The Common Good

Wisdom and Foolishness

Sojomail - October 9, 2002


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+++++++++++++++++++++ 9-October-2002 ++++++++++++++++++++++++
+++++++++++++++++ Wisdom and Foolishness ++++++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k
     *Carl Sandburg: The hope of a child

 P. O. V.
     *Wisdom and foolishness

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *Survival guide for Orthodox churches

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Moyers special on resistance to Iraqi war airs 10/11

 B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
     *What American 20-somethings can't live without...

 B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
     *Prayer vigil for peace in Washington, D.C.
     *U.K. readers: Fax your MP for peace

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *Yehuda Amichai: "The Place Where We are Right"

 R e l i g i o n   &   C u l t u r e
     *Christianity's new center lies South

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

 W e b s c e n e
     *The food police
     *News with a world beat
     *Why George W. Bush may be stalking Moby
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Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k

"A baby is God's opinion that the world
should go on."

                   - Carl Sandburg


P. O. V.
Wisdom and foolishness

by Duane Shank

"For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength." (1 Corinthians 1:25)

As I reflect on an impending war against Iraq and our efforts to prevent it, I honestly don't believe that we will. The administration is determined to go to war. And I wonder, as I have in the past, why I work long, hard hours trying to prevent something that in my heart I don't think can be prevented. What's the point?

And once again, I come back to the foundation of my faith and my political work - short-term effectiveness is not the point, long-term faithfulness is. It is foolish to work against war when it is going to happen, but God's foolish- ness is wiser than human "wisdom." Those of us who work for peace are weak, but God's weakness is stronger than human strength.

I'm drawn again to John Howard Yoder's essay - "The Kingdom as Social Ethic." It's an essay I've read and re-read, especially in the past year. And what continues to strike me is a simple sentence: "The church is called to be now what the world is called to be ultimately." Yoder calls it a "modeling mission." That the church is called to see its life and ministry as doing today what the world is destined for in the ultimate purposes of God. That we are called to live in and work for the peace of God's kingdom even in a society bent on war.

He stresses that "the believing community as an empirical social entity is a power for change." It is often lonely to be a dissenting voice opposing the dominant voice in the larger society. But the church should, and at its best does, "cultivate an alternative consciousness."

The believing community, says Yoder, keeps alive "an alternative view of what the world is like by narrative and celebration which fly in the face of some of the 'apparent' lessons of 'realism'." It does this by experiencing together the feelings of isolation and powerlessness that result from being a dissenting view to the majority opinion. It learns to "trust in the power of weakness" and by learning to "see through the weakness of power." It presents an "alternative narrative" - "the believing community has a longer sense of history past and future than majorities unaware of alternatives to their own world. They do not assume that the only way to read national and political history is from the perspective of the winners."

And, most importantly, he argues against the view that being faithful means being ineffective. "A minority group with no immediate chance of contributing to the way things go may still by its dissent maintain the wider community's awareness of some issues in such a way that ideas which are unrealistic for the present come to be credible later." Because, "a morality based on principle has a special moral power."

I am especially moved during the Eucharist in worship services these weeks. The narrative of the broken body and shed blood of Jesus symbolizing the broken bodies and shed blood that is likely to result from a war. And the celebration of his ultimate resurrection triumph over the powers.

So, I will continue to work with all my energy to prevent a war against Iraq. And when it begins despite my best efforts, I will believe that the foolishness and weakness of believing in peace is still better than the "wisdom" and "strength" of war. I believe that experiencing that powerlessness in the community of believers will sustain me. And I believe that continuing to work for peace is what God has called me to do.

Duane Shank is issues and policy advisor for Sojourners and Call to Renewal.



Columbia Theological Seminary invites prospective students
to its Conference on Ministry, Nov. 1-3, 2002. Discover
the rich offerings at Columbia and explore your calling to
church service and leadership. Columbia, a seminary of the
Presbyterian Church (USA), is located in metropolitan
Atlanta. For information and to register, contact the
Office of Admissions at (888) 699-8765 or go to:


F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
Survival guide for Orthodox churches

From: Dwight Moody
Date: 10-02-02

Dear Congregation of the St. Pachomius Byzantine Orthodox Church:

Pursuant to our contractual agreement dated Aug. 1 of this year, I have completed my evaluation of your church. I have, as you requested, assessed your worship as to its compatibility with contemporary sensibilities. I have also researched the tradition of your own congregation and also have studied the Leading Indicators of Spiritual Trends (commonly called the LIST).

My report is organized in six categories:

*Food - I begin here because this is where the people are. They want food but not necessarily foreign food. Also, distributing it from the altar at the close of the service is no good.

Recommendation: Secure a Starbucks franchise; locate it in what is now the prayer room just off the foyer. If a communion service is absolutely necessary, develop techniques to make it move a little quicker; research shows that videos during the lag time are well received.

To read the other five areas of suggested reform, go to:


C u l t u r e   W a t c h
Moyers special on resistance to Iraqi war airs 10/11

On Friday, Oct. 11, "NOW with Bill Moyers" (PBS) will examine public arguments being made against going to war by a number of community based groups, including the National Council of Churches, Veterans for Peace, Voices in the Wilderness, and Black Voices for Peace. In a thoughtful and measured documentary segment, NOW will illuminate the issues on the minds of these groups' leaders: The impact of the war on the black community, the possibility of continuing sanctions, the human tragedy at stake, and the high financial cost of war with so many ongoing domestic problems. Check local listings for air times at:


B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
What American 20-somethings can't live without...

The "one thing" that American 20-somethings say they can't live without, even when $$ gets tight:

*Visits to parents 11%
*Health insurance 11%
*Cell phone 10%
*Premium cable 9%
*Car 8%
*Music/CDs 4%

*Source: Integer Group and Business Week, 2002


              PEACE: CAN YOU IMAGINE IT?

Peace: Can you imagine it? Explore this question with
the prophet Elisha in "Second Mile: a Peace Journey for
Congregations." "Second Mile" is a new peace curriculum
for adult study developed by Mennonite and Brethren
agencies. One packet of 20 attractively designed lessons
includes biblical study, stories, suggestions for action,
and worship materials. For more information and to
order, go to: or call (800) 743-2484.


B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
For our readers in the Washington, D.C., area...

Please join the National Council of Churches, Sojourners,
and a coalition of religious leaders concerned about the
rush to war with Iraq for an evening of prayer and

at the United Methodist Building
First and Maryland Avenue, NE
Washington, D.C.
across from the Supreme Court
Thursday, Oct. 10, 2002
Gather at 6:30 pm; program is 7-8 p.m.
Speakers: Jim Wallis, Sojourners
          Bob Edgar, National Council of Churches
          Jim Winkler, United Methodist Church
          Linda Fuller, Habitat for Humanity
Please join in a time of sharing concerns and prayer in a
spirit of listening for what God has to say about our
national agenda and priorities.

For more information contact Sojourners at (202) 328-8842.


For our readers in the United Kingdom...

Fax your MP and let him/her know that
you do not want war launched in your name.

Go to:


S o u l   W o r k s
The Place Where We Are Right

by Yehuda Amichai

From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.

The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.

But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.

--from "The Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai"


R e l i g i o n   &   C u l t u r e
Christianity's new center lies South

An interview with Philip Jenkins on Christianity's new "center" in the global South. Jenkins, author of "The Next Christianity" in the October issue of The Atlantic Monthly, argues that most Americans and Europeans are blind to Christianity's real future.

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B o o m e r a n g

Bernie Adeney-Risakotta writes from Indonesia:

I appreciate Ajith Fernando's letter [SojoMail 9/2/02], both because of his effort to communicate to American Evangelicals, and because of his articulation of a non- Western perspective. It nicely complements the speech by Bishop Peter Price with the story of Christians in Iraq. I hope brother Ajith will send a similar letter to "Christianity Today," where it might reach more of his intended audience (and be more controversial) than at Sojomail.

I live in Indonesia (the largest Muslim country in the world). There are millions of Christian Indonesians who share my pain at the thought of a U.S. attack on Iraq. Such an attack would cause outrage in Indonesia and strengthen the position of Islamic radicals. It could rip the Indonesian fabric of religious and cultural tolerance and result in retaliatory attacks on Christians and symbolic Western targets. Attacking Iraq would be a disaster for the Church in Indonesia.


Elliot Werner writes from Wynnewood, Pennsylvania:

In his poignant and perceptive essay, Ajith Fernando says, "There is a growing frustration coming from a suspicion that American Christians are listening only to what American experts say about the situation in the world outside their borders." That really should be modified to read "conservative American Christians." The public face of Christianity in the USA has become so dominated by the right wing that the voices of moderate and progressive Christians are largely unheard. One need only go to the Web sites of many denominations such as the PCUSA, the Episcopal Church, the UCC, etc., or read magazines such as "The Christian Century" to hear the sentiments Fernando is seeking. It is sad that those of us in the center and on the left of Christian thought have been so passive and silent compared to our conservative brothers and sisters.


Argye Hillis writes from Waco, Texas:

Thank you for a great issue - not only the thoughtful piece by Bishop Peter Price, but even more Ajith Fernando's touching letter. He's right on target. We (i.e., Christian Americans) need to hear more from him. We really DON'T understand the Mid-Eastern culture. My Muslim friend amazed me by telling me why he and his family live in a rented house - he is saving up to pay cash for a house because he doesn't think it right to charge OR pay interest, as in a mortgage (an Old Testament teaching we just ignore). What is the Muslim teaching Ajith referred to when he contrasted community solidarity with American individualism and competition? Most important, we need to be sensitive to the meaning and importance of humiliation (or conversely, allowing people to save face) in many other cultures.


U.S. Army Chaplain (Major) Robert Blessing writes:

I think you may need to revisit your biblical theology. There is a time for war when a people are threatened by an enemy who seeks to harm you. I am a chaplain in the U.S. Army who believes in peace and justice but also to defend my family and brothers from those who would harm them. Ignorance of a "madman" will not make him go away nor will negotiating with him affect his attitude to change his behavior. The people of Iraq are responsible for their leadership and government. There is no excuse for allowing Saddam to lead them, threaten the world, and for them not to incur the ramifications of allowing him to lead. The world tried diplomacy for the last 10 years and it went nowhere. Now look at what Saddam is doing since our President Bush turned the screws. We need to finish this for our families, brothers and sisters, and our nation.


David Nash writes from Asheville, North Carolina:

I am deeply saddened over the direction that President Bush is taking toward Iraq. We are already at war against Iraq. Special Ops troops are already there; the air war is very much alive and active over the no-fly zone; reservists have already been put on the alert, especially those who are civil action reservists whose function is to re-establish civil order after a war. All of which to say that I believe that it is a matter of time, and not too far away, before the pieces are put into place for the United States to go into Iraq, even without the approval of the U.N. or support of most of the world.

When that happens, and I pray that it doesn't, I will look to Sojourners, among others, for moral and ethical guidance on what to do now. I hope that Sojourners has thought of this possibility even while working to prevent it.


John Roberts writes from Houston, Texas:

No weapons will be found in Iraq. Sanctions will have to be removed. Saddam will dig up the hundreds of millions of dollars of weapons that he has buried in the desert and continue to amass weapons to the point that a land invasion would be unthinkable. The casualty numbers would be unacceptable. His power in the area quadruples. The weapons cannot be bombed because they are stored under civilian centers. The stash will be passed from one regime to the next.

Is this scenario acceptable to the peacemakers? Sidestepping it by talking about rule of law and casualties of war does not deal with the issue. No more than the signed piece of paper by Prime Minister Chamberlain dealt with the military build-up by Hitler.


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
This week's best of the Web

*The food police

This site features unsafe food products, deceptive advertising, and laws that need to be changed. But it also has sections on how to eat a better diet, and the health risks of junk food.


*News with a world beat

WorldLink TV is the first network offering a global perspective on news, current events, and culture, presenting viewpoints seldom covered in the U.S. media. The site also presents first-run documentaries on global issues, current affairs series, international news, and classic foreign feature films. Go to:


*Why George W. Bush may be stalking Moby

Nerdy techno artist Moby's weird and witty musings about his daily activities, politics, the state of the music industry, and why George W. Bush might be stalking him (hint - see the 9/30 and 10/1 entries):


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