The Common Good

A Bridge Far Enough?

Sojomail - August 11, 2005

Quote of the Week : The astronauts' point of view
Faith and Politics : A bridge far enough?
Action Alert : Pray and fast to fight global poverty
Global Vision : Strings attached
For Mercy's Sake : Doing justice, loving mercy in Israel and Palestine
Multimedia : From country roads to mean streets
Health Talk : Let them eat what?!
Boomerang : Readers write
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9. A "good" decision should make all the stakeholders unhappy because no individual or group got all they wanted.

10. Lead with passion, humility, and love.

Visit for the rest of the Top 10 and discover why everyone's reading Dennis Bakke's national bestseller JOY AT WORK.

For a limited time, purchase 10 copies of JOY AT WORK and receive five free Bible study companions - a $100 value. Give an extra copy to your boss or pastor!


The astronauts' point of view

"Sometimes you can see how there is erosion, and you can see how there is deforestation. It's very widespread in some parts of the world. We would like to see, from the astronauts' point of view, people take good care of the Earth and replace the resources that have been used."

- Commander Eileen Collins, from the space shuttle Discovery

Source: Reuters


A bridge far enough?
by Brian McLaren

You've heard the old saying: The hard thing about being a bridge is that you get walked on from both ends. As someone who spends roughly half of my time in the conservative world and half in the liberal (theologically and politically speaking), I suppose I qualify as a kind of bridge person. Unfortunately, my experience confirms the old saying, and I have a few boot marks on my backside to prove it.

The fact is, I don't feel very qualified to write this article. I'm assuming the best person for the job should be well accepted and respected on both sides of the bridge. He or she should feel successful in communicating with both liberals and conservatives, feel comfortable in both red and blue states, be liked by both Hannity and Colmes. Sadly, the more I communicate with one side of the bridge, the more I feel suspect by the other. As a result, I've been invited to stay out of a state of one color, and in spite of my above-average imagination, I can't imagine possibly connecting with Colmes and Geraldo without infuriating Hannity and O'Reilly, or vice versa.

So, if I'm a bridge, I'm a rickety one, a "plan B," I suppose. My basic qualification to write this article is my belief that we as followers of Christ should at least try to talk to everybody we can - and to do so, as the Apostle Peter said, with "gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15). I don't agree with the tone of the conservative author who offers advice on how to talk to a liberal "if you must," suggesting that it's an odious task that one must do while pinching her nose. Nor do I agree with any liberal mirror image who sees all conservatives as equally stinky conversation partners. I have been given no exemption card regarding 1 Corinthians 13, and my calling as a Christian requires me, in the words of Paul, to "become all things to all people."

To those under the law I became like one under the as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do this for the sake of the gospel.... - 1 Corinthians 9:20-23

By the way - people often quote that Pauline phrase about becoming all things to all people preceded by you can't. But Paul's assertion was that he must, for the sake of the gospel, no matter how difficult the task was (and it was difficult - resulting in at least one riot in his lifetime!). Paul had what he called "the ministry of reconciliation," and he saw himself as a peace ambassador for Christ.

For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.... All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. - 2 Corinthians 5:14-20

He was called to enter various cultures - Jewish cultures, Gentile cultures - and invite people to be reconciled to God and to one another. Of course, nobody can be everything to everybody at the same time, but you can, Paul implied, cross the bridge on the right side and enter a person's world without judgment, and then go to the left side of the bridge and enter that person's world without judgment as well.

Brian McLaren, founding pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church in Spencerville, Maryland, is author, most recently, of The Last Word and the Word After That.

+ Read the full text of this article in the September-October issue of Sojourners magazine, including seven scriptural principles for bridge construction:

1. We must stop answering questions that are framed badly. (Luke 20)

2. We must start raising new questions and issues that need to be raised. (Matthew 22:17-21)

3. We must answer questions with questions. (Luke 20:1-8)

4. We must go cleverly deeper. (Matthew 19:3-9, Romans 14, John 8:1-11)

5. We must agree with people whenever we can. (John 4:17, Luke 10:28)

6. We must speak through action, not just words. (1 John 3:18)

7. We must tell stories. (Luke 7:36-50)

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Tell President Bush you will pray and fast to fight global poverty

the 30,000 CAMPAIGNEvery day 30,000 children die a preventable death due to extreme poverty. Yet we have the power to prevent this silent tsunami. What is missing is the moral and political will to do so.

We are calling on more than 30,000 people to declare to President Bush their intention to fast and pray during the World Summit at the United Nations, September 14-16. A fast can be as simple as sacrificing one meal during the course of the Summit, which can serve as a spiritual and personal act of solidarity with the billions of people across the world who go without food and basic necessities every day. Even this relatively small sacrifice will strengthen our call for real and specific policies to fight global poverty.

+ Learn how you can send a strong message to the White House by fasting to fight global poverty


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Strings attached

A leaked World Bank report shows that the Bank is trying to undermine the debt forgiveness deal announced in June for 18 poverty-stricken countries. The report proposes that those countries lose their debt cancellation unless they let the World Bank continue to dictate their government spending and economic policies (and to impose many of the same harmful economic conditions that have failed in the past).

+ Read more


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Oscar Romero, the humble son of a carpenter, became Archbishop of El Salvador in 1977. Just three years after beginning his passionate ministry on behalf of justice, peace, and dignified life, he was martyred. In celebration of his life and memory, the Foundation for Self-Sufficiency in Central America seeks to plant at least 50,000 trees among the communities he loved so dearly.

+ Your gift of $10 will plant a tree in his memory and help to reforest El Salvador.


Doing justice, loving mercy in Israel and Palestine

World Vision began work in the West Bank and Gaza in 1975. In a region filled with political and social tension, their goal is to help create an environment where peace can exist and children can thrive. See their special Web section on the region - featuring Sojourners' August issue, plus audio reports, commentaries, and opportunities for action.

+ World Vision

Mennonite Central Committee began relief work in Palestine in 1949 following war and the creation of the state of Israel, which left 700,000 Palestinians as refugees. Visit their site for a photo gallery (by Sojourners' Web Editor Ryan Beiler), plus links to a PDF newsletter on "Christian Zionism and Peace in the Holy Land," and their "Bridges Not Walls Project."

+ Mennonite Central Committee

+ Learn more about the prospects for peace in Israel-Palestine in the August issue of Sojourners magazine


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Empowers wholeness

A wonderful new book! 172 pages of hands-on lessons that teach peacemaking skills. Essential for anyone longing for peace, justice, hope, and a new way of being.

Proceeds support a peace education, nonprofit organization.


Ched Myers on streaming video: From country roads to mean streets

The story of Christ appearing incognito to two disciples on the road to Emmaus is a familiar, almost sentimental one to anyone brought up in the church. In an April lecture at Washington National Cathedral, social justice theologian Ched Meyers showed a famous 19th-century painting of three men on a country road, with a backlit sky at sunset, then a photo of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lying dead on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis in 1968. Myers claimed that "the context for this story is far more like what might've been experienced by Dr. King's lieutenants 24 hours after he was assassinated than like a nice stroll through the park."

Taking the Bible "out of Disneyland, some world unlike our own," and showing a world "like our own, where there are tyrants, political revolution, terrorism," Myers speaks of the acute relevance and significance of the Bible's message in modern times.

Ched Myers is co-founder and program director of Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries in Los Angeles. A long-time activist, he is a board member and past contributing editor of Sojourners magazine.

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Let them eat what?!

Are healthier foods available in lower-income neighborhoods? Are healthier foods more expensive? Researchers at the University of California-Davis examined the availability of healthier food items in grocery stores and compared the cost of a standard market basket of foods to a healthier basket with low-fat meat and dairy, and whole grains. What do you think they found?

+ Read more


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Readers write

Doug Steley writes from Queensland, Australia:

The bomb dropped on Hiroshima contained less than 35kg of uranium and caused continuing radiation deaths for many years ["Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and nuclear realism," SojoMail 8/9/2005]. It has been estimated that U.S. and British forces have used more than 800 tons of uranium-based weapons in the two Gulf wars and this material still lies in the countryside towns and cities of Iraq. The dust is breathed by Iraqis civilians and allied soldiers alike.

Across the road from me lives an Australian serviceman who was stationed in Hiroshima just after the bomb was dropped. Half his face is missing and cancer has riddled his body for many years now. He is one of the last survivors of his squadron. Most have died of strange illnesses or massive cancers. I wonder about the legacy of our dirty little nuclear war in Iraq and how long it will be before the public realizes just how dumb our smart weapons are.


John Cortum writes from Mediapolis, Iowa:

Americans should remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but not for the reasons given by this article. Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended a criminal Japanese military dictatorship that committed unspeakable atrocities throughout its occupied territories. Let America remember that America brought about the end of the Pacific war. Let America never forget that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were horrible events.

Also let American remember that the use of atomic weapons in 1945 shouldn't be used to justify large arsenals of nuclear weapons today - the end of WWII and today's world situation are not related. The U.S.'s nuclear arsenal neither prevents nor causes our enemies to pursue nuclear weaponry. Instead, U.S. conventional military strength drives our enemies to pursue nuclear weapons and mass-murder terrorist strategies because those are strategies that the U.S. has not shown the ability to defend itself against.


Steve Jacobsen writes from Elmira, New York:

To propose a nuclear "lockdown" when the keepers of the keys would include the United States would accomplish little. Please reread the quote with which you started the piece on these weapons and ask yourselves if the United States should ever again be trusted with such weapons. Today's "terrorists" are rather poor copies of the terrorists who used these things 60 years ago. Let's stop fooling ourselves about our own self-righteousness on the subject of mass killing.


Charles E. Vernoff, PhD, writes from Cornell College, Iowa:

You have made the clearest statement I've seen of what the Democratic Party needs to hear in order to recover America. I urge you to make common cause with others who can recognize the truth and wisdom of your message and seek the same goals (i.e., progressive Jewish, secular, even Muslim organizations and religious movements).

We are fighting for American survival against a vicious cabal that makes the robber barons look like ladies at a tea party. Ordinary Red Staters must be convinced to look for a moment at their aged relatives, the underprivileged and endangered, the environment around them and their bank accounts and diminishing relative net worth. God bless your work and expand it.


Rev. James F Morton III writes from Bridgeport, Connecticut:

I am a life-long Democrat, and the message is we need to stand for something! What masquerades as a Democratic stance or message is nothing more than sham. It really says nothing. People have no idea what Democrats stand for. If the Democrats want to defend Social Security then they need to address a viable alternative to the present system, as Social Security is doomed to extinction like the dodo bird in its present state. The Democratic Party needs to be authentic. It needs to be clear about who it is and why. The Republicans are clear about what they stand for and why. I may not agree with what they stand for but at least I know what they stand for.


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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