The Common Good


Sojomail - February 9, 2001

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           Promoting values at the crossroads where
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++++++++++++++++++++ 9-February-2001 +++++++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k
     *I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus....

 H e a r t s  &  M i n d s
     *A key moment

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *Truths about growing old

 S o j o P o l l  
     *Can government and faith-based groups work together?

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Steve Earle visits death row

 F o r   M e r c y' s   S a k e
     *Got advice for a sad grandparent?

 P o l i t i c a l l y   C o n n e c t
     *Mapping world resources
     *Strange twist: Christian karma in India
     *Rose Berger's Colombia journals

 B o o m e r a n g
     *SojoMail readers divided over Jim Wallis' meeting with Bush

 P. O. V.
     *A riposte to Elie Wiesel on Jerusalem

 H e a r i n g  t h e  C a l l
     *John DiIulio to attend 5th annual Call to Renewal Summit

 B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
     *Slow're eating too fast

 W e b  S c e n e
     *Sustainable click-to-donate site
     *Independent bookstores cross Amazon


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


1) You believe in Santa Claus.
2) You don't believe in Santa Claus.
3) You are Santa Claus.
4) You look like Santa Claus.

              - Anonymous


H E A R T S  &  M I N D S
A key moment

by Jim Wallis

This week I met with Rep. Tony Hall of Ohio, a 
longtime friend of Call to Renewal. Tony has been 
picked by the House Democratic leadership to lead 
their response to President Bush's new faith-based 
and community initiative. A small group of us  
strategized together on how best to use this new 
moment to highlight and expand the work of faith 
communities in overcoming poverty.

The new attention being given to the work of faith-
based organizations has created a window of opportunity, 
along with potential dangers and pitfalls. The 
president's recent announcement of his new initiative 
has generated intense media coverage to the work many 
have been doing for a long time. So our upcoming Call 
to Renewal Summit, March 18-21, could not be happening 
at a better time!

Our message is that we are willing to become partners 
with the government, the business sector, and 
other nonprofits in developing real solutions to 
poverty -- and serious plans both to meet the immediate 
needs of our neighbors and to advocate for more just 
social policies. The two ministries are inseparable.

At the Summit, key leaders of churches and faith-based 
organizations from around the country will be gathering 
to develop new strategies for implementing Call's 
"Campaign to Overcome Poverty." Each of the seven planks 
of our campaign will be a track in the Summit, looking 
at best practices, policy and advocacy, networking and 
collaboration possibilities. 

On the final day, Wednesday, March 21, we will go to 
Capitol Hill. We're encouraging Summit participants to 
arrange a meeting with their member of Congress and/or 
senator to develop a new relationship. Tony told us that 
many of his colleagues really don't know the extent of 
poverty in their districts, nor are they aware of the 
work of churches and FBOs in overcoming it. These 
congressional visits can begin to inform our 

We will then come together for a briefing with Rep. Hall 
and other members of Congress from both parties to begin 
a real dialogue and to chart the path forward. In the 
legislation to implement the president's plan as well 
as on issues of the budget and tax cuts, it is important 
that our voices be heard.

If you are part of a church or faith-based effort working 
to overcome poverty, and are not already planning to 
attend the Summit, I urge you to do so. The beginning 
of a new Congress and administration is an excellent time 
to make our voices heard. This could be a key moment in 
our struggle against poverty. For further information 
about the Call to Renewal Summit and easy on-line 
registration, just go to

I look forward to seeing you in March.


F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
Great truths about growing old

*Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.
*Insanity is my only means of relaxation.
* stoop to tie your shoes and wonder what else
    you can do while you're down there.
*One of life's mysteries: how a 2-ounce bag of candy can make
    a person gain five pounds.
*I finally got my head together, and my body fell apart.
*There cannot be a crisis this week; my schedule is already full.
*Time may be a great healer, but it's also a lousy beautician.
*Age doesn't always bring wisdom. Sometimes age comes alone.
*Just when I was getting used to yesterday, along came today.
*Freedom of the press means no-iron clothes.

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

President Bush recently unveiled his new Office of Faith-
Based and Community Initiatives. Which phrase best 
approximates your attitude toward government partnerships 
with faith-based nonprofits?

[ ] Church and state don't mix. Each will be unduly influenced 
   by the other.
[ ] I support charities privately, but it's the government's 
   job to provide adequate social services.
[ ] As long as groups don't use government money for 
   proselytizing, there's no problem.
[ ] Faith-based organizations are our best hope for overcoming 
   poverty and deserve government support.
Vote your conscience at:

C u l t u r e  W a t c h
Death in Texas 

Country musician Steve Earle corresponded with
convicted murderer Jonathan Wayne Nobles for 10 years,
but met him for the first time just a month before 
Nobles was killed by lethal injection. Here Earle 
records his harrowing daily visits to prison, and the 
night he witnessed the execution of his friend....

"Hey, man." Jonathan Wayne Nobles grins through inch-thick
wire-reinforced glass, hunching over to speak in a deep,
resonant voice through the steel grate below. A feeble,
"What's up?" is the best I can manage. The visiting
area in Ellis One Unit is crowded with other folks who
have traveled, in some cases thousands of miles, to visit
relatives and correspondents on Texas's death row. They
sit at intervals in wooden chairs surrounding a cinder-
block and steel cage that dominates the center of the room.
There are cages within the cage as well, reserved for
inmates under disciplinary action and "death-watch" status.
Falling into the latter category, Jon must squeeze his
considerable bulk into one of these phone-booth-sized

It's an awkward moment for both of us. In the 10 years
we have corresponded, we have never met face to face.
Jonathan Nobles has precisely 10 days to live. And I,
at Jon's request, will attend the execution as one
of his witnesses. []

To read Steve Earle's entire account, go to:,4273,4121125,00.html


Confiscation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

Sojourners recently received the following notice from the
Florida Department of Corrections regarding the confiscation
of an inmate's copy of Sojourners magazine:

    Criteria in Section (2) of Rule 33-501.401
    "Admissable Reading Material," that authorizes
    IMPOUNDMENT or REJECTION of the publication:

    (2)(g) It is dangerously inflammatory in that
    it advocates or encourages riot, insurrection,
    disruption of the institution, violation of
    department or institution rules;

    (2)(k) It otherwise presents a threat to the
    security, good order, or discipline of the
    correctional system...

If you're into disrupting institutions and threatening
the good order, subscribe to Sojourners at:

    (By the way, we offer complimentary subscriptions to
           anyone incarcerated for any reason.)


F o r   M e r c y' s   S a k e
Got advice for a sad grandparent?

Dear SojoMail friends:

Does anyone have any advice for an aching-
hearted parent and grandparent? My 23-year-
old daughter has forbidden me from taking her
son to Sunday school and children's worship,
saying she doesn't want him "brainwashed
by hypocrites" like she thinks she was. Her
main issues are feminism, environmentalism, and
justice for the poor. She says it is much worse
to prohibit abortion than to allow women and
children all over the world to be abused and
neglected, that abortion in the 2/3 world
is the lesser of two evils very often. I feel
so torn, because my parents and husband are
staunch Republicans. As an evangelical Christian
I'm totally with them, but yet politically I'm
with my daughter and the Green Party. What's
worse, I believe that if all of us would just
get to know Jesus better, we'd all be evangelical
Christian Greens.

Marjorie Gray
Greenbelt, Maryland


P o l i t i c a l l y   C o n n e c t

A look at the world's distribution of resources
via a NASA satellite image of the world 
(warning: It's a big file!):


Politician who saw God's hand in
Gujarat quake forced to resign

New Delhi: A member of the government of the state of
Karnataka, in southern India, has been forced to resign
after claiming that the earthquake that killed tens of
thousands of people in the western Indian state of
Gujarat last week was God's punishment for atrocities
against Christians. T. John, a civil aviation minister
in Karnataka's state government and a member of the
Orthodox church, has handed in his resignation after
widespread criticism and protests by Hindus angry at
his interpretation. [Ecumenical News International]


The Colombia journals
Sojourners assistant editor Rose Marie Berger
recently returned from a 10-day fact-finding
mission to Colombia with Witness for Peace
(a faith-based movement that has been in
Latin America since 1983). This is the second
installment of her diary highlights in SojoMail.

DAY TWO: No Place to Lay His Head

Hector Mondragon is a member of the Teusaquillo
Mennonite Church in Colombia. He is also the former
adviser to the National Indigenous Organization of
Colombia. His life has not been his own since
November 1998, when his name appeared on a paramilitary
hit list with 12 others for their work supporting
indigenous claims against the oil interests in Colombia -
particularly Occidental and BP Amoco.

Every day he receives a death threat. His hands tremble
as he reads the morning paper. He jumps when someone
comes quickly out of the kitchen. His eyes are bloodshot
and constantly shifting, scanning.

"There are two kinds of genocide happening in Colombia,"
he says. "There is social genocide and selective political
genocide. In 2000, the amount of massacres exceeded one
each day and the people who work to change this are selectively
assassinated. In one case a group of youth were killed
for working on an ecology program with indigenous groups.
The people were massacred by the paramilitaries. They were
tied up in the town square...tortured...their limbs were
cut off...then they were dragged to the altar of the
church and killed while the paramilitaries danced drunk
around them. The army and navy had secured the area.
Even the archbishop has said nothing about this."

I ask him if he thinks he and his colleagues suffer from
post-traumatic stress. He asks in return if there is a
time limit on this kind of stress. I say no. He says,
"I was tortured 20 years ago by a general who graduated
from the School of the Americas. It feels like it was
yesterday. The violence has gone on here for 52 years."
Mondragon says, "You have four ways to live in Colombia 
today. One, you can leave. Two, you can live like a
gypsy and never sleep in the same bed twice. Three, you
can hire armed guards. Four, you can die." And yet he
has a visage that pours forth light and joy. []

For more information on human rights in Colombia,
see the Washington Office on Latin America's January
2001 report at:

Support Witness for Peace's Colombia project at:


The Poverty and Race Research Action Council (PRRAC)
and the Network of Educators on the Americas (NECA)
invite you to submit materials for "Putting the
Movement Back Into Civil Rights Teaching," a K-12
curriculum guide, to be followed by a series of
professional development institutes for classroom
teachers. The expected publication date is summer 2001.

For more information call 800-763-9131 or go to:

Please submit materials as soon as possible to:
NECA/Teaching for Change, PO Box 73038, Washington, DC


B o o m e r a n g

Gregory Fritzberg of Spokane, Washington, wrote:

I can't tell you what a service your sifting through
the faith/peace/justice-related top stories daily on
SojoNet [] is for me as a college professor.
Please keep doing it. Your organization is so helpful,
and the wire service is invaluable. I would grieve it
severely if it stopped. Thanks!


Marcus Dobb of Sydney, Australia, wrote:

I am sorry to say this, but Sojourners has
degenerated from a unique magazine to a mainstream
one, a shade of its former self. Polls on sport?
You must be kidding. In trying to appeal to everyone,
you'll only appeal to no one. Sojourners is still
responsible for many great things, however, the
Sojourners of 5-10 years ago was visionary and
fearless. Today it is tired and self-satisfied.

Perhaps you could not indulge those letter-writing
crusaders, puffed up with moralism, who demonise
everything from Harry Potter to television and sport.
Their relentless focus on trivial issues has
deflected attention from the broader questions of
what's wrong with our culture: banality of the most
dispiriting sort. 

There are enough forums for narrow-minded fundamentalists,
so please let this remain one of the few refuges from
the mindless secularism on the one hand and the
misguided zealotry on the other.


Lois Lorentzen of San Francisco, California, wrote:

-Give Bush a Chance to appoint an anti-environmentalist
as steward of our dwindling natural resources, parks,
wild lands, forests, and waterways.

-Give Bush a Chance to destroy the Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge. To convince us that our appetite for
non-sustainable energy is our natural (God-given?)

-Give Bush a Chance to convince us that warnings
about global warming stem from bad science.

-Give Bush a Chance to appoint someone who resists
the laws of the land to uphold them.

-Give Bush a Chance to undermine population reduction
programs in other countries.

-Give Bush a Chance to demonstrate how a poor child can
translate a $1,500 voucher into tuition at a $10,000-
25,000 a year private school.

-Give Bush a Chance to show how other states can achieve
the level of executions now found in the state of Texas.

-Give Bush a Chance to convince us that the rich
need greater tax cuts.

-Give Bush a Chance to demonstrate that affirmative
action did not provide increased opportunities for ethnic
minorities and women.

-Give Bush a chance to increase the military budget.


Herb Buwalda of South Bend, Indiana, wrote:

It is sad when those on either the Left or Right of
political persuasion cannot be patient and give a person
a chance, but instead must assume that everything is
rhetoric and without merit. If more liberally minded
persons were fair, they would give the new president
the opportunity to push forward these statements on
poverty into real programs, rather than begin to bash
him simply because he is conservative. Is it about
what we believe and what agenda we propose, or is it
always about whose side you are on, and which party
gets the credit?

I applaud you for your fair reporting, your patient
"wait-and-see" outlook. I have a hunch there are some
in the boat with you politically that put a higher
premium on Bush failing, rather than on what is good
for the poor.


Raymond Moreland of Baltimore, Maryland, wrote:

I have been a reader of Sojourners for years. I have
great respect for Jim Wallis and all that he has worked
for over the years. But I am deeply troubled by his
warming up to the new administration. I fear a trap is
being laid by the Far Right which will quiet and neuter
the prophetic voice of Sojourners. Trust must be earned
and at this point, I do not trust Mr. Bush and his team,
such as John Ashcroft, Gail Norton, and others. I am
questioning Jim's apparent cozy relationship due to these
meetings with Bush. And I am not sure that maybe the
prophetic voice is strong enough from Sojourners any
more....Where are the Isaiahs, Jeremiahs, and Amoses
when you need them?


Lewis Green of Lynnwood, Washington, wrote:

As a full-time social justice activist, I care most
about peace through justice, and have learned through
35 years of doing this work that arrogance and elitism
do not lead to social and culture change.

My congratulations and thanks to Jim Wallis for
meeting with George W. Bush. We should meet with
anyone, anytime, if we are to find successes in our
struggle for peace through justice. To do otherwise,
limits our ability to be successful and to change minds.


Debbie Conley of Fenton, Missouri, wrote:

I believe as much as the next person that we need
to give people a chance, but when their history has
proven to be in favor of the rich and building up
the military industrial complex, I would seriously
question their proposition. As Ernest Hemingway
used to say, "Never mistake motion for action."
That includes rhetoric from politicians.

If the religious leaders are lured by the government's
money, I would be very concerned about who they would
be beholden to. If they think this will be money with
no strings attached, maybe they should take a look at
the grip and strong thread that corporations have on
the government. Is a government that is in the pocket
of the corporations, whose main concern is the bottom
line, someone we would want subsidizing our charities?

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



P. O. V.

A riposte to Elie Wiesel on Jerusalem

by Israel Shamir

The touching words of Elie Wiesel ("Jerusalem in
My Heart," NYT 1/25/2001) painted a beautiful
portrait of the Jewish people, yearning for
Jerusalem, loving and praying for it over the
centuries and cherishing its name from generation
to generation....

Elie, the Jerusalem that you write of so
movingly is not now and never has been desolate.
She has lived happily across the centuries in
the embrace of another people, the Palestinians of
Jerusalem, who have taken good care of her. They
made her the beautiful city she is, adorned her with
a magnificent piece of jewelry, the Golden Dome of
Haram al Sharif, built their houses with pointed
arches and wide porches and planted cypresses and
palm trees.... If you must continue to ask why the
Palestinians want Jerusalem ... Because she belongs
to them, because they live there, and it is their
hometown. Granted, you dreamed about her in your
remote Polish hamlet. So did many people around the
world. She is so wonderful and certainly worth
dreaming about.

[But] those who love Jerusalem are legion.... It is
holy to billions of believers: Catholic,
Protestant, and Eastern Christians, Sunni and Shia
Moslems, thousands of Hassidic and Sephardic Jews.
Still, as a city, Jerusalem is not different from any
place in the world; she belongs to her citizens.

Twenty more years of Zionist control of this ancient
city would turn her into just another Milwaukee and
forever ruin her charm. Jerusalem needs to be restored
to its inhabitants. The seized properties in Talbieh and
Lifta, Katamon, and Malcha should be returned to their
owners. Professor Wiesel, respect the Gentile property
rights as you would like Gentiles to respect your right
to your lovely house. The holy sites of Jerusalem are
regulated by the 150-year-old international (Status Quo)
that should not be tampered with. The last attempt to touch
it caused the siege of Sevastopol and the charge of the
light brigade at Balaclava. The next attempt could
cause the nuclear war.

Israel Shamir lives in Tel Aviv and writes
a weekly column in the Vesti, the biggest
Russian-language paper in Israel. He can be
reached at

H e a r i n g  t h e  C a l l 

Call to Renewal's Summit, "Facing the Divide, Mobilizing 
Networks to Overcome Poverty" (March 18-21), will prepare 
activists to talk with legislators on Capitol Hill before 
returning home.

For two and a half days, Summit participants will hear 
experts such as Robert Edgar and Marian Wright Edelman 
discuss national campaigns like the National Council of 
Churches' Mobilization to Overcome Poverty and the 
Children's Defense Fund's faith-based initiatives. John 
DiIulio will lead a plenary conversation on policy 
implications in the era of expanded partnerships between 
faith-based organizations and government.

In networking sessions, national and local experts will work 
with policy analysts to identify best practices, advocacy 
possibilities, and opportunities for networking together after 
the Summit. Summit participants will then take those ideas 
into the House and Senate office buildings on Wednesday 
morning, March 21.  

For more information or to register for the Summit, call 
1-800-523-2773 or visit


B u i l d i n g  a  M o v e m e n t
Slow Down, You're Eating Too Fast
(You Gotta Make the Moment Last)

Dedicated to slowing down the culinary pace of a fast-food-
frenzied world and protecting the treasures of regional foods
increasingly threatened by the homogenizing impact of
agribusiness, Slow Food was started - where else? - in Italy,
in the mid-1980s as a response to - what else? - the opening
of the first McDonald's restaurant at the foot of Rome's
famous Spanish Steps.

"It completely inspired me," says Evan Kleiman, who went to
one of Slow Food's main events - the Salone di Gusto, a food
fair held in Italy every two years that features produce and
products of small, artisan-type food producers from around
the world. 

"There was a political message that's sort of inherent in Slow
Food that was completely appealing to me," she says. "It's
about how we perceive our culture, the idea that if we want
to protect our culture and our humanity, then we will protect
our food."...

The point is to put people in touch with food and the
farmers who produce it - both to help build connections
between consumers and regional producers and also to teach
something of the traditions and culture that surround the

"I see it as a kind of food activism," says Jordan Vannini, a
member of the Los Angeles "convivium," a local chapter of the 
organization, who helped organize the wild boar dinner at 
Flora Bella Farm. "I'm excited about the idea that there's a 
counterforce out there to a society that has become dependent 
and interdependent on mass food production." 

Savor the whole story at:


W e b  S c e n e
Sustainable Click-to-Donate?

Unlike many click-to-donate sites,
helps make possible self-employment microloans,
giving poor people "a hand up, not a hand out." Find out
more at:


Independent Bookstores Online

Would you rather support local indy bookstores than some
online jungle? gives you the convenience of
online shopping while allowing you to support locally owned
stores in your area. Visit:


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