The Common Good

Energizing Memories and Radical Hopes

Sojomail - April 7, 2004

Quote of the Week 'God has no joy in our pain'
Spiritual Practices Duane Shank: Energizing memories and radical hopes
P.O.V. Rabbi Arthur Waskow: The evil within and without
Palestine Journal Christians in the Holy Land
Building a Movement The world unites against the World Bank's oily interests
Colombia Journal A march for dignity, a prayer for peace
Biz Ethics Focus on the corporation: Wal-Mart
Soul Works Lament and promise
Under the Wire News you may have missed
Web Sitings Top 100 April Fools | Global vote | Spy's eye view
Boomerang Readers write

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"God uses suffering to call us into the peace of his presence. If God could not use pain and suffering for our good, then he would not allow such things to remain in the world. The grain of wheat must lie in the dark womb of the earth before it can be called forth into the open air by the light and the warmth of the sun. Then it grows into a healthy plant and bears fruit. God has no joy in our pain, but he sometimes uses pain and suffering as bitter medicines for the treatment of souls."

- Sundar Singh, in Wisdom of the Sadhu.

Energizing memories and radical hopes
by Duane Shank

It would seem that there's not much new to say about Passover or Easter. Both stories have been told for centuries, and most of us have heard them in Sunday school and worship all our lives.

But there are some stories that need to be told and retold as a way of keeping memories alive. As Walter Brueggemann writes, they create "a community rooted in energizing memories and summoned by radical hopes." Stories grow out of experiences - an event comes first, and then we tell the story to keep the memory of the event alive.

I am often blessed that Passover and Easter fall in the same week, as they do this year. Last evening, I participated in a Seder with a group of Jewish friends, and I will celebrate Easter this Sunday with my church community. Each celebrates the act of God that brought it into being. In the liberation of Israel from slavery in Egypt and the raising of Jesus, God acted in history to lead from oppression to freedom and from death to life. And each community tells its story in a way that keeps the memory alive by insisting that each of us is a part of the story.

The Passover celebration tells the story of a God who acts in history to liberate people from oppression. This God is not simply a philosophical abstraction, but a God who observes the people's misery in Egypt, hears their cry, knows their sufferings, and comes down to deliver them (Exodus 3:7-8). The action verbs show the nature of God that Christianity has often forgotten in its theological and philosophical discussions.

The Passover Haggadah begins by noting the tradition that "Every person, in every generation, must regard him or herself as having been personally freed from bondage in Egypt."

In our Easter celebration we tell the story of how some of Jesus' women disciples, deep in grief after watching him die, go early in the morning to visit his grave. But when they arrive, the tomb is empty and an angel tells them, "Do not be afraid, he is not here, he has been raised and he is going ahead of you to Galilee" (Matthew 28:5-7).

Paul, in his letter to the followers of Jesus at Corinth, begins by saying, "I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received," and he retells the story he had been told (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). That Jesus died, was buried, and was raised on the third day. And that this is the heart of the story - if he has not been raised, our faith is futile.

Peter, in one of his great sermons in Acts, adds humanness to the story. He tells of Jesus of Nazareth, a man anointed by God with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing those who were oppressed - who went about proclaiming the kingdom of God. For that he was put to death. But, Peter says, God raised him and allowed him to appear, commanding us to preach to the people - to tell his story.

So the church began to preach the kingdom of God. They told of how Jesus showed and taught, in deed and word - as story and storyteller - how humanity should live. They told of his life and teaching as the revelation of God that the kingdom can and does break into human history when it is lived in the struggle for justice and peace. By raising Jesus, by vindicating his life and death, God vindicated his message - the kingdom has come and will come. The resurrection is the event on which our faith depends. It is the victory of God over the powers that appear to rule the world, and the beginning of the end for those powers.

Believing in Jesus means being a follower and a disciple, becoming part of his story. When we accept him, he calls us, as he called his first followers, to embody his message of compassion, of love, of trust in God, of living for the kingdom that is beginning among us and that is yet to come.

And, on Easter Sunday, we proclaim our tradition that the resurrected Jesus, the living presence of Jesus, is a reality for each person in every generation who receives him.

So we tell and retell the story. We tell it in words and in songs. It is this story that gives us hope. We are rooted in the energizing memory that the power of God liberated a people from slavery and raised Jesus from death, and that through God's power we have hope in the future. It's not a finished story, but an ongoing one that we're a part of. A story we tell and live to keep the memories and the hope alive.

Duane Shank is issues and policy adviser at Sojourners.

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Call to Renewal's Pentecost 2004

Call to Renewal's Pentecost 2004"Join us in Washington as we tell politicians and the nation that reducing poverty is a religious and electoral issue in 2004. Our convictions on other issues do not prevent us as Christians from uniting to overcome poverty." - Jim Wallis

Join Us For a Pentecost Show of Unity
May 23-25, 2004
Washington Plaza Hotel, Washington, DC

* Plenary Panels * Washington National Cathedral Worship Service featuring Rev. James A. Forbes * Keynote Luncheon with Bill Moyers * Congressional Prayer Breakfast and More! Register at:

P.O.V. ^top
The evil within and without

"For most people, it is easy to focus on the malevolent misdeeds of one's enemies and to blot out the memory of one's own malevolent misdeeds.

For some people, it is easy to do the reverse: bare our hearts to our own evildoing and forget what has been done to us.

But only if we can remember both sets of evildoing can we take the steps to end them."

- Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Read Rabbi Waskow's reflections on a Jewish spring festival called Purim. Related to the story of Esther, it's celebrated with masks and costumes, and with improvised plays that mock authority. Sound like another recent spring holiday? As we move from April Fools to Holy Week, find out what Purim has to do with the Passion at:


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Christians in the Holy Land

Holy Week and Easter are again drawing our hearts to Jerusalem and the Holy Land. When the Holy Land is mentioned, what comes to your mind? Most of us think first of the ongoing political conflict between two diverse people, cultures, and religions that is reported daily in our media. But few of us may reflect on the Christians who continue to live in that land.

The roughly 32,000 Christian families living in the land of the Bible today are caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. They seek to live peacefully in ancestral homes, amid the tensions and growing economic pressures created by those they live among. They are struggling to raise their families and secure adequate income to exist in this environment.

Consequently, they are making life-altering decisions to relocate out of their homeland at an alarming rate. If this flow is left unabated, there will be little Christian representation in the Holy Land, a land where extremism now flourishes.

Fifty years ago Christians in the Holy Land made up 25 percent of the population.
Today they are less than 2 percent of the whole, or 160,000 people.

In 1940, there were 45,000 Christians living in Jerusalem.
Today there are less than 8,000 Christians in Jerusalem.

In 1969, Christians comprised 80 percent of the population in Bethlehem.
Today the Christian population of Bethlehem is less than 10 percent.

In 1970, there were 60,000 Christians in the town of Ramallah.
Today there are less than 6,000 Christians living there.

The Christian Foundation for the Holy Land (CFHL) was created to stem the flight of local Christian families, of both Arab and Jewish ethnicity. While an abundance of organizations represent and serve the Jewish and Muslim populations, few organizations assist Christian families. Hence, CFHL focuses on members of the marginalized Christian community to keep them from leaving. We believe that both continued Christian witness and presence are vital for the Holy Land's future.

Learn more about CFHL at:

The world unites against the World Bank's oily interests

The World Bank's stated goal is to fight poverty, but Bank-financed oil drilling projects have a track record of hurting the environment, indigenous peoples, and - ironically - the poor. The Bank has a record of simply ignoring reports it doesn't like (such as the findings of the World Commission on Dams). When the Bank put a coal company board member at the head of its commission on oil, gas, and coal, things didn't look good.

Today, thanks to a lot of legwork by secular and religious activists, that commission told the truth and recommended real changes - and stayed connected enough to the Bank's hierarchy that it will be hard to ignore.

Get the full story at:

To find out about the ongoing fight to get the Bank to listen to its own commission, go to:


A march for dignity, a prayer for peace

In March, on International Women's Day, members of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) accompanied members of the Popular Women's Organization of Barrancabermeja, Colombia in a march for dignity in the midst of armed conflict. Hundreds of women linked hands and lay in the streets, forming a large living human body, feeling the rhythm of their slogans, their applause, and their firm belief that women have rights that all members of society need to respect. Many wore black as a symbol of their opposition to the war. Hundreds of voices called for peace: "It's better to live with fear than to stop living because of fear," "We won't bear or raise children for the war," and "Not another man nor woman nor peso for the war." The march concluded with this prayer for civility:

God of life, give us the strength to hold high the living word
May trust in you fill my daily endeavors
Forgive me and help me to forgive the bringers of pain and violence.
Lord of Life protect our sons, daughters and our homes
Lord of Life, protect us from so much hate and perverted minds
Lord of Life, permit us to enjoy the strength that is felt in being together.
For civility, for life, for the Word. Guide us in every moment. Amen.

Read a full report by CPT member Sandra Milena Rincon at:

Learn more about Colombia through our multimedia presentation at:


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Focus on the corporation: Wal-Mart

When it became clear to Wal-Mart that plans for a superstore in Inglewood, California, would not be approved by the local city council, they spent more than $1 million to promote a ballot initiative that, according to The New York Times, would have made the uber-chain "essentially exempt...from all of Inglewood's planning, zoning, and environmental regulations, creating a city-within-a-city subject only to its own rules." Though Wal-Mart paid signature gatherers for the initiative more than the average wages of its stores' clerks, opponents of the measure, with the support of elected officials, community groups, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Nation of Islam were able to defeat the measure by more than a three-to-two margin in yesterday's vote.

Read more at:

Wal-Mart is also investing in politics at the national level. Last year, the company's political action committee was the number one corporate donor in the country, with over $1 million in contributions. You get one guess as to which party receives 85% of its donations. Read more at:

What's faith got to do with it? Read Sojourners' commentary on Christians and Wal-Mart at:


by Charles Dickinson

If Christianity - without losing its soul - is yet to avoid losing touch with the world, it must constantly update itself by dialogue with all the intellectual currents of today. To this end, the author proposes a necessary two-way dialectic between theology and the world, an ongoing dialectic ultimately essential to both church and world. $25 hardcover. To order call (313) 624-9784. Dove Booksellers, 13904 Michigan Avenue, Dearborn, Michigan, 48126.

Lament and promise
by Cheryl Ann Toliver

So few hear you, Lord God.
Yet, in my despair, I hear your words of comfort -
"I am your hope, your salvation, your fortress.
Why are you afraid?
Evil may assail you, lay siege and make war against you,
But it will fail.
I am your shelter from trouble on the high ground.
You will one day walk before your enemies without fear or shame."

So, Almighty God, Holy Lord,
In the midst of the world's madness, whatever terror is to come,
You are with me.
You say, "seek me", and I do seek Thee.
I will seek your grace amid our human wretchedness and evil
And I will yet live to see your good triumph.

Now help me to wait for you, Lord God.
Help me to be strong, to not be afraid, in the overwhelming madness,
So I may endure the coming metamorphosis.

Read the full poem at:

News you may have missed

Even pro-Israel conservatives worry that Sharon's separation wall may block Easter celebrations

Kerry' Catholicism and candidacy creates uneasiness for church

A high-ranking military insider (not Richard Clarke) reveals how Defense Department extremists twisted the truth to drive the country to war

CIA, State Department officials admit Iraq invasion has increased terrorist danger to U.S.

Genocidal Guatemalan general dies in bee attack


The birds are chirping, the cherry blossoms are blooming, and we're cleaning up the Sojourners Resource Center. We've got books, study guides, tapes, sweatshirts, posters, buttons, stickers, and back issues at bargain prices. Order today at: or call: 1-800-714-7474

Top 100 April Fools

If you thought last week's Sojoke Mail edition was clever - or even if you didn't - check out these classic hoaxes:

Global vote

Since the world is affected by the policies of the U.S. president, some folks thought non-U.S. citizens should get at least a virtual vote in who that should be.

Spy's eye view

Yes, the CIA may have a satellite picture of your house - but at least you can see it too, at:

Readers write

Peg Nelson writes from Astoria, Oregon:

Thanks, Sojourners, for moments of enjoyment, for your creations poking fun at what are serious issues. I had just finished reading a long list of more ills the Bush administration is creating. My insides were churning, my mind about ready to shut down from the negative overload. Then I called up my April 1 SojoMail. This doesn't change any of what the administration has done, but it certainly has put some sunshine and smiles back in my day and energy to continue speaking out.


Lauren Verruni, 15 going on 16, writes from Mt. Pleasant Mills, Pennsylvania:

Funny newsletter today - I thought the fake boomerang emails were hilarious. I would like to comment on the fake peep action alert though. I no longer eat peeps because they are made with gelatin, which comes from boiled animal parts, like skin and bones. No joke! If you or your readers would like to know how real peeps are treated (the non-marshmallow kind that is), go to this site: . As you can see, in intensive farming operations, God's creatures are treated like nothing more than egg, meat, and milk producing machines.... Animals are being abused and killed every day because people aren't aware of of how much their everyday activites affect them. Check out these sites for more information on how to live a more compassionate lifestyle: and . Please, do every thing you can in your daily lives to apply the Golden Rule to voiceless animals - Jesus would have wanted it that way. Besides, Easter isn't just about marshmallow peeps.


Charlotte Kerelko, writes from Floodwood, Minnesota:

As a lifelong liberal Democrat and pro-life to the core of my conscience, I was disappointed to find the first mention of my political/moral position to be in your April Fool's edition. This is no joke! The party has no idea how many of us there are since we are carefully ignored and the party has no idea how many votes are being lost on this issue. We need, as Cardinal Bernadin said, to find common ground. As a first step, how about removing the "family cap" which is a mean-spirited attempt to encourage/coerce women to choose abortion or choose a life below subsistence level. I'm sure all pro-choice people want the choice to be freely made. If so, we should all join in supporting women emotionally and financially in the choice they make concerning their pregnancy.

[Editor's note: All joking aside, we are planning a feature article on "pro-life progressives" in the June 2004 edition of Sojourners magazine.]


Jonathan Rasmussen writes from Kamakura, Japan:

A hearty thank you to David Batstone for his article "A gospel of personal wealth meets the gospel of commonwealth." I share David's sorrow in dealing with "Michael Novaks" in my own life, as they refuse to admit that there is anything wrong with capitalism (and democracy for that matter). I sometimes wonder if democracy/capitalism isn't the object of American idol-worship. If this is legit, would it make sense that God's "next target" is this idol who holds his children captive? I hear he's a Jealous God; that's what the Bible tells me, anyway.


Jay Hansen writes from Encinitas, California:

I appreciated David Bastone's comments about his appearance at Wheaton College, my alma mater. In the 40 years since I was a freshman, it seems to me that Wheaton and evangelical Protestantism have increasingly endorsed the "greed is good" philosophy. With a literal, but selective, reading of scripture, there has been enthusiasm for God's Old Testament statement to "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over...every living thing that moves upon the earth." There is less emphasis on Christ's New Testament admonition: "As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me." In my opinion, the mentality embodied in the former passage affects evangelical attitudes on population control, the environment, public health, and the poor both in America and around the world. I am pleased that Mr. Batstone was there to provide another perspective on spirituality and wealth.


Stephen Hall writes from West Perth, Western Australia:

I have been reading Sojourners for almost 20 years. Over that time I have read various articles about the Amish and Mennonite communities and have been impressed with their solid ongoing commitment to work for peace and justice. In that time I have also read articles in relation to tobacco companies and their practices.... I am now working in the area of tobacco control and was astonished to read in the mainstream media that the Amish and Mennonite communities are tobacco growers and are continuing to grow tobacco.... This raises all kinds of questions about the integrity of these communities that stand in the Anabaptist tradition. How do they deal with the ethics of growing and selling a substance that is lethal?


Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of views that do not necessarily represent those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice heard? Include your name, hometown, and state/province/country in a concise e-mail to: . We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity.

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