The Common Good


Sojomail - March 23, 2001

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++++++++++++++++++++ 23-March-2001 +++++++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k
     *Churchill on failure...and success

 H e a r t s  &  M i n d s
     *Keep your eyes on the prize

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *The Bible in Cockney

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *Modern urban prayer

 B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
     *Micro-credit project in Albania

 P o l i t i c a l l y   C o n n e c t
     *Damning report on oil companies in Sudan

 T e c h   E t h i x
     *Are we losing our minds to technology?

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

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Is it possible? Even more sex on TV

 C o l o m b i a  J o u r n a l
     *Rose Berger's first-hand report from a coca plantation

 W e b  S c e n e
     *Harmony Central
     *Interactive health videos
     *Social science gateway

Dear Readers,

As many of you have noticed, SojoMail has fallen victim
to Internet gremlins in recent weeks. We think we've gotten
it all cleared up, though, and with humble apologies we
invite you to catch up on missed editions at:
(and thanks for all the messages telling us you missed it!)


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

"Success is going from failure to failure
without losing enthusiasm."

                  - Winston Churchill


H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
Keep your eyes on the prize
by Jim Wallis

The Call to Renewal Summit ended on Wednesday. 
It was a good four days, with inspiring 
preaching, wonderful music, informative speakers, 
and, most important, about 400 practitioners 
from faith-based organizations around the country. 
In-depth networking sessions on Call's seven-point 
platform to overcome poverty were especially 
popular, bringing together policy experts and grass- 
roots activists to share ideas and information.

A major topic, of course, was President Bush's 
faith-based initiatives program. The head of the 
new White House office, John DiIulio, addressed 
the Summit on Monday. We also went to Capitol 
Hill for what turned into a real dialogue with 
members of the House and Senate from both parties 
to discuss how to best shape government partnerships 
with FBOs. Most agree that a vibrant civil society, 
with major participation from the religious community, 
forging new partnerships with government and the 
private sector, is an essential ingredient in 
overcoming poverty. 

There are, of course, legitimate questions that 
must be honestly addressed. 

First, the relationship between church and state 
inevitably comes up. The First Amendment ensures 
that government can neither establish nor interfere 
with religion, but its purpose is not to discriminate 
against faith-based groups in their service to the 
common good. It is a mistake to exclude faith-based 
organizations from partnerships that include public 
support simply because they are religious. Yet, 
government must not fund religious activity. 
"Fund results, not religion," says Dilulio.

Most Americans agree that faith-based organizations 
providing social services - soup kitchens, homeless 
shelters, after-school programs, daycare centers, 
job training - can receive government funding for 
those services. But other types of programs - drug 
and alcohol rehabilitation ministries, for example - 
are often grounded in changing a person's behavior 
through conversion. These programs based explicitly 
on evangelism should not be directly funded by the 
government. Some have suggested other possibilities - 
for example, a voucher program that empowers the 
recipient to choose a program, like we've often 
done with educational grants to former military 
people and others.

Second, in forging new partnerships to overcome 
poverty, the religious community cannot and 
will not replace the legitimate and necessary 
functions of government. We need partnerships 
with the active involvement of government, 
especially in funding.

Third, churches and faith-based organizations 
should not lose their prophetic voice for social 
justice. Those in power prefer our service 
programs to our voice for social justice. The 
key is to offer our programs but also that 
prophetic voice -- whether it's invited or not. 
With the current focus on faith-based 
organizations, we have an increased opportunity 
to speak to policy issues with more authority. 
But we must use the opportunity.

Many at the Summit pointed out that the 
greatest problem facing faith-based and 
other community organizations is a lack of 
resources to meet the growing need. Our 
prophetic mission means that we must work 
against excessive (and misdirected) tax cuts 
and for making the child tax credit 
refundable, for example, so it can also 
benefit low-income families. We must get 
ready for the administration's proposed 
budget and the upcoming TANF (welfare 
reform) reauthorization debate, demanding 
that adequate funding be there to really 
help families move from welfare to work. 

It's time to set clear goals and hold 
both parties accountable to them. We must 
keep our eyes on the prize - overcoming 
poverty - keep our eyes on the kids who 
have been left out and left behind and 
whose needs cry out to heaven. If we do 
that, we can resolve the questions about 
faith-based initiatives, and we can 
advocate for adequate resources to make 
those programs real.


F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
The Bible in Cockney

LONDON, England (ENI) -- A gospel translation 
in London street slang, in which Jesus heals by 
stretching out his "Ramsgate" before "boarding 
a nanny with his chinas," has won the backing 
of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. George 
Carey. "The Bible in Cockney" - well, bits of 
it anyway - includes traditional rhyming slang 
from East London's working-class community in 
which common words are represented by down-to-earth 
rhymes: "nanny" stands for nanny goat, which means 
boat, "china" is china plate, which means mate, 
and "Ramsgate" is Ramsgate sands, which means 
hand or hands. The book also uses current street 
idioms so that the last part of the Lord's Prayer 
comes out as: "You're the Boss, God, and will be 
forever. Cheers, Amen." 

Source: Ecumenical News International


S o u l   W o r k s
Modern urban prayer

They tell me you're available
on certain conditions
Quiet ones
That if I can find an air of tranquility
it carries a still small voice

but I can't do quiet,
I am not tranquil except when I am asleep
and then I am not available
as far as I know
what's the chances of a still big voice in the noise
of hearing you in the roaring traffic
the screaming meal-time
the crowded train
I know that time you weren't in the fire
the storm
but everyone's different
maybe Elijah was more acquainted to the quiet
you're usually quiet
I'm usually wired
if I try for your silence
you could try for my noise
your place or mine?
I know you're always in the country
maybe we could meet in town...
by Martin Wroe


B u i l d i n g   A   M o v e m e n t
Micro-credits for Albania

A micro-credit project in one of Albania's poorest
neighborhoods has been started by members of the
Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team (AMURT). The
project gives loans ranging from $100 to $500 to
individuals with small businesses. So far, 30
businesses have taken part in the program and all
the loans are being paid back on time. The loans
are given to business people who organize themselves
in groups of five. All members of the group are
responsible to pay their own loan and, if any of
the group members default, the others in the group
are responsible for that loan as well. It is a
system similar to that pioneered by the Grameen
Bank in Bangladesh. Businesses receiving loans
included a pharmacy, a shoe-maker, small shops,
transport services, a concrete block maker, and
artisan carpet and quilt makers.

The project is being done in Bathore, a squatter
city near Tirana, which is populated by Albanians
who migrated from the north of Albania following
the end of the communist regime and the collapse
of many of its state-run farms and factories.

For more information about the program visit: or send an e-mail

Read more about the project featured in the 
magazine New Renaissance:


P o l i t i c a l l y   C o n n e c t
Damning report on oil companies in Sudan:
An eyewitness report by Christian Aid

"The Scorched Earth" examines the complicity of
foreign oil companies in a brutal war against
civilians in Sudan. Christian Aid calls on foreign
oil companies to suspend operations until an
agreement for a just and lasting peace is achieved.

A network of foreign oil companies, including
British-based firms, has built the Sudanese oil
industry piece by piece. From the day oil started
flowing through the foreign-engineered pipeline
in August 1999, the oil war began.

Christian Aid believes that foreign companies are
complicit in three ways:

*Oil is the justification for the government's
scorched-earth strategy - the driving force behind
the killings and displacements of tens of thousands
of civilians. Not a single oil company has spoken
out against this strategy.

*Oil companies have asked for protection by government
forces directly implicated in human rights violations.
Company infrastructure, including airstrips and roads,
are used in the government's military operations.

*Oil revenue is funding the expansion of the war. On
the day of the first export shipment of oil in 1999,
20 Polish T-55 tanks arrived in Port Sudan in violation
of the EU arms embargo. Defense spending has doubled.

For a complete copy of The Scorched Earth:
Oil and War in Sudan, go to:


T e c h   E t h i x
Losing our minds to technology

"Computers not only distract us from contemplation
of deeper values, they discourage us from contemplation
itself," declares Stephen Bertman, a classics professor
at Canada's University of Windsor and author of the
recent book "Cultural Amnesia." In his opinion,
society's love affair with fast and far-reaching
machines - such as online computers, palm-tops, and
mobile phones - leads inexorably to memory loss.

As surveys repeatedly show, knowledge of history,
literature, geography, and even current affairs seem
to be on a steep decline: 60 percent of adult Americans
cannot recall the name of the president who ordered
the dropping of the first atomic bomb, just as 77
percent of young Britons are perplexed by the words
Magna Carta. The day of the nano-shrunk library
could soon come, but will any of its users be able to
remember a single line of poetry?

The connection between these yawning gaps in general
knowledge and information technology is by no means
established, but a host of thinkers in different fields
are sure the issue is one that will shortly become
all too pertinent. "External support for our memory
has a direct effect on our memory," argues Jean-Gabriel
Ganascia, a leading neuro-scientist based in Paris'
Pierre et Marie Curie University. "At the same time
as it helps us and extends our physical capabilities,
it diminishes our individual faculties."

Read the full story at:


B o o m e r a n g

Bill Phillips of Gaithersburg, Maryland, wrote:

You recently published in SojoMail a feature
on Biz Ethix: "Good to the last...mushroom"
about the downsides of coffee production for
the land and for the pickers, who earn little
and can't consume coffee for food.

While mushrooms are a culinary delight, I was
doubtful of their nutritional value providing
much sustenance to people. I checked a Web site,,
finding, "Mushrooms are fairly low in nutrient
content, although they can be a good source of
the B vitamin riboflavin. They are rich in an
array of phytochemicals that have been linked
to certain health benefits."

If this source is to be believed, mushrooms may
have good market value, and may even have some
health benefits, but it looks as if they won't
do much to feed hungry mouths. I hope that the
author who is promoting mushroom culture will do
some more research before counting on mushrooms
to fill nutritional deficits of poor people
harmed by the coffee culture.

Bruce Hahne of Sunnyvale, California, wrote:

I'm tired enough of seeing Jim Wallis shill for
the FBO program that I'm going to cut a check for
$50 to Americans United for Separation of Church and
State every time I see another Sojourners or
editorial in favor of it. Wallis' recent claim in
the March/April issue of Sojourners that this is
an issue of "discrimination" against religious
organizations twists language to an extent not
seen since Bill Clinton's Lewinsky testimony.

A sectarian 401c(3) organization is drastically
different in type from a non-sectarian 401c(3)
organization, so we should expect that the law
treats such organizations differently. When the
state uses its taxation power to take funds from
its citizens and gives them to organizations that
are allowed to discriminate on the basis of race,
creed, sex, and sexual orientation, that's not
only a violation of MY right to not have my
government promoting religious-backed prejudice,
it's not only a violation of the U.S. Constitution,
a fact which Wallis incredibly dismisses as "a
distraction," it is most importantly un-Christlike.

Yes, poverty is a problem. The FBO program is
not a solution; it's the first step down the
road to theocracy.

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



C u l t u r e  W a t c h
New study: Sex grows on TV

A new study reveals that the number of programs
containing sexual content rose from 56 percent of all
shows in the 1997-98 season to 68 percent in the
1999-2000 season. At least one show in four (27
percent) included sexual behavior, with the
remainder featuring conversation about sex.

"Sex on TV: Content and Context" is the second
biennial study conducted by the Henry J. Kaiser
Family Foundation, an independent national
health-care philanthropy organization based in
Menlo Park, California.

Television's preoccupation with sex offers a
twisted view of reality, says Bill Tillman, T. B.
Maston professor of Christian ethics at the Logsdon
School of Theology in Abilene, Texas. "Sexuality is a
major part of life; still, we are more than sexual
beings. Thus, TV media content proclaims life in an
out-of-balance kind of way." He has noticed that TV 
programs he had previously enjoyed have now
become more and more bothersome to his sensibilities.

Sex is particularly common in primetime network
programs - in 1997-98, 67 percent included sexual
content and in 1999-2000, 75 percent.

These results are not surprising, because they
just confirm the truism that "sex sells," said Joe
Haag, special moral-concerns associate with the
Christian Life Commission at the Baptist General
Convention of Texas. While the findings are
disturbing, Haag emphasized that Christians can
compliment and support the TV programs and movies
that rise above sexploitation to give a more
truthful account of life. "We can express our views
to advertisers and producers," he said.

Read a news feature on the study at:

The "Sex on TV: Content and Context" study is available
online at:


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 sixth
installment of her diary highlights in SojoMail.
Look for more on Colombia in upcoming issues
of Sojourners magazine.


It's Friday in Puerto Asis, Putumayo, in southern
Colombia. I woke up this morning with a terrible
headache and slept through morning prayer. Since we
are a half-degree off the equator it is really hot
and I'm covered in heat rash. At 8 this morning we
met with indigenous leaders from various parts of
Putumayo. One man explained the role of the coca
plant (which is the organic base for cocaine) in his
culture. "Coca is a spiritual and medicinal plant
for many native people. It is the plant that brought
life in some of our stories. We never thought of it
as an 'evil plant.' It is part of our life, our family,
our story. It is part of who we are. The Murai people
have always used coca to try to heal the world. We
don't think eradication should happen on the Murai
lands. It is when coca is processed into something else
and produces wealth, and then those who want to have
power over that wealth...that is when conflict and
violence and death comes with coca."

After lunch we met with representatives of the rural
farmers organizations, who spoke briefly then whisked
us away to a nearby coca plantation that is trying to
convert from coca to heart-of-palm production. This
is a scary trip on some very deep back roads in FARC-
(guerrilla) controlled territory. We have to go quickly
so we can be back in town well before sunset. As we go
on the bus I am trying to get some numbers on coca
production at the small farm level from a man accompanying
us. These are the rough numbers he gives me: Most farms
are about 8 hectares or less: 1/2 hectares in beans, 1/2 
corn, 2 yucca,2 plantains, 2 forested (or left fallow), 
and 2.25 in coca. A farm family can grow about 3 kilos of 
coca leaves per hectare per harvest. Most farmers make 
about 300,000 pesos per month (US$150) from coca. Minimum 
wage for a family of four in Colombia is about 1 million 
pesos (US$500) per month.

A coca plantation in southern Colombia is definitely
someplace I never thought Jesus would take me! Yet here
I am. This is a clean, well-kept farm run by several
families. It is definitely a large commercial operation
with a very rustic processing shed for converting coca
leaves to coca paste. Coca leaves are run through a
shredder, then spread out on the shed floor. Salt or
cement is sprinkled on them and then mixed in to get
them to dry quickly until the leaves turn black or
"burned." Then put in 50 gallon drums of gasoline and
"Triple 15" fertilizer to pull out the active ingredients.
After it sits, the liquid is separated from the leaves
and the leaves are recycled for fertilizer. Sodium
bicarbonate is added to the liquid to create a coagulate.
Then the liquid, which is now mostly gasoline, is drained
off. What is left is a thick, sticky green paste that
contains the chloral hydrate - the active ingredient
in cocaine. This is what is sold to the narcotraffickers
who transport it to laboratories deep in the jungle for
processing into powder or crystal cocaine.

For more information on coca production and eradication
in Colombia go to the Transnational Institute at: Click on "TNI
Projects," then "Drugs and Democracy."

Support Witness for Peace's Colombia project at

Next week: The Most Dangerous Day


W e b  S c e n e

Here's an energetic online community giving poor
families the chance they need to work out of poverty.
When you click on the "Donate" button, the computer
adds your donation to the day's totals and shows you
the banners of the companies sponsoring your donation.
These companies deposit funds in a loan-pool that
benefits participating micro-credit

With little or no collateral, a person can borrow
$25 to $5,000 to open a little business, or to make a
business they already have more profitable. Some of
these "micro-enterprises" are as simple as selling
fruit on a street corner. Many, such as tiny stores
and cottage industries, are run out of the borrowers'
homes. Some are small manufacturing shops. Go to:


*Harmony Central

One of the largest sites devoted to musicians, Harmony
Central offers plenty of product news and reviews,
classified ads, discussion forums, advice columns,
links, and more. True to its cyber-roots, the site
features extensive resources on using computers to
create and publish music. Go to:


*Interactive health videos

Healthology has the largest and most distinguished
library of original, streaming health programs and
physician-authored articles on the Web. Search for
a specific condition in their archives or watch
their featured webcast to stay on top of your
health. Go to:


*Social science gateway

From philosophy and sociology to economics and
statistics, this index points you to some of the
best social science sites on the Net. The links
within each well-organized subject category are
divided into "resource types" such as articles,
bibliographies, databases, and educational
materials. Go to:


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