S O J O M A I L
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spirituality, politics, and culture meet
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+++++++++++++++++++++++ 10-April-2002 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
++++++++++++++++++ Unbelievable Destruction +++++++++++++++++++++++++++
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Q u o t e o f t h e W e e k
*The future of Israelis and Palestinians is dying
H e a r t s & M i n d s
S o u l W o r k s
*Lord have mercy
R e l i g i o n M a t t e r s
*Fundamentalism and the modern world
S o j o C i r c l e s
*SojoCircles get organized!
F u n n y B u s i n e s s
*Startling new scientific discovery
D e b a t e
*Can raising cattle ever be healthy and just?
E c o N e w s
*Ten most endangered national parks
B y t h e N u m b e r s
*Survey on religion and public policy
B u i l d i n g a M o v e m e n t
*Speaking the truth about poverty
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
"When an 18-year-old Palestinian girl is induced to
blow herself up and in the process kills a 17-year
old Israeli girl, the future itself is dying, the
future of the Palestinian people and the future of
the Israeli people."
- George W. Bush, April 4, 2002
H e a r t s & M i n d s
by Jim Wallis
I spent this evening with two dear friends whose lives are
committed to peace and justice, and whose hearts are
breaking over the horrific violence in the Middle East.
Jean Zaru is a Palestinian Quaker whose daughter just told
her on the telephone, "Mother, if you came back to
Ramallah, you wouldn't recognize it. The Ramallah you knew
is not here anymore." Jean left there on March 1 for a
speaking tour in Europe and America, and is now trapped
outside her own country. Emotional conversations with
family members tell of "unbelievable destruction." Her
daughter's family has had no food, water, or electricity
for days. Jean's relatives, like most Palestinians in
Israeli-occupied West Bank cities, can't leave their homes,
except when ordered to by Israeli soldiers going house to
house - like two of her elderly sisters-in-law who were
forced to stand in the cold rain until 1:30 in the morning
while their home was ransacked. "I don't mean to just tell
my personal stories," apologizes Jean Zaru, "but
unfortunately these are cases of what everyone is
Then Michael and Deborah Lerner came to our home for
dinner. They are in Washington to protest what the Israeli
government is doing to Palestinians. Michael is the editor
of Tikkun magazine and a rabbi who condemns the Palestinian
suicide bombings in the strongest terms, loves Israel, but
hates what its government is doing on the West Bank. "When
such a slaughter is going on, one has to cry out!"
anguishes Michael. Both believe the daily carnage and pain
in the Middle East again reveals the futility and tragedy
of the cycle of violence.
Attacks by the Israeli army on the cities and refugee camps
of the West Bank have entered a second week. Reports from
the international media, human rights organizations, and
both Palestinians and Israelis grow in daily horror.
Israeli tanks roll through the streets of occupied cities,
stopping food shipments, disrupting water lines, shelling
and rocketing the civilian infrastructure, raiding
hospitals, and even preventing ambulances from reaching
the wounded and dying. The Church of the Nativity in
Bethlehem, traditional site of the birth of Jesus, remains
under siege. Reports suggest that hundreds may have been
already killed, thousands injured, and thousands more
arrested, detained, and interrogated.
Prime Minister Sharon claims to be uprooting those
responsible for a horrible wave of terrorist suicide
bombings in Israel, which killed more than 100 people in
the last month. And those who committed the bombings claim
to be resisting the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.
"Terrorism!" shouts one side. "Occupation!" shouts back the
other side. Each side seems to have only one message,
never hearing the other. "Occupation! Terrorism!" The
competing claims fly through the air while innocent
civilians die. Both realities are true. The Israeli
occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is illegal and
immoral, and it must end. Palestinians are entitled to live
in peace and security without blockades, closures, and the
daily harassment of their entire population. But bombing
innocent Israeli civilians is not the way to end the
occupation. The moral truth that condemns both is that
there is nothing - no cause, no ideology, no true religion -
that can ever justify the deliberate killing of civilians.
That is the definition of terrorism.
Whether it is a Palestinian with an explosive belt blowing
up a Seder celebration or an Israeli pilot in an Apache
gunship firing rockets into a refugee camp - it is
terrorism. Elderly people and children, women and men,
deliberately killed for political objectives is terrorism.
The Israelis have the superior firepower, and, in these past
18 months of bloody conflict, Palestinian deaths (1,381)
outnumber Israeli deaths (434). But the mothers and fathers
of dead children take no interest in talk of relative
political power or symmetry. Dead children simply rend the
souls of their parents and cause the God who created those
children to weep.
The immediate question is how to stop the current violence.
It will take immediate action by the U.S. and the world
community to achieve a situation in which a secure State
of Israel and a viable State of Palestine live side by side
in peace. The United States should immediately work to
bring about the creation of an international protection
force to shield both Israelis and Palestinians from further
violence, and call a regional peace conference including
Israel, the Arab states, along with religious leaders and
civil society organizations.
There has been enough killing - it's time for peace.
We're working with another courageous rabbi, Arthur Waskow,
on expressing this in a statement. We'll send it out in
a day or so for you to read, respond, and pass along to
Voices of peace
The voices of peace and nonviolence, though marginalized
by both sides, continue to challenge their respective
Hanan Ashwari (Palestinian Legislative Council): "Why and
when did we allow a few from our midst to interpret Israeli
military attacks on innocent Palestinian lives as license
to do the same to their civilians? Where are those voices
and forces that should have stood up for the sanctity of
innocent lives (ours and theirs), instead of allowing the
horror of our own suffering to silence us?"
Jonathan Kuttab and Mubarak Awad (lawyer, and human rights
activist): "The Palestinian people have a genuine chance to
achieve their national goals, in spite of the enormous gap
between them and their foes, if they pursue a conscious,
organized strategy of nonviolent resistance to the
occupation on a massive scale."
Neta Golan (Israel's Gush Shalom): "Inside the pock-marked
building surrounded by Israeli tanks and snipers, there is
one question on everyone's mind: how many international
laws does Israel need to break before the U.N. demands a full
and immediate withdrawal? The list of violations is
reaching unprecedented levels."
B'Tselem (The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights
in the Occupied Territories): "Endangering the lives of
innocent civilians constitutes a flagrant violation of the
most basic principles of international humanitarian law.
Such acts cannot be justified based on "military necessity"
as the IDF has frequently claimed in regard to many other
Rabbi Arik Ascherman (Rabbis for Human Rights): "These
are the kind of actions which we must oppose, even when we
are suffering from the terror attacks which we condemn.
The true test of our humanity and commitment to human
rights is whether we can stand up at moments like this and
say, 'This crosses the line'."
S o u l W o r k s
Lord have mercy
by R. S. Thomas
Because we cannot be clever and honest
and are inventors of things more intricate
than the snowflake - Lord have mercy
Because we are full of pride
in our humility and because we believe
in our disbelief - Lord have mercy
Because we will protect ourselves
from ourselves to the point
of destroying ourselves - Lord have mercy
And because on the slope to perfection
when we should be halfway up,
we are halfway down - Lord have mercy
*R. S. Thomas is a poet and priest from the United Kingdom.
"Churches That Make a Difference: Reaching Your Community
with Good News and Good Works" explores the how-to's of
developing and maintaining an effective holistic ministry
that combines evangelism and social outreach.
To find out more about this book, go to:
R e l i g i o n M a t t e r s
Fundamentalism and the modern world
It's long had a bad reputation, but fundamentalism
has become an especially dirty word since Sept. 11.
But does fundamentalism necessarily equal violence?
Four experts on the subject - Karen Armstrong, Jim
Wallis, Susannah Heschel, and Feisal Abdul Rauf -
held a dialogue on religious and political roots
in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
To read this feature as it appeared in the March-
April issue of Sojourners magazine, go to:
S o j o C i r c l e s
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F u n n y B u s i n e s s
Startling new scientific discovery
A major research institution has recently announced the
discovery of the heaviest element yet known to science.
This new element has been tentatively named "Administratium."
Administratium has 1 neutron, 12 assistant neutrons, 75
deputy neutrons, and 111 assistant deputy neutrons, giving
it an atomic mass of 312. These 312 particles are held
together by a force called morons, which are surrounded by
vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.
Since Administratium has no electrons, it is inert.
However, it can be detected as it impedes every reaction
with which it comes into contact. A minute amount of
Administratium causes one reaction to take over four
days to complete when it would normally take less than
Administratium has a normal half-life of three years; it
does not decay but instead undergoes a reorganization.
In fact, Administratium's mass will actually increase
over time, since each reorganization causes some morons
to become neutrons forming isodopes. This characteristic
of moron-promotion leads some scientists to speculate
that Administratium is formed whenever morons reach a
certain quantity in concentration. This hypothetical
quantity is referred to as "Critical Morass."
You will know it when you see it...
D e b a t e
Can raising cattle ever be healthy and just?
*Ed. note: In last week's SojoMail, we featured an
article on Joe and Julie Morris and their grass-fed
cattle raising in rural California.
SojoMail reader Gary Douglas Smith took issue with
the very concept of "justice" and "environmentalism"
connected with cattle raising. We include his letter
and a response by Julie Morris.
Gary Douglas Smith writes from Sherman Oaks, California:
While I can appreciate what Joe and Julie Morris are doing
in contrast to other cattle ranchers and factory farmers,
the real issues have been omitted from this story.
The first issue deals with the environment. The amount of
water needed to create a pound of meat is around 50
times that of water used to produce rice or soy beans, for
example. Also, too much land is used to raise cattle; there
are far more cattle than is natural for the environment to
sustain and that land becomes useless for growing food crops.
The excrement from cows - which emits gasses into the
atmosphere - is completely in conflict with being in harmony
with the environment.
The second issue is how is cattle ranching in any form
humane? The slaughterhouses are one of humanity's greatest
atrocities committed against animals. I dare anyone to show
me a humane slaughterhouse.
The third issue is health. I don't think anyone is willing
to concede that meat ingestion causes heart disease, strokes,
and certain forms of cancer.
The final issue is morality/spirituality. When millions of
human beings are starving around the world and a huge
percentage of soy beans and other vegetation are being fed
to cattle and chickens for humans to consume, rather than
being used to feed the starving, we should be ashamed.
Julie Morris responds:
In response to Gary Douglas Smith's letter, I must offer
the following defense of cattle raised on grass. Although
Mr. Smith may have some legitimate arguments regarding the
cattle industry, he fails to see the radically different,
socially just, environmentally friendly and healthy
practice of raising cattle on grass.
The first issue deals with the environment. I invite anyone
to visit the ranches we graze cattle on to see the abundant
wildflowers, clear running water, native, perennial bunch
grasses, and oak tree saplings that thrive on the properties
we manage. By moving our cattle often to prevent overgrazing
and running them in large herds - the way native grasslands
originally developed - the lands we manage are healthier than
those that never see an animal's hoof or dung to turn and
nurture the soil. Much of the land for cattle is unsuitable
to grow food on, making cattle grazing (read: open space and
wildlife) a welcomed alternative to the tract homes that
litter the California landscape.
The second issue is the impact on the cattle themselves.
Our cattle spend their entire lives grazing with their
family on green hills, under a blue sky, and drinking clean
water. As for their slaughter, death is a part of life.
Temple Grandin, an autistic professor of animal science
at Colorado State, has devoted herself to designing a
stress-free system of bringing cattle to slaughter which
we follow. Our cattle are taken off the grass in the morning
and immediately brought to the abattoir. They are not stressed
and feel no pain. Although this may be the least attractive
part of ranching, it is a small part of it - and to say all
of ranching is inhumane would ignore a culturally rich and
The third issue is health. A recent study conducted by
professors from Purdue and Colorado State University found
that meats from grass-fed animals contain a mixture of
essential conjugated linolelic and Omega-3 fatty acids that
are essential in proper nutrition. Grass-fed meats have also
been found to lower cholesterol and reduce cancerous tumor
growth and other diseases. Meats from grass-fed cows also
contain high amounts of needed protein, zinc, iron, beta-
carotene and Vitamin E (naturally). To learn more about
the health benefits of grassfed meats, go to:
The final issue is morality and spirituality. In his recent
cover article in The New York Times Magazine (March 31, 2002),
environmental author and journalist Michael Pollan summed it up:
"Meat-eating may have become an act riddled with moral and
ethical ambiguities, but eating a steak at the end of a short,
primordial food chain comprising nothing more than ruminants
and grass and light is something I'm happy to do and defend."
To learn more about our land and animal management, please
visit us at http://www.morrisgrassfed.com. You can even make
orders for our 2002 season.
Looking to be inspired? Check out "Faith Works" and other
timeless works by Jim Wallis:
E c o N e w s
Ten most endangered national parks
Pollution, tourism, development, and underfunding are a few
of the perils that threaten America's public parklands,
according to the National Parks Conservation Association.
To read the 10 national parks under gravest threat, go to:
B y t h e N u m b e r s
Survey on religion and public policy
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life probes Americans'
views of religion's role in world conflict, the connection
between religion and morality, welfare reform, and other
issues. A few highlights of the newly released survey:
*7 in 10 Americans feel that houses of worship should
not come out in favor of one political candidate over
another in election times.
*6 in 10 Americans believe children are more likely to
grow up to be moral adults if they are raised in
*Just 2 in 10 think Americans on the whole are as honest
and moral as in the past.
*By a margin of 46 percent to 17 percent, Americans say
the welfare reform legislation passed in 1996 changed
things for the better compared with the previous system.
A press release summarizing the survey is at
The entire survey (a 60-page .pdf document) at
B u i l d i n g a M o v e m e n t
Speaking the truth about poverty
Call to Renewal's "Pentecost 2002: Speaking the Truth
About Poverty," May 20-22 in Washington D.C., is shaping
up to be an excellent time of bringing new attention to the
issues of poverty, economic security, equal opportunity,
and more. Now is a "turning point" time similar to the
New Deal of the 1930s or the War on Poverty in the 1960s,
and our collective efforts can impact the lives of millions
In preparation for Pentecost, Call to Renewal staff and
board members have met with top Senate Republican and
Democratic staff. We are hopeful that Call to Renewal can
help to create some genuine bipartisan common ground on
policy that could really benefit low-income families and
We ask you to advertise the event through your own networks,
Web sites, listservs, postal mailings, and more. We
have e-mail message formats that can be used to promote
Pentecost 2002 and would be happy to send them on to you.
The Pentecost brochure is on our Web site where it can be
You CAN handle the truth!
Again and again, those witnessing the effects of
Israeli attacks on Palestinian towns and refugee camps
plead with the international community to seek out
accurate information on what is taking place.
Now more than ever, SojoNet News Daily Headlines is a source
of vital news, sifting the wheat from the chaff - from the
back pages of the mainstream press, to the front lines of
international and alternative media, we bring you the real
*Monk shot and seriously wounded in Bethlehem
*Children scream for water in the 'City of Bombers'
*Eyewitness accounts from a Palestinian town under invasion
*French cameraman shot as Israel clamps down on journalists
*A quarter of U.S. bombs missed target in Afghan conflict
For live links to these stories and to receive Daily
Headlines by email, visit http://www.sojo.net/news
B o o m e r a n g
Joseph "Bud" Adams writes from Syracuse, New York:
Re: David Batstone's "Crimes and Misdemeanors" article
[SojoMail 04-03-02], which focuses on the issue of failure
of morality among baseball players, business executives,
religious leaders, and the like.
The first step in this struggle - one that Batstone
obviously recognizes - is that we need to find a way to
assign the proper definition to the word "immorality."
Sadly, the conservative elements in our midst, with the
help of the "expose-hungry" media, have succeeded in
narrowing the meaning of this word so its only usage is
in regard to a person's sexual actions.
And so we now have a president who, as governor of
Texas, "streamlined" the path from courtroom to
execution for death-row inmates. An act that results
directly in the death of people he doesn't even know.
The same person promoted the carrying of concealed
deadly weapons of Texas residents - again, resulting in
the deaths of people unknown to him. While governor, he
privately granted Enron the privilege of polluting
without a license as well as granting them immunity
from prosecution for other environmental damage.
A bully in the White House that continues to show
complete disregard for all God's creation - yet is
applauded as a "moral" man because there have been no
revelations of extra-marital affairs, and because he'll
fluff up his speeches with a bit of "spirit-speak."
Kathy Neely writes from Chicago, Illinois:
I very much appreciated David Batstone's "Crimes and
Misdemeanors" article. I so appreciated what he wrote
that I sent it around to friends. One of them sent it
back to me, with the complete Billy Graham response
(I'd read only the incomplete statement in The New York
Times). I don't find his full statement "weak" at all -
rather, I find it a model of transparency and humility.
Michael Redmond writes from North Richland Hills, Texas:
Billy Graham, like every human being, made mistakes when
he was younger and grew because of those mistakes. He has
changed his positions on many issues, so he continues to
grow. Also, like anyone else, he is embarrassed when his
past mistakes are made public. I don't know what Mr.
Batstone read, but I found his apology very sincere. But
to lump him (although he has made other mistakes I'm sure)
with the likes of highly overpaid athletes, corrupt
corporate execs, and the Roman Catholic church with numerous
and decades-long child molesters is way off base.
I have been a long-time listener and reader of Billy
Graham. Despite his mistakes, he has done much good. I'm
not sure the others can say the same.
Thomas Washburn, M.D., writes from Bradenton, Florida:
Thank you, David Batstone, for speaking truth about the
invidious pattern of lying in our society. A poll of US
residents a few years ago indicated that 95% of us believe
that lying is acceptable. Lying is evidence of evil intent!
It is that simple. Religious leaders must speak out
truthfully in an effort to counter the social devastation
of systematic lying. So must we all!
Alan Hatfield writes from Florey, ACT, Australia:
It was sad to read "Crimes and Misdemeanors" in
"Batteries Not Included." In Australia we have gone
one better than our American cousins with a national
government developing a lie, perpetrating it to win an
election, and now using a parliamentary inquiry into
the situation to obfuscate and hide their involvement
in the lie, and, worse, push the blame onto those who
revealed the lie! It has been and is a most shameful
exercise. Details are summarised at, for example:
We are now at the stage where most Australians believe
(on all the evidence before them) that their Prime
Minister lied to them at an important time about an
important matter but at the same time that same Prime
Minister struts the national stage with no admission,
no shame, and no apparent burden to do anything about
it! An admission or an apology are not even a possibility!
Rev. Roger Talbott writes from North Olmsted, Ohio:
Several weeks ago, in response to an article in SojoMail,
I sent a letter to the mayor of East Jerusalem protesting
the illegal demolition of Palestinian homes in East
Jerusalem. I just received a letter from Mori Glaser,
advisor to the mayor of Jerusalem, in which he states
that "illegal building is a widespread political action
based on refusal to accept the jurisdiction of the
Municipality of Jerusalem in Eastern Jerusalem." However,
he points out that the Municipality of Jerusalem
granted 87% of the applications for building permits in Arab
East Jerusalem vs. 72% in the Jewish sector. He also says
that they demolish illegal buildings in the Jewish sector.
He claims that they do follow due process and invite the
owner of an illegal building to apply for a permit. They
have a policy against demolishing inhabited buildings and
most buildings are demolished in the early stages of
construction. They only demolish buildings that stand in
the way of a highway or school or other public work. In
many cases the buildings are not erected by the actual
owners of the land and the city is responding to Arab
owners who are protesting others building on their site.
This letter, on its surface, could have been written by
my own city's building department. I am concerned that
the information in SojoMail may not have been accurate
or may have been overstated and unbalanced. I am not there
"on the ground", as they say these days. Could anyone
respond to my concern?
Michael Adeney writes from Seattle, Washington:
Desmond Tutu wants to let the U.N. bring the terrorists to
justice [SojoMail 04-03-02]. I have great respect for
Desmond Tutu, but his solution offers zero chance of success.
Multi-national support for American initiatives should be
sought and listened to, but the U.S. is the only nation with
the resources and resolve to actually do something against
the terrorists who attacked the U.S. Also, when actual
sovereignty is given to international courts you open the
door to international justice, but you also open the door to
international tyranny with no real checks and balances
The moral bankruptcy of the U.N. speaks to the real danger of
international tyranny. The U.N. is a useful, necessary
institution, but it is ineffective in many situations and
in some settings does more harm than good. For example,
recently Sudan replaced the U.S. on the U.N. human rights
commission of the U.N. Sudan has 60,000 to 200,000 slaves
- primarily black slaves. Two million have died in the
genocide that makes Kosovo look like a tea party.
Tutu's rhetoric about justice from the U.N. is a joke. Can
anyone tell me if he spoke up at the conference on racism
in South Africa against Sudan? If he didn't, he is guilty of
serious hypocrisy or serious ignorance.
Richard Weinhagen writes from Pompton Plains, New Jersey:
To say along with Desmond Tutu that these acts of murderous
rage can be simply traced to the gaps between the "haves" and
the "have-nots" is dangerously simplistic and wrong. If bin
Laden had been interested in improving the lives of the poor,
he never demonstrated it. With his fortune, his engineering
expertise, and the medical knowledge and skills of his
closest associate, Aiman Al-Zawahiri, he had ample opportunity
to demonstrate his concerns over a period of years in
Afghanistan. He exploited the impoverished, encouraged their
ignorance, and used his prosperity to finance war - on the
Afghan people, on Jews, and on Americans.
We are now approaching the end of the sixth month since
Sept. 11. The same forces of rage and hatred are at work
in Palestine and Israel. The bombs are strapped to bodies, and
the targets are eating pizzas instead of airplane food. This
too is a war, and the real targets are not just the Jews in
Israel but the whole of civilization - which still puzzles
over what to call this new war, this war whose goal, means,
and end are all the same: death and destruction, the utter
obliteration of the perpetrator and his (and perhaps now,
her) victim. Not understanding this is a crime.
Greg Gelburd writes from Charlottesville, Virginia:
Re: "In search of a corporate soul," by David Batstone
As I read of the greed that so many of us Americans fall
prey to, including the CEOs of Enron and health insurance
companies, as well as hourly laborers, I am reminded of the
need to reverse, yes, reverse the attitude towards money.
So now, in our new world, the world of Christ, money is a
drag, it's a weight, it's like spades in the game, well,
spades. This aversion to money is nowhere better portrayed
than in "Lord of the Rings," where Tolkien shows the dark
power the ring can possess. Few are immune to that power;
in fact, it seems the lowly Hobbits are the only ones.
Tom Boughan writes from Cowan, Tennessee:
I respond to Arthur Lamberes in Boomerang [04-03-02]. Read
"Short History of Islam," by Karen Armstrong. We can also pick
and choose some horrendous verses in our Bible and the Taanach,
but that doesn't mean that the followers necessarily follow
them. We do not go around saying God blesses genocide, but
you see that in the book of Joshua. You have to take it in the
historical context it was written in. Mohammed was betrayed by
Christians and Jews whom he took for allies, but they set him
up for his enemies. So, there are some hateful things Mohammed
said about others that is shameful. I am not ignoring that,
nor the context it was written in. Mohammed also said be
allies to the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) in
another part of Koran. Do you choose to ignore that? Or
the fact that when Mohammed took over a place, he let Christians
and Jews worship freely, not forcefully convert them as you seem
to stereotypically portray Muslims. Get to know a Muslim on
a personal basis. Get to know what Islam is about, not what
media or even I say about it.
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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