The Common Good

A different kind of Thanksgiving

Sojomail - November 21, 2001


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+++++++++++++++++++++++ 21-November-2001 +++++++++++++++++++++++
+++++++++++++++ A different kind of Thanksgiving +++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k
     *Robert Reich: you are what you sell

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *A different kind of Thanksgiving

 B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
     *Respect Ramadan: Week 2

 S o j o C i r c l e s
     *Join...or start...a SojoCircle in your part of the world

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *The trouble with Harry Potter

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


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

"As we work harder and sell ourselves more intensely,
and as we adopt the market-directed ethos of our age,
many of us are anxious about what's becoming of our
families, our friendships, our broader communities,
and even our innermost selves."

       - Robert B. Reich, former US Secretary of Labor


S o u l   W o r k s
A different kind of Thanksgiving

by Rose Marie Berger

Why is this Thanksgiving different from all other
Thanksgivings? Borrowing from the traditional question
asked by the youngest child at the Jewish celebration
of the Passover, this question will be answered by
5,000 empty places at Thanksgiving tables across America.
If we add to that table a place for those lost to
terrorism around the world, we need to set a very
large table indeed.

This Thanksgiving is different from all others. In
some ways, this Thanksgiving is more "American" than
it has been in years. We have pulled together as a
nation in the shock, grief, anger, and healing following
Sept. 11. Now, as a newly united people, we sit together
for a radical act of "table fellowship." It is at
this table that we bring the best of who we are; we
offer our "first fruits" to God; we sit together as family,
friends, and community. We welcome the stranger into our
homes. Everyone contributes what they can; everyone takes
away what they need. And there are always "leftovers."

On this Thanksgiving people across the United States
and even around the world are extending their table to
include the people in Afghanistan. Some people are
"passing the hat" at the Thanksgiving table, others are
calculating the cost of their Thanksgiving celebration,
then making a donation to humanitarian agencies working
in Afghanistan.
It is an honor and a joy to celebrate Thanksgiving. Pablo
Neruda's poem "The Great Tablecloth" gives us a hint of
what this celebration may one day look like....

Let us sit down soon to eat
with all those who haven't eaten:
let us spread great tablecloths,
put salt in the lakes of the world,
set up planetary bakeries,
tables with strawberries in snow
and a plate like the moon itself
from which we can all eat...

For more Sojourners Thanksgiving worship resources, go to:

For agencies providing direct relief in Afghanistan:
Christian Aid
International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent
Mennonite Central Committee
Mercy Corps
American Jewish World Service



 A new study series by the editors of Sojourners magazine.
 This study guide - designed for use in classrooms,
 Sunday school sessions, small groups, and study circles -
 will be available December 1. For a table of contents and
 to pre-order your copy, go to:


B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
Respect Ramadan: Week 2

Since Sojourners' initial invitation to Christians, Jews,
and people of faith and good will to act in solidarity with
Muslims by fasting for Ramadan, we have heard an inter-
national groundswell of response to the idea. People in
England, Australia, and throughout the United States are
respecting Ramadan any way they can and donating the money
that would be spent on food to humanitarian agencies
providing direct relief in Afghanistan.

Share stories of how you're respecting Ramadan in an 
online forum at:

We offer the following suggestions on fasting, daily prayers,
and daily prayer readings.

Week Two: November 23-29

The second week's selections are from the "revelation to

David" in the Hebrew scripture.

November 23: Psalms 102
November 24: Psalms 107:33-43, 108:1-13
November 25: Psalm 118
November 26: Psalm 106:1-18
November 27: Psalms 121, 122, 123
November 28: Psalm 119:145-176
November 29: Psalms 131, 132

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S o j o C i r c l e s
Join...or start...a SojoCircle in your part of the world

In the month of November, Sojourners is launching
SojoCircles, a network of local study groups that meet
monthly (more or less) to explore and discuss such issues
as terrorism on the homefront, U.S. military actions on
the warfront, the contours of Islam, and the politics
of the Middle East.

New groups have been set up in the following locales. 
Contact group facilitators if you live in the area and
would like to join in:

Columbus, OH: Wendy Putka -
New York, NY: Angel Adams -
Haverton/Philadelphia, PA: Amy Dwyer -
Green Bay, WI: Jill Taylor-Bussiere -
Charlotte, NC: Dennis Teall-Fleming -
San Francisco, CA: Brad Berky -
Sydney, Australia: Vladimir Korotkov -
Baltimore/Washington, D.C. area: Contact -

Sojourners is looking for leaders around the country and 
internationally who are willing to pull together friends, 
family, members of a community; it may even be an existing
study group that would like to follow the Sojourners
study guide. If you so choose, we also will publish your
email contact in SojoMail so that other readers in your
region can join in.

If you are interested in becoming a group leader and/or
want to order the Sojourners study guide - "A Moral
Response to Terrorism: Conscience in a Time of War" -
please contact us at, call us at
1-800-714-7474, or visit


C u l t u r e   W a t c h
The trouble with Harry Potter

By Julia Scheeres

When Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone hit American
theaters last Friday, was Satan in line to buy a ticket?
"You couldn't ask for a better poster child against censorship
than Harry Potter," say freedom-of-speech advocates.,1284,48396,00.html?tw=wn20011115

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B o o m e r a n g

Phyllis T. Albritton of Blacksburg, Virginia wrote:

Thank you for Sojourners' lead in encouraging us in
solidarity with our Muslim sisters and brothers during
Ramadan. We, in Blacksburg, Virginia, will be joining 
our friends in breaking the fast periodically.


Fr. Emmett Jarrett, TSSF of New London, Conneticut wrote:

Thank you for Jim Wallis's thoughtful editorial on
"Ramadan." I respect his decision...but I am not
fasting this Ramadan.

The reason is this. One of the things that is truly
admirable about Muslim brothers and sisters (and some
of these I know personally, others by hearing) is their
devotion to the traditions of their faith. Ramadan
fasting is their way to do it. I respect that and honor
them for keeping faith with their traditional practice.
That is part of what gives them the courage to resist 
U.S., Western, and other modernist assaults on their way 
of life. I want to be part of a similar resistance among
American and "Western" Christians (and others) to resist
the destruction of our traditional culture and faith by
global corporate capitalism and its consumerist values.

To that end, I propose (for myself) to be faithful to
the traditions of fasting of my own faith and culture.
The Friday fast, as well as the Lenten fast of 40 days,
is the Christian equivalent of Ramadan. If I and
other Christians are as faithful to our practices as
Muslims are to theirs, together we may be able to forge
a true spiritual alliance to resist the destruction of
all of our communities and values.


Karen Harrison of Toronto, Canada wrote:

How wonderful it is that Sojourners has called for an
international Ramadan fast. In Toronto, we will be doing
this fast through a network of faith friends called the
Faith Action Network:

and the Toronto Coalition for Global Justice and Peace:


Chris Crye of La Crosse, Wisconsin wrote:

I have been quite taken back by the continual call on
your part to honor Ramadan. The prayers and practices
suggested by Rose Marie Berger would suggest you hold the view
that Islam and Christianity fall into the same category, just
calling the same God by a different name. I have noticed a
distinct absence of references to Jesus and his prescriptions
for life. I know these are new times we live in but it seems
that we too easily abandon the conviction that Jesus is the
only way for this politically correct salve of honoring Ramadan,
etc., for the sake of not appearing to be Muslim haters. I
understand that much has been done in the name of Christianity
that is an abomination but God remains the same: Jesus is the
exalted Son of God and Muhammad is not His prophet.


Bill Ramsey of St. Louis, Missouri wrote:

There are 62 Christian and Jews joining in the Ramadan fast
here in St. Louis. We vigil each Sunday evening in front of
the Catholic Cathedral and break our fast with dates and soup
and bread. On the Sunday before Ramadan we had 110 people
at the vigil to launch the fast. We will meet with Muslim
communities and Muslim student groups to break the fast
together on several other evenings. Many of us are attending
Friday prayers. We have found all your materials very helpful.
Please let us know if there is word of others fasting around
the country and the world.


Jay Martin of Ephrata, Pennsylvania wrote:

I do not know of one example in modern times where
Arab nations in conflict have ceased military operations
during Ramadan. In fact, I believe the 1973 war with
Israel was started during Ramadan. The idea that we would
give our enemy a month to redeploy, rest, and reinforce
would be military foolishness and, I believe, do absolutely
nothing to endear us to the Muslim world.

Muslim resentment is a complex issue, but we are not going
to solve it with a few simple steps. The idea that if we
"Feed the People, Halt the Bombing, Honor Ramadan" we will
somehow turn the tide is naive. The fact that we are
assisting Muslims in Afghanistan (the Northen Alliance)
seems to be of no merit in some people's eyes. The fact
that we have freed Kuwait (yes, I know oil was part of the
equation), intervened in Somalia, helped Bosnia, and went
to bat in Kosovo, all in the past 10-15 years, seems to
have done nothing to alleviate deep-seated Islamic suspicion
and outright hatred to the United States.
I believe there is a way to stop "already serious Muslim
resentment," but it involves appeasement on a grand scale.
Abandon Israel, create a Palestinian state, arm only Arab
countries in the Middle East, help Pakistan fight against
India, make our laws to more closely resemble Islamic law,
and be on standby to help them militarily only when they
ask us to. In other words, make our culture match theirs.


Mark E. Roberts of Tulsa, Oklahoma wrote:

I agree with aiding civilian Afghans massively but not with
ceasing the bombing of Taliban military targets during
Ramadan. You make my full support of your proposal
impossible by wrongly linking two distinct actions.
Moreover, the fall of the Taliban in Kabul will lessen the
need for bombing of military targets and help aid to reach
more Afghans.


*Ed. note: We hope that our readers will pursue the
actions in our campaign to the extent their consciences
and good judgment allow them. Offering aid to the Afghan
people on a massive scale can, and should, be supported
even by those who cannot support the halting of the
bombing for Ramadan. The prayerful discipline of the
season can also be respected, and practiced, regardless
of one's position on the bombing.


David Pruett of Lake Village, Arkansas wrote:
I salute you for observing Ramadan, but I would like
to point out that this "war" is not about religion or
faith, but about hatred; it has almost nothing to do
with Islam. Bin Laden will strike at America at Christmas
if the opportunity presents itself, and it is the
lawlessness we need to curb, not the people of Arab lands.

Right now, the only friends the Palestinians have is
Israel. They are not wanted in neighboring countries,
not wanted in Europe nor in the U.S., so I hope you can
cut the Israelis a little slack here. I am an Episcopalian, 
but I do love Judaism for its simplicity, hospitality, and 
its "family" orientation. I love the Holy Land, and I am 
glad the Jews have a place to call home; this is why the 
neighboring countries are standing by allowing a few 
people of hatred to do their dirty work.


Rabbi Arthur Waskow of The Shalom Center wrote:

Although I agree with a great deal of David Batstone's
article - "The American people are not ready for peace
in Palestine" - and though I have spend 30 years struggling
for a just peace between Palestine and Israel, his formulation
grates very harshly on my ear precisely because it says
" reached in Palestine." I would have said "between Israel
and Palestine." What does it mean to conclude a "peace treaty
IN Palestine"? Is the whole territory from the Jordan to the
sea "Palestine"? If so, what is Israel?


Tom Boughan of Cowan, Tennessee wrote:

What David Batstone says about fundamentalist Christians
and Palestine is true. Pat Robertson is saying that
a Palestine state is against God's will, and He will
destroy those who try to create one. He's also been saying
that Islam is the enemy in the war on terrorism, that it
is not a peaceful religion, and that Osama bin Laden is the
norm for Islam. That is like saying David Koresh is the
norm for Christianity. On the Christian Broadcastsing
Network Web site, the hawkish Israel position is usually
presented and never anything about the Palestinian side.


Kirk Hoiberg of San Mateo, California wrote:

David Batstone's recent article is deeply flawed. One of his
central contentions is that "Since 1948, Britain and the
United States have carried out a one-sided allegiance to Israel,
almost deaf to the justifiable demands for Arab justice."...
An October 4 article in the Economist presents a more
balanced view. Although worth reading in its entirety, the
Economist makes several important points, quoted below, which
contradict Batstone's simplistic characterization:

1. "At no point did America endorse the idea that the lands
Israel captured in 1967 could be legitimately held. Since 1967,
America has stood behind the land-for-peace formula enshrined
in Security Council Resolution 242. Successive administrations have
declared Jewish settlements in the territories illegal under
international law and an obstacle to peace."

2. "From 1948 until Egypt alone broke ranks in 1979, the Arab
states and Palestinians alike refused to accept Israel's right
to exist under any circumstances and within any borders. As for
Resolution 242, the Palestinians themselves rejected it out of
hand. There could, said the Arab League from Khartoum that year,
be no negotiation, recognition, or peace with the Jewish state."

3. "Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization waited until
1988 - 40 years and five wars late - before renouncing terrorism and
recognizing Israel's right to exist. Mr. Arafat's 1988 decision was a
breakthrough. And when such breakthroughs have created chances for
mediation, most American presidents have tried to grab them. Richard
Nixon saw the conflict through a Cold War prism, with the Middle
East as a place to win client states and avoid a superpower war.
But even he tried to push the disengagement agreements after the
1973 Yom Kippur war into something more substantial. Jimmy Carter,
with a Christian faith in the possibility of peaceful compromise,
tried hard to turn Anwar Sadat's stunning trip to Jerusalem into a
broader Arab-Israeli settlement....

In addition to his historical shortcomings, Batstone fails to
mention something more recent that might explain some a widespread
American reluctance to support the Palestinians. The two sides came
very close to a comprehensive peace settlement last July at Camp
David under Bill Clinton. Was this proposed settlement perfect?
Of course not. But, by almost any objective measure, the proposed
Camp David accord was reasonably fair. It delivered meaningful
concessions to and required them from both sides....

It is disturbing that Batstone's article makes no mention
whatsoever of the Camp David talks last July. Who edits the
executive editor?


Deborah Rodney of Portland, Oregon wrote:

I am shocked by the cold heart of Don Griffin. To say
that Afghans are culls and should be killed sounds
similar to the words of many Germans who supported the
brutal "elimination" of millions of Jewish people. How
can he think that most of the people of Afghanistan had
anything to do with the hijackings on September 11?
Most Afghans are struggling to stay alive. Most are
victims of the political struggle taking place in their
country. Their lives are worth no less than any other
person on the planet. They have families. They work.
They laugh, cry, and pray. The color of their blood is
the same as Griffin's even if believes differently.
His thinking is dangerous to our freedom and democracy.
The events of the past several months have brought out
the best in us, as Americans, and the worst. I'm sorry
to say Griffin's selfish righteousness falls in the
latter category.


Chris Lutz of Columbus, Ohio wrote:

Don Griffin's letter has left me aghast at his sweeping
generalizations ("bleeding hearts are responsible for all
the problems in the U.S.") and virulent and dehumanizing
call for revenge ("culls to be eliminated from the
human race"). However, I think I can answer one of his
questions. Who said we have a responsibility to feed the
Afghans or anyone else? Jesus.


Mtumiki Njira of Limbe, Malawi wrote:

Malawi is a country with a Christian majority and a Muslim
minority. Since the end of the slave wars, the two groups
have lived together in reasonable amity, generally by not
shaking anybody's religious cages. The Anglican mission
deliberately went into Muslim areas, but their approach
was so terribly British that almost nobody was either
converted or offended.
Recently we elected a party to office that is essentially
biased towards Islam, and tensions are rising. In addition,
Pentecostal missionaries have aggressively targeted Muslims
in some areas. The situation is potentially unstable, as
Muslims get control of groups, businesses, and areas where
Christians have been in control. As a result of the American
action in Afghanistan, the situation has become more volatile.
Two churches in the area where the Pentecostals are working
have been razed, and the potential for violence seems greater
the longer the action carries on.
If America wants to work for world peace, they're going
about it the wrong way.

David Ortman of Seattle, Washington wrote:

Adam Yoder, Seattle Mennonite Church's Youth Minister
put a penny on each seat at this past Sunday's service.
Adam said he had seen a lot of signs in Seattle that said
"God Bless America" and a lot of signs that said "United
We Stand." But he hadn't seen a single sign carrying the
message that is on each American penny: "In God We Trust."

For those looking for a message to rally around, give
pennies a chance.


Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of
views. The views expressed are not necessarily
those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice
heard? Send Boomerang e-mails to the editor:



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