The Common Good

Micah and Martin

Sojomail - January 22, 2003


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 Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k
     *John le Carré: The United States of America has gone mad

 H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
     *Micah and Martin

 B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
     *Stop the war on Iraq before it starts!
     *A first-person perspective on the MLK Day vigil
 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *Rules to live by
 B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
     *Victim's race pivotal for death penalty

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *Live longer

 B o o m e r a n g
     *SojoMail readers hit reply
 P. O. V.
     *Ishmael Reed: Guess who's coming for a mortgage?

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Mel Gibson under attack for Jesus film?

 W e b s c e n e
     *War is not an X-box game
     *Brilliantly creative op-ed
     *Charity giving certificates

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

"Last Friday a friend of mine in California drove to his local supermarket with a sticker on his car saying: "Peace is also Patriotic." It was gone by the time he'd finished shopping."

- From John le Carré's op-ed in The Times (London):
"The United States of America has gone mad",,482-543296,00.html


H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
Micah and Martin

On Monday, Dr. Martin Luther King Day, more than 3,000 people filled the Washington National Cathedral to "Pray and Act for Peace and Justice." After the service in the Cathedral, many of them marched to the White House for a candlelight vigil. The service theme was inspired by Dr. King's last sermon, delivered at the Cathedral on March 31, 1968.

Following are the remarks Jim Wallis gave at the service:

We gather in this National Cathedral, as our nation moves closer and closer to a decision about whether to go to war with Iraq. It will be a momentous choice, with great consequences for the life of the world.

I just came back last night from England, where the debate about this war is raging, as it is here. Most there hope Prime Minister Blair will not commit Britain to a war against Iraq without genuine international support.

Virtually every church body that has spoken on the subject, internationally and in the United States (with the exception of the American Southern Baptists), has concluded that a war on Iraq would not be a just war. Never before have the churches in America been so united on the issue of peace. Never before has the House of Bishops of the Church of England spoken out so clearly and strongly against the direction the British government is taking.

The churches have warned about the risk and cost of a potential war that could easily result in unpredictable and unintended consequences - high numbers of civilian casualties, the death of many American and British servicemen and women, more instability and violent chain reactions in the already volatile Middle East, more anti-American sentiment around the world, and perhaps even more terrorism against our people. But at an even deeper level, the churches are witnessing to the need for a new "world perspective" of which Martin Luther King Jr. spoke.

Today we remember the birthday of our brother Martin Luther King Jr. We have already heard words from his last Sunday sermon on earth, given from this very Cathedral pulpit, where he called for an alternative to war and bloodshed, for a re-focusing of our attention on the most dangerous enemies of our age - poverty, racism, and hopelessness - and for the development of a new perspective.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a modern-day Micah who knew that we will not beat our swords into plowshares until everyone has their own vine and fig tree - their own little piece of the global economy, their own small stake in the world, their own share of security for themselves and their families. Because when you have a little patch upon which to build a life, nobody can make you afraid. And it is fear that leads to violence. We must learn, as both the 20th-century Martin Luther King Jr. and the eighth-century Micah understood, that there is no security apart from a common security - a global security. That spiritual reality is more true today than ever before. Our weapons cannot finally protect us, only a world where most people feel secure will truly be safe for us and our children.

Both our prophets, Micah and Martin, urge that we go deeper - to the resentments, angers, insecurities, and injustices embedded in the very structures of today's world. We must go deeper than war.

Micah and Martin knew well the cruel connection between poverty and war. The cost we will pay for war in Iraq will not only be measured in the horrendous body counts of Iraqi civilians and American young men and women, but in the loss of health care for millions of poor American children, our inability to provide the education that frees inner-city youth from the prison of poverty, the shame of women and children forced to live in homeless shelters, and an alarming percentage of people going hungry in the richest nation in the history of the world. We fear that the urgent need to overcome poverty, at home and around the world will literally be pushed off the agenda, in favor of the resources, attention, and priority that war inevitably demands.

So today we don't just say no to a war with Iraq, we say yes to the biblical prophet Micah, yes to the American prophet Martin Luther King Jr., yes to our own church leaders, yes to the international body of Christ, yes to the millions of our fellow citizens across the country and across the political spectrum who don't want this war, yes to our own poorest and most vulnerable citizens, and yes in urging our national leaders to find another way.

Today we pray to God and plead with our national leaders to avoid the destructiveness of war and find a better way to resolve the very real threats involved in this conflict with Iraq. We believe that is possible, and we believe we can still stop this war before it starts.

From this National Cathedral and then in our candlelight vigil at the White House, we appeal to President George W. Bush today, not in anger, but in hope, to a fellow brother in Christ, to heed the words of the prophets, the words of our brother Martin Luther King Jr., the words of Jesus the Prince of Peace - to win this battle without war, to transform our swords into plowshares and, yes, to persevere in disarming the world of weapons of mass destruction - all of them, including our own - but without the killing of more innocents. Provide us, Mr. President, with a leadership for peace, that would sow the seeds of justice. Mr. President, the hour is late, we stand at a midnight in history, and what we need from you is a faith-based initiative.

May God bless our prayers for peace, and, at this critical hour, God bless America, and God bless the world.

For photos of the procession to the White House, see:

For Sojourners' press release on the event, see:

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B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
Stop the war on Iraq before it starts!

DATE: Wednesday, January 29
TIME: 12 p.m. or 6 p.m. (lunchtime or end of work day)

Sojourners, working with Win Without War, and other coalitions, is calling for a unified day of local demonstrations in towns and campuses throughout the country to express our opposition to war against Iraq. On the day after the State of the Union address, we will take time from our day to gather at prominent locations in communities around the U.S. to demand that President Bush stop the rush to war. We can stop this war before it starts!

For information on activities in your community,

A first-person perspective on the MLK Day vigil

by Kate Bowman

When I was little, Martin Luther King Jr. Day meant just one thing: no school. In college, the holiday still set students free from classes, but bound us to a calendar of "multicultural" programs that sent an unintentional message to the mostly white, upper- middle-class student body: cram in enough King-themed events and you've filled your annual racial reconciliation quota. Listen to the litany of can't- we-all-just-get-alongs, then get back to real life, purged of your guilt for another year.

So you can understand how I never saw this year's King day coming: I spent it at a protest. With religious people. That's just not done in my neck of the woods. You keep your faith private and, ideally, entirely separate from your politics.

Yet this Monday, I was among more than 3,000 people gathered in the National Cathedral bent on integration. Not only did we hope Dr. King's faithful politics would influence our own lives, but the life of our nation and, indeed, of all nations. We were there to remind ourselves and others that King sought not only equality but peace. We were there to hear readings from his speeches and writings, yes, and we were there to pray, but we were also there to act - to, as Episcopal Bishop John Chane put it, "bear the importance of seeking new ways to move beyond the age-old sin of war."

After the service, about half of us hit the streets. Vested clergy representing more than 20 denominations and organizations led the prayerful procession, followed by a ragtag assembly of pastors, parents, nuns, teenagers, and schoolchildren, many of whom were new to the scene. "I never expected to find myself marching toward the White House waving a sign," said one participant from Pennsylvania, "but sometimes circumstances require these things."

More and more Christians are beginning to agree, viewing the administration's rush to war - and the intensified neglect of the poor here and abroad that would be its inevitable consequence - as a matter of faith. Those who showed up at Monday's service and trekked to the vigil at the White House did so because we believe that, in Bishop Chane's words, "the real wars we must fight are against poverty, illiteracy, disease, and social injustice." When we realize that such wars require more than skirmishes once each January, that they demand daily death to self and commitment to others, we truly begin to honor the legacy of Dr. King and the teachings of Jesus.

Kate Bowman is news/Internet assistant at Sojourners.

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F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
Rules to live by

My mother taught me TO APPRECIATE A JOB WELL DONE:
"If you're going to kill each other, do it outside - I just finished cleaning!"

My mother taught me RELIGION:
"You better pray that will come out of the carpet."

My mother taught me about TIME TRAVEL:
"If you don't straighten up, I'm going to knock you into the middle of next week!"

My mother taught me LOGIC:
"Because I said so, that's why!"

My mother taught me FORESIGHT:
"Be sure you wear clean underwear in case you're in an accident."

My mother taught me about OSMOSIS:
"Shut your mouth and eat your supper!"

My mother taught me about CONTORTIONISM:
"Will you look at the dirt on the back of your neck!"

My mother taught me THE CIRCLE OF LIFE:
"I brought you into this world, and I can take you out."

My mother taught me about BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION:
"Stop acting like your father!"

My mother taught me about ENVY:
"There are millions of less fortunate children in this world who don't have parents like you do!"


Do you know what you'll get everyone on your holiday list
this year? How about a gift that will be remembered for
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opportunity to a family in need.


B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
Victim's race pivotal for death penalty

A study of the death penalty in Maryland found that a defendant was more likely to be sentenced to death if the victim was white.

Of the 1311 death penalty eligible cases in Maryland from 1978 to 1999, only 45% involved black victims.

But of the 76 death penalty sentences over the same period, 80% involved white victims.

Source: University of Maryland

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S o u l   W o r k s
Live longer....

"Envy and wrath shorten the life."

- Ecclesiasticus


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

John Austin writes from Atlanta, Georgia:

Just wanted to say thank you for what you do. We need voices like yours now more than ever! When most of the news media just seems to be publishing Pentagon and White House press releases and propaganda, I get more reliable information from Sojourners. Thank you for talking about peace in a time when even most Christians would prefer to satisfy revenge fantasies. It seems most American Christians I've encountered would prefer that we not talk about the Jesus of the gospels right now. You know, the one who said "judge nobody," "don't resist evil," "turn the other cheek," and "love your enemies, because God loves them as much as he loves you." Forgiveness is not a popular idea in the church today. It certainly has no place in our political ideology.


Randy Elliott writes from Nashville, Tennessee:

I am a two-tour Vietnam vet.... I was in Da-nang, Vietnam, the first time then went back for another year at Camh Rahn Bay. I do not care to see another war. There are better ways to resolve conflict. I have a 22-year-old son in college and do not want him to have to see what I saw.


Paul Gardner writes from San Francisco, California:

Just read Jim Wallis' article in Sojourners magazine on your vision of how to disarm Iraq without war. You said a "carrot and stick" approach should be used, which sounds pretty good to me. You mentioned the "carrot," but I think I missed the "stick" part. The way I've seen things play out so far is that the U.N. has been pretty ineffective towards Iraq. The Clinton administration obviously didn't think the threat was serious enough to pass out the carrots or break out the sticks. If it were not for the Bush administration, who seems to me to be hellbent on busting out the stick against Saddam, the U.N. would be content to leave Saddam to his own devices. A lot of countries are perfectly content to keep Iraq where it is now; under the thumb of sanctions. Do you actually believe the leadership in Iran, Iraq, any other oil-producing nation want oil sanctions in Iraq to be lifted? The French and the Russians were pretty principled against a binding resolution until they were bought off with their carrots and assured their contracts would be honored by any replacement regime. I can only imagine what they'll charge Bush to let him have his war.

International law is meaningless unless you have the stick to back it up. How many times in the last decade have we seen the U.N. watch while innocent people are slaughtered only because the sticks to back them up were not there? I don't want to see war any more than you do, but if you take war off the table as an option, all you're left with is a very weak negotiating hand. I don't know what's driving this administration towards war - oil, revenge, a total repartitioning of the Middle East? Your guess is as good as mine, but somebody has to remind Saddam (and the rest of the world) of the stick if the carrots don't work. Peace at any price is alright for some, but for the rest of us it sounds more like blackmail.


Armando H. Corbelle writes from Florida:

With all the hubbub about cloning, there's a true story in science that should haunt us and make us think about ethical and moral issues associated with certain genetic research. Consider the story of Henrietta Lacks. This young black woman died of cervical cancer in 1951. Her cervical cells were placed in culture then and have endured as the He La cells used by a wide range of researchers. Her family got nothing for her contribution to science and to cancer treatment. Today, the He La cell line remains for sale and even today the tissue bank that offers them - for $175 - still will not acknowledge the donor.


P. O. V.
Guess who's coming for a mortgage?

by Ishmael Reed

There are those who try to convince us that because Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice have prominent roles in the Bush administration or because Halle Berry and Denzel Washington get leading roles in Hollywood movies, "we're getting there" in terms of race relations and equality. As I reach for the popcorn, I'm rejoicing. But when it comes to issues like the lending practices of the mortgage industry, blacks are still in the back of the bus.

To read the entire essay by Ishamael Reed, go to:

*Ishmael Reed is the author of "Another Day at the Front" and "From Totems to Hip Hop"


New online discussions on today's controversial topics:

Patriotism is Not Enough
Christian conscience in a time of war.

Not in My Name 
Is it anti-Semitic to criticize Israel?


C u l t u r e   W a t c h
Mel Gibson under attack for Jesus film?

Actor-director Mel Gibson said tonight he's under attack for making a realistic movie about the suffering, sacrificial death of Jesus.

On Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor," Gibson said a reporter was dispatched by a "reputable" but unnamed publication to "dig up dirt" on him. "Whenever you take up a subject like this it does bring out a lot of enemies," he said. His private life, his banking records, charities he supports, friends, business associates, and family members have all undergone scrutiny in this investigation, he said.

Even though Gibson was angry about what he considers harassment of his friends and family and prying into his personal life, he said he has already forgiven the reporter and those behind him. "This is a movie about love, faith, hope, and forgiveness," Gibson said. "He died for all humankind. He (Jesus) suffered for all of us. It's time to get back to that basic message. The world has gone nuts. We could all use a little more love, faith, hope, and forgiveness."

To read the entire story, go to:


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

*War is not a PlayStation game

Some 40 photos from photojournalist Peter Turnley, who covered the 1991 Gulf war. His images put a human face on war, and his letter has some excellent comments: "As a witness to the results of this past Gulf War, this televised, aerial, and technological version of the conflict is not what I saw and I'd like to present some images that I made that represent a more complete picture of what this conflict looked like." Go to:


*Brilliantly creative op-ed

Technical difficulties in the USA. No more need be said...go immediately to:


*Charity giving certificates

The nonprofit Charity Checks hopes to make "giving certificates" as common as commercial gift certificates to help charities throughout the U.S. Recipients can select the charity they want to benefit and mail in the check. Givers get the tax deduction, and save the hassle on shopping and know that they have given a meaningful gift. Go to:


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