The Common Good


Sojomail - October 16, 2002


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+++++++++++++++++++++ 16-October-2002 ++++++++++++++++++++++++
++++++++++++++++++++++ WWJD in IRAQ? +++++++++++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e s   o f   t h e   W e e k
     *JFK and Gandhi

 P. O. V.
     *WWJD in IRAQ?

 B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
     *Tell Bush, Blair, and Annan that war is not the answer

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *Steve Brown: Poetry

 B i z   E t h i x 
     *Work values 

 S o j o C i r c l e s
     *Form one on your college campus

 B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
     *Bush/Cheney and Enron

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *Costa Rica weighs pre-emptive strike on U.S.

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Music review: Two Roches and Zero Church

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

 W e b s c e n e
     *Global interfaith movement to confront AIDS
     *Please don't buy me anything for Christmas this year
     *Dognose heaven
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Q u o t e s   o f   t h e   W e e k

"Let us never negotiate out of fear,
but let us never fear to negotiate."

        - John F. Kennedy

"Be the change you wish to see in the

       - Mohandas Gandhi


P. O. V.

by Tom Blodget

As this nation debates going to war, and reels from a decade of institutionalized and glorified greed, it might be wise to refer to one of the "gold standards" for behavior - the gospel of Jesus. Certainly any Christian who has ever uttered the phrase "What Would Jesus Do? (WWJD)" might find this exercise profitable.

Although many of the Founding Fathers were enlightened humanitarians, skeptical of organized religion, a great many were Christians. Today, most of those who govern the USA profess to be Christians; many invoke God in their public pronouncements and are known to attend Church. Thus it is fair to ask aloud just what part of the gospels they practice, and which part they ignore. Why not examine what Jesus did and said, and see how their words and deeds measure up?

[Find his actual message in brackets]

"Blessed are the warmakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Kill those whom you fear may kill you." ["Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." Matthew 5:9]

"Those who live by the sword shall not only live, but prosper by the sword." ["Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword shall die by the sword." Matthew 10:52]

"The rich shall forever rule the earth, so adjust your loyalties accordingly." ["Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." Matthew 5:5]

"It is written, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth'; but now I say to you justice is better served by taking out ten eyes for every eye, and ten teeth for every tooth"? ["You have heard it said, "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth; but I tell you, do not resist an evil person." Matthew 5:38-39]

"State your devotion to God often when making public pronouncements that are devoted to politics, the economy, and war, and associate it with the ends you are pursuing, as this is pleasing to God." ["Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." Matthew 7:21]

"Blame the poor and the suffering for their condition, and ignore their plight; they deserve what is happening to them." ["But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind." Luke 14:13] and ["Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you." Matthew 5:42]

"Forgive no one. Those who wrong you are wrong. By forgiving them, you excuse the wrong, and only encourage them." ["If you do not forgive people their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." Matthew 6:15]

"Hate those who hate you; were they worthy of your love, they would already love you. Tell me, if you love those who hate you, why are you to be commended for that? Only a fool would return love to hate. Loving those who hate you only encourages them to take further advantage of you." ["If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them." Luke 6:32]

Seeing the familiar sayings of Jesus rewritten in their reverse form offers the benefit of them being more instantly recognizable to all of us, since we are either totally guilty of the descriptions herein, or have had to witness them. As always, there is still hope, there is still time; it is never too late for an epiphany.

*Tom Blodget teaches Spanish at Butte College and Shasta College in California.



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B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
Tell Bush, Blair, and Annan that war is not the answer

Following congressional votes authorizing the unilateral use of force against Iraq, church leaders from the United States and Great Britain met to make a fresh plea to President Bush and Prime Minister Blair to pull back from their nations' spiral toward war.

More than 60 church leaders signed a statement initiated by Jim Wallis, executive director of Sojourners, and Church of England Bishop Peter Price declaring that pre-emptive war with Iraq would be "illegal, unwise, and immoral."

"We want to send President Bush a strong message that if he starts a pre-emptive war against Iraq, it will not be with the support of the churches," said Wallis. "Despite the claims of the White House, many church leaders are now making it publicly clear that America does not speak with one voice on going to war."

Read the full statement and send a copy to Bush, Blair, and U.N. General Secretary Kofi Annan at:

Also, see two recent articles on the statement:

Iraq War Not Justified, Church Leaders Say
by Alan Cooperman
Washington Post: Saturday, October 12

Clerics question whether pre-emptive Iraq strike would be 'just war'
by Don Lattin, Chronicle Religion Writer
San Francisco Chronicle: Saturday, October 12


S o u l   W o r k s
Peace, and all that it offers

by Steve Brown

     and all that it offers
reflects hopefully in the rushing springs
    that form the headwaters,
reflects brilliantly as the sunset
    in the desert water hole,
reflects placidly in the cool
    deep waters of an alpine lake,
reflects gently in the undulating ripples of
    the pebble lined river,
reflects triumphantly in the ocean as
    the rivers return to the ultimate source,
reflects poignantly in the eyes of
    those who understand it,
reflects perfectly in the lives of
    those who embody it.

                - October 10, 2002


B i z   E t h i x 
Work values 

by Sacha Cohen
United Press International

"The soul of the corporation withers once a company loses its sense of value," says David Batstone, author of "Saving the Corporate Soul."

"A corporation that acts with soul puts its organizational structure at the service of the people it employs and the public it serves," Batstone says. And when a company attempts to align its mission with the values of its workers, it's in a much better position for growth.

It's for this very reason, suggests Batstone, that senior managers need to step back occasionally from "the tyranny of the urgent" and ask their own people, "Why is it that you want to work here?" Workers that can't get inspired about what the company is about and what it stands for, he says, will not communicate a compelling message to customers.

Employees, in turn, need to think about what their company stands for. "If it betrays their sense of value, and they are unable to change the environment to align who they are with the real company mission (rather than the published one)," says Batstone, "then it is time to start looking for a new place to work."

To read the entire feature, go to:


S o j o C i r c l e s

Make your voice known on campus and abroad

Looking for a way to make your voice heard about the war on
Iraq and other pressing issues? Bring a SojoCircle to your
college campus. SojoCircles are study/action groups designed
to bring people together in community to explore the
intersection of faith, politics, and culture through reflection,
prayer, and direct action. In these tumultuous days it is
important to be a part of a movement of people committed to
creating change.

Our newest SojoCircle leaders are:

Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Carole Poth:
Canberra, Australia. Doug Hynd:

For more information about starting a group on your college
campus, church, or local community, please contact us at or for a complete list of those groups
already formed, visit our Web site at:


B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
Bush/Cheney and Enron

Total amount the Bush campaign paid Enron and Halliburton for use of corporate jets during the 2000 recount.

Maximum amount each of Enron's 4,500 laid-off employees would receive as part of a proposed settlement.

Average amount Enron paid each of its 140 top executives last year

*16 Months that Vice President Dick Cheney has refused to release documents related to current U.S. energy policy.

*Source: Harper's magazine, Oct. 2002


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F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
Costa Rica weighs pre-emptive strike on U.S.

October 15, 2002 - San Jose, Costa Rica:
The government of Costa Rica is beginning preparations for a possible invasion of the United States, Costa Rican officials have said.

In a speech to a group of business leaders in San Jose on Thursday, Costa Rican Foreign Minister Roberto Tovar said that the government of George W. Bush constitutes a "continuing threat that will only worsen," making military action a requirement. "It is better to act now than to wait until bombs are raining down on San Jose," he said.

Tovar and Costa Rican president Abel Pacheco have been working to convince their country that they ignore the danger at their peril. "George W. Bush has massive stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, chemical and biological," Pacheco said in a recent speech. "Nothing he has done indicates he would have the slightest hesitation to use them against his neighbors." Pacheco cited the numerous instances in which the U.S. government has initiated overt or covert military action against its neighbors, listing Panama, Grenada, and Nicaragua, among others.

"Costa Rica has a stronger democracy than any other country in Latin America," said Tovar. "As such, we realize the threat we pose to the Bush regime. For all we know, they could attack at any moment."


C u l t u r e   W a t c h
Music review: Two Roches and Zero Church

by Beth Isaacson

Maggie and Suzzy Roche, two thirds of the sister trio The Roches, attended the Institute for the Arts and Civic Dialogue (IACD) at Harvard University several summers ago. Founded by actor and playwright Anna Deavere Smith, the institute focuses on artistic collaboration while exploring issues of race, identity, diversity, and community. It boils down to this: Projects begun at the institute start with a broad idea like "Let's collect prayers" and proceed through collaboration with the folks next door. In the case of Zero Church, Maggie and Suzzy talked with fellow IACD artists, as well as other new and old friends - a Vietnam vet, gay and lesbian activists, a former slave from Sudan, an AIDS patient, and "a playful, wheel-chaired-wandering, urban Buddhist yogi" - and asked them about their thoughts and feelings regarding prayers. The sisters worked with anyone willing to share a prayer with them, then wrote music for the prayers.

"There's long been a tradition of setting prayers to music," says Suzzy. "Most of it, however, is done within a religious context. The Zero Church prayers come from individuals of all different backgrounds and experience. Each prayer is a single life with an important and unique story - and yet they weave together to make one universal expression. I was scared by the responsibility we had, but in the end there was something greater than us at work. It was as if the music was already there and we had only to listen deeply to hear it."

To read the entire feature as it appears in the Sept./Oct. issue of Sojourners magazine, go to:

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B o o m e r a n g

King Grossman writes from Longview, Texas:

I am a parishioner of the church in Longview, Texas, from which Army Chaplain Major Bob Blessing (whose comments appeared in Boomerang last week) recently resigned as rector to honor his duty and orders to serve our troops as preparations for war escalate. I have the utmost respect for Bob. I support his ministry with our troops, and I support all those called by God to armed service. However, as one who finds wisdom and truth in so much of what Sojourners has to say, I feel compelled to respond to his comments.

I, for one, am concerned that in "finishing this" with military war with Iraq, as Bob calls for, we could instead be starting something that will have unfathomable results for those Bob and I agree should be protected. Could it be that America and the world may have just barely scratched the surface of strong, effective, peaceful solutions to our problems with Saddam and Iraq?

I prayed about whether to respond in public to a friend's comments, then after reading the morning devotional and its related homily that our church in Longview freely distributes and that I regularly use, "Day by Day," for Friday, October 11, I decided to do so. It reads:

"Luke 8:1-15. Jesus said, 'To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but to others I speak in parables, so that looking they might not perceive, and listening they may not understand.'"

You didn't think Jesus had a sense of humor? He has just spoken the Parable of the Sower and his response comes as an answer to the disciples' question, "What might this parable be?" Considering their lackadaisical moral sense in various contexts, is there any evidence the disciples - before Jesus' crucifixion - are especially gifted in understanding? Perhaps Jesus is just pulling their collective legs in praising their understanding.

Often, to grasp Jesus' parables, I need explanations, too. Although I have taught literature for years, they escape me. I am one of the crowd. I am often too proud or shy to admit what I don't know. Maybe that is why the disciples are special, then. Not only did they recognize who Jesus was and follow him (however feebly), they dared to admit they didn't understand. I wonder, finally, if Jesus isn't showing us the apostles' special status, "to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God," since so many died in martyrdom. We have much to learn from those who admit their ignorance.


Doug Small writes from The Cobbler, Scotland:

Robert Blessing talks of revisiting biblical theology. If by this he means the long-standing concept in Christendom of the "just war," I think he might find a first strike on Iraq would fail ALL the criteria.

It also would fail many people's secular criteria for justifying the use of force. Here in the U.K., Sir Malcolm Rifkind (a conservative foreign secretary from the Thatcher era and by no means a dove) has said that a pre-emptive attack would be unprecedented for a modern democracy and was "the most fundamental change in U.S. policy for a generation."

But the allegation that made me most mad was the one addressed to the people of Iraq: "There is no excuse for allowing Saddam to lead them, threaten the world, and for them not to incur the ramifications of allowing him to lead." Rev. Blessing seems here to be implying that the innocent people who would undoubtedly bear the brunt of a U.S. attack would only have themselves to blame for not toppling Saddam. So how much experience does Rev. Blessing have of toppling dictators? What would be his advice to the beleaguered Iraqis? Perhaps he could look to the home turf where the man currently presiding holds that office by means of that most celebrated of tactics of dictators everywhere: Get a relative in high office to fiddle with the electoral system.


Doug Lapp writes from Lancaster, Pennsylvania:

In response to Major Robert Blessing's denigration of a biblical theology based on peace, I would ask him to support his own theology using the teachings of Jesus. What would Jesus do, if he were alive today? Would he choose to live a comfortable life as a citizen of the world's most powerful country? Would he join the masses by holding up this country's financial dominance as a clear sign of God's blessing? Would he put his faith in building and maintaining military supremacy in order to secure his own peace and prosperity? I think not. There might well be valid geopolitical reasons for waging war in Iraq. However, to claim God's blessing on this action is overreaching.


Thomas Pack (age 16) writes from Ada, Oklahoma:

Re: Iraq...There seems to be so many who advocate one side or another, and act like there is no middle ground. I, for one, am on that middle ground.

What right do we have to meddle in the affairs of a sovereign nation that can't directly affect us with its weapons of mass destruction? None, in my view. Theologically, I believe war is permissible, but it is to be strongly avoided. The line where I believe we, the United States, have a right to step in and intervene is when we can conclusively prove that Saddam has supported terrorism on United States soil against our civilians. I haven't yet seen the proof, so I stand now against involvement, but if a day comes when there is proof of Saddam's support of terror in the U.S, I will say that we have the obligation, sadly, to use force to keep Saddam from hurting our civilians.


Sue Plater writes from Tollesbury, England:

Thank you for Duane Shank's reflection [P.O.V, 10-09-02], as I am daily feeling "What's the point" in respect to acting for justice in Israel/Palestine and in the face of the warmongerers. My soul was lifted for a few minutes, although it sunk again reading Robert Blessing's Boomerang response. I appreciate that an army chaplain is unlikely to be a pacifist, but his knowledge of the choices available to the Iraqi people is astounding. And does he not realize that the constant suffering they are being put through by the existing air action and the sanctions renders them even more helpless? It's pretty difficult to mount an effective opposition when you are being kept down from within and battered from outside. (And, no, I don't think it will help for us to intervene militarily using an excuse that it is "on their behalf").

But what I am after is some more reminders of why we keep going, so could you give me a reference for the John Howard Yoder essay that Duane Shank refers to?


Ed. Note: The Yoder essay is from the book titled "The Priestly Kingdom: Social Ethics as Gospel," University of Notre Dame Press, 1984, pp. 81-101.


Greg Moore writes from Fayetteville, Arkansas:

In response to John Roberts of Houston [Boomerang 10/09/02].... The U.S. sends ground troops to Iraq and rains bombs upon the Iraqi cities. American casualties are low but Iraqi casualties are genocidal. Saddam's regime is overthrown and replaced with some Unocal executive. The few Iraqis that are left live in concentration camps while their country's natural resources are drained by U.S. corporations. All over the "global south" people begin to get the picture: the most massive and violent superpower the world has ever seen has ratcheted up its aggression against the Third World.

Is this scenario acceptable to the warmongers? Ignoring America's role as dominating (and violent) power in the world since World War II totally distorts reality. Iraq should be disarmed from the inside the same way America should be disarmed!


Bob Buckingham writes from Greer, South Carolina:

It is ironic that we would be holding prayer vigils to stop a war that we as a nation are instigating. As a veteran of an earlier war, 30 years ago, it is my experience that war's costs are far too high for the people and nothing or little to the leadership, as the elite never really pay in this life for the havoc they render on the many. When I look at the truncated rights of Americans today I am forever glad that this world is not my home.


Barbara Green writes from Alexandria, Virginia:

I read Phillip Jenkin's article, "The Next Christianity," in the Atlantic Monthly [see SojoMail 10-09-02], and I think that while it is persuasive in many areas, it makes a gigantic leap in conclusion. I respectfully suggest that readers go to author Thomas C. Fox's "Pentecost in Asia: A New Way of Being Church" for a broader look. I found it so.


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

*Global interfaith movement to confront AIDS

The Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance (GAIA) aims to facilitate HIV prevention strategies in developing countries. It works primarily through religious and interfaith organizations. Find out how GAIA recently taught 20 Northern California religious congregations how to sponsor HIV/AIDS clinics in Malawi, central Africa.


*Please don't buy me anything for Christmas this year

Weary of seeing so much money wasted on commercialism during the Christmas season? Send your loved ones an exemption card...e-cards available at:


*Dognose heaven

Check out this photofest of canine olfactory extremities - or submit a schnoz shot of your own bowser. It's the view every mutt wants you to have: So close, s/he could nail you with a big fat wet one right on the cheek.


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