The Common Good


Sojomail - May 11, 2001

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

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

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++++++++++++++++++++ 11-May-2001 +++++++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k
     *KC Royals don't have a prayer...

 H e a r t s  &  M i n d s
     *Let's have democracy, not aristocracy

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *Ed Spivey's spin on evolving intelligence

 T e c h  E t h i x
     *Bio-babies spawn ethics question

 B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
     *All customers are created equal

 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
     *Buddhism on film

 H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l
     *Roundtable discussion on White House initiative

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *Salute to all the mothers

 W e b  S c e n e
     *Help protect some of nature's bio-gems
     *Let your mouse do the walking

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

"Chewing on cookies and drinking milk
and praying is not going to get it done...
I'd like them to go out and pound tequila
rather than have cookies and milk, because
nobody is going to get us out of this but

    - Kansas City Royals manager Tony Muser
      on the manly measures needed to break
      his baseball team's prolonged slump


SojoFest 2001:  A Celebration of Hope

And you're invited.

Join us this summer, July 26-29, near 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:


H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
Let's have democracy, not aristocracy

by Jim Wallis

I spoke yesterday during a rally at the U.S. Capitol 
to preserve the estate tax. Other speakers included 
Marian Wright Edelman of the Children's Defense Fund, 
Gerald McEntee of the American Federation of State, 
County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Chuck Collins 
of United for a Fair Economy, Bill Gates, Sr., and 
Senators Kent Conrad and Jon Corzine. We spoke about
the importance of an estate tax in a democracy. 
Following are my remarks:

I doubt that any of you have ever come to a political 
rally and heard about biblical archaeology. But that's 
where I want to start today.

When archaeologists dig into the ruins of ancient Israel, 
they find times when the houses were about the same size 
and the artifacts of life show relative equality among 
the people. At those times, the biblical prophets were 
silent - they had nothing to say.

But the diggings also uncover times when there are huge 
houses and little hovels, and the artifacts of life 
show great economic disparities. That's when the 
prophets were most outspoken, denouncing the great 
gaps in wealth and the neglect of the poor. And if 
Isaiah, Jeremiah, or Amos were here today, they would 
all say: "Don't repeal the estate tax."

Isaiah talks of "you who join house to house, who add 
field to field." And Amos says "Alas for those who lie 
on beds of ivory and lounge on their couches - who 
sing idle songs." An accumulation of wealth that allows 
some people to live in luxury while others go hungry 
was unacceptable then and it's unacceptable now. That's 
not "class warfare" - it's biblical religion.

And that's what the estate tax is about; it is one way 
of reducing concentrations of wealth and power - our 
way of partially leveling the playing field. One way 
of promoting democracy over aristocracy. One way of 
encouraging those who have prospered to give something 
back to society. Repealing the estate tax would 
undermine charitable giving and offend justice at 
the same time - quite an accomplishment. 

When we hear so much talk today about the important 
role of faith-based and other nonprofit organizations 
in our society, why would we repeal one of the major 
incentives for giving to them? And its repeal would 
further increase the gap between rich and poor - not 
a good idea from a religious point of view.

We should make a deal with Congress: preserve the 
estate tax, and with the revenue it produces, make 
the child tax credit fully refundable and lift 
millions of our poorest children out of poverty. 
That's something the prophets would approve of!

And if Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, and Micah were here 
today, I'm sure they would join us in saying that 
the estate tax should be:

Reformed if needed but not repealed.
Mended but not ended.
Let's increase democracy not aristocracy.

Tax Cut Action Alert

In the next week or so, the U.S. Senate Finance 
Committee is expected to consider and vote on the 
major tax cut proposed by the president. It is 
absolutely essential that the senators on this 
committee include a fully refundable child tax 
credit in this tax bill.
The president proposed increasing the current child 
tax credit from $500 per child to $1,000 per child. 
This will provide significant help to middle- and 
upper-income families. However, unless the child 
tax credit is made fully refundable, it will 
provide no help to 16 million children living in 
moderate- and lower-income families. An additional 
7 million children who currently receive a partial 
credit would get no new help. By making the child 
tax credit refundable, the Senate Finance Committee 
can provide vital assistance to these children and 
families and lift 2 million children out of poverty.
Please act today to urge senators on the Finance 
Committee to strongly support a refundable child 
tax credit. Send them a message today to leave 
no child behind. 

Children's Defense Fund has an action alert Web 
page, where you can send an e-mail message directly 
to your senators:


F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
Ed Spivey's spin on evolving intelligence

The human genome project examines one of the
last great mysteries of life, and scientists
feel that, once fully understood, there will
be only a few remaining secrets to explore.
These include: subatomic particles (or, in
scientific shorthand, "Stone Phillips"), the
basic structure of light, and the complex
question of how to fold women's underwear.
(Are you supposed to end up with a triangle or
a parallelogram?) And, more important, why I
have to do it in the first place.

In other science-related news, Kansas' newly
elected school board voted to overturn its
earlier ban on teaching evolution in schools.
The nearly unanimous vote came shortly after
it was discovered that the previous school
board had evolved from roundworms.

And speaking of evolution, we were pleased to
see that, in his early months in office,
President Bush bravely rejected the draconian
rules of pronoun usage that have, over the
millennia, come to inhibit our language. For
instance, his repeated use of the singular when
the arcane strictures of English required the
plural was a clear sign that the shackles of
grammatical propriety need no longer chafe nor
constrict. Clearly, this is a president who will
not quayle in the face of good grammar or in the
presence of those who purport to speak it.
He's is a higher calling.[]

To see how your intelligence stacks up to that
of a roundworm, go immediately to:


T e c h   E t h i x
Bio-babies spawn ethics question

by Kristen Philipkoski

Scientists correct a fertility flaw in human eggs
by introducing healthy donor DNA. Experts say the
untested method could have grave consequences. Read
the full feature article at:,1286,43579,00.html?tw=wn20010505


B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
All customers are created equal

by David Batstone

This week I witnessed a revealing cultural rift
in Munich, Germany. I was sitting in a sushi bar
with a full team of Japanese cooks. Directly across
the street stands the famed Hofbrauhaus, a celebrated
beer hall known for many things, not least of which
was a roguish event involving Adolph Hitler and his
1933 National Socialist cronies. The Haufbrauhaus
is still crowded every evening with locals and
curious tourists, an oompa-band playing away as
waitresses scurry around, enormous steins of beer
in hand.

But back to the sushi restaurant. In walk five
U.S. college students. A Japanese waiter leads them
to a small table around which they tightly
cram. One of the girls immediately notices a
slightly larger table in the corner ("large"
is a relative concept in a sushi bar, of
course). On the table sits a sign: "Reserved." So
she asks the waiter if her group can move to the
corner table. A reasonable request. The
Japanese waiter politely says no, explaining that
the table is indeed reserved, and walks back
behind the bar.

Several minutes pass and the waiter returns with
glasses of water, and the girl asks again if her
group can shift tables to the corner. He politely
repeats his explanation why they can't, sets down
the water glasses, and moves away. This sparks a
spirited conversation among the young women,
leading to a third call to the waiter. He rebuffs
their request once again. The young women collectively
express their outrage, stand up, and head for the
door. The girl who initiated the protest then turns
proudly to the waiter and utters with conviction -
after all, these truths are self-evident and known
to be true - "The customer is always right."

A short while later three older Japanese patrons
arrive and are led to the reserved table in the corner.
I don't know who they are, but they are obviously
honored guests. The rites of consumerism evidently
have not superceded all cultural traditions and

I continue eating my sushi, mouth shut, hoping
that no one would connect me to my recently departed


B o o m e r a n g

Tracy Dickinson of Rochester, New York, wrote:

I agree with David Batstone's article in last week's
SojoMail. While I myself have never subscribed
to Playboy magazine, and most certainly don't
espouse its attitudes towards women, I would just
like to ask the people who were offended by
SojoMail's coverage of the Playboy interview with
Bishop Spong - why not look upon it as simply
informative media coverage of a religious or
spiritual figure?


Thomas Pack of Ruston, Louisiana, wrote:

I am a 15-year-old Christian, and I look to Sojourners
for insight into things that are happening in this world
and social justice issues. In response to the letters
claiming that it is un-Christian to print "left-wing"
or "right-wing" letters or letters of any other
viewpoint, I would ask those persons to re-examine
their reason for believing.

The fundamental desire of a Christian should be the
search for truth. Christians who involve themselves
in political and socio-economic affairs should make
this their point of reference, instead of asking
"Is it a liberal view?" or "Is it the Republican


McNair Wilson of San Francisco, California, wrote:

[In last week's Boomerang] the all-too-tender Mr.
Murphy of Texas worries in words of an "ecumenical
Jihad." I am in favor of ecumenical anything we can
get, so long as it does not include the faint of
theology (i.e. Murphy of Texas.) In his case I
suspect "jihad" is an acronym for Just Incapable
of Hearing Any Dissent.


Greta Reed of Miami, Florida, wrote:

I want to affirm what Jim Wallis wrote last week 
[about Bob Kerrey and the Vietnam War]: The
war is the problem. What was wrong with the war from the
beginning is that by its very nature it took our young
men (mostly men, not women) and put them in combat
situations in which the "enemy" and the civilian could
not be clearly distinguished. Then, since in war - especially
"hand-to-hand" close contact war - it is kill or be
killed, we continually put our troops in situations
similar to the one in which Kerrey's men found themselves.

Whatever happened with Kerrey and his men is tragic.
But what is even more tragic is how many other troops,
as yet unreported, found themselves in similar
situations making similar decisions. We do NOT want
to revisit Vietnam in this way. We need to learn (and
perhaps we have) never to have another one. Yes, the war
was/is the problem, and I sure hope we don't start
holding individuals who were in combat then accountable
now for their actions. WE put them there.


Steve Riley of Sarasota, Florida, wrote:

A big cigar for Jim Wallis! What a beautiful and
marvelous article ["The War Was a Crime"]! It is so
on target! It should be syndicated in every newspaper
in America!


Emily Maloney of Santa Cruz, California, wrote:

Congratulations to Witness for Peace on their vigil
in Bogota! Would that we all had such courage and
dedication. The drug war must end; drugs must be
legalized and handled in the same manner as alcohol
and nicotine!


David Weinschrott of Indianapolis, Indiana, wrote:

In most larger cities, the Lutheran and Catholic
social service organizations are first-rate service
delivery organizations that are broadly supported
by public and private funders alike. That's not new.
I am involved in funding those kind of services as
a United Way professional. I have also supported
funding after-school activities that span the
distance between tutoring, martial arts, and Bible
study. Each of these options were voluntary.

What is being called for now, however, is for
nonprofessional social services. These services
are meant to operate out of a congregational
member's personal compassion, not professional
training.... If being led by the Spirit is the energy,
why would not spiritual nurture be part of the
package? To consider asking faith-based organizations
not to provide spiritual nurture, from scripture,
from prayer, is a contradiction.

If the public thinks it wise to use public funds
to support nonprofessional nurture, don't be
surprised if some Bibles show up. What do you expect?
That's what (in my lexicon) "faith-based" means. I
know that kind of service is valuable - it helps me
every day. But let us not try to avoid public and
private support of professional services by supporting
"faith-based" activities and then tell them not to
deploy their gift of spiritual nurture.


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
Buddhism on film

Michael Wenger, dean of Buddhist studies at
the San Francisco Zen Center, has put
together an intriguing festival of films that
treat Buddhism with care, sensitivity, and insight, 

*Monkey Makes Havoc in Heaven, China, 115 Mins.

In this burlesque animated movie adapted from
the ancient Chinese fantasy novel "Journey to
the West," Tang Xuanzang is a Buddhist priest
on a mission to India to bring back Buddhist
scriptures. But his companion along the way,
the brave and rambunctious Monkey, is the real
hero of this fantasy tale that has been passed down
for countless generations.

*King of Masks, China, 1996, 101 Mins.

In a small town in Sichuan, in the 1920s, an
elderly artist known as the King of Changing
Faces hopes to pass on his most valuable
possession: the secret way of the masks. At
an auction, he buys a young "grandson," Gouwa,
secure in the knowledge that his legacy will
now go on after him. But neither Gouwa, nor
the King of Masks, are what they seem.

For a list of additional films, see; look under
"special events."


H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l
Roundtable discussion on White House initiative

Representatives of several faith-based service
organizations recently met with Rev. Mark Scott
of the White House Faith-based and Community
Initiative office for a Roundtable discussion.
Sharon Daly of Catholic Charities, Charles Gould
of Volunteers of America, Irv Katz of the United Way,
and Col. Thomas Lewis of the Salvation Army
discussed their questions and concerns.

The discussion is at


S o u l   W o r k s
Salute to Mom

This is for all the mothers who froze their buns
off on metal bleachers at football or soccer games
Friday night instead of watching from cars, so that
when their kids asked, "Did you see me?" they could
say, "Of course, I wouldn't have missed it for the
world," and meant it.
This is for all the mothers who sat down with their
children and explained all about making babies. And
for all the mothers who wanted to but just couldn't.
This is for all the mothers who read "Goodnight,
Moon" twice a night for a year. And then read it
again. "Just one more time."

This is for all the mothers who taught their children
to tie their shoelaces before they started school.
And for all the mothers who opted for Velcro instead.

This is for all the mothers who teach their sons to
cook and their daughters to sink a jump shot.

This is for all mothers whose heads turn automatically
when a little voice calls "Mom?" in a crowd, even
though they know their own offspring are at home.

This is for all the mothers who sent their kids to
school with stomach aches, assuring them they'd be
just fine once they got there, only to get calls
from the school nurse an hour later asking them to
please pick them up. Right away.
This is for mothers whose children have gone astray,
who can't find the words to reach them.
For all the mothers who bite their lips sometimes
until they bleed when their 14-year-olds dye their
hair green.
For all the mothers of the victims of all these
school shootings, and the mothers of those who did
the shooting. For the mothers of the survivors, and
the mothers who sat in front of their TVs in horror,
hugging their child who just came home from school,

This is for young mothers stumbling through diaper
changes and sleep deprivation. And mature mothers
learning to let go. For working mothers and 
stay-at-home mothers. Single mothers and married 

This is for you all.

-- Contributed by SojoMail reader Gene Wilkens of
Half Moon Bay, California



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W e b  S c e n e


If you want to help preserve some of North and
Central America's most precious natural habitats,
this new site by the Natural Resources Defense
Council can help you focus your activism. Explore
12 "BioGems," defined as "wildlands of exceptional
natural values," by reading an overview of each
region, the threats it faces, and what you can do to
help protect it.


*Let your mouse do the walking

Ever have that experience where your friend in
Perth gives you her number but when you call
you don't have all the necessary digits? Internet
pioneer Domain-It! has a tool available to make
international dialing a little easier. Their is a free searchable
country code Web site. You just punch in where you
are calling from and where you are calling
to and up pops the pertinent codes. Check it out:


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