The Common Good

The next generation

Sojomail - December 4, 2002


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+++++++++++++++++++++ 04-December-2002 ++++++++++++++++++++++++
+++++++++++++++++++ The Next Generation +++++++++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k
     *Giving up on poverty
 H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
     *The next generation

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *Dog for sale

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Bono on Larry King

 B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
     *Enola Maxwell: Fighting civil wrongs

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *Loving the unlovable

 C a m p u s   L i n e s
     *Buy nothing for the holidays

 B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
     *Is anyone listening to email activism?

 P. O. V.
     *Bill Moyers on the costs of war

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

 W e b s c e n e
     *Political litmus test
     *A photographic study on race
     *All the tools you need to do politics online
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Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k

"I couldn't give up Christianity, because I had been a Christian all my life. So I had to give up poverty."

             - Enola Maxwell
               Neighborhood activist, San Francisco
               (See Maxwell's story below in "Building a Movement")


H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
The next generation

by Jim Wallis

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - I've just finished my fourth stint at Harvard in the past five years, and I've asked myself why I keep going back. I suspect a recent three-hour dinner with five students provides me with the answer.

First, I was a Fellow at the Center For the Study of Values in Public Life, based at the Divinity School. It was a wonderful year of residence in Cambridge for Joy and I at the beginning of our marriage, and our son Luke was born in Boston. When the regular seminars I convened on "faith and politics" attracted students from across the university and the wider Boston community, I knew the topic had struck a chord among a new generation of young people. When invitations started coming from other schools at Harvard, it became clear that the interest in "religion and public life" was much broader here than I expected.

My first invitation to speak at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government was sponsored by the Christian Fellowship and the Progressive Caucus - two groups that had never worked together before. The room was packed with both religious and "secular" students who were hungry to discuss the connections between politics and moral values. Another invitation followed from the Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School to speak at one of their regular "IOP Suppers," which normally bring people from the worlds of government and journalism to discuss the hottest political topics. Apparently, faith-inspired movements to overcome poverty had become one. More venues at other schools, churches, and organizations around Harvard and Boston opened up throughout the year, and I was continually amazed at the turnouts and responses from a wide variety of students to these conversations about spirituality and social change.

I could feel myself moved by the students. They were the next generation, and they became the highlight for me at Harvard, and the reason I've kept coming back. And there has begun a steady stream of Harvard students and graduates who come to work at Call to Renewal and write for Sojourners. The focus for so many of the young people I've met is how to put their faith into action in a world in desperate need of both justice and hope.

The remarkable year at the Divinity School led to an invitation to teach a course at the Kennedy School for the next two years, titled "Faith, Politics, and Society." Our class drew up to 90 students from most of Harvard's graduate schools and undergraduates from many majors and departments. Very racially and religiously diverse, we also attracted students from more than 20 countries. Our topics ranged from domestic to international issues, and how faith- inspired movements and initiatives were helping to change America and the world.

But what inspired me most was the questions my students were asking. By halfway through the course each year, my individual conversations with students were less about the final paper topic and more about what they were going to do with their lives. I learned that mentoring was as central to teaching as lecturing, and that when you have the opportunity to help a young person shape their life choices and direction you are treading on very holy ground. My last lecture focused around the crucial difference between career and vocation.

And the choices these students are making never cease to amaze me. Running for Congress on an agenda of overcoming poverty, going to medical school to do health care reform, building youth networks to find solutions to HIV/AIDS in Africa, applying MBA's to managing nonprofits seeking social change.

It was the students who encouraged me to return to Harvard this fall as a Fellow at the Institute of Politics. The topic for my weekly study group was "Activism, Spirituality, and Social Change," and the student response indicated the interest for this generation in the "soul" of politics. My five student "liaisons" - Dahm, Liz, Jordan, Jeslyn, and Kari - were freshmen, sophomores, and juniors who evidenced a hunger for public service and a new kind of politics rooted in moral values. That last dinner had each one sharing the next steps they hoped to take.

It is this next generation that keeps me trekking back and forth to Harvard and other campuses across the country. They are shaping a vision for going public with their faith and hopes, whether they are religious or not. And they give this middle-aged activist a lot of renewed energy.



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F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
Dog for sale

This guy sees a sign in front of a house: "Talking Dog for Sale." He rings the bell and the owner tells him the dog is in the back yard. The guy goes into the back yard and sees a mutt sitting there. "You talk?" he asks.

"Yep," the mutt replies.

"So, what's your story?"

The mutt looks up and says, "Well, I discovered this gift pretty young and I wanted to help the government, so I told the CIA about my gift, and in no time they had me jetting from country to country, sitting in rooms with spies and world leaders, 'cause no one figured a dog would be eavesdropping. I was one of their most valuable spies eight years running. The jetting around really tired me out, and I knew I wasn't getting any younger and I wanted to settle down. So I signed up for a job at the airport to do some undercover security work, mostly wandering near suspicious characters and listening in. I uncovered some incredible dealings there and was awarded a batch of medals. Had a wife, a mess of puppies, and now I'm just retired."

The guy is amazed. He goes back in and asks the owner what he wants for the dog. The owner says "$10." The guy says he'll buy him but asks the owner, "This dog is amazing. Why on earth are you selling him?"

The owner replies, "He's such a liar."


C u l t u r e   W a t c h
Bono on Larry King

KING: If there is a God, he must be angry at a lot of this.

BONO: I think God is very angry at the moment, and I think it's shocking what is going on in the world. And I think it is an extraordinary moment. Right now, I can tell you this: Our age will be remembered. This moment in time will be remembered for three things: the war against terror, sure; the Internet, probably; and how we let an entire continent, Africa, burst into flames and stood around with water in cans. This is not acceptable. It is not acceptable to let people die because they can't get the drugs that you and I take for granted....

KING: Why did we? For example, that wouldn't have happened in Europe. We wouldn't have let it happen in Europe.

BONO: Correct.

KING: OK. So, is it racial?

BONO: I think there's an element that people have written off in Africa.

KING: They're black.

BONO: And it's not even that they're black. I think deep down, if we really believe in equality, we would go to the side of our brothers and sisters in Africa. What I would say is we don't really believe in equality. And - I mean, equality is evolving, you know. The idea that black people could vote here in the United States is relatively new...equality is like a pain in the ass, if you think about it. You think of these Jewish sheep herders walking in, in front of pharaohs, you know, without their shoes, and the pharaoh is going, "You think you're equal to me?" And he looks in the book, and he goes, "Yes, that's what it says. All of us are created equal in God's image. That's what it says here." And it's like you're mad, you're out of your mind.

Well, it's true, and we accept that now between our own borders. We accept that women and Jews and blacks and Irish are equal and have equal opportunities, but we don't really believe that for the rest of the world, because if we did, we would not be letting two-and-a-half million Africans die next year.



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B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
Enola Maxwell: Fighting civil wrongs

"I had given up on poverty when I was in Louisiana. I was born into the Baptist church." But she began to question God's plan: What kind of God are you? What have black children done for you to disinherit them? I refused to be poor. I refused to tell my children they couldn't go to the doctor. "I couldn't give up Christianity, because I had been a Christian all my life. So I had to give up poverty."...

It was the 1960s, and Miz Maxwell was active in the civil rights movement, traveling to Washington in 1963 to hear Martin Luther King Jr. speak. She became the first female lay minister in the Presbyterian Church, ministering from pulpits all around the Bay Area while earning her living as a postal clerk.

In 1970, all her interests coincided with a job offer too risky to turn down. The church had an underused community center on DeHaro Street in Potrero Hill, patronized almost entirely by whites although the neighborhood was rapidly changing, and they were willing to hire her to become executive director. The job came with huge obstacles, no long-term security, and precious little funding.

Yet it was an opportunity to realize her mission in life. "What is my mission? Seeking justice and equality," she says. "The seeing is the thing. Because it's not always easy to tell what is just and what is unjust."

To read the entire feature on Enola Maxwell, go to:


S o u l   W o r k s

To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything is hopeless.

- G. K. Chesterton


C a m p u s   L i n e s
Buy nothing for the holidays

by Nate Johnston

Sitting in church last week I was surprised by an announcement one of my housemates made. "As you all know," she began, "Black Friday is coming up this week - traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year." She went on to encourage everyone to leave their pocketbooks at home and participate in "Buy Nothing Day." Conceived by the authors of AdBusters Magazine, "Buy Nothing Day" has become an alternative Black Friday event and has inspired many different traditions, such as credit-card cut-ups, teach-ins, concerts, buy nothing stores, poster campaigns, and other forms of public demonstration. The idea behind the campaign is to generate resistance to the North American culture of over-consumption by literally buying nothing on the busiest shopping day of the year.

The surprise came for me in discovering "Buy Nothing Day" advertised at church. Having grown up in a place where faith and social issues hardly ever mixed, I find myself pleasantly surprised at the growing number of churches that seem to be talking about the way our most basic economic choices affect the poorest people of the world. Even AdBusters has begun targeting religious groups for support of "Buy Nothing Day."

Recently, a group of Canadian Mennonites started a "Buy Nothing" Christmas campaign designed not only to encourage people to reduce their holiday consumption but also to think more deeply about gift-giving in general. Based on faith convictions, the campaign offers unique teaching tools and a list of creative gift alternatives. Check out the Web site for some great ideas for this holiday season:


B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
Is anyone listening to email activism?

One-click activism has been a one-click failure with the Bush administration thus far. The Interior Department, for example, received 360,000 public comments (the huge majority of them sent by email) about the future of snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks; 80 percent of the writers asked that the government ban the snowmobiles. Last week, however, the administration said it would let the machines continue to rumble through the parks. What gives? Public comments have carried increasingly less weight since a 1987 court ruling that gave officials permission to ignore mass mailings, such as the one generated when green advocacy groups encouraged their members to sign form letters about the snowmobiles. Accordingly, the administration also discarded 93 percent of the comments it received about its plans to roll back protections for roadless areas in national forests, arguing that only 7 percent of the comments were "original" and not the result of a Beltway-orchestrated campaign. To see feature, go to:

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P. O. V.
Bill Moyers on the costs of war

Iraq is not Vietnam, but war is war. Some of you will recall that I was press secretary to Lyndon Johnson during the escalation of war in Vietnam. Like the White House today, we didn't talk very much about what the war would cost. Not in the beginning. We weren't sure, and we didn't really want to know too soon, anyway.

If we had to tell Congress and the public the true cost of the war, we were afraid of what it would do to the rest of the budget - the money for education, poverty, Medicare. In time, we had to figure it out and come clean. It wasn't the price tag that hurt as much as it was the body bag. The dead were coming back in such numbers that LBJ began to grow morose, and sometimes took to bed with the covers pulled above his eyes, as if he could avoid the ghosts of young men marching around in his head. I thought of this the other day, when President Bush spoke of the loss of American lives in Iraq. He said, "I'm the one who will have to look the mothers in the eye."

LBJ said almost the same thing. No president can help but think of the mothers, widows, and orphans. Mr. Bush is amassing a mighty American armada in the Middle East - incredible firepower. He has to know that even a "clean war" - a war fought with laser beams, long-range missles, high-flying bombers, and remote controls - can get down and dirty, especially for the other side.

We forget there are mothers on the other side. I've often wondered about the mothers of Vietnamese children like this one, burned by American napalm. Or Afghan mothers, whose children were smashed and broken by American bombs.

On the NBC Nightly News one evening I saw this exclusive report from Afghanistan - those little white lights are heat images of people on foot. They're about to be attacked. That fellow running out in the open - were he and the people killed members of al Qaeda, or just coming to worship? We'll never know. But surely their mothers do. And there will be mothers like them in Iraq. Saddam won't mind - dead or alive, and we won't mind, either. The spoils of victory include amnesia.

Ah, the glories of war; the adrenaline that flows to men behind desks at the very thought of the armies that will march, the missiles that will fly, the ships that will sail, on their command. Our secretary of defense has a plaque on his desk that says, "Aggressive fighting for the right is the noblest sport the world affords." I don't think so.

To launch an armada against Hussein's own hostages, a people who have not fired a shot at us in anger, seems a crude and poor alternative to shrewd, disciplined diplomacy. Don't get me wrong. Vietnam didn't make me a dove; it made me read the Constitution. That's all. Government's first obligation is to defend its citizens. There's nothing in the Constitution that says it's permissible for a great nation to go hunting for Hussein by killing the people he holds hostage, his own people, who have no choice in the matter, who have done us no harm. Unprovoked, the noble sport of war becomes the murder of the innocent.


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B o o m e r a n g

Michael Crisp writes from Topeka, Kansas:

I'm glad to finally read someone in the media who shares my outrage at the hypocrisy in large corporations and government these days. Thanks to David Batstone for "Shameless Acts of Power." I had never heard about the Carlyle Group before, and then after reading SojoMail this week I noted in my local paper that the departing CEO of IBM will move over to head up Carlyle. Perfect... the captains of industry and former heads of state making buckets of money in their own small network. Why do we let the bums get away with it?


Tim Callaway writes from Calgary, Canada:

You're bang on, David Batstone, and sadly, the situation with our politicians and business icons here in Canada is no different. I used to think it was a matter of integrity lost with these people. I'm more convinced than ever that more often it's a case of their having none in the first place.


Chris Wilkins writes from London, U.K.:

I loved "lipstick at school" [Funny Business] and the Webscene items from the last issue of SojoMail. Please keep it up; it is good to have some humourous stuff in with the serious subjects. The two webscene items were very thought-provoking, high-quality sites with an individual message.


Karey Sabol writes from Ashland, Oregon:

I am grateful for Amrita Burdick's comments in response to Linda Lilley's condemnation of the Islamic site "A True Word." As a woman who lived for two years as the only non-Muslim in a small village in Jordan, I have come to realize how much our American definitions of 'freedom' and 'respect' have been defined by our western cultural norms. So many Christians respond with apologies and looks of horror when I tell them about my time in Jordan - a time that happened to be one of the richest of my life. The truth is, I felt far safer in my Muslim village than I have ever felt in any Judeo-Christian community. As Christians, as people of peace, we must be as open-minded as we expect others to be.


Bob Barber, Hiddenite, North Carolina:

Re: David Westaway's comments concerning Franklin Graham as a "Judas" Christian:

Franklin Graham and his ministries, as well as other evangelist ministries, do some great work throughout the world. Unfortunately, in my opinion, this does not get them "off the hook!" The Muslim community in Charlotte asked Rev. Graham to sit down and have a dialogue, to which he flatly refused. My point is this: Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton (neither of whom I have particularly liked until recently) have both openly and unequivocally denounced any war against Iraq. One of them even said at the peace rally in Washington on Oct. 26, "Mr. President, your arms are too short to box with God." Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Jimmy Swaggert, and Franklin Graham have not only been silent in opposing war, they have made comments that have spawned hatred. If we cannot depend on our Christian leaders for compassion and peacemaking, then I think the world is doomed to never-ending war and terrorism. Finally, Mr. Westaway, if Rev. Graham does not oppose this war, then he is creating the very orphans that he and your 6th- graders are trying to help. This is an example of a distinct double standard and a "Judas" Christian. I stick to my initial point!


Michael Everett writes from Washington, D.C.:

How is it that (some) conservative Christians can assert with absolute certainty that homosexual marriages would somehow corrode the marriages of heterosexuals, yet claim that "more study is needed" on global warming? And why is heterosexuality viewed as a "public duty" while conservation is a "private virtue"? Just wondering.


Emily Loftis writes from Cleveland, Tennessee:

There was a letter from Bill Samuel printed in the last SojoMail claiming that tactical civil disobedience is unchristian. I'm assuming he's using the verse that we are to adhere to the laws of the land. Let us not forget that Romans 13 tells us we must do this because all nations are established by God. How often we forget that the verse says *all* nations - not just Christian nations. So should citizens of Nazi Germany, according to this verse, not have stood up in defiance to make a statement for the Jews? Should African Americans simply have kept marching in hopes that some day the police would stop beating them and spraying them? We cannot be violent, but we cannot be acquiescent. And typically conscientious objection is not enough. If that is all we do, and people are being killed at our feet with our tax money, are our hands clean? Sometimes justice must be spoken for no matter what the cost.


Denis Moon writes from Bridgend, Wales, U.K.:

Reading your contributions on the proposed war with Iraq, I would like to share a few of my reservations and concerns. As a U.K. citizen whose country has a long tradition of being an ally of the USA, some of us also live in the context of the appeasement culture that prevailed before 1939 when Hitler was charging through Europe unhindered. My concern is that as a Christian I can turn the other cheek, and forgive my enemies while watching my secular friends go to combat against an aggressor. Evil is manifested through despots who rule in nations that often threaten our way of life.... If Iraq launched nuclear or biological weapons against the U.S., the population would demand action from their leaders. Whether the church liked it or not the president has a duty to protect the citizens of America. So it's all right for the church to take a pacifist line, while unbelievers mobilize to defend their country?


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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W e b s c e n e
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