Rice

China currently enjoys "normal trade relations"
(which used to be called "most favored nation"
status) with the United States. But each year,
that status comes up for congressional renewal.
In one of those lovely quirks of timing, the annual
review coincides with the anniversary of the 1989
massacre in Tiananmen Square, thus providing
the opportunity for an annual discussion and
debate centered (usually) on human rights and
not just dollars-and-cents.

Human rights, unfortunately, isn't what makes
the world go 'round. As AFL-CIO head John
Sweeney said, "It is insane that under the rules
governing worldwide trade today you can take
action against a company for pirating a Madonna
videotape, but you can take no action against
a company for employing children, or using
forced labor, or violating workers' fundamental
rights, or poisoning the environment."

...President Clinton claims that keeping the annual
review "would be a gift to the hard-liners in
China's government, who don't want their country
to be part of the world...the same people whose
first instinct, in the face of opposition, is to
throw people in prison."

But does trade promote human rights? Nixon went
to China in 1972, and Carter further normalized
relations; such overtures haven't seemed to help
further democracy. This past year has seen China
step up efforts to enter into new trade relations
with the world. At the same time, according to
the State Department's annual country report
for 1999, China's "poor human rights record
deteriorated markedly throughout the year, as
the government intensified efforts to suppress
dissent." Its human rights record is exactly why
China has been on probation and has warranted
the annual review. Nothing in recent years has
changed that, except perhaps Clinton's desire
to add to his "legacy."

See Jim Rice's entire commentary at:




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

William Van Horn from Burlingame, California, wrote:

Just read Sam Mendoza: "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."

Laughed myself silly.


Rose Marie Springer from San Francisco, California, wrote:

IC-Music sounds pretty scary -- particularly when
you think of people being subject to the whims
of just one DJ! I know things like this are
already happening in a lot of ways, and the
questions it raises are serious. One could easily
begin to think that things are progressively
getting out of hand!  HELP!!


Brent Hursey-McLaughlin from Miami, Florida, wrote:

Concerning Jim Wallis' comments about the recent
IMF/World Bank protests in D.C....

Isn't it a bit unfair to generalize the protests as
too violent by identifying one group with violent
tactics from among the dozens of groups that participated
in these protests? Truth be known, behind the organization
of the protests is a national group known as the Direct
Action Network (DAN) which held trainings all over the
country for activists who intended to participate in
the D.C. protests. The foundation of these trainings
is nonviolence.

I quote from a training manual used by the Florida DAN:
"All participants in this action are asked to agree to
these action guidelines: 1) We will use no violence,
physical or verbal, toward any person. 2) We will carry
no weapons. 3) We will not bring or use any alcohol or
illegal drugs. 4) We will not destroy property." Much of
the training is then spent focusing on the philosophical
basis of, the techniques to achieve, and the results of/
responses to nonviolence as a form of protest.

In general, the media misrepresented the protests as
nothing more than a bunch of unruly college kids on spring
break. As with nearly every issue that Sojourners interprets,
these protests are no different. We need you to cut through
the media-hyped sound bites and give us a true perspective
on things as they transpire. In this case, I fear your
initial reaction is an unfair analysis to what appears to
be the formation of a new and quite powerful nonviolent
movement based on the alliance of diverse groups. May the
religious community be an integral part of this movement,
judgments aside.


Lee Alley from London, England, wrote:

I'm really amazed, after having read Kari Verhulst's 
report on the protests in Washington, D.C., that the
pendulum has swung so far the other way. In the '60s
it was easy -- Vietnam, civil rights, government
corruption -- the bad guys were proper baddies, things
were right or wrong, black or white. It seems some of
the venerable veterans (and Kari) miss those good 'ole
days on the barricades and need a good old-fashioned
baddie to pillory -- enter the IMF, arch-baddie and
spawn of globalization. I'm sorry, but I can't buy that.

It's so trendy to dis the IMF and WTO that we 
risk making complete fools of ourselves by shouting
simplistic answers to very complex problems. The IMF 
has made mistakes. I know this comes as a shocker 
but it IS run by human beings. These humans happen 
to be experts in the most inexact science on earth --
economics. On the other hand, where would Indonesia, 
Brazil, Thailand, South Korea, et al. be today (their 
economies are all growing strongly, Korea very strongly) 
if the IMF hadn't help them stave off default? Had 
they defaulted without IMF loans (however bad its
remedial adjustment programs) NO ONE would have 
re-capitalized their economies and they would still 
be in recession, probably along with the rest of 
us a la 1930!

So 60 percent of World Bank projects go awry? What
would the world be like if those other 40 percent
weren't right? Where would those people be? At least
someone tried on the 60 percent as well. Money got
spent and any D- student of economics understands 
externalities and Keynesian multipliers (except
perhaps Christian protesters) and how this still 
helps expand local and regional economies.


Daniel Medina from Lakeland, Florida, wrote:

I have been a reader of Sojourners for a long
time. I have always enjoyed the challenge that
Sojourners has made to my conservative values.
However, I am disappointed but I must say not
surprised with the statements I just read in
SojoMail regarding the taking of Elian Gonzalez.

I am a first generation American. My parents were
born in Cuba and immigrated to the US in 1956,
prior to the communist regime. Therefore, I have
not known the personal impact of communist
oppression.  Until the violent taking of Elian
I believed that this was somehow about "family
values" and a father's rights.

I do not understand how a family that put its
life on hold and risked everything for a child
who had lost his mother can somehow become
kidnappers. Because the INS revoked parole
suddenly the loving nurturing family became
criminals who deserve the violent breaking
into their private homes to retrieve a child
who was not in danger.

Does anybody really believe this is about
a father's rights?  Do you think this father
will have any rights to his child in Cuba?
Please don't become a branch of this corrupt
administration and believe the party line.


A.J. Skurdal from Seattle, Washington, wrote:

It saddens and offends me to see [Jim Wallis]
resort to shorthand mischaracterizations:

"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?"

As I understand the situation, the INS granted
custody to Elian's American relatives. After the
Justice Department stepped in and politicized
a situation that had been proceeding appropriately
through family court and the U.S. legal system, the
INS revoked that custody.

Lazaro Gonzalez appealed to the 11th Circuit Court
of Appeals in an effort to secure Elian's right to
request asylum, and the judge found in his favor,
even specifically denying an INS request to direct
Lazaro Gonzalez to turn Elian over to the INS.

Despite that court order, the INS went to another
judge the evening of Good Friday, presented
a misleading affidavit, and thereby obtained a search
warrant. The subsequent raid should offend the
sensibilities of anyone who values the rule of law
and frighten anyone who values freedom.


Dan Rocheleau from Sarnia, Ontario, wrote:

I lived in Minnesota for two years going to 
graduate school and met many wonderful people!  
But living in Canada is sometimes like living 
next to another dysfunctional family in the 
neighborhood. Can one imagine the reaction if 
Elian Gonzales happened to be an American child 
in a foreign country under the same circumstances? 
I hate to think about it.


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

Have you flossed your soul today?
by Bo Lozoff

Any genuinely good life cannot be maintained
without self-discipline, just as healthy teeth
cannot be maintained without daily brushing.
We don't consider brushing our teeth to be a
serious intrusion on our time, or a dreaded 
period of our day. Every now and then we miss
a time, but we're not always looking for excuses
to miss brushing our teeth. Basically, we agree
it is important, so we make it our own.

The first key to maintaining spiritual practice 
for the long haul is to deeply, deeply accept
that spiritual practice is at least as important
as brushing our teeth or taking showers or even
drinking water. We must stop bucking, avoiding,
making excuses, looking for ways out, looking for
abstruse philosophies that suggest it is not
important. We cannot see cavities developing, but
we trust the dentists who tell us they will 
occur if we don't brush. Countless sages have
advised us even more strongly toward spiritual
practice. Do we want to trust dentists more than

A devotee once complained to the great 19th-
century saint Sri Ramakrishna about not having
any deep experiences with God. Sri Ramakrishna
took him by the hand and led him to the ashram's
bathing ghat [pond]. They both walked into the
water until they were about waist-deep, and Sri
Ramakrishna then pushed the man's head under water
with great force, and held him there for nearly
a minute. The man struggled and struggled, and
finally the saint released his grip and the man 
emerged urgently from the water, gasping for
breath. Sri Ramakrishna said to him, "When you
want God as much as you wanted that next 
breath, you will see God."

Explore Bo Lozoff's new book, "It's a 
Meaningful Life - It Just Takes Practice"


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

Jim Wallis appeared on PBS' NewsHour
on Friday, April 28, with Ray Suarez and 
five "experts" on the Vietnam War protests. 
For transcript and pictures, go to:


Want to learn more about the New Economy? David
Batstone writes a weekly column for the newly
launched magazine, eCompany (a Time, Inc. 
publication). The column looks at the latest
trends, ideas, and ethical issues that confront
e-business. You can get a free email 
delivery of his column, titled Business
(Re)Modeled, at:,1653,6647,00.html


W e b  S c e n e
You're busted, Madison Avenue

Adbusters offers incisive philosophical 
articles as well as activist commentary 
from around the world addressing issues
ranging from genetically modified foods 
to media concentration. In addition, our 
annual social marketing campaigns like 
Buy Nothing Day and TV Turnoff Week have 
made us an important activist networking 

Best of all are the pictures and stories
of how people have subverted ad 
campaigns with their own creative
artistic touch!

Go to:


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

The FaithWorks Tour with Jim Wallis

Sunday, May 7, 7 p.m. - TORONTO
Forum at Holy Trinity Anglican Church
10 Trinity Square
CONTACT: Wendy McCarroll-Gallegos

Tuesday, May 9, 7 p.m. - DENVER
University Park Methodist Church
2180 South University Blvd.
CONTACT: Doug Maben (303) 985-8733

Thursday, May 11, 7 - 9 p.m.- ATLANTA
Forum at Interdenominational Theological Center Chapel
700 Martin Luther King Ave. SW
CONTACT: Jay Francis Springs (404) 885-7208

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

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

Thursday, May 18, 7 p.m. - MILWAUKEE
Archbishop Cousins Center
3501 S. Lake Drive
CONTACT: Marcus White (414) 276-9050


David Batstone teaches a series titled, "How Moral Can 
We Expect Society to Become: Revisiting Reinhold Niebuhr"

Sundays May 7, 21, 28, 9:30 a.m.
First Presbyterian Church of Burlingame
Burlingame, California


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