The Common Good

Remembering heroism

Sojomail - March 13, 2002



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 Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k
     *Hsuan Hua: Escaping death

 H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
     *Remembering heroism and thinking the unthinkable

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *Poetry: The World of Light

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *Oy Vay!

 R e l i g i o n   M a t t e r s
     *Sexual abuse rocks the Catholic Church

 B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
     *Survey results in black and white: slave reparations

 B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
     *Action alert: boost funding to stop AIDS

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Filmmaker tries to compete with Hollywood for Chinese audience

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


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

Someone who wants to escape death must first become
a living dead-man. That means treat yourself as if
you were already dead, refraining from greed, hatred,
and stupidity.

                      - Hsuan Hua, Venerable Master and
                        founder of the City of Ten Thousand


H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
Remembering heroism and thinking the unthinkable
by Jim Wallis

Like many Americans, I watched the CBS "9/11" documentary on
Sunday evening. The film was shot by two young French
filmmakers who had been working for several months on a
story about a rookie firefighter in a New York City
firehouse, just blocks from the World Trade Center.

On the morning of Sept. 11, the men from Engine Company 7
were already out on another job when the first plane struck
Tower #1. Because they were so close, the filmmakers got
amazing footage that nobody else did, and their proximity
caused the firefighters to be among the first on the scene.
I was very moved by the courage and dedication of these New
York firefighters as they waded into the chaos and
devastation. With a look of resolve on their faces, they
headed up the endless flights of stairs to rescue people
who were trapped or lost, probably knowing even so early
that their own lives might be at risk. I thought of the
words of Jesus, "Greater love has no one than this, that
they lay down their life for their friends." Risking one's
life for strangers is part of a firefighter's life and
work, but even the most veteran NYC firefighters were
unprepared for Sept. 11.

I was again stunned by the devastation of Ground Zero, which
I visited only weeks after the terrorist attack. A most
telling moment of the film came in an interview with one of
the firefighters. "I saw how evil evil can be," he says,
and then went on to explain that he became a firefighter
because of his commitment to saving lives, but at that
moment, if his country called, he was ready to go and kill.

The film highlighted for me the difference between the
heroism of those who risked their lives to save other
people, and those who coldly killed for ideological
purposes. The question, of course, is our response. Do we
respond in ways that reflect of heroism of the life-savers
or will our response risk and kill even more innocents?

I live on a prime terrorist target - 20 blocks from the
White House. Every time I fly away from Washington (like
this morning), I think about my 3-year-old son, Luke, and
my wife, Joy, left behind on the target. I want to prevent
the threat of terrorism against my family and countless
others - with all my heart. Yes, terrorism must be
stopped. But I don't want us to kill other people's
3-year-olds in our war against terrorism.

Also on Sunday, The New York Times carried a front-page
story on a leaked new "Nuclear Posture Review" - in which
the Pentagon discusses the contingencies in which the
United States is prepared to use its "nuclear strike
capabilities." The reports indicated that the Pentagon
is preparing plans for the possible use of nuclear weapons
against as many as seven countries, including Iraq, Iran,
North Korea, and Syria. This is a very dangerous proposal
because it provides the rationale for actually using
nuclear weapons in the war against terrorism.
Although the review does agree with a previous
administration announcement to cut the current 6,000
warheads to 2,000, the ones remaining would be redesigned
for possible use. This includes modifying cruise missiles,
conventional bombs, and fighter jets to make then "nuclear
capable." How can we even be thinking about this? How can
we consider raining such devastation on others, including
many innocents, after 9/11's destruction has been visited
on us? Did we really see the pictures of the Trade Center?
Could not the use of even one nuclear weapon cause the
enormous suffering of Ground Zero to actually pale in

The Fire Department of New York City has showed us
another way. You defeat terrorism through the heroism that
saves lives, not by responding in kind. What could the
Pentagon be thinking? We must tell them that our response
to terrorism must not be to think the unthinkable.


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F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
Oy Vay! A day at the beach

A Jewish grandmother is standing on the beach watching her
grandson play in the water. She is trying not to get her feet
wet, when all of a sudden, a huge wave appears from nowhere
and crashes directly over the spot where the boy is wading.
The water recedes and the boy is no longer there. He simply
vanished. She holds her hands to the sky, screams, and cries,
"Lord, how could you? Have I not been a wonderful grandmother?
Have I not been a wonderful mother? Have I not given to
Haddasah? Have I not lit candles every Friday night at dusk?
Have I not tried my very best to live a life that you would
be proud of?"

A loud voice booms from the sky, "Okay, okay!" A few minutes
later another huge wave appears out of nowhere and crashes
on the beach. As the water recedes, the boy is standing
there, smiling, splashing around as if nothing had ever
happened. The loud voice booms again "I have returned your
grandson. Are you satisfied?" She responds, "He had a hat."


S o u l   W o r k s
The World of Light

by Michael Heffernan

Whatever else we did or could have done,
or tried to think of when the time had come,
would always bring us to this place of stone,
cold and forgetfulness. There was the same
pain in our hearts as we could often have,
enough to mourn by, and in mourning thus,
we surely came to know the end of love,
its purpose and its only terminus.
And so we all were as we were before,
wanting to make of it what we could bear,
but realising even so the lies
we liked to hear, about the galaxies,
and how the dead would send back light from them
more like a song than any requiem.

Selected from "The Back Road to Arcadia"


R e l i g i o n   M a t t e r s
Sexual abuse rocks the Catholic Church

By Ellen Goodman

The pedophilia scandal is the more chilling proof of
the corrosive effect of secrecy. The church has never
claimed to be a democracy and the rules are different
for public and private institutions. Yet, there's no
doubt any longer that this secret "damage control," this
priest protection society, justified to protect the sacred
relationship between priest and parishioner, has torn the
church apart. To read more, go to:


B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
Survey results in black and white: slave reparations

Nearly 1,000 Americans - 820 white adults and
146 black adults - were asked about slave
reparation issues in Jan/Feb 2002.

Do you think corporations that made profits
from slavery should or should not apologize
to black Americans who are descendants of slaves?

Whites:    34% Should       62% Shouldn't
Blacks:    68% Should       23% Shouldn't

Do you think corporations that made profits from
slavery should or should not make cash payments
to black Americans who are descendants of slaves

Whites:    11% Should       84% Shouldn't
Blacks:    57% Should       35% Shouldn't

Do you think corporations that made profits from
slavery should or should not set up scholarship
funds for black Americans who are descendants of

Whites:    35% Should       61% Shouldn't
Blacks:    75% Should       20% Shouldn't

Do you think the government should or should not
make cash payments to descendants of slaves?

Whites:    6% Should        90% Shouldn't
Blacks:    55% Should       37% Shouldn't

*Source: USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll


"When the hour came, he took his place at the table."

Easter is the highest and most holy day of the Christian year
and "Living the Word" is a great resource for personal
devotion or pastoral reference for this time when we celebrate
the mystery of faith.

To order "Living the Word: Reflections on the Revised Common
Lectionary," call 1-800-714-7474 or visit


B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
Action Alert: Boost U.S. funding to stop AIDS

ACTION: Urge the Bush administration and Congress to
include $700 million for the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS,
TB, and malaria in the emergency supplemental spending
bill expected to be introduced by the Bush administration
on March 18th.  (This effort helps lay the groundwork for
getting $2.5 billion in the budget resolution for next
year FY 2003.)

NATIONAL CALL-IN DAYS: March 13 and 14

Contact the White House: Phone 202-456-1111; Fax: 202-456-2461;

Contact the Chairs of the House and Senate Appropriations
Committees: HOUSE--Rep. Young (202-225-5961); SENATE-Senator
Byrd (202-224-3954)...In addition to the White House, these
members have the ultimate say in what is included in the
emergency spending bill.

If you have time, also contact your legislator at the Capitol
Hill switchboard: 202-224-3121. Note: See and for fax, direct phone and email addresses for

When you call the members' offices leave a message with the
receptionist for the legislative assistant who handles global
AIDS issues or leave a voicemail for the legislative assistant.
If you actually speak to the legislative assistant, say where
you are calling from and explain that you are asking Rep. ________
to support $700 million for global AIDS within the upcoming
supplemental spending bill. Be brief. Use the facts below to help
make your points.

Not sure who your representative is? Check
to find them with your zip code.

ISSUE:  On or around March 18th, the Bush administration is
expected to designate certain programs as emergencies - such
as the war on terrorism - and submit a fiscal year 2002
emergency supplemental to Congress. An emergency supplemental
provides funding immediately and is separate from the regular
budget process.

When Congress passed the FY 2002 budget last November, they
failed to include enough money for global AIDS programs. Advocates
called for at least $1 billion to be provided to the Global Fund to
fight HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria. Over 95 members of the House and
Senate signed onto letters to President Bush asking $1 billion in
emergency appropriation but only $300 million was actually allocated.

Now we can close the gap in FY 2002 global AIDS funding. At least
$700 million for the Global HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria Fund should be
included in the supplemental emergency spending bill. This would
bring the US government's contribution to $1 billion for FY 2002.

BACKGROUND:  An estimated $10 billion is needed to respond to
the crisis annually but only $2.2 billion has been made available
from all government sources for global AIDS this year. The Global
Fund to fight AIDS, TB, and malaria (The Global Fund) is an independent
funding mechanism to channel resources to programs focused on prevention,
care, support, and treatment including on the well-being of orphans
and on programs that deliver desperately needed AIDS drugs to people
living with HIV/AIDS. For more info, see:

To date, over 20 million people have died of AIDS worldwide. Some 40
million people are living with HIV/AIDS today-most in the developing
world where resources to respond and health infrastructure are limited.
Today, like every other day, some 13,000 people will become newly
infected and more than 8,000 people will perish due to AIDS. The
global AIDS pandemic requires a massive scaling up of international
financial resources. The United States must lead this global
partnership by investing at least an additional $700 million (for a
total of $1 billion this year) toward the Global Fund in the 2002
emergency spending bill.


Action Alert II: Prayer and Faxing for Peace

Last fall, church communities in the U.S. collected
40,000 blankets for Afghan refugees, providing cover from
the winter cold.  Now, as the administration talks of war
against Iraq and other countries, members of Congress need
"moral cover" from the religious community to encourage
them to oppose increased military action.

A group of Mennonites and others have called for Palm
Sunday (March 24) to be a "day of prayer and faxing," asking
churches to set up a room with equipment where Christians
can write/fax letters to Congress and join in prayer after
their worship service. The simple message to communicate
is don't expand the war, pray for peace.

For more information, see


C u l t u r e   W a t c h
Filmmaker tries to compete with Hollywood for Chinese audience

An American director with four commercial hits in the
last three years would doubtless be an international
celebrity by now, but China's star-making machinery
has yet to achieve Hollywood's global reach. Filmmaker
Feng Xiaogang's releases have consistently set box
office records in China, elevating him to national
celebrity status, but overseas audiences are primarily
familiar with art house darlings Zhang Yimou, Chen
Kaige and Tian Zhuanzhuang, the so-called "Fifth
Generation" of Chinese filmmakers. Few moviegoers
outside of China are acquainted with Feng. That may
soon change.

Columbia pictures has bet on "Big Shot's Funeral,"
Feng's satiric comedy of conspicuous commercialism
run amok. Featuring Hollywood veterans Donald Sutherland
and Paul Mazursky, the film also stars Ge You, who won
a best actor award at Cannes for his performance in Zhang
Yimou's "To Live." "I have a very good judgment of where
the interest lies for Chinese audiences," Feng, 43, says.
If Feng's touch is as sure as he contends, "Big Shot's
Funeral" could be his next domestic blockbuster - and
his first international breakout film.

China's moribund domestic film industry is in alarming
decline, throttled by government regulation and battered
by foreign imports. Since 1995, when the Chinese government
agreed to open the domestic market to 10 foreign films
a year, American movies have dominated the box office,
while production, audience, and revenue figures for domestic
titles have declined significantly. Feng remains one of
the few Chinese directors who cansistently compete
with Hollywood.

- SOMA magazine, San Francisco


B o o m e r a n g

Tom Boughan writes from Cowan, Tennessee:

David Batstone's article [SojoMail 3-06-02] is right
about Enron. Seems like once you are CEO, you think you
are exempt from morality and ethics. Ironically, Kenneth
Lay had made a speech about ethics before this happened.
Christian Right leaders had called him a Christian
businessman. Pat Robertson refused and still refuses to
remark on the blaring immorality of Lay and Enron. Thank
God for Sojourners.


James Talley writes from Salina, Kansas:

In his Jan. 23 column, David Batstone writes: "Citizens
must urgently concern ourselves with 'the corporate soul,'
that is, how to nurture a spiritual force that inexorably
shapes a company culture for the common good."

"The search for a corporate soul" strikes me as somewhat
naive.... Corporations have no requirement to develop souls.
Market pressure from ensouled human consumers, even investors,
has limited utility and, even if successful, doesn't confer
a soul on a corporation - the language spoken is not a moral
tongue, but a profit-based vernacular, the only language
corporations are required to master. (A sociopath may
conform to the laws of the nation, if he or she is convinced
that violating them would bring personal harm. Adding to
the laws doesn't make the sociopath grow a conscience.)
Soulessness is only a serious problem when and if corporations
grow to a size where they can insulate themselves from the
market's corrections and from the state's regulations. We
must begin to explore whether policing these beasts,
"ensouling" them somehow, or limiting their ability to
harm us is most advisable for the common good.


Bill Samuel writes from Silver Spring, Maryland:

I regret John Goddard's attack on SojoMail for pointing
people to the 95 theses.  He claims to be for "respecting
our brothers and sisters of other faiths" yet his tirade
is based on his own intolerance of Vineyard Christian
Fellowship (with which the originators of the theses are
associated), which he describes very inaccurately. In fact,
much of the 95 theses makes the same points that Sojo
repeatedly does. It was a quite appropriate reference, and
I thank you for providing it because otherwise I would not
have known of this effort. It is Goddard's bigotry blinding
him to good coming out of people from other religious groups
than his own which is the problem.


C. Christopher Smith, Coordinator of Kingdom Now,
writes from Indianapolis, Indiana:

Although Kingdom Now emerged from a Vineyard Church (and I
might add that it is a very atypical Vineyard Church: urban,
diverse, and conjoined with an intentional community), a
quick browsing of or our endorser list will show that we
are an ecumenical group consisting of disciples from
practically every Church tradition imaginable (including
Episcopals). Furthermore, none of our leadership would
consider themselves fundamentalists, and there are very few,
if any, of our members who are fundamentalists.  Finally,
many of our endorsers are women, which should adequately
rebut your charge of Taliban-like misogyny.

Rev. Goddard, rash generalizations, all-too-easy explanations
and name-calling neither reflect the Truth of Jesus, nor
promote the unity of His Church. We hope and pray that
you will learn to love and respect us, your sisters and
brothers in Christ, as much as you do likewise for people
of other faiths.


John Bavington writes from London, England:

I am sorry to see such ignorance as that expressed by John
Goddard. I am an Anglican priest who has benefited a great
deal from contact with members of Vineyard Churches. It is
outrageous enough to describe them as "just another
fundamentalist group." It is indefensible to compare them
to the Taliban, who espoused torture and murder in the
pursuit of their political aims. The Vineyard Church is
one vibrant and authentic expression of the whole Christian
church. Their founder, John Wimbur, insisted that our unity
in the gospel must lead us to love one another, whatever
tradition of the church we belong to. "Love the whole church,"
was one saying of his. What a pity that John Goddard hasn't
the grace to do so.

Marlon Millner writes from Washington, DC:

I think Rev. John Goddard's comments about Vineyard
are totally unbalanced. As a progressive African
American Pentecostal (not a white Charismatic like
Vineyard) who has engaged in ecumenical and interfaith
conversations, I'm amazed at how white liberals assume
that I'm "at home" with them; particularly as they
condescend to "understand" me, like I'm some monkey in
a lab.

The problem is that the liberal left, in the Episcopal
tradition, represented by the likes of Shelby Spong,
do not speak to or for me. I don't need his
a-theistic Christianity or neo-left views to help my
community as either a Pentecostal or an African
American. Or do you think I have just stereotyped him
and what he represents as the good Rev. Goddard has
done with Vineyard?


Greta Nisson writes from Monterey, California:

With cries for help from food banks contradicting the
idea that "welfare reform" has been a success, I
think we should cut spending on welfare for large
corporations that distain the American public and
their employees. The disparity between the salaries
of upper level management continues to skyrocket while
the earning power of the majority of workers and especially
the bottom level workers has been steadily declining.
One way to help change that might be to link government
tax cuts and "entitlements" given to corporations to
low salary ratios between the lowest paid employees
and the highest paid. After all, part of the official
rational for corporate tax breaks is that it will
help employees.

Enron and the likes should not receive government
subsidized loans to push bad business in India or
anywhere else. The federal government should not
encourage or finance corporate welfare cheating.
When will the honest poor get get as much government
access as the corporate management cheats?


Judy Schindler writes from Hector, Minnesota:

I have to respectfully disagree with Ron McCreary's
statement that "we're on much better ground noticing
how different our gods are, and sticking up for our
own while respectfully listening to others, than
trying to pretend they're all alike when clearly
they're not."
I do not feel that I am pretending anything when I
say what I believe about other faith's image of the
Divine. Believing that the God we all worship is
indeed the same divinity worshipped by other faith
traditions is not to say that the *aspect* of the Divine
is the same aspect worshipped by others.
It is possible that none of us has the whole truth
about God!  It is right and good that we respectfully
listen to the others.  We just might learn something
new about *our* God! She is certainly a God of surprises.


Tom Wagner, a member of the Church of the Brethren,
writes from Whitehall, Michigan:

I was glad to see Bethany Spicher's article, "Violence
is against my religion" in the Mar/Apr Sojourners magazine.
You did an excellent job of noting the variety of
Anabaptist and Quaker programs and approaches. Though I
can appreciate some of the moral hand wrenching that has
taken place among your highest staff concerning 9-ll, it's
good to see recognition that some traditions weren't as
conflicted on the applying the gospel to current events.

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:



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