The Common Good


Sojomail - January 5, 2001

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++++++++++++++++++++ 5-January-2001 +++++++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k
     *All that jazz...

 H e a r t s  &  M i n d s
     *Happy New Year!

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *For want of three wise women...

 B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
     *Shelving genetically engineered foods

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Shrink the globe to 100 people, and look what happens...

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *The happiest place on earth. Denmark?

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

 B i z   E t h i x
     *British controversy: sweatshop or family salvation?

 H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l
     *Do living wage ordinances really reduce poverty?

 W e b  S c e n e
     *Everyone's a critic


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

I see skies of blue
and clouds of white.
The bright blessed day,
the dark sacred night.
And I think to myself,
what a wonderful world.

          Louis Armstrong
          "What a Wonderful World"


H E A R T S  &  M I N D S
Happy New Year!

by Jim Wallis

"Do not remember the former things, or consider the 
things of old, I am about to do a new thing: now it 
springs forth, do you not perceive it?" - Isaiah 43:18-19.

"And the one who was seated on the throne said, 'See, 
I am making all things new.'" - Revelation 21:5.

"Happy New Year! Happy New Year! Happy New Year!" 
That's what my 2-year-old son, Luke, said to 
everyone who entered the airplane on our return flight 
home after the New Year. I always like watching 
expressionless faces turn into smiles when Luke starts 
talking to strangers. "He must be the official 
greeter," one of the passengers remarked with a big 

Luke had a great time on New Year's Eve. His parents 
hoped to use him as an excuse to go to bed early at 
about 10 p.m. But Luke danced until midnight at a 
big party with a live band that was just too much fun. 
Twirling, jumping, hopping, swinging, waving his arms, 
and even doing a little break dancing on the floor, 
this boy didn't want the party to end. The countdown 
to midnight fascinated him, the kisses and hugs all 
around were a welcome surprise, and then everybody 
started yelling "Happy New Year!" He thought that 
was so cool, he kept saying it to everybody for the 
next three days. 

And I loved watching the responses he got. Maybe it 
was the freshness and utter sincerity of the 
traditional greeting from the mouth of a little child 
with sparkling eyes that turned busy travel faces 
into broad smiles. And Luke would keep saying it 
until the person said it back! 

Or maybe it was because we really want to believe 
things can be new again at the start of another 
calendar year, even though our adult minds make us 
cynical about it. But isn't that the promise of 
Isaiah, John's Revelation, and the whole biblical 
story? Our faith says that new beginnings are possible - 
always and in every circumstance. Yes, in the midst of 
our relationships, in the course of our work, in the 
health of our communities, and even in the history of 
our nations - change is always a real prospect. That's 
the promise of faith. 

And believing that is what makes the change possible. 
A lot of transition is upon us right now, in the 
politics of the country, perhaps in the dynamics of 
the economy, and in many of our lives. If we expect 
the worst, we'll probably get it. But if we can be as 
open to the new opportunities as we are to all the 
potential dangers, who knows what could happen? 

Luke just liked people's responses to his Happy New 
Year greeting. It literally lit up their faces. And 
maybe it reminded them of their hope for things really 
being new - a hope just beneath the surface for most 
of us too busy to stop and wish each other a Happy 
New Year.  


F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
The holidays still rage on this weekend in
Spain and Portugal. In honor of El Día de los
Reyes (Three wise men/kings) we drop this funny...

We all know what would have happened if
it had been Three Wise Women instead of
Three Wise Men....

They would have:

    Asked for directions
    Arrived on time
    Helped deliver the baby
    Cleaned the stable
    Made a casserole
    Brought practical gifts

    There would be peace on earth.


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

Action Alert:
Get genetically engineered food off the shelves

Just weeks after massive food recalls due to contamination
with genetically engineered StarLink corn, the seeds' "maker"
Aventis CropScience is now pressuring the EPA to grant after-
the-fact approval of the suspect corn. This means that
recalled products could be returned to supermarket shelves.
Thus far, EPA has refused to approve StarLink for food use
(it is supposed to be used only for animal feed) because
it harbors an insecticidal protein, Cry9C, which has a
"medium likelihood" of being able to cause food allergies,
according to a panel of allergy experts convened by the EPA.
Hence the four-year, time-limited approval sought by Aventis
is based not on "sound science" (the biotech industry's
mantra) but on the company's desire to avert further costly
recalls and avoid liability for contaminated products still
on the shelves.

Aventis' power play comes as the FDA is investigating 44
reports of allergic reactions allegedly linked to StarLink.
In effect, the experiments that should have been done years
ago before approval of StarLink for any use are being
conducted right now on the public at large.

Comments are urgently needed. Tell EPA to deny Aventis'
petition for approval of StarLink in contaminated products.
Approval now would not only continue to subject Americans to
the risk of allergies, but would also further undermine the
confidence of foreign consumers in the purity of the U.S. food
supply, hurting farmers. And it would set an awful precedent
for biotech companies, demonstrating that the EPA will let
them off the hook even if they recklessly market genetically
engineered foods that have potential health impacts.

Send comments to:

Carol Browner (1101A)
U.S. EPA Headquarters
Ariel Rios Building
1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20460

Carol Browner also may be e-mailed:;
(send a copy to Stephen Johnson:
You should  cite "Docket No. PF-867B" in the subject line.

For more information on the safe food campaign, go to:


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

If we could shrink the earth's population to a village
of precisely 100 people, with all the existing human
ratios remaining the same, it would look something
like the following:

57 Asians
21 Europeans
14 from the Western Hemisphere (north and south)
8 Africans
52 would be female
48 would be male
70 would be non-white
30 would be white
70 would be non-Christian
30 would be Christian
89 would be heterosexual
11 would be homosexual
6 people would possess 59 percent of the entire world's wealth
and all 6 would be from the United States
80 would live in substandard housing
70 would be unable to read
50 would suffer from malnutrition
1 would be near death; 1 would be near birth
1 would have a college education
1 would own a computer


S o u l   W o r k s
The "Happiest Place on Earth" isn't
Disneyland: It's Denmark.

by Keay Davidson

An emerging social science - happiness research -
is identifying the happiest and unhappiest regions
in the United States and around the world. It's also
shattering stereotypes and folk beliefs about
happiness: who's got it, who doesn't, and how to
get it for yourself.

The Chronicle recently asked a leading happiness
researcher - psychologist Michael Hagerty, a
professor of management at the University of
California at Davis - to analyze several decades of
social surveys conducted by scholars around the

The surveys had one question in common: How
happy are you? They covered hundreds of
thousands of people in more than 20 nations.
Hagerty's analysis has led him to some fascinating,
and occasionally counter-intuitive, conclusions:

*Despite their reputation as carefree surfer dudes
and beach babes, Californians and other inhabitants
of the West Coast are not, on the whole, happier
than the average American.

*Despite all those European films depicting
inhabitants of northern Europe as brooding
depressives, the world's happiest nations are
Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, and Luxembourg.

*Despite all those Federico Fellini films in which
everyone is happily yakking, making love, and
tossing pasta, Italians are the third-most-miserable
people on Earth....

Happiness studies may not meet the rigorous
standards of the hard sciences. Still, social scientists
in this growing field have developed sophisticated
surveys for interviewing people to learn about their
mental states, says Hagerty.

According to surveys, he notes, the most important
sources of personal happiness are:
- Close ties to friends and family;
- Wide political freedom;
- High income; 
- A narrow gap between rich and poor.

"Those four factors have come across consistently
in national and international surveys over the last 30
years," says Hagerty.

To read Davidson's entire article as it appeared
in The San Francisco Chronicle, go to:


B o o m e r a n g

April Songer of Nampa, Idaho, wrote:

I am glad to hear that President-elect Bush has
already met with leaders of religious organizations,
including those with which he wouldn't ordinarily
be expected to agree. I hope that we who take
following Christ seriously can be among the leaders
in healing the rift between factions in this country
who have been deeply split due to the divided election.
If we hope to accomplish anything to alleviate poverty
(physical and spiritual) in this country, we will need
to persuade ALL Christians to work together.


Mary McMahon of St. Louis, Missouri, wrote:

I am appalled that Jim Wallis would meet with George W.
Bush like he is a legitimate president-elect of our
country. What happened in Florida was a complete
takeover of our government by the people. The Republicans
and their thugs accomplished their coup d'etat ... It is
outrageous and should be vigorously fought. Disappointed
in you.


Marion I. Lipshutz of Brooklyn, New York, wrote:

As a progressive Jew, I think I look at George W.
from a rather different standpoint than you, Rev.
Jim Wallis. In addition to his free and easy use of
the death penalty and all of the other criticisms that
I think we would both agree on, I will never (never!)
trust a man who while governor of Texas used a State
of Texas government Web site to issue a Jesus Day
Proclamation in which all (not just Christians but all)
citizens were exhorted to do community service in
honor of Jesus. (And even if he only addressed
Christians I would still consider what he did to be
a blatant violation of the separation of religion
and state.) Moreover, from your perspective as a
believing Christian, don't you find it insulting
that a government official would need to issue a
Jesus Day Proclamation? Whatever happened to December

I'm interested in hearing your views on this, as quite
frankly I do not get the impression that fighting
theological anti-Semitism has been a great priority
of Sojourners.


Ed. note:  Challenging anti-Semitism (and all forms
of prejudice) has been a "priority" of Sojourners
since our inception 30 years ago. Please go
to and search through the magazine
archives. You'll find a wealth of material
supporting that claim. Here's just one example
written by staff member Duane Shank:


Tony Mitchell of Beacon, New York, wrote:

I would hope that reader Roger Nehring was
writing tongue-in-cheek when he made the
comment condemning Jesus for talking to tax
collectors, Samaritans, and Roman conquerors,
though I know many, including some in my
congregation, who would have expressed that
very same comment and meant it.


Janet Smith of Gresham, Oregon, wrote:

I tend to pay heed to Baptist ministers who
are adamantly against Harry Potter. There are
too many doorways to the devil, and this sounds
like one of them.  What a blessing for children
to be taught the Bible. I have heard that if a
person reads the Bible consistently from the time
they are children it has been proven that brain
development is significantly greater than if they
have not spent their time that way. I wish I had
had parents who were devoted to God and to the
Word of God. And wouldn't we be a lot better off
in our society if children were so taught?

Also, why is your organization publishing quotes
and articles about popular idols like Gloria
Steinem and Martin Sheen? I was e-mailed your
newsletter by a subscriber and am wondering why a
supposedly Christian organization is pandering
to popular culture enthusiasts who have
nothing to add to the wisdom of humanity...The
more you look to the material world for wisdom the
farther you get from God. In fact, you cannot be
in both places at once, and God's Word tells us
that, too.  You cannot have two masters. So, I
will not be subscribing to your publication.


Jim Stanley of Fort Wayne, Indiana, wrote:

Richard Wigton of Harrisburg, Penn., completely misses
the point of SojoMail and Sojourners magazine. Wigton
assails Sojourners for quoting feminist Gloria
Steinem. He says she "has made very hostile statements
about Christianity in the past." Yes, but was she right,
wrong, or somewhere in between? He asks, "Why give this
woman a forum in a 'Christian' publication?" Oh, I
don't know. Maybe because we might learn something from
her.  We're supposed to be good listeners. Jesus was.

Wigton further queries, "Would a Jewish publication
quote David Duke & publish the Website where to see
an interview with him?" I reckon they might. Maybe
just to alert their readers about anti-semitism on
the Web. He adds, "I was disappointed previously
when you published a poem by a Buddhist nun." Mr.
Wigton, publishing a poem is not tantamount to
espousing universalism. It's simply publishing a
poem. I doubt most Sojourners readers would find
common ground with Buddhists on the exclusive deity
of Jesus, his substitutionary death on Calvary, or
salvation by grace through faith. But if they find
common ground on feeding poor people, banning
landmines, preserving the rainforest, and opposing
racism, shouldn't they work together?


Patricia Guthrie of Peoria, Illinois, wrote:

Thanks for SojoMail! Most of the wars are over
"believers" killing each other. Churches against
churches. I am Christian but do read Buddhist magazines.
I am stronger because I was told by the Buddhist that
"Life Is Difficult." I never wanted it to be!


A. Yarnall of Wilmington, Delaware, wrote:

I just finished reading the comments of David
Byrum and Fran Johnston. I am troubled by the
objections they raise about the abolition of
the electoral college. We live in a representative
democracy, not a democracy?  We wouldn't want to
open up sores of states rights? Abolishing the
electoral college would disenfranchise people
who don't live in the most populated regions
of our country? This sounds to me like grasping
at straws by people who are currently receiving
an unfair advantage from the current electoral
college system. The fact is one vote should count
as... one vote! It shouldn't matter what state
we live in; we're electing a FEDERAL official.
Everyone should have equal say in this matter.
People who live in rural areas, or in a state
they are proud of, shouldn't get more say than
anyone else. It's simple, straightforward fairness.


Betty A. Michelozzi of Corralitos, California, wrote:

There was so much in Greg Key's letter in Boomerang
to respond to but in short:

First, I am troubled by the implication that one
would have trouble being a Democrat - at least on the
national level - and a Christian at the same time.
Can you oppose the death penalty on religious grounds
and still vote for a Republican who is for the death
penalty? It's safe to say neither party meets all the
needs of all the people. It's called a democracy and
the majority rule so we do our best to pick our way
among the available choices....

Second, it's a giant leap from "accepts" to "encourages"
abortion and the gay "lifestyle." It sounds as if the
Democrats are trying to promote abortions. Do gays
choose their "lifestyle" as another might choose the
lifestyle of a farmer or an artist? Are Democrats
going around advocating that more of us take up
that "lifestyle?"


Rusty Dinkins-Curling of Portland, Oregon, wrote:

I couldn't vote for Democrats on the national level
either; they look too much like Republicans anymore.
I can't vote for either major party because they are
bought and paid for by monied interests before they
ever get to Washington. How can we vote for people
who represent only the richest among us when scripture
is so clear that we are to stand with the poorest
among us? When money plays much less a role in
national politics I'll consider a major party
candidate again, but not until.

As for the electoral college, it may help to give
folks in places like Magnolia, Arizona, and Valparaiso,
Indiana, a more significant voice, but it also gives
folks in places like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles
a disproportionately small representation. You get
more electoral college votes per citizen vote in
Indiana and Arizona than you do in California,
Illinios, and New York. These smaller population
states already get a disproportianately high
representation in the Senate. Is it fair for smaller
population states to get even more disproportionate
representation in the electoral college?


Jill Ginsberg of Port Angeles, Washington, wrote:

I am highly disturbed by the anti-gay comments that
appear all too regularly in [SojoMail]. A recent
writer decrying the Democrats' support of the
"homosexual lifestyle" is the latest example. I did
not choose to be gay, but I do choose to live a
"lifestyle" of devotion to God and my family and
service to my community. I hope more people will
speak up to say that such comments condemning a
group of human beings are unacceptable - they
reflect a level of ignorance and intolerance
which no person of faith should allow.


Ed. note: Setting the record straight -- you are
referring to a letter from one of our readers.
We have not published any "anti-gay" material in
SojoMail. Boomerang, on the other hand,
is an open forum for all kinds of views.
Want to make your voice heard? Send Boomerang
e-mails to the editor: "".


B i z   E t h i x
British Controversy:
When does child labor become a sweatshop?

Should rich countries profit from cheap labor in
Third World countries? This question has arisen
again, this time in Britain where the international
development secretary, Clare Short, took aim at
Green activists and anti-globalization protesters.

Short strongly criticized consumer boycott campaigns
that urge shoppers not to buy goods made with child
labor, The Observer reported Dec. 10. Short spoke out
as she prepared to launch a white paper on how
globalization can be harnessed to help developing
countries and to eliminate world poverty.

She remarked that campaigns to boycott the products
of child labor, such as soccer balls stitched together
by young children in Pakistan, were well meaning but
misguided. Banning children from factories, she contended,
could leave their families dependent on begging and
prostitution unless alternative income was found first.

Report from


H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l
Do living wage ordinances really reduce poverty?

Answer: Some critics argue that living wage ordinances
will not reduce poverty because most living wage workers
do not live in poor households. Evidence from the
Economic Policy Institute's evaluation of the Baltimore
living wage ordinance shows that this claim is not true.
Interviews with workers covered by the living wage reveal
that the average household income for covered workers was
$13,632. The interviews also show how important 
living wage workers' wages are to their family's
well-being: 92 percent of the workers interviewed were the
primary wage earner in their household, bringing
home an average of 68 percent of their family's income.

For the rest of the story see, the Economic Policy
Institutes "Living Wage Issue Guide":


W e b  S c e n e
Everyone's a (ad) critic

One of the best ways to watch TV is ... don't
watch it. Catch the most entertaining bits at
the AdCritic site. Whether it's the funniest
commercials or most quirky news clips, AdCritic
streams them to your home computer at your own
programming schedule.

Sojo favorites: When you go to AdCritic, you'll
find a "Top 10" list in the left column of the
home page. Try out "John West" (ranked #1) and
Bill Clinton (ranked #5).

C'mon, remember that New Year's resolution to
be a bit less deadly earnest this year. Go to:


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