The Common Good


Sojomail - September 21, 2001


                       S O J O M A I L

          Promoting faith, reason, compassion, and justice
                   in days of violence and fear

                 Brought to you by SojoNet
              Publisher of Sojourners magazine

++++++++++++++++++++ 21-September-2001 +++++++++++++++++++++
+++++++++++++++++ "Justice, or Vengeance?" +++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k
     *Prayer can be a desert experience

 H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
     *The two paths

 B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
     *Sign a petition for "justice, not terror"

 R e l i g i o n   &   P o l i t i c s
     *Brothers at odds in Guatemala: dictator general and the bishop

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *And death shall have no dominion

 B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
     *Passing of a guide

 T r i b u t e
     *Robert McAfee Brown (1920-2001)

 T e c h   E t h i x
     *Mahatma Gandhi's great-grandson launches tech campaign

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *Finally, real leadership

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

 W e b  S c e n e
     *America's tragedy is felt by all the world
     *Give peace a chance
     *Foreign policy think tank

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

Prayer for many is like a foreign land. When
we go there, we go as tourists. Like most
tourists, we feel uncomfortable and out of
place. Like most tourists, we therefore move
on before too long and go somewhere else.

             - Robert McAfee Brown (1920-2001)


H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
The two paths

by Jim Wallis

Something extraordinary is happening to us as a
nation. We've experienced both our vulnerability
and our unity as never before. Out of the horrible
death and destruction of last week have come
powerful acts of compassion, courage, and heroism.
Thousands of us have been killed, and the whole
nation feels deeply connected to the lives lost.
While our grief will go on for months and years,
the days of official mourning will soon be past.

Now comes the question of our response, and that
response will become a "test of our national
character," according to a recently released
statement by more than 2,000 leaders from America's
largest religious communities - Christian, Jewish,
Muslim, and Buddhist (read the statement and add 
your signature at

Most every American demands a strong response to the
terror that has been visited upon us. But two paths
are emerging. One speaks the language of justice
and invokes the rule of law in promising to bring the
perpetrators of such evil to accountability. Those
who so violated the standards of civilized life, and
the human values we hold most dear, must never be
allowed to escape judgment and punishment, and the
danger of even more terror must be prevented.

The other path uses the language of war and invokes
a spirit of retribution, and even vengeance - quite
frankly, emotions we can all understand at the
moment. A "war against terrorism" summons up the
strength and resolve to stop these horrific acts and
prevent their cancerous spread. But the war language
fails to provide moral and practical boundaries for
that response. It could lead to indiscriminate
retaliation, out of anger and vengeance, that would
result in even more loss of innocent life.

Americans have seldom seen up close and felt the
pain that comes from the deliberate destruction of
innocent life on such a scale. Until now, it has
only been in foreign lands where we have observed
the horrible loss that accompanies the massive and
violent rending of families and relationships in
unspeakable events. Now we understand what many
people who inhabit this planet with us have been
forced to live with.

But it is just that collective experience of
terrible pain that may now help shape our response.
As one woman put it in a radio interview: "Mr.
President, don't spread our pain." A rising
sentiment in the country wants our nation's
response to be born of our best values, and not
our worst impulses. We are hearing more voices
asserting that we must not become the evil we
loathe in our response to it - we should respond
out of our deepest values, not those of the

All of our religious traditions call us to
community, tolerance, compassion, justice, and
the sacredness of human life. This attack offers
us a stark view of the world terrorism would
create, where the remedy to every human grievance
and injustice is a resort to the random violence
of revenge - even against the most innocent. They
have taken thousands of our lives, attacked our
national symbols, forced our political leaders to
flee their chambers of governance, disrupted our
work and families, and struck fear into the hearts
of our children. They and the world they represent
must be soundly defeated. The question we now
face is how to do that. We can deny them a victory
by refusing to submit to a world created in their

A Gallup poll says that 73 percent of the American
people believe our response must be targeted "only
against those responsible" for last week's attack
on America. I believe such public opinion is
motivated not only by moral considerations, but
also by pragmatic concerns. Bombing the children
of Kabul would create utter glee among the Osama
bin Ladens of the world, who would finally be
able to raise the armies of terror they've always
dreamed of. It would also deprive us of the moral
high ground the United States holds in world opinion
since the attack - for the first time in some years.

A more courageous response on our part is now
required. Discipline, patience, and perseverance
in vanquishing the networks, assets, and
capabilities of violent terrorists is a path more
likely to be effective than merely cathartic. An
even more courageous national commitment would be
to honestly face the grievances and injustices
that breed rage and vengeance, and are continually
exploited by terrorists to recruit the angry and

The debate about which path to take - justice or
vengeance - is taking place in conversations across
America and, I trust, at the highest levels of
political power. The outcome of that debate will
shape our future even more than the terrorists can.
We can make the right choices in this crisis, and
in so doing, point the way to a better world.[]

Check out these two related articles:

"Clergy Urge Restraint, Justice"

"Bishops Back U.S. Efforts"


Read the cover story of the September/October issue
of Sojourners magazine, "Against Impossible Odds,"
about an interfaith nonviolent movement taking
root in Palestine. Go to:



B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
Sign a petition for "justice, not terror"

Although our leaders are under tremendous pressure
to act in the aftermath of the terrible events of
Sept. 11, it's important to let them know that
we support justice, not escalating violence,
which would only play into the terrorists' hands.
Sign an online statement of support for "Justice,
not Terror" at: 
**************** ADVERTISEMENT ***************************** YVONNE DELK TO LEAD RETREAT ON "STAYING POWER" October 19-21: "Staying Power: Spiritual Resources for the Work of Justice" at The Leaven Center in Lyons, Michigan. At this retreat designed for activists, Rev. Delk will speak from 40 years of work in movements for social change and invite participants to share their insights and wisdom. Cost: $165 (includes program, lodging, and meals). Registration form at: Or call (989) 855-2277 or e-mail: *********************************************************** R e l i g i o n & P o l i t i c s ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Brothers at odds in Guatemala: Dictator general and his bishop brother by Megan Feldman SF Chronicle Foreign Service Growing up in a noisy household of 13 children, the two brothers were serious and self-directed, with boyhood dreams that foreshadowed the men they would become: Efrain loved maps and military parades; Mario went to Mass every morning and prayed with priests after school. Today, the brothers lead opposing factions in Guatemala's problematic peace process, and their distinct lives show how families were divided by politics during a 36-year civil war (1960-96) that often pitted brother against brother. Now, as the nation struggles to build its fledgling democracy, Efrain Rios Montt and Mario Rios Mont - they spell their surnames differently - continue to be on opposite sides of the political fence. Efrain, 73, is a former military dictator who presided over one of the most brutal periods of the conflict between government troops and leftist guerrillas. He is president of Congress and is seen by his enemies as a symbol of impunity and an obstacle to democracy. Mario, 67, is a Roman Catholic bishop who directs the church's human rights office, created to investigate the deaths of the war's 200,000 victims, most of whom died at the hands of the military. In June, a judge ordered investigations into the possibility of criminal charges against Efrain Rios Montt for the deaths of 1,362 highland Maya Indians suspected of supporting the rebels. "Once people put on uniforms and have guns in their hands, they forget they are human," said the bishop. To read more about "brothers at odds," to to: --------------------------------------------------------------- S o u l W o r k s ++++++++++++++++++++ And Death Shall Have No Dominion by Dylan Thomas And death shall have no dominion. Dead men naked they shall be one With the man in the wind and the west moon; When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone, They shall have stars at elbow and foot; Though they go mad they shall be sane, Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again; Though lovers be lost love shall not; And death shall have no dominion. And death shall have no dominion. Under the windings of the sea They lying long shall not die windily; Twisting on racks when sinews give way, Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break; Faith in their hands shall snap in two, And the unicorn evils run them through; Split all ends up they shan't crack; And death shall have no dominion. And death shall have no dominion. No more may gulls cry at their ears Or waves break loud on the seashores; Where blew a flower may a flower no more Lift its head to the blows of the rain; Through they be mad and dead as nails, Heads of the characters hammer through daisies; Break in the sun till the sun breaks down, And death shall have no dominion. ------------------------------------------------------------------------ B a t t e r i e s N o t I n c l u d e d ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Passing of a guide by David Batstone Tuesdays in September have been full of grieving. Exactly one week before the tragic events of Sept. 11, I received notice that one of my mentors, Robert McAfee Brown, had passed away. Bob Brown was one of a breed. During the civil rights struggle, he was jailed as a Freedom Rider. He joined other clergy in protesting America's involvement in the Vietnam War. And as recently as 1997, he protested nuclear weapons in a fast that he and Daniel Ellsberg staged at the United Nations. He may be known best of all for his commitment to the struggles of the poor in Latin America and other Third World areas, a subject he wrote about frequently. In large part, it was due to Bob's influence that I went to El Salvador (and surrounding countries), and ended up spending more than a decade in human rights and economic development campaigns in the region. On each return trip to the U.S., I would call on Bob for strategic and spiritual counsel. He never failed me. Sounds like Bob Brown was a very self-righteous ideologue, no? Nothing could be further from the truth. So many stories could be told - his self- deprecating humor was legendary - but I recall one lesson most vividly. Standing in front of a class of eager social activists, Bob declared to us that if we really wanted to stand up for justice, we had best start with humility. "The true prophet must realize that he or she might be dead wrong," he said. What a lesson for all of us to keep in mind as we throw the word "justice" to and fro so casually in the last 10 days. May Bob's spirit live on in a generation of activists who aim to walk down the path he trod so constantly. ------------------------------------------------------------------------ T r i b u t e +++++++++++++ Robert McAfee Brown (1920-2001) by Paul K. Ehara, Robert McAfee Brown's son-in-law, who resides in Richmond, California ---- Robert McAfee Brown, passed away this morning (September 4) around 6:30 a.m. in Greenfield, Mass., where he had been resting in a convalescent home for the past two weeks or so. There is a sense of completeness that he died in Heath. This is where he courted his wife Sydney 60 years ago while they were college students on summer break, earning money doing farm chores. It is where he, Sydney, and a couple of other of Reinhold Niebuhr's students and their wives from Union Theological Seminary in NYC would settle in for the summer to be together as families and raise their children. (Niebuhr himself lived in Heath). It's where they found (and created) the beauty, solace, and community to write their essays, sermons, books, music, and jokes, and to argue the rough and fine points of theology and ecumenics. It's where they created a community of progressive and artistic Christian intelligentsia, a base from which Bob and his colleagues would themselves become respected theologians and members of the congregation. Many of you knew of Bob as a wise and world-renowned theologian and teacher of great integrity. Together, he and Sydney were in the forefront of the civil rights movement and other major justice issues of our time. He spoke and wrote prolifically about Christianity and what it means to be a Christian in ways that touched us deeply. He consistently championed the voice of the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized, and the unheard. But for me, I could never quite square that famous persona with who he was to me - my father-in-law, with whom I could sit in the living room and discuss baseball or the Bible with equal fervor and delight. For me he was Alison's papa; he was Colin and Aki's grandpa (when they were little guys they called him "Bop"), he was Sydney's partner. And in that context he was sweet and kind, a shy man of great intelligence, humility, humor, insight, and courage. He understood the complexity of simple things. I have been so lucky to have shared life with him, and with Alison's family, all these years. I love you, Bob. We love you. Thank you for the gift of your thoughtful hard work all these years, and for showing us how it's done. ----------------------------------------------------------------------- T e c h E t h i x ++++++++++++++++++++ Young Gandhi's crusade is dot-in by Manu Joseph Mahatma Gandhi fought for the freedom of his country. Now his great-grandson is fighting to convince Indians to rally around its country's Internet suffix. To read about his campaign, go to:,1284,46339,00.html?tw=wn20010903 **************************************************************************** F u n n y B u s i n e s s +++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Finally, real leadership by Ed Spivey Jr. In this moment of great crisis, two men have stepped forward to provide the leadership a grateful nation so desperately needs. Unfortunately, their names are Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, so they may not be helpful to an actual nation such as those found on Earth. On a recent 700 Club show, Jerry Falwell looked directly into the camera and blamed the recent terrorist attacks on homosexuals and liberals. Pat Robertson, the long-time host of the show, was equally forceful when he, too, looked directly into the camera and said "Jerry, that's my feeling." Unfortunately, he was looking into the wrong camera at the time, so he had to look around for the right one, but by then the forceful moment was over and so it was pretty much back to normal for a show that each week reaches out to millions of Christians and puts them into a trance-like sleep in their own living rooms. Even though federal investigators are pretty sure violent extremists were behind the recent attacks, Falwell and Robertson are insisting (and I'm paraphrasing here) "Not so fast, Mr. Know-It-All guys from the FBI, CIA, and NS-Something-or-Other! How about the homosexuals and liberals?" While conceding that foreign interests do appear to be responsible, Falwell and Robertson encouraged officials not to overlook the suspects in our own back yards. (On a personal note, just the other day I looked out my kitchen window and noticed a dozen or so liberals and homosexuals in my own backyard, but I failed to notify authorities. And that's just the kind of complacency that the good reverends are talking about!) In their defense, they're just God-fearing American evangelical leaders who are trying to take a national crisis and turn it into an opportunity to increase their own notoriety. No, wait. That came out wrong. Critics of Falwell and Robertson have accused them of using the same hate tactics as suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden, who is on record as hating virtually everything except facial hair. But the comparison stops there, since Osama bin Laden's $300 million fortune doesn't begin to approach Robertson's billion-dollar empire. So the televangelists press on, speaking the truth as they see it, fanning the flames of common sense, pouring verbal gasoline on the fires of reason, adding fuel to the incendiary debate of truth. Hey, it's what they do. And they do it so well. ***************************************************************** B o o m e r a n g ++++++++++++++++++ Sister Marlene Bertke, OSB, of Erie, Pennsylvania,wrote: Your daily SojoMail has been so life-giving. Thank you. -------------------- Daniel Villani of Long Beach, California, wrote: I recently renewed my subscription to Sojourners magazine after a hiatus of several years (no ideological reason for the hiatus, I just had more stuff around the house than I had time to read, and something had to go). I'm glad I did. Your cover article (September/ October 2001) was a heroic attempt to be fair to both sides of the Israeli/Palestinian issue, and I commend your effort. However, you missed one essential element. In addition to the lack of "symmetry" in actions (and I will not deny that more damage is being done to the Palestinians than to the Israelis) there is another lack of symmetry that may be at the root of the entire problem, and that is in the goals. The goal of most of the Israeli leaders, I believe, is that the state of Israel shall continue to exist. The undeniable, publicly stated goal of most of the leaders of the Palestinians is that the state of Israel shall cease to exist. I try very hard to believe in and practice principles of nonviolence, but if I were in a nation surrounded by neighbors who want every member of my population dead, I don't know how long I would be able to resist the temptation to do unto others to prevent them from doing unto me. -------------------- Thomas Pack, 15, of Ruston, Louisiana, wrote: As a concerned American teen-ager, I feel I must voice my opinion on the threat of war. I believe the United States' response to this terror should be that of protecting its citizens (in a military way, if necessary), and NOT of vengeance. A military response can be achieved without revenge. God states "Vengeance is mine, I will repay." We should "deny them their victory," not so much by taking revenge, but by letting the Sovereign God give them their due, in His own time. ------------------------- Judy Douglas of Melbourne, Australia, wrote: Although Rev. Thomas will not read this as he has now ceased to subscribe to SojoMail, I just wanted to pose a question. How can we say that America deserves no blame and then take military action in a foreign country where more innocent civilians are likely to be killed? It seems to me the people of Afghanistan and other Arab nations are less to blame as they have no democratic say in who runs their country. It is much harder for them to openly protest the actions of their leaders. In the West we have freedom but also apathy. We do not make a strong stand against our government's unjust foreign policies. Whether they are supplying weapons to support foreign armies or making money at the expense of the poor in the developing world, we stand by and watch even when we have the freedom to organize opposition and protest. Often our vote depends more on whether we will get a tax cut rather than on how justly our government is acting in world affairs. I want to defend SojoMail's call to restraint. We are called to repentance and personal responsibility, not blame. The innocent do suffer, the wounds are deep and our grief goes on and on, but it is also worth asking, "What have I done, or allowed to happen, that has contributed to this outcome?" ------------------------- Cory Trenda of San Jose, California, wrote: I'm very disappointed in your article "Running a fool's crusade" by Danny Duncan Collum (9/19). Collum does nothing to tone down the national rhetoric. His all-too-familiar diatribe against every political decision he ever hated gets us nowhere. Bush hasn't taken any military action yet! Only hysterics seem to keep people like Collum from remembering that. There is *huge* pressure on Bush - who has a large, diverse constituency to keep happy - to overact or underact. All the while, he has to say enough to keep everyone calm and moving in the same general direction without saying so much as to be misunderstood. Is this still a faith-based publication? Then how about encouraging some prayer for our president? Would Collum not have suggested as much for Clinton in the same situation, or for Gore had he won? What's wrong with some empathy that the weight of this tragedy falls perhaps more squarely on Bush's shoulder than any other person on earth? Is that such a trivial detail that we should simply rant about the unknown based primarily on our preconceptions of him? I expected much more of Collum as your lead story, and far more from Sojourners. --------------------- Alwyn Thomson from Belfast, Northern Ireland, wrote: Mr. Collum's article makes a whole series of assumptions about what the U.S. and other governments plan to do in response to international terrorism. Why is he so sure that Afghanistan is going to be bombed? Why is he so sure that American forces are going to try and march through the villages of that country? And will he be disappointed if the U.S. and other governments do not behave in this way? Perhaps Mr. Collum should, like most sensible people, encourage and support a measured, sophisticated, multifaceted, and effective response to international terrorism. Then, once it becomes clearer how governments are responding, it will be time for creative and intelligent criticism. ----------------------- Donna Sharer of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, wrote: Thank you for Danny Duncan Collum's piece. The humor was refreshing, the points well made. I'm a high-school teacher. I've tried many things to deal with "disruptive, disrespectful" students. This year something finally seems to be helping. In each class, we developed a class compact. Students worked in small groups to develop rights/ responsibilities and then, as a class, we combined the ideas. Some ideas were against school district policy, some were silly, some were way off, but most ideas were sensible and give students respect and a voice in class. So far, students are reminding each other of the compact and, other than getting enough quiet to give directions, I'm having a much more enjoyable day. What's my point? It has taken me eight years to get away from dictating the rules and trying to get everyone to follow my direction alone. Call me "hard-headed" or "plain dumb." But maybe there is a lesson for the U.S. If we want to have an enjoyable day, let's ask our "enemies" what they want. We can throw out the ridiculous and work on the areas of commonality that give everyone - not just the teacher/U.S. - power and say over what will happen. Mutual respect is powerful. ----------------------- Melinda Wallace of New Zealand wrote: In a past issue of Sojourners magazine, I read an article titled "Is Islam the Enemy?" by Charles Kimball. He writes: "Muslims worship the same God as Christians and Jews." Sorry, this is nonsense not to be expected from a professor of religion. As he later notes, Muslims deny - according to the Quran - that Jesus is God's son, divine, and was resurrected by God and is now part of the Trinity. Thus, we are not worshipping the same God as the Christian's God, and the Muslim's God is thoroughly offended by Jesus being seen in the same light as God. There are major ramifications about the fact that we are indeed worshipping different Gods. Ed. note: You can read Kimball's article yourself at ------------------------ Kenny Kistler of Park Ridge, New Jersey, wrote: After reading the letter from Mtumiki Njira of Limbe, Malawi, it is crystal clear to me that there are countless people around the world who are happy that this has happened to the United States. The catch phrase is always, "I don't condone the attacks, BUT...." When I hear someone say this, I can't help but draw the analogy of a girl who gets raped and is made to feel guilty for somehow causing it to happen. This attitude is wrong any which way you look at it. Even if the United States changed its policies toward unstable countries, it wouldn't change much. First of all, the anti- American sentiment is passed down to children and is ingrained into the cultural fabric. It will never go away as long as prejudices exist. Secondly, I believe it was Hitler who made demands of the world's superpowers after he took control. And the more he got, the more he wanted until his was a military machine bent on world domination. The terrorist countries have shown what they are capable of. To appease them now or in the future in any way will prove us weak, naive, and most important, put the future world in more grave danger than the present one. ---------------------- Kyra Matustik of Slovakia wrote: There is propaganda on both sides: U.S./Russia, Black/White, Jews/Arabs, etc. Only the number of victims are different on each side. But I never heard that love killed anyone. Politics and religion usually produce their own truth, far from respecting and honoring other truth. Humans of the 21st century should create life, not death. -------------------------------------- Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of views. The views expressed are not necessarily those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice heard? Send Boomerang e-mails to the editor: "" -------------------------------------------------------------- W e b S c e n e ++++++++++++++++ *America's tragedy is felt by all the world Photo essay of candlelight and prayer vigils around the globe. Go to: ------------------ *Give peace a chance A comprehensive site dedicated to promoting peace/ anti-war protests around the world. Find out when a peace vigil will be happening in your area of the world, or if you're an organizer, post your event online. Go to: ------------------ *Foreign policy think tank Foreign Policy In Focus (FPIF), established in 1996, seeks to make the U.S. a more responsible global leader and global partner. It is a "think tank without walls" that functions as an international network of more than 650 policy analysts and advocates. Unlike traditional think tanks, FPIF is committed to advancing a citizen-based foreign policy agenda - one that is fundamentally rooted in citizen initiatives and movements. Go to: ----------------------------------------------------------------------- ......................... 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 Molly Marsh T 202.328.8842 Assistant Editor Ryan Beiler T 202.328.8842 Web Editor ....................... A D V E R T I S I N G .................... Larry Bellinger T 202.328.8842 Advertising Manager ......................... T E C H N I C A L ...................... Bob Sabath T 202.328.8842 Chief Technologist Jodi Hochstedler T 202.328.8842 Internet Assistant ........................... S 0 J O N E T ........................ Sojourners T 202.328.8842 2401 15th Street NW F 202.328.8757 Washington, DC 20009 To make a secure donation to support our work, go to For more information, e-mail us: .................................................................. ...................... L E G A L N O T I C E S ................. Copyright (c) 2001 Sojourners. 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