The Common Good

Don't Be Afraid

Sojomail - May 21, 2003

Quote of the Week Bruce Cockburn: Whose justice?
Hearts & Minds Jim Wallis: Don't be afraid
By the Numbers Clergy ratings at lowest point ever, but better than biz execs
Funny Business Casino-church lights up Vegas Strip
Politically Connect Norman Mailer: I am not for world empire
Soul Works John Henry revisited...
Boomerang SojoMail readers hit reply
Culture Watch The Matrix Reloaded: Jesus with shades and a beltful of guns?
Web Scene Brake the cycle of poverty tour | Sneaky cheap | Got A.I.? | Outrage over executive salaries

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What's been done in the name of Jesus
What's been done in the name of Buddha
What's been done in the name of Islam
What's been done in the name of man
What's been done in the name of liberation
And in the name of civilization
And in the name of race
And in the name of peace!
Everybody loves to see justice done on somebody else."

- "Justice" by Bruce Cockburn

Don't be afraid
by Jim Wallis

Jim Wallis

My travel and speaking schedule is still pretty busy, but fatherhood has changed all my routines. I try not to be away for more than one or two nights running, even coming home in the middle of the night to be there in the morning when Luke and Jack wake up. Being away from the boys and Joy for longer than a day or two is too much for me. And now that my son Luke is 4 years old, we can have great phone conversations whenever I am away, often a few each day.

Several months ago, I was speaking at a conference in Florida and had already talked with Luke a couple of times during the day. But when I got back to my hotel room that night, there was a voicemail message waiting for me - from Luke. After all, several hours had passed since we had spoken, and there were lots of things to tell me about! His little voice always brings a smile to my face, as he enthusiastically gives me a blow-by-blow account of his day's activities. Luke's phone signoff has become especially wonderful and always warms the heart of both his mom and dad: "Daddy, I love you, I like you, and you're incredible!" It's just the kind of unconditional affirmation we all need but find hard to accept. (I suspect it's close to what God wants to tell us sometimes.) But it's probably easier to receive it from a child. But then Luke finished his message with something he had never said before. Completely out of the blue, my 4-year-old son said, "Daddy, don't be afraid."

I could hear his mom catch her breath in the background. Where did a little child find those words? They hadn't been talking about anything that could have prompted it. "Be not afraid." These were the most frequent words of Jesus to his disciples in the New Testament. He kept repeating this instruction over and over, as if he knew how much his followers needed to hear it.

Today (Wednesday, May 20), the Homeland Security Council moved the country up to ORANGE alert again - meaning there is a high risk of danger from threats of terrorist violence. We've just been through a war in Iraq - a war that was argued and justified mainly on the basis of fear. It was Trappist monk Thomas Merton who said years ago: "The root of war is fear." Since Sept. 11, our nation has been terrified - even now in victory after war. There are indeed real dangers prowling about our world. Prudence and strategic action are called for, as is much deeper reflection on the causes of those dangers. But fear can cause us to give up important things, to accept other things that violate our own best values, and even to do terrible things to other people. Fear is now leading us into a new foreign policy based on pre-emptive and potentially endless wars - which are not likely to remove our fears and could likely make the dangers we face worse.

Sept. 11 shattered the American sense of invulnerability. But instead of accepting the vulnerability that most of the rest of the world already lives with, and even learning from it, we seem to want something nobody can give us - to erase vulnerability. We want it to just go away. If the government says wars can do that, many people will say, fine. If they say suspending civil liberties can do that, many will say fine. If they claim spending more and more of our tax dollars on the military and homeland security will do it - at the expense of everything else - many will say fine. But we simply can't erase our vulnerability, not in this world and not with the human condition. Being prudent and vigilant in the face of danger is good. But when a government offers to take away our vulnerability, it borders on idolatry.

I am becoming convinced that mere political action to counter policies based on fear will not be enough. We must go deeper, to the roots of the fear. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the resistance to it. For people of faith, it means trusting God in the face of our vulnerabilities. We need nothing less than the healing of the nation, beginning with our own fears. That healing will be essential to make peacemaking possible. I'm not sure what such healing will mean, but the prophetic words of a 4-year-old - "Daddy, don't be afraid" - keep me asking.

Read more commentary by Jim Wallis:

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Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. - Matthew 5:9

To some, winning a war proves that wars work. To others, wars are never the answer and only reveal how easily nations abandon reason, compassion, and faith. But Christians all over the world are energized by the gospel of peace and continue to challenge the forces that lead to war.

For more than three decades, Sojourners has been a leader in that movement, offering alternatives to war. You can be an important part of the effort. You can sustain our work by deciding today to make a monthly financial commitment to Sojourners and our continuing role as a prophetic voice for justice and peace.

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Clergy ratings at lowest point ever...but better than biz execs

Asked to rate the honesty and ethics of 21 professions, just 52 percent of Americans gave high marks to clergy, down from 64 percent the previous year. Confidence in the clergy reached its peak at 67 percent, in 1985.

Catholics gave lower honesty ratings to their clergy than did Protestants. Just 50 percent of Catholics gave high ratings to their clergy, compared to 57 percent of Protestants.

Overall, clergy ranked fourth among all professions, behind nurses (79 percent), military officers (65 percent), and high-school teachers (64 percent). Business executives drew just 17 percent honesty ratings, down from 25 percent last year. At the bottom of the list: car salesmen (6 percent) and telemarketers (5 percent).

*Source: Gallup

Casino-church lights up Vegas Strip

Mark Wiltern, for years an unsuccessful pastor on the edge of town, finally sold his modest facility, bought a small space on the famous Strip, and secured permits to become a full- fledged casino-church. "Tithes and offerings weren't enough to keep the church going," Wiltern says. "I had to get cash flow. I had to make an impact."

To read the entire story, plus more satirical breaking news...

*Ministry changes name to Campus Jihad for Christ
*Maine congregation finally emerges after Y2K scare
*Human shields in Iraq switch attention to blocking Franklin Graham

Go to:

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Norman Mailer: I am not for world empire

A fascinating conversation with Norman Mailer about Iraq, Israel, the perils of technology, and why he has become a Left-Conservative. Indulge at:

John Henry revisited...

A Buddhist monk, Heng Sure from the San Francisco Bay area, wrote a song to reflect on the work-life balance for software engineers. Hum along...

"You can keep your T1 trunkline;
My wisdom's like an ISP,
It's a single server portal with infinite bandwith,
It's Great Compassion's own technology."

Sing the entire song at:


C.G. White writes from Elizabethtown, Indiana:

I want to applaud Jim Wallis for speaking of Bush's "War on the Poor." I grew up in Appalachia (in West Virginia) and have seen first-hand the evil that supply-side economics wreaks. As a Quaker minister I am opposed to all war, but there is irony to be found in the fact that our president wanted to use decisive force in Iraq so it would not be another Vietnam. LBJ had two wars going on...the Vietnam War and the war on poverty...and failed to commit the resources necessary to win either war. Now, almost 40 years later, we want to glean lessons from the mistakes of the one war (Vietnam) but the threat of poverty still exists and yet, rather than applying decisive force to the foe (poverty), war is waged against those living in poverty. Bush says our attack was not against the people who live in Iraq, but its institutions. Yet rather than fight the institution of poverty he wages war on those who live in it.


JoAnne Harbert writes from Ann Arbor, Michigan:

What a great article by David Batstone on Malden Mills! Thanks for researching and letting us all know ways we can help principled businesspeople. I copied the article and sent it to all of my fleece-buying camping friends.


Bernard Adeney-Risakotta writes from Yogyakarta, Indonesia:

I appreciate Batstone's articles on business ethics, including the piece on Feuerstein's values. Good stuff. But I'm a little confused about the advice to buy "local quality" over "cheap imports." Are the products of cheap labor in places like Indonesia really of lower quality than U.S.-produced textiles? Not necessarily. Are U.S. workers more worthy of jobs than Indonesians? No. Globalisation of the economy means that U.S.- made products are flooding Indonesia. Both the U.S. and Europe are dramatically increasing their share of the world's export income, while poorer countries see their share of export earnings shrink. Meanwhile unemployment in Indonesia is close to 50%. The injustice of globalization and the exploitation of poor workers won't be relieved by "buying local quality." My advice? Buy the cheap import! You may feed a poor family for a month.


Elaine Belz writes from Detroit, Michigan:

I want to thank you for the story about Malden Mills. I wish more corporations would adopt such an ethic. As to whether that ethic is contributing to the Mills' current financial difficulties, we only need to look as far as Enron to see that corrupted ethics don't save a company either.


Sita Supomo writes from Jakarta, Indonesia:

I just bought "Saving the Corporate Soul" last night. I haven't finished reading it thoroughly yet but I cannot wait to send this e-mail to thank David Batstone for writing it so beautifully. Every time I flipped the pages, I cannot help myself smiling because they are exactly the thing that I believed in and have talked about at home in Indonesia to the many company executives.

I am working to make the corporate private sector realize their social role as part of the citizen living in the community. In the midst of scarce capable human resources in the era of regional autonomy implementation in Indonesia, the private sector is in Indonesia where a pool of talented, educated, and skilled individuals can play an important role in advancing the life in the community. I encourage companies to go beyond the institutional boundary, as CSR should be not only about the relation between one institution to another but most importantly it's about the relation of the people - or the way I termed it "the people-to-people connection." This approach hopefully will tear down - somewhat - the power base that corporate people always have when engaging themselves in the community. During the many conversations I have with the private sector executives, I always emphasize the danger of doing the "Santa Claus" act, giving without looking at the community's assets. This kind of act will only create a community of beggars rather than a self-sufficient community.


Bill Dohman writes from Sacramento, California:

I think Spivey's article on Bennett was humorous and a good poke in the ribs for Bennett. After learning that the man was in the casinos in a disguise at early morning hours, wasting lots of money, who needs his advice on virtues? I don't think it's throwing stones; it is righteous indignation at more conservative double standards and foolish and insolent behaviors.


SojoMail readers contribute more postmodern messianic films:

"Metropolis" - Glenn Stegall, Chattanooga, Tennessee.
"Armageddon" - Richard Harrison, Zimbabwe.
"O Brother, Where Art Thou?" - Ian Wrisley, Lake Norden, South Dakota.
"The Matrix" - Andrea Kelso, Blacksburg, Virginia.
"The Spitfire Grill" and "Places in the Heart" - Marianne Taylor, Louisville, Kentucky.
"Joe versus the Volcano" and "Platoon" and "Life of Brian" - Randy Stevens, Dallas, Texas.


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:

The Matrix Reloaded: Jesus with shades and a beltful of guns?
by Colin McGinn

The film reinvents religion, updating the messiah myth (or fact, depending on your views). It may also have the effect of making religion seem cool. Neo is the handsome and charismatic Christ-figure, diffident at first, but maturing into his divinity, who blasts the evil ones, known as the Agents, eventually gaining control over the events of the Matrix - the guy performs miracles. Morpheus plays the role of a black John the Baptist, Cypher is a weaselly Judas Iscariot, Trinity may be God Herself (she does resurrect Neo after a particularly vicious run-in with the Agents). This is the New Testament story for people raised on video games, Star Wars, and extreme fighting. Jesus Christ with cool shades and a beltful of guns. I'm not saying this is a good way to recast the central characters of Christianity, but it's hard to deny its cultural impact. And there can be no doubt that the movie benefits from the religious resonance that runs through it. In the end, it may be said, The Matrix is just a movie. True, but then the Bible is just a book.

Want to read more? Link to:,,7-680354,00.html

*Brake the cycle of poverty tour

The Brake the Cycle Tour is a two-month odyssey from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. A team of core riders is cycling the country, stopping in dioceses and parishes to raise awareness of poverty in the United States and engage Catholics in the work of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development to break the cycle of poverty in the U.S. Find out when the riders will be coming to your community, and give them a hot meal!

*Sneaky cheap

There are lots of crafty things people do to save money. Some are good ideas, some are lousy ideas, and some are downright criminal. Where do you draw the line? Take your own moral inventory:

*Got A.I.?

The science of robotics is growing in leaps and bounds. And while we may still be years away from having C-3PO complain to us daily, R2-D2 is already here. Link here for a treasure trove of information, expertise, and community centering around the art of robotics:

*Outrage over executive salaries

Nathan Bierma, on the editorial team at Books & Culture, writes a spirited blog on the excesses of executive pay, and includes an interview with Bob McChesney, author of Rich Media, Poor Democracy. Go to:

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