The Common Good

‘ the name of abused humanity’

Sojomail - May 19, 2004

Quote of the Week Do unto others
Hearts & Minds Jim Wallis and Duane Shank: ' the name of abused humanity'
P.O.V. Same-sex marriage and sacramental unity
Religion and Politics Archbishop Rowan Williams: 'Christian obedience is intelligent obedience'
Global Vision 'Globesity' stretches world waistbands
Building a Movement Religious leaders oppose new nukes
Theologically Connect Challenging Christian Zionism
Culture Watch Disney slips a mickey to Michael Moore movie
Web Sitings Not in the name of Islam | A day without a Mexican | For a good time, click here
Boomerang Readers write
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Jim Wallis on PBS (again) this Thursday
PBS will broadcast an encore of "The Jesus Factor" on Thursday, May 20, at 9 p.m. (check local listings). The documentary examines the depth and impact of President Bush's evangelical faith in his personal and political journey. You can also now access the companion Web site, including transcripts, and streaming video of the entire documentary at:

Get the full Wallis interview at:


"If you were shown a video of a United States marine or an American citizen in the control of a foreign power, in a cellblock, naked, with a bag over their head, squatting with their arms uplifted for 45 minutes, would you describe that as a good interrogation technique or a violation of the Geneva Convention?"

- Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, questioning Marine General Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. General Pace replied, "I would describe it as a violation, sir." Source: The New York Times

' the name of abused humanity'
by Jim Wallis and Duane Shank

In the months before the start of the war in Iraq, Pope John Paul II and the Vatican were among the strongest voices in the religious community opposing war. Archbishop Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, issued a series of stronger and stronger statements.

Local Air Checker
Local Air Checker
Local Air Checker
Local Air Checker

On March 11, 2003, Archbishop Martino contrasted the looming war with the first Gulf War that followed Iraq's invasion of Kuwait; in the present case, he said, "there is no aggression and so this preventive war is, in itself, a war of aggression." A week later, two days before the war began, he upped the ante: "It is a crime against peace that cries out with vengeance before God. Let us pray so that the Pharoah's heart will not be hardened and the biblical plagues of a terrible war will not fall on humanity."

His (and our) prayers were not answered. Pharoah's heart was hardened, war began, and more than a year later the plagues continue. Nearly 800 U.S. servicemen and women have died along with thousands of Iraqis, the reports of prison abuse by the U.S. military continue to unfold, and the Bush administration is asking Congress for additional funding to increase and maintain the U.S. military presence through the end of next year, while cutting vitally needed programs here at home.

Next week, President Bush is traveling to Rome for a meeting with the Pope. Cardinal Pio Laghi - the former papal nuncio who visited Bush last spring to personally deliver the Pope's message against war - spoke last week to an Italian newspaper. In a preview of what Bush can expect to be told, reports say the Pope will challenge Bush's support for policies of military force in Iraq and the Middle East.

"We are at the edge of a precipice and we must stop. 'Stop' is the cry expressed by the Church in the name of abused humanity," Cardinal Laghi said, according to the Vatican's Zenit News Agency. "The United States must also stop and I think it has the strength to do so. It must re-establish respect for human beings and return to the family of nations, overcoming the temptation to act on its own. If it does not stop, the whirlwind of horror will involve other peoples and will lead us ever more to the abyss."

Echoing growing calls for an end to the U.S. military occupation of Iraq, the Cardinal concluded: "The forces present in Iraq not only must not be in fact under the command of the United States, but they must not even give the impression that they are. There should be a multilateral presence, which is not under those who organized and wanted the war."

There is much in the news lately of some U.S. Catholic bishops declaring they will refuse communion to pro-choice Catholic politicians. A few days ago, Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs went further. In a pastoral letter, he said: "There right that is "inalienable," and that is the RIGHT TO LIFE."

Therefore, Sheridan concluded, "Any Catholic politicians who advocate for abortion, for illicit stem cell research or for any form of euthanasia ipso facto place themselves outside full communion with the Church and so jeopardize their salvation. Any Catholics who vote for candidates who stand for abortion, illicit stem cell research or euthanasia suffer the same fateful consequences. It is for this reason that these Catholics, whether candidates for office or those who would vote for them, may not receive Holy Communion...."

As more and more lives continue to be lost in Iraq, and more and more of our resources are diverted to the war, will the bishop make a similar declaration about Catholic politicians and voters who support war? It's doubtful, but perhaps a strong pronouncement from the Pope to the president could have some effect. Let us all pray that "the Pharoah's heart will not be hardened" again.

Read more commentary by Jim Wallis at:



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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:

Same-sex marriage and sacramental unity
by Bill Wylie Kellermann and Ched Myers
In 1963, William Stringfellow - movement theologian, Sojourners mentor, and gay man - had the following to say about mainline churches who were pondering whether to join the struggle for African-American civil rights:

The issue not some common spiritual values, nor natural law, nor middle axioms. The issue is baptism. The issue is the unity of all humanity wrought by God in the life and work of Christ. Baptism is the sacrament of that unity of all human life in God.

We hear these words anew in the present moment in light of the contemporary public debate over same-sex marriage.

Events in recent months have highlighted same-sex marriage as an issue of full inclusion in both church and society. We receive this as a kind of kairos moment for Christian disciples, specifically those like ourselves who enjoy heterosexual privilege (including the rights of marriage), to act in public solidarity with gays and lesbians, particularly those in the faith, too long shunted to the margin.

Read more at:

P.O.V. articles offer a range of views that do not necessarily represent those of Sojourners.


Want to talk about it?

The American Friends Service Committee is sponsoring an interfaith online dialogue beginning this week, with discussions centering around the intersection of religion and law, specifically marriage rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. They encourage people of all perspectives to participate. Register now or learn more at:


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Archbishop Rowan Williams: 'Christian obedience is intelligent obedience'


The following is excerpted from a speech by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams at St. Benet's Church, Cambridge, England:

Christian obedience is intelligent obedience, a careful questioning, a reflective and sometimes challenging loyalty. Obedience has earned a bad name because of its use as an alibi for responsibility ('only obeying orders', a phrase with nightmare resonances after the last century); but if we begin with our central paradigm for obedience we shall see that it has to do above all with the labour of discovering what truth requires of us - the truth of who we are and where we are. Whatever may have been the theology of obedience in past ages, we cannot now ignore the democratisation of knowledge and the deepened awareness of how ideological distortions may be sustained in public life. If obedience is essentially attention, a kind of looking in order to learn how to act truthfully, it is right that claims to be obeyed be tested accordingly, tested fairly and thoughtfully, not out of a corrosive cynicism about power.

Read the full sermon at:

Read Archbishop Williams' article "Do Not Cling to Me," published in Sojourners magazine, at:


Peace Quest

Over 100 hands-on peacemaking activities! Perfect for camps, vacation church school, and summer programs. Special SojoMail sale - limited time, order now! Two books for $25 plus discounted shipping of $3.50. (Regular low price $15.50 each.)

'Globesity' stretches world waistbands

Accustomed to mind-numbing statistics about global poverty and starvation, one might think that an increase in worldwide body weight would be a good thing. According to The Christian Science Monitor, the proliferation of Western diets, combined with the metabolism of the developing world, has increased global rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. Moreover, obesity is not necessarily even an indicator of prosperity. "Poverty is part of the problem," says Neville Rigby, director of policy at the London-based International Obesity Task Force. "Fat and sugar are cheap products, and people are eating the wrong stuff."

The U.N.'s World Health Organization recommends that governments encourage their citizens to eat less sugar, fats, and salt, and more fruits, vegetables, and legumes - and increase exercise. However, the sugar industry and its political backers have complained about the WHO's specific recommendations to limit "free sugars" to 10 percent of calorie intake - even though this figure already mirrors guidelines of the U.S. and many other national governments. Sugar producers, sounding suspiciously like their counterparts in the tobacco and oil industries, claim that the science supporting such guidelines is outdated or inconclusive.

Read more at:

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Alaskan Cruise and Appreciative Inquiry Training
From Seattle, WA. August 22-29, 2004

Come and enjoy the wonders and beauty of the Alaskan coastal region and complete 20 hours of professional development in Appreciative Inquiry (AI). This is an incredible opportunity for clergy and their partners to share in the appreciative identification of those things that give them life that they may work and love from and within these life-giving resources. Registration must be completed by May 31, 2004.

For registration and information about our other Appreciative Inquiry based programs:
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Religious leaders oppose new nukes

Sojourners executive director Jim Wallis and a coalition of religious leaders signed the following statement, sponsored by the Friends Committee on National Legislation, opposing the development of new nuclear weapons:

We are concerned to learn that some Members of Congress and some officials in the Administration propose to develop new and so-called "useable" nuclear weapons. New nuclear weapons, they say, will slow the proliferation of nuclear weapons, but we believe it will have unintended, though predictable, consequences for accelerating proliferation and may increase the likelihood that nuclear weapons will be used again. ...

We share a common concern to uphold the sanctity of human life and the holiness of God's creation. We must work in concert to eliminate the nuclear threat to life. We call on you to act quickly and well to stop this rush toward the abyss of nuclear war fighting. We appeal to you to turn our country toward the light of a world governed by law, a world free from the threats of nuclear brinksmanship.

We pray that your deciding vote will be informed by a careful review of this departure from previous U.S. nonproliferation policy and your wisdom will be a guidepost for future generations of lawmakers here and abroad.

For the complete text and list of signers, visit:


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Challenging Christian Zionism

For Christians committed to justice and peace, the challenge of Zionism can be daunting. Many Christians support Israeli actions and policies, believing that Jews' status as the "chosen people" of the Hebrew scriptures entitles them to use any means necessary - no matter how violent or oppressive - to occupy the holy lands. Those who question this position may fear being labeled anti-Semitic, but cannot square Zionist theology with God's concern for the poor and oppressed of all nations, the teachings of Jesus, the inclusive nature of the early church, or the present-day oppression of Palestinian Christians.

A new Web site called "Challenging Christian Zionism: Christians Committed to Biblical Justice" is intended as a clearinghouse of information about Christian Zionism and to foster education on this very divisive issue. Articles include: "Christian Zionism: An Historical Analysis and Critique," "The Evangelical-Jewish Alliance," and "Whose Promised Land: Israel and Biblical Prophecy."


Read Sojourners magazine articles on this topic:

Short Fuse to Apocalypse? A look at the political and theological roots of Christian Zionism.

Not a Monolithic Bloc: Many U.S. evangelicals seek an 'even-handed' Middle East policy.

How Christian is Zionism? What the Bible says about Israel and the things that make for peace.

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.

Disney slips a mickey to Michael Moore movie

The Walt Disney Company, corporate purveyor of mass-marketed media and entertainment, has pulled the plug on Michael Moore's latest film project, "Fahrenheit 9/11," which probes the Bush family's financial ties to illustrious Saudis (including Osama bin Laden's family), going back 30 years. Disney's Miramax division had financed the film and was set to release it this summer, when Disney CEO Michael Eisner objected, citing his fear of the movie's "partisan nature." Another top executive expressed concern that the politically provocative content would alienate some of the more conservative patrons of Disney entertainment. Moore and others critical of Disney's decision say Disney fears the controversial material in the documentary would jeopardize the company's tax breaks in the state of Florida, where Jeb Bush is governor.

Moore's anticipated release, following his blockbuster "Bowling for Columbine" (which grossed $22 million in North America) is rife with his signature predilection for hounding wealthy and elite profiteers and politicians. Disney has refused to renege on its decision not to promote the film, though it now appears that they will sell it back to Miramax for independent promotion.

Read Moore at:

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

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Not in the name of Islam

This online petition by the Council on American-Islamic Relations denounces violent extremists as acting contrary to Islam:

A day without a Mexican

Promoting a provocative new film, this Web page takes the form of a news site covering the disappearance of all Latinos in the state of California:

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Readers write


Joseph Allen Kozuh, Ph.D., writes from Austin, Texas:

I am profoundly grateful to David Batstone for reading and formally responding to my sincere but poorly written message of 5/11/04: "Are liberal Christians phony Christians?" Today, there is a tragic, and still growing, titanic gulf between liberal Christians and conservative Christians. I believe both sides love Jesus and want to follow him. For most of my life, I was a liberal Christian, but I am now a conservative Christian. However, I am first and foremost a CHRISTIAN and an open-minded seeker of wisdom and truth. I pray that you at Sojourners are of the same mindset. For my part, I will gladly embrace any liberal Christian position if I believe it is the true CHRISTIAN position. I hope you at Sojourners are of the same mindset when it comes to conservative Christian positions.


Mark Brett writes from Melbourne, Australia:

Thanks for sharing one of your edifying e-mails. I was intrigued to hear that Moses didn't call for any social programs. That liberal Jeremiah must have missed the point when he suggested that his own nation might lose legitimacy if they didn't care for the alien, orphan, and widow (Jeremiah 7:6-7). Or maybe it was some liberal scribe who added phony additions to Mosaic law like Exodus 23:9-10 and Deuteronomy 15:11, to make it look like Moses was interested in social programs?


DeEtte Beghtol writes from Kitwe, Zambia:

Batstone describes the aim of many American Christians "to see the establishment of a theocracy that puts into place many of the Mosaic laws as established in the Old Testament." What he is describing is goals of Christian fundamentalism that are the same as Islamic fundamentalism's striving to put Shari'ah law into place in secular states. The result, as we are seeing now in Nigeria, is deep division of communities that leads to violence and great loss of Christian and Muslim lives.

The challenge for those of us who hear Jesus' words as present-day calls to change ourselves, our communities, and our nations is to preach Christ's radical message of peace and nonviolence and, at the same time, practice what we preach -- loving and understanding our political enemies.


Jo Lynch writes from Naperville, Illinois:

[Regarding "Action Alert: Demand Rumsfeld's resignation, independent investigation" 5/12/2004]: While I do believe that Donald Rumsfeld should be replaced as secretary of defense, the individuals likely to rise to take his place are even worse, including, but not limited to Wolfowitz and Feith. Rather than seek to topple one scapegoat, don't we need to target all those individuals who are responsible for the disturbing culture of "might equals right" in an administration that does not even feign interest in listening to informed or opposing arguments? A broader brush, please!


Jason Jung writes from Nashville, Tennessee:

I receive your weekly e-mails and also your frequent petition calls for various causes. Usually, these petitions are clearly beneficial and I have no problem participating. However, I was extremely disappointed with this past week's petition to ask for Rumsfeld's resignation. I feel that, without any clear evidence in one direction or the other, you asked me to jump on a political scheme to oust the conservative. It is clear that the mistreatment of prisoners in Iraq is wrong. However, I don't feel like any real evidence that Rumsfeld had indeed failed at his task enough to warrant such a resignation was clear at the point of that petition. In fact, the next day, the findings of the military were published, which said that the orders for the abuse came actually from local sources in Iraq. Clearly, research must be done to understand the extent of what had gone on over there. This takes time. It seemed like the petition to oust Rumsfeld was based more on party favor than on what had actually happened.


Ken Koonce writes from Dallas, Texas:

[Regarding "Death and taxes" SojoMail 5/12/2004]: What possible difference could it make if pacifists can "direct" their taxes to government programs other than the military? That is a shell game that leads nowhere. None of us approves of everything the government does. I for one am appalled at government subsidies to American farmers that impoverish farmers in developing countries. But in a democracy these decisions are made by majority rule, and we can't simply pick and choose what we want to pay for. And "directing" money to social programs simply frees up other money for the military. So who are we kidding?


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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