The Common Good


Sojomail - April 27, 2001

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 Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k
     *Do as we say, not as we do

 H e a r t s  &  M i n d s
     *A Sit-in for a Living Wage

 B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
     *Project Abolition invites action

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *New devotional practice for after Easter

 H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l
     *Unpublished sermon from Martin Luther King Jr. found

 F a i t h  &  P o l i t i c s
     *The black church and Bush's FBO plan

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Hate groups will hate these ads

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

 T e c h   E t h i x
     *A scientific search for God?

 C o l o m b i a   J o u r n a l
     *A visit to the U.S. Embassy in Bogota

 W e b  S c e n e
     *Pulitzer Prize highlights
     *Your favorite animal calls


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

"Americans keep telling us how successful their
system is - then they remind us not to stray too
far from our hotel at night."

         -- A visiting European official, during
            the G-8 economic summit in Denver (1997)

H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
A Sit-in for a Living Wage

by Jim Wallis

Nearly 40 students and community supporters are 
conducting a peaceful sit-in inside Harvard 
University's Massachusetts Hall, which houses 
the offices of the president and provost. The 
sit-in began on Wednesday, April 18, in support 
of a living wage for all workers at Harvard. 

The Harvard Living Wage Campaign began in winter 
1999, when I was living in Cambridge. Students 
began to question why one of the wealthiest 
academic institutions in the country (with an 
endowment exceeding $19 billion) was unwilling 
to pay its security guards, janitors, and 
dining-room workers a wage sufficient to support 
their families. In the early stages of the campaign, 
I met several times with student leaders.

In May 1999, the Cambridge City Council passed a 
city living wage ordinance and a year later passed 
an order urging the university to implement a living 
wage - currently $10.25 per hour plus benefits. The 
campaign has received growing support among students 
and faculty at the university - more than 150 faculty 
members have endorsed it. Campaign representatives 
have met repeatedly with administrators, including 
the president. They have written op-eds in student 
and local newspapers, sponsored teach-ins, collected 
petition signatures, and organized public 

Yet the major response of the university has been 
to outsource jobs to private firms paying poverty-level 
wages, decimating unions in the process. The campaign 
estimates that there are currently 1,000-2,000 people 
working on campus who are paid less than $10.25 plus 
benefits. Some directly hired janitors earn only 
$7.50 per hour, and subcontracted dining hall workers' 
wages are as low as $6.50 per hour.

In early April, a delegation from the campaign met 
with university President Neil Rudenstine and made 
no progress toward a living-wage agreement. The 
sit-in followed. Its basic demand is that all 
Harvard workers, whether directly employed or hired 
through outside firms, must be paid a living wage 
of at least $10.25 per hour, adjusted annually for 
inflation, and with basic health benefits.  

Since the sit-in began, daily support rallies and 
all-night vigils have been held.  Numerous faculty 
members and union representatives have expressed 
their support, and last Friday Massachusetts Sen. 
Ted Kennedy visited to support the students. E-mails 
of support have been flooding in from Harvard alumni, 
similar campaigns at other universities, and families 
of the participating students.

The idea that people who work deserve a wage that 
allows them to support a family should not be 
controversial, at Harvard University or anywhere else. 
It's a fundamental moral and human right. I continue 
to support the campaign at Harvard, and urge SojoMail 
readers to also express their support.

The Harvard Living Wage Campaign is maintaining a sit-in 
Web site at


B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t

A note from Kevin Martin, director of Project Abolition:

Thanks to Nancy Ferraro of Morro Bay, California,
for mentioning the Global Network Against Weapons
and Nuclear Power in Space. They are indeed a
sponsoring organization, as are many other
national peace and disarmament groups, of our
June 10-2 anti-Star Wars, pro-nuclear-abolition 
rally and Congressional Education Days
in Washington, D.C. Bruce Gagnon of the Global
Network will be one of our speakers at the
rally at the White House June 10. For more info
about our events, please see our Web site at:

Project Abolition, a coalition whose members
include Physicians for Social Responsibility,
Peace Action, Peace Links, and Women's Action for
New Directions, is helping promote the Global
Network's call for actions around the country (and
around the world) this October 13. In fact,
materials for the October action will be included
in our "Stop the Star Wars Revival" action kit,
available from Project Abolition by calling
219/535-1110 or e-mailing me at

In the May-June issue of SOJOURNERS...

* A first-hand account from the coca fields of 
southern Colombia, the front lines of the 
drug war, by Rose Marie Berger.

* An interview with John DiIulio, the head of 
the government's office on "faith-based 
initiatives," on why church-and-state 
partnerships aren't a sign of the apocalypse. 
And syndicated columnist E.J. Dionne on the 
dangers (and opportunities) for churches 
in working with the government.

* David Cortright on the Pentagon's 
Strangelovian plan to spend billions on an 
elaborate system intended to stop incoming 
ballistic missiles - Star Wars revisited.

* A look at the rapid growth of Islam in America, 
and especially at what it's like to be a 
Muslim woman in the Western world.

* Plus commentary on Jesse Jackson's morals, 
Bush's tax cuts for the rich, and the faddish 
push for standardized testing, as well as columns 
by David Batstone, Jim Wallis, Nancy Hastings 
Sehested, Danny Duncan Collum, and Ed Spivey Jr.

All this and more in the May-June Sojourners. 
Check out the special introductory subscription 
rate at



H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l
A New Sermon by Martin Luther King Jr.

by Gustav Niebuhr  
Thirty-six years ago, Rev. James J. Reeb was
mortally wounded by attackers in a civil rights
demonstration in Selma, Ala. Now the Unitarian
Universalist Association, the denomination to which he
belonged, has brought to light a previously unpublished
sermon preached by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
at Reeb's memorial service.
The sermon, transcribed from a tape-recording, appears
in the May/June issue of UU World, the denomination's
magazine, and on its Internet site,
The March 1965 sermon shows Dr. King in all his
prophetic power, declaring that despite the
uncertainties of the day, "something profoundly
meaningful" was occurring in the civil rights movement.

"Old systems of exploitation and oppression are passing
away," he said. "Out of the wombs of a frail world, new
systems of justice and equality are being born."

At some future point, Dr. King said, the nation would
recognize its "real heroes" - men and women who in
"agonizing loneliness" withstood the furies of the mob.
Mr. Reeb, he said, would be numbered among them.

To read the entire sermon, go to:


SojoFest 2001:  A Celebration of Hope

And you're invited.

Join us this summer, July 26-29, outside Chicago 
to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Sojourners 
magazine. We've been working hard and we're ready 
to celebrate. Don't miss this chance to reconnect 
with old friends and make new ones. Click here to 
learn more about the festivities and speakers, 
registration options, and facilities:


S o u l   W o r k s
New Devotional Practice for After Easter

Via Lucis Has Its 14 Stations

The Lenten practice of the Way of the Cross now
has an Easter season counterpart: the Way of the
Light. The paschal Way of the Light, or Via Lucis,
is a new religious practice proper to the post-Easter
liturgical period. It is spreading to numerous
Christian parishes and communities. The new practice
has characteristics similar to the Way of the Cross,
or Via Crucis, and can be prayed personally or in

Instead of carrying the cross, a symbol
of the Passion, a paschal candle or icon of the
resurrection is raised for all to see. Just as
Friday is the special day for the Via Crucis,
Sunday is the day for the Via Lucis. The Via Lucis
includes 14 stations for reflection on Christ's pasch,
from his resurrection to Pentecost. There are
readings of the biblical narratives corresponding
to each station, followed by silence,
meditative prayer, and a brief Easter hymn. There
are guidelines and texts for Via Lucis station
meditations on the Internet. Among other sites, you may


F a i t h  &  P o l i t i c s
Why is support for Bush's FBO plan 
growing among black churches?

Rev. Walter B. Johnson, pastor of the Wayman
African Methodist Episcopal Church, didn't vote
for President Bush and rarely sings his praises,
so when the administration announced its 
controversial faith-based initiative, Johnson had to
think long and hard about whether to sign on.

Many white evangelicals - the very people Bush
has been accused of trying to appease with
his plan to fund religiously based social services -
rejected the idea, saying it would hinder the
expression of their beliefs. Rev. Jesse Jackson
warned that churches that accept the money would
be co-opted by the government. But in the end,
Johnson joined other African-American ministers
in Chicago and nationwide who are emerging as
the most unexpected and vocal supporters of
Bush's faith-based plan. Saying no to the
money, they reason, is the luxury of the well-
heeled and well-connected, not urban churches
trying to keep kids off the street.

For the entire story, 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, visit:


C u l t u r e  W a t c h
Hate groups will hate these ads

Say you're a member of the KKK or some other
white supremacist group. You go to a Yahoo
chat room designed specially for you, and
what do you see? A banner ad preaching tolerance
and diversity. Will you click through?

The Internet portal and, a new
Web site created by the Southern Poverty Law
Center, launched the campaign Wednesday.
"It's a novel approach to reaching people," said
Jim Carrier, the director of "Now
we can get our message to them on their own turf."

Yahoo was heavily criticized by human rights 
organizations for hosting the hate groups' sites. 
But instead of removing the sites, as some had 
insisted, Yahoo donated the free banner ads promoting 
tolerance. While some critics called Yahoo's 
response "fairly lame," the Yahoo PR department 
is making use of the alliance with the Southern 
Poverty Law Center in its current marketing effort. 

To find out more about the campaign, go to:,1284,43009,00.html?tw=wn20010412


B o o m e r a n g

Richard Evans of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, wrote:

I was surprised and disappointed to read Jim
Wallis' commentary on the McVeigh execution.
His vindictiveness in suggesting that McVeigh's
life be spared only in order to "keep him in
solitary confinement 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...." Nothing about mercy, nothing
about never giving up hope that a person may repent,
nothing about simply having to live with oneself
for the next 50 years or so being punishment 

Perhaps he [Wallis] fears being seen as soft
on crime? He sounds as consumed with bitterness
and need for revenge as the most vitriolic
advocate of capital punishment, and in fact
lends credence to the argument that death may
be more humane.


Deb Sawyer of Salt Lake City, Utah, wrote:

My brother has schizophrenia and perhaps because
of that I somehow identify with the underdog. I just
read [Jim Wallis' column]. I can imagine being
Timothy's sister. If I were, I don't think I
would want him executed or for him to spend his
entire life being punished as you described. I think
I would want someone to succeed where me and my
family had obviously failed. I would want someone
to reach him and to help him love.


Bernard Adeney-Risakotta working in Indonesia wrote:

Wallis' reflection on capital punishment strikes me
as twisted. If you oppose capital punishment, do so
because you respect the human dignity of each person
and believe no one is every beyond the possibility of
redemption. Don't oppose it because the sentence of
death is not harsh enough! Only God can decide how
much punishment is enough; and presumably God will
decide. On the other hand if you support capital
punishment, do so because you think it is a necessary
expedient, or more humane than "solitary confinement
for the rest of his life," or that society has a
right to protect itself with lethal means against
certain types of criminals. Don't support it because
it is the cruelist and harshest punishment available.
I agree with Wallis that there are punishments worse
than death, but I'd rather leave them to God's


Andrea Calisher of Ithaca, New York, wrote:

In response to Donald Feder (SojoMail, 4/20/01), 
it really gets my goat when feminism is 
characterized by: a) a man who apparently knows 
very little about feminism, and b) a man who uses 
one woman as the voice of the feminist movement, 
using her actions as an example of how feminists 
are off track. Give me a break! I am a feminist, 
and I would hope any Christian would be. Feminism 
fundamentally is about promoting equality. And 
just as with other umbrella concepts, a multitude
of other varying beliefs exist under the "umbrella."
To reduce feminism to one thing and equate it with
an actress with a big mouth who enjoys expressing her
personal opinions really does the feminist movement
a great disservice. Distorting what this powerful
movement is about through confusing media
messages works to minimize the movement's impact.
So Mr. Feder, if you can't say something nice about
feminism, don't say anything at all. But go ahead
and slam that actress all you want.


Shosha Capps of Charleston, South Carolina, wrote:

I am a non-Christian who reads both Sojourners and
Mother Jones fairly regularly. I like their generally
tolerant tone and the spiritual slant with which they
approach social justice. I don't always agree with
what is said, but I like their honest, open approach
to issues that are also important to me. However, Don
Feder's article on Heather Graham and the Catholic
church was extremely disappointing to me.

I do not know anything about Heather Graham or what she
or any other celebrity who has denounced Christian
views on sexuality has gone through to get where they
are - but I think it is very unlikely that they did
not get there through spiritual struggle. I know very
well how hard it is to throw off the beliefs of your
childhood, no matter how antiquated you believe them
to be in your current life. They come back in small
ways, in unconscious ways, like any habit of

The views and lives of those who have a different
approach to sexual morality should not be condemned as
mindless rebellious children running around having sex
with everything they see. I am not going to touch
whether sex outside of marriage actually IS "right" or
"wrong," but I do think that Christians should take
care to look at things as they are, in all their
complexity, and not just push another "them" over to
the other side of the fence where they are easier to
deal with. No one's personal struggle for spiritual
peace should be dismissed so quickly.


Richard Clark of Salem, Indiana, wrote:

Daniel McCarthy's pro-Confederate view of the
film  "Ride With the Devil" assures me that I will
boycott this piece of garbage. It sounds like the
most distorted movie about the pre-Civil War since
Errol Flynn's 1940 anti-abolitionist movie "Santa Fe
Trail."  To call abolitionist zealots "terrorists" is
an insult. I suppose Mr. McCarthy defends the right
of Southern oligarchs to hold blacks in chattel
slavery? I only regret that John Brown was not
successful at Harper's Ferry in 1859!


Peter Breen of Everton Hills, Queensland, Australia wrote:

Thanks to Jim Wallis for the comments to letters on
FBOs. In Australia we have any number of positive
examples of partnerships - church and government.
Our political journey in this country is beginning
to see little clear difference now in left and right
regarding social justice, even if it is pragmatic. As a
pastor of a local church, we are funded by our state
government to supply a state family support initiative,
over which we have complete jurisdiction. We share
the same outcome vision as the government, but are
free to employ professionals in line with our own
values. In fact we were encouraged to do that.
Outcomes here do determine funding, but prevenient
grace is alive and well in the market-place as
honest politicians [!] realise they need us to raise
the levels of health in our society at least one notch.


Philip Hoppner of Sheffield, England, wrote:

I'm increasingly finding it difficult to get excited
when I hear news that governments in either Britain
or the United States talk of working with communities
or faith organisations, in an effort to empower
local people and provide better local "services." Who
are they kidding? In Britain, many dedicated local
activists are being turned off or burned out by the
level of responsibility that is being placed on their
heads by central governments' desire to "step back"
and let local people take control....

For many local groups and activists, their involvement 
has increased dramatically from running a one-night-a-week 
community group to financing and managing a major project.
Many hours of participation from local people go
unnoticed and unpaid, with many jobs part-time and
insecure. A plethora of groups and short-term projects
are emerging, with very little cohesion or strategy.
Community development? What is government all about?
Surely there is a role for greater intervention, of
truly supporting community development, of involving those
who are shouting the loudest. Local activists and groups
need to be properly supported and valued. Funding
strategies need to encourage long-term development and
be developed with rather than for the local people.
What are politicians really trying to achieve by
"giving local communities greater control of their
own destiny?" Should we not be asking why?


Scott Presnall of Waco, Texas, wrote:

Jim Wallis mistakenly places all responsibility for
the U.S. "anti" faith-based initiatives movement at
the feet of liberals, stating the left is concerned
about a "right wing ploy to help governments evade
their responsibilities."

I have read nothing of the sort in the mainstream
media. What I have read, and I what I personally
believe, is that such an attempt to fund
religion-based organizations with tax-payer
dollars carries an inherent risk in the government
eventually exercising considerable control over
how those dollars are spent. I could not, with a
clear conscience, accept any money from a governmental
entity with that being a strong possibility.


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



T e c h   E t h i x
A scientific search for God

Andrew Newberg, a neuroscientist at the University
of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, has been fascinated
by the neurobiology of religion for more than a
decade. He admits it's an awkward role for a
scientist. "I always get concerned that people will
say I'm a religious person who's trying to prove
that God exists, or I'm a cynic who's trying to
prove that God doesn't exist," he says. "But we
try to approach it without bias." Earlier this
month he published a book that lays out the
most complete theory to date of how mystical or
religious experiences can be generated in the brain.

More than half of people report having had
some sort of mystical or religious experience. For
some, the experience is so intense it changes their
life forever. But what is "it"? The presence of God?
A glimpse of a higher plane of being? Or just the
mystical equivalent of déjà vu, a trick the brain
sometimes plays on your conscious self? At some
level, of course, all our thoughts and sensations -
however unusual - must involve the brain. Indeed,
experiments on the brain have led neuroscientists
to suggest that the capacity for religion may somehow
be hardwired into us. If so, why do people's religious
experiences differ so profoundly, moving some so deeply
while leaving others cold?

To read more about a "neurobiology" of religion, go to:



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T h e   C o l o m b i a   J o u r n a l s

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 final
installment of her diary highlights in SojoMail.
See her feature article "The Time of Coca" in
the May-June 2001 issue of Sojourners.


It's 10 a.m. at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota. It's Martin
Luther King Day so the embassy is low on staff. The
security guards just checked us through. No cameras. No
cell phones. No tape recorders. No radios. No tools. We
are meeting with the new U.S. Ambassador Ann Patterson,
and the human rights attaché, USAID representatives,
and two men from Narcotics Affairs. None of them have
been here for longer than four months; some for less
than a week.

Ann Patterson, former ambassador to El Salvador, is
pleasant, respectful, and forthright. She tells us
that she knows we have a lot of collective experience
in the Central America conflicts of the '80s, but that
our knowledge is not applicable to Colombia. She says
this first thing - in one stroke she compliments us
on our long commitment to peace and tells us that our
experience and knowledge is worth nothing here. Ahh,

The man from Narcotics Affairs begins instructing
us on the finer points of fumigation. He spreads
global positioning satellite images out on the floor
for us to review. He matches them with "sample maps"
of someplace in southern Colombia. He provides us
with multiple copies of a study on the safety of
glyphosate. "Glyphosate is used regularly around
the world, including the United States, as a maturing
agent." I look around for a map of Colombia to show
him where we have just been. The embassy doesn't
have one available. The representative from USAID
speaks. "The coca farmer is not the problem here.
They are victims of economic circumstance. No one
in these offices sees them as criminals," he says.
"I do," says Narcotics Affairs from across the room.
"They are growing illegal crops, so they are
criminals." The "carrot" and the "stick" are fighting
with each other.

We thank the embassy staff for meeting with us and
hearing our experience. We explain that our deep
concerns about U.S. policy toward Colombia still
exist and that we will hold a nonviolent prayer
vigil later in front of the embassy to make public
our concerns. They are not happy with this but say
they will alert the security guards.

The area outside the embassy gate is officially in
the jurisdiction of the Bogota police. We have no
idea how they will react to our presence. I'm glad we
have decided on a silent vigil. It's more powerful and
easier to know what to do if things turn bad. We learn
from Colombians that no one has ever held a vigil at
the embassy before. We take our places along the
sidewalk, holding signs that say "No more helicopters."
"No more guns." "Not in my name." And "Eradicate Addiction,
Not Campesinos." We bring bread, fruit, and flowers
as symbolic offerings to the Colombian people. We ask
their forgiveness for the inappropriate way our
government has increased their suffering. Just out of
sight on the side streets, the Bogota police have
gathered with armored cars and trucks filled with
riot police.

We have not expected to be joined by any Colombians
because of how dangerous it could be for them. Yet
while our line is not directly joined, we see that
people from all over the city who have heard about
the protest on the radio have come to "stroll" in
support of us. In business attire and day laborer
clothes, they walk very slowly up and down the
street in front of us. They smile. They take the
flowers we hand to them. When they reach the
end of the block they turn around and stroll back.
Some even risk shaking our hands and thanking us.
The biggest surprise is when women from the
displaced community and the Afro-Colombian organizers
show up and ask to stand in solidarity with us. We
are shocked. Stunned. When we met with them
earlier in the trip and asked if they thought a
vigil at the embassy was a good idea they said, "For
you to do it would be good. If we did it we'd be
beaten like dogs." They could be in real danger for
taking this stand. Yet all ends peacefully and after
a few hours we return to the hotel.

The next morning I bought newspapers that had photos
from the vigil in them. I feel like we did a good
thing with that vigil. I'm very worried, though, about
the consequences for the Afro-Colombian men. They may
not survive having joined us so publicly. I'm worried
about the day the bus they are traveling on is pulled
over on a dirt road, their names are read off a
list to step off the bus or everyone on the bus will
be killed. They, of course, will get off. They will
be told to lay face down in the dust. The last thing
they hear will be the horrible derogatory names from
their killers and the profound silence from the bus.
Then machine gun fire. Then nothing. As they say,
"another dead dog in the road."

I'll close out this diary with a poem. Please do what
you can for Colombia.

The Little Giant of Faith

for Padre Alcides Jimenez
and the people of Colombia

shiny aluminum milk cans
clank in flat bed horse carts

the quick flit of an oro pendola
flashing to its slung sack

bananas green and thick hung
in a daily bunch from the porch

ball lightening explodes behind a rising storm cell
rides the cool air of the river of swans

Padre Alcides looks curiously at the seventeen
bullet holes cut in his green vestment

and the curled metal lip of the bullet hole
in his precious gold chalice

one bloody finger touches the shredded edge
of the gospel of Mark

the book he lifted instinctively to protect himself
tears fall from his eyes

he didn't want to leave his beloved Puerto Caicedo
at the same time, slowly slowly

every bullet hole burned and darkened
at its bitter edge begins to fill with light.

--Rose Marie Berger (1/17/01, Bogota, Colombia)

For information about private U.S. military contractors
fighting the drug war in Colombia, see:,1597,287531-412,00.shtml

Support Witness for Peace's Colombia project at:


W e b  S c e n e

*The Pulitzer Prizes

Learn about this year's winners of the prestigious
Pulitzer Prize, which were announced last week, at
the official Pulitzer site. In addition to lists of
nominees and winners dating back to 1917, the site
provides historical background on the award, which
recognizes outstanding contributions to journalism,
letters and drama, and music. Go to:


*Ralph Duren's Animal Calls

A winner of turkey-calling and owl-hooting trophies,
Ralph Duren will transport you into the wild with his
vocal and mechanical renditions of birds, frogs, and
mammals. Go to:


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