The Common Good

Crimes and Misdemeanors

Sojomail - April 3, 2002



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 Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k
     *Treat your mother well...

 B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
     *Crimes and misdemeanors

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *Unlocking the mystery of diet and dying

 R e l i g i o n   M a t t e r s
     *Michael Lerner: The rabbi who would save the world

 B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
     *Cattle ranchers for justice and environment

 B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
     *Religions in the U.S.: the young and the old

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *Easter's Aftermath

 P. O. V.
     *Desmond Tutu on terrorism and justice

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Spiritual America, from ecstatic to transcendent

 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

"Because it's a family, Catholics around the country
won't give up on it very easily. There will be outrage
and embarrassment and anger, but the church is often
referred to as Holy Mother Church. And you might get
angry with your mother, but it's your mother."

 - R. Scott Appleby, director of the Cushwa Center for
   the Study of American Catholicism at Notre Dame


B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
Crimes and misdemeanors

by David Batstone

Have you ever made the connection between baseball players,
bishops, corporate executives, and evangelists? Sounds like
the start of a bad joke, I know. But bear with me, please.
The news of the past few weeks has drawn the line that
connects the dots.

Let's begin with Jeff Kent, the All-Star second baseman for
the San Francisco Giants. As the team passed through spring
training in Arizona this year, Kent mysteriously broke his
wrist off the field. He originally claimed that he was
standing on the hood of his truck at a do-it-yourself
car wash and slipped off, falling to the ground and landing
on the fateful wrist. Then witnesses came forward reporting that
on the alleged day of the accident, an individual looking an
awful lot like the Giants star had fallen off a motorcycle
while popping wheelies. Kent's contract prohibits him from
dangerous activities like riding motorcyles - next year expect
a clause about car washes in all baseball contracts as well.
Instead of owning up to his lie, Kent blamed the media for
digging up a controversial story and, defiant to the end,
has refused to talk any more about it.

Next batter up, the Catholic bishops, who are in the
limelight for covering up the sexual misconduct of their
clergy. In many cases, the victims of abuse were not
given a compassionate hearing, nor was justice served.
Years passed, and the offending priests were neither
prosecuted nor expelled. Now that the media has brought
these violations to light, the bishops have come across as
defensive and self-justifying. Some bishops have even
lashed back at the media, claiming that the Church is
being made a target by those who are biased against religious
faith. Barring the rare exception, the bishops have not asked
for forgiveness nor made a public apology for the shameful
behavior that betrays the Church's very reason for being.

Right past the confession booth walk briskly to the executives
who ran Enron, GlobalCrossing, Quest, Arthur Anderson,
Waste International, and their corporate kin. Daily, new
revelations uncover the sophisticated manipulation of
financial figures to fool investors and employees. A manager
at GlobalCrossing told The Wall Street Journal, "When top
executives laid us off they must have known they were
going to file bankruptcy and that they'd never have to
pay us severance," then added that some senior officials
left the company with generous exit packages. You'll never
hear a corporate executive 'fess up to the corruption.
Instead, we've heard nothing but a litany of denials and
"I wasn't aware of what was going on." Oh yeah, they blame
the media too for being anti-corporate.

Finally, new tapes were released that record revered
evangelist Billy Graham in a very unsavory conversation
with then-President Richard Nixon. Graham makes some terribly
bigoted comments on the tapes about Jews, then double dips
into hypocrisy by admitting that he swarmed up to Jewish
entertainment and media leaders even though he finds them
repugnant. Granted, the tapes are nearly three decades
old, but did Graham really have to follow the corporate
executive track and say that he didn't recall the
conversations took place? Unless Richard Nixon could give
a really good Billy Graham imitation, the voice on the
tape proves he was in the room saying these things.
Graham followed up the early amnesia defense with a weak
apology. I'm wondering if in private he's blaming the expose
on the Jewish media elites.

Now do you see the pattern? See, it wouldn't make a very
funny joke after all. Truth be known, I'm terribly sad
about the conduct of the religious leaders especially.
I guess I have low expectations about the moral conduct
of professional athletes and corporate executives.
But we religious folk have a very clear pathway laid out
for us when we act poorly. We face up to our misconduct,
make a sincere apology to those we've wronged, and ask
humbly for forgiveness. End of story. No whiny excuses,
rationalizing defenses, or convenient scapegoats. It
all comes down to an unshakable belief: "You shall
know the truth, and the truth shall set you free."


Have you read Sojourners (the paper version) lately? You
ought to check it out for yourself. Produced by the fine
folks who bring you SojoMail each week.

Get your own copy.


F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
Unlocking the mystery of diet and dying

The Chinese eat very little fat and suffer
fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.

The French eat a lot of fat and also suffer fewer
heart attacks than the British or Americans.

The Japanese drink very little red wine and suffer
fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.

The Italians drink excessive amounts of red wine,
and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the
British or Americans.

Conclusion: Eat and drink what you like.
It's speaking English that kills you.


R e l i g i o n   M a t t e r s
Michael Lerner: The rabbi who would save the world

by Peter Byrne

Michael Lerner has won many followers with his
ideas for world peace. But if all he is preaching
is the Golden Rule, why is he so controversial?

To link to this article, go to:

B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
Cattle ranchers for justice and environment

by Melissa Snyder


*Ed note: In the 1980s Joe Morris lived in a Sojourners-
style community on the West Coast of the U.S., called
Voice in the Wilderness. Today Joe is forging new
territory as a cattle rancher in Northern California.


SAN JUAN BAUTISTA, Calif. -- Joe and Julie Morris have devoted
10 years to ranching using the Holistic Management decision-
making process, trademarked by the Allan Savory Center for
Holistic Management in Albuquerque. The process ensures
decisions affecting resources "are economically, ecologically
and socially sound."

"We wanted to do something with our time and energy and talent
to serve the common good. We also saw in the process that this
could be utilized on arid range land to produce biodiversity,"
says Joe Morris, who looks every inch the quintessential cowboy.
He sits easy in the saddle, eyes shaded by a worn-in Stetson.
But lying just under the surface is a shrewd businessman with
a heart for the work, and for the land he stewards.

Morris is at once a traditional and a new-age beef producer.
Under his program, cattle are strictly grassfed, and grazing
is carefully monitored as a tool to encourage regeneration of
native plants and trees and to ensure clean, healthy watershed.
On the Central Coast, the Morrises have reported native
perennial grasses and trees emerging and thriving on their
moderately-grazed land. And while they're at it, the cattle,
which eat nothing but natural grass, nourish the land with
fertilizer free from the chemicals and drugs commonly found
in the fertilizer of feedlot-raised cattle. Groundwater is
healthy and safe, and the rains wash clean runoff into local
creeks and rivers and into the sea.

Researchers are turning up evidence to support the Morrises'
program. A 2000 study by the University of Colorado [reports]:
"Rangeland today, moderately or heavily grazed by cattle,
looks much the same as rangeland looked in the 1800s, before
the Great Plains were settled."

To link to the entire article, go to:


B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
Religions in the U.S.: the young and the old

Religious groups with greatest concentration of
adults 18 to 29 years old:

Islamic:                  58%
Buddhist:                 56%
No religion:              35%
Non-denomin. Christian:   35%
Mormon:                   29%

Religious groups with greatest concentration of
adults 65 or older

Congregational/UCC       35%
Presbyterian             29%
Jewish*                  28%
Episcopalian/Angl.       28%

*Jewish by stated religious affiliation, not ethnicity

**Source: Graduate Center of the City University of
New York and USA Today


S o u l   W o r k s
Easter's Aftermath

by Ken Sehested

Easter resurrection is never
as assured 
as the arrival 
of Easter bunnies. 
In my experience, the Spirit
rarely blows 
according to the calendar,
much less on demand.

Yet we live with ears open,
eyes peeled, 
hands and feet nimble,
ready for jolting news
and a dash 
to one tomb or another.
And this, apparently, is
the purpose of wakeful attention
during the transition from
Good Friday's darkness
to Sunday sunrise: 
training in the art of vigilance,
as maidens with well-trimmed wicks.

one empty tomb 
poses no threat to 
present entanglements,
any more than annual
and specially-adorned
sanctuary crowds 
on Easter morn. 
and chocolate-makers,
yearn for the season
no less than every cleric.

It's Easter's aftermath
resurrectus contagio,
contagious resurrection,
that threatens entombing empires
with breached sovereignty.
The Lamb Slain sings of
tribulation annulled,
of death undone, 
of heaven reraveling
the sinews of soil and soul.

Humus and human alike,
"the earth and all that dwell therein,"
inherit the promise
intoned on that first dawn.
Breath on truculent waves:
be still, be still.
Wind on Emmaen travelers,
on crouching, cringing conspirators:
Fear not, fear not.

*Ken Sehested is the executive director of
Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America.

**This poem is dedicated to the memory of Rev.
Arlene Pipkin, a Mennonite pastor in New York
City, who died on Easter morning, 2002.


P. O. V.
Desmond Tutu on terrorism and justice

Interviewed by Nathan Gardels

Tutu: What happened in New York was not an act of war, but a
crime directed against the entire international community.
As such, I believe fervently that the response should not
be driven by one country, but by the United Nations. It
should seek to apprehend the suspects and bring them to
trial before the world community - this would be the
perfect case in point for the International Criminal Court
(though the United States, of course, has not yet agreed
to the establishment of such a court).

As for the source of terrorism, there can be no doubt that it
comes from the enormous gap between the haves and the have-
nots. Unless prosperity is shared and ignorance and poverty
eradicated, in the long run we will not win this war against
terrorism. In all this, once again, it is the strong who must
be magnanimous. 

For the full interview, link to:


Desmond Tutu will deliver a keynote address at an April
12-13 conference in Boston organized by Friends of
Sabeel. The conference: "Ending the Occupation." For
more information, contact:

Friends of Sabeel, 89 Dean Street, Belmont, MA 02478
Phone: (617) 489-5247; email:


C u l t u r e   W a t c h
Spiritual America, from ecstatic to transcendent

New art exhibit at The Whitney in New York

by Holland Carter

The main thing this biennial has going for a
point of view - idiosyncratic, hermetic, even kooky
though it may be - that makes the show read a bit like
a loose, discursive essay. And what that essay is about,
it seems to me, is America, or American culture, or
maybe the American character. Everyone said the last
biennial was very American, referring to its melting-pot
inclusiveness. The 2002 Biennial, almost entirely shaped
before Sept. 11, is American in a different way, one that
has absolutely nothing to do with patriotism but has at
least something to do with a spiritual history, from
the transcendentalist 19th century to the psychedelic
'60s to the standing-here-wondering now.

The biennial has even inspired a Web site of its own,
albeit an unofficial one. Created by the artist Mittos
Manetas just days before the opening, it's meant to be
a kind of online counter-exhibition, providing access to
the work of dozens of Internet-based artists not in
the show itself:

The "2002 Biennial Exhibition" remains at the Whitney
Museum of American Art, 945 Madison Avenue, at 75th Street,
(212) 570-3676, and in Central Park through May 26.

To read the full review, link to:


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  go to


B o o m e r a n g

Henry Hulseberg writes from Oak Park, Illinois:

When I read "Is the country ready for a new debate on
poverty?" by Jim Wallis [SojoMail 03-27-02], I realized
anew why I pledge to the Sojourners community and look
forward to SojoMail and your print magazine. There are
very few places where this kind of thoughtful and truly
Christian dialogue takes place. Thank you and thank you and
thank you again for keeping the really important issues up
front and in my face, because it is only when people
acknowledge the realities of life in America, especially
for the disenfranchised and the economically challenged,
that true progress can begin to happen.


Carol Rice writes from Washington, D.C.:

I enjoy receiving SojoMail and enjoyed this article on
changing the poverty debate - BUT I've been following the
TANF reauthorization issue and believe the House will be
taking action right after they return from their current
recess. They will probably have passed a bill that does
not do much to focus on poverty before your May efforts.
May may be too late for this go-around.


*Response from Nathan Wilson, Director of Public
Policy, Call to Renewal:

Carol, thank you for following the critically important
welfare reauthorization debate, which includes TANF and
other major social programs. You are right that the House
will take action after the recess. It is unlikely they
will be done by May 20, though it may be on the floor
for debate by then. Nonetheless, I agree that the House
will be far enough along that we should focus the majority
of our efforts on the Senate, which is exactly what we
plan to do. So, we need you and others from as many
states as possible in D.C. on May 20-22 for "Pentecost
2002: Speaking the Truth about Poverty," which you can
learn more about at


Rev. Dawn Rolke writes from Regina, Canada:

We've just had another go-around in our congregation
about stewardship, and at a meeting someone said, "If
only there was something new to say; if only it wasn't
the same old whining and begging." And I start to feel
crazy then, because after all, ISN'T there something new
to say? Isn't there something OLD to say? The people in
our congregation have no money for ministry, yet they are
living in $200,000 homes, and their children are involved
in the best music, sports, and school programs our city
has to offer. Most days I can handle this, or I try, but
today, the discrepancy nearly tips me over the edge.

So, thanks for being out there, Sojourners. And thanks
for being in here. And thanks for reminding me what in the
world we are doing with a gospel that says we will rise
from this, too: this tomb of comfort and complacency and
stupidity, and illusions that "it's not my issue."


Mtumiki Njira writes from Limbe, Malawi:

Jim Wallis's article on changing the poverty debate is
excellent (as always) as far as it goes. But it needs
to go much further.
Any Christian stand on poverty needs to take into account
the 250 references in scripture that condemn the personal
accumulation of riches.  What we need to eliminate is not
poverty, which scripture recommends, but gross wealth.
Destitution should be divided off from poverty and
eliminated if possible. But what passes for "poverty" in
America, which would be unrecognizable as such almost
anywhere else in the world, is not a problem.
Contrary to the myths of the West, poverty does not breed
crime.  What breeds crime is gross wealth side by side
with poverty.  When we in Malawi were all poor together,
you didn't need doors, let alone locks. Today, a grossly
rich elite having been developed, one lives behind walls with
bars on every window and door. And even today, our murder
rate is a small fraction of America's.
Contrary to the myths of the West, people living in poverty
are not unhealthier or unhappier than those living in gross
luxury. This is because poor people in general are rich
with emotional, social, and spiritual wealth, all more
important than material wealth for well-being. Western
visitors to Africa are continually amazed at how
happy poor people here are, not knowing that they are
happy BECAUSE they are poor. Studies done here and
elsewhere show that perception of health and happiness
actually go down as level of affluence rises.
If poverty (as the West understands it) was eliminated
worldwide, it would be an environmental catastrophe.
The amount of wealth in the West is already an
environmental disaster. Starvation, nakedness, and
homelessness are problems. Poverty is not.


Joanna Harader writes from Lawrence, Kansas:

"Book"'s list of top 10 literary characters [SojoMail 03-20-02]
is disturbingly white male-centered - only two female
characters and only one female author are represented.
While it may seem like a little thing, our culture's
insistence on defining "best" in traditionally masculine
terms leads to far more serious social problems than
inadequate book lists. Though, as a graduate student
in English, I think literary lists are significant in and
of themselves. Let me propose some additional characters:
Pilate (Song of Solomon); Shug (The Color Purple); Janie
Starks (Their Eyes Were Watching God). I could go on,
but you get the picture.


Peggy Norton writes from Lockport, New York:

I eagerly wait for SojoMail each week. It is the only news
where I get a fresh perspective on the news, especially re:
the Middle East fiasco. My family and I have been concerned
since the first bombing that this was certainly no way to
negotiate. We increasingly are fearful that those with so
much power will bully or should I say harass the rest of the
world into "seeing things Bush's way."  What kind of long-
range thinking is this? Who will pick up the pieces when this
war on terrorism is complete? Will there be any pieces?


Tena Scruggs writes from Escondido, California:

I just read the poem you posted - "In Dependence" by Tim
Basselin [SojoMail 03-27-02], a powerful poem with a very
disappointing message insinuating a justification for the
terrorism of suicide bombings of civilians. What if Gandhi
had used terrorist tactics against the British? If only the
Palestinians had such a wise leader who truly wanted peace.


Arthur Lamberes writes from Oak Lawn, Illinois:

Tom Boughan wrote in Boomerang: "Pat Robertson is wrong
about the Quran." Reading the Quran, Boughan found no hate.
Another American who has no Idea what Islam is about. It
would be wonderful for Americans to read Islamic history;
maybe they will wake up. From the Quran:

"Then when the sacred months have passed, slay the
idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive),
and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if
they repent and establish worship and pay the poor due,
then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful."

This verse tells us that Muslims are free to convert non-
Muslims by force and brutality. If unsuccessful in doing
so, they are free to kill.


Rev. Bonnie Shullenberger writes from Ossining, New York:
I am sometimes perplexed by the mail published in SojoMail.
For example, a writer from the U.K. wrote that there is a view
there of an "axis of evil from Washington to Jerusalem." I
just got back from several days in the U.K., and while my
friends there are deeply concerned about the recent actions
of the U.S., and disgusted by the acts of the Israeli government,
they would not agree to such a statement. My friends are most
ordinary - a printmaker, a retired teacher, a B&B host - but
they are not stupid nor insensitive. They have been in both
the U.S. and Israel. They understand that the situations we
now face are ugly and complicated, but none of us in general
find sensitive or detailed reporting to help us understand
what is going on. And we just find sloganeering useless.
We cannot speak to public policy on the basis of anybody's
"axis of evil" talk. We want plain and frank reportage.


David Garratt writes from Canberra, Australia:

Thank you for the inspiration, the challenge, the motivation
provided by the team at Sojourners. I make good use of the
articles, passing them on to individual staff, putting them
on the notice board (often stirring warm debate) and using
them in my social justice classes with seniors here.


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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