The Common Good


Sojomail - June 15, 2001

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

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

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++++++++++++++++++++ 15-June-2001 +++++++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k
     *We have become the executioner and the victim

 H e a r t s  &  M i n d s
     *Smoke, mirrors, and missile defense

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *Nun of the above

 B y   t h e   n u m b e r s
     *Truth or stare

 B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
     *Sunnyside up

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Salman Rushdie on the perils of Reality TV

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

 W o r d   o n   a   W i r e
     *Reflections on weekly lectionary readings

 H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l
     *Living Wage costs easily absorbed

 B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
     *Campaign to end the death penalty

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *More Christians seeking faith on Net

 W e b  S c e n e
     *Roll over Beethoven
     *Virtual African safari
     *Gas price watch
     *HIV/AIDS clearinghouse

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

"If killing Tim McVeigh does not bring peace
or closure to [the families of the victims], I
suggest to you that it is our fault. We have
told them that we would help them heal their
wounds in this way."

             -- Attorney Robert Nigh on the June 11
                execution of his client, Timothy McVeigh


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. To learn more about 
the festivities and speakers, registration 
options, and facilities, visit:


H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
Smoke, mirrors, and missile defense

by Jim Wallis

President Bush is making his first official trip 
to Europe this week. At the top of his agenda is 
attempting to convince NATO allies that missile 
defense is the answer to the proliferation of 
nuclear weapons. Last week, Secretary of Defense 
Donald Rumsfeld told NATO counterparts that the 
administration was preparing to begin initial 
deployment in as little as two to three years, 
before testing of the unproven systems is 
completed. News reports indicate that the 
administration's budget request next year will 
contain large increases in spending for missile 

These efforts, however, are meeting skepticism 
and resistance on several fronts. In Europe, the 
heads of the other NATO countries expressed what 
the media called "profound apprehensions" about 
the plan to abrogate the ABM treaty in order to 
pursue missile defense. French President Chirac 
called it a "fantastic incentive to proliferate" 
weapons as hostile states would try to overwhelm 
a defense system. He and other European leaders 
believe that further arms control negotiations, 
building on past agreements, are a better way to 
go. Street demonstrations also greeted President 
Bush in several European cities. And Russia 
continues to be opposed to the plan, which it 
sees as a threat.

In this country, several hundred demonstrators 
gathered last Sunday in Lafayette Park, across 
from the White House, in one of the first 
organized rallies against the missile defense 
plan. Local and national peace movement leaders 
spoke of the dangers of militarizing space, 
of the huge amount of money the plan will cost, 
and the threat of a new nuclear arms race 10 
years after the end of the Cold War. In the U.S. 
Senate, a Democratic majority will now give the 
plan a much harder time. Sen. Joe Biden, chair 
of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. 
Carl Levin, chair of the Armed Services Committee, 
are both opponents of the plan. Hearings are 
likely to be questioning and critical, and the 
prospects for funding the system uncertain.

All three - grassroots U.S. and European 
movements, NATO, and the Senate - are important 
to defeating this plan. Our message now must be 
what it was when Ronald Reagan first proposed 
a "star wars" system: Our security lies not in 
carrying the arms race into outer space, but in 
abolishing nuclear weapons. The United States, 
under both George Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton, 
squandered the opportunity in the post-Cold War 
era to begin ridding the world of nuclear weapons. 
The dangerous proliferation of nuclear weapons 
around the world, including "rogue states" and 
potential terrorists, is a direct result of the 
superpowers not taking responsibility for 
disarming their own nuclear arsenals as they had 
previously agreed to do. The answer isn't an 
expensive star wars system that is unlikely ever 
to work and could provoke dangerous new arms races. 
The answer is an international commitment, led by 
the nuclear powers, to a rigorously verifiable 
process of nuclear disarmament for every nation. 

And, with the budgetary effects of a huge tax cut 
about to kick in, our nation cannot afford to 
spend $60 billion on a new military scheme while 
the needs of poor children continue to go unmet. 
How about George W. Bush trying a faith-based 
initiative and beating our nuclear swords into 



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
Nun of the above

A man was brought to Mercy Hospital, and taken quickly
in for coronary surgery. The operation went well and,
as the groggy man regained consciousness, he was
reassured by a Sister of Mercy, who was waiting by his
bed. "Mr. Smith, you're going to be just fine," said
the nun, gently patting his hand. "We do need to
know, however, how you intend to pay for your stay
here. Are you covered by insurance?"
"No, I'm not," the man whispered hoarsely.
"Can you pay in cash?" persisted the nun.
"I'm afraid I cannot, Sister."
"Well, do you have any close relatives?" the nun asked.
"Just my sister in New Mexico," he volunteered. "But
she's a humble spinster nun."
"Oh, no, Mr. Smith. Nuns are not 'spinsters'; they are
married to God." 
"Wonderful," said Smith. "In that case, please send
the bill to my brother-in-law."


Send them a sample edition along with an introductory
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B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
Truth or stare

44.4 :  Percentage of people who say they can
        tell if others are truthful by looking
        into their eyes

37.3 :  Percentage who said body language reveals

7.7  :  Percentage who said voice inflections
        reveal truthfulness

*Source: Forbes ASAP


B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
Sunnyside up

by David Batstone

Many of us are becoming more concerned about
how the food that we put into our bodies is 
being grown. A friend of mine in Virginia 
has embarked on a major undertaking to change 
our way of thinking...and planting.

David Cole has had a remarkable career in the
technology sector, playing a key role in the
success of such companies as AOL, Macromedia,
and NaviSoft (that's just scratching the
surface). Five years ago he embarked on a wholly
different enterprise to develop an organic
farm on 425 acres of land in the Blue Ridge
Mountains. Last week I paid a visit to David and 
his family (his wife Maggie and three of his four 
adult children work on the farm). 

The Coles are not simply exploiting a commercial
enterprise for organic foods (though their
"Sunnyside Farms" products are selling well in
regional markets). They are dedicated to building a
model farm that enables biodiversity and a sustainable
ecosystem and to providing educational resources so
that its best practices can be replicated elsewhere.

Since 1996, the Coles have built an extensive
irrigation system of ponds and wells to capture
precious water. They launched an ambitious
composting program to replace chemical fertilizers 
and an open pasture poultry system, restored diseased
fruit orchards, and set up an alliance with the
Dreamtime School for Herbal Studies to reintroduce
native medicinal herbs to the farm's forests.
The way Sunnyside Farms operates counters the trends
established by large-scale monoculture agricultural
practices. The Coles have introduced more than 40
varieties of tomatoes and 60 varieties of apples.

David told me that while there were lots of good
reasons to embark on Sunnyside Farms, two stand
out: 1) a deep concern for how we're treating our
fragile ecosystem; and 2) David and Maggie's desire
to create for children a hands-on, tangible project
to practice their values together, as a family.
And they're helping to change the world, one berry at
a time.

To find out more about the Coles and Sunnyside
Farms, go to:

C u l t u r e  W a t c h
Reality TV: the perils of voyeurism

by Salman Rushdie

I've managed to miss out on reality TV until now.
In spite of all the talk in Britain about nasty
Nick and flighty Mel, and in America about the fat,
naked Richard manipulating his way to desert-
island victory, I have somehow preserved my purity.
I wouldn't recognize Nick or Mel if I passed them
in the street, or Richard if he was standing in
front of me unclothed. Ask me where the Big Brother
house is, or how to reach Temptation Island,
and I have no answer. I do remember the American
Survivor contestant who managed to fry his own hand
so that the skin peeled away until his fingers
looked like burst sausages, but that's because he
got on to the main evening news. Otherwise, search
me. Who won? Who lost? Who cares? The subject of
reality TV shows, however, has been impossible to
avoid. Their success is the media story of the (new)
century, along with the ratings triumph of the
big-money game shows such as Who Wants to Be a
Millionaire? Success on this scale insists on being
examined, because it tells us things about ourselves;
or ought to.,3605,503921,00.html


B o o m e r a n g

Mark Forrester of Nashville, Tennessee, wrote:

This past spring I audited a course at Vanderbilt
Divinity School on "Theology and Politics of
Criminal Justice in America." I was appalled to
learn more about a growing phenomenon that makes
retribution, not restoration, the goal of the prison
industry: private, for-profit prisons.

Here in Nashville resides the corporate headquarters
of CCA: Corrections Corporation of America. When run
as a business that's accountable to shareholders
rather than the public at large, CCA can - and does -
deny basic rehabilitative programs and support systems
that prove to lower recidivism rates. Why? Because,
when run as a for-profit enterprise, recidivism is
a good thing, a "repeat business" that prospers by
fostering failure. 


Andrew Hackett of Sydney, Australia, wrote:

Jim Wallis' comment on Tim McVeigh, "To me the death
penalty is vengeance," places an additional burden on
the families and friends of murderers' victims. The
implication is that they should find it in them to
forgive, and a) since they can't then a messed up
Gulf War vet has to die, or b) if they do forgive,
it's wasted since the courts will exercise the penalty
anyway on behalf of society and they have "failed."
There is a place for vengeance (it belongs to God),
and though the individual Christian should seek to
forgive the offender and pray for them, there is
also such a thing as delegated authority. This
belongs to every legitimate government; the
responsibility and authority to exercise justice.
This responsibility exists whether they want to do
it or not. The idea that a just and loving society
will be achieved if lots of people love and forgive
is not a Christian concept, good as these things
are in themselves....
The easy out is to say that there are so many
miscarriages of justice that is is too great a risk
of executing the innocent to have the death penalty
on the books. In Australia the general consensus
is that juries would balk at convicting someone
they thought might face execution, and hence put
the worst criminals back on the streets (a problem
they don't seem to have in the USA).

Ken Sehested, exec. director of the Baptist Peace
Fellowship of North America, wrote:

In his first public admission of his role in the
bombing, McVeigh expressed his qualms: "I recognized
beforehand that someone might be bringing their kid
to work. However, if I had known there was an entire
day care center, it might have given me pause to
switch targets." Then he concluded with regret
baptized in rationalization: "That's a large amount
of collateral damage." Where have you heard that
language before?

The comment echoes a statement McVeigh made in a
personal letter to his aunt while he was stationed
in Saudia Arabia as part of the "Desert Storm"
operation against Iraq: "Killing Iraqis was hard
at first, but after a while, it got easier."

As it turns out, I have a relative who served as
an investigator on the McVeigh defense team. He
assures me that, in personal one-on-one conversation,
McVeigh was a genuinely kind and courteous individual
who sincerely believes that our freedoms are being
eroded by the federal government and that his action
was a tragic but necessary choice. A just war, if
you will.

The next time you hear some government or military
leader express sincere regret at the collateral
damage caused by necessary military action (say,
for instance, the bombing of civilian populations
in Iraq, which continues to this day), make these
emotional connections: Call forward the outrage
you felt at the Oklahoma City bombing; then put
yourselves in the shoes of an Iraqi mother
listening to U.S. statements justifying the bombing
that has just killed her children. How do you


John Buehrens, president of the Unitarian Univer-
salist Association of Congregations, wrote:

Please don't overlook your friends in the Unitarian
Universalist Association when you list religious
Web sites as resources:

I read SojoMail faithfully. We have much in common.


Bill Phillips of Gaithersburg, Maryland, wrote:

I have an additional thought in reply to the
question by Joe Bradford about why the estate
tax should have any effect on charitable giving.
Although I have no specific expertise about taxes,
it seems to me that a wealthy individual who owns
a piece of property that has appreciated a great
deal since it was acquired (a painting, for
instance) would see a great advantage in donating 
it, while he or she is still alive, to a museum. 
The donator could take the tax deduction for the 
appreciated value. If retained and passed to the 
heirs, they would have to pay inheritance taxes 
on the appreciated value. So the donation is a double
benefit - it avoids the estate taxes on the
appreciation, and it gets the tax deduction for the
appreciation. The elimination of the inheritance
tax will eliminate one of these big incentives,
and will probably result in considerably fewer
donations to museums as well as to other charities.
Hope I'm right here.

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



W o r d   on   a   W i r e
Weekly lectionary reflections

Did you know that Sojourners magazine publishes
reflections on weekly Bible lectionary readings?
This week: 

Senseless Mercy

1 Kings 21:1-10, (11-14), 15-21a, Psalm 5:1-8,
Galatians 2:15-21, Luke 7:36-8:3

For both the Jewish and Christian traditions, the
theme of forgiveness is one of the most difficult.
There is a fine line between justice and mercy, and
we struggle endlessly with how, when, and if to
extend each, as if they are mutually exclusive.
To read more, go to:




H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l
Living Wage costs easily absorbed

by Janine DeFao and Pia Sarkar

Laws that have increased salaries for some of
the lowest paid workers are now a fact of life
in Bay Area cities and others across the nation.
While they are having a dramatic effect on the
lives of some low-wage workers, in most cases,
the number of employees affected has been small.
And though such laws are opposed by business
leaders who claim that higher wages could shut
down small firms, discourage development, and
take a hefty toll on taxpayers, such dire
predictions have not proven true. For the full
report go to:

             EXCITING JOB OPENING!!!

Call to Renewal, a faith-based movement to overcome
poverty, seeks an Executive Director. For more
information, visit:


B u i l d i n g  a  M o v e m e n t
For whom the bell tolls...
A compaign to end the death penalty

Instead of using modern means to communicate a
message, a Dominican Sister of St Catharine of
Kentucky, Sister Dorothy Briggs, is going back 
centuries to communicate her message by using 
the ancient tradition of tolling bells. Today, 
however, the bells toll to mourn the immoral 
practice of executions in this country. A long-time 
opponent of the death penalty, Dorothy decided that 
in the golden years of her life she will work on a 
national campaign called For Whom The Bells Toll (FWBT).

The FWBT campaign is a program of National CURE
(Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants), a
prison reform group based in Washington, D.C. The goal
of this campaign is to stop the death penalty in the
United States. It is an ecumenical effort engaging all
religions who oppose the death penalty to publicly
demonstrate their belief by tolling the bells in their
houses of worship at 6 p.m. for 2 minutes on the
date of any execution in the country. Where there are no
bells, the campaign suggests hanging a black drape
over the front door and tying black ribbons on the
utility poles outside. The campaign also has available 
a large black-and-white banner that is easily seen 
from the streets.

For more information, visit the Web site at:

Two Web sites that keep an updated lists of execution dates: and


S o u l  W o r k s
More Christians seeking Net-based faith experiences

Barna Research has conducted a substantial study
regarding the place of the Internet in people's
spiritual lives. More than 100,000 Protestant
churches already minister to people through the Web.
Other findings include:

·Within this decade as many as 50 million individuals
may rely solely upon the Internet to provide all of
their faith-based experiences.

·Virtually every dimension of the faith community
will be influenced by online faith developments
through the likes of self-produced and self-marketed
worship music, e-mail broadcasting, theological chats,
online meetings, broadcasts to congregants who are
immobile, live webcasting of mission trips, and 24/7
ministry training from the best trainers and educators
in the world.

This and much more information about the Internet
and Christian experience is contained in Barna
Research's newest research report. To see the
report online, go to:


W e b  S c e n e

*Roll over Beethoven

This Beethoven reference site includes
a complete list of the composer's works
plus criticism, pictures, biography, and
an intelligently moderated bulletin board.
Go to:



Dubbing itself "The World's First Virtual
Safari," AfriCam provides live Web camera
snapshots from wilderness areas in Africa and
other parts of the world that you can view anytime.
For those who want to feast their minds as
well as their eyes, the site also features
educational field guides and feature articles.

Go to:


*Gas Price Watch

Rising fuel prices are on everyone's mind this
year, but this site can help take some of the
sting out of the sticker shock. Gas Price Watch
gathers reports from more than 26,000
volunteers across North America to help you
find the lowest gasoline and heating oil prices
in your neighborhood. Zoom now to:


*HIV/AIDS clearinghouse

The HIV/AIDS Information Outreach Project is
maintained by the New York Academy of Medicine
and compiles contacts for numerous organizations
that deal with HIV/AIDS. It includes such
services as Mothers' Voices, AIDS Historical
Center, and Harm Reduction Educators resource.
Go to:


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