The Common Good

Fair Trade Coffee Victory!

Sojomail - October 1, 2003

Quote of the Week Bruce Springsteen: Chords of truth
Batteries Not Included David Batstone: Fair trade coffee victory!
By the Numbers Political party by religious group in USA
Culture Watch Sojourners goes to Hollywood
Funny Business Refute that!
Hearing the Call Jim Wallis: Mistaken priorities in Washington
Soul Works Part One: Life
Religion and Politics Real Sufism vs. mystical Sufi lite
Boomerang SojoMail readers hit reply

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"The question of whether we were misled into the war in Iraq isn't a liberal or conservative or Republican or Democratic question, it's an American one. Protecting the democracy that we ask our sons and daughters to die for is our responsibility and our trust. Demanding accountability from our leaders is our job as citizens. It's the American way. So may the truth win out."

- Bruce Springsteen

Fair trade coffee victory!
by David Batstone

David BatstoneSaving the Corporate SoulA few weeks ago, many of you joined us at Sojourners and our partner Co-op America in asking Procter & Gamble to offer fair trade coffee. I'm delighted to report that together, our actions have made a difference. Proctor & Gamble just announced that it will begin offering certified fair trade coffee through its Millstone line - a small yet significant step toward giving small coffee farmers around the world a fair price for their harvest. P & G has agreed to increase the volume of fair trade coffee to approximately three million pounds, a value of more than $18 million directed to small family farmers.

This victory is a direct result of thousands of consumers, businesses, and organizations joining forces to deliver a powerful message to the largest coffee company in the U.S. We want to keep on top of this issue to ensure that the amount of fair trade coffee sold in the U.S. continues to grow each year, until all coffee farmers receive a fair price for their harvest.

The action we have taken on fair trade is a model campaign exemplifying Sojourners' commitment to social justice. Two years ago we made a very practical step, establishing SojoBlend ( as our very own fair trade coffee label (and it's organic too!). But we have kept our eye on the bigger picture as well, recognizing that more farmers would be benefited by a change in the way that global retail companies sourced their coffee. Hence, we allied with a coalition to put pressure on P & G.

In the coming weeks, you will note an increase in our activism on a variety of political and economic issues. We will give you, our dedicated readers, the chance to join us in urging companies and governmental bodies to do the right thing. In most cases, we will include a call to action here in SojoMail. When an action requires a more urgent response, we'll send out a separate e-mail. It only takes a few minutes of your time to add your muscle to an action, and it means so much for people (and the environment) who lack a strong political voice. After you take action, we will let you know the impact of our collective effort.

We share your hope to make the world a better place. Together, let's make some history.

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Political party by religious group in USA
No Religion29,481,000173043

*Overlap in "Group" (e.g., Baptist and Protestant) due to the variation of how participants identified themselves.

**Jewish refers only to Jews by religion

***Source: 2001 American Religious Identification Survey

To see more survey results link to:

Sojourners goes to Hollywood

Sojourners Executive Editor David Batstone appears in the Universal Studios DVD release of its feature film, "The Emperor's Club," starring Kevin Kline. The DVD now on sale at major retail and video stores includes a half hour documentary - featured in "Making of the Movie" - directed by award-winning documentary filmmaker Martin Kent. Batstone offers commentary on why "The Emperor's Club" offers such an important message for politics and business today.

Refute that!

A philosophy student died, went to heaven, and found himself before St. Peter. "What was it you did on earth?"

"I studied philosophy," replied the student.

"Well done. Expound, then, a point of philosophy that will demonstrate truth."

Thus confronted with the request, the student felt his mind go blank. For an agitated moment or two, he could find no point he could make. And then he cried out, "At the moment, I can think of nothing adequate, but I tell you what: If you expound a point, I will show you how to refute it...."

Mistaken priorities in Washington
by Jim Wallis

Jim WallisSeptember 30 marks one year after the original expiration date of the 1996 welfare reform law (TANF), and Congress has yet to debate and pass a comprehensive reauthorization. Once again, they have simply extended that law rather than seriously improve the program to assist people moving out of poverty. Congress has still not acted to include low-income families in this summer's child tax credit. While Congress continues to drag its feet, the situation is getting worse.

More people are falling into poverty. The Census Bureau released its annual poverty and income report last Friday. During 2002:

*The number of people in poverty increased for the second year in a row.

*In 2002, 34.6 million people, including 12 million children, live below the poverty line - nearly 10% of U.S. families.

*14 million people are living in "extreme poverty" - half or less of the poverty line.

*9 million Americans are without jobs.

*2.4 million more people are without health insurance since last year - the largest increase in a decade, bringing the total to 43.6 million Americans.

It is morally outrageous for the president and Congress to be debating how to spend $20 billion for hospitals, clinics, schools, housing, and job-training programs in Iraq while millions of Americans remain unemployed and in poverty. And it is morally incredible that the Bush administration's huge tax cuts have now virtually shifted the costs and burdens of war from those who are most able to afford it to those least able to.

It is past time for Congress to pass and the president to sign a TANF welfare reauthorization bill that increases funding for child care, includes legal immigrants, encourages education and training, and maintains current work hour requirements. It is past time for Congress to pass and the president to sign a child tax credit for low-income working families. It is past time for Congress to pass and the president to sign full funding for Head Start and his "Leave No Child Behind" education programs.

In the buildup to war with Iraq, many of us warned that America's poor would be victims of this war. The mistaken priorities now ruling in Washington have unfortunately borne out that warning. Mr. President, it's past time for a real faith-based initiative to reduce poverty, backed up by domestic policies that match the rhetoric and photo opportunities with really prioritizing low-income people. The census numbers don't just raise the growing numbers of God's children in poverty; they also speak the prophet's voice and biblical judgment on Washington's bankrupt priorities. It is past time for some moral accountability.

For more information on Call to Renewal, please visit:

Part One: Life

"If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Into his nest again,
I shall not live in vain."

- Emily Dickinson, from "The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson" (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company).

Real Sufism vs. mystical Sufi lite

An insightful review of Pico Iyer's new novel on Sufism, "Abandon," is published in The Weekly Standard - not a typical Sojourners reference point. But it is thought-provoking, especially when it looks at Sufis in contemporary situations of conflict: Chechnya, Kosovo, Iran, et al. Read the full review at:

SojoMail readers hit reply

Nataraj Hauser writes from Madison, Wisconsin:

Re: Jim Wallis' column last week on The Micah Challenge. As a non-Christian supporter of much that Sojourners espouses, I found myself growing cold with a feeling of dread as I read. While [the Micah Challenge] network proposes to work for the betterment of poor everywhere, I can only believe that it will do so as long as it converts "heathens" as well. More importantly, when I read that evangelical Christians en masse intend to use their 800-pound gorilla status to influence government, I get particularly nervous. Nearly every day I read accounts of basic rights being deprived to people, in these United States, because they are not Christian. ...

Intolerant evangelicals, banding together with intent to influence government, is a truly frightening proposition to non-Christians. However noble their initial intent, each success will allow such a network to expand its intent. How soon before such a group begins to lobby for restrictions to reproductive rights? How soon before they begin to lobby to restore the Ten Commandments to government courthouses? How soon before they insist on forced Christian prayer in public schools?

Consider me a Sojourners issue supporter whose connection to Sojourners just hit a serious snag. Can I, as a non-Christian, support an organization that may well be working to erode my very freedom of religion in my own country?


Reverend Larry Brickner-Wood writes from Durham, New Hampshire:

I was saddened and disappointed to read Alan Nichols' letter to the Dalai Lama urging him to return home and casting dispersions on his lifestyle and practice. I do not know Mr. Nichols, but the anger and fury that seemed evident in his letter are misplaced and misdirected, in my opinion. Until one has lived in exile and watched their beloved homeland taken over by invading empires with no interest in preserving their culture, I would caution against using self-righteousness, outrage, indignation, and finger pointing as a persuasive argument. Further, rather than attack the Dalai Lama for the failure to transform or reclaim Tibet or Tibetan culture, perhaps we should admonish the United States, our allies, and the United Nations for simply not doing enough to confront China in its own imperialism. And, perhaps we should admonish spiritual and religious organizations around the world - Christian, Buddhist and others - for not working tirelessly enough to mobilize our communities to say "no more." Sometimes one is called to work for change from within; other times the call is to work from afar to affect change. The decision of the Dalai Lama to return or not return to Tibet is his own private one, and he does not need or deserve our misplaced outrage.


Robert M. Lindsey writes from Pittsburg, Kansas:

I find it highly ironic that a magazine uses Albert Einstein's quote - "The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it" - and yet was and is so adamantly against the invasion of Iraq.


Sara Yocum writes from Kansas City, Missouri:

Sorry to be so picky, but I am not satisfied with Einstein's quote, in view of present circumstances.... I'd like to add one line: "...or because of the people who believe they must return evil with evil." Mr. Bush believes he must do something about evil, but it is the wrong thing.


Steve Brown writes from Grand Junction, Colorado:

Each week as I read my SojoMail, I am intrigued by many of the views, ideas, and opinions that are expressed. Sometimes I find that I am forced to view a situation with a new eye and consider changing my opinion. Other times I'm disappointed or shocked by a view that goes too far to the extreme. However, as a public school teacher, I do know that my most important job is to create future citizens who are willing to think critically, weighing different voices and deciding which they agree with, or whether or not they need to look further into the issue. Certainly Sojo provides a liberal Christian view on many issues, but why do people feel that they need to vehemently attack one another? I wish that I could use the secret word that would unite believers in heart and soul, but only those who are listening will hear it.


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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