The Common Good


Sojomail - August 25, 2000

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 +++++++++++++++++++++++++ 25-August-2000 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k
     *A river returns to it

 H e a r t s  &  M i n d s
     *'Survivor' ethics

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *Ed Spivey gets tough on Iran, N. Korea, and...
        the Southern Baptist Convention

 S p i r i t u a l   P r a c t i c e s
     *Book notes on religion in America

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Hate online...learn their tactics

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

 H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l
     *Catholic voters' guide

 O n  t h e  R o a d
     *We're coming to a town near you

 W e b   S c e n e
     *The Positive Future Network


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

All the  rivers run into the sea; yet the
sea is not full; to the place from which
the rivers come, there they return again.

              Book of Ecclesiastes 1:7


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

'Survivor' Ethics
by Jim Wallis

In "Tuesdays With Morrie," Mitch Ablom's
bestseller about a sportswriter who learns
life's greatest lessons from his dying
former college professor, Albom asks
Morrie why so many people are living
unhappy lives. Morrie says, "Well, for
one thing, the culture we have does not
make people feel good about themselves.
We're teaching the wrong things. And you
have to be strong enough to say if the
culture doesn't work, don't buy it. Create
your own."

Right after I read that I saw the newspaper -
40 million people were tuning in to watch
the finale to "Survivor," the highest-rated
summer series in television history. It
sounded to me like an exercise in community
building, so I just had to watch.

Not-so-wonderful comments flowed freely. "What's it
like sleeping next to your enemy?" one survivor
was asked. "I'm here for me, and everyone else
can kiss my ass," another said. "I don't give a
crap about anyone on this island." Soon they were
down to two. River-guide Kelly was far superior to
corporate trainer Rich in physical ability,
discipline, and stamina; but it was Rich who
walked away with the money. Kelly was just
too conflicted. "I've had a lot of moral
issues," she said at a critical point. "There
have been some moral low points, not so proud
moments that don't belong in my life." Rich,
she pointed out, "never pretended he wasn't
scheming and conniving. He played the game
from the beginning. I respect that."

In his final speech, Rich said it was all
"strategy." He acknowledged there were some
"sincere interactions" and "maybe starts of
friendships." But to Rich, it was all about
playing the game to get the money. In the end,
the "jury" - the last seven ejected
contestants - concluded it wasn't the best
or most deserving person up there, but merely
the "least objectionable."

Does the end justify the means? It did on the
island. The final four were praised for "doing
what they had to do," and Rich was rewarded
for doing it best. After all, he started the
"alliance," which had proven so decisive
in whittling the number down to the final few.
As a corporate trainer, he apparently has been
taking lessons from the Darwinian mergers that
have become such a game in the business world.

But not everyone is willing to play this
game. "I couldn't have been that ruthless.
I can't even lie," one ejected survivor said.
"My God, I'm glad I got out early. At
least I can live with myself. That's the
important thing." Yeah, but she won't get
the money and all those corporate contracts.
By the end of the show, several "survivors"
had already cashed in on lucrative advertising
deals, drinking Bud Light or hawking cell
phones on the beach. "It was a game that
definitely parallels our regular lives," said
the announcer. All the white men on the jury
voted for the white man - how's that for
paralleling regular life?

Does the ethics of "Survivor" mirror our lives,
our economy, and our politics? Can you really
build a better world with no ethic of the
common good, but only one of strategic
self-interest? Morrie, the protagonist of
Mitch Ablom's wonderful book, would scream
No! Maybe people are hungry not only for big
money, but for the different kind of bottom
line he's talking about - love, caring,
family, friendship, service, and community.
Is it too much to expect, as our lives unfold,
that a person like Morrie becomes the sole

Jim Wallis' newest book, Faith Works, is available
at your favorite online or local bookstore, including
the Sojourners Resource Center at 1-800-714-7474

See also:


F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
Defending Against Rogue Potlucks

By Ed Spivey Jr.

One of the biggest issues of the presidential
campaign is how the United States can defend
itself against rogue nations, such as
Iran, North Korea, and the Southern Baptist

But let¹s look at these so-called threats, and
see if they really are a danger to the United

IRAN. Admittedly, this country has proven it
can be dangerous. There was that thing with
Salman Rushdie¹s book where he compared Iranian
religious fanatics to Southern Baptists and then
Iran issued a death threat....

I think the real reason Americans are concerned
with Iran is that no matter how old Iranian men
get, they still have more hair than we do. We
hate that. Truthfully, if Iran was importing
razors instead of missile technology, maybe
we wouldn¹t be so alarmed.

NORTH KOREA. The TV reruns excuse might not
work here, since North Korea has just one
television set, and it only works when a
palace guard, under fear of death, wiggles the
antennae with his hand while the fearless leader
watches. North Korea¹s leader is Kim Jong Il,
otherwise known as Kim Jong, The Sequel, after
his dad's impressive legacy of limiting his
country's agricultural output to a single meal,
and then eating it himself. On his historic
visit this summer with the president of South
Korea, Kim Jr. surprised the free world by
providing the first documented example of a
North Korean smile. (He was smiling because
every time they dig a hole in his country,
the United States thinks it's another missile
site and quickly promises to increase
international aid if they "just stop digging
all those holes!")

To read more of Ed Spivey's cogent analysis
of how the US should deal with that OTHER rogue
nation, the Southern Baptist Convention, go to:


S p i r i t u a l   P r a c t i c e s
Read up on religion in America

Just because summer is coming to an end
(in the Northern hemisphere) doesn't
mean you have to stop reading good books.

SojoMail reader Tamar Herzberg, who runs
a regular e-letter on religion and society,
has put together a guide to some fascinating
new books covering religion in contemporary

Bowling Alone : The Collapse and Revival of
American Community by Robert D. Putnam
(NY: Simon & Schuster, 2000).

The book rases some fascinating questions,
covering the positive and negative aspects
of "social capital."

Papal Sin : Structures of Deceit by Garry Wills
(NY: Doubleday, 2000)

A highly controversial book, written in journalistic

Judaism (US)
Jew vs. Jew: The Struggle for the Soul of American
Jewry by Samuel G. Freedman (Simon & Schuster, 2000)

In the spirit of Lieberman's candidacy, the book
discusses the current changes in American Jewery
and Judaism.

Also addressing this issue: the August issue of
Hadassah Magazine, which discusses
the latest trends in Modern-Orthodoxy, Conservatism,
Reform Judaism and The Reconstrutionists.

Go to:

Maybe it's the hope for global peace, but no less
than three recent books deal with the Quakers:

1. Walking in the Way of Peace: Quaker Pacifism in
the Seventeenth Century by Meredith Baldwin Weddle
(Oxford University Press).

2. The Quiet Rebels: The Story of the Quakers in
America by Margaret Hope Bacon (Pendle Hill, 2000).

3. The Light in Their Consciences: Faith, Practices,
and Personalities in Early British Quakerism,
1646-1666 by Rosemary Anne Moore (Penn State Univ.
Press, 2000).


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

The Internet has rekindled the zeal and magnified
the power of hate groups. What can we do to fight

By Stacia Brown

The following strategies, culled from online research
and from interviews with hate site Webmasters, anti-
hate activists, and scholars, provide a sample of
the tactics employed by virtual hate groups for
recruitment, retention, and organizational growth.

****Strategy One: Make hate noble.

Virtual bigots like to couch hate in lofty terms.
Emoting about freedom and racial self-preservation,
they allude to a racial holy war and exhort others
to join the struggle. Sacrifice becomes the mark of
a dedicated racialist. Experiences of alienation,
disapproval, or persecution are thus eased by the
inner assurance that one is battling for a cause
greater than oneself....

****Strategy Two: Make hate anonymous.

An anonymous bigot is more threatening than an
identifiable one. The federal government
recently confirmed this when it denied Klan members
the right to wear hoods at public rallies. On the
Internet, however, haters can reclaim the anonymity
once granted by white robes. The Anti-Defamation
League notes that items banned in public can now be
symbolically donned in cyberspace - without legal or
governmental reprisal....

****Strategy three: Make hate technological.

In previous years, a hate group¹s success depended
on the charisma of its leader. Today it depends on
the technical savvy of its Webmaster. "Hate leaders
don¹t have to have good looks or good public speaking
ability anymore," says ADL¹s Jay Karman. "They need
technical knowledge - and the ability to articulate a
message through written words instead of speech...."

****Strategy four: Make hate Christian.

Is hate Christian? Identity and fundamentalist groups
want you to think so. And many have the know-how to
prove it. Westboro (Baptist Church's) Web master Ben
Phelps could proof-text most seminary students into
stunned silence. "Most people aren't supposed to
believe the Bible," says Phelps, "because Jesus said that most people
will go to hell. Matthew 7:13-14...The goal is not to
get everyone saved. The goal is to preach the truth
to people and through that preaching God will call
His elect into the fold...."

****Strategy five: Make hate marketable.

What's the best way to build a new business? Attract
adolescents. Filmmakers do it. Evangelical mega-churches
do it. Hate groups are doing it, too.

In an effort to make hate marketable, some sites sell
computer games, such as White Power Doom, that have
been altered to include African-Americans, Jews, and
other minority groups as shooting targets. Other sites
such as Resistance Records sell skinhead music that
can be purchased with a standard credit card. The
Resistance label is now owned by William Pierce, head
of the incendiary Aryan Nations Web site and author
of the racist treatise The Turner Diaries.[]

Don't miss Stacia Brown's excellent investigative
report on "virtual hate" as it appears in the
current issue of Sojourner's magazine:



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B o o m e r a n g

SojoMail reader Tom Bond wrote:

Concerning the 8/11 quote from Spike Lee...
("Black people have never had the power to
enforce racism....)

It may be true to the degree that [blacks]
cannot control institutional racism, or even the
racism in the hearts of white (and other) people.
They do, however, have the power and responsibility
to control the racism in their own hearts, culture,
and institutions, which is one one the contributing
factors to the current climate.

Black, white, and all people need to step up to
the plate of inclusion in their own hearts and
lives, of all the others colors they contact.

Spike - you do have the power to open your heart
to me, as I have then power to open my heart to you.
But I cannot include you in my culture if you
exclude me from yours.


David Kitchel from Nashville, Tennessee, wrote:

The truth is everyone tends to see in Black and
White instead of shades. Spike's comments are
another example. Black on white racism is becoming
more widespread, or perhaps more visible, and is
certainly no better than the racism whites
practice. I'm pleased to see both parties at
least raising the issue of racism...

As a Republican who is so weary of being
pre-judged and seldom given a good listen, I keep
striving in my religious life, political life, and
personal life to:

Listen to others first without forgetting personal
goals. Try to figure out what they want, communicate
what I think they want and ask for clarification or
correction. Make it clear what I want and make sure
they understand. Try to work with others to reach
goals that satisfy both our needs. It works!


Dave McCarty from Hatfield, Pennsylvania, wrote:

Charitable choice scares me to death, mainly
for a reason I've not yet heard discussed: handouts
are corrupting. Look at the history of the overseas
missionary movement over the past 100 years and
you'll find evidence galore of how Christian leaders
in developing nations have been corrupted by the lure
of big bucks from the West. Why wouldn't that
happen in urban America?


Eric Berthelette of Colorado wrote:

While I find Thomas Wakely's comments suggestive,
[SojoMail 8/11/00] they provide little basis with
which members of the public can come to a
conclusion about the Bush campaign's claims of
inclusion, particularly as such claims relate to
Catholics. There are certainly endless indications
that such claims are generally suspect at best
given Bush's specific positions on matters of
justice, equality, and economics; however, he has
revealed little that would seem to specifically
impact Catholics.

So I would be interested in hearing more specifics
about Wakely's experiences with the Bush administration
in Texas, the nature and context of his "not being
welcome," the nature of his unnamed FBO and his position
in it, and the connection and extent of involvement
in the exclusion Wakely describes of Bush himself,
those who are close to Bush, and anyone who may
be involved in the presidential campaign or in any
future presidential administration. To someone like
myself who is not privy to such details, Wakely's
comments are little more than empty accusations,
possibly from someone who has misrepresented himself.


Chris Beach from Tulsa, Oklahoma wrote:

I was so surprised by the letter from Thomas
Wakely of the Corporation for Affordable Housing
and Community Economic Development of Austin who
accused George Bush of treating Catholics poorly,
that I had a ministry in Texas check this story
out. Here's the reply from the ministry:

"I have done some checking with some people in
Austin and there is no organization with that name
in Austin and there is no listing for a Thomas
Wakely either. No one seems to know anything about
them nor have they heard of them. I obviously do not
know everyone in Austin, but the people I checked
with are very involved with TDHCA and social services
in Austin."

This answers my surprise. I had always heard that
George Bush - even if people don't agree with all
of his positions - has done an incredible job
in Texas of empowering people of faith (including
Catholics) to work with the government to help
families off of welfare and also out of poverty.
This Thomas Wakely is either a fake name designed
to politicize the good ministry efforts of Sojourners
and Call to Renewal, or he does just about nothing in
Austin to the point that they have never heard of him.

Please - people out there - keep your political
attacks out of this ministry. The well-being of
thousands of families in need is at stake. Get
over your political bashing of Bush or whoever
else. It's time to start getting the job done
through the love of Jesus Christ rather than
through the attack mentality.

I believe we need to support people like George
Bush or Al Gore or whoever else out there who
is willing to support the faith community's efforts
to reach out to serve our neighbors in need.


Follow-up note from Chris Beach:

I have since learned that there was in fact a
person named Thomas Wakely, but their organization
has had some apparent questionable practices and
may have moved to another city.  However, this
information is second-hand from a ministry in


Ed. note: Our own investigations reveal that
Thomas Wakely does indeed exist and has done
community development work in Austin.
Get more information about his organization
from his organization's website:

We'd also like to invite Mr. Wakely to respond
to the above critiques (and/or provide more
context for his own comments) in an upcoming
issue of SojoMail.


SojoMail reader Harry C. Kiely wrote: ["Funny Business" section of the
8/11 SojoMail] is an invitation to mischief
that may not be so funny on the receiving end.
I think it unbecoming of Sojourners to associate
itself with the sending of anonymous messages.


Ed. note: You weren't the only one offended,
Harry...we received one other note and a slew
of anonymous tips. Seriously, apologies.

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"God's Will," an hour-long documentary about
enigmatic, provocative preacher (and Sojourners
writer) Will Campbell airs on PBS Friday,
August 25, 2000, 10 pm ET. The program
explores the life of this activist preacher,
his efforts to repudiate racism and division,
and his work to reach out to civil rights
workers and avowed racists alike. "God's Will"
shows Campbell working in what he considers a
real church. Campbell does not believe
television evangelists' satellite empires, big
buildings with tall steeples or gymnasiums open
only to members are churches. His definition
is a little moreunorthodox.

"There is a little tavern we go to quite often,"
Campbell says, talking about his rural home near
Nashville. "I marry the people. Bury the people.
Get them out of jail, or try to, and so on.
Every one of them, without exception, would be at
my house as quickly as they could get there. And
I would be at theirs."

Tune in. To check local listing see:


H e a r i n g  t h e  C a l l
Political watch list

The Call to Renewal is nonpartisan, and encourages
people of faith from all parties and denominations to
take part in the political process. As Call to Renewal
board member Rev. Eugene Rivers (and von Clauswitz)
says, "We have no permanent friends or permanent
enemies - only permanent interests."

We are busy developing a list of questions for local
and national political candidates that are consistent
with Call's agenda. We are happy to see that many other
faith-based organizations have developed similar
questions, like those listed below from the National
Conference of Catholic Bishops. 

Questions for candidates, by the
National Conference of Catholic Bishops:

1) How will we protect the weakest in our midst - innocent,
unborn children?

2) How will we overcome the scandal of a quarter of our
preschoolers living in poverty in the richest nation
on earth?

3) How will we address the tragedy of 35,000 children
dying every day of the consequences of hunger, debt,
and lack of development around the world?

4) How can our nation help parents raise their children
with respect for life, sound moral values, a sense of
hope, and an ethic of stewardship and responsibility?

5) How can society better support families in their
moral roles and responsibilities, offering them real
choices and financial resources to obtain quality
education and decent housing?

6) How will we address the growing number of families
and individuals without affordable and accessible
health care? How can health care protect and enhance
human life and dignity?

7) How will our society best combat continuing prejudice,
bias, and discrimination, overcome hostility toward
immigrants and refugees, and heal the wounds of racism,
religious bigotry, and other forms of discrimination?

8) How will our nation pursue the values of justice and
peace in a world where injustice is common, destitution
is widespread, and peace is too often overwhelmed by
warfare and violence?

9) What are the responsibilities and limitations of
families, voluntary organizations, markets, and
government? How can these elements of society work
together to overcome poverty, pursue the common good,
care for creation, and overcome injustice?

10) How will our nation resist what Pope John Paul II
calls a growing "culture of death"? Why does it seem
that our nation is turning to violence to solve some
of its most difficult problems- to abortion to deal
with difficult pregnancies, to the death penalty to
combat crime, to euthanasia and assisted suicide to
deal with the burdens of age and illness?

11) We believe every candidate, policy, and political
platform should be measured by how they touch the
human person; whether they enhance or diminish human
life, dignity, and human rights; and how they advance
the common good.

If you would like to read more about the Catholic
Church's writings on people of faith and the political
process, go to:


 Help SojoNet build a network.


O n   t h e   R o a d
Sojourners road trips

September 22, 2000
Cleveland Ohio

Jim Wallis and the Call to Renewal
celebrate "faith-working"


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

The Positive Future Network's goal is to
enhance the power of people working to
create a more just, sustainable, and
compassionate future by increasing their
public visibility, their sense of
interconnection, and their access to
visions, tools, stories, and techniques
for change. (Sounds a lot like SojoNet!!!)

To that end, the Network publishes YES!
A Journal of Positive Futures, which
combines analysis of key problems with
news of actions people are taking in the
United States and around the world to create
a more positive future. Stories commonly
report on similar actions in many places
that reveal patterns that show the potential
for significant social change.

Go to:


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