The Common Good


Sojomail - September 15, 2000

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 ++++++++++++++++++++ 15-September-2000 +++++++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k
     *Hail Mary!

 H e a r t s  &  M i n d s
    *Should Joe Lieberman keep his faith to himself?

 P. O. V.
     *From rags to riches

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Review of Jonathan Kozol's new book

 B o o m e r a n g
     *The Bush and FBOs in Texas debate thickens

 B u i l d i n g  a  N e t w o r k
     *Exclusive SojoMail report on World Economic Forum protests

 T u n e  I n
     *A Force More Powerful 

 O n  t h e  R o a d
     *We're coming to a town near you

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


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

We pray before the game to keep everyone
injury-free and safe. I have no problem with
that. [But] I don't think God cares if we
win or lose a stupid football game, so praying
for victory is pointless.

         -- Buffalo Bills quarterback Rob Johnson


Ed. Note: I don't know, Rob...that Monday Night
loss against the Jets this week could have gone 
either way at the end.



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H E A R T S  &  M I N D S
Religion and Politics 2000:

Should Joe Lieberman Keep his Faith to Himself?

by Jim Wallis

Sen. Joe Lieberman has been speaking out of his
Jewish faith on the campaign trail and affirming
the crucial role of religion in shaping values for
American politics. His comments have been very
upsetting to those who think that faith and politics
just shouldn¹t mix. He has sparked a fascinating
and important discussion about the proper roles
of religion, values, and public policy that will
be with us far beyond this election.

But new fundamentalists in the land - the "secular
fundamentalists" - are attacking Lieberman for his
religious affirmations. A cry of alarm has gone up
in response to a Jewish vice-presidential candidate
who has the audacity to be religious in public.
The Anti-Defamation League even had the amazing
lapse of historical memory to suggest that religious
language in politics was contrary to the "American
ideal." The truth is just the opposite. Many of
the most progressive social movements in American
history - from the abolition of slavery to women's 
suffrage, from the fight for child labor laws to 
the civil rights movement - had overt religious 
roots and motivations. 

Secular Fundamentalists make a fundamental mistake.
They believe that the separation of church and
state ought to mean the separation of faith from
politics. While it is true that some conservative
religionists want to blur the boundaries between
church and state, most advocates of religious
values in the public square, like Lieberman, do
not. Most of us don't support state or school
sanctioned prayer in public schools, nor
officially backed prayers at high school football
games in Texas. 

Yet open talk of how a candidate's faith shapes
his or her political values should be viewed as
a positive thing and as relevant and appropriate
a discussion as that of many other facts about
a politician¹s background, convictions, and
experience. Clearly, in any dialogue about 
religion and politics, minority religions must
always be respected and protected in our nation,
as should non-religious citizens. But these core
commitments of religious liberty need not be
compromised by such an open discussion of faith
and public life.

The secular fundamentalists tell us that religion
should be restricted to one's church or family.
No talk of faith ought to be allowed to seep into
the public arena, they seem to be saying, for fear 
of violating the First Amendment or alienating the 
non-religious. Perhaps we should make sure all our 
church and living room windows are shut tight so 
that no words of faith are overheard on the wider 
society. Lieberman's statement that "the 
Constitution guarantees freedom of religion not 
freedom from religion" prompted one of his most 
virulent critics to admit that she really did 
want a society free from religion. Fortunately, 
the Constitution protects the free speech of 
believing and unbelieving citizens alike.

The secular fundamentalists want to hide faith
"under a bushel," but the gospel specifically
instructs us not to do that. The purpose of
biblical faith is not simply to comfort the
believers, but to transform the world. And,
yes, that can and must be always done in ways
that both respect religious liberty and enhance
democracy. Religious faith should serve the 
common good. We believe, with Martin Luther 
King Jr., that religious faith should help 
bend the world toward justice.[]

Sojourners' Duane Shank is taking part in an
online discussion on the same topic for The 
American Prospect:

Round One:

Round Two:



Jim Wallis' book, Faith Works, is available at your
favorite online or local bookstore, including the
Sojourners Resource Center at 1-800-714-7474 or

Here's what Mark Silk has to say about Faith Works in
The Wilson Quarterly:

"[Y]ou can feel his excitement at the prospect of
assembling a coalition of hands-on social activists
that bridges the divide between the liberal and
evangelical churches."

P. O. V.
Income Mobility Is Not an Empty Dream!

A Response to Jim Wallis' SojoMail column,
"Blaming Up and Looking Down" (Sept. 8, 2000)
By David Weinschrott

I share many of your concerns about the poor.
However, I think you do the debate a disservice
when you report only static comparisons of income

If you were able to observe the actual individuals
in these income brackets over time, you would notice
that there is a substantial amount of income mobility -
where persons in lower quintiles move to higher, and,
actually, those in higher quintiles move down.
There is evidence that traditional gender and
race/ethnic gaps are closing for persons of the same
education/training, while the gap due to education
is widening:

More information on measuring income inequality is at: and

Nevertheless there are substantial barriers for some
persons moving up to higher income quintiles. In many
cases, the barriers are due to lack of education, or
lack of quality education. See the following research
by the Urban Institute on this issue:

While these data are a few years old, they are in the
same time frame as the data you report on the Call to
Renewal Web site.

Why do these considerations matter? It is more
complicated for an advocate to explore these issues,
when they want to motivate their constituencies to
action. It is easy to blame globalization, or free
trade, etc., but these kinds of blaming strategies
don't help the working poor much in the short run,
however they might generate contributions to advocacy
causes. (Sorry for being blunt). In fact, some of
these economic trends are responsible for tight
labor markets, the best mechanism for upward mobility -
there is evidence that the poverty rate is falling
and has been for several years. (I do recognize that
some are locked in poverty because the route to mobility
in our current economomy favors those with education
or training and experience.)

These considerations do have implications for how to
help the working poor via engaging them in training
for occupations for which there is substantial
upward mobility. Typical federal training programs
often train for occupations in the past; we need to
identify those occupations that are feasible pathways
to a self-sufficient income. The following research
is a beginning effort in that work:


C u l t u r e   W a t c h
Daily Resurrections of Hope:

Jonathan Kozol's new book strikes a personal chord

By Sara Wenger Shenk

Jonathan Kozol, whose books have pricked the
American conscience, has written a new book that
retains a vital continuity with his earlier
works but radically departs from them in tone
and substance. Ordinary Resurrections: Children
in the Years of Hope is a hopeful work filled with
children's revelatory conversations with Kozol.
The hard-hitting polemical strains of Kozol's
earlier writings give way to melodies of joy and
goodness that flow from many personal encounters
between children, teachers, pastor, and parents
in Mott Haven, South Bronx, one of the nation's
centers of poverty.

It is also a very personal book in which Kozol,
a 63-year-old Jewish man, interweaves his own
religious reflections with the moral and religious
explorations of the children, some of whom have
been his friends for nearly seven years.

Kozol acknowledges that in the discipline of writing
his earlier books which focus on school inequalities
and medical and social problems of inner city children, 
he never had much opportunity to get to know the
children in unhurried ways. "I felt a longing," he
writes, "to carve out some years in which I could
enjoy their company while I still had the health and
strength to climb the stairs of their apartment
buildings and to wander with them through their
neighborhoods and through the hallways of their schools
and be with them when they're at church."[]

To read the full review of Jonathan Kozol's book as
it appeared in the Sept/Oct edition of Sojourners
magazine, go to:



 The Utne Reader recently listed Sojourners as
 one of the most-cited magazines in its history.

 Why does the Utne Reader love Sojourners? Sign
 up for a FREE ISSUE and find out for yourself.

 Go now to:


B o o m e r a n g

Chris Beach from Tulsa, Oklahoma, wrote:

My thanks to Jack Lohr of New Jersey. This answers
my wonder about Thomas Wakely, who I questioned as
to whether he was trying to use SojoMail and the
Call to Renewal network to trash a political candidate.
Mr. Lohr pointed out last week that Wakely is a Green
Party candidate. Wakely, without telling us he was
a political activist, trashed George Bush, saying
Bush was awful to Catholics in Texas. I reported
that I was surprised to hear of that since many of
us have heard that Bush has done a lot to empower
Texas churches to help families transition off of

Now that Mr. Lohr has shared the background
of Mr. Wakely, I think it is time for all of us to
once again reassess what business we are in as
Christian servants: ministering the love and
compassion of Jesus Christ to our neighbors in
need.  Let us all not get all of our time caught up
in partisan political battles, but instead focus on
being servants of Christ. If Al Gore helps pave the
way to activate churches to help the poor, let us
thank him and encourage him to do further. The same
is true with George Bush. If he helps to activate
churches to help the poor, let us thank him and
encourage him to do further.

I would be shocked if when Christ returns, he
pulls out a Republican or a Democratic voter
registration card. Spending our time trashing people
in partisan political battles is fruitless, especially
when we know that our true emphasis should be on
helping people make proper ETERNAL choices.


Thomas Wakely from Austin, Texas, wrote:

Boy, I sure did not expect to open a can worms
with my comments about Bush and FBOs but I guess
I did; so I had better provide some specifics and

The faith-based organization (FBO) I was referring
to is the organization I work for as executive director:
The Corporation for Affordable Housing and Community
Economic Development. We are a Texas nonprofit
corporation with an IRS 501(c)3 tax-exempt designation.
We are also certified by the City of Austin's
Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Office
as a CHDO (community housing development organization).

We work closely with Austin Metropolitan Ministries,
an ecumenical organization representing more than 180
congregations. Through their Refugee Resettlement
Program, we provide affordable rental housing to
families from Iran, Bosnia, and Africa. In fact,
our property manager is from Iran (a single mom
with two developmentally disabled teenagers). And
we have excellent relationships within the local
Muslim community as well as Christian.

An additional part of our ministry is our COMPADRE
PROGRAM. This faith and family partnership provides
support to our emergency shelter (up to 90 days) for
families referred to us from local St. Vincent de Paul
Societies. This facility is located on Delmar Ave.
in Austin. This site also provides "emergency" shelter
(up to three days) for families referred to us by local

In addition, we are currently working with the City
of Austin's new Smart Housing initiative to develop
1.5 acres we own on East 12th St. We hope to break
ground on this multi-million dollar affordable housing
development early next year.

So in response to those who question us: We are a
well-established, well-respected faith-based
organization in Austin, Texas.

Personally, I am a Vietnam-era vet; I spent more than
10 years working as a labor union organizer before
getting into community organizing. In 1985, I
moved to the Midwest to attend the Chicago Theological
Seminary; where I participated in its M.Div. program
for three years and attended classes with Jesse Jackson
Jr. - now a member of Congress from Illinois. And since 
moving back home to Texas (I grew up in San Antonio), 
I have been involved with faith-based community economic
development activities.

As to the Texas Department of Housing and Community
Development (TDHCA), which is the issue at hand, we
have a story to tell. A story of religious
intolerance, greed, questionable ethics, the FBI,
and Texas Rangers.

And this story will be the subject of the next
installment of MAKING ROOM AT THE INN in SojoMail.

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



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B u i l d i n g  a  N e t w o r k
Chanting down Babylon

Special Report to SojoMail on the
World Economic Forum protest in Melbourne

by Sally Cloke
Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne is traditionally the place for wearing
black - black suits for the business types, black
turtlenecks for the arty-farty crowd. But the past
few days, it's been taken over by a explosion - I
almost said riot - of colour. Hippie clothes, punk
hair, banners and stickers sprouting from every surface
like fast growing fungi. Students marching alongside
"Grannies against Globalisation." Unionists and
anarchists, drums and whistles, balloons and
flowers. Three days when the knitted beanie took
over the world.

The protest, which concentrated on blockading
Melbourne's Crown Casino, the rather ironically
chosen venue for the World Economic Forum, was almost
entirely peaceful. A few arrests, perhaps two dozen
protestors injured in a couple of nasty bursts of
(mostly police) aggression, but there was hardly
blood on the streets as doomsayers predicted. The
summit was inconvenienced, but not shut down.
(Although, in an unexpected bonus, the controversial
casino had to close its doors completely for the
full three days!)

Crowd estimates range from 10-15,000 on the opening
morning of 11 September to lows of 2-3,000 during
the nights. Considering the traditional great
Australian apathy when it comes to political protest,
especially against something as amorphous as
"globalisation," it's not a bad figure. Considering
that 96,000 people are excepted at tonight's Olympic
Football qualifier at the Melbourne Cricket Ground,
it's not particularly encouraging either.

Both protesters and WEF organisers are claiming to
have "won." But who the real winners are will depend
on the weeks and months ahead. If we all go back to
wearing Nike, eating McDonald's and generally being
happy little consumers, then the critics' cries of
"rent-a-crowd" will be vindicated and the last three
days unmasked as a self-serving charade, a snake
offered to a world which asked for bread.

But if out of this grows a  real empathy for the
poor, a lasting concern that workers receive enough
to feed their families, that Third World countries
not be crushed under a mountain of unpayable debt,
that free trade be replaced by fair trade, that
large corporations be accountable to more than their
shareholders, that the impact of development on
the environment be factored into the bottom line -
and the other concerns that the protesters raised - 
then everybody wins.

We can "chant down Babylon," as one graffiti read.
But we're going to have to keep chanting for a long
time; long after the banners and beanies have gone,
and the black suits have reclaimed the streets.


T u n e  I n

"A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict"
airs September 18 and 25 on PBS at 9 p.m.

Read Rose Marie Berger's review "How to Change the World," at


S o j o N e t  2 . 0
It's Alive! 

The new and improved SojoNet is now online!

New Features Include:

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(Send your comments on the new site to -
and thanks for all of your helpful suggestions so far!)

O n   t h e   R o a d
Sojourners road trips

September 18, 2000
Stockholm, Sweden

David Batstone 
The Stockholm School of Economics
"The Internet Economy: Hits and Myths"

For more info, contact:


September 22, 2000
Cleveland Ohio

Jim Wallis and the Call to Renewal
celebrate "faith-working"


September 26, 2000

David Batstone
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
"Social Entrepreneurialism: Can It Create Justice?"

For more info, contact:


September 29, 2000
David Batstone
Westmont College
Santa Barbara, California
"...And His Disciples Are Turning the World Upside Down"

For more info, contact:
Steven Schultz


W e b  S c e n e
Cool siting of the week: Consumerama
Sick of big companies taking you for a ride?
Do something about it at, a
site proudly proclaiming that it's made by
"people with a beef and a website."

You can keep up on consumer news and alerts
- updated daily - or monitor an index of companies
that have drawn consumer or official ire. Read
articles about how Walgreens double-charged
thousands of customers on their credit cards
because of a computer glitch ("Walgreens called
the problem a technical snafu and said it has
'no plans to notify customers of the glitch.'
In other words, you figure it out.")

Or chime in on the merits of the week's boycott
site - this week it's Boycott Petland. And if
you're really ticked off, you can even connect to
a site that will help you file a class action suit.

Go to:


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