The Common Good


Sojomail - April 20, 2001

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

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

                 Brought to you by SojoNet
              Publisher of Sojourners magazine

++++++++++++++++++++ 20-April-2001 +++++++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k
     *Ancient Indian wisdom: tend your own yard

 H e a r t s  &  M i n d s
     *Timothy McVeigh: Dying in obscurity or with celebrity?

 S o j o P o l l
     *SojoMail readers view campaign reform bill as
        move in right direction

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *Rilke: Prayer for the road

 P. O. V.
     *Heather shags Rome

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Revisiting early Ang Lee movie

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

 H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l
     *Leave no child behind

 C o l o m b i a   J o u r n a l
     *Voices of Colombia's displaced

 W e b  S c e n e
     *In Motion magazine
     *Miami Herald: Who won?
     *MegaPenny project
     *Go beyond Denny's and McDonald's:


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

not on the rudenesses of others,
not on what they've done
or left undone,
but on what you
have and haven't done yourself.

- Dhammapada

H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
McVeigh: Dying in obscurity or with celebrity?

by Jim Wallis

April 19. As the nation commemorates the sixth 
anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, there 
is a strange dissonance in the news.

After my visit to Oklahoma City last summer, 
I wrote of the emotional impact of the memorial 
field of empty chairs symbolizing the victims 
of the bombing. This morning, a simple service 
was held at that memorial. The families and 
friends of those who had died in the blast stood 
silent for 168 seconds, one for every person who 
died, and ended with the ringing of church bells 
and the song "Let There Be Peace on Earth."

At the same time, the final preparations are being 
made in Terre Haute, Indiana, for another death. 
On May 16, the U.S. government will execute Timothy 
McVeigh, who was convicted of the bombing. It 
promises to be a public spectacle - some 1,500 media 
people have already applied for press credentials, 
T-shirt and button sellers have applied for vendor 
permits, and thousands of pro- and anti-death penalty 
advocates are planning demonstrations.

The latest development is the decision by Attorney 
General Ashcroft to have the execution transmitted 
via closed-circuit TV to a federal facility in 
Oklahoma for family members who desire to view the 
execution. Almost 300 survivors and victim's 
families (of nearly 3,000) have expressed a desire 
to watch, and the official witness room in Indiana 
can only hold 10. 

And as with the rest of the country, the victim's 
families are divided on the question of capital 
punishment. The Washington Post recently published 
a front-page story on the contradictory reactions 
of families. Some can't wait to see McVeigh die; 
others have become eloquent opponents of the 
death penalty.

One of the most poignant stories was that of Marsha 
and Tom Kight. Marsha's 23-year-old daughter was 
killed in the bombing. Yet Mrs. Kight is not 
interested in watching McVeigh die. "Viewing the 
execution does not seem mentally healthy to me," 
she said. "It won't bring my daughter back."  But 
Mr. Kight has chosen to witness the execution. 
"I hope it will give me peace knowing he will be 

McVeigh is cold and remorseless, speaking of the 
children he killed as "collateral damage" in his 
political war. McVeigh wants to be executed. He 
waived all appeals in order to speed the process. 
In his twisted thinking, he hopes to become a 
martyr to a small but dangerous group of twisted 
souls like himself. 

McVeigh is a mass murderer, but he is no threat 
anymore. Why give him what he wants? Why stoop to 
his level and kill him like he so ruthlessly killed 
others? Instead of giving McVeigh the dramatic end 
he desires, why not really punish him for what he 
has done? Why not sentence him to solitary confinement 
for the rest of his life, deny him any voice or 
contact with the outside world, require he spend his 
days at hard labor and his nights alone, let him 
grow old and forgotten, and end his life in 
obscurity instead of celebrity? 

To be against capital punishment does not require us 
to be against punishment for such a heinous crime. It 
is not only a moral contradiction to kill McVeigh for 
his killings, it is also not punishment enough. 

                  SOJONET EXCLUSIVE!
Read Jim Wallis' interview with John DiIulio, head of the
White House Office on Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.
Hot off the (virtual) press, this online version includeds
content unavailable in the May-June 2001 print edition!

Go to:

**********************SOJOPOLL Results***************************

Results of our latest 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?

65% - An imperfect step in the right direction

22% - Smoke and mirrors - politics will still be
      controlled by monied interests
7%  - A triumph for democracy
6%  - A bad idea and a violation of constitutional rights

You can still register your opinion, and view up-to-moment
results at:


S o u l   W o r k s
Prayer for the road

I am praying again, Awesome One.

You hear me again, as words
from the depths of me
rush toward you in the wind.

I've been scattered in pieces,
torn by conflict, 
mocked by laughter,
washed down in drink.

In alleyways I sweep myself up
out of garbage and broken glass.
With my half-mouth I stammer you,
who are eternal in your symmetry.
I lift to you my half-hands
in wordless beseeching, that I may find again
the eyes with which I once beheld you.

I am a house gutted by fire
where only the guilt sometimes sleep
before the punishment that devours them
hounds them out into the open.

I am a city by the sea
sinking in toxic tide.
I am strange to myself, as though some unknown
had poisoned my mother as she carried me.

It's here in all the pieces of my shame
that I now find myself again.
I yearn to belong to something, to be contained
in an all-embracing mind that sees me
as a single thing. 
I yearn to be held 
in the great hands of your heart -
oh let them take me now.
Into them I place these fragments, my life,
and you, God - spend them however you want.

--Rainer Maria Rilke
Book of Hours: Love Poems to God


P. O. V.
Heather Shags Rome:
Actress courageously condemns Catholicism

by Don Feder

Another inmate of the entertainment community has
courageously attacked the Catholic Church....Actress
Heather Graham (star of such thought-provoking films
as "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me") is the
latest celebrity to come forward with a tragic tale
of how Catholicism made her childhood a living hell.

Original as she is audacious, Graham slams the
Church for its alleged misogyny. "Why do I have to
do what all these men are saying? Why is a woman's
sexuality evil?" Graham asks in an interview in
the February issue of Talk magazine. Good feminist
that she is, the actress identifies promiscuity
and exhibitionism as the essence of femininity.
But we may rejoice in the knowledge that Rome
failed in its attempt to stifle Graham's sexuality.

Transcending her Catholic girlhood, she played a
porn star and bared all in "Boogie Nights," had
simulated sex with a 400 pound man in the sequel
to "Austin Powers," and portrayed an act so raunchy
in the film "Two Girls and a Guy" that it had to
be cut to avoid an NC-17 rating....

Apparently, the Church isn't alone in trying to
stifle Graham. The actress hasn't spoken to her
parents in six years, to punish them for having
the chutzpah to object to her explicit performances.

Graham is the latest in a long line of ex-Catholic
entertainers ready to kvetch on cue. In 1992,
singer Sinead O'Connor ripped up a picture of Pope
John Paul II on "Saturday Night Live," shouting
"fighting the real enemy." Madonna has referred
to the Church as "disgusting" and "hypocritical."

The Vatican is ground zero in the culture war.
Genital liberationists view its opposition to
abortion, homosexuality, and sex outside marriage
as the major obstacle to advancing their values.
They're right, which is why the Church deserves
the gratitude of proponents of traditional
morality, regardless of their faith.

For Feder's entire op-ed, go to:


You are invited to attend the Brandywine Forum 
titled "The Jericho Road: A New Call to Global 
Engagement," to be held May 19-21, 2001 at Eastern 
College in St. David's, PA. The Forum is sponsored by 
The Institute for Global Engagement and Eastern 
College.  Leading theologians and practitioners from 
the Jewish and Christian faiths (including US Ambassador 
Robert A. Seiple; Andrew Natsios, Administrator 
[Designate] U.S.A.I.D., and others) will examine the 
timeless principles of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, 
which provide the basis for strategic, faith-based 
methodologies for today's complex issues. For further 
information and registration, 


C u l t u r e  W a t c h
Ride With the Devil:
Revisiting Ang Lee Film Catalog

by Daniel McCarthy 

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon by Taiwanese director
Ang Lee won four Academy Awards last month, including
best foreign language film. Between the awards and the
box-office success of the movie, there is good reason
to think  that Lee's back catalog may attract renewed
interest. Let's hope that it does, because among Lee's
previous work is a very rare sort of film, one that
deals even-handedly and even sympathetically with the
Southern side of the War Between the States.
The film in question is Ride with the Devil.

Ride with the Devil is set in Missouri, where the
fighting took place less between Yankee and
Confederate armies than between partisan guerillas -
or between native Missourians and Unionist
terrorists. Abolitionist zealots from Kansas called
"Jayhawkers" frequently raided Missouri throughout
the 1850s, plundering and killing Missourians and
generally practicing what would now be called
"ethnic cleansing." The action of Ride with the
Devil begins with one such raid, in which Jayhawkers
brutally kill a man for sympathizing with secession.
The man's son, Jack Chiles (Skeet Ulrich), survives
and along with his friend Jake "Dutchie" Roedel
(Tobey McGuire) joins a force of Missouri irregulars
called the Bushwhackers, who specialize in ambushing
Yankee troops.

Jake, called "Dutchie" because of his German
parentage, is the film's primary protagonist. His
friend Jack considers him "as Southern as they
come," but others are suspicious of his foreign
pedigree. Indeed Jake's father is a Union-sympathizer
and disapproves of his son's activity, although the
Yankees kill him for it anyway. Harried and hunted by
Union troops and separated from the rest of the
Bushwhackers, Jake and Jack, along with a Southerner
named George and his freed slave Holt, go to ground
in the backwoods of southwestern Missouri....

As Ang Lee himself writes: "I grew up in Taiwan,
where older people always  complained that kids are
becoming Americanized: they don't follow tradition,
and so we are losing our culture. As I got the chance
to go around a large part of the world with my films,
I would hear the same complaints. It seems so much of
the world is becoming Americanized. When I read Daniel
Woodrell's book "Woe to Live On," which we based Ride
with the Devil on, I realized that the American Civil
War was, in a way, where it all started. It was where
the Yankees won not only territory but, in a sense,
a victory for a whole way of life and of thinking."


B o o m e r a n g

Mark Forrester of Nashville, Tennessee, wrote:

Heather Carlson and Karin Hass were understandably
angered by Bishop Spong's interview in Playboy
magazine, not to mention SojoMail "gratuitously"
quoting from said interview.  Nobody doubts the
way in which Playboy helped pioneer the so-called
sexual revolution of the 60s, and that women-as-
playmates for male gratification became the
unfortunate "object lesson" taught to young boys
(like me). Nevertheless, the shrill and everlasting
chorus of condemnation of Hugh Hefner that emanates
from otherwise astute social critics is equally
objectionable. Had it not been for Hefner's social
conscience during that era, people such as Rev.
Martin Luther King Jr., who until his PB interview
was never given the time of day by mainstream
publications, would have been denied access
to a listening, sympathetic public. Countless
"unknowns" such as King were given audience in
those often-derided interviews that helped
expose us as a nation to more than air-brushed
pinups. You've got to look beyond those pictures
to see the bigger picture.


Doug Hyden of Tallahassee, Florida, wrote:

Tell me, who more than the readers of Playboy
needs to hear the message of the rights and
dignity of women?


Nancy H. Ferraro of Morro Bay, California, wrote:

The movement "Call for a National Mobilization to
Stop Star Wars and Abolish Nuclear Weapons" ought
to hook up with "Global Network Against Weapons
and Nuclear Power in Space", headquartered in
Gainesville, Florida, not start a new movement.
This wheel has already been invented and running
for years under the capable direction of Bruce
Gagnon. Moreover, it is global in scope and is
presently in the midst of an International Postcard
Campaign. They supply picture postcards with a
message to President Bush NOT to continue with
plans to deploy Star Wars.

Last year Global Network had "Keep Space for Peace"
events at 65 locations in 16 countries and it is
hoped that this year the number will double for
the International Day of Protest to Stop Militarization
of Space on October 13.  Gagnon can be reached via
e-mail at


Ken Humphrey of Middletown, Connecticut, wrote:

Jim Wallis' April 6 commentary concerning his
visit to Britain and its faith-based initiative
calls forth a couple of comments. First, Mr. Wallis
refers to Britain's "left-of-center Labor Party."
He can't be serious on that or he's extremely
naive. Under Tony Blair the Labor Party has become a
clone of Clinton's DCL-ized Democratic Party. Blair
has carried on the rightward policies initiated by
Maggie Thatcher. Both Britain and the Labor Party
are hollow shells of the left they used to be.

Second, Britain is not the United States. Britain is 
not besotted with the Christian Coalition as is our
country. Britain has never had the sort of
conservative religious anti-government religious
churches and leaders that we have always had here
and which are now far more in the saddle.

I have read Sojourners and followed the "movement"
since its beginning as PostAmerican 30 years ago.
I have frankly been dismayed by Jim Wallis' singing
the praises of George W. Bush's stealth attack on the
puny social safety net still left in this country
following Pres. Clinton's major wiping out a major
part of the hard-achieved social safety put in
place under the New Deal, Fair Deal, and Great
Society. I'm sure Jim Wallis means well and thinks
he's on the right track, but I have to say I think
he's in reality aiding and abetting the Bush
administration in its savage attack upon the poor
and working class as it further enriches the wealthy
class in America.


Tanja Winter of La Jolla, California, wrote:

British Labor Party and Tony Blair are hardly
progressive role models. Just like our
Democratic Party, its commitment to true
democracy  and  economic justice is
questionable. Jim Wallis' description of the
success of the faith based PECAN in no way
precludes its work being replicated in a
community-based, secular, nonprofit without
imposition of prayer on the clients. The
argument that faith-based services are
intrinsically better than community services
is reminiscent of the claim that privatization
is the answer to public needs.


Nanci Hicks of Atlanta, Georgia, wrote:

Thanks to Jim Wallis for his article concerning
PECAN. The words made me hopeful. I am, like so
many, skeptical of the faith-based initiative
proposed by Bush. I am not skeptical of the
feasibility as much as I am of motivation and
constitutional issues.... Please continue to inform
us about what is going on around this plan in our
country and as you find other examples elsewhere.


S. Belcher of Newton, Massachusetts, wrote:

I have to admit that it is very painful for me to
see Jim Wallis, Sojourners, and the name George Bush
connected in any way or for any reason.  Since the
1970s Jim Wallis and Sojourners have given me courage
to continue to be committed both to my faith and
to the liberal causes I hold dear and offered
information and inspiration. George Bush just makes
me scared and sad. Do I trust his faith initiatives
and his connection to the faith community - Christian
and otherwise? I cannot, because I cannot trust him.
Reading Jim Wallis' writings on the subject cause me
to begin to look elsewhere for inspiration.

Jim Wallis responds:

Some of these and previous letters attacking "faith-
based initiatives" contain caricatures and even 
factual errors. To suggest that the British Labor 
government is not to the left of both the 
Republican and Democratic Parties in the United 
States is to deny reality. Of course, there are 
many who would like Labor to go further left, 
but the point I was making is that support for 
active partnerships between governments and 
faith-based organizations is not merely a 
right-wing conspiracy as some of the most 
vociferous critics on the left suggest. People 
across the political spectrum support such 
partnerships and want to forge them in ways 
that are consistent with both the separation 
of church and state and the health of a 
pluralistic and democratic society. I certainly 
do not believe, nor have ever said, that faith-
based organizations are always better than 
secular ones. But there is a bias among too 
many on the left against faith and religion 
per se, and any notion of linking spirituality 
to social change. I think that bias is as 
mistaken and dangerous as the religious right 
is. I call it secular fundamentalism. That is 
operating in this debate. I also see a 
ideological equating of "liberal" with "prophetic," 
which is another mistake.

The political partisanship on the religious left 
appears to be as great as that on the religious 
right. I have no idea whether Bush's faith-based
initiative will turn out to be substantial or 
merely symbolic and, indeed, manipulative. But 
one critic actually said to me, "My biggest fear 
is that this thing might actually help to reduce 
poverty, and then the Democrats wouldn't win 
again." Do we have to remind people that the 
Democrats have not been champions of the poor 
either? If Gore was in the White House and had 
a faith-based initiative, as he surely would 
have and Clinton did at HUD, would the critics 
on the left feel better about all this? Whether 
Bush will or Gore would have done this the way 
it should be carried out, partnerships with 
faith communities could be done well, and in 
ways that could really impact our poorest children. 
Isn't that our agenda? Let's keep our eyes on the 
prize here.

I met with George Bush exactly once, along with 
25 other religious leaders. The statements made 
that day to the president-elect were clear, strong, 
and, yes, prophetic. In columns, articles, 
interviews, and speeches, like the one I gave last 
night in Dallas (at Southern Methodist University, 
his wife's alma mater, and in the shadow of his 
home church), I have been critical of the Bush 
administration on a whole number of issues already, 
as I was of Clinton/Gore. To say that those who 
believe in the promise of partnership between 
governments and faith-based organizations are just 
"singing the praises of George Bush" is just ridiculous. 
Christians, especially, ought to be able to have a 
healthy discussion of how such partnerships should 
and should not be formed, instead of just repeating 
the ideological polemics and parodies of liberal 
Democrats and conservative Republicans. We can do 
better than that.

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


H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l
Leave no child behind

The Children's Defense Fund is holding its annual
conference in Washington, D.C., this week. This
year's conference is particularly exciting because
it included the launch of an omnibus bill titled
"The Act to Leave No Child Behind." CDF president
Marian Wright Edelman drafted the bill to overcome
poverty among children. Jim Wallis gave the
invocation at a briefing around the bill Wednesday

One item of interest in the bill is the effort to
double the child tax credit (a measure already 
supported by the Bush administration), and to make 
the credit refundable (which the administration 
opposes). CDF estimates that doing so would raise 
one out of six children out of poverty.
Other efforts included in the Act to Leave No Child
Behind include creating a new children's health
insurance program, expanding early childhood
development programs, providing resources to school
districts to improve the teaching workforce, providing
family work supports, such as child care assistance, 
and expanding Section 8 housing vouchers.

For more information on the CDF Conference or the
Act to Leave No Child Behind, go to:


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 ninth
installment of her diary highlights in SojoMail.


We are back in Bogota and heading toward a refugee
camp for Colombia's internally displaced. We meet
Francisco Bustamante of the community organization
MINGA (which means "collective work"). "There are 
over 2 million people displaced by violence in 
Colombia," says Bustamante. "This settlement area 
was originally used for working with kids who were 
poor or on the streets or in violent homes, but now 
our primary work is with displaced families. We only 
have contact with those displaced communities that 
were organized before they became displaced and have 
maintained that organization. Most of the people you 
will meet today are women and children because the men 
are either working in the city, stayed with their land, 
or have been killed."

We sit on the grassy slope and listen to women tell
their stories in the late afternoon light. Ana X says,
"There are many of us here who are from the region of
Bolivar in the north. We all left our town on the same
day in November 1998 because the paramilitaries
started bombing us, using helicopters from the 5th Brigade.
In our exodus, 1,500 of us fled up into the farms. We
tried to get the government to help us but the governor
told us that it was better for us just to leave because
the paramilitaries were going to bomb the whole area.
Bolivar is the new El Dorado. It has the biggest gold
mine in South America. It has emeralds, oil, and
plutonium. The paramilitaries are not even protecting
this for the government; they are protecting it for the
multinationals. Some of us tried to go back to our homes,
but there were men dragging people out of their houses
and cutting people open with chain saws. We saw this.
Our children saw this. We want you Americans to recognize
that Plan Colombia is a war plan. Around here the
U.S. is known as the country that helps you have a war."
Edilma X begins to speak: "On December 3, 2000, my
brother returned to our home because there was no help
for us in Bogota and our parents had been left alone
in their house. The paramilitaries found my brother at
the house of my parents (they had fled to another town).
They tied him up. They shot him. They threw him in the
river. I know this because my father went and found his
body there. Now my sister-in-law tries to get help from
the government, but they say the checks can only be made
out in her husband's name, so she gets nothing. I am now
responsible for my six children and my sister-in-law and
her four children, one of whom is very sick in the
hospital. Please tell me what we are supposed to do."

There is a horrified chill in the group and such
helplessness among us all. Before we leave we
exchange hugs, prayers, contact information (though
they don't really have any). I go to hug Edilma who I
have had a nonverbal communication with during the
afternoon. She collapses in my arms. She sobs and sobs.
She pours out her heart to me in Spanish, most of which
I can't understand. But I know she is telling me about
each of her children, especially her little niece
who is so sick. And how alone she feels and that she
doesn't know what to do. And why has God abandoned her?
"Where is he?" she keeps repeating. It becomes a mantra
for God and for all the others who have gone missing -
desaparacidos. I pray over her. I sign her with the
cross on her forehead. I smooth her hair and wipe away
her tears. I lift her chin and make her look me in the
eyes. It is so little.

For more information about displaced people in Colombia,
see the U.S. Committee for Refugees:

Support Witness for Peace's Colombia project:

W e b  S c e n e

*In Motion Magazine

In Motion Magazine is a multicultural, online U.S.
publication about democracy. Regular updates on
such subjects as civil rights, health care, rural
America, education rights, impact of globalization,
Chiapas, and photo of the week. Go to:


*Miami Herald: Who Won?

Still curious about the outcome of the 2000
presidential election? After an extensive
investigation into the Florida election controversy,
the Miami Herald has published its findings in this
comprehensive online report. Along with news stories
examining several what-if recount scenarios, the site
also features a tool for looking up results in all
Florida counties.


*The MegaPenny Project

How many pennies would you have to stack to
create a life-size replica of the Empire State
Building? The Sears Tower? We could tell you the
numbers, but they're much more interesting when
you see them alongside the graphics at this
site. Go to:


*Go beyond Denny's and McDonald's:

When you travel, you're not going to get a taste
of the local culture by having lunch at McDonald's.
You need to find out where the locals go to dine,
and this site is a good guide. Restaurant reviewers
Jane and Michael Stern introduce you to unique local
eateries throughout America, complementing their
plain-spoken commentary with photos, reader ratings,
and maps. Go to:


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