The Common Good


Sojomail - June 16, 2000

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

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

                    Brought to you by SojoNet
                 Publisher of Sojourners magazine

+++++++++++++++++++++++++ 16-June-2000 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k
    *To be true, or not to be...

H e a r t s  &  M i n d s
    *Political candidates looking for religious partnerships

F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
    *Quiz One: Are you ready to have children?

B u i l d i n g   a   N e t w o r k
    *Quiz Two: What do the pope, Bono, and Arianna Huffington
     have in common?

B o o m e r a n g
    *SojoMail readers hit reply

C u l t u r e   W a t c h
    *Review of NBC's "The West Wing"

O n  the  W i r e
    *In the middle of the machine

W e b  S c e n e
    *Cool siting of the week


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

All truth passes through three levels:
First it is ridiculed,
Second it is violently opposed,
Third it is accepted to be self-evident.




Help SojoMail promote values at the
crossroads where spirituality, politics, and
culture meet.


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

We've been discovered!
By Jim Wallis

This week, a front-page article in the New York Times
profiled Gov. George Bush's "compassionate
conservatism" and featured the potential role of
faith-based organizations in his strategy to address
poverty. A few days earlier, the Chronicle of
Philanthropy discussed Vice President Al Gore's
call for a "new partnership" with churches and
religious groups in providing social services. I can't
remember a time when both presidential candidates
were more interested in relating to the leaders of
faith-based institutions about solving social problems.
As my good friend Rev. Eugene Rivers puts it,
"We've been discovered!"

There are several factors that might explain this
newfound political interest in religion. First, faith-
based organizations are developing an impressive track
record in addressing some of the toughest issues in our
society: youth violence, drug and alcohol addiction,
welfare to work programs, creating low-income housing,
providing job readiness and support, and pioneering new
models in community economic development. Second, both
the old liberal and conservative approaches have failed
to provide answers or overcome poverty. Third, we are
seeing a growing connection between spirituality and
service, between faith and social justice.

What should our approach be toward political candidates,
running for city council or the White House, who are
seeking relationship with the religious community? I
think we should welcome the desire for partnership and
at the same time make a number of things clear.

First, while the leadership role of faith-based
organizations is a crucial ingredient to finding real
solutions to poverty, we must never allow ourselves
to be used to justify government inaction and
irresponsibility. No sector can solve the entrenched
issues of poverty alone - it will take all of us.
And the principle of partnership should be this:
everybody does their share and everyone does what
they do best.

Second, the test of a new partnership will not be
photo-ops at the White House, but concrete things
like reductions in child poverty rates; more
families who are not just getting off the welfare rolls
but are making the successful transition from poverty
to self-sufficiency; a real increase in affordable
housing; and the securing of quality health care
for those millions of Americans who are still
without it.

Third, instead of substituting for the role of
other sectors, the faith community should become
a catalyst, convener, and goad to conscience for
the rest of the society to become seriously involved
in making a difference. And finally, faith-based
programs must not be mere service providers, but
also prophetic interrogators of both the values
and structures of a society whose prosperity
leaves so many behind.

Let's welcome the politicians' call for a new
partnership. But let's make ourselves clear to our
new political friends - if you want to partner with us,
you must put the people we work with on the national
agenda. Put poor people and the solutions to poverty
into the national political debate, and we will
be eager to be your partners.


F u n n y   B u s i n e s s

Parent-readiness test
How to know whether you're ready to have children

Smear peanut butter on the sofa and curtains. Place
a fish stick behind the couch and leave it there all

Obtain a 55 gallon drum of LEGOs (if LEGOs are not
available, you may substitute roofing tacks). Have a
friend spread them all over the house. Put on a blindfold.
Try to walk to the bathroom or kitchen. Do not scream.

Borrow one or two small animals (goats are best) and
take them with you as you shop at the grocery store.
Always keep them in sight and pay for anything they
eat or damage.

Obtain one large, unhappy, live octopus (they turn
bright red when they are unhappy). Stuff into a small
net bag making sure that all arms stay inside.

Obtain a large plastic milk jug. Fill halfway with
water. Suspend from the ceiling with a stout cord.
Start the jug swinging. Try to insert spoonfuls
of soggy cereal (such as Fruit Loops or Cheerios)
into the mouth of the jug, while pretending to be an
airplane. Now dump the contents of the jug on the

Prepare by obtaining a small cloth bag and fill it
with 8-12 pounds of sand. Soak it thoroughly in
water. At 8 p.m. begin to waltz and hum with the
bag until 9 p.m. Lay down your bag and set your
alarm for 10 p.m.  Get up, pick up your bag, and
sing every song you have ever heard. Make up about a
dozen more and sing these too until 4 a.m. Set
alarm for 5 a.m. Get up and make breakfast. Keep
this up for five years. Look cheerful.

Obtain a large bean bag chair and attach it to the
front of your clothes. Leave it there for 9 months. Now
remove 10 of the beans.

Go to the nearest drug store. Set your wallet on the
counter. Ask the clerk to help himself. Now proceed
to the nearest food store. Go to the head office and
arrange for your paycheck to be directly deposited to
the store. Purchase a newspaper. Go home and read it
quietly for the last time.

Find a couple who already have a small child. Lecture
them on how they can improve their discipline, patience,
tolerance, toilet training, and child's table manners.
Suggest many ways they can improve. Emphasize to them
that they should never allow their children to run wild.
Enjoy this experience. It will be the last time you will
have all the answers.

*Sent by SojoMail reader Pam Sullivan of Los Angeles


B u i l d i n g   a   N e t w o r k
What do the Pope, Bono, and Arianna Huffington have in common?

by Martin Rowe

It's mid-September, 3 a.m., the room is heaving with
groovy young Italian clubbers, the music thunderous.
Bono, of rock band U2, is partying the small hours
away before heading out to the airport and an early
flight to Washington, D.C., where he will lobby the
IMF. Fellow debt-cancellation campaigners such as
former rock-star turned media-mogul Bob Geldof, record
producer Quincy Jones, Harvard economist Jeffrey Sachs,
and Anne Pettifor, who heads up the London campaign
group Jubilee 2000, are sleeping the sleep of the just.

It was a good day. They met the pope at Castle Gandolfo,
his summer residence, and he gave the campaign a ringing
endorsement. Better still, Bono came out of the meeting
to pronounce to the assembled press that the Holy Father
was a "funky pontiff" who had pinched his trademark
fly-shades. The pictures and soundbite sped round the
globe: Riding side-saddle went the news that it is time
for the rich countries to liberate poor countries from
their unpayable burden of debts. Mission accomplished.

"As long as the massive debts of these countries remain,
they are effectively imprisoned by the rich countries in
a modern 'debtors prison,'" explains Bono during a break
in the music. "In the 19th century, if someone couldn't
pay back a debt, their families might be put into debtors
prison. In the 20th century, the practice was abolished
for individuals, but not for countries. Now they are held
ransom for the mistakes of previous regimes."

See the full story as originally published in Sojourners
magazine at:


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B o o m e r a n g
SojoMail readers hit reply

Linda Regensburger of Westminster, Colorado, wrote:

Thank you, thank you for sharing the information
about Sacred Space, the Irish Jesuits' Web site.

Sometimes in our days of immediacy, it's difficult
to take the time to center down and find Him -
even at our desktop. I've definitely bookmarked this
and will attempt to use it as a spiritual discipline.


Pat Lavelle, from Seattle, Washington, wrote:

Another factor to consider in McVeigh's seeming
heartlessness: his days driving a Bradley armored
vehicle during the Gulf War. I've heard the
story, and I don't know the exact details, but his
job (or those of the crew he was on) was to drive
and plow sand into the bunkers and trenches of
Iraqi soldiers. He wrote a note to his mother
explaining how he had buried people alive
regularly and became used to it. [Actually, he
apparently wrote a pretty interesting article for
a 1998 issue of "Media Bypass" magazine about the
"deep hypocrisy" of the treatment and coverage of
the Iraqi bombings in comparison to the Oklahoma
bombing....He never mentioned Waco.]


George Kleinert from Detroit, Michigan, wrote:

I found your reader contributed article "Everything
you need to know about HMOs" to be pretty humorous.
The question "What accounts for the largest portion
of health care costs?" seemed an unnecessary cheap
shot on the front line physicians, however.

I asked the question of my wife, who went back
to school to take up medicine as a second career.
Her first answer was "Capitalism." She then explained
that the prosperity of the '60s enabled all areas of
medicine to boom, and with advances came new equipment
and facilities whose cost had to be justified by usage.
We have arguably the best medical system in the world,
but what used to be extreme measures have come to be
expected available for all. And that is only part of
an explanation. Socialized Medicine as a solution
has its own set of problems.


Jeffrey Charyls of San Francisco, California, wrote:

I got the notice on the Bonhoeffer show and quickly sent it 
around without first checking the local TV listings. To make 
a long story short, I can't find it listed. I searched on-line 
as well. The three Bay Area PBS statioins (KQED, KTEH, KCSM) 
do not list it for June.
So apparently it is playing somewhere in the country on 
June 14 but not in the San Francisco Bay Area. But keep it 
in mind, maybe they'll show here in July. Or better, yet 
email the Bay Area PBS stations and encourage them to air 
it soon. If enough people write, who knows?   


Want to make your voice heard? Send Boomerang
e-mails to the editor: ""


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

Hope in the West Wing
by Rose Berger

Aaron Sorkin's The West Wing is a wonk-world of
pure imagination. Its compelling, intelligent,
fast-paced, and seductive.

NBC's Wednesday night poli-drama had the
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee 
up in arms last fall in response to episode two,
when fictional president Josiah Bartlet (played
with ego-centered magnanimity by Martin Sheen)
wanted to bomb Syria off the map for downing an
unarmed U.S. Air Force jet. Said ADC president
Hala Maksoud, "By creating a fictional story
that blames a real nation and people for such
a heinous crime, NBC has slandered an entire
nation in the most unfair manner possible."

This episode, titled "A Proportional Response,"
shows the impact of Just War theory in limiting
the military response of the powerful. The president
is finally talked down by his chief of staff (played
brilliantly by John Spencer), who reminds Bartlet
that a more reasoned response "is what our fathers
taught us." While it is a far cry from active
nonviolence (activist-celeb Sheen's preferred mode),
it is nonetheless a sharp new architecture in the
exurbs of network TV....

Critics complain that The West Wing - now entering
summer reruns - is ridiculously optimistic, that
the show needs a "goodness gap" - i.e. more dirt.
They want more characters the likes of Dick Morris.
They want it more like coverage of the Clinton
White House or the George W. Bush campaign trail.

Sorkin's West Wing scripts up more than a swelling
soundtrack of optimism. He writes hope into his
characters. If this is not how the White House
actually is, it's how it should be. Hard-working,
woefully inadequate, idealistic women and men
living out the democratic dream. It might even
seduce America back into believing government
can be good.

See the entire review as it appeared in Sojourners
magazine at:




O n  t he  W i r e:
In case you missed SojoNet in the nation's media...

"Getting into the middle of it," by David Batstone,, June 13, 2000

Remember all those new rules advising you to 
ignore everything you know about business and 
jump into the new economy? Business has not 
changed that much; it's still about relationships, 
profit, and loss. The successful players are the
ones who understand that the Net can streamline 
how we work, and keep the revolution talk to 
a minimum.

See the full story at:,1653,6799,00.html

Also, you can get free e-mail delivery of David Batstone's
weekly column, "Business (Re)Modeled at:,1659,,00.html


W e b  S c e n e
Income disparity does a body bad

The Equity in Health Web site offers
research on the relationship between income
inequality and health. Studies show that reducing
income disparity decreases the mortality rate. Read
up on how the health effects of social hierarchy
among primate populations may have important
implications for humans.

Users of this site can post comments and questions.
Lots of links are provided to other Web sites that
deal with economic inequality. Much of the material
is written for a scientific or public health audience,
but is also understandable to non-specialists.

The Equity in Health site is produced by the
International Health Program at the University
of Washington.

Go to:


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