>Click here to give online today! BY THE NUMBERS ^top Who preachers are reading Catholic and Protestant clergy surveyed about their reading habits were asked the question: "Other than the Bible, what three authors do you read most often in your work as a pastor?" Here are the top five picks from each tradition: Catholics 1. Henri J. M. Nouwen 2. John Paul II 3. Raymond Brown 4. William J. Bausch 5. Walter J. Burghardt Mainline Protestants 1. Henri J. M. Nouwen 2. William Willimon 3. Frederick Buechner 4. Max Lucado 5. Eugene Peterson Conservative Protestants 1. Max Lucado 2. John C. Maxwell 3. Charles Swindoll 4. John MacArthur 5. Warren Wiersbe Source: http://www.pulpitandpew.duke.edu/pastorspicks.html ADVERTISEMENT ON THE GROUND ^top Brazil Journal: Doing "evangelism" by being present by Jennica Jardine advertisementRIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - It is midnight and I am sitting on a dirty, beat-up blanket beside a graffiti-filled wall. The smell of paint thinner and urine sting my nose. I am sitting in the midst of a dozen or more children and one little girl just told me that her mother turned her back on her. She looked at me with indignant eyes that pierced my soul with their hardness, and she broke my heart because I could do nothing. With all my heart I want to do something for this little girl. After all, I am an American, I am a planner, I have an advanced degree - surely I can do something. ... Many of my friends and family believe I am down here to evangelize the poor in the traditional missions/church planting way. I think the "evangelism" of our team is not to tell these kids about Jesus. The time we spend with them is to affirm the image of God in them, to affirm that our God is real and active and it is God who is holding them at night and is with them when they are beaten by the police. It is God who hungers and thirsts with them and with us. I have found that everything I am good at, everything I believe I am gifted with is nothing compared to being present in another's life, loving them no matter the situation or the consequences. Read more at: http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=news.display_archives&mode=current_opinion&article=CO_031210 ADVERTISEMENT CharityAdvantage serves thousands of nonprofits through technology programs: LAPTOPS!.........Laptops from $395 COMPUTERS!...Pentium II's from $149/Pentium III's from $279 COMPUTERS!...New Intel-powered from $399 MONITORS!.....Monitors from $49 MICROSOFT!.. Save up to 70% Office XP @ $129/Office XP Pro @ $149 WEB SITES!......Only $99 setup & $29 monthly for hosting/updates/tech support DONATIONS!...American Nonprofit Technology Alliance Visit us online at http://www.charityadvantage.com CULTURE WATCH ^top Rock and roll and the mark of the beast by Danny Duncan Collum advertisement1950s and '60s rock was a revolt from outside, and beneath, the cultural mainstream. It was a liberating trans-racial explosion that caught corporate America napping. By the 1970s the captains of industry were catching the wave of the new music. In the late '70s two phenomena - punk and hip-hop - arose to fight the power. Today rock dozes comfortably in the belly of the beast. Liberation is a commodity you can purchase at any mall. Rock is still about rebellion, but rebellion is now a marketing strategy. Young rebels of the 21st century can hardly find a cubic foot of air to breath, much less a place to stand, outside the commercial cocoon. That is why, when their rebellion finally found political form, it involved smashing windows at The Gap. All of this to say that questions about the influence of pop culture on children can't simply be shrugged off, or put down to Puritanism. So what's a parent to do? Or a kid, for that matter? Read more at: http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=magazine.article&issue=soj0311&article=031155 ADVERTISEMENT Life & Peace Institute An International Ecumenical Centre for Peace Research and Action based in Uppsala, Sweden, seeks an Executive Director For more information visit our homepage http://www.life-peace.org, or contact Ulla Vinterhav at ulla.vinterhav@life-peace.org. Application deadline: January 16, 2004. BUILDING A MOVEMENT ^top Should Iraq's people pay Saddam's debts? Want to dry up financial support for oppressive regimes? One good step would be to put world creditors on notice that, if they lend money to help tyrants oppress their own people, their victims won't be forced to pay up. In the case of Iraq, this idea has been endorsed by sources as diverse as The Economist, Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and the U.S. administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer. Hear more about this topic from Iraqis, and read international news on the topic at Jubilee Iraq's Web site: http://www.jubileeiraq.org/ ADVERTISEMENT Meaningful Holiday Gift Ideas It's time for a new family tradition - give meaningful holiday gifts that help families around the world become self-reliant. How? By giving a gift animal from Heifer International, a nonprofit that provides families with animals and training that provide life-sustaining resources such as eggs, milk, and wool. Make this holiday different by giving a gift animal and bring hope to the world. Visit Heifer International today. Link to: http://www.heifer.org/holidaygifts/hope.cfm?source=10-ExEmo-144 POLITICALLY CONNECT ^top Parents of U.S. soldiers travel to Iraq Parents of U.S. military personnel stationed in Iraq traveled to Baghdad to meet with ordinary Iraqis, members of the governing council, and U.S. soldiers - including their loved ones when possible. Some of their accounts: *Fernando Suarez del Solar, whose son Jesus was killed when he stepped on an unexploded cluster bomb: "The most important part of this mission is to show the people of Iraq that we also cry because of this war." Read more: http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/1202-09.htm *Anabelle Valencia, whose son and daughter are both serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq: "I want to talk with [Iraqis] and tell them that we here in the U.S. are their brothers.... We do not want any more blood to be spilled." Read more: http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/1129-06.htm *Mike Lopercio, whose son is an Army refueling specialist: "You hear lots of conflicting, crossed messages from the [Bush] administration and the news reports.... [I want to talk to] average, everyday Iraqis. ... How they feel will ultimately dictate our success or failure there." Read more: http://www.napanews.com/templates/index.cfm?template=story_full&id=719D8775-D0FC-4DAB-BF4B-F93D1773A601 ADVERTISEMENT A Christmas or birthday present for peace-oriented kids: Gaining Mind of Peace: Why Violence Happens and How to Stop It by Rachel M. MacNair / Xlibris, 2003 For children (grades 6 and up) who are curious about why adults do such puzzling, violent things, and the psychology of how nonviolence works. Order online at: http://www.xlibris.com/GainingMindofPeace.html or by phone at: (888) 795-4274 x276 or (215) 923-4686 for international orders. 40% discount for libraries, classes, and non-profits BOOMERANG ^top Readers write advertisementEllen McCurley writes from Cambridge, Massachusetts: Thank you Sojourners for writing about the AIDS pandemic and including Bono's quote. As a Christian and former Catholic working in Malawi, Africa, to help those impacted by HIV/AIDS, I have seen that a large part of the hope and response on the ground is from faith-based groups and communities. I get frustrated because I see many Catholic priests and nuns taking out personal loans to clothe, educate, and feed orphans, vulnerable children, and people with HIV/AIDS because the Catholic Church hasn't jumped in with their pocketbooks and influence to be a leader in this war against AIDS. The irony is that there are so many Christians and believers in Africa but they are suffering and need more assistance - real action, real political will from institutions like the Catholic Church and developed countries. ---------- Sharon Jung, ARNP, writes from Tacoma, Washington: I am compelled to comment on the limitations of HIV drugs. These drugs indeed prolong life; however, they may be extremely hard to tolerate for some people. While they have potential to buy enough time until other drugs can be developed, the virus will inevitably outsmart the drugs. AIDS is preventable, and the best utilization of resources lies in treating all people with dignity who have the illness (including getting medicine to them), as well as capitalizing on prevention education and measures. I think that our blueprint for the Christian response to AIDS is well laid out in Rodney Spark's The Rise of Christianity, as well as the four gospels and the Acts. Epidemics, such as smallpox, measles, and cholera, played important parts in the rise of Christianity in the first century. The pagan response to illness was to throw people on the streets to die. The Christian response to illness was to pick those people up and provide supportive care, which was often sufficient to sustain them until the illness passed and their bodies could heal. Sometimes the Christians who saved the dying would succomb to their illness and die themselves, while saving the sick. But as the Christians met the needs of the sick, the church grew. We all have a social responsibility to support effective government programs, as well as private associations that are dealing with this crisis. ---------- Marlon Millner writes: Jim recently talked about two issues, gay marriage and HIV/AIDS, that I think can be conflated by the emergence of Africa as the center of the global ecumenical movement. Right now a Kenyan is general secretary elect of the World Council of Churches, and Africans are now general secretaries of the World Alliance of Reform Churches and the World Lutheran Federation. The African church - in its mainline, evangelical/Pentecostal, and indigenous versions - is trying to fight HIV/AIDS like nowhere else in the world. And, at the very time it needs its white liberal ecumenical partners, it splits with them over the issue of homosexuality and is usually treated condescendingly by those same partners as theologically backwards and financially dependent - which I think exposes the paternalism and maybe even racism of these supposed supporters of Christian unity. I am really tired of modernism/liberalism driving the theological agenda. I don't deny that a practicing homosexual can have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. However, if the church simply has nothing to offer other than a domesticated Jesus, no wonder no one pays attention to the liberal church anyway. I question whether this domestication of transcendence, relativism of theological reflection, and making gay marriage a litmus test for being progressive are pleasing to God. ---------- Nev Pierce writes from Rickmansworth, England: Kim Broers writes of being homosexual [Boomerang, 12.03.03]: "It is God who created me, God who created me as I AM." While there are plenty of reasonable arguments that God/Jesus has no problem with same-sex relationships, this is not one of them. The same argument could be used to justify pederasty, murder, or any other product of our fallen, human natures. Personally I struggle to see what's wrong with same-sex partnerships (although Paul's writings still give me pause for thought), but if we wish to "convert" mainstream Christianity to being inclusive of gay people, we need more theologically thought-through justifications than effectively saying, "It's just the way I am." ---------- Aviva Buschbaum writes from Coconut Grove, Florida: I live in Miami. I grew up here and having seen the police presence during the FTAA meetings, I am so embarrassed and horrified. This is not the way to embrace America's promise of a free exchange of ideas. In this town it's a good thing we have a King Mango Strut (a non-commercial, sarcastic review of the year's events) so that we can dish it back to what passes for a government in these parts. [For those unfamiliar with the King Mango Strut, here's a report from last year's event: http://www.timesleader.com/mld/timesleader/news/weird_news/4817269.htm ] ---------- William O'Connell writes from San Jose, California: In response to Kate Weber's suggestion [Boomerang, 12.03.03] that School of the Americas Watch find out more about what the SOA/WHISC is doing rather than protesting based on past activities - I see the protest at Fort Benning to be both a commemoration of the martyrs of Central and South America and a living critique of American foreign policy. If SOA/WHISC were to close tomorrow, the critique must continue. ---------- Dave Ewick, director of the Fulton County Public Library, Rochester, Indiana, writes: Regarding the article "Disposing of Consumer Culture" [SojoMail, 11.26.03]: Kudos to Paul Boyer and his wife for their efforts to live with less stuff. I struggle with the same problem of having and wanting "too much." I have a suggestion for those wanting to "downsize" their material possessions. As a librarian in a rural north central Indiana town of 6,000 residents, I believe that libraries would love to be recipients of such donors. I encourage anyone downsizing their households to remember their local library when giving away books, videos, CDs, DVDs, audiobooks, magazines, or any other materials found in libraries. Just call and ask your local librarian. ---------- Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of views. The views expressed are not necessarily those of Sojourners. We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity. Want to make your voice heard? Send e-mails to: boomerang@sojo.net JOB OPPORTUNITIES AT SOJOURNERS Advertising Manager Director of Major Gifts and Foundation Relations For more information, visit: http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=about_us.job_openings WEB SCENE ^top The Gender Genie This site allows you to submit a writing sample and semi-scientifically determines the author's gender with 80% accuracy: http://www.bookblog.net/gender/genie.html 60 seconds for peace Get a billion people to pause for 60 seconds of silence to think, reflect, pray, or meditate for peace. Find out how and when and why at: http://www.billionforpeace.org GIVE TO SOJOURNERS Donate now to support our work. SOJOMAIL STAFF David Batstone Executive Editor Molly Marsh Associate Editor Ryan Beiler Web Editor Lester Wall Advertising Director Bob Sabath Chief Technologist Tucker Ball Publisher CONTACT US SojournersT 202.328.8842 2401 15th Street NWF 202.328.8757 Washington, DC 20009 http://www.sojo.net For more information, e-mail us:info@sojo.net Copyright (c) 2003 Sojourners. All Rights Reserved. SojoMail material may be freely distributed, as long as it bears the following attribution: Source: Sojourners 2003 (c) http://www.sojo.net ARCHIVES Browse | Search SOJOMAIL IS A SPAM-FREE ZONE Sojourners won't trade, sell, or give away your address. Read our privacy policy. SUBSCRIBE If this SojoMail was forwarded to you, click here for your free subscription. "/>
The Common Good

Joe Consumer's Percolating Resentment

Sojomail - December 10, 2003

www.sojo.net12.10.2003
Quote of the Week The NRA: fair and balanced?
Batteries Not Included You will be charged extra to read this column
By the Numbers Who preachers are reading
On the Ground Brazil Journal: Doing "evangelism" by being present
Culture Watch Rock and roll and the mark of the beast
Building a Movement Should Iraq's people pay Saddam's debts?
Politically Connect Parents of U.S. soldiers travel to Iraq
Boomerang Readers write
Web Scene The Gender Genie | 60 seconds for peace

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Register, Pray, Vote! Register to vote, update your address, or change your party registration - because your vote matters! Go to: http://www.sojo.net/vote


QUOTE OF THE WEEK ^top

"We're looking at bringing a court case that we're as legitimate a media outlet as Disney or Viacom or Time Warner. Why should they have an exclusive right to relay information to the public, and why should NRA not be considered as legitimate a news source as they are? That's never been explored legally."

- National Rifle Association (NRA) executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre Jr., explaining the group's plans to buy a TV or radio station to use during the upcoming election cycle. (Source: Associated Press)

BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED ^top
You will be charged extra to read this column
by David Batstone

advertisement
Tree Givers
David BatstoneAfter months of effective lobbying, my junior-high daughter finally convinced me that a cell phone would enhance her (and, as the persuasive argument went...my) life. No longer would I have the frustration of driving 15 minutes to pick her up from school only to find out that the time for basketball practice had been changed at the last moment. A cell phone would make our lives more "convenient." I'll save commentary on that saga for another column.

I'm more troubled at the moment with the way my cellular phone company deals with me. Come to think of it, I don't trust many companies with which I do business these days. Consider these recent incidents:

*When I added my daughter to my cellular phone plan, I did so under an offer for an introductory offer of several months "free" service. I got very busy the next month and just paid my cell phone bill without taking much time to look over it. The next month, I did read the bill carefully and discovered that it had no "free" period in it. So I took the time to call and wait on the phone for 20 minutes to talk to a customer service agent. The agent did not argue with me; of course I was right, and she redressed my billing over several months.

*I am a huge basketball fan. Last year I decided to sign up for a cable television service for a two-month period that included the NCAA college tournament (March Madness). The local cable company installed in my home a box in which the cable was transmitted. I paid more than 100 bucks for a deposit on the "box" in addition to a monthly service fee. My short tenure on cable confirmed once again that cable was a wasteland. I cancelled my service and returned the box to the local cable company. My cable bill came the next month with the previous month's service fee and a charge for the box. So I called the customer service number, waited 30 minutes, but with less success this time. The national company told me that I would have to work out "my problem" with the local representative. When I asked why it was my burden to facilitate billing with their own local office, they abdicated any responsibility. It took a visit to the local cable office and several more phone calls to the national headquarters before I could get the billing worked out.

In both of the above cases, the overcharge was sufficiently large to warrant an effort to change my billing. I regularly note disputable fees on my electricity, telephone, water, or credit card bills, but, frankly, I don't choose to waste the personal energy to resolve the issue. Challenging the fee is not worth the aggravation, and I just pay it.

Imagine the added revenue streams for companies when you multiply consumer passivity across a large customer base. I'm not an overly paranoid person, but I'm now suspicious that companies are, as a matter of policy, applying fees to a universal customer base whether those charges are merited or not. If the problem simply could be traced to the complexity of a large company billing a geographically dispersed mass of customers, why don't billing "errors" go both ways? When was the last time you were undercharged by your credit card company? Didn't think so. All too many corporations today send out this message: "We screw our customers and pass along the savings to you."

According to Business Week, newly designed fees will produce $100 million for hotels this year, $2 billion for banks, $11 billion for credit card companies - and an average of 20% extra on every phone bill. Case in point: When I checked out from my overnight at a hotel (national chain) in Monterey, California, last week, I noted a $10 "resort fee" added to my room charges. When I asked what my "resort fee" got me, I learned that it gave me access to its "health club" - a 10' x 10' room with a couple of exercise bikes and weight machines, which I didn't use - two water bottles in my room, and unlimited local telephone calls. In other words, I got ripped off about $8 for services I didn't use. But am I going to sit there and argue about it? No, because it's not worth the effort.

All the same, I'm getting tired of getting Washington-ed and Lincoln-ed (dollars, not cents) to death. There's a resentment percolating in me, Joe Consumer, and I'm ripe for a backlash. The average customer service call costs a corporation about seven bucks. The relative scarcity of people who do call in and challenge their bill make that a manageable cost. It's time to change the economics of customer service. Ready, set, dial. I'll join you on hold.

Read more commentary by David Batstone at: http://www.sojo.net/batstone


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BY THE NUMBERS ^top
Who preachers are reading

Catholic and Protestant clergy surveyed about their reading habits were asked the question: "Other than the Bible, what three authors do you read most often in your work as a pastor?" Here are the top five picks from each tradition:

Catholics
1. Henri J. M. Nouwen
2. John Paul II
3. Raymond Brown
4. William J. Bausch
5. Walter J. Burghardt

Mainline Protestants
1. Henri J. M. Nouwen
2. William Willimon
3. Frederick Buechner
4. Max Lucado
5. Eugene Peterson

Conservative Protestants
1. Max Lucado
2. John C. Maxwell
3. Charles Swindoll
4. John MacArthur
5. Warren Wiersbe

Source: http://www.pulpitandpew.duke.edu/pastorspicks.html


ADVERTISEMENT


ON THE GROUND ^top
Brazil Journal: Doing "evangelism" by being present
by Jennica Jardine

advertisement
World Vision
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - It is midnight and I am sitting on a dirty, beat-up blanket beside a graffiti-filled wall. The smell of paint thinner and urine sting my nose. I am sitting in the midst of a dozen or more children and one little girl just told me that her mother turned her back on her. She looked at me with indignant eyes that pierced my soul with their hardness, and she broke my heart because I could do nothing. With all my heart I want to do something for this little girl. After all, I am an American, I am a planner, I have an advanced degree - surely I can do something. ...

Many of my friends and family believe I am down here to evangelize the poor in the traditional missions/church planting way. I think the "evangelism" of our team is not to tell these kids about Jesus. The time we spend with them is to affirm the image of God in them, to affirm that our God is real and active and it is God who is holding them at night and is with them when they are beaten by the police. It is God who hungers and thirsts with them and with us. I have found that everything I am good at, everything I believe I am gifted with is nothing compared to being present in another's life, loving them no matter the situation or the consequences.

Read more at: http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=news.display_archives&mode=current_opinion&article=CO_031210


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CULTURE WATCH ^top
Rock and roll and the mark of the beast
by Danny Duncan Collum

advertisement
Best to You
1950s and '60s rock was a revolt from outside, and beneath, the cultural mainstream. It was a liberating trans-racial explosion that caught corporate America napping. By the 1970s the captains of industry were catching the wave of the new music. In the late '70s two phenomena - punk and hip-hop - arose to fight the power.

Today rock dozes comfortably in the belly of the beast. Liberation is a commodity you can purchase at any mall. Rock is still about rebellion, but rebellion is now a marketing strategy. Young rebels of the 21st century can hardly find a cubic foot of air to breath, much less a place to stand, outside the commercial cocoon. That is why, when their rebellion finally found political form, it involved smashing windows at The Gap.

All of this to say that questions about the influence of pop culture on children can't simply be shrugged off, or put down to Puritanism. So what's a parent to do? Or a kid, for that matter?

Read more at: http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=magazine.article&issue=soj0311&article=031155


ADVERTISEMENT

Life & Peace Institute
An International Ecumenical Centre for Peace Research and Action based in Uppsala, Sweden, seeks an

Executive Director
For more information visit our homepage http://www.life-peace.org, or contact Ulla Vinterhav at ulla.vinterhav@life-peace.org. Application deadline: January 16, 2004.


BUILDING A MOVEMENT ^top
Should Iraq's people pay Saddam's debts?

Want to dry up financial support for oppressive regimes? One good step would be to put world creditors on notice that, if they lend money to help tyrants oppress their own people, their victims won't be forced to pay up. In the case of Iraq, this idea has been endorsed by sources as diverse as The Economist, Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and the U.S. administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer. Hear more about this topic from Iraqis, and read international news on the topic at Jubilee Iraq's Web site: http://www.jubileeiraq.org/


ADVERTISEMENT

Heifer InternationalMeaningful Holiday Gift Ideas

It's time for a new family tradition - give meaningful holiday gifts that help families around the world become self-reliant. How? By giving a gift animal from Heifer International, a nonprofit that provides families with animals and training that provide life-sustaining resources such as eggs, milk, and wool. Make this holiday different by giving a gift animal and bring hope to the world.

Visit Heifer International today.
Link to: http://www.heifer.org/holidaygifts/hope.cfm?source=10-ExEmo-144


POLITICALLY CONNECT ^top
Parents of U.S. soldiers travel to Iraq

Parents of U.S. military personnel stationed in Iraq traveled to Baghdad to meet with ordinary Iraqis, members of the governing council, and U.S. soldiers - including their loved ones when possible. Some of their accounts:

*Fernando Suarez del Solar, whose son Jesus was killed when he stepped on an unexploded cluster bomb: "The most important part of this mission is to show the people of Iraq that we also cry because of this war."
Read more: http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/1202-09.htm

*Anabelle Valencia, whose son and daughter are both serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq: "I want to talk with [Iraqis] and tell them that we here in the U.S. are their brothers.... We do not want any more blood to be spilled."
Read more: http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/1129-06.htm

*Mike Lopercio, whose son is an Army refueling specialist: "You hear lots of conflicting, crossed messages from the [Bush] administration and the news reports.... [I want to talk to] average, everyday Iraqis. ... How they feel will ultimately dictate our success or failure there."
Read more: http://www.napanews.com/templates/index.cfm?template=story_full&id=719D8775-D0FC-4DAB-BF4B-F93D1773A601


ADVERTISEMENT

A Christmas or birthday present for peace-oriented kids:

Gaining Mind of Peace: Why Violence Happens and How to Stop It
by Rachel M. MacNair / Xlibris, 2003

For children (grades 6 and up) who are curious about why adults do such puzzling, violent things, and the psychology of how nonviolence works. Order online at: http://www.xlibris.com/GainingMindofPeace.html or by phone at: (888) 795-4274 x276 or (215) 923-4686 for international orders. 40% discount for libraries, classes, and non-profits


BOOMERANG ^top
Readers write

advertisement
Sojourners classifieds
Ellen McCurley writes from Cambridge, Massachusetts:

Thank you Sojourners for writing about the AIDS pandemic and including Bono's quote. As a Christian and former Catholic working in Malawi, Africa, to help those impacted by HIV/AIDS, I have seen that a large part of the hope and response on the ground is from faith-based groups and communities. I get frustrated because I see many Catholic priests and nuns taking out personal loans to clothe, educate, and feed orphans, vulnerable children, and people with HIV/AIDS because the Catholic Church hasn't jumped in with their pocketbooks and influence to be a leader in this war against AIDS. The irony is that there are so many Christians and believers in Africa but they are suffering and need more assistance - real action, real political will from institutions like the Catholic Church and developed countries.

----------

Sharon Jung, ARNP, writes from Tacoma, Washington:

I am compelled to comment on the limitations of HIV drugs. These drugs indeed prolong life; however, they may be extremely hard to tolerate for some people. While they have potential to buy enough time until other drugs can be developed, the virus will inevitably outsmart the drugs. AIDS is preventable, and the best utilization of resources lies in treating all people with dignity who have the illness (including getting medicine to them), as well as capitalizing on prevention education and measures. I think that our blueprint for the Christian response to AIDS is well laid out in Rodney Spark's The Rise of Christianity, as well as the four gospels and the Acts. Epidemics, such as smallpox, measles, and cholera, played important parts in the rise of Christianity in the first century. The pagan response to illness was to throw people on the streets to die. The Christian response to illness was to pick those people up and provide supportive care, which was often sufficient to sustain them until the illness passed and their bodies could heal. Sometimes the Christians who saved the dying would succomb to their illness and die themselves, while saving the sick. But as the Christians met the needs of the sick, the church grew. We all have a social responsibility to support effective government programs, as well as private associations that are dealing with this crisis.

----------

Marlon Millner writes:

Jim recently talked about two issues, gay marriage and HIV/AIDS, that I think can be conflated by the emergence of Africa as the center of the global ecumenical movement. Right now a Kenyan is general secretary elect of the World Council of Churches, and Africans are now general secretaries of the World Alliance of Reform Churches and the World Lutheran Federation. The African church - in its mainline, evangelical/Pentecostal, and indigenous versions - is trying to fight HIV/AIDS like nowhere else in the world. And, at the very time it needs its white liberal ecumenical partners, it splits with them over the issue of homosexuality and is usually treated condescendingly by those same partners as theologically backwards and financially dependent - which I think exposes the paternalism and maybe even racism of these supposed supporters of Christian unity.

I am really tired of modernism/liberalism driving the theological agenda. I don't deny that a practicing homosexual can have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. However, if the church simply has nothing to offer other than a domesticated Jesus, no wonder no one pays attention to the liberal church anyway. I question whether this domestication of transcendence, relativism of theological reflection, and making gay marriage a litmus test for being progressive are pleasing to God.

----------

Nev Pierce writes from Rickmansworth, England:

Kim Broers writes of being homosexual [Boomerang, 12.03.03]: "It is God who created me, God who created me as I AM." While there are plenty of reasonable arguments that God/Jesus has no problem with same-sex relationships, this is not one of them. The same argument could be used to justify pederasty, murder, or any other product of our fallen, human natures. Personally I struggle to see what's wrong with same-sex partnerships (although Paul's writings still give me pause for thought), but if we wish to "convert" mainstream Christianity to being inclusive of gay people, we need more theologically thought-through justifications than effectively saying, "It's just the way I am."

----------

Aviva Buschbaum writes from Coconut Grove, Florida:

I live in Miami. I grew up here and having seen the police presence during the FTAA meetings, I am so embarrassed and horrified. This is not the way to embrace America's promise of a free exchange of ideas. In this town it's a good thing we have a King Mango Strut (a non-commercial, sarcastic review of the year's events) so that we can dish it back to what passes for a government in these parts.

[For those unfamiliar with the King Mango Strut, here's a report from last year's event: http://www.timesleader.com/mld/timesleader/news/weird_news/4817269.htm ]

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William O'Connell writes from San Jose, California:

In response to Kate Weber's suggestion [Boomerang, 12.03.03] that School of the Americas Watch find out more about what the SOA/WHISC is doing rather than protesting based on past activities - I see the protest at Fort Benning to be both a commemoration of the martyrs of Central and South America and a living critique of American foreign policy. If SOA/WHISC were to close tomorrow, the critique must continue.

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Dave Ewick, director of the Fulton County Public Library, Rochester, Indiana, writes:

Regarding the article "Disposing of Consumer Culture" [SojoMail, 11.26.03]: Kudos to Paul Boyer and his wife for their efforts to live with less stuff. I struggle with the same problem of having and wanting "too much." I have a suggestion for those wanting to "downsize" their material possessions. As a librarian in a rural north central Indiana town of 6,000 residents, I believe that libraries would love to be recipients of such donors. I encourage anyone downsizing their households to remember their local library when giving away books, videos, CDs, DVDs, audiobooks, magazines, or any other materials found in libraries. Just call and ask your local librarian.

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Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of views. The views expressed are not necessarily those of Sojourners. We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity. Want to make your voice heard? Send e-mails to: boomerang@sojo.net


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