The Common Good


Sojomail - April 6, 2001

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

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

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++++++++++++++++++++ 06-April-2001 +++++++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k
     *Joan Chittister - no fear of flying

 H e a r t s  &  M i n d s
     *A left-wing faith-based initiative

 S o j o P o l l
     *What do you think about the campaign reform bill?

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *Jean Vanier: Why depression is so common in the First World

 E c o N e w s
     *Natural gas-powered taxis for Berlin

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Le Carre novel "criminal" in Kenya

 H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l
     *Resources for resisting Bush's tax cut

 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
     *Stop the militarization of space

 C o l o m b i a   J o u r n a l
     *Fumigation from the ground up

 W e b  S c e n e
     *Baby name wizard
     *Your personal news service
     *Are you eligible for clinical trials?


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

Failure is the foundation of truth. It teaches
us what isn't true, and that is a great beginning.
To fear failure is to fear the possibility of

                 - Joan Chittister

H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
A left-wing faith-based initiative

by Jim Wallis

My experience last week in Britain challenges 
the opinion (frequently expressed in SojoMail 
boomerang letters) that faith-based initiatives are 
inherently a right-wing ploy to help governments 
evade their responsibilities, will destroy democratic 
and religious pluralism, and were really invented 
in Texas to help George W. Bush cover up his misdeeds.

I was in England because the Labor government (that's 
right, the left-of-center British Labor Party) wants 
to make a major effort to partner with faith-based 
organizations. I spoke to a large interfaith conference, 
along with Prime Minister Tony Blair, about how such a 
partnership can be forged. Blair gave an excellent talk, 
taking clear government responsibility for budget and 
funding priorities that aim at overcoming poverty. But 
he also talked about the unique contribution faith-based 
organizations can make and invited them to be partners 
with government, not replacements for government.

I also visited a faith-based organization called PECAN, 
located in a poor community in London. They participate 
in a government-funded job-training program, ironically 
called the New Deal, aimed at unemployed young adults. 
The government agencies that run the New Deal program 
are often just offices where bureaucrats sit waiting 
for people to come in. When they do, they are handed 
100 forms (that's right) to fill out. PECAN, on the 
other hand, sends their workers into the community, 
often knocking on doors in housing projects to find the 
people that need the job-training program. They then help 
the young people fill out the confusing forms. And before 
the people come each day for their job training, the staff 
gathers to pray for each of them (on time not funded by 
the government). What the people get at PECAN is not 
proselytizing, but job training. Guess which program works 
the best?

Britain is a very secular country, and talking about 
faith-based partnerships won't gain any politician 
many votes. They are talking about it because it works 
and actually helps people to escape poverty. Nobody 
in Britain wants government to fund religion - just 

I met with many government ministers, Members of 
Parliament, and lots of faith leaders from many 
different communities. Perhaps the best meeting I had 
was with Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer 
who, as minister of the Treasury, is the second most 
powerful politician in Britain. Brown is the one who 
pushed the Jubilee 2000 campaign for debt reduction 
through the British government. His understanding of 
how faith-based partnerships could work for everybody's 
benefit made me want to move to England or, at least, 
send all our government leaders (from both parties) 
to London for some needed education.

The point is, there is a progressive, democratic, 
and pluralistic way to do faith-based partnerships 
that will really help to overcome poverty. The left 
is making a terrible (and stupid) mistake by equating 
faith-based initiatives with right-wing politics and 
the Bush administration in particular. The faith-based 
initiative here is getting trapped in pro-Bush or 
contra-Bush politics.

Faith-based and inspired movements and programs are 
becoming more and more crucial to needed social change 
worldwide. We should support them. At the same time 
we should also be unswerving in offering prophetic 
opposition to the policies of the Bush administration 
that are unjust and wrong. Let's please stop making 
false choices.

For more information on PECAN, see:

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

On April 2, the U.S. Senate passed the McCain-Feingold bill 
for campaign finance reform, which among other things bans 
soft money contributions to political parties. Which phrase 
best describes your opinion should this bill become law? 

[] A triumph for democracy
[] An imperfect step in the right direction
[] Smoke and mirrors -- politics will still be controlled by 
     monied interests
[] A bad idea and a violation of constitutional rights

Register your opinion at:


S o u l   W o r k s
Why is depression so common in the First World?

by Jean Vanier

"Depression: Way to Healing" is the title of
Jean Vanier's new book. Vanier, a spiritual
master, is the founder of the Faith and Light
lay movement, which has 1,500 communities in
72 countries. Vanier founded L'Arche community, 
with the help of two new friends. In the 
community, men and women of different social 
backgrounds live with handicapped individuals. 
Since the birth of the first small French 
community, 103 additional ones have been 
established throughout the world, embracing 26 
countries and more than 2,000 members.

Q: It is said that depression is the existential
evil of our time. 

Vanier: I think it's true because today people feel lost.

Q: More than in the past?

Vanier: Before, we had the faith, which gave direction
and offered moral guidelines. Today many anchors have
been destroyed by the idea that the individual's
freedom comes before anything else - except that now
we no longer know how to direct this freedom. Today
people want much, but they don't know where to direct
their vital energies - hence, their feeling of
sadness. Moreover, there is early failure in marriages.

Q: Are you saying that depression is the offspring
of ideologies: for instance, rationalism, the
Enlightenment? Or, perhaps, consumerism?

Vanier: No, ideologies come in second place. As I
don't feel loved, I submerge myself in a political
project or even in consumerism.

Q: Do you think, therefore, that volunteer work is
an antidote to depression?

Vanier: It depends. If it is simply to care for
handicapped children or the poor, no. When, on the
contrary, it is an encounter with the other, an
exchange of love, then it becomes communion and
confidence that can heal our wounds.[]



E c o N e w s
Natural gas-powered taxis for Berlin

Over the next few years 1,000 natural gas-driven taxis
and driving-school vehicles will be running on the
streets of Berlin. The Federal German Ministry for
the Environment will contribute around 8.1 million
DM to the project, and the gas industry will contribute
14.4 million DM. This project is intended as a good
example to demonstrate to other cities in Germany
that environmentally friendly mobility with the
alternative fuel natural gas is not only feasible,
but economical. To this end there are subsidies
of up to 6,000 DM to purchase the necessary vehicle
and fuel free of charge to a value of up to 3,000 DM
per new vehicle. Furthermore, the Berlin gas company
intends to keep the sales price of natural gas as
a fuel at least 30 percent under the average price of
diesel at the respective fueling stations in
Berlin until the end of 2004. This will make it
worthwhile to convert to natural gas even without
subsidies. By the end of 2001 another 10 natural gas
filling stations will be added to the two already
existing in the German capital.

The use of natural gas is a concrete and important
step towards the future use of hydrogen and fuel

C u l t u r e  W a t c h
Le Carre novel "criminal" in Kenya

by Mike Crawley

If you want to buy the new novel by bestselling
author John Le Carre in Kenya, you'll need a secret
Swahili password to get it.

"The Constant Gardener" is so controversial here
that most bookshops are afraid to sell it. It takes
the whispered phrase "moja shamba," the Swahili words
for "one garden," to finally produce it at one shop.

A clerk fishes the book from its hiding place in a
cardboard box and passes it to the customer already
wrapped in a brown paper bag. "We have to be quiet
about it," the bookseller says.

Set in Kenya, Le Carre's novel paints an
unflattering portrait of the country's leadership,
and booksellers fear that by selling it, they
will run afoul of the country's political elite....

The booksellers' reluctance stems from the
government's intolerance for freedom of expression,
says Namwaya Otsieno, editor of Expression
Today, a monthly paper published in Nairobi....

Le Carre hints in his author's note that Kenya
is not a kind place for those who speak out. "With
sadness, I have also decided not to name the
people in Kenya who generously gave me their
assistance," he writes. He mentions the death
last August of John Kaiser, an American missionary
who frequently criticized injustice and human
rights abuses. Kaiser died of a gunshot wound
to the head, but investigations have yet to
point conclusively to either murder or suicide.
"Accidents like that can happen again," Le
Carre writes.

To read the entire article on Le Carre's novel, go to:


H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l
National organizations mobilize against
Bush's proposed tax cut

Three organizations that Call to Renewal is 
working with are educating and organizing on 
aspects of the Bush administration tax cut plan:

The Children's Defense Fund has started a
campaign to make the child tax credit refundable.
CDF's statement to Congress reads in part, "Our
organizations are launching a campaign to ensure
that low-income families with children benefit
from any tax proposal enacted by Congress this
year. We favor a refundable child credit of $1,000
per child, which would build on the president's
proposal, but ensure that low-income children are
not left behind.  

"A refundable child credit of $1,000 per child 
would be the single most effective measure that 
policymakers could take to achieve greater 
fairness in any tax cut and to reduce child and 
family poverty. President Bush's proposal to 
double the existing child credit will not
accomplish these goals as presently drafted. It
provides little or no benefit to the families
that need it most. Millions of poor and
moderate-income children would receive no
benefit whatsoever from the administration's
proposal simply because it is not refundable."

To read more about what CDF is doing, go to:

United For a Fair Economy is mobilizing people to
defend the Estate Tax. Their Web site reads, "One
of the most dangerous and destructive elements of
the Bush tax plan may pass with little notice -
the repeal of the Estate Tax. This is not just a
boon for the very rich, it is a knife at the throat
of our nation's charities. Today, wealthy people
often leave their legacy through the creation and
support of charities. They give to charity rather
than to Uncle Sam. Schools, research institutions,
hospitals, colleges, public service charities, and
churches will all suffer if the Estate Tax is
repealed. We must: Preserve the Estate Tax on the
very rich, and defend our country's proud legacy
of charitable giving."

UFE has an online petition to be presented to the
president and Congress. For more information, go to:

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities provides
a wealth of information on fiscal policy as it
relates to low-income families and individuals. The
center specializes in research and analysis oriented
toward policy decisions that policymakers face at
both federal and state levels.

To read the reports, visit:


B o o m e r a n g

Heather Carlson of Vancouver, British Colombia, wrote:

Did anyone else find it ironic that Bishop John
Spong thinks he speaks on behalf of supporting
the rights and dignity of women in an interview
to Playboy!? I found it at the very least strange,
but mostly objectionable, that he would presume
to cast blame on the Roman church while participating
in an interview with a magazine renowned for
making pornography mainstream. I am a woman being
ordained in May and found his context incongruent
with his words. I am left wondering which I am
to believe.


Karin Hass, also of British Columbia, wrote:

Although I am apparently considerably more "left"
and "liberal" sociopolitically and socioeconomically
than seemingly most Sojourners, and am NOT uncomfortable
saying so, I strongly disapprove of SojoMail
gratuitously quoting from - and thereby promoting the
publicity of and arguably the public acceptability of -
"Playboy" magazine.

I am a youthful 40 years of age now and a woman
who is evidently considered pretty, but I view that
magazine and institute as promoting the exploitation
and abuse of girls and women. (If that's not enough
for Sojourners, PB magazine thereby also limits the
satisfaction that BOYS and MEN receive from their
intimate relationships with girls and women). It's not
an institute with values worthy of publicity or
worthy of promotion of public acceptability.

As a youthful woman with left, evangelical, and
feminist values, one who works with youth, who has in
the past worked with sexual assault, abuse, and
harassment survivors, and who has become politically
active and aware, I ask that you please refrain from
publishing any more gratuitous quotations (from
anyone) from such socially polluting sources in
Sojourners' publications.


Kathleen McCook from Ruskin, Florida, wrote:

Local Republican groups are sneeringly calling
the FBO monies "evangelical pork" among themselves
and see this funding as an easy way to buy off
those who would otherwise register horror at
Republican actions such as their stance on global
warming, worker rights, and the environment. My heart
breaks that corruption seduces so easily. School teachers
in Texas have no health insurance, public libraries in
Texas receive one of the lowest per capital levels of
funding in the nation. Please look beyond the smile, the
nickname, the horrid compassionate conservative persona,
and a few dollars intended to keep us quiet.


Peter Trow of Fareham, Hampshire, United Kingdom, wrote:

While the debate in SojoMail about the constitutional
separation of church and state is interesting to
read from a U.K. perspective, we have an established
church and no written constitution. There is
increasing political interest in the Bush initiative
by both main parties on this side of the water, so
perhaps our churches can be better prepared to respond
by being informed by your experience in the United States.
It seems to me that Jim Wallis' article "Keeping our
eyes on the prize" contains a lot of wisdom in setting
out some ground rules for FBOs working in partnership
with government. The church should never avoid
addressing need to keep itself pure. The holiness God
calls us to is about getting involved in the mess of
human life, not keeping ritually clean.
But keeping a prophetic voice while being tied into
programs funded by government may not be as easy as
he suggests. Governments by nature are deeply
sensitive to criticism, and funding can be withdrawn
for all sorts of hidden reasons. It may be that in
the future the hard choice will be called for
between staying silent and overcoming poverty, or
speaking out at cost not to the FBOs but to the
poor and vulnerable.


Nathan Braun of Moncton, New Brunswick, wrote:

In the last Boomerang, Bill Phillips responded to
"Good to the last...mushroom" (a SojoMail feature
on Biz Ethix) "about the downsides of coffee
production" (and benefits of mushrooms?).

However, as the current foot-and-mouth outbreak
reminds us of the recent mad cow (BSE/CJD) epidemic,
might it not be appropriate to focus on the
significant negative environmental and health
consequences of worldwide meat production and
consumption, and (re-)introduce suitable

A vegetarian diet, because it uses
substantially less resources, is widely recognized
to (at least potentially) help feed more humans a
generally more healthy diet (see the classics:
Frances Moore Lappe's "Diet for a Small Planet";
John Robbins' Pulitzer-Prize nominated "Diet for
a New America"; and his new "The Food Revolution:
How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our

If mushrooms "won't do much to feed hungry mouths,"
it is likely that a move, starting among Christians,
towards vegetarianism might actually help
do the trick - with a resulting shift in political

[Ed. note: Nathan Braun is president of the Christian
Vegetarian Association:]


Jeffrey Clark of Washington, D.C., wrote:

It's interesting to see the impact that micro-credit
programs have on poverty. [See: Building A Movement -
Micro-Credits for Albania, SojoMail 3.23.01]. 
And I appreciate the straightforward report you provided,
given the amount and kind of information to which
one is privy here in the United States. In the fall 
of '99, as a student of the School for International 
Training (SIT) in Bolivia, I conducted an investigation 
of the outcomes of the usage of micro-credit in the 
informal markets of Cochabamba.

In light of the praises heaped on micro-finance as
a tool for poverty alleviation, my findings were
stunning. Of 15 entrepreneurs interviewed, only one
said that her standard of living (SOL) and business
were better off as a result of the loans. Seven said
that neither their businesses nor their SOL had
experienced any changes, and the final seven said that
their businesses and/or SOL were in fact WORSE off,
when compared to that which they had prior to using
the loans. What gives?

At that point in time (and it has only gotten
worse since then) the economy was going down the
drain. So if no one is going to buy, then it
doesn't matter how much credit you put into your
business. The public still won't buy because they
still don't have cash. Secondly, the interest rates
on the loans (a feature only glanced at by most
reports) were astronomical: 20-60 percent, and higher
per year. Any extra profits made by the entrepreneur
were immediately funneled away to the financier.
The rates are held at such levels so that the
finance institution can keep the loan process
self-sustaining (sustainable development?), yet
when people go on hunger strikes in protest of
the debts quickly accrued (as they did in September
'99) one should scrutinize the intentions, process,
and results.   

I don't doubt that micro-credit loans have helped
some people work their way out of poverty. But based
on what my open-minded investigation found in
Cochabamba, Bolivia, the micro-finance institution
should certainly not be touted as the best of all
development schemes. Rather, it is another try at
a long list of programs that have historically
taken development for a bumpy ride.

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



B u i l d i n g   A   M o v e m e n t
Stop the militarization of space: a 
call for a national mobilization

President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald
Rumsfeld have made clear their determination
to deploy Star Wars "National Missile Defense."

Star Wars will initiate the militarization of
outer space. "National Missile Defense" is only
the beginning.  U.S. Space Command plans to deploy
all kinds of weapons in outer space, including
offensive ones. Its chilling mission statement:
"U.S. Space Command - dominating the space dimension
of military operations to protect U.S. interests and
investment. Integrating Space Forces into warfighting
capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict."

Star Wars will start a new arms race. The CIA
acknowledges Russia and China will beef up
their offensive nuclear arsenals to counter a
U.S. Star Wars system. The arms race would then
likely spread to India and Pakistan. The ABM
treaty and all other arms agreements would be

In the 1980s, millions of concerned citizens raised
their voices against Star Wars and Ronald Reagan's
nuclear arms buildup. Once again, concerned,
peace-mongering people are called upon to mobilize
to stop the revival of Star Wars and a new nuclear arms

Join the "Call for a National Mobilization to Stop
Star Wars and Abolish Nuclear Weapons," to be
held in Washington, D.C., June 10-12, at Lafayette
Park (just across the street from the White House).

Details about the event are available at:

**************SOJOFEST 2001**********************************

And you're invited! It doesn't seem possible,
but this year marks the 30th anniversary of
Sojourners magazine. Thirty years of Faith,
Politics, and Culture. Thirty years of joy,
triumph, laughter, tears, and friendship.
We've been working hard, and now we're ready
to celebrate. 

SOJOFEST 2001 takes place this summer, 

July 26-29

on the beautiful campus of Wheaton College near
Chicago. There will be music, speakers, an
outdoor fair, Bible studies, and more!

Find out more and register online at:

The Colombia Journals
by Rose Marie Berger

Sojourners assistant editor Rose Marie Berger
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 eighth installment 
of her diary highlights in SojoMail. Look for 
more on Colombia in upcoming issues of Sojourners.


This morning we are meeting with representatives
from San Miguel, a town about 10 miles from Puerto
Asis. This week San Miguel is the site for eradicating
coca crops through aerial spraying. We were told that
the government and army are supposed to do a study
beforehand to match aerial maps with what is actually
on the ground. No study happened before the fumigation
began in San Miguel. Crop dusters guarded by helicopter
gunships sprayed food crops as well as coca. 

The priest from San Miguel brought out a video he had 
made of some of the fumigated farms. The video shows 
pastureland in the few days since the farm was sprayed; 
it is now all dead. The trees are all dead; they lost 
all their leaves. There are oropendola bird nests 
hanging in dead trees. The aerial spraying of the 
chemical glyphosate dries out everything. All the 
fruit has fallen off the trees and can't be eaten by 
humans or animals. The houses are fumigated and all 
the plants growing on the porches are dead. Fields 
of corn and rice, all dead.

There is some question about the chemical that
the government is actually using. They are calling 
it "RoundUp Ultra," which may or may not even be
glyphosate. At the roadblocks, the army gives out 
notebooks supplied by the chemical 
companies. The front of the notebook reads 
"Glyphosate doesn't harm the land, but 
coca does." The U.S. State Department says that 
1) only large coca plantations are fumigated;
2) the fumigation is very precise because of the
use of global positioning satellites; and 3) 
glyphosate breaks down quickly and doesn't harm anyone.

Luis Vivas had a four-hectare farm. Two years ago he
finally decided to pull up all his coca and only grow
licit crops, so that he could avoid violence. A
government program gave him fruit trees as crop
substitution. He set up a whole orchard of native
fruits. Now all of this is fumigated. On the video,
Vivas cracks open ears of corn. The kernels are
completely dry. He weeps. "We can't eat this,"
he says. The fish pond was fumigated. Slowly
the fish are dying, gasping at the surface
of the pond. People can't eat them. They can't
sell them.
The government was going to give a prize to the
farm that had the most successful Amazonia
reforestation project. Instead it fumigated and
killed all the trees it had given Vivas to plant.
"This is my question," Vivas says. "What are we
going to eat?"
This is what our tax dollars are paying for. Kyrie
Eleison. Christe Eleison. Kyrie Eleison.

For more information about U.S.-supported fumigation
of illicit crops in Colombia, go to:

Find Witness for Peace's Colombia project at:

Next week: The Community of the Displaced

W e b  S c e n e

*Baby name wizard

Ever notice how a person's name often reflects
his/her appearance or personality? We wonder
what type of person a child named Baam, Humertenl,
or Shudevac would grow up to be. If you're a new
parent, this site can help you generate unique
names like these with a few clicks. Go to:


*Your personal news service

"1st Headlines" lets you set the topics
you want to read about in major U.S.
newspapers. Why pay for a news service
when you can get it for free?


*Are you eligible for clinical trials?

Patients who are interested in trying recently
developed treatments for their conditions can
get answers to many of their questions at Created by the National
Institutes of Health, this site offers detailed
information about medical research studies in
the United States (most of them federally sponsored) 
and lets you search for current trials you might
qualify for. Go to:


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