The Common Good


Sojomail - March 25, 2000

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

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+++++++++++++++++++++++++ 24-March-2000 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k
    *The mystery of faith

H e a r t s  &  M i n d s
    *What kind of country is this?

F u n n y  B u s i n e s s
    *Is your computer possessed by evil spirits?

    *Gustavo Gutierrez recalls Oscar Romero

T h e  L a u g h i n g  S a l m o n  D i g e s t
    *March, not basketball!

F o r  M e r c y ' s  S a k e
    *Sending apple trees to North Korea

B u i l d i n g   a   N e t w o r k
    *Mobilize with Jubilee 2000

W e b  S c e n e
    *Cool's in the genes

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

"Faith is not knowledge of what the mystery
of the universe is, but the conviction that
there is a mystery, and that it is greater
than us."

             -- Rabbi David Wolpe
                Author, Making Loss Matter


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

What Kind of Country Is This?
By Jim Wallis

One-hundred-fifty religious leaders released
a letter last week on the subject of gun violence.
I joined in the press conference convened by HUD
Secretary Andrew Cuomo. Here's part of what I said:

I live at the corner of 13th and Fairmont where
we've had three shootings in the last three months.
One time I was out of town and happened to call
home just as the gunfire broke out. My wife, Joy,
and 18-month-old son, Luke, were home, and all I
could say was, "Stay below the window level."
Joy is from England where, like most developed
nations, there are very restrictive gun control
laws. "What kind of country is this?" she asked me.

A few years ago, a young man was shot dead in a
drive-by right outside the Sojourners' intern house.
The interns were the first to the body. Have you
ever been first to the body? I have, when the dead
kid was still warm. I've also stood beside grieving
mothers in front of caskets bearing their dead
children, never knowing what to say.

What kind of country is this? One so divided by
politics that we can't keep guns out of the hands
of our children and youth.

Let me make my position clear:

1. Are guns the only problem, the only reason
why kids are shooting other kids?  Of course not.

2. Isn't family breakdown and poor parenting a
big part of the problem? Of course it is.

3. Isn't the garbage and poison pumped into kids
by the media, television, movies, movie lyrics,
and hate-filled Internet Web sites another big
cause? Yes. I see a direct relationship between
media violence and street violence.

4. Isn't economics also involved--the grinding
poverty in inner-city neighborhoods and the
pressures on more affluent families that keep
both parents working more and more hours away
from their kids? I think so. People who live in
poor neighborhoods have learned that
wealth doesn't trickle down, but violence does.

5. Aren't there basic spiritual and moral issues
involved in the epidemic of gun violence--the
breakdown of common decency, respect, civility,
and compassion for other people? Without question.

But who can be so absurd and irresponsible as
to say that the availability of guns is irrelevant
to the problem of gun violence? If the NRA says
that, then they must lose this national debate.
Let's get to the roots of the violence,
and let's also do something about the guns.

After I got home Friday night, Andrew Cuomo
called to tell me that gun manufacturer Smith
& Wesson had agreed to enact new gun safety
measures. He hoped it was finally the beginning
of some change. Let it be, Lord, let it be.


You can preorder your copy of Jim Wallis' new book, Faith
Works, from the Sojourners Resource Center at 1-800-714-7474,
or go to:

F U N N Y   B U S I N E S S
U.S. preacher finds demon-possessed PCs

(Ed. note: this is not a spoof)

by Thomas C. Greene

Forget about viruses and malicious hackers;
the real threat these days is far more insidious.
Your home computer may be host to a demon, and
you and your family may well come under its
malevolent control, the Weekly World News

"While the Computer Age has ushered in many
advances, it has also opened yet another door
through which Lucifer and his minions can
enter and corrupt men's souls," the paper
quotes Rev. Jim Peasboro, author of
an upcoming book, The Devil in the Machine,
as saying....

Disk capacity is an issue, however. Only a PC
built after 1985 has the storage capacity to
house an evil spirit, the minister explained.

The Georgia clergyman says he became aware of
the problem from counseling churchgoers. "I
learned that many members of my congregation
became in touch with a dark force whenever
they used their computers," he said. "Decent,
happily married family men were drawn irresistibly
to pornographic Web sites and forced to witness
unspeakable abominations.

"Housewives who had never expressed an impure
thought were entering Internet chat rooms and found
themselves spewing foul, debasing language they
would never use normally," he declared.

See the whole article at:




Solidarity: The Victory of Life

In honor of the 20th anniversary of
Oscar Romero's assassination

By Gustavo Gutierrez

Solitary, but with solidarity, Monseñor Romero
advanced towards his death. Solitary, not
because his friends were not near or did not
express their affection and friendship,
but because in the face of death we are all,
in some way, alone. Because he was concerned
about other people, those whom he pastored,
those with whom he reflected, and many others
beyond his corral, this bond of solidarity
with them led him to walk with a sure step.
He did not seek martyrdom; martyrdom cannot
be sought, only encountered.

Nor did Jesus want to be killed, but he was
convinced that his announcement of the Kingdom,
of the universal love expressed preferentially
for the poor, challenged those who heard it,
just as the final homily of Monseñor Romero,
when he addressed each soldier and made them
see that conscience must be above any military
order, challenged those who heard it.

Monseñor Romero knew what fate awaited him,
and he was afraid, as any human being would
be. Nevertheless, he did not turn back. Instead,
he affirmed, in a phrase that we have recalled
many times since, "If they kill me, I will be
resurrected in my people."

See Gustavo Gutierrez' entire message at:

While you're at it, check out "The Reluctant
Conversion of Oscar Romero" in the 
current Sojourners, at:

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

March Madness

It's the month before "the cruelest month."
The month of the Mad Hatter and the March
hare. It's the month in which to "beware
the ides." It's got the African women martyrs--
Perpetua and Felicity, slaveowner and slave.
It's got Ireland's St. Patrick who Christianized,
rather than colonized. It's got the anniversary
of the assassination of archbishop Oscar Romero
who just wanted "a little more time." It's Lent.
It's spring. Our hearts are in its whirlwind.
Here is an old poem by Cornelius Webb titled

                    --The Laughing Salmon


Like as that lion through the green woods came,
With roar which startled the hushed solitudes,
so March, though his first mood
Was boisterous and wild, feeling that shame
Would follow his fell steps, if Spring's young brood
Of buds and blossoms withered where he trod,
Calmed his fierce ire. And now both violets
Breathe their new lives; the tawny primrose sits
Like squatted gypsy on the wayside clod;
And early bees are all day on the wing,
And work like labour, yet like pleasure sing.

                       --Cornelius Webb


F O R   M E R C Y ' S   S A K E
10,000 Trees in Flight to North Korea
"Operation Appleseed" First of Its Kind

A consortium of Oregon-based businesses, nonprofit
organizations, and a public agency have joined together
in "Operation Appleseed," a humanitarian mission to
assist hunger-stricken North Korea.

Ten thousand apple trees arrived in Pyongyang on
Thursday, March 16, and were transported to the
Kum Jong cooperative farm in North Pyongan province.
The 10,000 trees are now being planted by a crew of
300 people, who expect to finish by the end of the
week. Mercy Corps and Oregon Department of Agriculture
representatives are there to offer technical
assistance in the planting and maintenance of
the trees.

The expected yield at first harvest is 40 pounds
of apples per tree for a total of 200 tons. At
maturity, each tree is expected to yield
approximately 220 pounds for a total
of 1,100 tons. This would have a U.S. market
value of $550,000.

Evergreen International Airlines of McMinnville,
Oregon, donated use of the B747 freighter aircraft
to transport the trees to North Korea. The
trees were shipped along with 500 pounds of
grass seed donated by Oregon Seed Council
and 10,000 pounds of potato flakes from the
Oregon Potato Commission, which also
donated trucking of the shipment to
San Francisco.

Mercy Corps, the primary organizer of the project,
is funded by private contributions. Donations to
Mercy Corps' North Korea efforts will support the
rehabilitation of North Korea's agricultural system
and the eventual ability of North Korea to feed its

Learn more about Mercy Corps' work in North Korea at:


B u i l d i n g   a   N e t w o r k

Join the Jubilee 2000/USA National Mobilization
for Debt Cancellation. Sunday, April 9, 12-4:30 p.m.
on the National Mall between 4th and 7th Streets NW
in Washington, D.C. People of faith and all who care
about economic justice for the world's most highly
indebted countries will be part of a massive public
witness supporting debt cancellation. For more
information, see:

If you would like to help with the event through
peacekeeping and crowd control, contact the AFL-CIO at
and fill in "PEACEKEEPER" for your Local.


W e b  S c e n e

Even if you slept through science class
in high school, you don't want to skip
this tutorial. "DNA from the Beginning"
is one of the most innovative, edgy
Web sites around.

It covers the entire range of genetics,
from basic inheritance to up-to-the-
minute methods of DNA analysis. And it
does so with creative graphics, animation,
and interactive multimedia.


R o a d  S h o w s

Jim Wallis is coming to a city near you!
Faith Works Book Tour/Call To Renewal Rallies

*New York City, Monday, April 3, 7 pm
Marble Collegiate Church
1 West 29th Street
With Sing Sing prison program and People
of Faith Network/Sweatshop Watch

*Boston, Tuesday, April 4, 7 pm
Fourth Presbyterian Church
340 Dorchester Street

*Cambridge, Wednesday, April 5, 8 pm
ARCO Forum, Institute of Politics
Kennedy School of Government
Harvard University

*Chicago, Thursday, April 6
4 pm - University of Chicago, Public Theology Seminar
7 pm- Grace Lutheran Church, 7300 West Division Street
         River Forest, IL

*Grand Rapids, Michigan, Monday, April 10, 7 pm
New Hope Baptist Church
130 Delaware Street, SW
Inner City Christian Federation 25th Anniversary event


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