The Common Good


Sojomail - July 6, 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

++++++++++++++++++++ 6-July-2001 +++++++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k
     *Anne Lamott: Got somethin' on my mind

 H e a r t s  &  M i n d s
     *The death penalty: A post-McVeigh assessment

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *Cosmic computer test

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *A meditation: "Eventful Days"

 B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
     *Mustn't see TV

 B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
     *God is my Palm Pilot

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *The truth behind A.I.

 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
     *Erotic pictures to bring Bible back into fashion?

 B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
     *Reject the

 W e b  S c e n e
     *Are you (artificially) intelligent?
     *Cool educational website
     *Healthy cooking to survive the BBQ season

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

If Jesus knew what I was thinking now, he'd drink
gin straight out of the cat dish.

                          --Anne Lamott


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. 

Single-day registrants welcome, too!

For details, go to:


H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
The death penalty: A post-McVeigh assessment

by Jim Wallis

On June 11, Timothy McVeigh was executed with 
overwhelming public approval - Gallup polling 
showed 80 percent support. In fact, Gallup found 
23 percent of those who supported the execution 
were generally opposed to the death penalty. 
But McVeigh was an aberration - a confessed, 
unremorseful mass murderer. And, unlike many, 
he had competent legal counsel every step of the 

An assessment of the overall state of the death 
penalty post-McVeigh shows that the tide may be 
turning. If pollsters ask the question with the 
explicit alternative of life imprisonment with no 
chance for parole, only 52 percent support death 
and 43 percent oppose.

Just eight days after McVeigh's execution, a 
second federal execution took place. Juan Raul 
Garza was convicted of killing one man and 
ordering two other murders as leader of a drug 
smuggling ring. Garza had become a Christian in 
prison and repeatedly expressed remorse for his 
actions. In contrast to McVeigh, 62 percent 
supported his execution. Although former President 
Clinton was a death penalty supporter, he had 
postponed Garza's execution twice, pending further 
study on racial disparities. Attorney General 
Ashcroft, while saying he would study the question, 
allowed the execution to proceed and President 
Bush declined to grant clemency.

This Monday, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor spoke 
to the Minnesota Women Lawyers organization. 
What made headlines was her statement that "the 
system may well be allowing innocent defendants to 
be executed." Her remarks are significant since she 
has supported the death penalty and been the key 
vote in several cases. The Supreme Court will take 
up two major death penalty cases this fall, including 
one challenging the execution of mentally retarded 

Justice O'Connor noted that 90 death-row inmates have 
been exonerated since 1973, six last year. Also last 
year, after the exoneration of more than a dozen death-
row inmates over the years, Republican Gov. George Ryan 
of Illinois declared an indefinite moratorium on 
executions in that state. 

According to news stories, Justice O'Connor 
emphasized the importance of effective counsel, 
noting that in Texas, for example, defendants 
with appointed counsel are 28 percent more likely 
to be convicted than those who can hire their 
own attorneys, and 44 percent more likely to receive 
death if convicted. "Perhaps it's time to look at 
minimum standards for appointed counsel in death 
cases," she said. The Senate Judiciary Committee 
held hearings last week on the "Innocence Protection 
Act." One key feature of this legislation would 
create a commission to establish competency 
standards for legal assistance.

The use of the death penalty in the United States 
is also attracting international attention. During 
President Bush's trip to Europe, anti-death penalty 
demonstrations were held in several European cities. 
And last week, the International Court of Justice 
ruled that the execution of two Germans by Arizona 
violated international law because the U.S. had not 
informed German consular officials of their arrest 
and conviction. 

The declining public support, growing international 
outrage, and deeper legal and political questioning 
may all add up to a more serious and sustained movement 
to end the death penalty in the United States. So, 
despite McVeigh, a new questioning of the death penalty 
appears to be gaining momentum. And President Bush's 
strong advocacy of capital punishment and record number 
of executions in Texas may actually be helping to focus 
the issue. Now there's an unexpected development.


F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
Cosmic computer test

Jesus and Satan were having an ongoing argument
about who was better on his computer. They had been
going at it for days, and God was tired of hearing
all the bickering.  Finally, God said, "Cool it.
I am going to set up a test, which will take two
hours, and I will judge who does the better job."

So Satan and Jesus sat down at the keyboards and
typed away. They did spreadsheets. They wrote reports.
They sent faxes. They sent e-mail and attachments.
They downloaded. They did some genealogy reports.
They made cards. They did every known job. But
10 minutes before the time was up, lightning
suddenly flashed across the sky, thunder rolled,
the rain poured, and, of course, the electricity
went off. Satan stared at his blank screen and
screamed in every curse word known in the underworld.
Jesus just sighed. 

The electricity finally flickered back on, and each 
of them rebooted their computers. Satan started 
searching frantically, screaming, "It's gone! It's 
all gone! I lost everything when the power
went out!" Meanwhile, Jesus quietly started printing
out all his files from the past two hours. Satan
observed this and became even more irate. "Wait!
He cheated! How did he do it??!!" God shrugged and
said, "Jesus Saves."


S o u l  W o r k s
A meditation...

"Eventful Days"

I have it at last, my own lush fuchsia hedge,
the dark green bulk with brilliant red in spate,
and my own stone wall. From each uneven ledge
grow ferns, some sturdy and some delicate.
Here is my place to smoke and smile and think
beside new planted flowers, a mauvish mallow,
a spindly rose, white blooms from buds in pink,
a potentilla's little bursts of yellow.

The breeze shakes leaves and blossoms, Christ,
it's three!
Put down your coffee and fetch your son from school.
He steps out of the crowd of children, beautiful,
in noticeably high spirits, very content.
Swinging his bag to the back seat he kisses me.
Eventful days...and this is the best event.

by James Simmons, from The Company of Children.
Read more about this book at:


Bilingual grassroots manager needed

Centro Independiente de Trabajadores Agricolas (CITA) 
seeks a non-profit manager to coordinate its development, 
administrative, and financial operations. Bilingual 
Spanish/English a must, 2-5 years experience in grassroots
management, and commitment to workplace justice. Send 
resume/cover letter to: A. Alacantara, CITA, POB 78, 
Florida, NY 10921


B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
Must not see TV...

1.8  Percentage of 1,000 studies examined by the
     American College of Forensic Psychiatry
     that demonstrate that television violence
     does NOT lead to violence.

67   Percentage of those contrary studies funded
     by the TV industry itself.

3    Number of times by which the amount of 
     violence content in an hour of TV has 
     increased since 1989.

3    Number of times by which sexual content 
     in an hour of TV has increased since 1989.

*Sources: American College of Forensic Psychiatry and
          the Parents Television Council


B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
God is my Palm Pilot

by David Batstone

In the July/August issue of Sojourners, Bill
Wylie-Kellermann and I debate the impact of
technology - politically, spiritually,
socially - on our lives. Here's a quick take:

Dear Bill,

Honestly, I find it daunting to discern what
technologies we should resist. Imagine providing
a crystal ball to ordinary American citizens of
the mid-19th century so that they could see what
industrialization would bring.
Most would be horrified to observe the mobility
of our lives today - for example, extended families
rarely living in regional proximity. We, on the
other hand, have accepted this social arrangement.
Yes, we have misgivings, and hold romantic longings
for an age past, but we really don't expect our
children to stay within a five-mile radius once
they become adults. Mobility was the genesis of
a new form of social alienation, we just don't
realize it. Surely our 18th-century ancestors
would have seen it that way and would ponder
how to resist the powerful wave of technology
and economics inexorably moving them toward a
new shore.

How should they have responded? Complete
resistance? The Luddites and other pockets of
citizens took that path. Acquiescence? Clearly
the vast majority of citizens felt powerless to do
anything to stop the advance of the machine. And 
I think they were right, though that reality need 
not lead to acquiescence.

My tactic - a road unfortunately taken by far
too few either then or today - is to build
movements to democratize the application of
capital and technology.


Dear David,

I'm glad you identify democracy as a struggle to
be made over against and within the technological
powers, rather than an inherent benefit of the
decentralized and all-leveling Net.

You do put your finger on a topic that is close
to the heart of our matter: rooted community. I'm
of the mind that 19th-century industrialism was
a systemic and systematic assault on local
community. There were those who saw and foresaw
that - and indeed resisted; sectarian Anabaptists
being only one tactical variety. There were others,
of whom Wendell Berry might be a current champion.
I don't regard that continuing tradition as a
"romantic longing" so much as an instinct and
intuition truly inspired. And close to the heart
of the work we need to be about in any genuine
social movement today.

What I see is that new technologies are accelerating
this selfsame assault at a frenetic pace. Globalization's
dizzying dislocation has most of us "bowling alone,"
in the image of one commentator. Another: a whole
class of us sitting or running, transfixed in solitary
interactivity at some form of terminal all the
day long. The chatroom becomes the ersatz community of
this virtual world. Commitment is reduced to joining
the listserve. A genuine hunger is sublimated and

To read the entire dialog as it appears in the July/
August issue of Sojourners magazine, go to:



Culture Watch
The truth behind A.I.

by Farhad Manjoo 

Take an A.I. [artificial intelligence] expert to
see the movie A.I. and you come away with more,
and less, than what you expected....

"Well, some of it is certainly possible," he [Philip 
Klahr] said. "After all, anything is possible, 
right?" Then he thought about the question for 
a second and said, "But it's not like we're 
working on it. Most of what we do today (in A.I. 
research) is learning and solving problems. 
The things that you see in the movie - love, for 
instance. Are we working on making a machine that 
could love? No."

That's because, he said, it's difficult for people -
A.I. Ph.D.s included - to even comprehend love.
Biologically, we know how emotions are merely
neurochemically produced sensations in the brain -
but that doesn't mean we know how to even begin
reproducing them through a system of rules written
into a machine. 

For the entire article, go to:,1282,44946,00.html?tw=wn20010702


Part-time job opening: Bilingual minister

Western N.Y. minister sought by Hudson Valley 
based organization. Must be bilingual English/Spanish 
with experience in social change movements. Salary:
$13K (20 hours/week). Reply by July 20, 2001, to: 
Richard Witt, RMM, Box 4757, Poughkeepsie, NY 12602 
or fax (845) 485-1963


B o o m e r a n g

Shelley Sandow of Forest Park, Illinois, wrote:

Great idea to donate our tax refunds to life-
affirming projects! But let's also send a postcard
to the president telling him how we used the money
to fund the things we think our taxes should be
paying for in the first place. My postcard will
report that the $300 I received paid for a little
less than one half of my mom's monthly prescription
costs - which Medicare totally ignores.

It would be really neat to have a Web site and a
postal address where people could e-mail or snail
mail what they did so we could collect the info.
Sometime in 2002 it would make an interesting and,
hopefully, persuasive magazine article and
advocacy tool.


Mary Ailes of Fairfax, Virginia, wrote:

You wrote that Will D. Campbell, when asked to sum
up Christianity in 10 words or less, said "We're all
bastards but God loves us anyway."

It's a witty remark - the problem is that God doesn't
just love us "anyway." We are able to receive God's
love because of the Cross. It cost God big time.

I guess I might say:

"We do the crap, 
God takes the rap, 
we give Him flack, 
He goes to the mat,
we fall down flat, 
He takes our crap."

K. Michaud of College Station, Texas, wrote:

I am not Jewish, so my understanding is quite limited.  
The Torah may have symbolism for our time, but it was
written for persons whose capabilities were less evolved
spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally.  
"An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" became
passe by the time of Jesus. In spite of our many
blunders today, humans continue to evolve. Our
potential is way past murdering people as a solution
for murderous acts. To rely on that as a solution is
as ludicrous as the idea of "a war to end all wars."

Forgiveness heals what punishment can only
perpetuate. Is anyone listening to those survivors
of murdered loved ones who are asking for the killing
to stop? They are saying it does not relieve the
suffering their loved ones' deaths caused, but now adds
the burden of another stolen life. Whether we accept
it or not, the burden of all the persons we have put
to death lay collectively on our shoulders. We will
continue to have disease and children carrying guns,
and greater forms of illness, as long as we fail to
recognize the wound our sanctioned murders has created.


Linda Martin of Cape Town, South Africa, wrote:

Thanks so much for your fundraising letter that
lets us know your needs. I appreciate SojoMail
a lot. Your perspective helps me so much with
what we are dealing with here in Cape Town. I am
studying journalism and supporting myself while I
study and work in the townships here - so am totally
unable to help financially at the moment. I sincerely
hope that I will be able to one day. In the meantime
I will pray that God gives you all that you need.


Gary Kohls, M.D., of Duluth, Minnesota, wrote:

I am a physician who deals with the long-term
psychological, medical, and spiritual consequences
of violence (which, in its multiple forms, causes
most of what we call "mental illness", post-traumatic
stress disorder [PTSD] - and its multiple variants,
somatization disorders, personality disorders,
criminal/conduct disorders, addictive disorders
and eating disorders).

In a study done in the decade after the Vietnam
War, it was found that the incidence of active
church involvement by veterans prior to the war
was 75 percent. After the war ended, however, church
involvement approached zero for traumatized
combat vets. Most of those vets naturally came
back disillusioned and angered by a religion
and their home churches that had been silent about
the evil nature of war, and nary a word had been
spoken by their churches about the fact that
conscientious objection to war and killing is
a valid Christian ethic.

Those of us who are, or desire to become, radical
peacemakers and who are also trying to stay within
organized Christianity for whatever reasons need
to gently confront our lay and clergy leaders to
take a sincere and prayerful look at these realities.
A new movement, Every Church A Peace Church (ECAPC),
can help. ECAPC has strategies to transform churches
into true peace churches, which, among other things,
do not send their ex-confirmands into the military
untaught, unwarned, or unprepared to declare their
consciences before they take the oath and it's too
late to turn back. The programs and principles of
ECAPC can be accessed at:


Sister Mary Jude June, OSU, wrote:

I appreciate the contents of SojoMail so much and
sometimes I want to copy out parts. Is there any
way you could put page numbers so I can find
certain parts? I don't want to waste all the paper
and print out the whole thing. I'd appreciate your


Ed. note: Since we get this request from time to
time, it's worthwhile making a public response.
The best method for printing out sections of SojoMail
that you like is to use the cut-and-paste function that
appears on most every computer program. Simply use
the mouse to highlight what you want to keep, go to
the "cut" function, then "paste" it into an empty
word document or empty "new e-mail" document. Then
print the new document. Hope this helps.


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



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


R e l i g i o n   &   S o c i e t y
'Erotic' pictures to bring Bible back into fashion?

by Jessica Berry
The Telegraph, London (UK)

A glossy magazine-style version of the Old Testament,
featuring models pictured by the world's leading
fashion photographers, will be unveiled later this year.
Claudia Schiffer and Markus Schenkenberg are expected to
portray Eve and Adam in a project designed to attract
young people who rarely read the Bible.

Gustaf-Wilhelm Hellstedt, one of four Swedish entrepreneurs
behind the idea, said: "Forget those old sketches in the
Bible. Instead of a boring drawing of Adam and Eve in
the Garden of Eden, we may well have a couple walking
down a New York street, kissing."

Who is to be pictured in the new Illuminated Bible,
which will retain the traditional King James text, is
being kept under wraps by the group, which trades
under the name Fishtank. It has been revealed, however, 
that its list of fashion photographers rivals that of 

Michel Gyring, another member of Fishtank, said that
the group had realized last year that most editions of
the Old Testament had changed little since 1454, when
the first Gutenberg Bible was printed. Mr. Gyring
said: "We had the idea to contemporize the Bible and
make it accessible to 15- to 30-year-olds."

Mr. Hellstedt said: "Most of the models, who will earn
up to £10,000 a day, will have their clothes on, but
there will be some nudity because the Bible is very
sensual and we are going to exploit that. We want to
take the Bible off the dusty back shelf and put it
on coffee tables."

The venture has elicited the interest of Virgin
Publishing, although it has yet to sign a contract.
Mr. Hellstedt said: "We have had an offer from a
Finnish publisher for about £300,000, but we are
holding out for Virgin." (Ed. note: You couldn't
make stuff like this up!)


As concerned citizens, we the undersigned encourage
others to take similar action in protest of our federal
government's intentional abdication of its responsibility
for equitable legislation in light of the unconscionable
disparities between the rich and poor of our nation.
Summer 2001
President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20050

Dear President Bush,

We are deeply disturbed by the fact that we are receiving
a tax rebate as a result of the Tax Relief Act of 2001. We
do not want to be complicit - even involuntarily - in the
government's disengagement with the poor. We believe that
any government budget surplus must address the unmet needs
of our most vulnerable citizens.
We have a dream for America, and we are trying to do our
part to make that dream come true; however, there are many
things that we as individuals cannot do. We can - and do - 
help hopeful teenagers earn pocket money by doing occasional
"odd jobs" for us, but we can't give them the summer jobs
they so desperately need and want. We can - and do - buy
occasional groceries and other necessities for our
unemployed or underemployed friends whose paychecks can't
support them and their families to the end of the month,
but we can't offer them their entitlement to decent and
affordable housing. We can - and do - give sick neighbors
rides to the hospital or money for a needed prescription,
but we can't pay their hospital bills totaling thousands
of dollars each.
We grieve that our government is deliberately abdicating
its role in redistributing the wealth of our nation more
justly, as government alone has the resources and civil
mandate to assure that essential resources are available
to all those in need.

Recently the Children's Defense Fund set forth a comprehensive
legislative proposal to build our nation's future through
investment in justice initiatives. The provisions of this
proposal, titled the Leave No Child Behind Act, include
health care, child care, education, youth development,
gun control, nutrition, housing, and refundable tax relief
for low-income families.

We want you to know that we cannot in conscience accept this
unjust tax refund. We are pledging it instead to this
commendable effort by the Children's Defense Fund on behalf
of economic justice. We urge you to study the Leave No Child
Behind Act, consider its significance to the restructuring
and healing of our society, and actively support its provisions.


David and Marja Hilfiker      Bill and Sharon Gerred


B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
Reject the

United for a Fair Economy, the group that organized
the Call to Preserve the Estate Tax, which won national
attention for its prominent supporters such as Bill
Gates Sr., has launched an on-line petition drive and 
rebate pledge campaign at
to oppose the tax cut's windfalls for the rich. If
you are one of the millions of Americans getting a
tax rebate, you can redirect some or all of your
rebate to organizations working for fairer tax
policies and economic justice.

The richest one percent of Americans will receive 38 
percent of the $1.35 trillion benefits from the tax cut 
bill if it is fully implemented over the next decade, a far
greater percentage than the 23 percent share of federal 
taxes they pay. By contrast, 34 million Americans will get
no benefit from the bill at all, including no refund.

United for a Fair Economy (UFE) is a national nonprofit
organization that spotlights the dangers of growing
inequality of income and wealth. UFE's Responsible Wealth
project organized more than 1,000 wealthy people to sign the
Call to Preserve the Estate Tax, which helped delay
estate tax repeal until 2010. For more info, call UFE
at (617) 423-2148 or go to:


W e b  S c e n e


Want to know which toxic waste site is buried in
your backyard? Check out the Environmental Protection
Agency's new EnviroMapper site. Discover where toxic
water discharges, the location of Superfund sites,
brownfields, and toxic emissions in the air near
you (USA only...sorry to our international readers).
EnviroMapper has also just updated its information
to allow users to select a geographic location and
view information about surface water features and
their environmental conditions in that area. Go to:


*Cool educational Web site
"Mom, what makes clouds appear in the sky?" Sound
familiar? If you or your kids have science
questions, this is the Web site to find your
answers. It explains anything from diseases
to aviation, and nuclear power to computers. Go to:


*Are you (artificially) intelligent?

Steven Spielberg's latest film, "A.I.," has
spawned an intricate online game that involves
numerous sites on the Web. Make this site
your first stop for an overview of the game
and instructions on how to get started.


*Healthy cooking to survive the BBQ season

There's nothing better than grilling out during
the summertime. But grilling can be fattening and
unhealthy if you don't cook meats and vegetables
correctly. Here, you can get grilling know-how
in no time.


....................... E D I T O R I A L ......................

  David Batstone                               T 415.422.6660
  Executive Editor                         

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  Managing Editor                              

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  Assistant Editor                            

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  Web Editor                                 

..................... A D V E R T I S I N G ....................
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