The Common Good


Sojomail - December 1, 2000

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++++++++++++++++++++ 1-December-2000 +++++++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k
     *Frank Capra on a hunch

 H e a r t s  &  M i n d s
     *Rising above the deadlock

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *Serbia sends peacekeeping forces to USA

 P. O. V.
     *Is "Harry Potter" evil?

 P o l i t i c a l l y   C o n n e c t
     *Did Ben & Jerry sell out?

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Religion in "The Simpsons"

 B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
     *Appeal for nonviolent drug offenders

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

 H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l
     *Life after welfare in Minnesota

 W e b  S c e n e
     *Killing the Buddha

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


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

A hunch is creativity trying to
tell you something.

          - Frank Capra, filmmaker

H E A R T S  &  M I N D S
Let's rise above the deadlock

by Jim Wallis

It's been over three weeks since Election Day, and we still 
don't know who our next president will be. The Florida 
Secretary of State has certified George W. Bush as that 
state's winner by 537 votes, thus giving him the electoral 
votes he needs. And he has now begun assembling a transition 
team and is interviewing potential cabinet members.  

Meanwhile, Al Gore's team of attorneys continues to pursue 
litigation in the Florida courts to force further ballot 
counting. He has also assembled a transition team and is 
reviewing cabinet possibilities.

The partisans of both sides are in full voice in op-ed pages 
and on cable TV news shows. As each day goes by, the level of 
rhetoric becomes more shrill and old animosities are 
The country finds itself with an election that is virtually 
a tie. No matter how many times ballots are counted, by 
machines or by hand, by Democrats or Republicans, the 
election remains tied - the closest election in our history. 
Every count would present a slightly different result, one 
way or the other, within a few hundred votes out of more than 
6 million. But no matter who wins, the end result will still 
be very close to a tie - the closest we have ever had.

Many of us have been saying that it is time for both 
candidates to put the common good ahead of partisan or 
personal interests. One way to do that is to attempt to find 
some clear issues that could reunite the country. By speaking 
about issues with compelling moral value, we might begin to 
rise above this partisan deadlock.  

Just for starters:

* We could create a genuine consensus about finally dealing 
with massive child poverty in the midst of prosperity. One in 
six children (and one in three children of color) are still 
living in poverty despite the economic boom. If a president 
would simply name that as unacceptable and call upon us 
all to help change it, he might attract a wide response. 

* The bitter controversy over this election again reminds us 
of how racially divided we are. A president needs to name our 
country's growing racial diversity as a gift, and vow to make 
racial justice and reconciliation non-negotiable principles 
of public life. That will take more than a commitment to 

* We could agree that nurturing families and protecting our 
children is a commitment that crosses the political spectrum.  

* Finally, we could use this election as the occasion to 
finally get serious about reducing the power of money over 
the political process. Campaign finance reform could really 
be put on the table.

Such concerns have the capacity to unite the nation while 
helping us find real solutions to our country's problems. 
And, in the end, that is far more important than who 
ultimately is judged to be president.

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executive director for its neighborhood center.

Join an organization with a long track record, a widely
respected reputation, and a wonderful history of changing
children's lives. The center is a small nonprofit that needs
real leadership to take the program to the next level. This
is a job of great challenges and wonderful rewards!

Send resumes to Sojourners Neighborhood Center Executive
Director Search, c/o Jim Wallis, 2401 15th St. NW,
Washington, DC 20009


F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
Serbian peacekeeping troops patrol Washington, D.C.

BELGRADE--Serbian president Vojislav Kostunica
deployed more than 30,000 peacekeeping troops to the
U.S. Monday, pledging full support to the troubled
North American nation as it struggles to establish

"We must do all we can to support free elections
in America and allow democracy to gain a foothold
there," Kostunica said. "The U.S. is a major player
in the Western Hemisphere and its continued stability
is vital to Serbian interests in that region."

Kostunica urged Al Gore, the U.S. opposition-party
leader who is refusing to recognize the nation's
Nov. 7 election results, to "let the democratic
process take its course."

"Mr. Gore needs to acknowledge the will of the
people and concede that he has lost this election,"
Kostunica said. "Until America's political figures
learn to respect the institutions that have been put
in place, the nation will never be a true democracy."

Serbian forces have been stationed throughout the U.S.,
with an emphasis on certain trouble zones. Among them
are Oregon, Florida, and eastern Tennessee, where Gore
set up headquarters in Bush territory. An additional
10,000 troops are expected to arrive in the capital city
of Washington, D.C., by Friday.

Though Kostunica has pledged to work with U.S. leaders,
he did not rule out the possibility of economic sanctions
if the crisis is not resolved soon.

"For democracy to take root and flourish, it must be
planted in the rich soil of liberty. And the cornerstone
of liberty is elections free of tampering or corruption,"
Kostunica said. "Should America prove itself incapable
of learning this lesson on its own, the international
community may be forced to take stronger measures."

For the original story, go to:



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P o l i t i c a l l y   C o n n e c t
Did Ben & Jerry sell out?

Last spring, when Dutch multinational Unilever
bought ice cream maker Ben & Jerry's Homemade,
many mourned the selling out of a paragon of
socially responsible business. Not so, says
Terry Mollner, a leading figure in the socially 
responsible investment world and a member of
the company's board. Rather, he argues, the
way Unilever purchased Ben & Jerry's "suggest[s]
the beginnings of a new movement: the maturation
of capitalism."


P.  O.  V.
Is "Harry Potter" evil?

I'm a librarian in a small north-central Indiana
town. We don't often have challenges to materials
in our collections, but I was put in a situation
today that made me wonder how SojoMail readers
would respond.

Here's the problem: We are planning to hold a "read
aloud" time after school for kids ages 10-14, to try
to get this age group into the library. Now, we asked
ourselves, "What books are really popular with this
age group?" and decided to start with the first
Harry Potter title.

The first session is scheduled for Monday. Today
is Thursday, and I was approached by a parent who
is upset. He gave me an article to read from a
Baptist Church newspaper called "The Sword of Truth,"
which basically says that Harry Potter is evil,
and is an attempt by the devil to steal away our

What do others think?  Is any mention of witchcraft,
fantasy, etc., evil? How can I respond to this man
to let him know that I disagree with him without
putting him (or his views) down?

The article is available to read online at:

Thanks for any help you can be!

Dave Ewick
Rochester, Indiana


Dear Mr. Ewick,

Our crack research team here at Sojourners has come
up with an article from Christianity Today on the
subject of Harry Potter. We also agree that some
of these muggles just don't get it.

"Why We Like Harry Potter":


Dear SojoMail,

Thanks so much for the link. I don't know if it'll
appease the man in question, but I feel a lot better
having read some alternative views from within the
Christian community. If you've read the Rowling
books & enjoyed them, or just like well written
fantasy, you might try "The Golden Compass" by
Phillip Pullman.  It is really good and the
third in the trilogy was just released!

I really enjoy SojoMail, and feel better informed
after reading it each week. Keep the faith!

Dave Ewick


C u l t u r e   W a t c h
Religion's role in "The Simpsons"

The King James Version of the Bible is a masterpiece
of the English language and one of the cornerstones of
Western Civilization, as we know it.

So sociologist John Heeren perked up when he was
watching "The Simpsons" and heard a reference to a
"St. James Version." Was this a nod to an obscure
translation? An inside-baseball joke about
fundamentalists who confuse the King James of 1611
with the ancient St. James? Eventually he decided it
was merely a mistake, a clue that the writers of that
particular script didn't excel in Sunday school. But
with "The Simpsons," you never know.

"You only have to watch a few episodes to learn that
there's far more religious content in 'The Simpsons'
than other shows, especially other comedies," said
Heeren, who teaches at California State University,
San Bernardino. And the masterminds behind Homer,
Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie are not doing "a slash-
and-burn job, while working in as much blasphemy as
possible. ...They show a surprising respect for
the role that religion plays in American life."...

"I'm not sure what that says, but it says
something," said Heeren. "What remains is that strange
kind of respect that is so hard to pin down.... God
is real. God hears prayers and prayers are answered.
People go to church. Faith matters. Let's face it:
this is not what you normally see in prime-time

For the entire story, go to:,1098,500279950-500439282-502817052-0,00.html


B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
Appeal To President Clinton to Commute
Sentences Of Low-Level, Nonviolent Drug

More than 525 leading members of America's
religious faiths have signed a letter to be
delivered to President Clinton Monday urging
him to commute the sentences of low-level,
nonviolent federal drug offenders.

Signers include Rev. J. Philip Wogamon, Foundry
United Methodist Church, the pesident's pastor;
Rev. Dr. Robert Edgar, General Secretary,
National Council of Churches; Episcopal Bishops
Frederick H. Borsch and George Packard; and
Harvard Divinity School Professor Harvey Cox.

The text of the letter, a complete list of signers,
and the signers arranged by state, are available
online at:


B o o m e r a n g

Marie Lacoste Krajci of Felton, California, wrote:

It is not too early to begin to demand a
bipartisan cabinet from whoever wins the election.
We all need to ask ourselves what happens to the
rights of the minority in a majority decision.


James Tally of Salina, Kansas, wrote:

Robert Kight, stationed in Japan with the U.S.
Navy, argued in a recent Boomerang that the
electoral college (EC) is needed to preserve
balance between rural and urban voices.

Most objections to EC reform presume a simple
elimination of the college and its replacement
with a bare-bones plebescite. But reform proposals
vary widely and some better preserve the voices
of rural states than others. ...

We should not welcome the loss of rural voices.
But sadly, the uniqueness of place is already
endangered in America.

Citizen mobility...mass-media and the homogenization
of pop culture and tastes...large corporate chains
replacing smaller stores...the continuing withering
away of small farming and the communities that depend
on them...increasing solidarity between like-minded
and professionally collegiate persons across Internet
lines coupled with decreasing solidarity between
rural and small-town next-door neighbors...the
decline of public square activities in exchange for
electronic entertainment (or simply because
overworked Americans are exhausted in their leisure
time) - all these contribute to the decline of
place-based identities.


Teresa Claypool, editor of "Valley Views" in
Pine Valley, California, wrote:

I live in an unincorporated community and I
agree completely with Robert Kight. Furthermore,
small communities can be divided on many issues.
Our community is very eclectic. And I love it
that way!


Len Pardue of Asheville, North Carolina, wrote:

I agree the electoral college is probably a
more useful device than many are thinking right
now. But what about the reform advocated by some
(already used in two states) - allocating a
state's electoral votes to the candidates in
proportion to the votes they received? I'd appreciate
reading discussion of the pros and cons.

Caleb McDaniel of College Station, Texas, wrote:

It is true that the electoral college is
designed to give smaller states votes that
are disproportionate to their sizes. But I
doubt whether the practical effect of the
electoral college has been to amplify their
voices. In our current system, the campaigns
are still waged in the states with the most
electoral votes; the smaller states are ignored
by candidates who are more interested in California,
Pennsylvania, Michigan, and, of course, Florida.

Moreover, I feel that the "winner-takes-all"
feature of the electoral system disenfranchises
even more votes than a popular vote system would.
I live in Texas, so my vote against George W. Bush
was absolutely worthless. And Al Gore's trip to
my state, which was full of snide jokes about Texans,
demonstrated how little he cared about courting our
votes. While I'm certainly not a fan of political
advertisements, it is telling that my wife
and I never saw a single presidential TV ad.


Richard Clark from Salem, Indiana, wrote:

Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) must be adopted before
there is any talk of campaign reform. Of course
the electoral college should be abolished, but
that is only a small part of the problem. It made
me sick to my stomach to see a progressive state
like Oregon ALMOST give its electoral votes to
Bush because so many of that state's voters voted
for Ralph Nader. With IRV, voters could've listed
Nader as their first choice and Gore as their second.
If Nader didn't receive 50% of the vote,
then Gore would've received it. Thus a "vote for
Nader would not be a vote for Bush!"


Myrna Kaufman from Goshen, Indiana, wrote:

On Nov. 18-19, about 50 Goshen College and Bethany
Christian High School students traveled to the School
of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia, to protest the
institution accused of teaching terrorist activities
to graduates, leading to widespread abuses in Central
America. These students chose to step beyond their
comfort level, asking for and receiving a meeting
with the leaders, professors, and students at the
SOA. A six-minute video posted online now allows
others to see both sides of the line, as experienced
by the Goshen and Bethany students. Click on to see the
video on RealPlayer.


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


H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l
Life after welfare in Minnesota

A recently concluded pilot program in Minnesota
shows that with financial support, people leaving
welfare can improve their lives. The Minnesota
Family Investment Program allowed parents receiving
welfare to continue to collect benefits of cash
assistance, tax credits, health insurance, and
child care after they began working, up to a point
when their earnings were 40 percent above the
poverty line. 

As a result, according to a study by the Manpower
Demonstration Research Corporation, people in
the program were more likely to be working, to have
incomes above the poverty line, to be married 
and have had fewer divorces, and less likely to be 
involved with domestic violence. Children had fewer 
behavior problems and better school performance.

Since many states have large surpluses of federal
welfare funding, this combination of work and
continued assistance is a model that should be
considered. Welfare "reform" is meant to help
people find employment that can support them and
their families, not simply to end government

For more information, visit:

****************Sojourners Online Store ****************


Jim Wallis' compelling quote "Hope is believing
in spite of the evidence, and watching the evidence
change" is now available in an original poster

Blue and yellow text on a black background, this
11" x 17" print is suitable for framing.

To order this original print visit:


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

A new online magazine of American religion and
culture has launched: Killing the Buddha. Its
theme is God for the godless, aimed at whoever
finds mainstream journalism on religion tepid.

The first issue includes:

--a lengthy discussion of Radical Orthodoxy
with the theologians who created it

--an interview with University of Southern
California anthropologist Fadwa El Guindi

--a visit to the court of the Bostoner Rebbe,
one of Boston's chief Hasidic rabbis

--a humorous examination of the competing ideologies
of birth control in a wealthy Catholic girls' school

--a transcribed sermon from a former prostitute-

--photographs of American churches in the 1930s
by Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein, and Russell
Lee, many never exhibited before

*For those unfamiliar with the phrase, "killing
the Buddha" is a Zen saying teaching that the
Buddha you meet is not the real Buddha.

Go to:


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