The Common Good

What Does it Mean to Support the Troops?

Sojomail - May 18, 2005

Quote of the Week » Uzbekistan terror: A storm of bullets
Action Alert » What does it mean to support the troops?
Culture Watch » Going to pieces: A review of the film Crash
Politically Connect » Independent's fray: Local politics and local diplomacy
Soul Works » Losing your religion
Global Vision » 10 stories you haven't read
Values for Life » Move over Martha Stewart
Web Sitings » Women of the Word | Saved by The Intern | A more perfect union
Boomerang » Readers write
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Get a free issue of Sojourners


God Gave Us A Job Before He Gave Us a Family

Today, joy and work are rarely used in the same sentence. But God really does intend for us to find joy in our work. Is this possible? In JOY AT WORK: A Revolutionary Approach to Fun on the Job, Dennis Bakke describes how he created the most fun workplace in human history by eliminating the HR department, hourly wages, and job descriptions - using principles established in Genesis.

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"From the sky there was a storm of rain, from the streets a storm of bullets. You could see blood all over the asphalt, and women and children falling down all around like grass when you cut it with a scythe."

- Mohammed Mavlanov, a Kyrgyz trader who was present during the massacre of hundreds of civilians by government troops in Andijan, the capital of Uzbekistan. The Uzbek government is an ally in the U.S.'s "war on terror," and, according to The Washington Post, the Pentagon has trained hundreds of Uzbek security forces since 1999. It is unclear whether U.S.-trained forces were involved in the massacre in Andijan.


In Uzbekistan, Families Caught In a Nightmare
With Uzbek Unrest, Unease in the U.S.


What does it mean to support the troops?

Memorial Day is approaching, and calls to support the troops echo across the national media. But how does the United States really treat its soldiers and its veterans?

Even those of us who advocate nonviolence must recognize the humanity of those who, for many reasons, made the hard choice to join the armed forces. As we protest a war and an occupation that has claimed as many as 100,000 Iraqi civilians' lives, we must have compassion for the suffering experienced on all sides.

Well over 1 million soldiers have served in Afghanistan and Iraq since September 11, 2001, according to the Pentagon. A full third of those million have served more than once. In addition to the 1,600-plus soldiers who have been killed in Iraq, more than 12,000 troops have been wounded and needed to seek medical treatment. Soldiers who have suffered psychologically are more difficult to count - and often more difficult to treat. A 2004 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine pointed out that 17 percent of Iraq veterans were exhibiting signs of major depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But according to that study, less than 40 percent of those soldiers sought treatment for PTSD, due to the stigma associated with its diagnosis. According to Steve Robinson at the National Gulf War Resource Center, the military needs to be doing much more to educate about and treat PTSD.

Once soldiers arrive home, they face new difficulties. According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, although veterans compose only 9 percent of the U.S. population, they represent 23 percent of our nation's homeless. More than 500,000 veterans experience homelessness each year.

The White House isn't getting kinder to vets, either. In January of 2003, just prior to the March invasion of Iraq, President Bush suspended the health-care benefits of 200,000 veterans. The Bush administration's proposed 2006 budget would charge a new $250 enrollment fee to 2.2 million veterans, and would double vets' prescription drug co-pay, which could limit access to those drugs for veterans living in poverty. The budget also proposes to cut $351 million from veterans' nursing homes, and $4 million from medical and prosthetic research.

This Memorial Day, join Sojourners in calling on our country to uphold its responsibilities to veterans, practice real compassion, and truly support the troops. With just a few clicks of your mouse, you can send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper and help us raise veterans' issues around the country.

Click here to take action!

Your support is more important than ever!

As God's Politics reaches the top of national best-seller lists, Sojourners is becoming more well-known than ever before! We are in a unique position to change the dialogue around religion, politics, and moral values, but we need your help!

Please consider joining the Sojourners Sustainers Circle, our monthly giving program, to help us maintain this momentum! When you give a monthly gift of $10 or more, you will receive a free subscription to Sojourners magazine! Call (202) 328-8842, x248 or visit:


Going to pieces: A review of the film Crash
by Mark Jones

Not every crash is an accident. The movie Crash proves it. This film is masterfully choreographed and is destined to careen right down the red carpet at next year's Oscars....

Crash shows us how desperation and rage fuel racial tension. Exposing the insidious nature of racism is one of the film's dominant themes, but Haggis doesn't preach. He helps us experience racism from every angle; we learn how easy it is for even the most well-intentioned person to commit petty acts of sadism that dehumanizes others and keeps prejudice alive.

+ Read the full article

Tickets on sale now! Sojourners Benefit Concert - June 3, 2005!

A Gathering of Spirits: Sojourners Benefit Concert with Carrie Newcomer, hosted by Brian McLaren, will feature a special message from Jim Wallis.

Join us for an evening of music and dialogue that will help sustain Sojourners' vision and programs for the coming year! The concert will be Friday, June 3, at 7:30 p.m. at Cedar Ridge Community Church, located in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. A reception with Brian, Jim, and Carrie begins at 9:30 p.m.

For more information or to buy tickets, go to or call (800) 714-7474, ext. 235.


Independent's fray: Local politics and local diplomacy
by Rick Lax

The best way I can describe petitioning to get your name on a ballot is this: it's like asking your longtime secret crush if they want to go out with you, setting yourself up for rejection, and doing it hundreds of times in a row. There's a big difference between gathering signatures to put your name on the ballot and gathering signatures to put a proposal on the ballot. When a voter refuses to sign the former (as opposed to the latter), she's not rejecting a political cause: She's rejecting you....

If I had been affiliated with the Communist Party or the Nazi Party, I would have understood why a voter might have refused me her signature. But I was running as an Independent candidate, and many people refused to sign my petition even before I could tell them why I was running. Before I could tell them how I planned to make downtown parking easier, how I planned to straighten out the city's finances. Before I could say that the students deserved a voice in city politics.

At this point, I should say that most registered voters with whom I spoke for more than two minutes did sign my petition. Many of these people went so far as to promise me their votes - and it's not like I was even asking at that point. Most voters wanted to know why I was running and what I'd do if elected. I was more than happy to answer - again and again and again. The thing I didn't want to talk about was abortion. I still have mixed feelings about the issue and the city council has absolutely nothing to do with abortion. The Ann Arbor City Council deals with abortion as often as the White House takes on Ann Arbor zoning regulations.

"Let me tell you what I plan to do to make Ann Arbor a better place," I'd say. And the response would often come, "I don't care what you plan to do with the city unless you can tell me where you stand on abortion."

+ Read the full article

Meet-ups for a Movement

More than 500 readers have signed up to host God's Politics meet-ups in their local communities. In response to this demand, Sojourners has produced a free study guide to enable you to use the book as a movement-building tool. The monologue of the Religious Right is over, and a new national dialogue has begun - start your own study group today!

+ Click here to host a God's Politics meet-up event

+ Click here to find a meet-up in your area


Losing your religion

The experience of losing your faith, or of having lost it, is an experience that in the long run belongs to faith; or at least it can belong to faith if faith is still valuable to you, and it must be or you would not have written me about this. I don't know how the kind of faith required of a Christian living in the 20th century can be at all if it is not grounded on this experience that you are having right now of unbelief. "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief" is the most natural and most human and most agonizing prayer in the gospels, and I think it is the foundation prayer of faith.

- Flannery O'Connor

Source: Daily Dig


Left out by Left Behind? Repulsed by the NBC miniseries Revelations?

"A masterpiece" - Jurgen Moltmann, Tubingen University

"Excellent...admirable" - Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

Is your church ready for a sensible introduction to biblical teaching about the future? In God's Time, a lively video- and text-based adult education course, takes direct aim at this challenge.

Ten sessions cover Craig C. Hill's acclaimed book In God's Time: The Bible and the Future, which Tony Campolo called "balanced and inspiring and helpful," challenging the "right-wing political mind-set" of popular end times books.

See for information about enrolling your church in this and other courses.


10 stories you haven't read

The United Nations Department of Public Information has selected 10 stories from around the world that, though out of the international spotlight, are in need of serious coverage:

1. Somalia: Steps on a path to fragile peace in a shattered country

2. Tragic blind spot in health care for women

3. Northern Uganda: A humanitarian crisis that demands sustained focus

4. Sierra Leone: Building on a hard-won peace

5. Actors for change: The growth of human rights institutions

6. Cameroon: Farming in the dark

7. Island after the hurricane: Grenada struggles to recover from devastation

8. Behind closed doors: Violence against women

9. A viable alternative: Curbing illicit drugs through development

10. Environment and health: New insights into spread of infectious diseases

+ Read more

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Move over Martha Stewart

Flo Wheatley started her sleeping bag ministry for the homeless by sewing one sleeping bag made out of old jeans and T-shirts. Now, churches all over the world are learning how to make sleeping bags from old clothes to keep the homeless warm. The homeless are also learning how to sew bags for themselves and their children.

Wheatley's ministry began when she was in New York City, taking her son to chemotherapy. As they left the hospital, her son leaned against her, too weak to walk. She juggled her bag and her son, as she tried to navigate the subway in the rain. A homeless man saw her need and helped her home, leaving her with the words: "Don't abandon me." Today, My Brother's Keeper, Flo's ministry group, gives church and school workshops all over the country.

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Women of the Word

"Preaching With Her On Life in Fullness" is the theme of this volume of sermons by 15 women preachers from every continent. From the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.

+ Preach it!

Saved by The Intern

Have you ever watched The Bachelor and wished that he would wear a WWJD bracelet? Did you ever want Donald Trump to use his money for something really important, something where God would truly be blessed, like a Starbucks counter inside a local church? Then check out The Intern, a Christian reality show concept from a blogger with her tongue firmly in cheek.

+ Just kidding

A more perfect union

The summer wedding season is just around the corner, and the I Do Foundation is ready to help couples find creative ways to support worthy causes. Options include a wedding gift registry with partner stores that give a cut to your favorite charity, a donation registry, and wedding favors for charity.

+ I do


Sisters Online is a collaborative ministry of women religious committed to global kinship, a Web site focusing on spirituality and justice, seeking to be voices for right relationships, and agents of economic/social change. Visit us at:

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Readers write

Janis Williams writes from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania:

I first read about Pastor Chandler's outing of Democrats on Saturday, and I must say I was both outraged and fearful of what I see as a national movement to discriminate against anyone who is not a "born-again" or right-wing Christian ["God's own party?" SojoMail 5/11/2005].

I promptly sent Pastor Chandler a "God is Not a Republican...or a Democrat" bumper sticker, of which I always have a dozen or so on hand. I dropped it in the mail Saturday, and they probably received it Tuesday, and today he resigned. I would like to think the good work that Sojourners does and that bumper sticker had something to with it!


Doug Koopman writes from Grand Rapids, Michigan:

I appreciate being updated by Jim Wallis and Sojourners on outrages by politically conservative religious leaders. Certainly Pastor Chandler, now resigning, is reaping what he has sown. And it is simply wrong to call supporters of the Senate filibusters "against people of faith" (although I've searched high and low for a statement to that effect from Sen. Bill Frist and can't find it).

But can I also hear from Sojourners about similar outrages on the other side of the ideological divide - such as pastoral endorsements from the pulpit of some Democratic candidates, other pastors calling some budget cuts "sins" without qualification (the cuts may be bad public policy, but unqualifed "sin?"), or even Bob Edgar's assertion that this is "the darkest time in [America's] history" because politically conservative religious leaders are active in politics? Both sides seem to regularly do "outrageous" things - can you be more thorough and balanced in pointing them out? Or am I misreading Sojourners' intent?


Brad Williams writes from Lansing, Michigan:

Many thanks to Sojourners and Elise Elzinga for passing the word about Calvin College's upcoming commencement ["Presidential commencement conundrum at Calvin College," SojoMail 5/11/2005]. As a Calvin alumni, I have shared a lot of Elise's frustration and disappointment with Calvin over the years, but never more so than when they announced that President Bush would be the commencement speaker. It is my prayer that the outside world will not view Calvin's hospitality to the president as an endorsement of his policies. Still, I am greatly concerned that this will damage Calvin's ability to witness to the millions who share my values but not my faith. I applaud Elise and any other daring student or faculty member who will take a course of action that will hold President Bush and Calvin College responsible for their poor decisions.


Meghan Murphy writes from Chicago, Illinois:

The ridicule in Jason Byassee's article, "A revelation for the makers of Revelations" [SojoMail 5/11/2005], serves as an example of how "liberal" Christians are failing to reach out to their "conservative" brothers and sisters. To poke fun at something conservatives and others without graduate degrees from Duke and Harvard is just as un-Christian and makes me frustrated with how Sojourners seems to have pitted itself against conservatives instead of nobly reaching out to them.

Yes, the obsession with the "end times" is frustrating and even more so are the people who capitalize on it, but I think that rather than tear down any attempt to speak to this, we should take a constructive approach and take a closer look at the reasons so many people are drawn to these kinds of television shows, movies, and books. People know that something is wrong with the world. They see pain, they see suffering and they want out. All Christians know the goodness of the Lord and we eagerly await his glorious return. My suggestion is to view Revelations and Left Behind as motivation to explain to fans of apocalyptic entertainment that there is a way to relieve the pain and suffering of this world and bring his glorious kingdom about more quickly: teaching in inner-city schools, pressuring politicians to act in Sudan, reaching out to the homeless in our cities and towns. Ridicule is not endorsed by Christ, but I believe that reaching out is.


Elaine E. Thomas writes from Bridgeport, Pennsylvania:

How unfortunate that the prevalent topic of religion in public life had to be addressed in such stupid fashion in the Revelations miniseries. Jason Byassee wrote one of the most amusing, right-on, and observant critiques of this unwatchable production. Let's not dumb down matters of faith with insipid, misleading, and inaccurate portrayals of supposedly scriptural events (or even legitimate scriptural events). I'm all for discussion of - and even theatrical presentation of - faith issues. But, in the words of another omnipresent popular culture icon (Dr. Phil), let's keep it real.


Stephen P. Horn writes from Blair, Nebraska:

Paul Iverson's claim [Boomerang, SojoMail 5/11/2005] that Bush attacked Iraq to free 25 million people from Saddam and his torturers belies the fact that Bush himself continually connected such action to the 9/11 attack and to WMD, neither of which held up to any real scrutiny. Indeed many in the present administration have connections to Bush the elder and were instrumental in the backing of Saddam during the time period that the major crimes by Saddam were done. Indeed, our good man Cheney was busy dealing with Saddam as recently as 1999.


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.

CORRECTION: Last week, Jim Wallis' column included several attributions to The Charlotte News-Observer. The correct citation should have been The Raleigh News-Observer.


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.

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