The Common Good


Sojomail - June 29, 2001

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           Promoting values at the crossroads where
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++++++++++++++++++++ 29-June-2001 +++++++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k
     *Archie last time

 H e a r t s  &  M i n d s
     *Time together

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *U.N. survey highlights international differences

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *Bastard theology

 B y   t h e   n u m b e r s
     *Gendering a millionaire

 B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
     *Guns kill what?

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *New UK novel tackles how to be good

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

 R e l i g i o n   &   S o c i e t y
     *Muslim women in the U.S.

 H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l
     *2001 survey shows U.S. kids in poverty by state

 P. O. V.
     *Do you really need that cup of Starbucks?

 W e b  S c e n e
     *Sweatshops in U.S. online exhibit
     *Latter Day Citizens: Mormons and their politics
     *AIDS: 20 Years of an epidemic
     *Photography tips

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

Archie Bunker:      Now, no prejudice intended, but I always check
                    with the Bible on these here things. I think that,
                    I mean if God had meant for us to be together, he'd
                    a put us together. But look what he done. He put
                    you over in Africa, and put the rest of us in all
                    the white countries.

Sammy Davis Jr.:    Well, he must've told 'em where we were because
                    somebody came and got us.

                                - Carroll O'Connor, 1925-2001, R.I.P.


H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
Time together

by Jim Wallis

I've grown to love teaching. The experience of being with 
a smaller group of people for an extended period of time 
offers different things than the one night "town meetings," 
public forums, and sermons I'm doing in so many cities these 
days. Those are also very encouraging to me -- recent events 
in Greensboro, NC, Tallahassee, FL, Kansas City, Detroit, 
Santa Barbara, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. (all in about 
two weeks) have shown a rising response to putting faith 
into action in America. But the more intensive sessions 
with students are bringing great satisfaction. For two years, 
I've taught "Faith, Politics, and Society" at Harvard. We 
get to go much deeper than any one-night event, to explore 
what it means to build a faith-inspired movement for social 
justice. And the relationships being developed with students 
there make the time it takes so worthwhile.

From July 16-20, Monday through Friday, I'll be teaching a 
week-long version of the Harvard course at the Graduate 
Theological Union in Berkeley, California. For those of you 
in the Bay Area or its environs, there are still some spaces 
left and you would be very welcome. We will explore the 
increasing role of faith in the public arena as churches and 
other faith-based organizations are joining together in a 
biblical commitment to overcome poverty, dismantle racism, 
and promote healthier families and communities. The course 
will examine the ways that religious congregations are 
becoming a focal point around issues of social and economic 
inequality from political, theological, spiritual, historical, 
and practical perspectives. 

For more information, including a syllabus, and to register 
for the course, see

I'm looking forward to a restful and reflective week in one 
of my favorite places in the world, joined by my wife, 
Joy, and son, Luke. It's another chance to develop those 
deeper relationships.

I'm also really anticipating Sojourners 30th anniversary 
celebration the last weekend of July at Wheaton College, 
near Chicago (Thursday, July 26, to Sunday, July 29.) It's 
a great program with wonderful music, terrific speakers, a 
youth track, and lots of fun things planned. But what I'm 
most looking forward to is the focus on dialogue with a 
new generation of Christian activists. One evening we'll 
feature a panel of three generations of activists 
discussing issues, strategy, and spirituality together. 
Again, it's a nice extended time of several days together, 
with plenty of opportunity for more reflective conversation 
and the building of relationships that last over time. 

So see if you can clear your calendar and join us. I think 
you'll be very glad you did. Especially if you live in the 
Midwest, it's a great chance for some real quality time with 
many kindred spirits. But people are coming from all over 
the country. See you there.

You can find more information on SojoFest and register to attend at


F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
U.N. survey highlights international differences

The United Nations has just finished its most
ambitious survey. The question: "What is your
opinion about food shortage in the rest of the

The results were absolutely discouraging.

- Argentinians did not understand the meaning of "please."
- The Chinese did not understand the meaning of "opinion."
- Europeans did not understand the meaning of "shortage."
- African, Indians, and Latin Americans did not understand
  the meaning of "food."
- US citizens did not understand the meaning of "the rest
  of the world."


You Don't Want to Miss It!

SojoFest 2001

July 26-29

There's still time to register for Sojofest 2001. Our 30th 
anniversary party is now less than a month away! It's happening 
July 26-29 in Wheaton, Illinois (just outside Chicago). It 
includes music by Carrie Newcomer, Over the Rhine, David 
Wilcox, and Ken Medema; speakers like Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo, 
Yvonne Delk, and Ched Myers; plus Bible studies, a coffee house, 
cyber cafe, Peace Camp for the kids, and much more. Don't miss 
the fun. For details, go to:


S o u l  W o r k s
Bastard theology

Southern Baptist preacher, civil rights activist, and
novelist Will D. Campbell was once asked to sum up
Christianity in 10 words or less.

"We're all bastards but God loves us anyway," he replied.

Was he right to omit so many of the commandments, all
of the 39 articles, and two members of the Trinity?
What about the truth in the other great faiths?

How would you sum up Christianity in 10 words or less?
See how users of UK-based responded at:


B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
For richer, for poorer...

27: Percentage of men who said they'd rather not be rich.

40: Percentage of women who said that.

32: Percentage of men who said they would give their
    windfall to charity or use it to help friends if
    they won $1 million.

41: Percentage of women who said they'd be so generous.

*Sources: AARP and "Modern Maturity" magazine

Can money buy love? Check out some more numbers at


B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
Guns kill what?

by David Batstone 

I can't tell you how fed up I am with the
polarization of key political issues in the
U.S. Gun control tops the list.

Why can't we have a rational debate about guns
without the middle ground completely
disintegrating? Both liberals and conservatives
immediately paint themselves, and the rest of us,
into their respective corners. As a result, we've
resigned ourselves that no political solution is
possible. One side will have to bludgeon the
other into submission.

It's time for a rebellion. One of those
"I'm not going to take it anymore" screams (okay,
I'll pause now for 15 seconds until you get back
from your window.) I don't want to live in a
country where the fear of violence is so pervasive.
Last week my 8-year-old son was sharing with
me why he didn't want "Albert" to be in his class
again next year at school. I thought maybe the boy
teased him, or was a loudmouth in class. No,
my son explained, "Albert" brought a gun to
school in his backpack. My son is scared.

That's not an isolated incident. On a recent trip
to Paris I met an American who had moved his
family to Europe. The final straw: His son's
junior high classmate threatened to bring a gun
to school the next day and kill him. The family
had to call the police and work with the school
to mitigate the risk to his son and his classmates.
But the father was fed up. When his work offered him an
opportunity for overseas assignment, he jumped
at it. I could relate. Many days I'm on the edge
of jumping ship across some border.

I don't care to hear at the moment any über theory
that lays out the root cause for all this violence.
How about a simple consensus on the following?:

*Guns are far too accessible. If minors can tote
them around schools with regularity, that's a clear
sign. We need a stringent procedure overseeing
gun ownership.

*I don't want to take away anybody's hunting rifle.
Even though I find tracking and killing animals
repulsive, I'm happy for the right mechanisms to
be in place that protect the right for responsible
gun ownership. Perhaps these rights can be mediated
by a registered hunting club.

*There is absolutely no reason for a citizen to
own an assault weapon.

*I long to see the day when the police don't
pack a gun in the U.S. That day is not now. The
police sometimes abuse the right to bear arms.
But at least we have legal mechanisms in place -
even if at times ineffective - to keep them
accountable for their use of weapons.

You couldn't ask for a more modest beginning. I'm
ready to build from there. But the status quo won't
do. I won't take it anymore.

Culture Watch
New UK novel asks how to be good

Nick Hornby has always given the impression of being
a writer whose brain is struggling to free itself from
other parts of his personality, such as his obsession
with football and his attachment to pop music. Now it
has succeeded. "How to Be Good" is a novel of ideas.
More, it is a bitingly clever novel of ideas, on a
subject almost nobody else has written about.

The question it confronts is - how would a totally
good person, a saint or a Jesus Christ clone, get on
in the modern world? So far as I know the only
other novelist to tackle this problem is Dostoevsky.
In 1867, he was walking round an art gallery in Basel
when he stopped, thunderstruck, in front of Holbein's
painting of Christ being taken down from the cross.
After staring at it for 20 minutes he went away and
wrote his novel "The Idiot," about an epileptic Russian
prince who is Christian perfection personified.

Hornby may not spring to mind as the most obvious
Dostoevsky lookalike, but his new novel seems to me
well able to stand comparison with the great Russian's
rambling fable. It is shorter, funnier, just as sharp
in its human observation, and more realistic. To read
the full "Sunday Times" (of London) review, go to:


Send them a sample edition along with an introductory
letter...all with no ongoing commitment. Go to:


B o o m e r a n g

Mischa Gelman of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, wrote:

Kevin Hurt wanted to know how Jews and Christians
can oppose the death penalty when the Torah sanctions
it. The simple explanation is that the conditions
under which the Torah allows capital punishment are
severely limited. For instance, the individual must
have been warned beforehand about the consequences,
must acknowledge the warning and then must commit
the crime only a brief while after the warning was
given. It must have been witnessed by two unrelated
witnesses. Not only that, but the mishnah features
the statement that a single application of the death
penalty every 7 years is tyrannical - and another
point of view held that once every 70 years was too
much. The actual history shows that the death
penalty was very rarely applied in the Jewish
tradition and used much more rigorous standards than
those used in America. According to Jewish law, the
American death penalty is illegal - in fact, it may
be a sin, as we are forbidden to take the life of
another living being. Due to this fact, we should
err on the side of caution and humanity and oppose
all modern uses of the death penalty.

Bernard Welch of St. Augustine, Florida, wrote:

Kevin Burt of Memphis asks for input in reconciling
the Torah and Hebrew biblical directives on the
death penalty with contemporary calls of Jewish
leaders to abolish this practice.
Here are some suggested readings and sources:
- Miller, Rabbi Judea B.  "Judaism and the Death
Penalty," America, Sept. 26, 1992.

-Weinstein, Jack B.  "Death Penalty: The Torah &
Today," a sermon to have been delivered 9-8-00 at
Temple Emmanuel of Great Neck.

-Heller, Rabbi Joshua, "Parashat Hashavuah;" Devarim
5760; Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22; text at:

The gist of these references is that: 1) the practice
of the death penalty was extremely rare in biblical
times; 2) the Hebrew legal system was much more
demanding than contemporary American procedures.

I could mail copies of this material, if it were more
convenient for Mr. Burt. My email:


Kevin Martin of Project Abolition wrote:

A report of our June 10-12 "Stop the New Arms Race"
events, which was announced in SojoMail, is
available at:
Thanks for your was a big success!


Lutheran pastor Bob Jones of Cottonwood, Arizona, wrote:

I had heard from some leaders of the Jewish
community encouraging members of their congregations
to give away the tax rebates that they might receive
from the Bush tax cut to charities to help the less
affluent who will not be receiving rebates but who
could use the help more. Given the fundamentally
selfish nature of the Bush tax cuts, I decided to
encourage members of my congregation to consider
giving all or at least a significant portion of
their rebate to the ELCA (Lutheran) World Hunger

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



R e l i g i o n   &   S o c i e t y
Who Is That Veiled Woman?

By Pat McDonnell Twair

To many Westerners, Muslim women have been unknown
others, nearly invisible, reduced to fleeting and
stereotypical images: Scantily clad maidens in
secluded harems or women shrouded in black, crudely
referred to by Western journalists during the Gulf
war as BMOs (black moving objects).

Islam is the fastest growing religion in the United
States. Within it are Muslim women who are gaining
public prominence, such as Dr. al-Marayati - along 
with her medical practice, she is the only
Muslim on the nine-member U.S. Commission on
International Religious Freedom. Who are they? What
challenges do they face being Muslim in "Judeo-
Christian" America? Read the whole story as it
appeared in the May-June issue of Sojourners magazine:




H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l
2001 "Kids Count"

The Annie E. Casey Foundation has released its
annual report on the state of America's children.
The data is easily accessible on line, organized
by state, and includes general indicators of child
well-being, education, economics, and health. It
is intended to illuminate the status of America's
children and to assess trends in their well-being.
The data is updated every year, so states can see
how they have advanced or regressed.


P. O. V.
As St. Francis said...

"Do you really need that cup of Starbucks?"

By Honey Judith Rubin

The announced purpose of the current Starbucks
protests is to demand a corporate commitment to
ecologically based agricultural practices. Those
who say they are invested in the environment can
also take the personal initiative to support
existing ecologically "sound" products. How we
spend our dollars has a powerful effect on the
market in the long run and might have the greatest
all around impact. There are many existing brands
of organic shade grown coffee, sold in health food
stores and in upscale markets.  At $10-$12 per
pound, organic shade grown coffee is the same
price as Starbucks.

Protests draw attention to a problem and make
people think. There is mounting evidence in the
field of quantum physics that attention is a
primordial factor in creating and increasing our
tangible reality. So let's put our energy and
attention into discussing solutions while making
people think. There would be less fanfare. It
would be hard to assign credit for the success.
But we would draw attention to what is wanted.
And the paradox is that only infinite patience
produces immediate results.

What do harsh action and unfriendly words teach,
in the long run? We ask Starbucks to take a long-run 
beneficial ecologically sound approach to making
a dollar. In the light of eternity, making a dollar
is the very same thing as making a point! Let's show
'em what we mean by how we treat them! As St. Francis
said, "You've got to teach the gospel every day, to
every one you meet, and sometimes you'll even be
called upon to use words."

*Honey Judith Rubin is a free lance writer and
speaker who lives in Marietta, GA.


W e b  S c e n e

*Sweatshops in USA

This online exhibition sponsored by the
Smithsonian's American History Museum places
the current debate on sweatshops in the garment
industry in a historical context and explores
the complex factors that contribute to their
existence today. Go to:


*Latter Day Citizens

This site features all kind of discussions
and news regarding Mormons in politics and
civic affairs.


*AIDS: 20 Years of an epidemic

The first cases of AIDS were reported 20 years
ago by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
CNN's special site marks the anniversary by
examining the impact the disease has had. You'll
find information about the history of AIDS
and news about current medical research, along
with chat rooms, video, animation, and links to
other AIDS resources online. Go to:


*Photography Tips

Whether you're a hardcore shutterbug or just an
occasional point-and-shooter who wants to take
better pictures, this information-filled site
offers solid advice and tips on photographic
techniques, equipment, and subjects. You'll
find coverage of digital as well as traditional
cameras. Go to:


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