The Common Good


Sojomail - December 8, 2000

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

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

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++++++++++++++++++++ 08-December-2000 +++++++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k
     *Gloria Steinem on the theft of self-esteem

 H e a r t s  &  M i n d s
     *President Clinton: Issue a moratorium on executions

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *Lessons from Mom...

 B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
     *Urgent medical request from Iraq

 S p i r i t u a l   P r a c t i c e s
     *Fruit farm practices core values

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Interview with Martin Sheen

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

 S p i r i t u a l i t y   a n d   P o l i t i c s
     *Gospel of Chad

 H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l
     *NCC gets it!

 W e b  S c e n e
     *Bridging the disability divide


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

This society is a product of 5,000 years
of giving women a self-esteem problem.
There is a reason why powerless groups
suffer from a lack of self-esteem. Esteem
has been taken away from us.

          - Gloria Steinem in the

For the entire interview, go to:

H E A R T S  &  M I N D S
President Clinton: Issue a moratorium 
on executions

by Jim Wallis

While the nation's attention remains fixed on the final 
moves of the Florida election process, a real life-and-
death issue is being played out in America. 

Next Tuesday, December 12, the first federal execution 
since 1963 has been scheduled to occur. Several weeks ago, 
I joined with a group of religious, political, civil rights, 
and other leaders in signing a letter to President Clinton 
urging him to issue a moratorium on federal executions. 

The "Citizens for a Moratorium on Federal Executions" letter 
noted a Justice Department study in which the attorney 
general acknowledged that "minorities are over-represented in 
the federal death penalty system." It went on to say "Unless 
you take action, executions will begin at a time when your 
own Attorney General has expressed concern about racial and 
other disparities....Such a result would be an intolerable 
affront to the goals of justice and equality for which you 
have worked during your Presidency."

The letter concluded: "We are asking only that you prevent 
an unconscionable event in American history - executing 
individuals while the government is still determining 
whether gross unfairness has led to their death sentences."

[For the complete text of the letter, signatories, and 
background information, see]

This week, the U.S. Catholic Bishops took the next step 
by urging the president to commute all federal death 
sentences. Bishop Joseph Fiorenza noted that he had 
signed the letter urging a moratorium, and continued: 
"Today, I write on behalf of the country's Catholic bishops 
to reiterate that call and urge something more fundamental 
(than a moratorium). In this Jubilee Year, we ask that you 
commute the sentences of all 31 people awaiting executions 
in federal prisons."

Late yesterday, President Clinton announced that he had 
decided to stay next week's execution for six months, 
but pointedly emphasized that he was not commuting the 
sentence or halting all federal executions.

Meanwhile, around the country, 82 people have been 
executed this year, 40 of them in Texas - the most in 
one state in a year in the history of the United States. 
According to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, there are 
3,700 people on death rows in the United States. Out of 
the federal spotlight, the killing continues.  

As Bishop Fiorenza pointed out: "Despite their horrible 
crimes, the men and women on our nation's death rows are 
often themselves poor and forgotten....We believe that we 
have other means to keep society safe from murderers - means 
that demonstrate a respect for life and ensure that innocent
people will never be put to death."

*****************GREAT JOB OPPORTUNITY*************************

Lead a faith-based organization focused on at-risk kids in
inner-city Washington, D.C.  Sojourners is looking for a new
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
Life lessons....

My mother taught me TO APPRECIATE A JOB WELL DONE:
"If you're going to kill each other, do it outside -
I just finished cleaning!"

My mother taught me RELIGION:
"You better pray that will come out of the carpet."

My mother taught me LOGIC:
"Because I said so, that's why."

My mother taught me FORESIGHT:
"Make sure you wear clean underwear, in case you're
in an accident."

My mother taught me IRONY:
"Keep laughing and I'll give you something to cry

My mother taught me about CONTORTIONISM:
"Will you look at the dirt on the back of your neck!"

My mother taught me about HYPOCRISY:
"If I've told you once, I've told you a million times,
don't exaggerate!!!"

My mother taught me THE CIRCLE OF LIFE:
"I brought you into this world, and I can take you out."

My mother taught me about ENVY:
"There are millions of less fortunate children in this
world who don't have wonderful parents like you do!"

Thanks Mom...


B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t

Vicki Robb, Medical Director of LIFE for Relief
and Development, an NGO headquartered in Southfield,
Michigan, has sent SojoMail an urgent request for
medical aid for Iraq. Thus far, LIFE is the
only NGO in the United States that has permission of 
the U.S. government, the United Nations, and the 
government of Iraq to bring medical equipment and 
supplies into Iraq. They take such material into 
Iraq on a regular basis.

The following is the list of items critically

1. Blood bags (all types)
2. Blood cell separator COBE SPECTRA latest model
with: Periperal stem cell collection kits 50-+platelet
collection kit 300
3. Computerized controlled freezing of stem cells
(sylab) from 0 to -100 drop 1 degree/minute
4. floweytometry (partee) particle analysis system
pas version 111 with monoclonal antibody kits
5. FAMVIR (famcyclovir) antiviral injectable
drug 500 vials
6. ATRA (al transretinoic acid) for leukemia VESANOID
capsules (ROCHE): 10,000 capsules
7. Impenum (teinam) MSD 1 gram vials 1000
8. Teicolanin vials 500
9. Neopogen 300 microgram vials (G-CSF) 500
10. Amphotericin vials 50mg 500
11. American Society of Gatrointesinalendoscopy: 47 tapes

If you have access to any of the materials below,
contact Ms. Robb at:


S p i r i t u a l   P r a c t i c e s
Washington fruit farm grows core values

by Jim Rice

Ralph and Cheryl Broetje are owners of one
of the largest privately owned apple orchards
in the world. Its value has been assessed at
roughly $40 million. Almost 700 employees work
year-round on the farm - the number nearly
doubles during harvest season. Workers in
the Broetje warehouse pack an average of
18,000 boxes of apples every day.

What's unusual about this place, though, is
not the size. It's the way people are treated.
Clearly the most precious commodity around
here isn't apples - it's human beings. It's
a business, and obviously a very successful
one, but this company provides for its
workers not only daycare, as do many businesses,
but opportunities for everything from housing
to counseling services to education, from
pre-school to college. In many ways, the
Broetje operation looks more like a social
service agency - or a church - than an
agricultural enterprise.[]

To read the entire article as it appeared in
the November-December issue 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:


C u l t u r e   W a t c h
Martin Sheen unplugged

Interview by

Q: You are known as a great actor and a good
Catholic, but also as a rebel and a critic of
political and civil life. Does this vocation to
protest stem from you as a citizen or as a Catholic?

Sheen: I cannot separate the two: I hope I am the
same person at Mass, during a protest, before a
camera or before my wife, my children, my
community, and my volunteer work.

Q: Do you remember the reasons for your arrests,
or at least some of them?

Sheen: I have not always practiced my Catholicism.
I left it as a youth and I lived for many years
without faith. I returned to the faith in 1981
when I lived in Paris. I had a new experience,
almost an epiphany, but in fact everything began
four years earlier in the Philippines, while
filming "Apocalypse Now."

I fell gravely ill and was at death's door. I had
a crisis of conscience and, at the same time, of
identity. I no longer knew who I was, where I was
going. I no longer knew anything.

I drank, smoked, and behaved badly...a really
useless life, despite the fact I was married and
had children. I was interiorly confused. I wanted
to be a great movie star, I wanted to be loved
by everyone. I was divided inside: I had no
spirituality, I had no idea how to combine the
will of the spirit with the work of the flesh....

Then I began to drink and to lead a crazy life,
but something was born in me. A seed had been
planted and it began to grow. Gradually, I began
to ask myself who I was, why I was there, where
I wanted to go. In the end, I arrived in Paris,
where I found an old and much loved friend of
mine who became a very important spiritual
adviser, a guide. He was Terence Malick, the
director with whom I worked in "Badlands."

He began to give me books, philosophy, spirituality,
theology. One day he gave me "The Brothers Karamazov."
It took me a week to finish it. I couldn't stop
reading it. That book went straight to my heart, to
my soul. That's how I returned to Catholicism in
Paris on May 1, 1981.

Q: You have spoken of "Apocalypse Now" as a
crisis. Does the figure of Captain Willard
represent a metaphor of your personal crisis?

Sheen: I think so. I couldn't have understood it
then. Twenty years have gone by and now it is
very clear. One day I asked director Francis Ford
Coppola: "Who is this personage, really?" And
Francis said to me: "It's you, Martin, it's you."
At that time I was a very confused youth; I drank
and was always aggressive. And that can be seen in
the film. Now I hope I am a bit different.


B o o m e r a n g

Philip Johnson of Sydney, Australia, wrote:

I am responding to your profile on Dave Elwick
and the Harry Potter problem: to read or not to
read? I read the item in The Sword of the Lord
too and I want to tear my hair out!...

The article suffers from an overdose of
rhetoric and misinformation, and represents
a typical instance of the fundamentalist's
neurotic fears about what lies outside the
fortress of the church. In trying to prohibit
children from reading Harry Potter stories,
the fundamentalist actually stimulates curiosity
so that children will want to take a sneak
peek when nobody in authority is looking....

For several years I have been engaged in an
incarnational ministry to new age, neo-pagan, and
wiccan seekers. The tone of the Sword of the Lord
material is hostile and the content is distorted
that a Wiccan would intuitively know that the
ninth commandment is being violated by the
minister "You shall not bear false witness against
your neighbour." Although it does not address the
Harry Potter issue, my Web article "Wiccans &
Christians: Some Mutual Challenges" tries to set
the record straight about Wicca, whilst also
drawing attention to important theological
issues that evangelicals and fundamentalists are
neglecting vis-a-vis Wiccan seekers. Anyone
interested can refer to it at:


Richard Hibbert of Williston, Vermont, wrote:

I was interested in the reference to the "St.
James Bible" on an episode of The Simpsons.
Over the years, I have heard many people who
have a deep reverence for the King James Version
refer to it as the St. James Version. My guess
is that it strengthens their deeply held
conviction that the KJV is the Bible that is
divinely ordained to think of it as being
associated with a saint.


Richard Foy of Redondo Beach, Florida, wrote:

From all I have read and experienced it seems
almost certain that we will get no real campaign
finance reform while the two major parties
are totally in control.

We need to enhance the third party movement,
if we really intend to change things.


Terry Woodnorth of Endicott, New York, wrote:

With all the attention on the outcome of the
presidential election, readers may want to
learn more about Instant Runoff Voting mentioned
last week by Richard Clark. Check out the Web
site of the Center for Voting and Democracy,
a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that
studies how voting systems affect participation,
representation, and governance, at:

Included are links to Proportional Representation,
Instant Runoff Voting, and commentaries by CVD
staff (including former presidential candidate
John Anderson) on the recent presidential election.


Alan Lewis of Newcastle, England, wrote:

All the people talking about different sorts
of electoral systems ought to remember that
"whoever you vote for, the government gets in"
and "if voting ever changed anything, they'd
abolish it." Let's be realistic here: governments
rarely listen to people. They listen to
the people with real power - the financial
markets and big business. Let's not forget
that most of the top 50 economic entities
are companies, not countries. The best thing
is not to be fooled in thinking you've "done
your bit" by voting. Build the alternative so
capitalism and big government are undermined.


Brad McBride of Cincinnati, Ohio, wrote:

This is the legacy that has been left in the
wake of the North Atlantic Trade Board (NATB)
protests. You see, in Cincinnati we don't have
these sort of problems. Free trade isn't something
that affects us. Sure, we have Proctor and Gamble
and Kroger both with their headquarters in our
city, but they're good companies. Why would anyone
want to protest against them? What's the big deal
about this whole NATB thing anyway? It's just
commerce. It can't be too bad, can it? These are
the questions being asked in offices all over
downtown Cincinnati now.

It's a sad but true fact, most of what has happened
these past few days will be remembered by most people
in Cincinnati as "the day those crazy people rioted".
The protesters had been looked at as misguided but
harmless kooks by most people in the city. Now,
they're seen as disorderly and their message has been

People here have taken the side of the multinational
corporations. The cause of human rights and fair
treatment of workers has become a joke. It saddens
me to see that the actions of a few who decide to
be violent have ruined what had been an opportunity
for those of us who oppose the increasing globalization
at the expense of the Third World. For a short time,
the issue became something important. Now the minds
of many have been made up. The police and the NATB
are right. The people who are protesting this are
just misguided, unemployed, or naive. There will be
no sermons this Sunday on the need for fair and just
trade. However, I'm sure that plenty of people will
hear about the need for orderliness and calm and
once again the status quo will be maintained.


Susan Easton of Hillsborough, California, wrote:

In Philadelphia, a city with a total population
of 1.3 million, final polling tabulations indicate
that 1 million voters went to the polls on Nov.
9th. I was astounded to realize that so few children
and resident (nonvoting) aliens and those with
other limitations and disabilities that do not
permit them to vote lived in the City of Brotherly

Moreover, in several predominantly Black precincts,
there was a perfect 100% turnout of voters, with
99% of those votes being cast for Al Gore. I think
those Black voters should be bused - en masse - to the
White House and get medals for such an outstanding
dedication to American civics. Why isn't the liberal
press holding these people up as heroes? Why hasn't
Jesse Jackson asked representatives of these
precincts to share their secret for overcoming
discrimination techniques at polling places - such
as were alleged to have taken place in Florida? And
don't you think we need to find out what kind of ballots
were used there and how every vote got counted without
a hint of trouble?


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


S p i r i t u a l i t y   a n d   P o l i t i c s
Gospel of Chad

By Andrew Sullivan
If you've been waiting to find some guiding
metaphor or overarching analogy to lend clarity
to our current electoral mess, you're finally in
luck. Or, rather, your prayers have been answered.
The heavenly respondent to our plight, I humbly
submit, is a not entirely famous but now thoroughly
relevant member of the holy choir. Yes, there's a
Saint Chad. And he was quite explicit on the
question of dimpled ballots.

OK, I made up that last bit, but I haven't made up
Saint Chad himself or the relevance his story holds
for our pregnant times. A reader alerted me to the
saint's existence after looking up "chad" in the
Encyclopedia Britannica. Chad, it turns out, lived
in the wild and woolly half-Christianized England
of the seventh century, and his life story is
preserved in the laconic Latin of the Venerable
Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People.
Remarkably, the critical moment in Chad's ascent to
sanctity was his response to a fiercely contested
dispute over which of two equally qualified and
consecrated candidates, Chad or Wilfrid, would
assume the mighty title of bishop of York. In what
seems to have been a mix-up of truly Palm Beach
proportions, the two men were appointed simultaneously -
one in England and one in France - for the same
bishopric. And one of them had to take the high
road and concede.[]

To read the full epic saga, go to:


H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l
National Council of Churches:
A movement on the move

A big rumble came out of Atlanta, Georgia, on
November 16 where the National Council of Churches
General Assembly met and launched its 10-year
"Mobilization to Overcome Poverty."

Call to Renewal Convener Jim Wallis and the
United Negro College Fund's William Gray
launched the NCC conference with keynotes
challenging delegates to see poverty as a
moral issue. Delegates then formed small
groups to discuss concrete ways members
could work together to end poverty, especially
among children. They brainstormed slogans for
the movement and identified stumbling blocks.

Thursday morning a unanimous vote among the 36-
member communions sealed the deal. The 10-year
mobilization looks to gather broad ecumenical
support around specific goals to end poverty.
The second major goal of the General Assembly
was exploring how a divided church can find
ways to work together. Many delegates see the
two goals as intersecting, possibly resulting
in a joint effort by Protestants, Orthodox,
Evangelicals, Pentecostals, and Roman Catholics
working together to end poverty.

Jim Wallis said, "When I see the Jubilee 2000
debt reduction campaign, the Call to Renewal,
the NCC's Mobilization to Overcome Poverty -
I have to believe something new is happening.
This is a movement whose time has come."

(NCC News Service)


W e b  S c e n e
Bridging the disability divide

A number of groups seek to honor and deepen
the spiritual life of those who are mentally
disabled. The L'Arche movment started by Jean
Vanier is probably the best example of building
community among those with mental disabilities:

Within the Christian Reformed Church, the
Friendship Ministries are dedicated to the spiritual
nurture of people with mental disabilities. This
ministry unites nondisabled church members with
disabled folk to sing, pray, and hear a Bible
story together. The two become friends and build
a relationship. Friendship ministry offers resources
to set up a complete program for the spiritual
nurture and development of people in your
church or area with mental disabilities:
In the Mennonite world there is Mennonite Mutual
Aid's newsletter "Dialogue on Disabilities," which
provides resources and candid dialogue on caring
for family members with disabilities. To get on
the mailing list, e-mail Sheila Stopher Yoder at

If you want a wild peek into the secular disability
activism network, check out the online 'zine "The
Ragged Edge." The current issue covers the
discrimination faced by voters with disabilities.
Their January-February issue promises a sermon on
"Jesus and the paralytic, the blind, and the lame:
How can we make Christians see that disabilities
aren't a test of faith or an excuse for charity?"


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