The Common Good


Sojomail - June 8, 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

++++++++++++++++++++ 08-June-2001 +++++++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k
     *Dead giveaway

 H e a r t s  &  M i n d s
     *A day for sadness

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *Just a spoonful of sugar

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *Near death experiences (you know, like driving in NYC...)

 B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
     *Where have all the parents gone?

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Australian musicians hit all the right notes
     *God save the teens: hard core and hip-hop rock church

 R e l i g i o n   O n l i n e
     *Galaxy's top 10 religious Web sites

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

 P. O. V.
     *Bringing ourselves to health through a nonviolent diet

 E c o N e w s
     *A green Sweden

 B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
     *Roll your own blackout

 W e b  S c e n e
     *How much pollution did you emit this month?
     *Study guide for the movie "Chocolat"
     *The Zen of potato
     *International consumer rights

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

"What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself."

                           -Abraham Lincoln


SojoFest 2001: A Celebration of Hope


Join us this summer, July 26-29, near Chicago
to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Sojourners.
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 day for sadness

by Jim Wallis

"To me the death penalty is vengeance, and vengeance 
doesn't really help anyone in the healing process. 
Of course, our first reaction is to strike back. 
But if we permit ourselves to think through our 
feelings, we might get to a different place. I 
was taught that even the souls of dastardly
criminals should be saved. I think it is necessary, 
even for the soul of Timothy McVeigh. I think my 
daughter's position on this would be the same as
    - Bud Welch, in a 1997 Time article; his 
daughter Julie-Marie was killed in the Oklahoma 
City bombing. He's on the board of directors of 
Crime Victims for a Just Society,

I was working late last night and heard the 
word that Timothy McVeigh had instructed his 
lawyers to discontinue his appeals. He will be 
executed on Monday, and the reporter jumped right 
to how McVeigh will spend his last four nights 
on earth. 

The overwhelming feeling I had was deep sadness. 
I'm first sad, yet again, for all those who lost 
their loved ones in the bombing. Some of those 
crime victims are expressing gratitude for the 
upcoming execution of McVeigh, and others feel 
the way that Bud Welch does. But this 
execution will not provide any of them with what 
they need to heal the pain and loss they feel. 
Honestly, nor will time, or anything else we can 
really offer. Even in the loving arms of a God 
who also grieves such terrible human losses, 
the pain never goes away.

I'm also sad for the spectacle that this public 
execution promises to become. How many T-shirts 
will be sold? I'm sad that McVeigh will get his 
wish - to die with the hope of becoming a martyr 
and spreading his hateful messages. I'm also sad 
that a child of God, created with such possibilities, 
became such a hateful and remorseless killer. I'm 
sad for his mortal soul.

On Monday, there will witnesses to the death of 
Timothy McVeigh. There will be vigils against the 
death penalty and rallies of support for it. In 
many ways, the whole nation will be watching for 
the news. On Monday death will be on our minds. 
No matter what one's views on capital punishment, 
Monday will be a day of sadness. May God have 
mercy on our souls. 



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
Just a spoonful of sugar...

Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of
the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses
on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him
rather frail, and, with his odd diet, he often suffered
from bad breath. 

This made him...what?

A super callused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.


Send them a sample edition along with an
introductory letter...all with no ongoing
commitment. (We don't even spam our
enemies!) Go to:

S o u l  W o r k s
Near-death experiences

Peter McCarthy, director of the Damaris Centre
for Soul and Consciousness Studies, reviews a
recent lecture given at Southampton University
by two researchers into near death experiences.

"For his research, Dr. Parnia has chosen cardiac
arrest survivors. Cardiac arrest, he says, is the
closest model of the dying process. The criteria for
clinical death are - by definition - invariably
reached. There is no pulse or respiratory activity
and the EEG readings are flat - that is to say, there is
no cortical activity; the brain modules are 'off-line'.

Out of the 63 cardiac arrest survivors that Parnia
interviewed, 56 had no memories of any lucid
experience. Seven, however, did. Parnia narrowed
these down to four who clearly met all the
criteria. All four experienced the feelings of peace
and all four came to the 'point of no return.'"

For the full story, go to:


B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
Where have all the parents gone?

by David Batstone

Ok, I just got pushed over the edge. Up until
now, I've considered it a bit extreme to require
individuals to earn a license before they could
parent a child. No longer. Training seminars,
boot camp, a battery of tests, whatever it takes.
I'll sign the petition.

The seeds of rebellion were planted at my 10-year old
daughter's school talent show. I arrived expecting a
very amateur yet cute exhibition of singing, juggling,
poetry reading, skits, and dancing. Guess I should
audition for a guest appearance on "My Three Sons."
No, really, I'm not that out of touch, or square. I
just have a problem with girls in the 4th grade lip-
synching to "give me some of your sweet sugar" as
they gyrate to moves they've seen on MTV.

What can these parents be thinking? One 10-year-
old girl danced five minutes on stage by herself
to a Janet Jackson song asking us to "do it to
me one more time." Her shirt cut off above the
navel, hands moving suggestively from one hip
to the other. There, in the front row, beamed her
adoring father, videocam in hand to make sure
all the relatives back East don't miss a beat of
their talented showgirl. Most of the adults in
the crowd were visibly embarrassed; many an eye
cast toward the ground.

After the show my daughter and I discussed
her own sense of the talent show. To be fair,
there were lots of wonderfully appropriate
acts, including my own daughter's dance to "The
Hamster Song," filled with cartwheels and
back bends; in other words, what you'd expect
of a 10-year old girl. So we talked about what
we liked, and what we didn't like. When I
expressed how over-aged some of the acts were, she
responded quite insightfully: "Well, Dad, for a
lot of these girls it's the only music they
hear. They don't know anything else."

And she's right. A 10-year-old girl (or boy)
doesn't really understand much about sexuality
and social cues. By and large, they mimic what
they see. That's where parents come in. At
least those who carry the license.

C u l t u r e  W a t c h
Australian musicians hit all the right notes

Rivertribe is a street-performance, didgeridu-based
group that plays indigenous and ancient instruments
from all over the world, coupled with current DJ
and dance loops and tribal drumming. The band
seeks to inspire a religious message of peace,
compassion, and service via its music.

Its CDs are currently No. 1, No. 3, and No. 7 on
the Aussie Independent Gospel Artists chart. The
band is coming to the United States and Canada
this summer for a three-month tour. Rivertribe
is booked for the Toronto and Halifax International
Festivals, with a seven-week stint (June 18-August 8)
cruising the markets and public places of North
to Northeast USA.

Check out the band at For
reviews and sound samples try If
you would like to book Rivertribe for a summer
festival, contact Mike Lane:


God save the teens: Hardcore rock and hip-hop church

by Lauren Sandler 

From hardcore punk to hip-hop, diehard young
Christians have turned to what were once the
most heathen niches of pop culture to express
their faith, minister to marginalized cohorts,
and spiritually seduce new groupies. New York-
area ensembles offer up heavy bass to the heavenly
boss, in churches and clubs from the South Bronx
to suburban Long Island, stopping off at mainstream
venues in between.
Summertime is prime time for rocking and holy
rolling. The Jersey shore will be dotted with
shows all season long: Rapfest - the big local
event for religious rapscallions - will be born
again in August, and this weekend will see the
annual punk and indie Cornerstone gathering
resurrected on Long Island. "Now all over
America you can go to, say, a hardcore festival,
usually an atheist scene, and hear about Jesus
and realize you don't have to give up everything,"
[Jay] Bakker says. "You don't have to comb your hair
and put on a suit. You can be all you are - tattoos
and all - and God will accept you for that."

To see the full story, go to:


R e l i g i o n   O n l i n e
Top 10 religious sites
No, they're not pilgrimage sites, but they'll still
appeal to visitors of many faiths. These religious
Web sites have received the highest praise from
the Internet directory Galaxy. Galaxy rated the
sites based on the depth of coverage, uniqueness of
content, quality of writing, attractiveness, loading
speed, and navigability.

The Baha'i World:
Catholic Online:
The Hindu Universe:
Medea's Chariot:

And oh, they must have overlooked our own favorite:




B o o m e r a n g

Philip Johnson of Sydney, Australia, wrote:

David Batstone was moved by Peter Carey's novel
about the Australian bushranger, Ned Kelly. Yes,
Carey's novel probably reflects something of the
subservient experience of the Irish and indeed
of all who were dispatched Down Under as convicts.
Kelly is a legendary folk hero of sorts, and
probably the first folk hero we had: We are
obsessed with him in paintings, films, and novels.

Choosing a bushranger/criminal for a hero tells you
something about the Australian psyche. Kelly is an
icon for the laconic attitude we have towards
authority; he bucked the system. He was seen as
somebody brave, as a symbol of national aggressiveness,
and as representing our ethos that the underdog gets
"a fair go." Although we applaud these qualities, it
must never be forgotten that he was a robber and was
hanged for murder - hardly an apt role model. 

He also iconically stands for the traditional Aussie 
male: the man in a suit of armour who apparently feels
nothing. Yes, he is the antithesis of Crocodile
Dundee, but Dundee never pretends to be anything
other than a comic figure. At least Mick Dundee
considered God his "mate." I likewise marvel at
the way lots of my compatriots love "Waltzing
Matilda" as an alternative national anthem. Why do
we applaud a song about a man who is a thief and who
in order to escape justice commits suicide? Maybe it
is because, as Nino Culotta aptly titled his 
novel about us, "They're a Weird Mob."


Gerry Deverall of Clayton, Victoria, Australia, wrote:

If you [David Batstone] enjoyed the fictional weavings
of Scott and Carey (and I agree, they are marvelous),
perhaps you would also enjoy the musical bridge-building
of Shane Howard.  Howard is a very gifted singer-songwriter
with a Warnambool Irish heritage and a subtle, empathic,
capacity to hear the grief of Aboriginal people. On his
album "Clan" (EMI 1996), Howard traces his own Celtic
Aboriginal loss and correlates the emotional turmoil
of the same with that of the indigenous people of his
native Warnambool. The result is spare in the sense of
mystically spare - humility and grace and grandeur
viewed through the prism of simplicity.
As a person who shares both Irish and Palawa (Tasmanian
Indigenous) heritages, I continue to find that Howard's
work nurtures my soul.


Bill Van Horn of Burlingame, California, wrote:

I noticed your recommendation for Peter Carey's
"...Kelley's Gang." The name seemed familiar and I
checked my recent reads and realized that Carey was
the author of "Jack Maggs," a book that I put down at
least twice, vowing to close it forever. I always came
back to resume it.  The plot is most confusing but I
was drawn by the redemption of the criminal mind. And
his writing is so very well done. Please continue to
push these excellent Australian authors.


Susan Parnaby of Durham County, England, wrote:

Just after Christmas I opened a letter and I knew
that whatever it was I should go to that event. 
It turned out to be a conference called "Let
the Oppressed Go Free."
One of the speakers was a very gracious Aboriginal
gentleman who told us some stories about what people
from the UK had done to his people over the ages. He
told us about the Aboriginal people of Tasmania who
were literally rounded up and herded onto ships.
When on board, the women were given to the sailors
and the men were thrown overboard in shark-infested
waters. When they tried to get back on board they
had their arms cut off. Then there were the men who
went to church on Sunday morning and on Sunday
afternoon went out hunting and killing Aboriginals
for sport. I really had no idea how dark our history
was in that respect....
I knew the ports of Liverpool and Bristol provided
the ships that ran the triangular route that included
slaves but had thought little of it until then. I knew
we had broken down what there was of industry in India
so that we could sell our goods over there. Then of
course there is the way we did not stand by the Balfour
Declaration and caused great problems for Israel as
it was being birthed. The fire bombing of places like
Dresden towards the end of World War II is not something 
to be very proud of either.

Dear God, I just hope I don't get treated by other
people the way some of my countrymen past and present
have treated other people. We spent a lot of time on
our knees during that conference asking for forgiveness
for whatever part, large or small, that we or our ancestors
had played in all these things.


Andrea Calisher of Ithaca, New York, wrote:

A few years ago, I spent almost four months working
in Cape Town, South Africa. This trip was very eye-
opening in many respects, but one day stands out in my
mind like no other. I was conducting an intercultural
communication/public speaking workshop for Amnesty
International youth at an area high school. At the
start of the workshop, I asked what projects they were
working on so I could use their projects in my
examples. They said they were working on getting
the death penalty in the United States abolished. As
they told me about their work, their passion for this
cause seemed to gush out of them. It was the same
passion I felt for my cause, what motivated me to go
to South Africa. I stood and listened, speechless
for more than a moment. Here I was in South Africa
to do human rights work, and the children before me
were focused on a human rights issue in my own
country. It was humbling.

There is so much to be done in our own back yard.
Perhaps losing our seat on the U.N. Human Rights
Commission could be a catalyst for our country to
critically reflect and act more on human rights
issues at home. The children back in Cape Town
must be thrilled to hear about all the recent
discussions going on around the country on the death
penalty. I know I am. And I think the United States
will see a lot more pressure from other countries on
this issue now that we have what many political leaders
in Europe call our president: "the Executioner."


Brian Vosburg of Minneapolis, Minnesota, wrote:

Here is a way to get off of the junk mail lists and
telemarketing lists that is better than the Web site
published in last week's SojoMail. The only lists it
doesn't remove you from are the companies that you
currently do business with. The number is 1-888-5OPTOUT
(888-567-8688). I've used it and receive no junk mail
or annoying phone calls.

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



P. O. V.
Peace meal

Helping ourselves to health and peace through
a nonviolent bite at a time

by Nathan Braun

Human use of other animals for food, especially, is
no longer remotely "necessary," if it ever was. Not
only is it unnecessary, but as the recent foot-and-
mouth disease scare reminds us - following as it does
the "mad cow" epidemic (which just claimed its 100th
known human victim´s life) - it is often downright
hazardous to our own health and well-being.

Food chain safety is certainly better secured by
plant-based meals, which are generally healthier and
reduce risk for several chronic degenerative diseases,
such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Not only is food safety and thus human health improved,
but food production capacity leaps when meat is removed
(or even moderately reduced). The simple fact is
vegetarian diets also help feed more people. This
potential to feed people has been widely discussed
in the best-selling classics "Diet for a Small Planet"
and "Diet for a New America." But its reality has
often been ignored. Converting grains to meat wastes
fully 80-90 percent of grains' proteins, 96 percent
of their calories, and 100 percent of their 
carbohydrates and fibre. But meat's defenders claim 
world hunger is the result of political
mismanagement and not (just) gluttony. They don't
realize, of course, that increasing vegetarian
consciousness necessarily mobilizes required political

Freeing the resources currently tied up in meat
production would also do wonders for the environment,
as substantial natural resources are committed to this
dubious enterprise. For meat production requires far
more energy than plant food production, with the result
that it contributes considerably to land, water, and
air pollution (and consequent ozone depletion and
global climate change).

Last but not least, vegetarianism obviously spares
many animals lifetimes of the neglect and mistreatment
inherent in modern agriculture´s intensive "factory

For the good of the planet, the world´s hungry, animals,
and our own health, Christians must move beyond the
liberty proclaimed by Paul (and even exercised by
Jesus himself) almost 2000 years ago. Let's instead
help lead the way back to Eden's vegetarian paradise,
as envisioned by the prophet Isaiah, "where the wolf
shall dwell with the lamb...the lion shall eat
straw like the ox...and they shall neither hurt
nor destroy in all my holy mountain" (Isaiah 11:6-9,
cf. Genesis 1:29-30).

Why not make your next meal animal-free?

Nathan Braun is President of the Christian Vegetarian
Association []


E c o N e w s
A green Sweden 

The Swedish government is determined to turn itself
into the world's most environmentally sustainable
nation. Designed to achieve environmental sustainability
within one generation, the new environmental quality
objectives bill sets out about 60 "concrete
measures and strategies" to achieve 14 of the 15
quality objectives by 2010. Separate proposals on
how to achieve "reduced climate impact" will emerge
this autumn. The move has even greater impact because
Sweden now holds the revolving six months' presidency
of the European Union.

Environment Minister Kjell Larsson showed clear pride
in the achievement today. "Never before has such a
well-prepared and well-supported proposal been
presented in the field of environmental protection,"
he stated. Government funding for environmental
protection is to rise by 70 percent by 2004. In March
the finance ministry had pledged only a 25 percent
rise in green spending.


B u i l d i n g  a  M o v e m e n t
Roll your own blackout: 

The first day of summer, June 21, 2001, 
Thursday evening, 7-10 p.m. worldwide, 
all time zones.

As an alternative to George W. Bush's energy policies
and lack of emphasis on efficiency, conservation, and
alternative fuels, there will be a voluntary rolling
blackout on the first day of summer, June 21, from 7 to 
10 p.m., in any time zone (this will roll it across the
planet). It's a simple protest and a symbolic act.
Turn out your lights from 7-10 p.m. on June 21. Unplug
whatever you can unplug in your house. Light a candle,
kiss someone, take a stroll in the dark, invent ghost
stories, anything that's not electronic - have fun in
the dark!

Read the 1999 book "Natural Capitalism" by Hawken and
Lovins to learn that conservation/high efficiency
technologies already are on the shelf. If implemented,
these revolutionary ideas would pay themselves off
within five years, after which we'd be pumping far
less greenhouse gas into the atmosphere and saving
bucks to boot. Forward this email as widely as possible
to your government representatives and environmental
contacts. Let them know we want global education,
participation and funding in conservation, efficiency
and alternative fuel efforts - and an end to over-
exploitation and misuse of the earth's resources.


W e b  S c e n e

*Emissions calculator

Answer these nine questions to find out
approximately how much air pollution you
were responsible for last month. This
calculator can help you target your pollution
reduction efforts to your biggest problems
and not sweat the little stuff. Go to:


*Study guide for the movie "Chocolat"

Chocolat was based on the best-selling novel of
the same name, written by Joanne Harris. The film
certainly captures the overall mood of the book,
but fails to import the spiritual essence.


*Bonsai Potato 

Who would have thought that the journey to inner
peace could begin with such a humble vegetable?
Find out how many people have already used the
Bonsai Potato Kit to achieve "Zen without the
wait." Go to:


This new site deals with consumer issues that arise
across international borders. You can read up on
other countries' consumer protection laws and file
complaints about your own international online
transactions gone bad. Go to:


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