The Common Good

A Victory to Build On

Sojomail - October 19, 2005

Quote of the Week : Effective are the peacemakers
Hearts & Minds : Jim Wallis: A victory to build on
Faith in Action : Higher expectations for Wal-Mart
On the Ground : Katrina diaries
Faith and Politics : God's Politics picked for One America book club
Soul Works : Holy cow
Building a Movement : Make art not war
SojoPoll : Miers poll results
Boomerang : Readers write
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Work Will Never Be the Same

"The most important questions in business are often never asked: What is our motive? What is our purpose? Are they worthwhile? Motive and purpose guide behavior, color decisions, and add or subtract joy from work."

- Dennis Bakke

Visit to learn more about the Joy at Work Bible Study based on The New York Times best-seller, Joy at Work. Purchase your copy online at


"We knew the number of wars was coming down...but particularly surprising is how the decline in wars is reflected right across the board in all forms of political conflict and violence."

- Andrew Mack, head of the Human Security Center at the University of British Columbia, which released a report declaring that wars and violence are decreasing worldwide. The report credits greatly increased efforts in conflict prevention and peacebuilding through United Nations missions and government-based "contact groups."

Source: The Christian Science Monitor


A victory to build on
by Jim Wallis

Finally, a victory. This week, Congress reconvened after its Columbus Day recess, with the budget reconciliation bill the first item of business - the complicated process of deciding on tax and budget cuts. On Tuesday, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) introduced his "chairman's mark" of proposed budget cuts. To the surprise of many, the expected $574 million cut in the Food Stamp Program was not included - no cuts in food stamps! News reports indicate that objections from several committee Republicans, including Rick Santorum (Pa.), Jim Talent (Mo.), and Norm Coleman (Minn.), along with Democrats, prompted the change. All of these senators are from states where faith-based organizations and leaders were actively pressing their elected representatives not to cut crucial service programs for the poor, including many Sojourners and Call to Renewal partners and allies who contacted their senators during the recess. As always, there were other factors, too, such as county commissioners and clergy in Georgia who told Sen. Chambliss their people couldn't survive without food stamps. Our religious voices were heard.

Your e-mails to your senators and representatives, calls to congressional offices, and letters to local newspapers have raised a moral and faith-based voice to protect the most vulnerable in society. And we have had an impact. It's a small victory but a real one - a first step toward working to ensure that the elderly, the disabled, working families, and others in need do not bear the cost of disaster relief and tax cuts. But it is a victory we must now protect and build on.

The House of Representatives is still planning to act, beginning Thursday, on increasing budget cuts from $35 to $50 billion - and programs such as Medicaid, which provide health care to working families, are still on the chopping block. And the proposed $70 billion tax cut package for wealthy investors is still pending. So, we must keep the pressure on.

Though the Food Stamp Program will likely be sustained in the Senate, Medicaid and other needed services for low-income people are still at risk. And in the House, Republicans are still talking about cutting as much as $1 billion from the Food Stamp Program. As the congressional debate continues this week, please ask your members of Congress to uphold full funding for food stamps and other vital programs for the common good.

As I travel the country, diverse audiences of people across the religious and political spectrum agree with the following statement: A time of war, record deficits, rising poverty, and natural disaster is no time to cut taxes mostly for the rich and cut vital services to the poor. The poorest among us must not be asked to bear the cost of fiscal responsibility, deficit reduction, and disaster relief. We must clearly tell our senators and representatives that cuts to social services for poor families are not the way to pay for hurricane relief. We must not help some suffering people by making others suffer more.

When I tell people around the country what congressional leaders in Washington are planning to do with tax cuts for the rich and budget cuts for the poor, they are stunned and outraged. "Have they no shame?" is a frequent response. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and all that has been revealed about poverty in America, how can we balance the budget on the backs of our poorest and most vulnerable citizens?

It is time to draw a line in the sand against further tax cuts for the wealthiest and more program cuts for the poorest. Budgets are indeed moral documents. From a biblical point of view, the current congressional priorities are simply wrong and should be changed. It's time for the churches and faith-based organizations working with the poor to tell their elected officials to get their priorities right.

Will other political leaders offer the moral leadership shown by Sen. Chambliss and others? Will those who call themselves Christians or people of faith in Congress pay attention to what their faith tells them about our obligations to the most vulnerable? Perhaps it's time for the members of Congress who like to talk about their Christian faith to dust off their Bibles and take a fresh look at what Jesus said about the poor. Some good Bible studies in the House of Representatives about God's commands for social justice might be just what the political process needs right now.

A moral battle for the budget is now unfolding in Congress and our national integrity is at stake. Politicians regularly pat faith communities on the back for serving the poor. It's now time for those people of faith to turn around and tell their political leaders to change their priorities and their policies that hurt the poor. Our voice is just what an administration that prides itself on faith needs to hear.

The victory on food stamps this week could be a turning point in national priorities, but it is only a first step. Let us pray and work to make it so. We will need continued vigilance as the budget process continues, and we will continue reporting developments in SojoMail, alerting you when to contact your members of Congress at critical points.

Your voice is still needed - take action today!

Georgia residents, it's very important to thank Sen. Chambliss for making the right choice:

+ Click here to send him an e-mail

Everyone else, keep the pressure on Congress for a moral budget! You can help us to build on this victory, and tell Congress how you feel about America's priorities:

+ Click here to take action

Hot off the presses:

Backlash may save food stamps funds: Faith-based groups sway Chambliss
Atlanta Journal-Constitution 10/19/2005

WASHINGTON - Under pressure from religious service groups, Senate Agricultural Committee Chairman Saxby Chambliss of Georgia reversed course Tuesday and announced he won't seek a $574 million cut that the White House wants in the federal food stamps program.

"We listened and we reacted," said Chambliss....

Social service groups were enthusiastic over what they called the first victory in a long war over federal budget cuts.

"This is a turning point on the whole debate over national priorities," said Jim Wallis, president of the faith-based anti-poverty group Call to Renewal.

+ Read the full article

Tell a friend about SojoMail


Smile, laugh, and cry with Ode

As you read Ode, you'll realize it's an international magazine unlike any other. Ode reports on spirituality, sustainability, natural health, inspiring people and ideas, and so much more. A successful Euro-American magazine since 1995, Ode has been making lots of waves in the U.S. and elsewhere recently. Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, calls Ode "essential reading," and Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, calls Ode a "way of life."

Get an introductory subscription to Ode of six issues for only $10! Smile, laugh, and cry with Ode. Order Ode now online.


Higher expectations for Wal-Mart

Sojourners is part of a national alliance supporting Robert Greenwald's upcoming documentary, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. This national movement is working to make the retailing giant a better employer, neighbor, and global citizen. During the week of Nov. 13 to 20, more than 220 organizations will participate in the "Higher Expectations Week," with events highlighting topics such as affordable health care, corporate responsibility, and economic justice in churches and neighborhoods across the country.

+ Learn more at

The film is a poignant, visual example of the effects Wal-Mart has on our country, our families, our economy, and our future: It needs to be seen. This film will educate, inspire, and motivate viewers. With your help, it will be an important part of the campaign to make Wal-Mart a better company. But film alone cannot create change. We need you. Here's how you can help:

+ Sign up today to host a screening

+ Pre-order the DVD

+ RSVP to attend a screening in your neighborhood

YOU'RE INVITED: Politics and Spirituality - Seeking a Public Integrity

Jim Wallis, Anne Lamott, and Richard Rohr
Jan. 14 to 16, 2006 - Washington, D.C.

Three eminent speakers - Jim Wallis, Anne Lamott, and Richard Rohr - will be together for the first time at the Hyatt Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Jan. 14 to 16. Register by Nov. 1, 2005, for the early rate of $195. One-day passes are available, as well as special discounts for international participants. To register, call (505) 242-9588 or e-mail: For the complete conference schedule, visit Sponsored by Sojourners and the Center for Action and Contemplation.


Katrina diaries
by Rev. David E. Ensign

If Frederick Buechner is right - if call emerges at the intersection of deep joy and deep need - then I am less called than confused. Why am I heading to the Gulf Coast to join a group of volunteers from National Capital Presbytery? The pictures from Katrina's wake are compelling, to be sure. I am a pastor, and pastors are supposed to serve, right?...

We are in an area spared the worst of the storm, and still the devastation along the shore is indescribable. Tornados reduce homes to matchsticks; hurricanes do the same thing and then sweep the matchsticks out to sea.

Such storms strike with a great egalitarian fury, sweeping away mansions and shacks alike. Along the beach road in Pascagoula we passed what, we were told, was the home of the wealthiest man in Mississippi. It is now a see-through - or, perhaps, sea-through - structure.

+ Read the full eight-day journal


Some places are too sacred to sacrifice to oil drilling.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of them. This place remains as wild as when it was first created. It is home to millions of birds, thousands of caribou, grizzlies, wolves, and more. This is the last place on earth for oil development. As you read this, the oil industry's allies in Congress are very close to passing a budget bill that would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.

Please help The Wilderness Society keep the Arctic Refuge wild by sending a message to Congress today.


God's Politics picked for One America book club

Readers of John and Elizabeth Edwards' One America blog have chosen Jim Wallis' best-selling God's Politics as the subject of their October-November book forum. As Elizabeth writes, "We're eager to see what you think about this one. Our community is lively and diverse; the conversation we strike up is sure to be informative and thought-provoking. John and I are very much looking forward to it!"

+ Learn more and join the conversation


Go With Peace
By Kelly Guinan

"Go With Peace should be in every home, every school, every community center, every place of worship! This extraordinary book shows how the capacity for peace develops from infancy to old age in every kind of setting, from solitude to international gatherings, and gives delightfully concrete examples of ways to exercise the skills of peace in each setting, including some very unlikely ones. Deeply spiritual yet full of fun (and intellectually challenging), this book can lift frustrated peacemakers out of the gloom of difficult times, and release the dynamics of hope in each of us."

- Elise Boulding, Ph.D., author, scholar, and activist; founding member of several international peace education and research organizations; Nobel Peace Prize nominee.

A wonderful new book! More than 170 pages of hands-on peacemaking skills. Essential for anyone longing for peace, justice, hope, and a new way of being. Proceeds support a nonprofit peace education organization Order now for limited time offer discount.


Holy cow

"Some people want to see God with their eyes as they see a cow and to love him as they love their cow - they love their cow for the milk and cheese and profit it makes them. This is how it is with people who love God for the sake of outward wealth or inward comfort. They do not rightly love God when they love him for their own advantage. Indeed, I tell you the truth, any object you have on your mind, however good, will be a barrier between you and the inmost truth."

- Meister Eckhart

Source: Daily Dig



Visitation, meetings, emergency calls, walk-ins, sermon preparation, administration - little is left for family or self. Visit the Davidson Clergy Center to renew your ministry, outlook, health, and spiritual life in a unique Five-Day Renewal Program. Experienced, licensed counselors will help you assess your ministry and give specific tools to develop a five-year plan. Personal training will jump-start a physical regimen, and a board-certified physician provides a comprehensive physical. Located in the historic college town of Davidson, North Carolina, in the Charlotte metro area. For information contact; (800) 223-7258.


Make art not war

The Nonviolent Peaceforce announces a campaign with lasting effects on making our world more peaceful. The first annual Peace Bond Design Competition, open to adults and students K-12 worldwide, seeks original artwork, ideas, and designs that promote and advocate for peace. Selected artwork will be featured on the new 2006 Series A Peace Bonds and the designers will receive international recognition and a trip for an award presentation and exhibition. You can help further the mission of Nonviolent Peaceforce by participating in this unique competition.

+ Learn more about the contest

+ Learn more about the Nonviolent Peaceforce in Sojourners magazine


Nourish Your Desire For God

Steeped in the Christian contemplative tradition, Shalem Institute offers long-distance learning and experiential support for your God-guided personal life and ministry with others.

  • Spiritual Guidance Program - nurturing spiritual companions
  • Personal Spiritual Deepening Program - encouraging prayerful, loving living
  • Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats Program - strengthening leaders in churches and other settings
  • Clergy Spiritual Life and Leadership Program - deepening the spiritual heart of parish clergy
    Shalem Institute, 5430 Grosvenor Lane, Bethesda, Maryland, 20814; Phone (301) 897-7334; Fax (301) 897-3719;

  • SOJOPOLL ^top

    Miers poll results

    Harriet Miers, her qualifications, and her faith continue to be a major news topic as her confirmation hearings approach. Though a simple poll is never a substitute for the rigorous and nuanced political discourse we expect our readers are having, here are the results from last week's SojoMail poll when we asked, "Do you think Harriet Miers' faith makes a difference regarding her fitness to be a Supreme Court justice?"

    65% Her faith is irrelevant - she should be judged solely on legal criteria.
    28% Yes, it matters - it makes her a worse choice.
    7% Yes, it matters - it makes her a better choice.


    Columbia Road Health Services seeks an administrative director. Responsibilities: managing operations of Christian medical group, administrative, HR, maintenance, development, technology. Intimately involved in providing services to uninsured population of Washington, D.C. Spanish skills preferred. Info:

    Religious Left Gifts at It is not too early to start your Christmas shopping - our store has a great selection of Religious Left merchandise with buttons, shirts, mugs, tote bags, and bumper stickers. This week's featured item: "Peace" in Arabic, English, and Hebrew.

    Engage your congregation in the pursuit of social, political, and economic justice, along with community faith-building, through congregation-based organizing. Christians Supporting Community Organizing.

    "The Global Impact of Our Living Simply" - May 13 to 15, 2006. A weekend retreat with Sr. José Hobday. Ministry of Money - money and faith retreats, pilgrimages to the Third World, and online resources.

    The Children's Defense Fund seeks Director of Religious Affairs (DRA) candidates. The DRA assists in developing and sustaining child advocacy efforts and develops spiritual renewal and networking opportunities. M. Div or equivalent and five years experience in religious organizing preferred. Send resumes to: EOE

    BOOMERANG ^top

    Readers write

    Kris Kemp writes from Old Town, Florida:

    This is a letter in response to David Batstone's commentary about Tom DeLay and Karl Rove and Christians ignoring their possible indictments and criminal behavior ["Frist, Rove, DeLay: Who's looking the other way?" SojoMail 10/13/2005]. I am a conservative Christian and I am angered by the blind allegiance of Christians who support DeLay and Rove. I'm so upset that I don't even attend church anymore, at least not on a regular basis. Christians seem to take out their brains when it comes to politics - supporting leaders who say they are Christian when their behavior proves otherwise. When will the Christian community wake up? Is Bush really pro-life? Not if you're an American soldier, Iraqi soldier, or Iraqi civilian. Christians look so ignorant to the rest of the world when they blindly support money-hungry liars such as DeLay, Rove, Cheney, Bush, and Rumsfeld. Wake up, people.


    M.D. Stephens writes from San Antonio, Texas:

    We seem to have forgotten that Rove sold his Enron holdings shortly after "Kenny Boy" Lay visited the White House. When questioned, the answer was that he was "divesting" himself. The time to divest would have been in December, before assuming power, not in June after private conversations revealed that the Enron bubble was about to burst. Of course, there was no investigation.

    There was no serious investigation of the same type of financial insider dealing when George W. Bush sold his "gift stock" from Harken Energy, just before it tanked.


    Ross Mitchell writes from Montgomery Village, Maryland:

    Your poll of SojoMail readers regarding Harriet Miers' faith didn't have the choice I would have preferred to mark ["Harriet Miers' faith - what do you think?" SojoMail 10/13/2005]. I wanted to indicate that having faith matters, because it gives a person a moral compass to guide judgment when the law offers no direction, but that the constitution is ordained by "We, the People" in the preamble, which means that it is a secular document - or at least completely nonsectarian - intended to serve secular and not specifically religious purposes.


    Ron Partridge writes from Sittingbourne, United Kingdom:

    What Christian would not share Dan Troxell's concern for the salvation of others [Boomerang, SojoMail 10/13/2005]? Rich and poor alike are in need of it. But as for the priorities of Jesus, he taught that the greatest danger facing the rich was indifference to the poor, the greatest danger facing the powerful was neglect of the weak, and the greatest danger facing the righteous was contempt for the unrighteous. The parables of the rich man and Lazarus and the sheep and the goats make that painfully clear. And James in his letter subjects us to a torrent of eloquent commands to prove that our faith is real through what we do for those in need. Do you preach salvation before or after you meet desperate need? To which of the sick, blind, lame, or bereaved did Jesus first insist that they became followers? They came to him trusting only that here was someone who could help. We imitate Jesus in showing first that we are Christlike, and bring his love to those in need. Then our preaching of salvation will have the ring of truth and reality to it, because people will have seen Jesus is real in us.


    Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of views that do not necessarily represent those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice heard? Because of the volume of letters we receive, concise responses that include a name, hometown, and state/province/country are the most likely to be published. We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity. E-mail:

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