The Common Good

Tolkien translates to film

Sojomail - January 9, 2002



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 Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k
     *Who are you waiting for in 2002?

 B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
     *Tolkien translates to film

 S o j o C i r c l e s
     *New SojoCircle starts up across the pond

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *Christmas and Hanukkah to merge

 B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
     *Surprising politics of stem cells among religious

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *Ever since I gave Jesus a ride, my car smells like urine....

 P o l i t i c a l l y   C o n n e c t
     *NY Times columnist: Nonviolence would crumble Israeli occupation

 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
     *OutFoxed: Is tabloid reporting a fad or a trend?

 P. O. V.
     *How Islam lost its way

 W e b   S c e n e
     *Pixar short films
     *Photo homage to the stillborn
     *Justice not war
     *Skier alert: snow fun central


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

"The best way that we can remember Lisa is to make her
gifts our own. Carry them out into the world. Spread the
Word, scatter it like seed. Till the soil. For it seems,
as she believed, as she lived, that we are the ones we've
been waiting for.

         - Liz Wills, Director of Sojourners Neighborhood
           Center, eulogizing Lisa Sullivan, (1961-2000),
           founder of LISTEN, a nationally acclaimed
           youth organizing project. Sullivan also was a
           Sojourners board member.


B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
Tolkien translates to film

by David Batstone

Imagine yourself in Middle Earth, immersed in the
throes of a battle that will shape the destiny of
not only your own time, but for generations to come.
The evil kingdom of Mordor must be stopped, lest it
destroy all that is good and decent. We have met the
enemy, and it is them.

CUT. Let's retake that scene and go back to the
original script. J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings:
Fellowship of the Ring" leads us on a journey through
Middle Earth colored by shades of gray. Oh yes,
radical evil manifests itself via mighty wizards,
brute soldiers (ghouls and orcs being the most
ghastly), and deformed kings who race around as
black knights of terror. But these evil ones are
guided by a force that lurks in the hearts of even the
best of humanity, not to mention dwarves, elves, and
hobbits. That force is the will to power.

I admit that I had low expectations of how Hollywood
would treat Tolkien's tales. But I was pleasantly -
no, let me say it, shockingly - surprised how ably
the film captured the essence of the first book of
the weighty trilogy. Sure, many scenes were conflated,
others eliminated, and a few even added with creative
license. But the power of the story shines through.
(By the way, do yourself a favor and read "The Hobbit"
and "The Fellowship of the Ring" before you see the
film. Of course, my advice likely will go unheeded,
and like my own kids, you'll be motivated to read the
books anyway after you've seen the film, then go back
and see the film a second time!)

The author builds his tale around the mythic Ring of
Gyges. You've heard it said that all Western thought
is a footnote after Plato; well score one more for
this whimsical argument. Plato recounted the story in
"The Republic" some 2,400 years ago. Gyges was a
shepherd who found a gold ring. Putting it on, he
discovered that it was magic, enabling him to become
invisible whenever he pleased. Drunk with power,
Gyges traveled to the castle in the capital, seducing
the queen and killing the king - all with impunity,
because he couldn't be detected.

Tolkien picks up this imagery artfully in his fiction.
If awesome power exists, wouldn't any virtuous
person be tempted to wield such might for one's own
selfish ends? Even the lovable hobbit Bilbo Baggins
falls under the spell of the ring. We think we wear the
ring, but with use it wears us. Ok, so we all know
the cliche "power corrupts, absolute power corrupts
absolutely." But do we recognize that it is not only
the exercise of kings and presidents and mullahs, but
also the power of one person, lording one's will over
another? The moral of Tolkien's tale is relevant for
politics - and daily life - for us today as much as
it is for the denizens of Middle Earth: Trust wholly
no one with power, least of all yourself.


JOB OPENING: Operations Coordinator, Koinonia Partners, Americus,
GA. Intentional Christian community. Habitat for Humanity birthplace.
Farm produces/sells pecan products. Community lives/volunteers on farm.
Supervise 10 staff; oversee finance, fundraising, catalogs, orders,
community center, volunteers, visitors, property management. Consensus
builder, hands-on leader, goal oriented. Respond to


S o j o C i r c l e s
New SojoCircle set up across the pond

Rev. Ray Gaston's SojoCircle at his parish in Leeds,
England, has been looking into a variety of subjects -
a basic introduction to Islam, a Muslim perspective
on the war in Afghanistan, and a visit to the local
mosque with a talk from a local Muslim professor.
But there is much more to come and still room in the
circle! Join Rev. Gaston and be part of this growing
movement in all corners of the world. If there isn't
a SojoCircle in your area, consider leading one yourself.
There are resources to help you get started and more
to keep you going. For more information, send us a note
at or call us at 1-800-714-7474.

New SojoCircles have formed in the following cities.
Please contact the leader and get involved:

Murfreesboro, TN: Ruthie-Marie Beckworth;
Boise, ID: Scott Paeth;
Waldoboro, ME: Holly Baldwin;
Leeds, United Kingdom: Ray Gaston;
Washington, DC: Ellen Sarrett;
Minneapolis, MN: Kirstin Wymore;

A complete list of SojoCircles is now online at:

See what others are doing and share your own stories at
a new forum devoted to SojoCircle discussion online:


F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
Christmas and Hanukkah to merge

The overhead cost of having 12 days of Christmas and
eight days of Hanukkah was becoming prohibitive for both
sides. By combining forces, the world will be able to enjoy
consistently high-quality service during the Fifteen Days
of Chrismukah. Find out more...go to:


B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
Surprising politics of stem cells among religious

Despite the active and urgent opposition of their
leaders, Catholics and evangelicals support research
on stem cells using human embryos, according to a
new ABCNews/Beliefnet poll.

Responses to the query: Do you think federal funding
for medical research should or should not include
funding for stem-cell research?
                                    Support  Oppose  Don't Know

Catholics                             54%      35%      11%
Protestants, Non-evangelicals         68%      19%      13%
Evangelicals                          51%      40%       9%
No religion                           63%      24%      14%


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S o u l   W o r k s
The aroma of Christ

by Ryan Beiler

Ever since I gave Jesus a ride, my car
smells like urine.

Find out more about Beiler's dilemma at:


P o l i t i c a l l y   C o n n e c t
Nonviolence would crumble Israeli occupation

by David Shipler
The New York Times

Twenty years ago a young Palestinian-American named
Mubarak Awad appeared in Jerusalem preaching nonviolence.
Palestinians laughed him into obscurity. Israeli officials
took him more seriously, eventually jailed him and
deported him, and again last summer denied him entry
into the country. The Israelis knew what the Palestinians
did not: The Israeli occupation could be killed with kindness.

Against nonviolent resistance, Israel's right-wing
governments would have had trouble seizing land and
constructing Jewish settlements all over the West Bank
and Gaza Strip. Most Israelis, weary of occupation,
resisted withdrawal only because they felt vulnerable
to Arab attacks. A hundred Palestinian children pledging
peace and lying in front of bulldozers would have been
more effective than a thousand Palestinian children
chanting hatred and throwing lethal stones. To those who
wanted to keep the territories, Mr. Awad was a dangerous

To read Shipler's entire column (reg. required), go to:


B o o m e r a n g

Mairead Corrigan-Maguire, a Nobel Peace Laureate,
writes from Belfast, Ireland:

The greatest gift we can all receive is the gift of human
life. This year my husband and I were blessed with the gift
of two beautiful grandchildren - Jack and Matthew. How much
love they bring into our lives by their gentle presence. To
cuddle them, and whisper, "I love you," gives me great joy.
They deepen my soul. They make me want to laugh and sing. I
feel deeply responsible for their welfare. I also feel in
good conscience responsible for the welfare - and indeed the
lives - of the children in the world.

It is in this spirit that I wish to share with you my belief
that many children are now in grave danger and need our help.
The American and British governments have gone to war in
Afghanistan and I fear that the next step by these military
giants is to attack our brothers and sisters in Somalia.

At a time when the entire international community should be
increasing our humanitarian and political efforts to solve
this crisis, we are wasting valuable energies discussing bombs,
instead of bread for Somalian children. Each of us must do
everything we can to save the lives of the children, whether
they live in Iraq, Somalia, Colombia, the Philippines, or
Belgium. So what can we do?

The U.N. has a responsibility to lead the way for us all to
establish a Coalition for Peace and Dialogue in the new
century. The UNHCR has said that in the events of a strike by
the United States on Somalia, the agency has developed
contingency plans for coping with any resulting refugees
exodus. I believe it is more important that we develop our
political initiatives to prevent any such strikes and uphold
all international laws and solve our problems nonviolently in
this decade for a culture of peace and nonviolence for the
children of the world.

For myself, I promise that, if the American and British
military giants attack these countries, I will go and stand
under the bombs with the people, as in good conscience I can
do no less.


Bob Fleischer of Groton, Massachusetts, writes:

Commentators keep lamenting how the unemployed and
unengaged youth of poor countries are easily persuaded
by terrorist organizations who offer them food, shelter,
education, and a purpose. Why don't we compete with the
al Qaeda's of the world for the hearts and minds of these
youth? If al Qaeda can set up local cells throughout the
world that offer youth a "family," why can't organizations
with civilized objectives do the same? They could offer
basic education, train in skills, indoctrinate them in the
ways of society, as well as care for their basic needs,
even provide a "paycheck." They also could start local

I keep on hearing pundits claim that we need stable
governments that are friendly to Western business. Hogwash!
Al Qaeda does its best work in recruiting and engaging youth
when the governments are weak and the societies are
primitive. Perhaps Coca Cola and ExxonMobile can't set up
shop, but an organization that works like al Qaeda can.

I don't think such organizations need to have al Qaeda's
values in order to emulate al Qaeda's model for growth.
Sure it will take some money - how much does all of al
Qaeda really spend? Some tens of millions of dollars?
A hundred million? Al Qaeda sure thinks it's worth it -
does the West?


John C. Karrer of Cincinnati, Ohio, writes:

As a local church pastor, I am constantly amazed at
what I would term "blind patriotism," which emanates
from the mouths and actions of otherwise decent,
committed, church-going folks. One of our younger
folks handed me something after the service a few
weeks ago and I thought it was an American flag lapel
pin. When I had a chance to give it a closer look, I
discovered it was a cross with the red, white, and blue
of our flag superimposed upon it! Now, I think I am
very patriotic but that, for me, was going too far. Why
is it so hard for some folks to see that one may be
patriotic and still feel the need - necessity? - to
critique our beloved nation once in awhile? As someone
has pointed out, it would be easier for most of us to
get rid of the altar candles than the American flag
from the front of our churches.

SojoMail, you are a light in the confusion of our
present situation and I applaud your stance of "justice
with compassion and reason."


Amrita Burdick of Kansas City, Missouri, writes:

I have received a notice of the plan to display a sign of
peace for Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday celebration.
While I strongly agree with peace and with working for world
concerns, I am concerned that by flying a flag other than our
own Stars and Stripes we are giving that symbol to those
who use it to support aggression and injustice.

I think it is very important to reclaim our flag for some
of its original values. People might want to fly it along
with a world symbol - or with words, such as "peace and
justice for all the world" - but I strongly believe
that we need to fly our own flag and make it a symbol of
freedom once again.


Marlon Millner of Washington, D.C., writes:

There was a time when I was a reporter for a weekly
business newspaper here in our nation's capital.
Shortly after I joined the publication, I went to a
trade show to shake hands and make sources. I worked
the newspaper's booth with one of its ad salesmen that
day. He said to me, in essence, the publisher always
talks about everyone who loves us, but never talks
about those who don't. Why are certain folks not
reading our paper, buying subscriptions, or paying for ads?

The same story could be applied to David Batstone's
commentary on "Why Does the Arab World Mistrust Us?" I
don't take issue with Batstone's commentary, but the
negative response to it from Mark Roberts of Tulsa,
Oklahoma. American foreign policy has supported democracy
among those who are truly our so-called friends, but
to support containment and control among our allies.
Israel is considered a friend, so we support how they
organize their government and how the citizens have a
great deal of self-determination.

But there has been no greater manifestation of this than
in the Arab world. Imperial powers carved up the land
as they saw fit, and imposed boundaries, identities,
and sovereignties set up by those outside of the
region, rather than within the region itself. Part of
the problem in a place like Afghanistan is that the
sovereign boundaries are not natural, they were
imposed. Part of the problem in the Middle East is
that boundaries were imposed. The early plans called
for the creation of Israeli and Palestinian states,
but we see only one has been achieved after more than
50 years.


Charlotte Hill of Keller, Texas, writes:

In response to Mark E. Roberts of Tulsa, Oklahoma,
if you would go to Israel-Palestine you would see
immediately who is David and who is Goliath today. It
is the opposite of what you have said. My husband and
I have been there twice with Volunteers in Mission to
help Palestinian Christians build and maintain colleges
in the Galilee area and in Bethlehem.

You mention the percentage of Israeli citizens
who are Arab. Do you realize they do not have the same
rights and privileges as Jewish citizens of Israel?
It is interesting that during World War II it was Germany
and some of its allies who massacred Jews, but it was the
Palestinians who were forced to give up their homes,
land, and country to accommodate the Jewish state
established by the United Nations. Since that time the
U.S. has poured billions of dollars into maintaining
this Jewish state, which was carved out of land that was
already populated by Palestinians. Thousands of Palestinians
have lived in refugee camps since 1948, waiting for the
promised compensation for their land and homes that were
taken from them. I do not agree with or wish to justify the
violence on either side, but if you are going to look at
the situation you should first ask yourself how you
would respond if you were pushed off your land and out
of your home at gunpoint. Start from that perspective
then try to understand where to go from there.


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:



C u l t u r e  W a t c h
OutFoxed: Is tabloid reporting a fad or a trend?

by Clay Risen

Fox News representatives contend they simply did
their patriotic duty by downplaying reports of
civilian deaths and played up reports on American
military successes. And they claim their competition -
the networks and CNN - are practicing cultural relativism
by portraying both sides of every story. Roger Ailes,
the Fox News chairman, told The New York Times that
"suddenly, our competition has discovered 'fair and
balanced,' but only when it's radical terrorism
versus the United States."

A cynic would say that Fox's stand has more to do
with opportunism than patriotism, and that cynic would
be right - Ailes adds that if sacrificing objectivity
"makes me a bad guy, tough luck. I'm still getting the
ratings." Which is true - Fox's viewership is gaining
on CNN's, according to The New York Times, and it's
already 43 percent higher than this time last year.

Turn off that TV and read more at:



 A new study packet by the editors of Sojourners magazine.
 This 5-session, 48-page study guide - designed for use in
 classrooms, Sunday school sessions, small groups, and study
 circles - is now available. For a table of contents or
 to order your copy, go to:


P. O. V.
How Islam lost its way

by Pervez Amir Ali Hoodbhoy

If the world is to be spared what future historians may call
the "century of terror," we will have to chart a perilous
course between the Scylla of American imperial arrogance and
the Charybdis of Islamic religious fanaticism. Through these
waters, we must steer by a distant star toward a careful,
reasoned, democratic, humanistic and secular future.
Otherwise, shipwreck is certain.

For nearly four months now, leaders of the Muslim community in
the United States, and even President Bush, have routinely
asserted that Islam is a religion of peace that was hijacked
by fanatics on Sept. 11.

These two assertions are simply untrue.

First, Islam - like Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, or any
other religion - is not about peace. Nor is it about war.
Every religion is about absolute belief in its own superiority
and the divine right to impose its version of truth upon others.
In medieval times, both the Crusades and the Jihads were soaked
in blood. Today, there are Christian fundamentalists who attack
abortion clinics in the United States and kill doctors; Muslim
fundamentalists who wage their sectarian wars against each other;
Jewish settlers who, holding the Old Testament in one hand and
Uzis in the other, burn olive orchards and drive Palestinians
off their ancestral land; and Hindus in India who demolish
ancient mosques and burn down churches.

The second assertion is even further off the mark. Even if Islam
had, in some metaphorical sense, been hijacked, that event did
not occur three months ago. It was well over seven centuries ago
that Islam suffered a serious trauma, the effects of which
refuse to go away.

To read Hoobhoy's full opinion piece on Islam, go to:


W e b   S c e n e

*Pixar short films

The animation studio responsible for the cutting-edge
visuals in "A Bug's Life," "Monsters, Inc.," and the "Toy
Story" films offers Web surfers this collection of free,
downloadable short films. If you're curious about how Pixar
works its magic, you can also check out the site's "How We
Do It" section for an interactive tour.


*Photo homages to the stillborn

Parents of stillborn and miscarried babies build virtual
memorials for their lost children, often including photos.
Wired News provides an overview of the phenomenon.,1284,49308,00.html?tw=wn20011229


*Justice not war

The Justice Not War site aims to serve as a central
clearinghouse that offers the following: Information
about groups and coalitions that oppose militarism in
the campaign against terrorism, and prescriptive foreign
policy analysis about terrorism and counter-terrorism.


*Skier alert: snow fun central

If you're planning to do any skiing or snowboarding this
season, is a cool stop for news and advice. The
"Learn and Improve" section has helpful tips for beginners and
veterans alike, covering clothing, gear, physical fitness,
and more. Information about resorts and weather conditions
is also included.


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