The Common Good


Sojomail - June 9, 2000

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

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

                   Brought to you by SojoNet
                Publisher of Sojourners magazine

+++++++++++++++++++++++++ 9-June-2000 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k
    *Mr. Chesterton's neighborhood

H e a r t s  &  M i n d s
    *Empty chairs in Oklahoma City

F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
    *Everything you need to know about HMOs

C u l t u r e   W a t c h
    *Facts of life: 1900 versus 2000
    *Bonhoeffer special airs on PBS

S p i r i t u a l   P r a c t i c e s
    *Deep messages from Old Baltimore

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

O n  the  W i r e
    *Online fraud

B u i l d i n g   a   N e t w o r k
    *Religious movements bolster Haitian democracy

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


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

The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also
to love our enemies; probably because generally
they are the same people.

                              - G. K. Chesterton


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

Empty Chairs in Oklahoma City
By Jim Wallis

Empty Chairs

"Those who were killed, those who survived, and 
those who were changed forever. May all who 
leave here know the impact of violence."

I spent last Sunday preaching and speaking in Oklahoma City. 
After the meetings, I went to see the newly opened National 
Memorial on the site of the bombed Murrah Federal Building 
in downtown Oklahoma City. It was dedicated April 19, the 
fifth anniversary of the bombing that killed 168 people. 
Two monumental twin gates frame the moment of the destruction -
9:02 in the morning as hundreds of federal employees were just 
starting work. The bombers meant to kill a lot of people.
What most struck me was the "Field of Empty Chairs." One 
hundred sixty eight symbolic chairs crafted of bronze and 
stone are placed in nine rows, for the nine floors of the 
building. On each chair is a name, translucent at night. 
Nineteen of the chairs are a smaller size, representing 
the children torn from their parents and families. 

Timothy McVeigh, now on death row, seems to have been a 
drifter who could never quite make a success of his life. 
He and Terry Nichols, also convicted of complicity in 
the crime and serving a life sentence, are known to have 
frequented the meetings and the Web sites of various 
hate groups. They hung around the "Christian identity" 
circles, the gun shows, and the bars where the talk is 
always of scapegoating, blaming, threatening, daring, and 
planning. The end result is violence, always justified 
by smoldering angry grievances. 

McVeigh had been to Waco, observing the confrontation 
between the Branch Davidians and the federal government. 
The bombing took place on the first anniversary of Waco. 
It was payback time. But 168 ordinary federal workers, 
including 19 kids? I think they ought to bring McVeigh 
to Oklahoma City, and make him sit in every empty chair, 
especially the little ones. That would make more of a 
point than just putting him in an electric chair, or 
however they're going to kill him. Make him sit in the 
empty chairs, and think about his grievances. 

Things like symbols, ideology, and endless justifications 
are what sustain hate. But looking at glowing names on 
empty chairs at night reveals how absurd and cowardly
hate really is. It makes you think about where hate goes
and how it ends up grotesquely disconnected to original 
Outside, on the fence of the monument, are countless 
messages, pictures, poems, and teddy bears in memory 
of those whose names are on the chairs. All are gone 
because of grievances misdirected into hate and 
violence that never quite hits the right target. 
And all we're left with is empty chairs.   




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

Everything you need to know about HMOs

Q. What does HMO stand for?
A. This is actually a variation of the phrase, 
"Hey, Moe!" Its roots go back to a concept pioneered 
by Doctor Moe Howard, who discovered that a patient
could be made to forget about the pain in his foot 
if he was poked hard enough in the eyes. Modern practice 
replaces the physical finger poke with hi-tech equivalents 
such as voice mail and referral slips, but the result
remains the same.

Q. I just joined a new HMO. How difficult will it be 
to choose the doctor I want?
A. Just slightly more difficult than choosing your 

Q. What are pre-existing conditions?
A. This is a phrase used by the grammatically challenged 
when they want to talk about existing conditions. 
Unfortunately, we appear to be pre-stuck with it.

Q. Well, can I get coverage for my pre-existing conditions?
A. Certainly, as long as they don't require any treatment.

Q. What happens if I want to try alternative forms 
of medicine?
A. You'll need to find alternative forms of payment.

Q. My pharmacy plan only covers generic drugs, but I 
need the name brand. I tried the generic medication, 
but it gave me a stomachache. What should I do?
A. Poke yourself in the eye.

Q. What should I do if I get sick while traveling?
A. Try sitting in a different part of the bus.

Q. No, I mean what if I'm away from home and I get sick?
A. You really shouldn't do that. You'll have a hard time 
seeing your primary care physician. It's best to wait 
until you return, and then get sick.

Q. I think I need to see a specialist, but my doctor 
insists he can handle my problem. Can a general practitioner 
really perform a heart transplant right in his office?
A. Hard to say, but considering that all you're risking is 
the $10 co-payment, there's no harm giving him a shot at it.

Q. What accounts for the largest portion of health care costs?
A. Doctors trying to recoup their investment losses.

Q. Will health care be any different in the next century?
A. No, but if you call right now, you might get an appointment 
by then.

*Sent to us by SojoMail reader David Monson, Albuquerque,
New Mexico


C u l t u r e   W a t c h

Facts of life: 1900 versus 2000

76,306,387       Population of the United States in 1900
274,634,000      Estimated U.S. population in 2000

1.6 billion      World population in 1900
6.03 billion     Estimated world population in 2000

$438             Average annual income of U.S. workers in 1900
$18,756          Average annual income of U.S. workers in 1997

8,000            Number of cars in the U.S. in 1900
200 million      Number of cars in the U.S. today

4 million        Number of pounds of horse manure under which New
                    York City streets were buried every day in 1900
1,086,180        Number of cars that make their way into NYC
                     streets every day

47.3             Life expectancy of U.S. Americans in 1900
76.5             Life expectancy of U.S. Americans in 2000

12               Number of home runs hit by Herman Long, the NL
                     leader, in 1900
70               Number of home runs hit by Mark McGwire in 1998

7%               Chance in 1900 of a 60-year-old U.S. American would
                      have a living parent
44%              Chance in 2000 that a 60-year-old U.S. American would
                      have a living parent

$27.52           Per capita debt in 1900
$20,754.89       Per capita debt in 2000

                             --compiled by John MacIntyre


BONHOEFFER: AGENT OF GRACE, airing on PBS Wednesday, 
June 14, 2000, 9:30 p.m. ET dramatizes Bonhoeffer's 
final years, his participation in the German
resistance, and his moral struggle. The 90-minute 
film won the top honor at the Monte Carlo TV Festival 
this past February.

Shot in the Czech Republic, Berlin, and Canada, the 
dramatization brings to a wide audience the heroic 
rebellion of Bonhoeffer, a highly regarded Lutheran
minister who could have kept his peace and saved his 
life on several occasions, but instead paid the price 
for his beliefs. The film is a vital portrait of the 
man, the teacher, the resistance fighter, the moralist, 
the prisoner, and, eventually, the martyr. The program 
also sheds light on the efforts of the German 


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


*Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what
peace there may be in silence.

*As far as possible without surrender be on good terms
with all persons.

*Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others,
even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.

*Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations
to the spirit.

*If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and
bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons
than yourself.

*Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

*Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is
a real possession in the changing future of time.

*Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world
is full of trickery, but let this not blind you to what
virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

*Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither
be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity
and disenchantment, it is perennial as the grass.

*Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully
surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of
spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not
distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born
of fatigue and loneliness.

*Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees
and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether
or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is
unfolding as it should.

*Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive
him to be, and, whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your
soul. With all its sham and drudgery and broken dreams
it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to
be happy.

--"Desiderata" was written in 1927 by Max Ehrmann
(1872-1945). In 1956, the rector of St. Paul's Church
in Baltimore used the poem in a collection of mimeo-
graphed inspirational material for his congregation.
Someone who subsequently printed it asserted that it was
found in Old St. Paul's Church, dated 1692. The year 1692
was actually the founding date of the church.


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

Pastor Jack Leathers from Bernie, Missouri, wrote:

Jim Wallis hasn't got a clue about Finney. I have read
Charles Finney extensively and never read about his
being a reformist. I believe the word he would have
used instead of "reform" would have been "repent."

I enjoy!

Colette MacNeil from Detroit, Michigan, wrote:

I can't thank you enough for sending 
Sam Mendoza's article regarding his experience in 
India was stunning . . . literally. That closing 
quote takes your breath away. When you think that 
the perverse power of that Indian caste system
does exactly that to whole masses of human beings: 
renders them "anonymous," it stuns.


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

Interview with Jim Wallis in the Minneapolis Star
Tribune, by Martha Sawyer Allen, June 3, 2000

"The future of American politics will be around
values more than ideology, and movements for
real change will be spiritual as well as social,
just like the civil rights movement was..."

See the full story at:


B u i l d i n g   a   N e t w o r k
Religious movements bolster Haitian democracy

Christians are helping build a more civil, democratic 
Haiti. The Caribbean nation faces entrenched poverty, 
illiteracy, and corruption in its struggle to establish 
democracy after the fall of its dictatorship in 1986.

Catholics and Protestants for the first time took a 
public stand together April 3, issuing a joint message 
reminding authorities to hold free and fair elections, 
the World Council of Churches said. The Haitian Protestant 
Federation is funding Radio Lumiere, an evangelical
radio station that airs a daily program featuring Christian
guests who urge people to get involved in politics. 

The federation has trained 500 young leaders who hold
civic-education training classes in all the parishes, 
encouraging people to vote for honest candidates who 
have done something useful in political and public 
life. Casting an informed vote in Haiti can be perplexing: 
there were 29,000 candidates in parliamentary elections May 21.

Christians made up about 40 percent of the observers
monitoring the elections, Edouard Paultre of the 
federation said. The observers now are preparing a report 
on voting irregularities they observed. Churches also are 
strategizing with employers, trade unions, private and 
public officials, and doctors in the Initiative for Civil 
Society, an effort to build democratic institutions and 
end the partisan struggles, the WCC said.



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W e b  S c e n e
Sacred space online

"When we pray, we are never alone."
That's the slogan of a useful Web site
maintained by the Irish Jesuits. 

Each day the site leads you through
10 minutes of meditation and prayer.
The goal: to get busy people to take
daily stock of their spiritual journey.


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