The Common Good


Sojomail - October 13, 2000

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 ++++++++++++++++++++ 13-October-2000 +++++++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k
     *Yogi Berra 

 H e a r t s  &  M i n d s
    *Round Two

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
    *A guide to the newspaper you should be reading...

B u i l d i n g   a   N e t w o r k
    *Rally for ending violence in Sierra Leone

 P. O. V.
    *Jewish peace movement perspective on crisis

 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
     *Most "offensive" books of 1999

 F a i t h   i n   P u b l i c   L i f e
    *Are evangelicals experiencing an intellectual revival?

 H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l
     *Evangelical Covenant Church joins Call to Renewal

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

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


Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k
In the spirit of the baseball playoffs...

"If you don't know where you're going,
you'll end up somewhere else."

              -- Yogi Berra


H E A R T S  &  M I N D S
by Jim Wallis

Round Two

What's driving this presidential election campaign? 
More important than big constituencies like Labor or 
the Religious Right are the polls and focus groups. 
Enormous amounts of money are being spent by both 
sides this fall on endless surveys of public opinion -
more than ever before. 

After the second debate between Bush and Gore, 
I had dinner with some people who told me they get 
surveyed at least once a week now. Some are themselves 
media people who have never seen such nonstop polling. 
When I asked why I never get called, they suggested that 
I live in the wrong neighborhood. "I think you're getting 
red-lined," said a former television network anchor. 
He reported regular calls to his house asking a series of 
questions, not just about politics, but also about sports, 
cars, and breakfast cereal. Apparently, the same pollsters 
are conducting polls for several clients at the same time. 
I guess it is all about shopping anyway.

So many polls are confusing to people, both the ones 
getting called and the rest of us seeing wildly 
fluctuating polling results in the span of a few days. 
Questions shape responses but are not necessarily revealing 
people's real opinions on issues. What questions are asked, 
how they're asked, and what's not asked - all these are 
crucial to the outcome. Sometimes those polled don't 
really have a clear opinion or even an understanding of 
what's being asked and just answer as best they can. 

And clearly it is affecting the debates. Virtually 
everything said by the candidates is now poll-tested and 
put through countless focus groups before being offered 
to the wider public. It inhibits what a candidate might 
and might not say, so that what we see in these debates 
is two people who are mostly trying not to make mistakes.

This week we saw it most in Al Gore, who seemed tentative 
all evening, hoping not to make errors of detail and 
style commentators said he made last week. Bush, too, 
had really brushed up on foreign policy, a perceived weakness 
of the governor's in the polls. Gore strayed away from his 
clear populist message of support for "working families" 
that gained him new respect and support after the Democratic 
convention. And Bush won the debate, according to the polls, 
by seeming more comfortable than Gore.

What happened to issues, leadership, and program? Aren't 
political leaders supposed to tell us their vision for the 
country, then let us decide in the voting booth if that's the 
direction we want to go? Can vision ever come from focus groups? 
Both candidates appear more and more like fabrications from 
polling data. Who's up, who's down is the media question, 
instead of what are the differences in the national directions 
being posed and which is best for the country? At this rate, 
the election will just be the last poll. 


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

Here's what Kirkus Reviews has to say about Faith Works:

"With so few voices expressing similar commitments
to ending poverty, we can't afford to ignore Wallis."


F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
What paper do you read??

1.  The Wall Street Journal is read by the people
    who run the country.
2.  The New York Times is read by people who think
    they run the country.
3.  The Washington Post is read by people who think
    they ought to run the country.
4.  USA Today is read by people who think they ought
    to run the country but don't understand the
    Washington Post.
5.  The Los Angeles Times is read by people who wouldn't
    mind running the country, if they could spare the
6.  The Boston Globe is read by people whose parents used
    to run the country.
7.  The New York Daily News is read by people who aren't
    too sure who's running the country.
8.  The New York Post is read by people who don't care who's
    running the country, as long as they do something
9.  The San Francisco Chronicle is read by people who aren't
    sure there is a country, or that anyone is running it.
10. The Miami Herald is read by people who are running
    another country.

B u i l d i n g   A   N e t w o r k
Rally for peace in Sierra Leone

A mass rally in support of ending the brutality
against innocent people in Sierra Leone will be
held Saturday, October 28, at Riverside Church 
in New York City.

Although Sierra Leone has captured the world's
attention, the RUF rebels have continued their
campaign of murder, rape, amputation of limbs,
and the abduction of children to serve as soldiers
and sex slaves. The program will feature
testimonies from victims, speakers, music, and
displays by organizations assisting Sierra Leone.
The rally will highlight the need to end the
trade in blood diamonds, and for Congress to
fully fund the United Nations peacekeepers in
Sierra Leone. 

Riverside Church is located at 490 Riverside
Drive (use Claremont Avenue entrance north of
West 120th Street) in New York City. The rally will
begin at 1 p.m. For more information contact
SLEN at (914) 576-8771 or ""

P.  O.  V.
Jewish peace movement perspective: "A lost war"

by Uri Avnery

[Uri Avnery is a leading activist in the Jewish
peace movement, Shalom Achsav, centered in

The Israeli armed forces trained for this war
for months. The chief of staff and his officers
announced in advance that they were going to use
attack helicopters, missiles, and tanks. But
they did not disclose their main weapon:

The sharpshooter is a soldier/policeman whose job
is to kill. It is obvious that in the training
exercises that preceded this war, this method was
practiced thoroughly. The sharpshooter is trained
to look at a crowd of demonstrators, chose a target,
take aim, and hit the head or upper body. Special
bullets were employed in order to ensure that
the victim would die immediately.

This method is based on a simple premise: "to
exact a high price," as the generals explained
in their peculiar language. The planners thought
that if they caused the Palestinians heavy enough
casualties, they would stop the confrontation
and surrender.

During the battle, the generals boasted that "if
we had wanted to, we could have killed many

This is both an immoral and an unwise strategy;
immoral because it turns soldiers and policemen
into executioners. Of course, the practice itself is
not new. It was used first by Ariel Sharon
(the same Ariel Sharon) in the first years of
the occupation, when he instituted a reign of
terror in the Gaza Strip. As he told me himself
afterwards, he gave the order "not to take
prisoners." Palestinians caught bearing arms were
killed on the spot.

The way of thinking of the generals, those
who planned the operation and those who command
it, arouses sad reflections. Once we had commanders
of moral convictions, like Yitzhaq Sadeh and
Shimon Avidan, and sophisticated generals, like
Yigal Allon and Moshe Dayan. Within one
generation we have acquired generals who resemble
their worst American and Russian counterparts,
generals who believe in brute force. Those have
been beaten everywhere, from Viet Nam to Afghanistan.
Ours were beaten in Lebanon, and they go on.

The use of attack helicopters and missiles is
courting disaster. Sooner or later, inevitably,
something like the Kafr-Kana disaster in the
Wrath of Grapes war in Lebanon will happen:
an accidental massacre of civilians, whose photos
will arouse worldwide outrage. This week we saw
what outrage can do: The death of the boy Muhammad
al-Dira changed Israel's standing overnight. All
the lies and half-truths publicized by the
army spokesmen have not put an end to this
reaction, but achieved the opposite.

On each day of this war, the world has seen
Palestinian youngsters, almost all of them armed
only with stones, expose themselves to the Israeli
snipers. Their courage aroused admiration. In the
eyes of the world, they are the heroes. No glory
here for Israeli generals.

This war was lost before it started - as will be
the much bigger next one that is already looming
on the horizon.


In last week's SojoMail we incorrectly identified
Adam Keller and Beate Zilversmidtthe, authors of
"The Explosion: An on-the-ground report from the
occupied territories" as members of Christian
Peacemaker Teams. The authors are, in fact, active
members of the peace movement Gush Shalom (Israeli
Peace Bloc), which works closely with CPT.

P.O. Box 3322
Tel-Aviv 61033


B o o m e r a n g

Phil Clark of Liverpool, England, wrote:

How sad that you have joined much of the Western
world in blaming all the problems in Israel on
the Israelis. The report you carried was utterly
one-sided, as, incidentally, was the BBC news.
Having been in Israel throughout the recent
troubles, I have to say that blaming any one
side is simplistic, misleading, and harmful.

One simple example: the 12-year-old boy who was
reportedly "shot to death by the relentless fire
of Israeli soldiers" while beside his father.
It is as yet unproven that it was Israeli bullets
which killed him - they were, after all, caught
in the crossfire. Anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish
rhetoric is nothing, but as Christians are we
not concerned for truth and justice?

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


"It's not of any particular social value to
make people feel comfortable."
            --Anne Braden
              civil rights activist

Racism has never been considered the topic of
polite conversation. But challenging structures
of racism demands stepping out in hope, not
holding back in fear.

Help your community take the next step with
"Crossing the Racial Divide: America's Struggle
for Justice and Reconciliation" - a resource that
combines insights from the gospel and insights
from the street to create a powerful model of

To order this study guide visit:


C u l t u r e   W a t c h
'Get that book out of our library!'
Each year the American Library Association
compiles reports of books that were challenged
(target of a formal, written complaint) or asked
to be removed from school or library shelves. The
"winners" or most frequently challenged books of

*Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling, for its
focus on wizardry and magic.

*Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, for
using offensive language and being unsuited to
age group. 

*"The Chocolate War" by Robert Cormier (the "Most
Challenged" fiction book of 1998), for using offensive
language and being unsuited to age group.

*"Blubber," by Judy Blume, for offensive language
and unsuited to age group.
*"Fallen Angels," by Walter Dean Myers, for offensive
language and unsuited to age group.

*"Of Mice and Men," by John Steinbeck, for using
offensive language and being unsuited to age group.

*"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," by Maya Angelou,
for being too explicit in the book's portrayal of
rape and other sexual abuse.

*"The Handmaid's Tale," by Margaret Atwood, for its
sexual content. 

*"The Color Purple," by Alice Walker, for sexual content
and offensive language.

*"Snow Falling on Cedars," by David Guterson, for
sexual content and offensive language.


F a i t h   i n   P u b l i c   L i f e
The Opening of the Evangelical Mind

by Alan Wolfe

Postmodernism exercises such a fascination over
the evangelical mind, I believe, because of the
never-ending legacy of fundamentalism. In one
sense evangelical scholars have moved away from
Billy Sunday and in the direction of French
post-structualism: They cast their lot with those
who question any truths rather than those who
insist on the literal truth of God's word. Yet
these scholars are still battling over questions
about the nature of science which have long been
settled in other religious traditions. There is
nothing in either Catholicism or Judaism, both
of which have fundamentalist adherents, quite
comparable to the conservative-Protestant
suspicion of Darwin; in 1996, for example, John
Paul II restated the Church's position that
belief in evolution is compatible with Christian
faith. But contemporary evangelical scholars
cannot make peace with science in quite the same
way. And so postmodernism offers them a chance
to replay the Scopes trial; science, they believe,
will have to defend itself against Jacques
Derrida in a way it was never forced to do against
William Jennings Bryan.[]

For the entire article, go to:



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H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l
The Evangelical Covenant Church
Joins Call to Renewal!

The Evangelical Covenant Church is a denomination
of more than 600 churches in the United States 
and Canada. It was founded by Swedish immigrants 
in 1885 as a voluntary covenant of churches. 
Its national body sponsors a wide range of
services and activities throughout the United
States, Mexico, and worldwide.


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W e b  S c e n e
Cybervoices against climate change

As the days count down to November's crucial
climate summit in The Hague, a coalition of
leading environmental organizations has launched
the first international Web-based initiative to
give citizens around the world a voice in demanding
a halt to global warming.

The Web site has been launched by 16 organizations,
including WWF, Greenpeace, and Friends of the Earth.
The site aims to send 10 million messages from the
public to world political leaders demanding that
they use the November summit to reduce the pollution
that causes global warming.

Go to:


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

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

Sheboygan, Wisconsin
October 14, 2000  
Chicago, Illinois
October 17, 2000   

St. Davids, Pennsylvania
October 18, 2000 

Springfield, Ohio
October 25, 2000    

For more info, contact: Call to Renewal
at (202)328-8745 or

Carter Echols, national organizer for
the Call to Renewal

Orlando, Florida
October 21-22, 2000

Alexandria, Virginia
October 25, 2000

For more info, contact: Call to Renewal
at (202) 328-8745 or


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