The Common Good


Sojomail - February 18, 2000

              ****S O J O   M A I L****

      Promoting values at the crossroads where
      spirituality, politics, and culture meet

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++++++++++++++++++++  18-Feb-2000 ++++++++++++++++++++

Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k
     *William Stringfellow: Don't show me the money

H e a r t s  &  M i n d s
     *Jim Wallis visits a cardboard church

C u l t u r e  W a t c h
     *Two celebrities make uncommon news

P. O. V.
     *Religion in the presidential campaign

T e r r a s c o p e
     *The Price of Wisdom

B o o m e r a n g
     *The Hunger Site: Inefficient charity?

O n  the  W i r e
     *SojoNet in the national media

T h e  L a u g h i n g  S a l m o n  D i g e s t
     *Ordinary folks on a hunger fast

W e b  S c e n e
     *No, we are *not* the world...a news service to prove it

C o m i n g s  &  G o i n g s
     *Leader of Australian community movement dies

R o a d  S h o w s
     *We're coming to a city near you


Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k

"The idolatry of money means that the moral worth of a
person is judged in terms of the amount of money possessed
or controlled....Where money is an idol, to be poor is a sin."

                                     --William Stringfellow


H e a r t s  &  M i n d s

Matthew's Homeless Church
By Jim Wallis

When 14 inches of snow falls on Washington, D.C., we
have a big problem. It seems that the only thing that
can shut down the government (other than Newt
Gingrich's posturing a few years ago) is
Mother Natureís winter storms.

Trudging to work the day of the second snow, I ran
into a guy who looked like he was probably homeless.
I asked him if he was okay, and he said he was. The
shelters were still open, and he looked like he could
get there if he chose. But it got me thinking about
another homeless young man I met in my course last
fall at Harvard's Kennedy School, of all places.

I had spoken at a conference on homelessness at the
Massachusetts State House, and Matthew was there.
In the small discussion groups, he met some of my
students who were speaking about our class. It sounded
interesting to him, so Matthew started coming. Every
week he would show up on time and quietly sit at the
back, paying close attention. One night, I invited him
to join several students and me for dinner afterwards.
In conversation around the table, he began to open up
to us about how a workplace conflict had left him
without a job and eventually homeless.

We all noticed that Matthew always carried around a large
cardboard box, which he would carefully set down next to
him. Exactly what was in that box? After the last night
of class, Matthew came with several of us to a Call to
Renewal organizing meeting at the Divinity School. Afterwards,
as we were in the refectory for refreshments, I looked
over and saw that Matthew had opened his box and placed
the contents on one of the tables. People gathered round
to view a beautifully crafted model of a church made from
white cardboard. All along the outer walls of the steepled
church were the words of the prophets and the sayings of
Jesus, beautifully written in Matthew's own hand--almost
like calligraphy. Over the front door, Christ's words
appeared, "Come to me, all you who are heavy laden, and
I will give you rest." Right beneath the words was a door,
closed shut with a little padlock. The message was clear.

Matthew told me how he made his church and protected it
from the elements. He smiled and said, "Sometimes, people
like the church so much they offer to keep it in their
apartment for me, so it doesn't get damaged." With a
twinkle in his eye, he added, "But they don't make
the same offer to me. Only to my church."


Faith Works: Lessons from the Life of an Activist Preacher,
a new book by Jim Wallis, will be published in March by
Random House.

You can preorder your copy of Faith Works from your favorite
local or online bookseller, including Sojourners Resource
Center ( or 1-800-714-7474).

Here's what South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu
has to say about Faith Works:

"What a riveting account of several anecdotes, compelling,
provocative and inspirational of the kind of faith that
can move mountains, that can certainly move people and
communities. Just the recipe we need as we begin a new
year and a new millennium."


C u l t u r e  W a t c h

Two recent stories in the media that caught our eye this week:

"Can Bono Save the Third World?" by John Leland, Newsweek

As the singer in the Irish rock band U2, the man who calls
himself Bono has played some tough rooms. But Orrin
Hatch's office in the U.S. Senate provided a different kind of
challenge. Bono, whose real name is Paul Hewson, had come
to Washington last November on a particularly low-glamour
errand: to lobby key policymakers, mostly Republicans, to
forgive nearly $6 billion in Third World debt.

See the full story at:


"Jane Fonda becomes a born-again Christian," by
Robert Stacy McCain, The Washington Times

Jane Fonda has now become a born-again Christian and
is attending a predominantly black church in Atlanta.
A SojoMail reader saw her on a morning news show this
week talking about how most unwed pregnancies come
from lower-income families and suggests abstinence
education is the answer.

See more on the story:


P. O. V.

Our Lady of the 501(c)3
E.J. Dionne talks about God,
Politics, and the American Experiment

...[B]oth George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton
are good Methodists in terms of being true to the tradition.
But they're true to very different traditions within Methodism.
Bush's emphasis is on personal responsibility and personal
conversion, the part of Methodism that tries to get people
off liquor and to lead more responsible lives. Hillary Clinton
speaks from another very vibrant tradition within Methodism,
the social tradition. Personal improvement should be linked
to social transformation that makes it easier for people to
live decent, God-fearing lives. It would be fascinating to see
a debate between Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush on
how they interpret their Methodist traditions, because
I think they would have a lot in common on the one side,
and some differences.

[Al] Gore went to divinity school, shortly after college. He's a
Southern Baptist; it's not just a campaign thing that he's
suddenly talking about this. He's talked about it at various
points. Earth in the Balance has a spiritual dimension in it.
He seems to combine a small touch of social gospel into a
rather straightforward Southern Baptist commitment.

[John] McCain and [Bill] Bradley have been very reticent
to talk about their faith publicly. Bradley has made a very
principled point of saying "I don't think this is what I should
do in this campaign." A lot of people, including religious
people, respect him for that. On the other hand, his critics
say he is denying a part of himself. I don't think that's fair.
In fact, he's written about the role of his faith. His position
is that if people want to know about this, he's not hiding it.
I think he's going to end up, in this year when everyone will
be talking so much about religion, challenged on this
front--in some ways unfairly, because if you look at our
recent traditions, his stance, and for the most part McCain's
stance, is in keeping with what candidates usually do about
religion: go to church, talk about it occasionally, but not
make it as explicit as the other candidates have.

See E.J.'s entire conversation with Jim Wallis at:




T e r r a s c o p e

Dateline: February 18, 2042
           2042.1.21  ShengXiao: Year of the Dog
           San Francisco
           Republic of the Americas
by Sam Mendoza
Hong Kong Media Network

Last week's column on the Malaysian trade scam
prompted many of you to inquire about the inner
workings of the Global Trade Board (GTB) and
the role that personal virtual assistants (PVAs)
play in its operation. My apologies. It's so easy
to live in your own bubble and assume that
everyone is dancing to the same tune, while in
reality, only a small slice of the globe's
population are on the dance floor.

If you hold any assets - such as a house, a
vehicle, stocks, etc. - you likely are aware
already of the option of converting them into
liquid assets, or wealth credits. Your total
wealth credit balance also takes into account
your liabilities, of course. Holders of a
wealth account therefore can pay for their
holiday to Paris by instantly drawing on wealth
credits inherent in their automobile. Think
of it as the ultimate extension of the old
home-equity line, instant credit available to
companies and individuals secured with the
value of their wealth credits.

The GTB is the principal medium through which
buyers and sellers of loans and securities make
their transactions, effectively bypassing
traditional financial middlemen (commercial and
investment banks). An entrepreneur in, say, Bangkok
posts a need for 100,000 wealth credits (one
global currency), and if the terms of the deal
(interest, stock options, period of loan) are
acceptable to me, I can directly transfer the
wealth credits from my account to Bangkok.

Now, in reality, who has the time to be monitoring
endlessly the constant flow of needs posted on the
GTB? That is where personal virtual assistants (PVAs)
come into play. PVAs have personalities (I have
named my PVA "Vanessa"), skills, and knowledge bases
derived from the reverse engineering of human
intelligence. More directly to the present
context, PVAs can be programmed to determine the
risk/reward appetite of any individual investor and
consider appropriate actions to achieve those targets.

The PVAs are created to digest large amounts of
information rapidly, far surpassing the capabilities
of the human brain. They also scan DNA fingerprinting,
secure data encryption, and hundreds of ratings reports
to instantly authenticate identity and verify the
validity of transactions.

The events in Malaysia last week are hailed by many
naysayers as evidence that PVAs are being given tasks
better subjected to human judgment. Wisdom, they argue,
cannot be programmed.

I beg to differ. It is a mistake to consider PVAs as
merely a repository for programmed data. They have been
created to learn-to-learn. If wisdom is the product of
collective experience, PVAs are the ultimate intelligence
to capture "memories" and make sense of them. The events
in Malaysia last week do not negate their wisdom, but
only will add to their education.



B o o m e r a n g

Our SojoMail readers simply don't want to drop the
debate over The Hunger Site:

Andrew Hackett from Sydney, Australia, wrote:

The claim is that a cup of food is donated for every visit.
This is funded by sponsors who pay to have their sites or
brand advertised on the site. This cup of food is actually
1.5 cents per "hit." So what you say; 1 cent is 1 cent paid
by someone else to relieve famine, isn't it?  Well, let's
put it into perspective....

[I calculate] that the cost to you of visiting The Hunger Site
every day for a year is between $40 and $200 in actual and
opportunity cost, at which stage you will have donated
$5.50 to world famine relief. This has got to be the
most inefficient charity ever to operate. If the price of
one large Big Mac meal deal is all it takes to make us in
the world's wealthiest countries feel good about ourselves,
then it is going to be a long haul for the 3rd World out of
poverty, illiteracy, endemic disease, exploitation, and famine.

Another illustration of the absurdity of the concept is that
the Sydney Morning Herald wrote a half-page article singing
the praises of The Hunger Site and how it was feeding so many
people....4,000,000 cups of food so far. Do the sums and
you will realize that that is approximately $60,000,
which is probably the value of the advertising space foregone
in that one paper alone! This would feed approximately
1,500 people for 1 year, which is not a lot in the scheme
of things.

So don't be taken in by the "feel good for no cost" concept.
Visit and become a partner in 3rd World
development, disaster and famine relief with local Christian
organizations. Think about how you use your time and money;
live and give wisely, cheerfully, and sacrificially. Be
like David: "I will not give to the Lord that which
costs me nothing" (2 Chronicles 24:24).


Sally Gillette from Los Gatos, California, wrote:

...The Hunger Site provides anyone with Web access, no
matter their age, health, or calling, with a way to provide
a bowl of food for the hungry every day. I'm sure The
Hunger Site attracts many compassionate people whose
awareness of the hunger problem is just dawning, and
many who aren't able to engage in more "politically correct"
forms of activism. By empowering these people to make a
measureable difference in the world and encouraging them
to act on a daily basis, The Hunger Site is actually creating
new activists. From there, who knows? It's the Spirit's
job. Some of these people will probably be drawn deeper
into activism, but even if they never go beyond a daily
click, they're helping others. I'm sure many of these
people wouldn't be working actively to end hunger if they
weren't clicking on The Hunger Site.

Is there really something wrong with working without
sweat for justice? Let's not be snooty.The Hunger Site
has its place and purpose, and the number of daily
clickers is growing rapidly. Wouldn't it be wonderful (and
just like the "upside down kingdom") if world hunger
were eradicated by a bunch of unzealous Web surfers
who spend very little time working for justice instead
of the pure and dedicated workers who have labored all day?


Want to raise your voice? Send Boomerang e-mails to
the editor: "" (And it doesn't
have to be about The Hunger Site!)


O n  t he  W i r e:

In case you missed SojoNet in the nation's media....

"Christians Ask Renewed Attack on Poverty," by
Gustav Niebuhr, The New York Times

"We've been laying the groundwork all across the country"
with such local efforts, Mr. Wallis said. "And now we're
building a network" to link the groups. He said he hoped that
working against poverty would emerge as a leading moral issue.

The full story is available at (search for: 
"Chrisitans, poverty"), but they charge $2.50 to view it!

"Setting a Global Trade," by Elizabeth Newberry,
found on, originally published in Sojourners

A Philadelphia restaurateur donates profits to
charity, networks with socially conscious restaurants
in other countries, and enlists her 19,000 customers
to work for social change.

See the full story at:,6378,ART16999_CHL11_CNT56,00.html


T h e  L a u g h i n g  S a l m o n  D i g e s t

Voices in the Wilderness

Members of a group called "Voices in the Wilderness"
recently fasted fasting for 28 days in Washington, D.C.,
to call for an end to economic sanctions against Iraq --
as one colleague put it, "experimenting with the Bobby
Sands Miracle Diet." These folks have all been to Iraq
and seen the dying kids.

One of them is a rancher from Minnesota who sold
half his herd to finance a month off the farm.
Another runs Voices in the Wilderness from the
apartment she shares with her elderly father.
Just folks who want something to be different.

One of them noted that giving up food for a month
wasn't nearly as hard as giving up the "habit of
eating." It's a good practice to pay attention to
what we put in our mouth, and equally important
to be mindful of what we are taking out of the
mouths of others.

                        --The Laughing Salmon


W e b  S c e n e

If you live in the USA, you can't be blamed for
wondering if the rest of the world is just a
staging ground for U.S. citizens being killed or
captured! Go beyond your usual media sources and
log onto one of the best global news services
around, OneWorld Online.

OneWorld Online is a worldwide Internet partnership
of 300 NGOs and media organizations, whose mission
is to promote sustainable development and human rights
by harnessing the democratic potential of the Net.

Go to:


C o m i n g s  &  G o i n g s

House of Freedom community elder and dancer Di
Craig died on February 15, 2000, aged 44. She had
struggled with a brain tumor for more than two years,
striving in this period to keep faith with her
sense of humor, her beloved boys (Bohdan 17 and
Oscar 14), her home at Archibald Street, and her
family and friends.

Her struggle gathered many people around her from
extended networks of the House of Freedom, the
Community Arts Group of Queensland (where she worked
for many years before her illness), and friends from
inner city Brisbane and the northern and Hunter
regions of New South Wales.

Di was a caring networker and practical peacemaker,
running workshops that combined community arts with
conscientization and promoting creativity for the
street, festivals, parks, gardens, and community
life. As a liturgical dancer (in the best sense of
the term), she is drawn dancing for all time by good
friend Teresa Jordan in the House of Freedom song book.
We will remember her.

-- House of Freedom Christian Community, West End,
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia


R o a d  S h o w s

Meet members of SojoNet personally at these upcoming
speaking engagements.

March 1, 7:30 p.m. Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia

David Batstone delivers a public lecture titled
"Citizenship in a Network Society." He will also
lead an afternoon workshop on ethics and the Net.
Contact: The Center for Ethics, Emory University
(404) 727-3064


................... E D I T O R I A L .....................
David Batstone                                T 415.422.6660
Executive Editor                          

Jim Rice                                      T 202.328.8842
Managing Editor               

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Bob Sabath                                    T 202.328.8842
Chief Technologist                 

Ryan Beiler                                   T 202.328.8842
Internet Assistant          

...................... S 0 J O N E T .....................
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2401 15th Street NW                           F 202.328.8757
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For more information, e-mail us:

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