The Common Good

A Transatlantic Alliance

Sojomail - May 8, 2002



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DON'T BE GREEDY - deliver a generous message to your family and
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 Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k
     *God's agent: Norman Schwartzkopf

 H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
     *Making the possible...possible

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *Divine messages

 B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
     *Help the poor and homeless get through next winter

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Book club for reading-averse kids

 B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
     *How smart does your religion make your children?

 S o j o C i r c l e s
     *Exploring faith in a time of conflict

 D e b a t e
     *Is the U.S. to blame for Third World problems?

 P o l i t i c a l l y   C o n n e c t
     *The "No Fly" list

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *Will Willimon: Jesus visits the Hamptons

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

 W e b s c e n e
     *Bread for the World's annual hunger report
     *The Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation


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

"I believe that forgiving them is God's function.
Our job is simply to arrange the meeting."

                - General Norman Schwartzkopf when asked
                  if he thought there was room for forgiveness
                  toward the people who harbored and abetted
                  the Sept. 11 terrorists


H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
Making the possible...possible

by Jim Wallis

I just returned from 10 days in England. The original invitation was to lead clergy conferences in several Anglican dioceses, but the agenda grew quickly. A new British coalition, named JustShare, is pulling together diverse Christian groups around the issues of international debt, aid, and trade and wants to partner with Call to Renewal. My sermon in the historic Wesley Chapel (where the revivalist's pulpit still stands) was one of their inaugural events. But it was the meetings with the Labor government's cabinet ministers and members of Parliament (MPs) that were the most remarkable.

America's leading ally in the world today is utterly convinced that terrorism will not be defeated without a "Marshall Plan" for the economic development of the world's poorest nations. And the United Nation's stated goals to dramatically reduce global poverty are now in the forefront of British foreign policy. The U.N.'s "Millennium Summit," held in the fall of 2000, made a commitment to cut global poverty in half, reduce infant mortality by two-thirds, and make primary education available to all children - all by 2015. These "2015" commitments were a part of every discussion of international affairs I had with the English leaders of both church and state.

It is indeed an important and urgent commitment. Today, some 800 million people around the world are malnourished. According to UNICEF and the World Health Organization, 30,500 children die every day in the developing world from hunger and preventable diseases. Three billion people, nearly half the world's population, live on less than $2 a day, 1.2 billion of them on less than $1 a day.

Following the Summit, a special U.N. report estimated that these commitments to significantly reduce global poverty could be met by increasing development aid to poor countries by $50 billion per year, and set a goal to accomplish this by developed countries spending 0.7% of their GNP from the current average of 0.22%.

In several important speeches over the past year, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown have called for a new "Marshall Plan" of aid to developing countries in order to accomplish these ambitious goals. In a speech on December 17 at the National Press Club here in Washington, Chancellor Brown recalled how U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall had committed the resources needed to rebuild Europe after World War II, believing that a true victory in that war would require a global fight against "hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos."

Today, said Brown, "There cannot be a solution to the urgent problems of poverty the poorest countries face without a...substantial increase in development funds for investment in the very least developed countries.... We must move from providing short-term aid just to compensate for poverty to a higher and more sustainable purpose, that of aid as long-term investment to tackle the causes of poverty by promoting growth."

Blair and Brown are right - an international war against terrorism that doesn't target global poverty is doomed to failure. The U.S. government's $50- billion-a-year increase in the military budget will do little to eradicate the conditions of poverty, injustice, and lack of democracy that breed terrorism.

I met with Brown, Secretary of State for International Development Clare Short, Treasury Minister Paul Boateng, and several members of Parliament. All of them are convinced that churches and faith-based organizations could play a decisive role in convincing the people and governments in the West of the political and moral imperatives of dramatically reducing global poverty. The British leaders believe that unless the United States can be persuaded to lead in this effort it cannot really succeed, and that the American churches must help their government to act.

So last week, with British church leaders and aid organizations, we began to lay the foundations for a U.S./U.K. transatlantic faith-based alliance aimed at mobilizing our own people and pushing our governments toward effective moral and political leadership in seriously reducing global poverty. The goals we discussed are not at all out of reach, but they depend upon creating a new political will to accomplish them. They are indeed possible, but not without a spiritual engine to drive them forward. That is indeed what the religious community can most provide, agreed the British government leaders I spoke with last week. Together, we committed to work to make the possible...possible.


F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
Divine messages

One day God was looking down at Earth and saw all of the unethical behavior that was going on. God decided to send an angel to check it out. So God sent the angel to Earth for a time. When she returned, she told God, "Yes, it's bad on Earth; 95% are misbehaving and 5% are not."

God thought for a moment and said, "Maybe I had better send down a second angel to get another opinion." So God called another angel. She returned with the same results.

God was not pleased. But God decided to e-mail the 5% that were good to encourage them...give them a little something to help them keep going.

Do you know what that e-mail said?

You didn't get one either, huh?


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B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
Help the poor and homeless get through the next winter

The Survival Two Event will take place across the USA on Saturday Nov. 30, 2002. The purpose of the event is to save lives this winter by preparing the poor and homeless with the materials they need to survive. It's also a chance for each city to take care of their own by getting personally involved with their poor and homeless brothers and sisters.

To get involved, check out the Care of Poor People Web site:



Call to Renewal's
"Pentecost 2002: Speaking the Truth About Poverty"
National Mobilization on Welfare Reform
May 20-22, 2002
Washington, D.C.

*Join your state delegation!
*Be part of the movement!
*Speak out to overcome poverty!

To register and for more details, go to


C u l t u r e   W a t c h
Book club for reading-averse kids

by Rodolpho Carrasco

My wife, Kafi, is the literacy resource teacher at Cleveland Elementary School. In January she and Principal Abel Quesada started a book club for fourth- through sixth- graders at Cleveland Elementary. In early February they received a grant...that allows the children to keep the books they complete.

Today there is not just one club, but three. Initial success led them to start two more clubs. Now 14 second- graders, 10 third-graders, and 15 fourth- through sixth-graders meet every two weeks during lunchtime to discuss assigned books, which include "The Great Brain" and "In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson."

Kafi notes that the book clubs are not just populated by children who enjoy reading. Children who do not read well - the very children the clubs were designed to reach - have chosen to participate.

Read more about this creative educational initiative at:


B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
How smart does your religion make your children?

The top 10 SAT scores of college-bound seniors
by religious affiliation:

Rank    Religion               Average SAT score

#1   Unitarian/Universalist           1209
#2   Judaism                          1161
#3   Society of Friends (Quakers)     1153
#4   Hinduism                         1110
#5   Mennonite                        1097
#5   Reformed Church of America       1097
#7   Episcopal                        1096
#8   Evangelical Lutheran Church      1094
#9   Presbyterian Church (USA)        1092
#10  Baha'i                           1073

National Average                      1020

Source: College Board


S o j o C i r c l e s
Exploring faith in a time of conflict

SojoCircles is a worldwide network of people meeting several times a month to explore issues of faith and hope. Christians, Jews, Muslims, and seekers of all sorts are encouraged to share their stories in these small-group sessions. If you're interested in finding out if there is a SojoCircle already meeting in your area, please visit our Web site at for a complete listing.

There are new SojoCircles starting this week in the following areas:

Long Island, New York. Mark Greiner:
San Salvador, El Salvador. Lori Macklin:

No SojoCircle in your neighborhood? Consider starting one of your own. For information, contact us at (800) 714-7474 or at


D e b a t e 
Is the U.S. to blame for Third World problems?

Larry Robert of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Michael Adeney of Seattle, Washington, have very different assumptions about the problems in the Third World, the responsibility of the United States in creating those problems, and the role of the United Nations to resolve them. Let's review the following three points put forward by Robert (in response to an earlier note written by Adeney), as published in last week's SojoMail:

First, although the U.S. has the resources and resolve to do something about terrorism, the Bush administration has failed to address the causes of terrorism. Bombing a country that has already been extensively bombed from other countries in the past fails; it only promotes the creation of new terrorists.

Second, the U.N. does have checks and balances in their international courts, unless Michael Adeney feels that all Third World countries are tyrannical and all Western countries are just.

Third, the U.N. is not morally bankrupt, only countries that fail to support it and hold a nationalistic view. The U.S. was dropped from the U.N. human rights commission and replaced with Sudan for very good reasons. They have progressed in human rights endeavors while the Bush administration has regressed. I know that some right-wing Christians like to proclaim that Sudan has 200,000 slaves, and this belief can become a tool for indiscriminate and wholly undeserved prejudice against Arabs and Muslims in Sudan and the Arab world. Over the past several years, Anti-Slavery International has examined these "claims" made, that tens of thousands of people have been "enslaved" in Sudan. They have concluded that "we know of no evidence to justify an assertion that 20,000 people or more are currently held as captives and slaves in these areas of Sudan."


Michael Adeney responds from Seattle, Washington:

It strikes me that Larry is a typical Western guiltmonger, holding America responsible for the sins of the Third World. Yes, we are guilty, but if you judge the Third World on the same standards you condemn us, you will see the root causes of problems in the Third World are in the Third World. We act to contribute to these problems and to relieve them, but we are not responsible for terrorism in the Middle East.

Media, governments, and religious institutions in the Muslim world have supported many forms of Muslim terrorism, or are too afraid to actively oppose it. The truth of this is best illustrated by events in Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq. All three governments have treated Muslims much worse than Israel treats them, but there is no outrage when Muslims do genocide against Muslims and no suicide bombers spring up because there is no ideological support for such behaviors. Turks eliminate Kurds and Armenians, Iraqis eliminate Kurds (Sunnis) and Shia Muslims. Jordan eliminated Palestinian terrorism by wiping out the families of terrorists. Only when the infidel harms a Muslim will Muslims girls become walking bombs aimed at infidel civilians.

I would name Indonesia as an example where most Muslims oppose terrorism and support a toleration for other religions, yet even Indonesia has serious problems because a minority supported by extremists from the Middle East have managed to use ethnic tensions and economic envy of Chinese to stir up religious war. The top leadership of Indonesia wants religious peace and toleration, but they are not strong enough to control the extremists. Pakistan (but not Saudi Arabia) is another example where the top leadership actively opposes terrorism (I hope), despite past actions in Kashmir. Our main activity should be in support of Muslim moderates. The moderates will have to be the shock troops against the Muslim extremists who preach a religion of hate, just like Martin Luther King and many others in America were the shock troops against American racism. Outsiders could not solve our problems, though they could support us in the matter. Because most Muslims still believe the power of the state should be used to enforce religious belief, all Muslim majority states (except Indonesia) have a long history of religious tyranny.

Do I believe "all Third World countries are tyrannical and all Western countries just?" No. But I do believe Western legal and political institutions are on average far superior to those in the Third World, so that a world court dominated by Third World voting power in the U.N. will be more dangerous than helpful.


Providence Hospitality House, an emergency shelter for homeless
women with children, located in Seattle, Washington, is looking
for another team member. This is a home atmosphere where the
team members must be mature and in good physical and mental
health. Three team members live a simple lifestyle in a
Christian intentional community with the homeless. She must
be willing to grow in a collaborative leadership model using
pastoral and communication skills. Team members learn and
experience personal and spiritual growth through the
theological reflection model. She will live and experience
diversity at every level. Room, board, and health-care
benefits provided. Please e-mail Sister Beatrice at, call (206) 322-2107, or write P.O. Box 22382,
Seattle WA 98122.


P o l i t i c a l l y   C o n n e c t
Are you on the "No Fly" list?

by Matthew Rothschild

Alia Kate, 16, a high-school student in Milwaukee, wanted to go to Washington, D.C., for the protests Saturday, April 20. She was looking forward to demonstrating against the School of the Americas and learning how to lobby against U.S. aid for Colombia.

She had an airplane ticket for a 6:55 p.m. flight out of Milwaukee on Friday the 19th, and she got to the airport two hours ahead of time. But she didn't make it onto the Midwest Express flight. Neither did many other Wisconsin activists who were supposed to be on board. Twenty of the 37 members of the Peace Action Milwaukee group - including a priest and a nun - were pulled aside and questioned by Milwaukee County sheriff's deputies. They were not cleared in time for takeoff and had to leave the next morning, missing many of the events.

What tripped them up was a computerized "No Fly Watch List" that the federal government now supplies to all the airlines. The airlines are required to check their passenger lists against that computerized "No Fly" list.

To read the entire feature story, link to:


S o u l   W o r k s
Jesus visits the Hamptons

by Will Willimon

Some time ago I was returning from a preaching gig in the Hamptons, home of Martha Stewart, Steven Spielberg, and numerous others of the very rich. There I had seen homes with two bedrooms on the market for $6 million, a house with a 200-car garage, and other architectural obscenities. But we had a wonderful weekend among the beautiful people of the Hamptons and no one walked out of my sermon on Sunday. As my wife and I flew back to drab Durham, North Carolina, I asked her, "Would you please explain to me what Jesus has got against rich people? I like rich people. I've met some great people who are rich. What's the problem with Jesus?"

Well, like it or not, built right into the fabric of the gospel and the practice of the Christian faith, there seems to be a deep suspicion of, even a hostility toward, the prosperous. I would have had a much better time visiting the Hamptons if I were not forced to take Jesus with me.

To read the entire feature as it appears in the March/ April edition of Sojourners magazine, link to:


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B o o m e r a n g

Richard Fitzgerald writes from Long Beach, California:

I was somewhat disappointed to see Mr. Batstone jump on the anti-Catholic bandwagon. Most of these cases of clerical abuse took place years ago. The present "crisis" will remain one only until the news media finds something different to report about.

The Catholic Church does more than conduct religious services and hold weekly bingo games. The decrease in financial support to Catholic charities has caused hardships for those they serve, like the homeless, the disabled, and hungry children. Also the Church is one of the moral forces in the world that can speak out about injustice and promote peace. It seems suspicious that this "crisis" broke out at the same time that the Middle East exploded in violence. It lessens the Church's ability to act as an effective mediator in the standoff between the Israelis and the Palestinians at the Church of the Nativity.

I hope that Mr. Batstone realizes that by continuing to demonize the leadership of the Catholic Church that he is bringing down one institution that can help stop the slide towards endless war that this world seems to be drifting into.


Maximos Bacha writes from British Colombia, Canada:

I have one question: Is David Batstone a Zionist? His article about clergy sexual abuse shows his filthy ignorance about the Catholic Church administration. It's no use reading any of his articles any more.


Peter Gathje writes from Memphis, Tennessee:

I am disappointed in David Batstone's column on clergy sexual abuse as it seems to uncritically buy into the major media's obsession. Why not mention that the vast majority of the cases now being heard about are many years old? Why continue to perpetuate the view that all dioceses and all bishops have the same policies regarding clergy sexual abuse? Why not also talk about how sexual abuse by clergy is not limited to the Catholic Church? Why not also talk about how the current tenor of attack on the Catholic Church reflects, in part, an ongoing tradition of anti- Catholicism in the United States?

None of this is said to exonerate or minimize that some leaders in the Catholic Church have gravely failed in responding to clergy sexual abuse. It is said to encourage honesty by the critics, the same honesty they seem to want the leadership of the Catholic Church to exhibit.


Barbara Green writes from Alexandria, Virginia:

Those in power in the Catholic Church have known about sexual abuse by clergy for a long time. So have many of us, thanks to the National Catholic Reporter. One of the worst aspects - and the reason that moral authority of the Church is being lost - is that a trust was broken. Leaders who don't lead need to go to jail, in some instances.

Please keep this issue in the fore. The real issues will get clouded by short-sightedness and a quick-fix mentality. We depend on the press to help keep the pressure on - after all, it has been uphill, after the NCR kept at it for so long, it took the established dailies to bring it to the fore.


M. Donaldson Liebers writes from Naples, Florida:

I am heartsick over what has been revealed about child sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church. However, there is one aspect that continues to puzzle me. Why are the bishops who knew of the abuse and did not report it to the civil authorities not being charged in criminal courts? As a nurse I know that if I became aware that a child was being sexually abused and I didn't immediately report it, I would very likely find myself in jail. Many are calling for Cardinal Law's resignation; why is no one calling for his indictment?

I believe that the Catholic Church will never recover from this scandal until every person involved in the cover-up voluntarily marches down to the police station and turns himself in. Only then will we know that they have repented of placing the power and influence of the Church over the safety of a child.


Teresa Walsh writes from San Francisco, California:

I have seldom read an essay more beautiful and devastating and hopeful than Clancy McCartney's piece. Thank you for sending it out to all of us. I hope young Mr. McCartney continues to write from his wise head and heart.


Rev. Thomas Shelley writes from Seven Valleys, Pennsylvania:

Thanks to you for including the seventh-grader's essay in last week's SojoMail. I can almost guarantee that it will find its way into my sermon on Memorial Day morning.


Libby van Buskirk writes from Oshkosh, Wisconsin:

Beth Rockwell wrote in last week's SojoMail that Denmark, Norway, and the Netherlands are the best providers of foreign aid, while the U.S. was one of the worst. While I agree that the U.S. could and should do better, she used percentage of GDP to support her claim. However, if you compare the actual GDPs of the countries, the United States' GDP is far larger than any of any of these countries. Using percentages glosses over the real truth: 0.10% of a heck of a lot is still more than 1.01% of a little bit.


Terry Johnson writes from Longmont, Colorado:

In response to the letter by Stanley Levy in last week's SojoMail, I'm glad that he supports a Palestinian state free of Jewish settlements. However, his statement that "1 million Palestinians live peacefully in Israel as full citizens" is misleading. Even though Israel claims to be a democracy, it is still first and foremost the Jewish state. Non-Jews do not have full rights, e.g., they cannot buy land or serve in the IDF. The latter is particularly important because many benefits are tied to veteran status. In addition, non-Jewish towns, schools, etc., get far less money per capita from the Israeli government and several "unrecognized" villages (in existence before Israel was created) have no public services at all!

In addition, I must point out that the Palestinians in the occupied territories did try nonviolence during the first Intifada and all such efforts were brutally crushed by the Israelis. As much as I favor nonviolence, I can understand the Palestinians' turning to violence.


Catherine Johnson writes from Houston, Texas:

I feel sorry for Stanley Levy and other Jews who are consumed by fear and mistrust. Many Jews seem to be in denial about what's really happening in the Middle East today. They are so stuck in their Holocaust nightmares that they cannot see that they, once the abused, have become the abusers. They perpetuate the myth of Jews as eternal victims as a coping mechanism but, in doing so, they risk rekindling anti-Semitism in a macabre self- fulfilling prophecy.

I cannot allow Levy's paranoia to go unchallenged. In reality, neither the Jews as a people nor the Jewish state of Israel is in danger of extinction via military attack. On the contrary, Israel has the fourth most powerful military in the world and its patron, the U.S., has the most powerful military. How can anyone think that this combo could ever lose a military conflict?

On the other hand, the safety of individual Jews may be more at risk as Israel intensifies its militaristic policies. Ironically, instead of stopping suicide bombers, Israel's increasingly brutal "retaliatory raids" and its collective punishment of the entire Palestinian population may prove counterproductive - perhaps even self-destructive - in the long term. How sad!


Chris Brown writes from Glasgow, Scotland:

A week ago I was at a march and rally organized by the Scottish Coalition for Justice, attended by a lot of people listening to speakers from government groups, CND, and Palestinian exiles, as well as a speaker from the Iona community. Interested to find out how many attended (as it looked a big crowd) I scanned the papers the next day and could find no mention of the demo. But some May Day demos with smaller participation than the one I was at were splashed over the content of the papers. Also they reported the anti-Le Pen rally attracting 800,000 in Paris. The one worry I have: Does a rally of any kind have to have a potential for violence to be newsworthy?

Thank God for Sojomail and the links to peace you have given. Without it I would be uninformed.


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:



W e b s c e n e
This week's best of the Web

*Bread for the World's annual hunger report

"A Future with Hope," the twelfth annual report on the state of world hunger produced by Bread for the World Institute, finds that U.S. congressional decisions about the welfare program and a reassessment of U.S. relations with Africa and other poor parts of the world could lead the way to dramatic reductions in hunger, both domestically and abroad. Go to:


*The Shalem Institute is designed to foster personal renewal and establish a long-term spiritual framework for organizational leadership. Go to:


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