The Common Good


Sojomail - January 19, 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

++++++++++++++++++++ 19-January-2001 +++++++++++++++++++++

                 OUR ANNIVERSARY ISSUE!!!!



 Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k
     *Jimi Hendrix: how smart are we?

 H e a r t s  &  M i n d s
     *What Americans think about religion

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *Ed Spivey blames father for Florida election

 B i z   E t h i x
     *The 10 worst corporations of 2000

 B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
     *Help earthquake victims in El Salvador

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Kids less violent when TV turned off
     *New documentary on slain Jesuits airs this weekend
 P. O. V.
     *Can market capitalism do a body good?

 S o j o P o l l
     *Super Bowl advertisers will steer clear of SojoNet readers

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

 S o u l  W o r k s
     *Martin Luther King Jr.: Law, violence, and change

 T e c h  E t h i x
     *Biotechnology meets religion

 W e b  S c e n e
     *Dumb laws in your neighborhood


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

Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.

    		- Jimi Hendrix



 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 mama'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
What Americans think about religion

by Jim Wallis

Last week, I attended an event sponsored by the 
newly formed Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.  
The press briefing was to release a new survey of 
public opinion on the role of religion in society. 
It revealed some fascinating information on what 
Americans really think.

An emphatic 69 percent of those surveyed believe 
that more religion is the best way to strengthen 
family values and moral behavior - that if more people
would become religious, crime would decrease, 
materialism would decrease, and parents would do 
a better job of raising their kids. In other words, 
a strong majority of Americans sees religion as a 
very positive force for individual behavior and 
morality. At the same time, they don't really care 
what religion - 76 percent say it doesn't matter 
which faith it is. The Pew survey shows a great 
deal of tolerance for diverse religious expression 
in the United States.

Yet, almost equally strong majorities are skeptical 
about religion in electoral politics - 74 percent say 
that when politicians talk about their religious 
beliefs, "they are just saying what they think people 
want to hear."  Fifty-eight percent say it's wrong to 
seriously consider the religious affiliation of 
candidates when deciding for whom to vote. 

In the discussion, Prof. Michael Sandel of Harvard 
University spoke of the inherent tension in these 
findings. He noted that there are two ways in which 
religion has a social role. First, as the survey 
showed, religion is conducive to good citizenship.  
Most religions involve norms and restraints on 
behavior that serve to strengthen the social and moral 

But religion also has a prophetic role in public life.  
It brings moral arguments to bear on public questions 
in ways that often are critical and disruptive of the 
social order.  All of the great faith-based social 
movements - from abolition to civil rights to Jubilee 
2000 - invoke the biblical tradition to challenge 
existing assumptions.

And, as several participants pointed out, religion 
increasingly has a third role - the provision of 
social services. The survey showed that Americans
think very favorably of the role of faith-based 
organizations in providing social services. Sixty-three 
percent favor government funding going to religious 
organizations for programs that help those in poverty.  
And a near-majority - 44 percent - favor such funding 
even if the programs promote religious messages.

The question all of this raises is how to integrate 
the roles of religion as promoting individual morality, 
as "socially useful," as prophetic voice. All three, of
course, are appropriate roles. Those tensions are likely 
to be played out in the new Bush administration. Will 
religion be seen primarily as self-help, or as the 
deliverer of social services, or as catalyst to real 
social reform? This is a theological question that 
will have very practical results.[]

For the full report, "For Goodness' Sake," and a transcript 
of the briefing, see


F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
Electoral Shock

by Ed Spivey Jr.

Not every senior in Florida is to blame
for the mismarked ballots and other voting
irregularities that turned this nation's
presidential election into what the founders
never envisioned: something really interesting.

Nope. It was my dad's fault. He admitted as
much during his weekly phone call reminding me
how much money he spent to raise me. On election
day he accidentally wandered into a polling
place thinking it was the starter's hut at
the golf course. After looking for a foursome,
he picked up a ballot and, anticipating another
good day on the links, scribbled down his score
for the front nine and dropped it in the
ballot box. This caused a chain reaction
whereby many seniors assumed they needed to
write their golf scores and their blood
pressure levels in the little squares to the
right of Al Gore's name. Unless they voted for
Buchanan, in which case they just filled in
the little devil face.

And the rest is history. (Or is it geography?)[]

To read more of Ed Spivey's election follies as
they appeared in the Jan-Feb '01 edition of
Sojourners magazine, go to:


B i z   E t h i x
The 10 worst corporations of 2000

Multinational Monitor ratings:

AVENTIS - Maker of genetically modified StarLink corn.
BRITISH AMERICAN TOBACCO - Promotes worldwide smuggling.
BP/AMOCO - Crimes against the environment and humanity.
DOUBLECLICK - Invader of Internet privacy.
FORD/FIRESTONE - Tire failures caused 90 deaths.
GLAXO WELLCOME - Blocks low-cost AIDS drugs for Africa.
LOCKHEED MARTIN - Tests pollutants on human subjects.
PHILLIPS PETROLEUM - Ignored unsafe working conditions.
SMITHFIELD FOODS - Factory hog and beef agri-glomerate.

Get the full story and details at:


Job Opening with Sojourners and Call to Renewal!

Sojourners and Call to Renewal seeks Director of
Communications. The Director of Communications
coordinates all national and local media and
public relations activity for Sojourners and
Call to Renewal, including the development and
implementation of a strategy to increase media
and Internet visibility.

The Director of Communications works closely with
Executive Director Jim Wallis and his speaking and
travel schedule. For more information about this
exciting opportunity, please see a full job
description at This full-time position
is available immediately. Please send cover letter,
resume, writing samples, and references to Job Search,
Sojourners/Call to Renewal, 2401 15th St. NW,
Washington, DC 20009; 
Sojourners and Call to Renewal are equal opportunity 
employers. Women and people of color are especially 
encouraged to apply.  


B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
Earthquake survivors need urgent assistance

Mercy Corps is accepting donations to help
survivors of the devastating earthquake in
Central America that has left more than 400
dead and at least 1,200 missing.

The 7.6-magnitude earthquake was felt from
Mexico to Panama. The greatest reported
damage is in El Salvador.

In addition to food, shelter, and water,
survivors will need help rebuilding homes 
and basic infrastructure. Mercy Corps will 
support emergency aid and reconstruction
efforts. Mercy Corps has worked in Central
America since 1982, providing relief and
development aid to thousands of poor families.

Mercy Corps trained and supplied Turkish search
and rescue teams following the devastating
earthquakes in Turkey in 1999. The Ankara
Search and Rescue Civil Defense Unit has now
been deployed to El Salvador. The team is using
the Trapped Persons Locators provided by Mercy
Corps to search for survivors.


By mail:      
Mercy Corps        
Central America Relief, Dept. NR
PO Box 2669
Portland, OR  97208-2669

By phone: 1-800-852-2100

Online:  Visit


C u l t u r e   W a t c h
Kids less violent when TV turned off

by Ulysses Torassa

Aggressive tendencies fostered in children by violent
television shows and video games can be tempered if
they cut back their viewing and playing, a new
Stanford University study shows.

Researchers found a decrease in the level of aggression
at a San Jose elementary school after an effort to
get pupils to watch less television. The effect was
greatest for children who were already showing signs
of hostility. 

The study, being published in this week's edition of
the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine,
is the latest in a string of studies linking violence
with television and video games. But it is the first
to show that those tendencies can be reversed.

"When kids reduced their exposure to videotapes, TV,
and video games, they become less aggressive," said
Thomas N. Robinson, an assistant professor of medicine
at Stanford and the study's lead author. "What this
says is there is something you can do in a practical
way, in a real-world setting, and see the effects."[]

For the full story on the Stanford study, go to:


And for those who just can't stay away from
the boob tube....
"Enemies of War"
Produced and directed by Esther Cassidy
Narrated by Martin Sheen

After many years of work, "Enemies of War," a one-hour
documentary on the aftermath of the assassinations
of the Jesuits in El Salvador, has been released
by PBS. The national release was scheduled for
January 18 and will air on many PBS stations
during the weekend of Jan. 20-21 (see your
newspaper for local listings).

For eight years El Salvador experienced the cruel
intensity of civil war. In 1989, an unspeakable 
crime occurred, one that would shock the international 
community and lead a nation towards peace. "Enemies 
of War" examines the horrific murders of six Jesuit 
priests and the subsequent political and social 
ramifications as seen through the eyes of a Salvadoran 
family, a U.S. member of Congress, an ex-ambassador, 
and an American priest.


P. O. V.
Can market capitalism do a body good?

by David Batstone

Fatema Begun does not spin theories on poverty.
It's her constant companion and foe. Fatema was
born into a poor family in Dhaluarchar, Bangladesh,
a country with an annual per capita income of $300.
She was married at the age of 12 and had given
birth to two children by the time she was 15....

In 1986, Fatema made her first deposit of 30 cents
in the Grameen Bank, whose mission is to offer credit
to "the poorest of the poor." Its clients are 94 percent
women; its repayment rate is 95 percent. Using the
collateral of her deposit, Fatema was able to borrow
$80, which she promptly invested in a neighbor's
business. Twelve years later she had made enough
money on her investment to open a shop in her own
home. In 1998, Fatema took out an additional loan
for $400 to buy a cellular phone from GrameenPhone,
a spin-off of the bank. Fatema now runs a mobile
phone service in Dhaluarchar, and her income exceeds
$700 a year. 

Fatema's story does not fit neatly into either the
conservative or liberal set of ideologies that
dominate political thinking at the turn of the
century. Liberals or so-called progressives typically
distrust market mechanisms to lead poor people out of
economic bondage. Here's their logic: Since capitalism
intrinsically breeds poverty, groups or individuals
who do prosper by leveraging capital, however
small, must be winning at the expense of their
neighbors. Call it an economy of limited good.

Conservatives surely would cheer the private initiative
that drives a Fatema to claw her way out of poverty.
They trust the market to distribute economic rewards
to individuals who show initiative and effort. But
that's only part of Fatema's story. She had access to
capital only because of the existence of an institution,
Grameen Bank, that operates beyond the bottom line to
benefit those at the bottom of the line. GrameenPhone
"is not a charity," says co-founder Iqbal Quadir, "but
a business that's trying to do a good thing."...

The 21st century calls out for fresh economic thinking
and creative social action. I know I'm not the only
one who feels frustrated by our frozen ideologies. All
the same, I am encouraged by a small movement of
entrepreneurs who are using their access to capital
and business savvy for the benefit of the common good.
It is a movement that seeks to democratize capital,
giving the poor a chance to help themselves. It works
against concentrations of capital that monopolize
markets and engage in unfair competition.[]

To read Batstone's entire column as it appeared
in the Jan-Feb 2001 issue of Sojourners, go to:

******************SOJOPOLL RESULTS**************************

Super Bowl advertisers obviously won't be
targeting SojoNet readers with their ads. The 
demographics just ain't right. Here's the 
latest results of our SojoPoll...

Which phrase best describes your attitude toward
spectator sports? Sports is:

35% a huge waste of money  
25% the opium of the masses  
16% a harmless pastime  
11% glorified violence  
10% a treasured bonding activity  
4% wholesome entertainment 


B o o m e r a n g

David Gawlik of Mequon, Wisconsin, wrote:

Kudos many times over...
The re-creation of Sojourners magazine is awesome.
And the weekly SojoMail provides inspiration when
it seems the lions are winning. Thanks for being
there keeping the flame alive.


Richard Wigton of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, wrote:

Since my letter was printed 3 weeks ago, at least
a half dozen people have written in denouncing me
for having the audacity to criticize radical feminist
icon Gloria Steinem. I would like the opportunity to
briefly respond to the charges leveled at me.
One writer was offended because I refered to Ms.
Steinem as "pro-abortion." If she isn't "pro-
abortion," then I don't know who is. (If it were up
to her abortion would be looked upon as a sacrament!)
I believe that same writer stated that "many Christians
are pro-choice." Well, that may be true. But many
Christians in Germany in the 1930s were pro-Nazi.
But that doesn't make it right, does it?
A number of writers took me to task for "not wanting
to hear other views." They said that maybe I could
"learn something" from Steinem. Ok, fine. Let's take
that one step further. Perhaps Sojourners should
publish an article by Hugh Hefner on sexual morality.
Or maybe David Duke could write an article on race
relations. Yes, indeed, that would certainly be
"enlightening." I'm sure we could all "learn
something" from them. My point is that in a
Christian publication you should read views
that are based on Christian principles! How hard a
concept is that? Not all views are equally valid, my
friends. (If I wanted to know Ms. Steinem's views, I
would read "Ms." magazine.)
Finally, in regards to my comments on the Buddhist
nun, I am sorry that I brought her up. I was NOT
criticizing what she said. (I thought what she
said was fine.) My point was why quote a Buddhist
in a Christian publication when there are so many
Christian authors to choose from? I have read Buddhist
magazines and I have yet to see an article by Billy
Graham or Jim Wallis in any of them.


Jill Ginsberg of Port Angeles, Washington, wrote:

I was horrified to see that Chris Beach had
misinterpreted my comments in the last issue of
SojoMail and believes I was advocating "healing"
for gays and lesbians. Homosexuality is not a
disease, and gays and lesbians need respect for
who they are, not a "cure." The groups that promote
such "cures" are misguided at best and add to the pain
which is so much a part of the lives of gays and
lesbians and the people who love us. I suggest that
Chris Beach (and his best friend) read Mel White's
book "Stranger at the Gate" for a moving account of a
prominent evangelical Christian's life as a gay man.


Bernard Adeney-Risakotta of Yogyakarta, Indonesia, wrote:

Brief note on the latest "Sojopoll." As a moderate
sports fan, I would  answer "none of the above" to
the options offered on your poll. I prefer to watch
sports over most things offered on TV because it is
real drama played out in real time. It is facinating
to see the strongest, fittest, and most gifted of us
pushing their limits with all their hearts and souls.
The mental struggle is even more interesting than
the physical. Yes, sports are also manufactured,
commercial entertainment, but the element of real
striving for high achievement against seemingly
impossible barriers is a drama that is more
interesting (and educational) than most of the
artificial stuff served up on TV. Of course, I'd
usually rather read a good book, have a good
conversation, or sleep.
Incidentally I enjoy watching soccer and badminton
on TV in Indonesia, in part because there are no
breaks in the action for commercials. Perhaps that
is one reason why these sports are not shown
much in the States. Like all polls, the "Sojopoll"
limits the way we name or define our reality, thereby
"creating" the reality we experience. Too bad.


Ron Greene of Spokane, Washington, wrote:

I want to vote for both of these...

[X] treasured bonding activity
[X] wholesome entertainment
Watching sports has been a treasured bonding
activity around wholesome entertainment for me
and one of my sons. I have to work harder to
find the same kind of activity to share with the
other son who doesn't care about sports. (But
Battlebots is becoming such an activity for us).


Vic Turner of Toledo, Ohio, wrote:

Several hearty "Amens" to Jim Wallis for his review
of "Temptation Island." Personally, I need no help
in gutting my part of this world "of genuine love,
caring, compassion, connection, and commitment."
I consider that most television programs are from

As for spectator sports, I did not vote in the poll.
I could not choose between "opium of the masses,"
"glorified violence," or "a huge waste of money."
Yet, having grown up with a consuming passion for
sports, I must admit that I occasionally still watch
football, hockey, and Tiger Woods. While I thank God
that He has taken sports from its prior position as
the lord of my life, I realize that He has more work
to do inside me in this area....


Phil Little of Toronto, Ontario, wrote:

As an observer from the far North, that is about all
I can offer to the people of the far South - an
observation. Last year we read much about the
election and installation of the illegitimate
President Alberto Fujimori in Peru. After being
exposed, he tried to resign while on a visit to
Japan, but the Peruvian congress instead preferred
to sack him for moral depravity. A bit further to
the north the long run of illegitimate presidents
in Mexico ended with the election of President
Vicente Fox. Does it not seem odd that given the
tendency towards legitimate elections, where
citizens are allowed to vote and ballots are
actually counted, the U.S.A. is about to accept
(possibly for the first time) an illegitimate
president without a mandate and without the
electoral support of the majority of those who
took the time to get out and vote? Never again
can the government of the U.S.A. speak to any
other nation in the world about free and fair
elections. What a betrayal of the American dream!


Dale McDonald of Rockaway, New Jersey, wrote:

Thank you so much for bringing the struggle of
Mumia Abu-Jamal to my attention. I do not know
how it stayed off my "radar screen" for so long.
But after reading Terry Bisson's Newsday
article it seem that another capital injustice
is on the verge of occurring.


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

***********************NEW on SojoNet************************

                      Discussion FORUMS
         Interactive online conversations, with weekly
             contributions 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
Martin Luther King Jr.: Law, violence, and change

In honor of Nobel Peace Prize winner
Martin Luther King Jr., on the occasion
of his birthday, we excerpt an interview
from a 1965 interview conducted by Alex
Haley that appeared in Playboy magazine.

Q: The kind of extremism for which you've been
criticized has to do not with love, but with
your advocacy of willful disobedience of what
you consider to be "unjust laws." Do you feel
you have the right to pass judgment on and defy
the law - nonviolently or otherwise?

KING: Yes - morally, if not legally. For there are
two kinds of laws: man's and God's. A man-made code
that squares with the moral law, or the law of God,
is a just law. But a man-made code that is
inharmonious with the moral law is an unjust law.
And an unjust law, as St. Augustine said, is no law
at all. Thus a law that is unjust is morally null
and void, and must be defied until it is legally null
and void as well. Let us not forget, in the memories
of six million who died, that everything Adolf Hitler
did in Germany was "legal," and that everything the
Freedom Fighters in Hungary did was "illegal." In
spite of that, I am sure that I would have aided
and comforted my Jewish brothers if I had lived in
Germany during Hitler's reign, as some Christian
priests and ministers did do, often at the cost of
their lives. And if I lived now in a Communist country
where principles dear to the Christian's faith are
suppressed, I know that I would openly advocate
defiance of that country's anti-religious laws - again,
just as some Christian priests and ministers are doing
today behind the Iron Curtain. Right here in America
today there are white ministers, priests, and rabbis
who have shed blood in the support of our struggle
against a web of human injustice, much of which is
supported by immoral man-made laws.
Q: You categorically reject violence as a tactical
technique for social change. Can it not be argued,
however, that violence, historically, has affected
massive and sometimes constructive social change in
some countries? 
KING: I'd be the first to say that some historical
victories have been won by violence; the U.S. Revolution
is certainly one of the foremost. But the Negro
revolution is seeking integration, not independence.
Those fighting for independence have the purpose to
drive out the oppressors. But here in America, we've
got to live together. We've got to find a way to
reconcile ourselves to living in community, one group
with the other. The struggle of the Negro in America,
to be successful, must be waged with resolute efforts,
but efforts that are kept strictly within the framework
of our democratic society. This means reaching, educating,
and moving large enough groups of people of both
races to stir the conscience of the nation.


T e c h   E t h i x
Religious thinkers question biotech research

Biotechnology met religion in Berkeley recently
as several hundred clerics, philosophers, and
geneticists got together for a day-long meeting
titled "Genetics and Justice."

Organized by the Center for Theology and the
Natural Sciences, an affiliate of Berkeley's
Graduate Theological Union, the Jan. 6
symposium spotlighted several issues arising from
new DNA technologies, including the potential for
discrimination based on genetic profiling of health
risks and the danger that pricey new techniques will
create medical haves and have nots....

Ted Peters, a professor at the Graduate
Theological Union and one of the organizers of the
event, took issue with what he called the "gene
myth," the notion that human beings are puppets
controlled by the chemical actions of their genes.
Peters said the notion of humans as gene-driven
machines could easily lead to tinkering with the

"If only we could get into that DNA with our
screwdrivers and wrenches," Peters said,
articulating what he called the temptation to "take
control of the human evolutionary future."[]

The full conference proceedings are available at:


W e b  S c e n e
Dumb laws

Did you know it's illegal to address a pig as
Napolean in France? That carrying an ice cream
cone in your back pocket is against the law in
Alabama? That kisses may not last more than
five minutes in Iowa? These and other strange laws
are featured at Look them up by
country, state, or city and stay on the right
side of the law - no matter how silly.

Go to:


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