The Common Good


Sojomail - March 2, 2001

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           Promoting values at the crossroads where
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++++++++++++++++++++ 2-March-2001 +++++++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k
     *Letting reform get out of hand

 H e a r t s  &  M i n d s
     *Ashes to ashes

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *A short history of medicine

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Play featuring a gay Jesus sparks controversy

 P o l i t i c a l l y   C o n n e c t
     *Palestinian priest wins peace prize
     *Member of Congress seeks a more diverse World Bank

 S o j o P o l l
     *SojoNet readers: tax cut a rotten deal

 B i z   E t h i x
     *FedEx gets environmental

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

 B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
     *Lending a hand to Indonesia

 H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l
     *Charitable Choice foes agree to disagree

 P. O. V.
     *Social work professor says Bush plan is 'blind faith'

 C o l o m b i a  J o u r n a l
     *Into the war zone

 W e b  S c e n e
     *Just the facts
     *Religion and the arts
     *Your weight on other planets


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

A reformer sees a duty and then
overdoes it.                   
                    - Anonymous


H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
Ashes to ashes

by Jim Wallis

From ashes you have come, to ashes you shall 
return. Repent and follow Christ. With these 
traditional words from the Ash Wednesday liturgy, 
the sign on the cross was placed on the foreheads 
of Sojourners staff members at our midday prayer 
service. But these special ashes came from a 
burned-out house on the West Bank, recently shelled 
by the Israeli army.

On the altar were many reminders of the violence and 
pain of this Lent in the Middle East where I had just 
spent eight days. There were pictures of a Palestinian 
family whose home had been hit by the bombs that now 
fall most nights, and photos of the inside of what used 
to be their house. There were rubber bullets and live 
ammunition I found on the ground in the conflicted city 
of Hebron where members of the Christian Peacemaker Team 
practice daily nonviolence at their own risk. There was a 
newspaper column by Amira Hass, a courageous Israeli 
journalist who writes passionately and eloquently about 
how her own government's policy of "closure" in the 
West Bank in Gaza has become a "great robbery" of 
Palestinian people's ordinary life. Along with other 
pieces of broken and charred buildings there was a 
plaque of the Sabeel Center, the Palestinian Christian 
organization that sponsored the conference that brought 
me to the Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. 
Symbolically, the beautiful plaque had cracked right 
down the middle during my return trip home.

I came to the Middle East with dramatic images in my 
mind: a picture of 12 year old Mohammed Al-Durrah shot 
dead by Israeli soldiers in his father's arms as the 
two cowered against a wall in Gaza. Last week, I drove 
through that fatal intersection, being told that if 
we stopped the soldiers would shoot. Forty-five 
minutes later, a bomb went off at the very spot we 
had just passed. I also carried to the Middle East 
the frightening image of an angry Palestinian mob 
raising a bloody fist in Rumallah while lynching 
two Israeli soldiers, just two days after the killing 
of little Mohammed.

All week long, I met and listened to courageous 
people, both Palestinian and Israeli, whose hearts 
are breaking but are working to end the terrible 
cycle of violence. We prayed, cried, and strategized 
together, believing against present political 
realities that violence can end. An Israeli peace 
leader, who has paid a heavy price, told me that 
Israel is now strong but still sees itself as a 
victim. He said, "Only when people no longer see 
themselves as victims do they become accountable." 
Naim Ateek, the Anglican and Palestinian theologian 
who was the host of our conference, passionately 
called all of us to follow the way of Jesus in the 
land of his birth and death.

So we began with the ashes.

See photos from the service in the Sojourners Scrapbook:


F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
A short history of medicine

I have an earache...

2001 B.C.E. - Here, eat this root.
1000 C.E.   - That root is heathen. Here, say this prayer.
1850 C.E.   - That prayer is superstition. Here, drink this potion.
1940 C.E.   - That potion is snake oil. Here, swallow this pill.
1985 C.E.   - That pill is ineffective. Here, take this antibiotic.
2001 C.E.   - That antibiotic is artificial. Here, eat this root.


The 2001 Congress on Urban Ministry, March 27-31, Chicago! 
A conference featuring dozens of workshops on justice ministry, 
community development, urban evangelism, arts, music, and more. 
Join Tony Campolo, Sister Helen Prejean, Jesse Jackson Jr., 
Cain Hope Felder, Robert Franklin, and many others. Contact 
SCUPE at,, or 312-726-1200. 


C u l t u r e  W a t c h
Much ado about something

By David O'Reilly 
Philadelphia Inquirer

A Temple University student who says school
officials ordered him to a psychiatric ward in
handcuffs for protesting a "blasphemous" campus
play about a homosexual Jesus-figure has become
a hero to conservative Christians across the

Michael Marcavage had been organizing a campus
protest against a two-day student performance of
"Corpus Christi" by Tony Award-winning playwright
Terrance McNally.

The play, which made its debut in Manhattan in
1998 to angry protests and tepid reviews, uses
graphic language and sex scenes to tell the story
of Joshua, a young American who discovers
that he is gay during his high school prom when
a friend, Judas, kisses him. After admitting that
he is "the son of God," Joshua performs miracles
and falls in love with Philip, an HIV-positive
hustler. At his trial, Pontius Pilate asks:
"Art thou the King of the Queers?"

McNally, who is gay, has said the play and the
Joshua character were inspired by Matthew
Shepard, a gay college student who was murdered
in Wyoming in 1998.

"I can't imagine why anyone would write such a
thing," said Marcavage, a Baptist. [ ]

For the full story, go to:

Read a review of the play "Corpus Christi" at
the provocative Christian e-zine from Australia, "Adam's


Director, Urban Ministry Program, Buffalo, NY

Houghton College seeks a Director of Urban
Ministry for inner city Buffalo. Responsibilities
include directing a certificate and associate-
degree granting program for urban ministers and
laypersons and teaching one course per semester
in Houghton's undergraduate program. For full
description see:


P o l i t i c a l l y   C o n n e c t
Palestinian Priest Wins Niwano Peace Prize

Elias Chacour honored for peace education
among Jewish, Muslim, and Christian youth
in Israel.

Elias Chacour, a Roman Catholic priest from
Galilee, was named as the winner of the 18th
Niwano Peace Prize. The prize, which includes a
certificate, a medal, and 20 million yen
(almost $200,000), will be presented to 61-year-
old Father Chacour on May 10 at a ceremony in
Tokyo. The awarding of the prize to a
Palestinian who preaches peace seems intended
by the Niwano Foundation to send a message to
all parties to end the violence in Jerusalem 
and beyond.

[Chacour] pointed out that God did not belong to
Christians alone nor to any other single community.
"God is not a tribal God," he said. "Not being
tribal, God can no more be the God of Israel or
[of] the church or even [of] Christianity," he
said. "We do not have a monopoly over God or
the Holy Spirit." [ ]

For the entire story on Chacour and his prize, go to:


Diversify the World Bank

By Rep. Cynthia McKinney
Letter to the Editor
Financial Times

The revelations about the World Bank's woeful state
of staff morale, coming amid reports of protests at
the Davos economic forum and in Porto Alegre, Brazil,
contained two important lessons.

First, some of the "malaise" that pervades the Bank
is undoubtedly due to its failure to achieve its
mission of poverty alleviation, a fact being made
ever clearer by mounting street protests and outcries
from developing nations. As the impact of many of
the World Bank Group's projects and policies is
further scrutinised, what is increasingly emerging
is mass dislocation of the poor, environmental
degradation, a persistent lack of poverty alleviation,
and disintegration of social safety nets.

In addition, the Bank's recent budget cuts and the
staff's perceived "atmosphere of fear" exacerbate
its inability or unwillingness to incorporate the
proper safeguards into projects, to provide adequate
supervision and monitoring, and when necessary, to
reject project proposals that violate its own
environmental and social protections....

It is time for the World Bank president to break
down the Bank's historical emphasis on getting loans
out of the door at any cost, to aggressively weed
out corruption at all levels, and to purge the Bank
of those senior level decision-makers who perpetuate
this culture. Furthermore, the Bank's staff should
be more reflective of the peoples and cultures it
purports to serve. 

There are 300m people of African descent living in
Latin America and they constitute as much as 40 per
cent of the region's poor. Yet, in spite of efforts,
the Bank has almost zero representation by Afro-
Latinos. Mr. Wolfensohn needs a diverse staff with
incentives to implement projects that adhere to
environmental and social safeguards and ultimately
to lead to success.

Cynthia McKinney, Congress of the United States,
House of Representatives, 124 Cannon Building,
Washington, DC 20515, USA

***********************SojoPoll Results************************

SojoNet readers showed clear opposition to President
Bush's proposal for a $1.6 trillion tax cut. Here
are the latest results:

63%  It's fuzzy math. It mostly benefits the rich and will
     come at the expense of important programs.

18%  It's a risky scheme. We'll end up with exploding
     deficits-just like the Reagan years.

10%  A tax cut is fine, but this administration should focus
     on other priorities.

9%  It's about time! Tax cuts will stimulate the economy
     and benefit everyone.
cast your vote at:


B i z  E t h i c s
FedEx gets environmental

Now if they'll just give back the Orange Bowl...

FedEx Express asked auto manufacturers this week
to submit proposals for a commercial delivery truck
that has 90 percent less emissions and is 50 percent
more fuel-efficient than current models. The delivery
giant has been working with the Alliance for
Environmental Innovation since spring 2000 to 
figure out how to make its truck fleet more
environmentally friendly.

For more on the story, go to:


New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty seeks grassroots 
organizer/fundraiser to work with diverse organizations 
to develop & carry out statewide program to abolish 
capital punishment. EOE. Applications from people of 
color welcome. Spanish helpful. Salary range $30-45K BOE. 
Send letter, resume, writing sample and references to: 
Search Committee, New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty, 
40 North Main Avenue, Albany, NY 12203.


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

Edward Kent of Manhatten, New York, wrote:

I was reading something from a rabbinical list
today when something caught my eye: "...American
Jewry is moving away from performance of mitzvot."

The author of this clause was disputing this
claim. But it set me thinking about our various
national religious traditions. I recall an
article not long ago on our young Catholic priests-
in-training to the effect that they are turned off
by social action and inclined towards spiritual
and ritualistic things. And certainly the "social
gospel" concerns of American Protestantism have
faded to not much more than a whimper since the
civil rights era. Add my observations of my old
seminary (UTS) which used to be a center of
Protestant social justice concerns - Reinhold
Niebuhr, John Bennett and others - have been
turning inwards on the part of nice folks with
liberal dispositions, but mainly liturgical and
Bible studies as their forefront activities.

I made the observation to a good friend - a
crusading progressive Zionist of my generation -
that those of us who really care about
social justice seem to have gone secular....

Is there something inherent in empires that
pervert their religions and elevates the worst
human impulses to brutalize? The innate hubris of
unchecked power, perhaps? I recall all too well
Niebuhr's "neo-Orthodox" cautions about the Nazi
and Soviet totalitarian menaces. Were he still
around, might he be turning his Augustinian eye
upon our emerging Amerika? I suspect so.
Bombs away!


Juan Zuluanga of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, wrote:

I would like to comment on the "Colombia Journals."...
I very much applaud the interest of faith-based
communities for what is happening in Colombia; it
is extremely important that we can make bonds of
friendship and understanding with social
organizations in North America....

[But] the explanation of the Colombian conflict
as driven by the geopolitic ambitions of the U.S.
government, distracts our attention from another
factor that is much more powerful: the effects on
Colombian social institutions of the flow of money
from the drug trade due to the prohibitionist
strategy to curb the market of drugs. And it also
distracts from the obligation of Colombian society
to rebuild institutions and reaffirm the rule of law.
Faith-based organizations that sometimes have
supported prohibitionism should honestly confront
this issue. You surely must resist militaristic
policies from the U.S. government, but we challenge
you to engage in the much more difficult endeavor
of changing your cultural attitudes about drug


Jim Holsen of St. Louis, Missouri, wrote:

I agree with David Strand in his P.O.V. article
on same-sex marriage. He makes a good point when
he questions why the right to a civil marriage is
determined by sacramental standards. And it was
interesting to see how those standards have changed
through the years as people of both different faiths
and different races have gained the right to marry.

My take on gays coming out of the closet is that
any change brings conflict. There were bound to be
people who had both emotional and philosophical
objections. But who would have thought that there
would be such an industry passing "defense of
marriage" statutes and warning against the
seductive allure of a homosexual agenda?


Dan Sweeton of Lebanon, Tennessee, wrote:

I cannot understand why so many people are getting
bent out of shape because former President Clinton
pardoned those criminals just before he left office.
Am I missing something? Isn't that how our fake
government of the people by the people and for the
people works? Politicians take campaign donations,
and then give favors in return. They all do it!


Alan Hatfield of Florey, Australia, wrote:

I am responding to Jim Wallis' column in Sojo Mail,
2/2/01. Given the existence of a highly conservative
government as an unpalatable fact, I thought the
issue, the situation, and your initial response were
shining lights to be greatly applauded.

I regard myself as a socially progressive Christian
(something I think it's relatively easier to be in
Oz than in Godzone) - very much in the Sojourners
mold. However I very much support your response
to George W's initiatives. Whether they are genuine
or not, they deserve the benefit of the doubt until
proved otherwise....

I am greatly offended by the conservative agenda
(we're right in the middle of it in Australia at
this time) that is pursued with religious fervour
regardless of plenty of genuine evidence against
the effectiveness of some of its main planks. But
if we are to retain credibility with ourselves we
have to be well beyond mindless responses ourselves.

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


**********************Sojourners New Issue*******************

The March-April issue of Sojourners magazine is now online!

     +Churches and the arts
     +Betty LaDuke's Africa-inspired paintings
     +Globalizing activism with Naomi Klein
     +Politicizing the hip-hop nation
     +A Republican for reparations
     +Death penalty moratorium momentum
     +Being prophetic on both sides of the White House fence
     +Culture Watch: when Darwin gets religion
     +and much, much more...
read it online at:


B u i l d i n g   A   M o v e m e n t
Lending a hand to Indonesia

Mercy Corps is embarking on an ambitious program
to help local Indonesian organizations improve
the living conditions of approximately 10,000
displaced families on Ambon and surrounding

Violence between Ambon's Christian and Muslim
populations has been ongoing since January 1999,
leaving approximately 250,000 residents of the
Malukan island displaced from their homes. More
than 50,000 people do not have access to minimal
and essential non-food items, adequate shelter,
and basic water and sanitation.

Mercy Corps' "Quick Impact Grants Program" will
support 20 local organizations in identifying and
responding to the immediate needs of the most
vulnerable in their communities. The U.S. Office
of Foreign Disaster Assistance is providing
funding for this $832,000 program. This emergency
program complements Mercy Corps' ongoing Ambon
program that aims to improve food security and
reduce dependency on aid.

For more information:
Mercy Corps
PO Box 2669, Dept. NR
Portland, OR  97208-2669
1-800-292-3355 Ext. 250
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 fifth
installment of her diary highlights in SojoMail.
Look for more on Colombia in upcoming issues
of Sojourners.

DAY FIVE: Into the War Zone of Putumayo
We arrived in Puerto Asis in the southern 
Colombia state of Putumayo to a heavily armed 
airport surrounded by sandbag bunkers and foxholes. 
Flew over miles and miles of Amazon rainforest and 
were able to see some of the places of clear cutting. 
The soldiers at the airport are very young. They 
have the same kind of landmines we saw in Bosnia 
hanging in their breast pockets. Actually, they are 
rifle grenades that are often placed nose down in 
the weeds and set off if stepped on.

The mayor of Puerto Asis invites us to drink 
lemonade at the small tavern across the dusty road. 
There was an attempt on his life last week, and one 
of his bodyguards was injured. The military officer 
asked, almost insisted, that we have armed 
accompaniment on the bus and at the hotel. Our 
Witness for Peace staff politely and firmly declined.

The town of Puerto Asis is very strange. It is a town 
with no visible means of support. There are rows and 
rows of shiny new Kawasakis. The drug store is filled 
with several brands of shampoo. It's stores, stores, 
stores! A boomtown with no fruit plantations, no mines, 
no quarry, no lumber mills. Nada. Only a green that 
goes on forever. This is where coca, the plant that 
supplies the raw material for cocaine, is grown.

At the church we meet Father Alfonso Gomez, a 
seminarian, and two farm organizers. Father Alfonso 
is receiving death threats from the paramilitary 
forces in the area. Putumayo is a land that has been 
stripped and robbed over the years. It started with 
the English rubber plantations and the slavery and 
massacres related to rubber. Then it was oil and 
massacres. Now they say they are living in the "time 
of coca" and still have violence and massacres. Until 
recently this region was completely forgotten by the 
central state. The people used to produce bananas, but 
it began to cost more to transport them than they could 
be sold for. Then coca came after being forced out of 
Peru and Ecuador. Now the campesinos live off coca as 
a subsistence cash crop, until the spray planes cover 
their farms in herbicide to wipe out their hectare of 
coca. The fumigation doesn't just kill the coca but 
also all the food crops. And kills the animals. And 
poisons the water supply. All of this in the midst 
of a highly charged militarized zone: the guerillas, 
the paramilitaries, and the Colombian army's 24th 

Father Alfonso said, "This is a story filled with 
many deaths. Of the 207 funerals performed in this 
church last year, 97 of them were assassinations. 
But we can not speak openly about this. If you 
speak out you will get a visit. So the law of 
Putumayo is silence."

Roberto, the farm organizer, is working with 
people whose farms have been destroyed by fumigation 
whether they were growing coca or not. "The 
fumigation does not discriminate," says Roberto. 
"Here we are all criminals." 

What about Plan Colombia? we asked. What do you 
want to say to the U.S. government? All three 
of them were anxious to respond. "If the U.S. wants 
to help us, then the solution is to create industry 
so our licit crops are worth something. We need 
routes for transportation. We need a market for 
our crops. The amount of money in Plan Colombia 
is huge. If this money went to education, healthcare, 
farmer support, then the farmers would trade in 
coca production and could do work that they 
could be proud of. We know that coca is bad. 
We know it destroys and brings violence. We 
look to the U.S. to export true justice and 
democracy. Yet we always have been given just 
crumbs from your table."

[Postscript: As of February 27, 2001, 
Father Alfonso Gomez was told by paramilitaries 
to "get out of town or die." His assistant was 
kidnapped by right-wing gunmen and given the 
message "to tell that priest that we are going 
to help him celebrate his own Mass soon." Father 
Gomez is in hiding and his order is getting him 
out of the country.]
For more information on U.S. military aid to 
Colombia, visit the Center for International Policy 
online at:

Support Witness for Peace's Colombia project at

Next Week: Into the Coca Fields


H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l
Charitable Choice foes agree to disagree

This week a diverse group of religious and civic
organizations issued a report titled "In Good
Faith: A Dialogue on Government Funding of Faith-
Based Social Services." It discusses ways in which
the government and religious policy groups may work
together to serve those in need. While the group
was made up of people who often disagree about
church-state issues, their report - three years in
the making - focuses on areas in which they can
agree. They found that in some instances a great
benefit when religious organizations and the
government cooperate to assist those in need.

The report also highlights areas where the group
continues to disagree. They remained divided on
crucial issues surrounding the constitutionality
and advisablitiy of the "charitable choice" provision
of the 1996 welfare reform package. According to
the report, "The disagreements involve political
philosophy, interpretation of current law, beliefs
about the best way to protect and support the work
of religious institutions, and pragmatic concerns."

Director of the White House Office of Faith Based
and Community Initiatives and former Call to Renewal
board member John DiIulio attended the release of
the report and applauded the group on its efforts,
calling the report "the single most significant
thing that has happened in regards to the new
White House office since the president signing
the order establishing it."

Call to Renewal's policy advisor Duane Shank was
one of the drafters of the report. The work was
supported by the Pew Charitable Trusts. To read
the full text of the report, go to:

For a Religion News Service story on the dialogue:

See also the story in today's LA Times, "Ye of Little Faith":


P. O. V.
Blind faith-based social services

by Bob Wineburg

Make no mistake. Faith-based organizations play
a key role in delivering social services to their
communities, and they should continue to do so.
But throwing money at them without a plan backed
by research, and expecting them to solve society's
ills, makes absolutely no sense. That's the same
approach that conservatives, quite rightly, have
cited for years in criticizing liberals....

[Ironically] the president and his minions
chant an old liberal prayer: "Government money
is the solution." They follow that devilish
liberal path by creating another government
bureaucracy to tatoo that prayer everywhere. They
are calling the baby bureaucracy an "office," the
White House Office of Faith-Based and Community

In the homilies of politically conservative
religion, it's not that it takes a community to
raise a child but a government to raise a church.
Conservatives believe that, together, church and
government can catch people as they fall from
grace. Transformation is the solution, one soul
at a time. Today an office of faith-based social
service; tomorrow, the country.

Not a bad scheme. Why get money the old-fashioned
conservative way, with spirit-lifting sermons - and
a collection basket? Because this is the New Age
religion. Something else is buoying this takeover.
The media have bought it for 20 years with blind
faith. I call it the Big White Lie. There is no
research that shows that faith-based social services
are more effective. There are tidbits here and there
that show that faith-based programs can be effective.
No research, however, demonstrates in an empirical
way that they are better than any other program.
There are testimonials galore, but no clinical trials.

I have done extensive research on social service
delivery of faith-based organizations and
congregations, and I favor their continuing in a
well-planned way. If these same conservatives went
to the bank and wanted an $8 billion loan, but had
no business plan, no market survey, just faith and
some good stories, how much money would they
expect to get?

Be it a ram's horn, a noon-day prayer call, or the
church bells ringing, it is a sad day when the
faith community says to Big Brother, "Buddy, can
you spare a dime - or $8 billion?"


Bob Winebury, a professor of social work at the
University of North Carolina at Greensboro, is
author of "A Limited Partnership: The Politics
of Religion, Welfare, and Social Service (Columbia
University Press, 2001).


W e b  S c e n e
Just the facts

From the obvious to the alarming, Public Education
Network's Web site puts forth a steady stream of
facts, figures, charts, and graphs related to issues
of Armaments and War, Consumption and Waste, Crime
and Violence, Health, Poverty, and Development,
and a host of other vital signs of the times drawn
mostly from government and UN reports.

For example:

"Global spending on education this year: $80 billion.
Global spending on defense this year: $781 billion."

(Source: United Nations Children's Fund [UNICEF]
Report, State of the World's Children, 1999.)

For more facts, visit:


Religion and the Arts

A new online art gallery - designed to stimulate,
educate, and explore new ways for the arts to
be used in the church - has made its debut to rave
reviews. The gallery is sponsored by the Episcopal
Church and the Visual Arts (ECVA).

The Web site premiered during Advent with a series
of images of paintings, sculpture, textiles, and
photography by 11 artists titled "Substance of
Things Hoped For." The site also features links
to resources on religion and the arts.

For viewing pleasure, go to:


Your Weight on Other Planets

The next time your bathroom scale makes
you frown, take comfort in the fact that
you could be much lighter if you lived on
a different planet. This calculator tells
you how much you'd tip the scales elsewhere
in the solar system. Go to:


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