The Common Good


Sojomail - August 17, 2001

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

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

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++++++++++++++++++++ 17-August-2001 +++++++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k
     *Paulina Borsook: Do you worry too much about your 401K?

 B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
     *White lies, brown lies

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *Dave Barry: 19 lessons that it took me 50 years to learn

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *Poetry: The things they don't tell you about heaven

 B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
     *"A Force More Powerful" video available FREE

 B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
     *Your hero is probably dead

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *BBC's new head of religious broadcasting doesn't believe in God
     *The glorious rise of Christian pop

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

 T e c h   E t h i x
     *Bush and stem cell research: too far or not far enough?

 H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l
     *Lutheran church health care study

 W o r d   o n   a   W i r e
     *Is your God too...angry?

 W e b  S c e n e
     *Alternatives for simple living
     *Free Internet, good cause
     *Answers for questions you were afraid to ask
     *Making cents of economics

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

The stockholder theory of value has become dominant
over the last 20 years, and what's crazy is that a
company's highest priority is not to its stockholders,
not to its customers, certainly not to its employees,
or to its community. Most people today have a 401K,
a retirement fund, and they want to see their
portfolios going up, and those portfolio managers
want to see quarter-by-quarter returns - so in a
terrible way, we're all playing a part in the fact
that stockholder value is taking over everything.

          - Paulina Borsook, author of Cyberselfish

Note: Jim Wallis' Hearts & Minds column will resume in September.



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have a great idea for how to use this money. Show
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B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
White lies, brown lies

by David Batstone

I live in rural California, not far south of San
Francisco. The extensive agricultural industry in
the region has attracted many Latino immigrants,
especially from Mexico. Our mixed population - mostly
white and Latino - leads to a series of unpredictable
cultural clashes.

One such incident came up last week in the local
soccer league. Our league puts together a few all-star
teams to compete against other towns in Northern
California. The teams are broken down by age: under 10,
under 11, etc. Registration for the teams is tightly
regulated; birth certificates and individual photos
are required to become a team member.

It is not uncommon - though by no means universal -
for some of the Latino families to misrepresent the
age of their kids to let them play with a cousin, a
sibling, or perhaps a special coach or team. In fact,
last week one of the white coaches discovered that
a Mexican family used another child's birth certificate
so that their 13-year-old son could play on his
cousin's under-11 boys' team. Although he was not
the coach of the team in question, the man who
discovered the lie told me that he was going
to "bust the family."

If he follows through on his threat, I'm sure the
Mexican family will feel exactly that, "busted."
The Mexican family will probably not feel it has
done anything particularly immoral. They tend to
see league rules, like most laws and regulations,
as made by powerful people to keep powerless people
under the thumb. They are more apt to measure morality
via a code of honor and shame, which has its own
system of accountability and consequences. The
white coach, on the other hand, obviously has a
certain respect for the rule of law. For him,
integrity is measured by one's willingness to
follow the rules.

There is a way to act with honor and integrity here
without falling into moral relativism. I encouraged
the white coach to talk privately to the Mexican
family instead of trying to "bust them" publicly
before the league and, subsequently, to the entire
community. Explain to them, I said, the serious
consequences of "fraud" in U.S. society, and why it
represents a strong moral issue for him. Give the
family a chance to quietly remedy the situation, and
prevent a public shaming. If they refuse to act, then
the coach has every right to report the situation to
the league. Acting this way, the coach can be true
to his moral code. Most likely he has not made a
friend but probably will avoid making an enemy.
And it's one less fence that will divide our community.

Building bridges across cultures takes hard work...
and humility.


F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
19 lessons that it took me 50 years to learn

by Dave Barry 

1. Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping
pill and a laxative on the same night.

2. If you had to identify, in one word, the reason
why the human race has not achieved, and never will
achieve, its full potential, that word would be

3. There is a very fine line between "hobby" and
"mental illness." 

4. People who want to share their religious views
with you almost never want you to share yours with

5. And when God, who created the entire universe
with all of its glories, decides to deliver a message
to humanity, He WILL NOT use, as His messenger, a
person on cable TV with a bad hairstyle.

6. You should not confuse your career with your life.

7. No matter what happens, somebody will find a
way to take it too seriously.

8. When trouble arises and things look bad, there
is always one individual who perceives a solution
and is willing to take command. Very often, that
individual is crazy.

9. Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get
up and dance. 

10. Never lick a steak knife.

11. Take out the fortune before you eat the cookie.

12. The most powerful force in the universe is gossip.

13. You will never find anybody who can give you a
clear and compelling reason why we observe daylight
savings time. 

14. You should never say anything to a woman that
even remotely suggests that you think she's pregnant
unless you can see an actual baby emerging from her
at that moment. 

15. There comes a time when you should stop expecting
other people to make a big deal about your birthday.
That time is age 11.

16. The one thing that unites all human beings,
regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status,
or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we
ALL believe that we are above-average drivers.

17. The main accomplishment of almost all organized
protests is to annoy people who are not in them.

18. A person who is nice to you, but rude to the
waiter, is not a nice person. (This is very important.
Pay attention. It never fails.)

19. Your friends love you anyway.


S o u l  W o r k s

"The things they don't tell you about heaven"

by Jill Alexander Essbaum

Apples still taste like apples. The funny thing is,
serpents taste like apples too, and kisses and bread.
In fact, it is all about apples, this place. Everything
you touch is smooth and red. Your skin is comfortably
heavy on your bones, like that sleepy moment
between being awake and falling into a dream.
The moon is a pendulum clock, and light from the sun
comes down in drops, as rain. And as any child can tell you,
what we call rain is really tears, the soul of God weeping
over something great or small, as anything with a soul
will do from time to time. Mostly, it is the apples,
and a longing kind of sad. They are firm as musculature.
They smell like flesh and juice of unrequited love.

*As published in the July/August issue of Sojourners
magazine. Selection from Jill Alexander Essbaum's
collection of poetry, "Heaven."




B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
"A Force More Powerful" video available FREE

"A Force More Powerful" contains six 30-minute segments
documenting some of the most powerful nonviolent
movements in the 20th century. It is a very
effective tool for helping people understand the
power of nonviolent action and the potential for
peaceful change. The producers have offered to make
copies available free of charge to activists and
educators who will use the video actively in work
in communities and countries around the world in
educating and organizing nonviolent movements and
working for peaceful change.

If you are interested in getting a set of the videos,
please contact: David Hartsough,
Send him your name, organization (if any), mailing
address, and whether you would like to have the videos
in NSTS or PAL format and if you would like it in
English or Spanish. Please also write a sentence or
two about how you would hope to use the videos. In
the subject line, write A Force More Powerful.

If you or your organization can afford it, order
it from the distributor at (800) 257-5126 or fax in
the USA (609) 275-3767. They cost $29.95 per set.

In some very selected countries where there are
crucial nonviolent movements now or developing, if
having the video series in English or Spanish will not
be able to reach many of the people, the producers are
willing to consider translating the videos into other
languages and getting that dubbed into the video. So
if you feel you fall into that category, let David
Hartsough know along with a more in-depth letter about
your nonviolent movement and how you would use it, and
he will forward that to the producers.



Challenging position with the oldest, largest, interfaith/
international peace and justice organization in the U.S.
Respectable salary, excellent benefits. August 31 application
deadline. Contact: Yvonne Royster, FOR, Box 271, Nyack, NY
10960. (845) 358-4601. Fax: (845) 358-3924.


B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
Your hero is probably dead

More than half of Americans responding to a
new survey could name no public figure alive
today they consider heroic. About 1 in 6 had
no hero at all.

The Harris Interactive poll of 1,022 Americans
was conducted last month in cooperation with
U.S. News & World Report.

Among those who named a hero, the top vote-getters

Jesus Christ (51 responses, 6 percent)
Martin Luther King Jr. (45 responses, 4 percent)
Colin Powell (38 responses, 4 percent)
John F. Kennedy (34 responses, 3 percent)
Mother Teresa (32 responses, 3 percent)
Ronald Reagan (27 responses, 3 percent)
Abraham Lincoln (25 responses, 2 percent)
John Wayne (22 responses, 2 percent)
Michael Jordan (20 responses, 2 percent)
Bill Clinton (17 responses, 2 percent)

President Bush was named as a hero by 8 people
(1 percent).

Additionally, nearly a quarter of Americans polled
(24 percent) say they have recently crossed somebody
off their list of heroes, mostly because of
"unethical conduct." The most-mentioned former
heroes were: Bill Clinton, John F. Kennedy, Jesse
Jackson, O.J. Simpson, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Note: The Harris Interactive poll of 1,022 adults
has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.
Percentages are rounded.


C u l t u r e  W a t c h
*BBC's new head of religious broadcasting does not believe in God.
Does it matter? 

by Simon Jenkins

The reality is that Mr. Bookbinder¹s religion is a
standard issue modern. He is utterly without side.
He claims a soul, but cannot quite locate it between
the head and the heart. His indecision is absolute.
He will half-murmur the hymns at weddings and
memorials. He is deferential to all beliefs and none.
If quick-witted on chat shows, he will profess to
be a "Sermon on the Mount" man rather than a
"Lord's Prayer" one. Animism will hold no surprises,
Pelagianism no terrors.

Such an outlook is the vapour trail of Established
religion. It is the natural outcome of "If nothing,
put C of E". Since so much of the ceremony of British
life is still built round religion, it is convenient
to pay it lip-service. Parliament opens with an act
of worship. Radio Four opens with a prayer. Births,
marriages and deaths are shrouded in religion. The
courts invoke credibility through a biblical oath.
It is to a church that the nation makes its way to
give collective thanks or regret. The Christian
religion is still strong in the British cultural
gene. For the full story go to:,,256-2001241048,00.html


*The glorious rise of Christian pop
With big best sellers, new movies, and religious
rock, the $3 billion Christian entertainment industry
is exploding.

by Lorraine Ali 

"Are you ready to rip the face off this place?" screams
the lead singer of Pillar. A hyped-up crowd of teens -
6,000 strong - goes nuts. The aggressive rap-rock band
launches into a pummeling kickoff number, the surly
singer pounding the stage with his steel-toed boot,
sweating right through his baggy Army fatigues and
black bandanna. He gestures like a member of some
vicious street gang as he screams and roars into the
mike, his arm swinging low as if on the way to
the requisite crotch grab. This crude move is as
integral to rap-rock as the blown kiss is to a lounge
act, and is usually accompanied by a testosteroid
explosion of expletives. The singer's hand slaps down
hard on his thigh - and stays there. Gripping his pant
leg with conviction, he screams, "Jesus Christ!" Pause.
"Is he in your heart?" To read more, go to:


B o o m e r a n g

Alan Atwood of Newark, Delaware, wrote:

Pura Vida looks like a great program. How about
some unbleached coffee filters for the site as

*Ed. note:  Thanks for the suggestion, Alan. We'll
look into it!


Andrew Schleicher of Evanston, Illinois, wrote:

Concerning your note in SojoMail: First online
commandment: "Thou shalt not spam your neighbor"....

Wait a minute, shouldn't the first online
commandment be: You shall love the Internet
with all your time, all your money, and all
your thoughts? 

And the second is like this: You shall love
the information people send you as you love
the information you send to others.

I don't think I want to follow these. The two
greatest commandments that Jesus pointed out are
all that is necessary for me.


John Watson of London, England, wrote:

Re: Intellectual property of McDonalds [included
in last week's edition of SojoMail]...

It seems they have missed one: McMuck


Emily Maloney of Santa Cruz, California, wrote:

Let's have coverage on the money the administration
seeks to appropriate to expand "Plan Columbia" - the
Bush Administration's "Andean Initiative" would give
Colombia and its neighbors nearly $1.1 billion in
2002, 54% of it to military and police assistance.
Another large increase may be possible in the 2003
request. When are we going to wake up and end this
ridiculous drug war? Money that has gone toward it
is money down a rathole. It has not resulted in any
decrease in the amount of drugs coming into our
country and it has not resulted in any decrease
in the use of drugs here.

The answer clearly is to legalize drugs - take
the money and corruption out, stop incarcerating
the thousands of people for nonviolent drug offenses -
sell and tax in the same manner as alcohol and
tobacco, the two far more harmful drugs being sold.
When will the country wake up to the fact that
Prohibition was a failure just as this ridiculous
drug war is a failure?


Betty Neville Michelozzi of Corralitos, California, wrote:

Re:  Looking for God at Berkeley

It seems that some people consider belief in God
and belief in evolution mutually exclusive. Could
God have created evolution?! I've always thought
God could do anything.


Brouss Ironbark of Melbourne, Australia, wrote:

Check out these words from U.S. President George
W. Bush, responding to a letter from young people
at Clarkedale School in Burlington, Canada, asking
him to sign the 1997 Landmine Ban Treaty. Wonder
whether they really had expected much more...

"Dear Friends:

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. I am
pleased to hear from young people like you who care
enough to take the time to write. All of us have
God-given talents we can use to make the world a
better place. I hope that you will always use your
special talents for the good of those around you.

Remember that reading is one of the best ways to
expand your views of the world. Reading helps to
increase your knowledge, open your eyes to new
experiences, and create big dreams.

Mrs. Bush joins me in sending you our best wishes.


George W. Bush."

Enclosed with the letter was an autographed photo
of the president. Said student Laura Gibson, 10,
"I didn't want the signature on the picture. I
wanted it on the treaty!"


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



T e c h  E t h i x
Bush and stem cell research:
too far or not far enough?

by Kristen Philipkoski
President Bush allows for limited federal funding
into stem cell research, which angers those who
believe life begins at conception. Others question
where Bush got his facts from. To read more about
the debate, go to:,1283,45992,00.html?tw=wn20010810


H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l
Lutheran church health care study

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is
preparing to develop a social statement on
health and health care in the United States.
A task force has issued a study document,
"Our Ministry of Healing," for congregations.
To access the report, go to:


            October 27-November 4, 2001

"Through Farmworkers' Eyes: Richness and Realities of
the Heritage of Mexican Immigrants," a travel seminar to
Cuernavaca and Oaxaca, Mexico. Co-sponsored by the Oregon
Farm Worker Ministry and the Episcopal Hispanic/Farmworker
Ministries of North Carolina. This seminar will be led by
the highly respected Center for Global Education, and
offers opportunities for conversation with people across
the spectrum of Mexican society. Spend Day of the Dead
in Oaxaca, learn about the labor movement in Mexico, build
community with other participants, and expand your worldview!
For more information or an application, contact Oregon
Farm Worker Ministry, (503) 981-8384;;
or contact directly the Center for Global Education,
(612) 330-1159;


W o r d   on   a   W i r e
Is your God too...angry?

by Michaela Bruzzese

Readings for August 19:

Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19; Hebrews 11:29-12:2;
Luke 12:49-56

These scriptures challenge us to rethink our
images of God. Christians are prone to understand
God as portrayed in the Hebrew Bible as more
cruel and less merciful, while the New Testament's
God is portrayed as more merciful and loving. Yet
there is much evidence that contradicts these
stereotypes. The countless descriptions of God's
parent-like affection for God's people in the
Hebrew scripture, and this week's passionate
portrayal of Jesus as the cause of division in
Christian scriptures, are just two examples that
challenge our traditional images and encourage
us to form a more comprehensive understanding of
God. Read this week's entire reflection at:


W e b  S c e n e

*Alternatives for simple living

Alternatives is a non-profit organization that
"equips people of faith to challenge consumerism,
live justly, and celebrate responsibly." Started in
1973 as a protest against the commercialization of
Christmas, it encourages celebrations year-round
that reflect conscientious ways of living. Go to:


*Free Internet, good cause is a free Internet service provider
launched by Christian Aid, a UK-based relief and
development organization. Sponsors pay promotional
fees and users raise funds for Christian Aid
every minute they spend online or by shopping at
their fair trade online store. Go to:


*Answers for questions you were afraid to ask

What is a mojo? What are the nine Eskimo words for
snow? Why isn't there a Channel 1 on television?
The answers to these and a host of other questions
both provocative and completely trivial can be found
in the Straight Dope Archive. Search or scroll for
classics and current columns by Cecil Adams,
allegedly "the world's smartest human being." Go to:


*Making cents of economics

Do terms like "EBITDA" and "P/E Ratio" make you
scratch your head when you're reading financial
news, corporate reports, and the like? Investopedia
is filled with definitions, feature articles, and
other information to help you navigate the jargon
jungle of the financial world. Go to:


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