The Common Good


Sojomail - January 12, 2001

                  ****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

++++++++++++++++++++ 12-January-2001 +++++++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k
     *This Gov's for you...

 H e a r t s  &  M i n d s
     *Temptation Island

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *"Dead ringer"...what's in a word?

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Is God a Rams fan?

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *Free time...what a concept

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

 T e c h   E t h i x
     *Largest ISP in the Philippines: the Church

 H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l
     *Catholic Charities: demand for services up

 B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
     *Chiapas: Let Villagers Return

 W e b  S c e n e
     *Dirty hippy liberals find a home


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

What's next? Will cities start
advertising on their newsletters:
"City Hall is brought to you by
Budweiser beer?"

          - John Saltas, publisher
            of City Weekly, on Salt
            Lake City's decision to
            sell advertising on its
            government Web site



 Sojourners celebrates a new millennium with
 the relaunch of its print magazine. We didn't
 just re-wallpaper the dining room...we
 underwent a major remodel! Jumping with color,
 filled with short takes as well as in-depth
 features and provocative editorials. Hey, this
 ain't your daddy's Sojourners.

 For a sneak preview, go now to:

 Better yet...we'll send you a free issue! Go to:


H E A R T S  &  M I N D S
Temptation Island

by Jim Wallis

The Fox Network's hottest new show aired last night. 
Temptation Island brings four "committed" couples to 
a tropical paradise to meet 26 "fantasy singles." The 
idea is to test their relationships by "dating" these 
beautiful strangers who are there to seduce them. In 
the tradition of "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire" and 
"Survivor," this newest installment of what's now 
called "reality television" hopes to attract and make 

It probably will. Carefully selected scantily clad 
women and men frolicking in the surf, cuddling in 
hot tubs, and spending the weekend together in cozy 
cottages should produce both ratings and advertising 

But as a veteran Washington Post columnist said to me 
over lunch today, "Isn't it what we usually call 
'prostitution' when they pay people to have sex with 
strangers?" Well, yes it is. Will they? Won't they? 
That becomes the titillating question. And we all get 
to watch. Actually, everybody gets prostituted here.

I've often wondered how the Fox Network gets away with 
preaching conservative politics and family values in 
their news and commentary shows, while producing such 
a sleazy lineup of "entertainment" programs. On the 
other hand, my lunch companions were wondering why 
liberals who consistently advocate for social justice 
seem to always pass on making critical comments about 
shows like Temptation Island. Maybe they're afraid 
they will sound like the Religious Right or something. 
Or maybe they really do want to separate personal 
morality from social commitments. Remember the Clinton 
White House?

Well, we decided it was time for a new option - one that 
would treat both Temptation Island and child poverty 
as morally disgusting. Infidelity, betrayal, broken 
relationships, and casual sex are undermining the 
health and integrity of our society. For Fox to offer 
all of that as exciting and voyeuristic entertainment 
is pretty despicable. And to do it all for money just 
compounds the offense. In the worldview of the 
television networks, everything is a commodity - including 
our relationships, our bodies, and our values. And 
everyone is for sale.

We spent the rest of lunch talking about how to build 
a movement that could bring our best personal and 
social morality together. The real enemy here isn't 
sex, but rather the commodification of everything -
turning all values into market values, gutting the 
world of genuine love, caring, compassion, connection, 
and commitment for what will sell, for example, on a 
television show.

In a rare moment of truth, the show itself flashed 
ahead to later episodes and showed a few of the 
contestants in real despair. One said, "I feel like 
I've sold my soul." Another added, "Now the fun is 
over, and I'm paying for it." Finally, a third one 
concluded, "Now I'm in hell." Exactly.    

F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
Etymology...or a bit of pre-urban legend?

Next time you're washing your hands and complain
because the water temperature isn't just how you
like it, think about how things used to be....

England in the 1500s:

Most people got married in June because they took
their yearly bath in May and still smelled pretty
good by June. Baths consisted of a big tub filled with
hot water. The man of the house had the privilege
of the nice clean water, then all the other sons
and men, then the women and finally the children -
last of all the babies. By then the water was
so dirty you could actually lose someone in it -
hence the saying, "Don't throw the baby out with
the bath water." 

Houses had thatched roofs - thick straw, piled high,
with no wood underneath. It was the only place for
animals to get warm, so all the dogs, cats, and
other small animals (mice, rats, and bugs) lived
in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and
sometimes the animals would slip and fall off
the roof. Hence the saying "It's raining cats and

This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs
and other droppings could really mess up your nice
clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet
hung over the top afforded some protection. That's
how canopy beds came to be.
And, of course, England is so old and small they
started running out of places to bury people. So
they would dig up coffins and take the bones to
a "bone house" and re-use the grave. When reopening
these coffins, one out of 25 coffins were found to
have scratch marks on the inside. It was realized
they had been burying people alive. So they would
tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it
through the coffin and up through the ground and
tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in
the graveyard all night ("the graveyard shift") to
listen for the bell; thus, someone could be "saved
by the bell," or was considered a "dead ringer."

C u l t u r e   W a t c h
Is God a Ram's fan?

by Randall Balmer
For some American men, the fixation with sports and
with sports heroes may also represent an attempt -
albeit a clumsy attempt - to reclaim the powerful
and triumphant God of an earlier era. The God
from before changes to the immigration laws recast
the complexion of American society, before cultural
relativism and multiculturalism, before Betty
Friedan's "The Feminine Mystique" brought on the
latest chapter of the feminist movement. Theirs
is not the effeminate, sappy Jesus, the man of
sorrows. They prefer God Almighty, victorious, who
has no trouble distinguishing right from wrong,
good from evil. God the avenger. The Almighty
as Arnold Swarzenegger or Reggie White.

Does God care who wins on the athletic field?
Probably not. Distinguished theologians from Bill
Russell, Hall of Fame center for the Boston Celtics,
to NBC sportscaster Bob Costas have suggested that
the Almighty surely has better things to do with
his time than worry about who wins between the
Dodgers and the Braves. But Kurt Warner thinks
that there is a larger theological drama at play
on the athletic field. "It's not about winning or
losing," he says, "the issue is a lot bigger than
that. It has to do with what God wants to accomplish
on this earth and how he can best achieve that goal."

If Warner is correct, then maybe, just maybe, God
studies the sports pages and fidgets with the remote
control on Sunday afternoons like millions of
American men. If the Almighty is going to speak the
idiom of the American male, after all, it helps to
know the players. 

For Balmer's full feature article as it appears in
the Jan-Feb 2001 issue of Sojourners magazine, go to:

******************NEW SOJOPOLL**************************

The Jan-Feb 2001 cover story of Sojourners
magazine asks "Is God a Rams Fan?" While we're
pretty sure the answer is "no" (they lost in
the playoffs -- to the Saints, no less), which 
phrase best describes YOUR attitude toward 
spectator sports?

[] treasured bonding activity
[] wholesome entertainment
[] harmless past-time
[] opium of the masses
[] glorified violence
[] a huge waste of money 

Vote now, and track the responses 
of others at:

We'll share results in next week's SojoMail

****************PLUS, MORE NEW INTERACTION********************

If SojoPolls are the multiple choice, here's the essay portion:

                   Sojo Discussion FORUMS
         Focused online conversations, with weekly 
            interaction from Sojourners authors.

Currently Featuring:
	Randall Balmer on God and football
	Jim Rice on the Catholic bishops' politics
	Julie Polter on out-of-control advertising
	Duane Shank on military spending
S o u l   W o r k s
Whatever happened to the eight-hour day?
When did they take it away?
When did we give it away?

        -Folksinger Charlie King

Americans work longer and harder than we
did 30 years ago. Because of this culture
of overwork we no longer have the time to
maintain the crucial connections to our spiritual
selves, to our families, to our communities, and
to the Earth itself.

A group of interfaith and secular leaders have
joined together to set up the Free Time/Free
People Project. It explores how to end the
economic pressures that force many people,
well off and poor, into stressful overwork.
And it probes how we, as individuals, with
community help, can ease our own addiction
to overwork.

For those interested in changing the culture of
overwork, go to:, or join in
an online discussion group at:



Meet the man behind the headlines, and decide for
yourself. In this first biography, award-winning author
Terry Bisson brings to life the world's most famous
prisoner since Nelson Mandela. To some, Mumia should be
silenced and suppressed. To others, he is a "voice of
the voiceless." But how many people really know who
Mumia is?

"On A Move - The Story of Mumia Abu-Jamal," $12
softcover, 220 pp, includes 36 photos. ISBN 0-87486-901-3.
Get a FREE e-book sampler at To order
direct (w/free shipping), call Litmus Books 1-800-806-3079
or ask for it at your favorite bookstore.


B o o m e r a n g

Emily Maloney of Santa Cruz, California, wrote:

A sad day last week when not one senator would stand
with members of the Black Caucus in opposing the
Florida electoral votes for Bush, thus not
affording an opportunity for debate on the issue.
Yet congratulations to the members of the Black
Caucus who walked out of the proceedings after
being ruled out of order because of the lack of
just one senator's support. It is my prediction
that we are in for some troublesome days with
the Bush crowd in the White House.


David Clover of London, England, wrote:

From a U.K perspective it's interesting to see
George W. Bush meeting with Christian groups to
talk about community and social projects and the
need for their involvement to tackle long-standing
problems. That is something that is beginning to
develop here in the U.K., with the government recognising
that it needs to work with groups working on the ground
if it is to make any inroads into dealing with issues
such as unemployment, family breakdown, etc.
I also understand that it raises issues of the
separation of church and state, which is obviously a
more acute issue in the U.S than here in the U.K.,
which is a constitutional monarchy with an
established church.
Finally, I'd like to say, that whatever you think
of him, it is refreshing to hear President-elect
Bush talk about Jesus and be unafraid to do so.
A politician doing such a thing in the U.K would
be considered rather odd, even if we do have a
cabinet full of Christian socialists!


Willie Williams of San Francisco, California, wrote:

Jim Wallis reports: "Bush asked theological
questions such as, 'What is justice?'"

Are you sure this was a theological question,
or was it simply an unfamiliar concept?


Richard Clark of Salem, Indiana, wrote:

It comes as no surprise to me that inhabitants of
the Scandinavian countries like Denmark and Norway
are ranked as some of the happiest in the world. It
always irked me to hear the corporate-controlled
press in this country refer to them as "welfare
states." Why don't they refer to the Scandinavian
countries as "civilized states?" I hope someday the
United States can become civilized like the Nordic
countries with their social services. Unfortunately,
with George W. Bush and his right-wing gang taking
over the government, I see very little hope!


John Young-Powell of St. Louis, Missouri, wrote:

I enjoy SojoMail immensely. I want to respond to
the e-mail that wondered how Christians could vote
for national Democrats. As a Catholic school teacher,
I do have moral reservations about supporting candidates
who favor legalized abortion. However, "life" is more
than just the issue of unborn babies. Joseph Cardinal
Bernadin wrote of the "seamless garment" ethic - upholding
life from womb to tomb. On most issues, it seems that
Democrats are more committed to looking for solutions
to problems regarding other life issues. I think some
Republicans also are committed to these issues, but
are not willing to invest money, time, and talent into
helping reduce poverty, eliminating AIDS, ending covert
racism, and welcoming gay people into the structures of
society. These are also "life issues."


Todd Schuett of Denver, Colorado, temporarily
residing in Oslo, Norway, wrote:

In response to Greg Key's call for help to close his
eyes to the moral views of Democrats and vote Democrat,
I would like to state the following:

First...neither party has a stranglehold on morality,
and neither party is particularly Christian, though
the Republicans make a lot more noise about it.

Second, the remark about Democrats encouraging or
accepting abortion is ridiculous. I don't know of
anyone who ENCOURAGES abortion, unless protecting
the right for women to make a moral choice can be
construed as encouraging abortion. I'm glad my wife
and I have the freedom to wrestle with the ethics
and to really choose, rather than having the choice
made for us....

Finally, I don't believe homosexuality is a moral
issue. Heterosexuality certainly isn't. How often
is someone fired from a job, denied housing,
beaten up, or killed for being a heterosexual? The
Bible has precious little to say about 20th century
homosexuality, but it has a great deal to say about
people who denounce others in the name of God while
falling short of godliness themselves. I would like
to encourage Mr. Key to consider homosexuals in a new
light: as fellow sisters and brothers who are too often
oppressed and marginalized in our culture, whose
lifestyles are the objects of mockery, ridicule, or
scorn....Jesus' message came without strings attached.
Is God so small as to make preconditions for gays and

You need not close your eyes to anyone's morality.
You simply need to open your heart.


Chris Beach of Tulsa, Oklahoma, wrote:

I agree with Jill Ginsberg's comments on the
church and homosexuality. This is an issue that
more churches should get involved in. There are
several very effective ministries right here in
Tulsa that have helped people be healed of their
homosexuality. I wasn't sure what to think about
the whole homosexuality issue and quite frankly
it was an issue I too avoided discussing until I
learned that my best friend had been healed of
his homosexual problem after struggling with it
his whole life. His testimony is amazing and I
would love to see Sojourners do a story on the
testimonies of homosexuals who have been healed
of their condition by God. Perhaps Christians
would do less condemning of homosexuals if we
were more focused on helping them be healed of
their sexual issues.


Greg Andrews of Cape Town, South Africa, wrote:

Is there a e-mail list for Sojourners and hangers-
on to discuss stuff? If not, why not make one....?

Ed. note: We do in fact have a free-for-all email
discussion list! For sign-up instructions, go to:


Tracy Dickinson of Rochester, New York, wrote:

Regarding some SojoMail readers' comments re: the
use of quotes by Gloria Steinem and Buddhists, I
just wanted to remind everyone that one definition
of the word "catholic" is "inclusive" (such as when 
it is used during the recitation of the Nicene Creed, 
which many Protestants recite during their Sunday 
services - "One, holy, catholic, and Apostolic Church"). 
Is there not enough room for all of us at the table?


Sue Easton of Hillsborough, California, temporarily
residing in London, England, wrote:

I have to hand it to you. SojoMail has become
something LIVELY I look forward to reading every
week. The letters section gets the juices flowing
and the reflection topics prioritized every week.

I found a print copy of [Sojourners] magazine on
the magazine rack here in London, where we have
become devoted fans of BBC Radio Five (available
on the net). American listeners (like those writing
SojoMail such spirited messages) might be amazed
to hear the typical British radio call-in program.
Especially rousing are the interviews of public
figures. The kinds of intense questions thrust at
political folk here are hard and penetrating. They
make the American broadcast media seem like positive
wimps! For interested parties, I recommend "Up
All Night," which runs from 1 am til 5 am London


Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of
views. Want to make your voice heard? Send
Boomerang e-mails to the editor:


T e c h   E t h i x
Church: the largest ISP in Philippines

By Michael Zielenziger
San Jose Mercury News

"Church services" has taken on a whole new meaning
in the Philippines, where the Roman Catholic Church
has become the nation's leading Internet service

The church has long been a political force in the
Philippines, Asia's only predominantly Catholic
country. Now, its voice is growing even stronger as
it introduces Internet access across this poor land.
Even villages that don't yet have reliable telephone
service are getting networked to the globe thanks to
the church. It is an experiment in how the latest in
communications technology can transform the lives of
the very poor. And, not accidentally, it gives the
church one more means to spread its message.

"We call this 'e-vangelization,'" said Monsignor
Pedro C. Quitorio III, the Internet guru for the
Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
"We believe there is a strong role for information
technology in expanding the reach of the church."

The church has constructed the nation's most
comprehensive Internet backbone, running the 1,000-mile
length of this far-flung archipelago. Eventually,
CBCPNet, as the church-run entity calls itself, intends
to wire every diocese, parish house, and parochial school
in the country. In partnership with private companies,
it is also setting up Internet cafes around the country
to give the nation's urban poor access to the Internet....

Of course, building the Internet infrastructure also
adds to the Church's considerable political clout. Two
months ago, Jaime Cardinal Sin, the nation's influential
archbishop, was among the first to call for the
resignation of President Joseph Estrada, who is facing
an impeachment trial in the Philippine Senate on corruption
charges. Until recently, the cardinal's dispatch would
have been faxed or mailed to the nation's dioceses. Now
it's e-mailed around the country.

"It used to take us weeks to prepare for a prayer rally,"
Lim said. "We'd have to print handbills, leaflets, and
letters, and distribute them by mail. The paper alone
would fill a parking lot. Now, when the cardinal issues
an edict, it is distributed globally within minutes."


H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l
Catholic Charities pressed into greater service

Catholic Charities released its annual report 
just before Christmas, showing a "startling" 
22 percent increase in the use of its
emergency services of clothes, shelter, food, and
medicine in 1999. To read more, go to:

Despite good economic times over the past few years,
32 million Americans still live in the grip of persistent
poverty. Hoping to draw attention to those in need, the
Catholic Campaign for Human Development last week declared
January "Poverty in America Awareness Month."  To read
more about the month's activities, go to:


B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
Chiapas, Mexico: Let Villagers Return

"We have to return to our Guadalupe. We'll have to
see how, but we must," said a former resident of
the village of Guadalupe Tepeyac, a community in the
jungle of Chiapas that was invaded by the Mexican
military almost six years ago. On February 9, 1995,
the Mexican government established a military base in
what had been a key Zapatista village. At that time
the 80 families who had been living there fled.

Since that fateful day, these 80 families have
found refuge in a series of other villages, always
living in hope that they will be able to return to
their homes and their lands. These people are among
the tens of thousands of indigenous people in
Chiapas who remain displaced from their homes,
despite the promises of the recently elected president
of Mexico, Vicente Fox.

A resident of Guadalupe Tepeyac explains that the
military occupation of this village and many other
communities throughout Chiapas continues: "Tepeyac is
not a barracks, it does not belong to the soldiers.
They took from us approximately 5,000 hectares
of land. We lost coffee, corn we planted, beans and
some sugar cane and bananas; this is what we eat."

A woman from the community comments on the effect of
their continued displacement: "We watch the children
grow, we give them food as we can; there is neither
work nor money. Those who were young girls are already
having children." 

Support the people of Guadalupe Tepeyac by sending a
letter to Vicente Fox, president of Mexico:

President Vicente Fox Quesada
Palacio Nacional 
06067 México, DF, México
Fax (+52)(5) 515-4783

Here's a model letter:

Dear President Fox:

We want to convey to you our grave concern that the
displacement of the community of Guadalupe Tepeyac
in the state of Chiapas continues, now for nearly
six years. 

This community originally fled from their village site
upon the arrival of Federal troops on February 9, 1995,
out of concern for their own safety. Since that time
they have suffered the strain of living on borrowed
lands and in the uncertainty of not knowing when the
military occupation of their village will end. The
time for the departure of the soldiers is long overdue,
so that the lawful and rightful owners of the land
can return. 

We live in hope that you are committed to respecting
the rights of all Mexicans, including the most
marginalized. Respect is sometimes costly. We hope
that you are willing to pay the cost, even when it
is not politically expedient to do so. We appeal to
your conscience, hopefully correctly formed by your
own Christian faith.

*This action alert comes from the Christian Peacemaker
Teams, a faith-based organization that supports
violence reduction efforts around the world. CPT has
roots in the Mennonite Church, the Church of the
Brethren, and the Society of Friends, and includes
members from Protestant and Catholic traditions.
CPT has maintained a presence in Chiapas since 
May 1998. 

W e b  S c e n e
Dirty hippy liberals find a home

We've stumbled across one of the most provocative
e-zines on the Web. Put together by Matthew
Baldwin, the Dirty Hippy Liberal Christian Home
Journal takes an unabashedly liberal view on just
about every theological and political issue. The
site takes on "women and the church,"
"sexuality and marriage," "biblical authority,"
"religious liberty," and "God and the prisons."

Whether you agree with the slant or not, this
site promises to get your blood boiling.

Go to:


.................... E D I T O R I A L ......................

  David Batstone                               T 415.422.6660
  Executive Editor                         

  Jim Rice                                     T 202.328.8842
  Managing Editor              

  Molly Marsh                                  T 202.328.8842
  Assistant Editor                            

  Ryan Beiler                                  T 202.328.8842
  Web Editor                                 

.................. A D V E R T I S I N G ....................
  Larry Bellinger                              T 202.328.8842
  Advertising Manager                     

.................... T E C H N I C A L ......................

  Bob Sabath                                   T 202.328.8842
  Chief Technologist                

  Susannah Hunter                              T 202.328.8842
  Internet Assistant                         

...................... S 0 J O N E T ........................

  The Sojourners Network                       T 202.328.8842
  2401 15th Street NW                          F 202.328.8757
  Washington, DC 20009          

  For more information, e-mail us:

................. L E G A L   N O T I C E S .................

  Copyright (c) 2001 The Sojourners Network, Inc. All Rights

  SojoNet material may be freely distributed, as long as it
  bears the following attribution:

  Source: SojoNet 2001 (c)

..................... A R C H I V E S .......................

              For a history of SojoMail, visit

................ S U B S C R I P T I O N S ..................

     SojoMail is published weekly. Subscriptions are free.

                     SUBSCRIBE online at:
               or by e-mail:

                    UNSUBSCRIBE online at:
              or by e-mail:

            ---- SOJONET IS A SPAM-FREE ZONE ----
  (SojoNet won't trade, sell, or give away your address.)