The Common Good

The Creative Imperative

Sojomail - July 24, 2002


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++++++++++++++++++++++ 24-July-2002 +++++++++++++++++++++++++
+++++++++++++++ The Creative Imperative +++++++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k
     *Thomas Aquinas: Action and contemplation

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *The creative imperative

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *Summer wedding humor

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Sesame Street: HIV-positive muppet in South Africa

 B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
     *HIV/AIDS cases worldwide

 B i z   E t h i x
     *World's poor miss out on ethical investment boom

 R e l i g i o n   a n d    S o c i e t y
     *Live longer: Join a religious order

 B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
     *Peaceforce poised to intercede in conflict zones

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

 W e b s c e n e
     *Nuclear neighborhoods
     *Jesus of the week
     *National Kids Day Aug. 4

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

Those who are more adapted to the active life can
prepare themselves for contemplation in the practice
of the active life, while those who are more adapted
to the contemplative life can take upon themselves the
works of the active life so as to become yet more apt
for contemplation. 

                        -- Thomas Aquinas


S o u l   W o r k s
The creative imperative

by Sarah Stockton

In an interview, Madeleine L'Engle once said: "In the King James version [of the Bible]...imagination is always a bad word. I went through and found phrases like, 'Put them down in the imagination of their hearts' or 'their imaginations are always only to do evil.' In the 1600s imagination was a negative word."

This quote started me thinking about how I have always assumed that imagination and its application through creative expression is a good thing, a sign of the presence of the creative spirit. Yet when I examine what I know about our educational system, I realize that although we may espouse our faith in the creative imagination as an essential part of the learning process, we design systems and protocols that quell a child's imagination. When I contemplate the state of many faith traditions and practices, I recognize that creative participation and imaginative engagement are not encouraged, are even actively discouraged. Are we afraid that something dark, shadowy or uncontrollable will arise when we allow people to freely create, to freely imagine, to freely participate?

"Use your imagination," we tell our children. Are we willing to accept the outcome of that directive? What if they imagine themselves into the kinds of people we don't understand, or don't even like? It's true that when we begin to imagine and begin to create, we run the risk of not being completely in control of the outcome. That is both the joy and the sobering reality of what we do.

Creativity and imagination are for me, neutral forms of energy until we choose to imbue these processes with moral or spiritual values. We can either beckon or refuse to encounter the creative, or holy, spirit, when we create. Many people believe that the "spirit" has nothing to do with creativity. I believe that when we engage in the creative and imaginative process, we can venture into the holy, for we bring whoever we are into that flow. We can participate as moral and compassionate creators or not; we can create as deeply or as shallowly as we choose. That is why some people find "imaginative" ways to create pain and suffering, (Hitler) and others create havens of love and compassion (Gandhi). As people, we have been given the gift of creativity, the gift of imagination. We must use them wisely.

If there is any moral imperative I live by, it is this: To create is a blessing, and a responsibility. To suppress creativity in ourselves or in others and to quell or ban imagination without good reason is a desecration of the human spirit. Yet to create without regard for the consequences degrades us all.


SojoMail reader Sarah Stockton is a freelance writer from San Francisco, California. More of her writing is available at:

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F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
Summer wedding humor

A little boy was in a relative's wedding. As he was coming down the aisle, he would take two steps, stop, and turn to the crowd. While facing the crowd, he would put his hands up like claws and roar. So it went, step, step, ROAR, step, step, ROAR, all the way down the aisle. As you can imagine, the crowd was near tears from laughing so hard by the time he reached the pulpit. When asked what he was doing, the child sniffed and said, "I was being the Ring Bear."


C u l t u r e   W a t c h
Sesame Street: HIV-positive muppet in South Africa

The makers of the popular children's show "Sesame Street" last week announced the debut of a new Muppet character - an HIV-positive girl designed to help children learn how to deal with AIDS.

The character, which will debut in September on the show's South African version, will be used in an attempt to de- stigmatize AIDS and promote discussion in a nation where 4.7 million people - one in nine - are infected with HIV.

"We want to show children that it's okay to touch [an HIV- positive person], okay to hug, that a person can still be a constructive part of the community," explained Joel Schneider, vice president of New York-based Sesame Workshop, which creates the show for many countries.

Republican congressional representatives reacted quickly to the news, warning PBS that while the character is suitable for South Africa, she is not welcome on U.S. television.

Read more: "GOP targets HIV-positive Muppet"

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The Faith Will Survive
The institutional church, however, is in serious trouble.
Comment on the scandals plaguing the Catholic Church.

Swinging Back
Violence in the anti-corporate-globalization movement.
One person's "diversity of tactics" is another person's
counter-productive vandalism. What do you think?

Martha Stewartship
Do you think Martha Stewart is evil? Should you?


B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
HIV/AIDS cases worldwide

Adults and children living with HIV/AIDS around
the world as of 2001:

Sub-Saharan Africa                  28,500,000
South and Southeast Asia             5,600,000
Latin America                        1,500,000
Eastern Europe and Central Asia      1,000,000
East Asia and Pacific                1,000,000
North America                          950,000
Western Europe                         550,000
North Africa and Middle East           500,000
Caribbean                              420,000
Australia and New Zealand               15,000

Source: UNAIDS


B i z   E t h i x
World's poor miss out on ethical investment boom

by Oliver Bullough

Ethical investment funds have largely steered clear of the developing world, where working conditions are often poor and economic growth needed most.

Fund managers say that although they would like to invest in poor nations and force change for the better, companies are too opaque to even allow them to get started.

Ethical investment funds' criteria vary but many only invest in companies with a clear commitment to beneficial environmental and social policies. Read more at:

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R e l i g i o n   a n d   S o c i e t y
Live longer: Join a religious order

by Roger Dobson

Taking up holy orders may not guarantee life after death, but it does ensure a longer one on earth. New research shows that ministers, priests, vicars, nuns, and monks live much longer, and healthier, than their flocks.

Researchers who looked at the mortality rate data for religious professionals in the UK, Europe, and America found that in all cases, the rates were lower than those of the average population.

In some clergy - Benedictine monks, Baptist ministers, Lutheran ministers, Episcopal priests, Presbyterian ministers, and catholic nuns - the mortality rate was at least 25% lower than the general population.

Benedictine monks, the least likely to prematurely succumb to earthly disease, have a mortality rate almost half that of mere civilians. To read more, go to:


B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
Peaceforce poised to intercede in conflict zones

When he was assassinated in 1948, Mahatma Gandhi was working on the idea of an unarmed army for peace.

Now, with Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Dalai Lama beaming down from posters in a low-rent St. Paul office, a small band of activists, with supporters as nearby as Duluth and as far away as Japan, are trying to revive Gandhi's idea.

But Mel Duncan, project director of the Nonviolent Peaceforce, is careful not to overpromise. "We're not presenting this as something that's going to replace armies and end war once and for all," Duncan acknowledged. But he does say that the organization he helped found can put an unarmed peace force into the field for a demonstration project as soon as next summer.

Read the entire feature at:


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B o o m e r a n g

Joe Heckel writes from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania:

The Pledge of Resistance began in late 1984, with the circulation in Sojourners magazine of a pledge to resist a U.S. invasion of Nicaragua. How about a Pledge of Resistance to a U.S. invasion of Iraq?


Tim Callaway writes from Calgary, Alberta, Canada:

Thanks for "Robbery with a fountain pen" [SojoMail 7/17/02], another excellent editorial by Jim Wallis. Wasn't it Don Henley who sang, "Cuz a man with a briefcase can steal more money than any man with a gun?"


Mary Swiger writes from Blacksburg, Virginia:

Please unsubscribe me. I'm really not interested in reading Mr. Wallis' socialistic interpretation of history ["Robbery with a fountain pen"], since I have been alive long enough to have experienced all the events to which he gave his personal biased slant, from Franklin Roosevelt's tenure to the present.


David Paterson writes from London, England:

I think Jim Wallis falls into President Bush's trap of being long on "moral tone" and short on "concrete solutions." The growth in executive incentives, particularly in the U.S., was driven by the desire to get managers to act in the interest of shareholders. Clearly something has gone wrong when managers with their snouts in the trough have manipulated the measures by which they are assessed. However, this does not necessarily invalidate the objective. It means the system needs to be refined and better measures of performance adopted. At its best, a well-regulated market economy is quite capable of harnessing private vices for the attainment of public virtue.


Diane Jones writes from Mountain View, California:

Shortly after reading about Christian Right support for settlements in Palestinian areas, I received a request for a donation "to send skilled Jews to Israel from the U.S. and Canada." The reasoning used was that if Christians and Jews in the U.S. do not send more settlers, the "Arabs will soon outnumber the Israelis." What an appalling excuse. This is the sort of thing that gives Christians a bad name. I am sure that many Jews do not approve any more than I do.


Susan Saxe writes from the Alliance for Jewish Renewal:

Last week in SojoMail, Thomas Lash wrote: "I understand the Norse god was a fighter and that the Old Testament god was a ruthless, jealous, and vengeful deity, but the Christian god is supposed to be a god of love...."

OUCH! I'm sure Mr. Lash meant no harm, but his understanding of the God of the Torah (which you Christians call the Old Testament) is rooted in such a deep misunderstanding of Judaism and the Hebrew scriptures that I hardly know where to begin. Sadly, much Christian education is based on triumphalist misunderstandings of Judaism and the source texts that we share. Happily, many Christians today are deepening their faith and practice (and healing old wounds) through new understanding of these texts. As a representative of a Jewish organization, I don't presume to counsel Christians and I certainly don't want to proselytize. Perhaps some other readers can offer suggestions as to how their fellow Christians can begin educating themselves about the Jewish wisdom tradition in which the Rabbi of Nazareth's teaching was rooted.


Clifton McIntosh writes from Chicago, Illinois:

An Israeli friend tells me that the potato patch joke in SojoMail [7/17/02] is an old one in which the farmer used to be an Israeli whose son was in a British jail during the mandate. Consider also, then, how the joke could be changed so that the farmer is an old Pashtun whose son is being held at an American military base in Afghanistan or Cuba. The problem is that in some respects the joke wouldn't fit as well.

First, in the Afghani/American version, the son would be declared by the U.S. to be an illegitimate combatant deemed not to have any rights under the Geneva Convention. This means his father would not know for sure whether or not he was being held by the U.S. and the son would not have any right to communicate with anyone outside of the detention camp. But even if he were allowed to receive and send letters, and even if he had been allowed to send the message about the guns, the Americans would eschew the risk of sending U.S. soldiers into the farmer's field. Instead, an unmanned flying drone equipped with an air-to-surface missile would be sent to blow up the field. And there would be some chance that the missile would go astray. So, you see, it's better if it's Israelis because they're more humane. At least the field got plowed and the houses around it were still standing.


David Polhemus writes from Prescott, Arizona:

Nancy Jalbert's response to the question about where CEO's go to church made me think of a similar question.... "How many have an Ichthus symbol on their back bumper?" Does it mean anything about how one runs his or her business? It doesn't seem to affect how one drives a car.


Patricia Denny writes from Chagrin Falls, Ohio:

In response to Nancy Jalbert wondering where the wayward corporate titans were educated. I, too, have often wondered the same thing. It seems that most of our colleges and universities contain separate schools with separate and conflicting missions. The business schools seem to be teaching the opposite of what the humanities are teaching. Most universities were never founded to educate in business. Nevertheless, it seems that the business schools have grown so disproportionately over the past 50 years that they have crowded out humanities. Humanities and business are teaching conflicting and confusing messages. No wonder people are graduating from these schools with little sense of meaning and purpose for their lives.


Bernard Welch writes from St. Augustine, Florida:

Scott Rosner's "hope and prayer [Boomerang - 7/17/02] that someday our nation will be effectively controlled by the Christian Right" is a chilling oration. The Christian Right would join forces with a rabid nationalism that would create religious fascism at its worst. A modern-day version of the repressive theocracies of the Puritans from which freedom-loving peoples fled.

We can already see glimpses of this in the orchestral- choral pageants celebrating the 4th of July staged by fundamentalists in which side-stage cameos depict devout Christians saving the world for Jesus and democracy before and after patriotic hymns. The theory of "divine right" is revived. Not for kings this time, but for narrow-minded religious potentates like Jerry Vines who would attack other religious leaders with his word, apparently ignoring the fact that Jesus challenged the religious and temporal leaders of his own country, for their arrogance and exploitation of the poor.


Tristin Hassell writes from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland:

In response to Scott Rosner, did we learn nothing from the Constantinianism of Christendom? I would hate to see what would happen if the Christian Right really did get into power. They'd be jailing homosexuals and making the Pledge of Allegiance mandatory in church. Ever read Hebrews 13:11-16? We have no lasting city here but hope for the one that is to come. We are a pilgrim people and are called to be outside the city gates, not up on the walls defending the city against the "barbarians." For God's sake, the last thing we need is to get back on the nostalgic bandwagon of "let's get Christians in the White House."


Honey Rubin writes from Marietta, Georgia:

Thank you Gayle Holten [Boomerang 7/17/02]. If love were our shared foundation and goal, every other issue would resolve itself organically. Hooray for your voice of compassion and sanity!


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

*Nuclear neighborhoods

On July 9, the U.S. Senate approved Yucca Mountain, Nevada, as the site to store all U.S nuclear waste, though there are still several legal battles to be fought over the decision. In the meantime, this site shows just how close to your home those waste shipments would pass. There's also an opportunity to share your feelings on the matter with your legislators:


*Jesus of the week

Looking for the love of Christ in all the wrong places? Try a little irreverent humor at:


*National Kids Day Aug. 4

Boys & Girls Clubs of America, in collaboration with KidsPeace and other leading youth-serving, community, and educational organizations, is spearheading National KidsDay to bring meaningful time to millions of kids nationwide. The goal is to establish National KidsDay on the calendar so that a day of meaningful time happens every year. To find out more, go to:


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