The Common Good

Prayer and Action for Hurricane Victims

Sojomail - August 31, 2005

Quote of the Week : Missing in action
Hearts & Minds : Jim Wallis: Prayer and action for hurricane victims
Building a Movement : Help us put global poverty back on World Summit agenda
Politically Connect : Robertson's comments merely echo administration
Colombia Journal : 'Do not be surprised by your suffering'
Warning: Satire : Worshipers for hire boost Sunday excitement
Boomerang : Readers write
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"Missing the personnel is the big thing in this particular event. We need our people."

- Lt. Andy Thaggard, a spokesman for the Mississippi National Guard, commenting on how having so many troops in Iraq is hampering relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Source: The Washington Post


Prayer and action for hurricane victims
by Jim Wallis

During hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters, those who have the least to lose are often those who lose the most. Why?

First, the dwellings in which poor people live are not as sturdy, stable, or safe as others. "Shotgun" shacks, mobile homes, and poorly constructed apartment buildings don't do well in hurricane-force winds and tidal surges.

Second, the places where poor people live are also the most vulnerable. The rich often live at the tops of hills, the poor in the valleys and plains that are the first to flood. The living conditions in these neighborhoods are also usually the most dense and overcrowded.

Third, it is much harder for the poor to evacuate. They don't own cars, can't afford to rent them, and often can't even afford a tank of gas - especially at today's prices. They can't afford an airplane, train, or even bus ticket. And, as one low-income person told a New Orleans reporter, they have no place to go. People in poverty can't afford motel or hotel rooms, and often don't have friends or family in other places with space to spare. In New Orleans, there were many people who desperately wanted to leave but couldn't.

Fourth, low-income people are the least likely to have insurance on their homes and belongings, and the least likely to have health insurance. If jobs are lost because of natural disasters, theirs are the first to go. Poverty makes long-term recovery after a disaster more difficult - the communities that are the weakest to begin with usually recover the slowest. The lack of a living family income for most people in those communities leaves no reserve for emergencies.

New Orleans has a poverty rate of 28% - more than twice the national rate. Life is always hard for poor people - living on the edge is insecure and full of risk. Natural disasters make it worse. Yet even in normal times, poverty is hidden and not reported by the media. In times of disaster, there continues to be little coverage of the excessive impact on the poor. Devastated luxury homes and hotels, drifting yachts and battered casinos make far more compelling photographs.

The final irony of New Orleans is that the people who normally fill the Louisiana Superdome are those who can afford the high cost of tickets, parking, and concessions. Now its inhabitants are the poor, especially children, the elderly and the sick - those with nowhere else to go. Those with money are nowhere to be seen.

As the Gulf Coast now faces the long and difficult task of recovery, what can we do?

Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco declared Wednesday a day of prayer: "As we face the devastation wrought by Katrina, as we search for those in need, as we comfort those in pain and as we begin the long task of rebuilding, we turn to God for strength, hope and comfort." She urged residents in her state to ask "that God give us all the physical and spiritual strength to work through this crisis and rebuild."

+ Click here to send this message to friends and family and encourage them to support the victims of Hurricane Katrina with their prayers and donations

If you wish to make a contribution to help with disaster relief, contact one of the following agencies recommended by FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) or the relief organization of your choice.

+ Click here to volunteer or donate

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Help us put global poverty back on World Summit agenda

the 30,000 CAMPAIGNLast week the Bush Administration derailed efforts to address global poverty at the upcoming United Nations World Summit in New York City Sept. 14-16. U.S. ambassador to the UN John Bolton called for drastic changes to the summit's draft agreement. His more than 750 amendments significantly reduce the focus on global poverty and delete every single reference to the Millennium Development Goals (which, among other things, provide a blueprint to cut extreme global poverty in half by 2015). + Read more

With only two weeks to go before the Summit, we must put the moral and biblical imperative to address poverty squarely back on the agenda. By joining the 30,000 Campaign we can use our prayer, our sacrifice and our voice to advocate with our brothers and sisters living in poverty around the world. We need your help to send a clear and decisive message to our government and world leaders that now is the time to use our power and resources to fight extreme poverty. Please share this e-mail with as many friends, church members, and co-workers as possible.

Action 1: Educate your congregation! There are many opportunities to educate your faith community about the World Summit and the opportunities we have as people of faith to speak truth to power.

+ Click here for an anti-poverty worship resource kit to include in your upcoming worship services
+ Click here for a children's letter writing kit for religious education classes, Sunday Schools, and parents

Action 2: Tell President Bush you will pray and fast during the World Summit! We are calling on 30,000 people to declare to President Bush their intention to fast and pray for bold U.S. leadership. So far, nearly 5,000 people have joined us. A fast can be as simple as sacrificing one meal during the course of the Summit. (Click here to learn more about ways you can fast.)

+ Click here to sign the pledge.

Action 3: Distribute the Flyer! Click here to download a "3 days of Prayer and Fasting" flyer that describes details of events that Sojourners, Bread for the World, Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation, and others are planning during the World Summit from September 14-16. Print it out and distribute it this week and next week in your church or faith community. A large turnout at these events will demonstrate the political will to overcome poverty, and will send a message to the Bush Administration that we will not tolerate them sweeping poverty under the rug.

+ Click here to download the flyer


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Robertson's comments merely echo administration
by Mark Klempner

Like many people, I was outraged by Pat Robertson's comments last week calling for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez by the United States. "We have the ability to take him out," said Robertson, "and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another 200 billion-dollar war to get rid of one strong-arm dictator."

Yet my outrage at Robertson was tempered by a curious sense of déjà vu. Even as I read his "clarification" the next day in which he argued that "taking out" could mean many things, I was sure I'd heard all this before. An Arnold movie? No, Ari Fleischer, the former press secretary for President Bush.

In October 2002, as the Bush administration was beating the drum for war in Iraq, Mr. Fleischer was asked about a Congressional Budget Office estimate that a war to topple Saddam Hussein might cost as much as $9 billion a month. Fleischer replied, "The cost of one bullet, if the Iraqi people take it on themselves, is substantially less than going to war." When such blunt talk of assassination prompted criticism, he clarified his position by stating, "Regime change is welcome in whatever form that it takes."

+ Read the full article


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'Do not be surprised by your suffering'
by Irene Erin Kindy, Christian Peacemaker Teams

A couple months ago I heard the story of a Colombian pastor who, because of his church role and his work with marginalized youth, was threatened, beaten and had to move his whole family to a safer place. They felt alone and are still fearful. Maybe a Christian response to their suffering would come if we consider the meaning of suffering through the eyes of faith.

In the story of Jesus walking on water the disciples are fearful and shout, "It is a ghost!" when they see Jesus in an unexpected way. I think often we have a similar reaction toward suffering in our Christian walk. We do not prepare ourselves for that face of the journey. But why don't we? Why do we allow ourselves to spiritualize that reality and then act surprised or scared when we are confronted by actual suffering? In a familiar passage (John 15:12) Jesus says, "Love one another as I have loved you," but his message doesn't end there. It continues, "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." Jesus is saying that we are to love in that costly way: "Take up your cross and follow me."

At the Mennonite World Conference in 1984 Ron Sider called Anabaptists to be ready to put their lives on the line for peace just as soldiers risked their lives for war. Christian Peacemaker Teams was born out of this challenge. Soldiers, whether or not they talk about it, know that when they go to war they are risking their lives and will experience suffering. Should not the same be true for those of us who say we are "getting in the way" of violence?

+ Read the full story

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SATIRE: Worshipers for hire boost Sunday excitement

At 10 a.m. Kendall, dressed in ironed Dockers and a Polo shirt, sings with gusto in the third row at Neighborhood Christian Center. "Praise God!" he shouts, lifting his hands and prompting others to chime in with "amen" and "glory."

His infectious enthusiasm is just what the pastor ordered. Kendall isn't a Christian, but he and hundreds of other people across the U.S. are getting paid as much as $12 an hour by temp placement agencies to pretend to be exuberant worshipers.

"Praise decoy work is great," says one worshiper for hire who has lent his skills to more than 50 church services. He doesn't mind sitting through services, and considers the praise movements "good stretching exercise, like Tai Chi."

In the past five years, the worshiper-for-hire industry has flourished as pastors try to goose the energy level in dwindling churches. Temp agencies train decoys to clap, laugh, and make affirmative noises during the sermon.

+ Read the full satire



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Readers write

Charlie Bright writes from Arlington, Virginia:

I thank Jim Wallis so much for his article, "Pat Robertson: An Embarrassment to the Church" [SojoMail 8/25/2005]. It strikes me as ironic that Pat Robertson is a man who cries out for the "life" of every unborn child and embryo but has no problem advocating the taking of a human life who happens to be a democratically elected leader.

One of - if not the - primary reason I was turned off of Christianity for so many years was because of the thunderous voices of people like Robertson, Falwell, Dobson, and Randall Terry. But when I saw Jim Wallis on "Meet The Press" shortly after the 2004 election, I saw that Christianity is as diverse as the world itself and that people like Falwell, Robertson, etc., don't speak for the majority of Christians. Now, more than ever, is the time when loose cannons like Robertson must step down and people like those in Sojourners step up as the leading voice in Christian culture.


Alisan Kacoroski writes from Granite Falls, Washington:

Like so many other Christians, I went to bed the night of Robertson's gaffe growling, grumbling and breathing fire. But I woke the next morning thinking, "Wow, what an opportunity he has given us to tell the world what Jesus really taught!" Every time Pat Robertson succumbs to his foot-in-mouth disease, I have the chance to tell anyone who will listen about John 11:50, and that Jesus taught that his Father "sends rain [good] on the just and unjust alike"; also God's assertion: "Vengeance is mine!" - not Robertson's, not George W. Bush's, not yours, not mine.


Chuck Krueger writes from Richmond, Virginia:

I am grieved to see your article about Pat Robertson being an embarrassment to the church. We are to love one another and rebuke individually per Jesus but we've politicized and become so denominational in America. I see wonderful things Jim Wallis and Sojourners are doing but I also see wonderful things Pat Robertson and CBN, Operation Blessing, etc. are doing. I don't agree with everything Pat does but then again I don't agree with everything I do either. None of us are perfect and we all sin (isn't that why Jesus came?) but it's our unity as a the church that's more paramount. Can we love and forgive one another or do we resort to seeing the speck in our brother's eye without seeing the plank in ours?


Morris Priddy writes from Houston, Texas:

Before you begin extolling the virtues of Hugo Chavez you may want to take note of the following quotes from CNN: "Chavez called the United States the 'most savage, cruel and murderous empire that has existed in the history of the world.' The Venezuelan leader said 'socialism is the only path,' and told the students the collective goal is to 'save a world threatened by the voracity of U.S. imperialism.'"

I fear Sojourners may agree with his assessment of the U.S. and the role of socialism in the world. The [CNN] article also notes that Chavez closest ties are with communist Cuba. Chavez is also boasting of a close relationship with Iran and their newly elected dictator. Interesting choice of friends wouldn't you say? Well, I guess we can't complain after all, just like Hitler, he was democratically elected (after attempts in the 1990s at a military coup failed).


Christopher T. Oakes writes from Greeneville, Tennessee:

In his article, Ingham touts Bhutan's commitment to measuring success in the level of happiness based on four pillars ["Gross National Happiness," SojoMail 8/25/2005]. Perhaps it escapes the author's awareness, but over the last five years, Bhutan's commitment to happiness has included increased persecution of religions other than Buddhism and Hinduism. Of course, this primarily affects Christians, since the laws of Bhutan govern against proselytizing. I'm not sure how to take an article touting the success of Bhutan without as much as referencing the sometimes violent and coercive measures taken by the government to stomp out Christian believers. Is persecution also a pillar of happiness? If Jim Wallis finds it important to speak out against the ravings of Pat Robertson, shouldn't we at least note that Bhutan is getting something very important wrong in its pursuit of gross national happiness?


Michaela Bruzzese writes from Santiago, Chile:

Thank you for Jim Forest's tribute to Brother Roger of Taizé. While his death is a great loss to the Christian community worldwide, the works of his life will continue, joyfully, through Taizé and its ministries. Brother Roger embodied a tremendous, and rare, example of leadership. For while he founded and led Taizé, he did not make it dependent on his persona or presence. Though he has returned home, the community will continue to serve and inspire young people and Christians of all ages without him. Because of his example, I am confident, and thankful, that my daughters will one day know the joy of the Taizé community as I and my husband did fifteen years ago. Brother Roger's leadership is an important legacy for all of us who seek to build community and to maintain its focus on serving Christ, rather than our own egos or needs.

[Ed. note: Through the miracle of modern technology, Brother Roger's funeral is accessible through the internet. Hear the stunning chants and music. See the blessing of the children. Read the eulogy. And experience the hints of resurrection occurring in this community of great faith. + Click here]


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.


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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