The Common Good


Sojomail - June 1, 2001

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++++++++++++++++++++ 01-June-2001 +++++++++++++++++++++

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

 H e a r t s  &  M i n d s
     *A victory for children

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *Police protection

 B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
     *The greening of religion

 B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
     *"I come from a land down under...."

 S o j o P o l l   R e s u l t s
     *Surprise: SojoMail readers don't favor death penalty

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Pete Seeger: American storyteller

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *Online faith beats online banking

 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
     *Study ranks global investment in mothers

 P. O. V.
     *Dear George W: Send the Marines to Nantucket this summer

 W e b  S c e n e
     *Radio documentaries for forgotten voices
     *Online truth detector
     *Moving from AAA to EEE
     *Help getting off junk mail lists (no, not SojoMail!)

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

"Where is yesterday that worried us so?"

         --Joan Walsh Anglund, poet


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
A Victory for Children

by Jim Wallis

WE WON! Our efforts to support the passage of a 
refundable child tax credit in the tax cut 
legislation were successful. Call to Renewal 
joined with child advocates (led by the Children's 
Defense Fund) and low-income people's organizations 
(led by the National Campaign for Jobs and Income 
Support) to insert the credit into the legislation. 
They had effectively urged many Democrats and 
moderate Republicans to put the refundable credit 
into the Senate version of the tax cut bill -- it
had been missing in the House bill. But key 
Republicans threatened to kill the provision in 
the conference committee, and the White House 
wasn't supporting it.

Then, during the final conference debate, religious 
voices were coming from every direction. Action 
alerts were sent to tens of thousands of faith-based 
activists. The Boston Globe reported, "Pressure came 
from an unexpected quarter yesterday as House and 
Senate conferees struggled to craft a final version 
of President Bush's tax package: Religious leaders, 
who demanded that any bill expand aid to working poor 
families with children. A religious coalition headed 
by the group Call to Renewal directly linked the tax 
plan to the group's continued support for another key 
element of Bush's agenda, his faith-based initiative...." 
The Globe also reported that opponents of the measure, 
such as then-Senate Majority Whip Don Nickles, said the 
efforts of religious organizations had been a factor.

Two significant things were accomplished by this 
victory.  First, poor families and children got 
significant help -- one of the more important measures 
in years, according to Marian Wright Edelman of CDF. 
Tax refundability itself is an important principle to 
strengthen, and the Catholic Bishops have been working 
on a refundable child tax credit for 10 years. 

Second, some terms of partnership were established 
between faith-based organizations and the Bush 
administration. We took the important step of 
linking our support for faith-based initiatives to 
the administration's support for important economic 
policy matters that greatly impact the poor. In 
doing so, we clearly said we cannot just support the 
faith-based initiative without White House leadership 
on other key issues that affect the poor. The faith-
based initiative alone is obviously not enough to 
overcome poverty. New policies and new resources are 
also required, and faith-based initiatives can only 
work in partnership with good government policy.
Many of us opposed the size and priorities of this 
tax cut, but gaining the child credit for those at 
the bottom was still a significant victory. The 
prophetic voice of the faith community was exercised 
in this debate, critically supplementing our role as 
service providers. Now that the terms of partnership 
are clearer, a working relationship with this 
administration could have both more effectiveness 
and integrity. Important issues loom on the horizon, 
like the crucial re-authorization of welfare reform. 
Stay tuned.

For more details of the story, see:
"Religious Leaders Press Aid to Poor" 
(Boston Globe)

"Senate Delays Legislation on Aid to Church Charities" 
(New York Times)



Today's Farmworkers & the Legacy of Non-violent Social Change

This one-week intensive course serves as an interdisciplinary
companion to the National Walk for Farmworker Justice in Oregon's
Willamette Valley, June 18-24, 2001, and is the central component
of the Walk's "Seminary Track" open to theological students, lay
leaders from Christian, Jewish, and other religious traditions,
and clergy. 

The course is offered by the Graduate Theological Union (GTU)
Cooperative Summer Session and sponsored by the Walk for
Farmworker Justice Coalition, a broad-based coalition of labor,
religious, and human rights organizations. Join the Walk and
support the farmworker struggle. Join the Seminary Track and
explore the intersection between faith, activism, spirituality,
solidarity, and much more. Please contact: WFJ Coalition, PO
Box 10272, Eugene, OR 97440 or See also
the website at and
to download applications and detailed information on how to
join us. 


F u n n y   B u s i n e s s

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), the FBI,
and the CIA are all trying to prove that they are
the best at apprehending criminals. The president
decides to give them a test. He releases a rabbit
into a forest and each of them has to catch it.

The CIA goes in. They place animal informants
throughout the forest. They question all plant and
mineral witnesses. After three months of extensive
investigations, they conclude that rabbits do not exist.

The FBI goes in. After two weeks with no leads they
burn the forest, killing everything in it, including
the rabbit, and they make no apologies. The rabbit had
it coming.

The LAPD goes in. They come out two hours later with
a badly beaten bear. The bear is yelling:  "Okay, Okay!
I'm a rabbit! I'm a rabbit!"


B u i l d i n g  a  M o v e m e n t
The greening of religion

Peter Illyn's crusade is one sign of the greening of
religious communities across the nation. After a long
silence, many of America's 155 million church and
synagogue members are hearing a spiritual call to
action. As Illyn wages his one-man crusade to bring
environmental awareness to America's evangelical
youth, national eco-faith leaders are helping to
frame the larger debate, swing votes, and broker
agreements on national environmental issues.

Read the whole story:

Read a related feature in Sojourners: 
"Paradise Paved: The Earth may be the Lord's, 
but we've trashed the place. The good news
is that Christian attitudes toward the environment
are changing," by Lois Lorentzen.  Go to:


B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
"I come from a land down under...."

by David Batstone

Whenever I travel I'm on the lookout for strong
novels that will help me better understand local
cultures. Non-fiction may provide the necessary
dates and events to frame a "history," but I
usually learn much more about a people from their

On my recent trip to Australia I picked up two
books - "True History of the Kelly Gang" by
Peter Carey and "Benang" by Kim Scott - that
blur the line I've just drawn; call them "historical
fiction." Scott won the Miles Franklin Award
(top Aussie novel) in 2000 for "Benang," and Carey
is short-listed for this year's prize. Reading the
books back-to-back has moved me deeply.

Peter Carey has taken the voice of Ned Kelly, a
19th-century Australian bandit who was a folk hero
among the poor. In this book, however, Kelly speaks
to us as a devoted son, concerned father, and just
man. Like so many early Australians, Ned's own Irish
father arrived "down under" as a convict. Once
released from prison, his father raised a family in
the grinding poverty of rural Victoria. He was no
less a criminal in the eyes of the local police,
however; his crime was being Irish. The novel traces
the constant harassment the Kellys and their Irish
neighbors face at the hands of magistrates, constables,
and landed gentry. Not quite Robin Hood nor Jesse
James, Ned Kelly is reluctantly drawn into a bandit's
life to save the people he loves. Whether Carey overly
romanticizes Ned Kelly I cannot say, but he has portrayed
masterfully the struggle of the Irish to carve out
dignity among a colonial people who prove much more
hostile than a rugged land.

Kim Scott, a descendent of aboriginal Australians who
have lived for centuries on the coast of western Australia,
writes a fictive narrative of his family tree. More
specifically, it's a tragic tale of the deliberate
attempt of white Australia to breed - yes, like
cattle - the darkness out of its native people.
Half-castes, let alone full-bloods, were not
allowed to own land, attend public schools, or even
make decisions about their children. While the
story would be altogether familiar to Americans
who have not dealt kindly with their native people, it
would be a mistake to "whitewash" the two histories.
Scott draws together insightful vignettes that
helped me reach a deeper understanding of the
Australian psyche.

Skip the latest Crocodile Dundee flick and pick up
these two novels for a clearer view "from below."

****************SOJOPOLL RESULTS*******************

The case of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh has
focused national attention on the death penalty. Which
choice best describes your opinion on this issue?

85% The death penalty should be abolished.
8%  The current system is flawed, but the death penalty
    is just and is appropriate for McVeigh.
4%  I generally oppose the death penalty, but McVeigh
    deserves it. 
3%  I support the death penalty without reservation.

Vote your conscience at:


C u l t u r e  W a t c h
American Storyteller

Pete Seeger has stories to tell, amazing ones. And he
doesn't have to make them up. He can talk about leading
a crowd of civil rights marchers - with Dr. Martin Luther
King Jr. right up front - in a rendition of "We Shall
Overcome." He has stories of war, with men "Waist Deep
in the Big Muddy," preparing to die. Or about life at
the top of the pop charts (a place Seeger never wanted
to be), or about the wonder of seeing little ditties
he created with modest expectations - "If I Had a Hammer"
and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" - begin to spread,
inexorably, to villages around the world, becoming part
of musical history. He can also tell you the flip side
of that story: What it's like when the broadcast networks
ban and censor you; or what it feels like to be surrounded
and pelted with stones, and then to stand trial and face
prison, just for singing songs.

Read more of the story at:


S o u l   W o r k
Online faith beats online banking

The Pew Internet and American Life Project, sponsored
by the Pew Center for Research, gathered data about
spiritual uses of the Internet. Some of the results:

*20 percent of Internet users in the United States
get religious and spiritual information online,
making it more popular than online banking (18
percent of Internet users) or online auctions
(15 percent).

*About 20 million people sought spiritual information
over the Internet between October and December 2000.

*2 million people in the United States seek religious
information online each day.

For more results, go to:


B o o m e r a n g

David Rucker of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, wrote:

Regarding David Batstone's stories from Australia:
The attitude some Anglo-Australians still harbor
about Aboriginals is heartbreaking indeed. A few
years ago, I met an Australian woman who had come
to the U.S. with her husband. As we chatted, I
recalled an anecdote about the Aboriginal language
I once heard or read about. And as I began to
relate it, she interrupted and said, "Oh,
Aboriginals don't have a language. They just babble
on." I still feel guilty about the episode, because,
as it turns out, another bad thing happened while
a good man did nothing.


Chris Marshall of Auckland, New Zealand, wrote:

Jim Wallis is right to oppose the death penalty "in
principle." But to claim that "the only adequate
alternative to the death penalty is life without
parole" is simply to substitute one inhumanity for
another. So-called "real-life sentences" share the
same moral failing as capital punishment - the
attempt to attain justice by systematically, "in
principle," removing mercy from the equation. But
this flies in the face of the Bible's deepest
insights into justice, as I detail in my new
book, Beyond Retribution: A New Testament Vision
for Justice, Crime and Punishment (Eerdmans, 2001).

If there is any justification for imprisoning people
until they die of old age, it is to protect society
from genuine psychopaths. It is not because there
are some cases where justice requires an everlasting
form of punishment.

After Timothy McVeigh's stay of execution, George Bush
said that McVeigh is "lucky to live in America." Those
of us who live in countries that long ago dispensed
with the death penalty, which do not try children as
adults, nor employ mechanisms such as "three strikes
and you're out" or "real-life sentences," can only
marvel at such smug complacency.


Paul L. Whiteley Sr. of Louisville, Kentucky, wrote:

If errors were made in such a high-profile case as
Timothy McVeigh's, we can be certain many mistakes
have been made over the years in capital cases of
much lesser impact. One innocent person executed
is inexcusable. Even though a majority of Americans
favor capital punishment, I believe the death penalty
is morally and spiritually wrong and should be
abolished forever by the Supreme Court. The death
penalty is a barbaric act of vengeance that brings
no peace to the vengeful....

Bud Welch of Oklahoma City lost his daughter in
the horrific bombing of the federal building there.
It is a rarity for a murder victim's parents,
but he is opposed to the death penalty for McVeigh.
It is especially heartwarming when other family
members of murder victims, like Bud Welch, choose
love over vengeance....


Dick Brummel of Kansas City, Missouri, wrote:

Hurrah for Jim Wallis. His latest
right on target. Society has the right (obligation?)
to protect itself and to appropriately punish the
evil inflicted upon it by its members. It does not
have the right to take life (innocent or not) in
that pursuit.

The picture of an isolated and ignored Tim McVeigh
faced for decades with himself and his sin is
somewhat attractive. But what I (and Mr. Wallis)
hope for is giving McVeigh a 50-year chance to
confront his sin and his God and to repent. A
repentant McVeigh ministering to his fellow
convicts would be salvific for him, and for us.


Gerard Scheuermann of Manteca, California, wrote:

No one is aided by punishment that will not lead to
betterment of the one being punished. Even if someone
is not released from confinement, that person must
not be deprived of all hope. Life in prison without
some effort at psychological rehabilitation is cruel
(but not unusual) punishment.


Peggy McGonigle of Paso Robles, California, wrote:

I challenge you to show me one, count 'em, one
U.S. prison that sets about the duty to rehabilitate.
It is not being done. Tough on crime, tough on
criminals, mandatory sentencing, maximum security
is being done (essentially what you have suggested
for McVeigh) - cruel and unusual punishment.

As a woman, as a mother, as a victim of violent
crime, I believe with all my heart that you are
wrong in your priorities and that rehabilitation
is our number-one priority if we are ever going
to be safe in our society.


A. Yarnall of Wilmington, Delaware, wrote:

In response to the May 25 issue of Sojomail, I just
called the White House to express my support for
refundable child tax credit legislation. The
operator didn't even have a concept of what I was
calling to support; I had to describe it in detail.
She was clearly hostile to the idea. I'd say
there's a long way to go on this one!


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
Study ranks global investment in mothers
Save the Children, a leading worldwide nonprofit
child-assistance organization, has issued its
"2001 State of the World's Mothers" report, an
annual assessment of a nation's progress in addressing
the basic human needs and rights of women and girls.

This year's report ranks Sweden, Norway, Denmark,
Finland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Canada, Austria,
Australia, and the United Kingdom as the top 10 countries
in its Mothers' Index. At the other end of the
spectrum, African nations dominate the bottom 10
countries on the index - Guinea Bissau, Burkina Faso,
Ethiopia, Mali, Yemen, Gambia, Burundi, Mauritania,
Central African Republic, and Benin.

The wealth of nations correlates closely - but not
universally - with women and children's well-being. The
United States, for example, despite being the wealthiest
nation on Earth, ranks only 11th on the Mothers' Index and
22nd on the Girls' Investment Index. A number of Latin
American nations, on the other hand, score high on the
Mothers' Index due to high rates of female education.

To see the report, go to:


P. O. V.
A (tongue-in-cheek) letter to the White House

George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC

Dear President Bush:

I am writing in response to the unfortunate conflict on
the tiny island of Vieques, off the coast of Puerto Rico,
regarding the U.S. Navy's continued use of the island
for training. 

As you probably know, the key to resolving conflict is to
recognize the legitimate security needs of all parties to
the conflict. In this case, Puerto Rico wants back the land
acquired by the Pentagon at the outbreak of World War II.
For its part, the Pentagon needs appropriate land on which
to engage in military-preparedness training, which is
essential for our national defense.

I think I may have arrived at a novel solution, one based
on this premise: national security needs should be borne
as equitably as possible by all that benefit from such
security. To date I have heard no one discussing what is
surely a creative solution to this conflict.

Puerto Ricans have carried the load of our military
training needs for more than 60 years. Why not approach 
the citizens of other U.S.-owned islands and request their
help in shouldering this burden?

For instance, there is the Acadia National Forest off
the coast of Maine. (This and other subsequent options
have the added benefit of already being owned by the
U.S. government, so there is no need to engage in the
politically unpopular act of declaring "eminent domain"
or of providing costly reimbursement to private land

Off the coast of Massachusetts is Martha's Vineyard and
Nantucket Island. Block Island is off the coast of Rhode
Island. Long Island, New York, is large enough to allow
shared use by the Navy and private citizens. There are
hundreds of miles of beachfront (especially useful for
practicing Marine amphibious landings) on North
Carolina's Outer Banks. Georgia offers St. Simons Island
and Jekyll Island. In the Florida Keys are literally dozens
of islands. Then there's Padre Island off the Texas coast
and the Channel Islands and Catalina Island off California.

For that matter, since the citizens of Canada and Mexico
also benefit, indirectly, from the strength of our military
protection, my guess is that the governments of both these
countries would be willing to include one of their islands
in the lottery.

I am quite confident that after all these negotiations
are completed, the U.S. Navy would have several hundred
years of assured access to proper training environments.
And after all have taken a turn, the people of Vieques
could again be approached to return to their island to
begin a second round of shared responsibility for
national defense.

Very sincerely yours,

Ken Sehested
Executive Director
Baptist Peacemakers



Call to Renewal, a faith-based movement to overcome
poverty, seeks an Executive Director. The successful
candidate must understand and be committed to the
strategic vision of Call to Renewal, have a fundamental
appreciation for and understanding of the relationship
between faith and politics, and be able to move with dignity
and competence in a variety of communities. The position
requires excellent managerial, communication, and development
skills, a commitment to follow through on relationships
and tasks, and an ability to build bridges among the
various traditions in the church (e.g., Catholic,
Mainline Protestant, pentecostal, evangelical, black
churches, and para-church ministries), as well as
with people working in the realm of media and politics.
A dynamic and energetic personality who is conducive to
working with a wide diversity of people is highly desirable.

The Executive Director will be based in Washington, D.C.
and will function as the chief operating officer of the
Call to Renewal movement, working closely with the board
of directors and reporting directly to the convener and
president, Jim Wallis.

Salary commensurate with experience. Send resume to:

Peter Borgdorff
Christian Reformed Church
2850 Kalamazoo Ave. SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49560
fax (616) 224-5895


W e b  S c e n e

*Sound Portraits 

This nonprofit organization is dedicated "to
telling stories that bring neglected American
voices to a national audience." A frequent
contributor to National Public Radio, this site
offers a large collection of radio documentaries
available in streaming audio. Go to:



Not sure if that emotional e-mail appeal is bona
fide? Panicked by virus warnings? Fearful of being
ripped off by internet scams?
is a site where you can quickly and easily test
the veracity of warnings, offers, requests for
help, and inspirational stories that are circulated
by e-mail. Go to:


*The Un-AAA

TripleE, a new group working to promote environmentally
friendly travel, has launched Travel Cool, a program
that aims to offset the environmental damage caused by
cars, planes, and other activities that burn fossil fuels
by calculating the number of miles you travel and
investing in environmental projects that reduce carbon
dioxide emissions.


*Death, taxes, and junk mail

The Center for a New American Dream offers an online
service that removes you from the lists of many of the
current purveyors of unsolicited direct marketing,
i.e. junk mail.


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