The Common Good


Sojomail - January 26, 2001

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

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

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++++++++++++++++++++ 26-January-2001 +++++++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k
     *George Bernard Shaw: Irrational exuberance

 H e a r t s  &  M i n d s
     *Give Bush a chance

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *Will Jesus appear at the Super Bowl halftime?

 S o j o P o l l
     *Does the media treat religion fairly?

 G i v e   M e   T h a t   R e a l   T i m e   R e l i g i o n
     *And God said: Let there be Net
     *Catholic church recruits clergy online

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Raymond Chandler's 10 commandments for the detective novel

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

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *In search of spiritual guides

 P o l i t i c a l l y   C o n n e c t
     *Gringos protest Plan Colombia in Bogota
     *Interview with Chiapas indigenous leader

 H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l
     *Call to Renewal's 5th annual Summit

 W e b  S c e n e
     *Eggplant conspiracy and all that "Jazz"


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

"Reasonable people adapt themselves to the
world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt
the world to themselves. All progress, therefore,
depends on unreasonable people."

       - George Bernard Shaw, playwright



 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, 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
Give Bush a chance
by Jim Wallis 

I didn't vote for George W. Bush, and didn't agree 
with the way this election was finally decided. 
But I liked the new president's inaugural address. 
I thought it was a great speech, in tone and 
content. Sure, it was only a speech, and critics 
are already saying he didn't mean the things 
he said or won't do anything about them.

I say let's give him a chance, and help him turn his 
words into reality.  The nation needs a little faith 
right now - the kind that brings people together to 
find solutions.

When faith-based leaders met with President-elect 
Bush before Christmas, we pressed him to make 
poverty, especially among children, a major 
priority in his inaugural address. He did. I 
asked him to surprise us, and I think he did 
that too. Indeed, the moral contradiction of 
poverty and a mission to overcome it was one 
of his central themes. 

"While many of our citizens prosper, others doubt the 
promise - even the justice - of our own country," the new 
president said. He spoke of how the "ambitions of some 
Americans are limited by failing schools and hidden 
prejudice and the circumstances of their birth. And 
sometimes our differences run so deep, it seems we 
share a continent, but not a country."  To these 
divisions in our society, Bush responded, "We do 
not accept this, and will not allow it."

I can't remember a conservative Republican or, for 
that matter, a Democrat talking as much about poverty 
in an inaugural address. Bush kept coming back to it. 
"In the quiet of American conscience, we know that 
deep, persistent poverty is unworthy of the nation's 
promise," he said, making this a moral issue, not 
just a political one. And he disarmed the old liberal/
conservative debate by going on to say, "whatever our 
views of its cause, we can agree that children at 
risk are not at fault." I loved that line. 

When Bush asked us in Austin how to speak to the 
nation's soul, we encouraged him to talk about our 
children. On Saturday, he said children are one of 
those "commitments that set us free. Where there 
is suffering, there is duty," he said. "Americans 
in need are not strangers, they are citizens; not 
problems, but priorities; and all of us are 
diminished when any are hopeless." 

In his inaugural address, the new president said 
honestly, "Many in our country do not know the pain 
of poverty. But we can listen to those who do. And 
I can pledge our nation to a goal: When we see that 
wounded traveler on the road to Jericho, we will not 
pass to the other side."

For those who are concerned that this administration 
will leave the work of overcoming poverty to faith-based 
organizations, I didn't hear that. The Republican 
president said government has "great responsibilities," 
naming "public safety," "public health," "civil rights," 
and "common schools." And I agree with him that 
"compassion is the work of a nation, not just a government." 
But without a proper role for government, Bush could not 
make the "solemn pledge" he made on Saturday: "I will 
work to build a single nation of justice and opportunity."

These are good words from our new president. They will be 
tested by his administration's leadership and policies. 
But I think many of us are inclined to give President 
Bush a chance. If words don't turn into deeds, it won't 
be long before the new president hears the prophetic voice 
of the faith-based organizations who will be paraphrasing 
the prophet Amos, "Take away from me your empty words, 
but let justice roll down like waters, and 
righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."


F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
Touchdown Jesus

by Kathy Hedberg

I once slipped when I wrote that there is so much
hoopla surrounding the Super Bowl that if Jesus
Christ himself made his Second Coming in the middle
of the halftime show, the spectators would hardly
notice. People would just think it was part of the

It was hard to tell who I offended the most - Jesus'
defenders who maintained Jesus would never stoop so
low as to make his Second Coming during the Super Bowl.
Or the Super Bowl fans who claimed that Jesus'
interference in the Super Bowl was a clear violation
of the separation of church and state.

Since then I've come to realize that it was probably
silly to suggest Jesus would make an appearance in
the halftime show of the Super Bowl. Halftime is
reserved for great stars who can sing and dance.
Jesus would have to buy commercial time, like anybody
else. But I think Jesus would consider it risky to
show up at the Super Bowl. He would no doubt be
asked to pick a favorite team and that would be
tough, since they're all his children. Would he
side with the Baltimore Ravens, who have never won
a Super Bowl before and maybe deserve a break? Or
would the Lord go with the New York Giants and let
the Big Apple hog all the major sports championships
of the season? 

I'm not suggesting that Jesus is interested in the
Super Bowl. Everybody knows Jesus has got far more
important things to do than worry about sports, what
with the new Bush administration and all....But if
Jesus mixed it up a little with the NFL it might
not hurt.[]

*From SojoMail reader Kathy Hedberg's column in 
the Lewiston (Idaho) Morning Tribune.

******************NEW SOJOPOLL*******************************
In the current issue of Sojourners magazine, long-time 
religion writer John Dart asserts that the media's coverage 
of "the God beat" is steadily improving. Do you agree? 
Which answer best describes your views on the media and religion? 

[ ] Yes, the media usually get it right. Religion coverage 
is accurate and thorough. 
[ ] Yes, while there's room for improvement, coverage is 
better than it used to be. 
[ ] No, when the media don't ignore religious issues, 
they usually get it wrong. 
[ ] No way, media coverage almost always reflects an 
anti-religious bias. 

Vote now, and track the tally at:


G i v e   M e   T h a t   R e a l   T i m e   R e l i g i o n
And God said: Let there be Net
by Katie Dean 

In the fast-paced digital age, some believers
believe a basic church Web page is no longer
enough. That's why the Fellowship Church in
Grapevine, Texas, is changing its name to

The church, one of the largest in the country,
will launch a new Web site in February to mark
the transition. 

"We need to market the life-changing message of
Jesus Christ to the world," said Preston Mitchell,
pastor of spiritual development for "God created the Internet - he
is the one who gave us the ability as human beings
to do that. We have a responsibility to use what
God's created to reach people."

Not surprisingly, the site has raised the eyebrows
of several pastors around the country. When the site
is unveiled on Feb. 15, visitors will see "something
along the lines of MSN or Yahoo," including sports
scores, stock quotes, weather, maps - in addition
to daily Bible devotionals and church news, Mitchell

There will also be an e-commerce portion to the
Web site, where users can purchase religious books,
transcripts of sermons, or pay the requisite
fee to play on the church volleyball team.

"Anywhere the name is printed we're going to add
.com to the name," Mitchell said, including the
roof of the church. Mitchell, who is one of six
pastors on the church's "management team," explained
that the church's name is displayed on the roof
because they are located in the flight pattern of
the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.[]

To get the whole story, go to:,1294,41229,00.html


Catholic Church recruits clergy on the Net

by Willow Lawson

As the Catholic Church faces a shortage of priests
in the coming decades, at least 25 dioceses across
the United States have set up Web sites to attract
young men to the priesthood.

"It sounds like a business, but we're in competition
for the best and the brightest with medical
schools and law schools," says Father John Acrea,
recruitment coordinator at the Des Moines, Iowa,
Catholic diocese, where 84 priests serve a
congregation of about 100,000 people. "The Internet
is the way young people find information, so we have
to be there and get the word out," he says.[]

To get the whole story, go to:


C u l t u r e   W a t c h
Lit 101

Raymond Chandler's 10 commandments for the detective novel:

1. It must be credibly motivated, both as to the
   original situation and the denouement.
2. It must be technically sound as to the methods of
   crime and detection.
3. It must be realistic in character, setting, and
   atmosphere. It must be about real people in a real
4. It must have a sound story value apart from the mystery
   element; i.e., the investigation itself must be an
   adventure worth reading.
5. It must have enough essential simplicity to be explained
   easily when the time comes.
6. It must baffle a reasonably intelligent reader.
7. The solution must seem inevitable once revealed.
8. It must not try to do everything at once. If it is a
   puzzle story operating in a rather cool, reasonable
   atmosphere, it cannot also be a violent adventure
   or a passionate romance.
9. It must punish the criminal in one way or another, not
   necessarily by operation of the law....If the
   detective fails to resolve the consequences of the crime,
   the story is an unresolved chord and leaves irritation
   behind it. 
10. It must be honest with the reader.


B o o m e r a n g

Joan Forman of Redondo Beach, California, wrote:

Richard Wigton is not enlightened. If he is truly
a Christian, he would be open to the myriad of
beliefs that exist. Most of all he would be
accepting. To have only Christian views in SojoMail,
as he suggests, is actually detrimental; it would
be focused without vision of the entirety of human
thought and experience.

I am not a Christian but I enjoy reading this
publication. I seek wisdom, which comes from many
sources, including Sojourners. I realize Richard
Wigton objects to a woman's right to choose....I
suggest he widen his perspective; then he could
discover much, even become sympathetic to the needs
of those who have critical decisions that require
support instead of castigation. Gloria Steinem's
feminist views are not the issue; Richard Wigton's


Kari Stoel of Grand Rapids, Michigan, wrote:

I wonder if Mr. Richard Wigton really understands
Praise the Lord that Mr. Wigton, like myself, has
accepted God's claim on his life and is part of the
family of God! I realize, however - and I hope Mr.
Wigton does too - that this salvation does not make
me any less of a cracked pot than Gloria Steinem.
I do not deserve to be God's instrument any more
(or any less) than she does. Ms. Steinem probably
doesn't recognize it as such when God uses her words
to change a mind or a heart, or spur someone on to a
greater respect for women. And of course we have a
responsibility to be discerning about what anyone
says - whether it's Steinem or Hugh Hefner or James
Dobson or George W. Bush. But who are we to put a
limit on God's grace in this way by proclaiming
that an advocate of a woman's right to choice (or a
Buddhist nun or whomever you want to talk about)
has nothing of value whatsoever to say to us?


Phyllis Albritton of Blacksburg, Virginia, wrote:

Re: The PEW forum that Jim Wallis went to:

Research is showing that the vast majority of
people in our country want a "feel good" church,
with very little emphasis on the prophetic. People
do not want to be disturbed. This was born out in
this year's decisions by the leadership of my own
church, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which was
very disappointing - the voting that took place
that de-emphasized social justice.

And yet, some hope: Have you heard about the
National Council of Churches new pilot program:
Micah 6 churches? VERY, VERY hopeful for me.
Churches taking that passage and becoming all
three - through study, reflection, and action.


Matthew Moore of Japan wrote:

Everything mentioned in a poll of the public in
the recent "Hearts and Minds" about religion can
certainly be said truthfully. Religion can beef up
morals and can also be a volatile mix with politics.
It seems, though, that these views are typical of the
key misunderstanding of religion, or belief, in a
Christian sense at least.
Recently here in Japan, some scholarly gentlemen were
discussing the "usefulness" of religion in an
intellectual forum about the future of science as we
move into the next century. They, too, thought
religion could "help us" feel secure about meaningless
events in our life, just as it can "help us" develop
our moral fortitude. I hope, though, that people would
some day understand that true belief in Christ isn't
a "help," like a morning cup of coffee. Belief in God
is a complete rebirth! Religion might help us live
life, but belief is new life. New sight. New wine.


Mike Airhart of Washington, D.C., wrote:

Thank you for citing the Multinational Monitor
ratings of the "10 worst corporations" of 2000.
Such ratings of the corporate right are a good
start, but to stop there might excuse the wrongs
of the left. It would be interesting to see an
account of injustices not only by multinationals,
but also by those union locals, government agencies,
and protest groups who - contrary to their stated
values - bred lower wages, inefficiency, incompetence,
pollution, unsafe conditions, and civil unrest.

I also wish the left would go beyond complaints
about what's wrong, to offer constructive
alternatives. How about ratings for the 10 best
multinationals, the 10 best union locals, and 10
best government agencies, and the 10 best protest


Leonard Campbell of Center Harbor, New Hampshire, wrote:

I don't want to judge a book by the first cover,
but one of the comments made in the new Sojourners
included a reference to the original Sojourners.
I have some of them around. I look at the fervor
and the content and I'm reminded of a comment about
yesterday's radicals. I hope you won't become today's
conservatives. Form and content usually do find
an equilibrium.


Chris Pieper of Austin, Texas, wrote:

I join the chorus of readers who applaud the
remodeling of Sojourners. The new feel and
attitude invite a different category of reader,
and adds a freshness to the reading experience.
No doubt this bold new step will reap benefits.

I was disheartened, however, to see that part of
the renovation effort included a regrettable step
backward in taste. A house ad for subscriptions
featured an empty roll of toilet paper with the
caption "Need more?" As a person who deals in
marketing and public relations efforts everyday,
it is not clear to me what the objective of this
advertisement was, nor why the use of bathroom
allusions was warranted. Readers are left with the
unavoidable message that your magazine is akin
to Charmin, and could be regarded with equal
merit. At the very least, readers like me are
puzzled as to why a magazine of "faith, politics,
and culture" would invoke such images in its
pages, while simultaneously decrying the decline
of decency in our media culture. If such an ad
appeared in Esquire or Cosmo, I would be disturbed,
but not surprised.  When it appeared in Sojourners,
I was both.

I love your magazine and look forward to each
issue, but I sincerely hope that the "new Sojo"
is not jumping on the hipper-than-thou bandwagon
at the expense of the values that it has advocated
for the last 30 years.


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



S o u l   W o r k s
The hungry spirit: In search of spiritual guides

by Nancy Hastings Sehested

Spirituality is definitely a growth industry. Check
out your local bookstore and you are sure to find
many books that will tell you about spirituality.
Spiritual classics are sold right alongside bits of
chicken soup for your soul. You're sure to find
angels on every shelf. If you are short on time,
look for some soul nourishment while shopping for
body nourishment. You can toss some books on
feeding your soul right on top of your mound of

When I lead retreats, I ask the adults to describe
spirituality. Words are offered like "righteous,"
"compassionate," "faithful," "having a relationship
with God." Then I ask them to name people that they
would describe as "spiritual." The most frequently
mentioned names are Mother Teresa, Billy Graham,
Gandhi, Pope John Paul, Colin Powell, Jimmy Carter,
and, oh yes, Jesus. Rare is the group who
name themselves as "spiritual people."

Even with all of these helpful hints, I still find
spirituality hard to define. It has as many different
meanings as the word "God." It has been snatched by
the market place, and done damage when represented
as an ethereal otherworldliness that ends up
diminishing human beings and neglecting the planet
we inhabit.

I am not ready to claim a particular definition, but
this much I know: It will take more than chicken soup
to get us through these times.

The ancient Christian mystics pictured the soul with
two eyes - one looking to the eternal and the other
looking to the temporal. This was no cross-eyed view
of the world, but an illustration of balance.
Our soul is not in need of chicken soup or aerobic
exercises. Our soul is in need of attention. It helps
to have guides to train our eyes to see, to hold our
gaze on the interweaving of body and spirit, God
and world.[]

To read the entire article as it appears in
Sojourners (Jan-Feb 2001), go to:


P o l i t i c a l l y   C o n n e c t
Gringos protest Plan Colombia in Bogota

by Dennis Grammenos
Colombian Labor Monitor

A rare spectacle greeted drivers as they zoomed
by one of the most fortified complexes in the world.
A group of U.S. protestors were holding a demonstration
in front of the U.S. embassy in Bogota. The peaceful
protest was intended to denounce U.S. military aid to
Colombia, a country whose security forces have the
worst human rights record in the Western hemisphere.

It was a diverse group of protestors that included
professionals, students, and activists connected with
a number of U.S.-based peace and human rights
organizations. As part of the protest, members of
the group laid fruit and flowers in front of the
main gate to the fort-like embassy. Prayers were
accompanied by a press conference.

"We do not believe that helicopters will resolve
the problem of poverty in Colombia, nor the great
problem of drug addiction in the United States,"
said Witness for Peace representative Gail Phares.
Phares, an organizer of the demonstration, has
a history of peace activism that includes protesting
against U.S. intervention in Central America during
the eighties, especially the assistance to the
Nicaraguan "contras."

This was the first protest by North Americans in
front of the U.S. embassy in Bogota, according to
sources. A wave of protests and other public events
is expected in the U.S. in the coming weeks, to draw
attention to the role of the U.S. government
in escalating the conflict in Colombia. Under the
guise of fighting a "war on drugs," the U.S. has
been arming and training the Colombian military.
For its part, the Colombian military and the right-
wing death squads it sponsors have been responsible
for thousands of civilian deaths. Unionists have
been a major target for the assassins. More than
half of all unionists killed worldwide each year
are killed in Colombia.[]


Interview with Chiapas indigenous leader

Recently Witness for Peace interviewed Antonio
Gutierrez Pérez, a member of Civil Society "Las
Abejas." Las Abejas is an indigenous faith-based
organization committed to working nonviolently
for peace in Chiapas. The Abejas have been
particularly affected by the "low-intensity" war in
Chiapas, including the massacre of 45 people in
1997 and the internal displacement of many of Las
Abejas' membership. Many, including Antonio, point
to changes to the Mexican constitution affecting
land rights as a major root of the conflict. The
Mexican government was obligated to make these
changes in order to qualify for entrance into
NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement).

To read the interview go to:


H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l
Facing the divide: 
Mobilizing networks to overcome poverty

Call to Renewal's 5th Annual Summit will take
place March 18-21 in Washington, D.C. This 
year's Summit will focus on networking
around the seven planks in CTR's Covenant to
Overcome Poverty (Living Family Income, Dismantling
Racism, Schools That Work, Affordable Quality
Healthcare, Safe Neighborhoods, Family-Friendly
Policies/Programs, and Safe Affordable Housing.)

Summit participants will be able to choose one
of the planks and then follow it through the
Summit in a series of focused networking sessions.
This unique opportunity will enable people doing
direct service in their communities to compare
notes and discuss practices with those doing
policy and advocacy work at the state and
national levels.

Joining us for Summit 2001 will be: Marian
Wright Edelman, Jim Wallis, Carrie Bolton, Sharon
Daly, Yvonne Delk, John DiIulio, Carmen Guerrero,
Robert Edgar, Representative Tony Hall, Michael Mata,
Ken Medema, and others.

Summit 2001 will culminate with a breakfast on
Capitol Hill. We'll meet with lawmakers and
representatives of the new administration to
insist that overcoming poverty be at the heart
of the nation's agenda.

To find out more about the summit, or to register, go to:

or call the Call to Renewal office at 1-800-523-2773.


W e b  S c e n e
The Eggplant Conspiracy

Find out how this sinister fruit, masquerading
as a vegetable, is formulating a plan for world
domination. Go to:

PBS: Jazz

Like the music that is the subject of Ken Burns'
"Jazz" documentary currently airing on PBS, this
companion Web site definitely swings. Head over
to the Jazz Lounge to learn about musical concepts
and various jazz styles through articles, interactive
presentations, and audio clips. Also included are
timelines, artist biographies, lists of recommended
recordings, historical background, and a kids'
section. Go to:


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