The Common Good

Seeing From a Distance

Sojomail - September 25, 2002


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 Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k
     *Bloodshed, crime, and virtue

 P. O. V.
     *Archbishop Rowan Williams: Reflections from Sept. 11, 2002

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *You are invited to a war with Iraq

 B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
     *Domestic costs of invading Iraq

 P o l i t i c a l l y   C o n n e c t
     *Eleven things to know about the Middle East

 S o j o C i r c l e s
     *New havens for dialogue

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *The wars we make

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Free book on peacemaking

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

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

"The world is going mad in mutual bloodshed. And murder,
which is considered a crime when people commit it singly,
is transformed into a virtue when they do it en masse. The
offenders acquire impunity by increasing their ravaging."

                  - St. Cyprian of Carthage (ca. 258)


P. O. V.
Thought for the Day: Sept. 11, 2002

by The Most Rev. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of 

I find it really difficult to look at the photos of the Twin Towers dissolving in flame and rubble. I know I'm not alone in that, but for me, they bring back the memory of being, for a while, on the inside of the picture that day in New York, when I, with others, was trapped for a period in a neighbouring building. The image from outside is the single dramatic moment, the crash out of a clear sky; but what we are going to remember from inside is the chaos, dark, and dust; and the unexpected intimate conversations and touches of the hand between strangers as we waited. And photographs can't begin, somehow, to do justice to what we can't see, the thousands of lives ending dreadfully, the fear and agony, the prolonged anguish of those who lost friends, children, parents. Our minds can't really cope with all that. And if they can't, just gazing at the pictures feels detached and wrong.

Perhaps it's got something to do with how easily we do in fact concentrate on dramatic pictures to spare us from the personal reality. The terrorist, the suicide bomber, is someone who's got to the point where they can only see from a distance: the sort of distance from which you can't see a face, meet the eyes of someone, hear who they are, imagine who and what they love.

All violence works with that sort of distance; it depends on not seeing certain things. No one would ever have been able to carry on as a soldier in earlier days without the training not to see or think about an enemy in personal terms. Sometimes what made soldiers break down in an environment like the trenches of the First World War was some moment when they became aware of the humanity of a particular enemy. And one of the disturbing things about religious faith is that it tells us that God never sees at a distance, never sees things only in general. There are no lives that are superfluous, no lives you can forget about.

War may well be getting nearer; those who urge caution inevitably get accused of a sort of loss of moral nerve, a willingness to collude with evil. But if the great religious traditions, Eastern and Western, insist on surrounding war with so many questions and conditions, they do so because they know not only that the choice to go to war is at best the lesser evil, but also that there are ways of fighting that increasingly damage our own humanity, changing what we expect of ourselves and others. With the high-tech military methods we've gotten used to in recent years, there's a greater temptation to take for granted the view from a distance. And this means that we should see the military option as something to be considered a lot further down the road than it would have been even 50 years ago. If we don't see the point of this caution, which isn't at all a matter of squeamishness or cowardice, the nearer the terrorist comes to winning, because it means we're getting used to the view from outside as the normal perspective - the distant view that spares us the real cost to our own humanity.

Copyright 2002, BBC.


Sojourners encourages its readers to take action, mobilize, and speak out about the imminent U.S. war on Iraq. Visit for more information.


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F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
You are invited to a war with Iraq


 Student Conference on Church Service and Leadership

Columbia Theological Seminary invites prospective students
to its Conference on Ministry, November 1-3, 2002. Discover
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B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
Domestic costs of invading Iraq

Total cost to United States: $100 billion

Cost of Gulf War: $61 billion

How much is $100 billion worth?

- Three times what the federal government spends on K-12 education
- Enough to provide health care to all uninsured children under 5 in the U.S. for five years
- More than 4 times the entire international affairs budget

Additional cost of rebuilding the Iraqi economy: $50 billion


Source: The National Priorities Project

*The National Priorities Project's latest fact sheet,
titled "The Cost of Invading Iraq," includes potential
costs state by state. The report can be downloaded


P o l i t i c a l l y   C o n n e c t
Eleven things to know about the Middle East

Letter from SojoMail reader Teresa Sutherland:

Perhaps Sojourners could help those of us who are unblissfully ignorant and don't have a good understanding of the conflict between Israel and Palestine by writing an article that explains the basic elements (if that's possible, given the complexities!). For example, I believe Palestine is not a country with Arafat as its president. Rather, it is simply a group of territories? How did Arafat become the given leader? How does Israel becoming a state in 1948 factor in? Etc, etc. I read the newspapers and watch the news, but I still have no understanding of the conflict, and my friends and family seem to be in the same boat. Sojourners' perspective and help would be welcome!

***Editor's note: Perhaps you would find the document written by professor Stephen Zunes helpful...Go to:

"Eleven things to know about the Middle East"

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S o j o C i r c l e s
New havens for dialogue

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S o u l   W o r k s
The wars we make

The following poem was written by Nicholas Peters just after the outbreak of World War II in 1939. Peters, who lived for some years at Grande Pointe, Manitoba, Canada, had emigrated from Russia in 1925 as a boy of 10 and had seen firsthand the horrors of revolution and war in his native country. He joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1942 and trained as a flying officer. He died on the night of March 7-8, 1945, after his aircraft was hit by enemy fire. The poem is from a collection of Peters' work titled "Another Morn."


I gaze into the world with sorrowing eyes
And see the wide-abounding fruits of hate.
We fight, we say, for peace, and find
The wars we make
To be a spring of hate and source of future wars.

Is there no peace for man?
No hope that this accursed flow
Of blood may cease?
Is this our destiny: to kill and maim
For peace?
Or is this 'peace' we strive to gain
A thin unholy masquerade
Which, when our pride, our greed, our gain is
touched too far,
Is shed, and stands uncovered what we are?

Show me your light, O God
That I may fight for peace with peace
And not with war;
To prove my love with love,
And hate no more!

*Published by permission of the Peters family.


C u l t u r e   W a t c h
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B o o m e r a n g

Mike Brislen writes from Djibouti, East Africa:

Jim Wallis acknowledges, correctly, that Saddam Hussein is an "evil" dictator. When will Sojourners acknowledge that George W. Bush is also an "evil," unelected president? Bush has consistently favored business and low-cost oil over lives. Look at the Rio Grande Valley in Texas! He has shown and continues to show willingness to commit mass murder in Afghanistan, Columbia, Palestine, and soon in Iraq. Of all global leaders, the one most likely to use weapons of mass destruction against another country is George W. Bush, not Saddam Hussein.

Sojourners and American Christians should be working for not only the nonviolent removal of Saddam Hussein, but also for the nonviolent removal of George W. Bush and his junta.


Alex Araujo writes from Seattle, Washington:

I am disappointed with the Sojourners campaign regarding Iraq. It is obviously an ideological position: It considers its existence as a concept to be its own justification to exist; it dismisses reasonable contrary arguments without honest review; it begins a trend of exclusion of those who disagree with Sojourners' position - in other words, SojoMail is becoming a propaganda vehicle rather than a forum for good discussion of important issues.

Please note that I am not arguing in favor of our president's policy; I am still uncertain what is best and looking for continued discussion. I believe the issue that is accessible to our president right now is not one of right or wrong, but one of diplomacy. The question before him (and us) is when is a nation justified to going it alone to have its way, as opposed to moving as part of a community of nations. There is a cost for both options, and it is consideration of those costs that need a lot of reflection and examination. Joshua and Caleb, though convinced that their view was the right and godly one, nevertheless chose to walk the desert for another 40 years with their community, rather than go it alone. Nowhere do we read in the Bible that God was displeased with their choice. What are the costs of America going it alone against Sadam Hussein? What do we lose by moving only as fast as our sister nations are willing to move, even if we are "right" and they are "wrong"?


Mtumiki Njira writes from Limbe, Malawi:

Jim Wallis' definition of "terrorism" may include everyone who uses violence against innocent people, but his examples omit governmental terrorists such as the U.S. presidents who have ordered violence against innocent people in more than 20 countries in the last 50 years, and indeed all terrorism not against the U.S. and its interests. Unconscious bias?


Bob Fleischer writes from Groton, Massachusetts:

I don't think we should comfort - or is it fool? - ourselves into thinking that all secular objectives can be obtained in a "Christian" way, and in particular without war. However, as Christians our objectives are different, too. Perhaps disarmament of Iraq is no longer our highest objective - perhaps preserving and nurturing the lives of Iraqis is a higher objective.

Perhaps we say "no war" not because we believe there is a way to disarm Iraq without war. Perhaps we say "no war" because we refuse to place the worth of Iraqi citizens below the worth of our own lives. Perhaps we refuse to engage in the certain destruction of tens or hundreds of thousands of Iraqis in order to reduce the possibility that equal numbers of our own may be destroyed in some future time at Iraqi hands.


Bud Adams writes from Central Square, New York:

I've read and heard so much from so many who control media content about the horrendous greed in the highest offices of corporate America, that it reminded me of the old observation, "Thou protesteth too much." This was especially so when Mr. Bush - whose fingers still have cookie crumbs on them (and all he can say is, "I still can't figure out how that happened...) - decided to take a few swipes at those greedy crooks.

So. The question is, why is it that this TYPE of thing never happened until recently? Is it because people weren't as greedy or dishonest a generation or so ago? Don't insult our intelligence. I think it's because before Ronald Reagan, those who stuffed their pockets full of cash - no matter how they came to possess it - had to fork most of it over in income tax. Or, at least they were supposed to. But, thanks to RR, that's no longer true. The Reagan Tax give-away changed nothing for me - except that I now have to pay admission fees to national parks. But for those who line their pockets with the nation's money, well, they get to keep almost all of it.

And, thanks to W. and his tax give-away, they have the prospect of giving it all to their heirs - TAX FREE! And (here's the best part...) it's all legal.

It's not about greed. It's about our recent presidents dismantling our nation's historic barriers to the infection of an American aristocracy.


Jaci Rivera writes from Chicago, Illinois:

Re: Hillel Arnold's comments about Bruce Springsteen's newest project [Boomerang 9/18/02].

My cousin John was in his office on Sept. 11, and we drove past Springsteen's New Jersey home on the way to John's memorial service this past fall. As one personally affected, I can assure you that there is nothing "cozy" about the "personal drama" of the reality of 9/11. I can't speak for Mr. Springsteen, but I know that communities, families, churches, schools, and probably superstars in that part of New Jersey lost more than a sense of innocence that day. Most of them live every day with very real, painful memories of more than one lost family member or loved one. If anything should be remembered about 9/11, it's the horribly real human toll that was taken, and not the political statement to be made. Perhaps Springsteen wasn't being cowardly, but painfully honest about the reality in his community.


Dorothy Slater writes from Falls Village, Connecticut:

Why is it that when folks invoke the name of Jesus Christ to support their disagreements with another's opinion, their language is so violent and off-putting as in the case of Scott Rosner who found Sojourners' materials "pathetic and disgusting" [Boomerang 9/18/02]? Perhaps I misread my Bible, but it occurs to me that Jesus would be far more interested in how Christians who call him Lord and Savior show love and respect to each other in an increasingly verbally violent world. Anyone can talk the talk; it's walking the walk that matters.


Gwyn McClelland writes from Melbourne, Australia:

Re: Scott Rosner's Boomerang letter....

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. I hope that Sojourners is not just a Christian organization, but a diverse group of people who are linked together by their love for Him. Jesus certainly cared for people by showing concern for the sick and spending time with those on the margins of society. I don't think it is as simple as saying his name over and over!


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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