The Common Good

Baseball and the End Times

Sojomail - October 8, 2003

Quote of the Week Timberland CEO: The bottom line
Hearts & Minds Jim Wallis: Baseball and the end times
By the Numbers U.S. citizens pay more for prescription drugs
Culture Watch Woody Guthrie. Bob Dylan. Rickie Lee Jones?
Soul Works On a Trawler to the Mainland
Biz Ethics Providing credit to the world's poor
Boomerang SojoMail readers hit reply

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"It is no longer enough to measure a company by standards of profit, efficiency, and market share; it's critical to ask how business contributes to standards of social justice, environmental sustainability, and values."

- Jeff Swartz, president and CEO of The Timberland Company; 2002 annual report

Baseball and the end times
by Jim Wallis

Jim WallisThere are certain Christians (of the religious right variety) who sincerely believe the apocalypse (the coming of Christ and the unfolding of the end times) will be prompted by events in the Middle East. In order to create the right conditions for the Second Coming, these believers take a one-sided political stance (pro-whatever Israel does and ignoring all the consequences for everybody else - even ignoring the existence of Palestinian Christians, for example). This is not only bad biblical theology (as revealed in the recent Sojourners article, "Short Fuse to Apocalypse?"), it perhaps more importantly misses other events that might truly prompt the eschaton. Of course, I am referring to a possible match-up between the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox in baseball's World Series. A World Series with truly eschatological implications is now possible after the surprise play-off victories of two of the most long-standing underdogs in baseball - or maybe in all of sports..

I went to seminary in Chicago, and, as a part-time job, was a school bus driver who sometimes took groups of school kids to Wrigley Field to watch the hapless Cubs play. And I must admit, sitting (for free) in the bus driver's section for many a summer afternoon game instilled in me real warmth for the north-side team, whose fan motto has always been "Wait 'til next year." Knowing more dogged Cubs fans than I, who were born and raised in the Windy City, I have always sensed the clear theological meaning to their motto. Indeed, I know the general secretary of a mainline Christian denomination (who will remain unnamed because there is no reason to single out the Reformed Church in America) who believes that being a lifelong Cubs fan develops a deep sense of eschatology. Justice may not come in this vale of tears, but vindication of all worthy but hopeless causes will come in the end times. Sammy Sosa's homeruns are extraordinary to behold, but what if the Cubs actually get to the big series and (dare we imagine?) even win it - for the first time since 1908? The Cubs hadn't even won a playoff series since then (almost 100 years) until they beat the mighty Atlanta Braves and put themselves in the National League Championship series with the Florida Marlins. Could the Cubs finally win? And could such an outcome be the catalyst for the end of history as we know it - the hope that many Christians have always longed for?

Then there are the Red Sox, not a hope-against-all-the-evidence team that won't ever give up, but rather the epitome of tragedy on an almost Shakespearean scale in sports, and the bearers of the heaviest burden in baseball. After winning the World Series in 1918, they sold the famed Babe Ruth to the hated New York Yankees in 1920, starting a new dynasty. Since then, the Yankees have won 26 championships, while the Red Sox, laboring under the "Curse of the Bambino," have none. Boston fans are the great fatalists of sports, always sure that something will happen (and always does) to ruin their hopes and shatter their dreams. This is a whole city that lives with the excruciating memory of that soft ground ball in the 1986 World Series that somehow trickled between the legs of first baseman Bill Buckner, losing the easy out and giving the game, unbelievably, to the miracle Mets. But this year it was the Red Sox that performed the miracle, coming back against the Oakland Athletics in three straight games, having been down 2-0. And now the Red Sox face the Yankees, the richest and most powerful team in baseball, in the American League Championship series. How sweet would that victory be? Could the cursed find redemption? Could the defeated and despairing find victory? Might the eschaton be upon us?

Ultimate, cosmic, and eschatological justice will clearly be on the side of either the Cubs or the Red Sox as they face their opponents. But what if they face each other in the World Series? Many baseball fans would respond with rapturous delight to such a World Series, no matter what the outcome, as the whole creation groans for righteousness to finally prevail. And given the events in Iraq, the White House, the CIA, the Middle East, and the California recall (any of which I might have otherwise written this column about), a little justice would be a wonderfully welcome thing just now.

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U.S. citizens pay more for prescription drugs

U.S. citizens pay higher prices for prescription drugs than do residents of other industrialized countries. How much more do they pay than people in these countries?

United Kingdom60%

Sources: Alan Sager and Debrorah Socolar, Health Reform Program, Boston University School of Public Health; Patented Medicines Price Review Board, Canada; USA Today.


REACH OUT 2003, an ecumenical gathering of people of faith and goodwill in the spirit of Micah 6.8, featuring Rev. Jim Wallis as keynote speaker and plenary leader, and Rev. Ross Olivier, General Secretary of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa and co-founder of the Order of Dignity. November 14 and 15, 2003, Shaughnessy Heights United Church, Vancouver, BC, CANADA. For more information visit and to register .

Woody Guthrie. Bob Dylan. Rickie Lee Jones?
by Oscar Garza

San Francisco Chronicle
Sunday, October 5, 2003

Rickie Lee Jones' new album, "The Evening of My Best Day," came out last week. The album reveals an unlikely activist persona.

Her signature sound is all there - the finger-snappin' rhythms, the aching ballads, the poetic lyrics. It's clearly her strongest new work in a decade. But in making the record, Jones had an awakening. It's no longer enough just to create, or to entertain, or, as she puts it, to "heal."

"So I'm down at the bottom of the spiral..." - [Jones] suddenly gets quietly serious - "and what I wanted was redemption, to be healed from the sorrow of my life. For whatever reason, it was so sorrowful. And not just my life - my mother's life, my ancestors, the family sorrow that I carry around and my part in it. I had been praying a lot and looking for the right prayer. The right prayer is, 'You take me where I need to go, please, because I am ready.' You can't say, 'I want to go there,' because that may not be where you need to go.'" ...

"And then the Patriot Act started to bring in something new altogether. After the bombing of the World Trade Center, I felt they tried to use it as an opportunity - and to me that was blasphemous. To use the grief and sorrow and fear of a nation as an economic opportunity - it was all I could write about."


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On a Trawler to the Mainland
by Gerard Donovan

A stormy crossing.
With one hand on the pole
I blow in the air like a flag,
claiming no territory these days
but journeys, no colours but white.

To be uncultured: impossible of course
to undo an idea - the place you shine -
since you can be gone but not quite.
The empty shot glass smells.

Still, blood carries its own bags,
lugging its light to new roads;
the infantry called instinct
straggles with stolen paintings,
prods you along from the known siege
of streets, faces you sow. Gunfire grows distant
yet delays on the air; smoke
balloons the horizon, won't completely clear.

Your steps grow groundless, mud the sun.
Towns wear down to one place.
If return is the question, the question returns:
Did you ever leave? And what's the residue
of any travelling, and of none?

PBS Host Bill Moyers says, "Sojourners is more important today than ever before!"

This is a critical year for American politics and for Sojourners. Prophetic alternatives to U.S. foreign and domestic policies have to be offered and heeded. Christians who care about social justice and peace must take action now. If you appreciate SojoMail and want Sojourners to become even more widely heard, we need your help.

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Providing credit to the world's poor
by Terry Provance

Oikocredit currently provides more than $200 million in microcredit loans to more than 400 project partners in 67 countries and is one of the largest private international microcredit organizations in the world. For 28 consecutive years, Oikocredit has also paid every investor their complete principal plus interest. (Investments earn 2% interest and $1,000 is minimum. Oiko's investment procedure involves the Calvert Foundation, a nationally reputable SRI agency.)

Oikocredit has been providing low-interest loans to poor communities throughout Asia, Africa, and Latin America since 1975 and receives its financial resources through investments from a variety of religious constituencies. Although Oikocredit is clear that worldwide social and economic justice are the long-term answers to the poverty, suffering, pollution, and exploitation promulgated by corporate globalization, credit to cooperatives and microcredit organizations can reduce immediately the drastic impact of poverty for millions of people.

The face of global poverty today holds hope and promise thanks to socially responsible investments from numerous churches and individuals in Oikocredit.

In 2003, Oikocredit is hoping to receive at least $1 million in new investments. Congregations, parishes, judicatories, councils of churches, and individuals can invest by contacting Oikocredit USA at:

SojoMail readers hit reply

LoErna Simpson writes from Corvallis, Oregon:

I was pleased to read David Batstone's article "Fair Trade Coffee Victory" in SojoMail [10-1-03]. I certainly support working for fair prices for farmers harvesting their coffee. I would encourage Sojourners and your readers to learn about the other foods that are also being sold under the Fair Trade logo. An excellent article in the Sept. 29, 2003, Christian Science Monitor [] describes the variety of Fair Trade foods currently available in Europe: "One in five bananas sold in Switzerland is fair trade; other foods include rice, mangoes, sugar, fruit juices, and even soccer balls."

Let's run with this idea! Fair prices for the people growing or producing items is truly justice in action!


Sarah Kaspari Baker writes from Mitchell, South Dakota:

Hooray for fair trade coffee farmers! Hooray for us! I cannot count the times I have felt like a lone voice speaking against injustice. What possible difference will I make? Thank you, Sojo, for organizing and influencing on behalf of those people who the writer of the Gospel of Luke calls "the least, the last, and the lost." One voice (albeit an electronic voice) joined with thousands of others can and will be heard around this world.


C. Hunter Wiggins, deputy assistant director, Enforcement Division, Securities and Exchange Commission, writes from Washington, D.C.:

In his "Mistaken Priorities in Washington" essay [10-01-03], Jim Wallis says it is "morally outrageous" for Bush and Congress to debate spending $20 billion for hospitals, clinics, and schools for Iraq while America still has millions in poverty. While I usually read Jim's columns with interest, this statement made my blood run cold. Many in Iraq are as bad - or much worse - off than Americans in poverty - and, in part, have been put in that situation by America's military action in their country. Yet Wallis says it is "morally outrageous" to try to alleviate their suffering as long as others suffer here. Since when has Sojourners believed "love thy neighbor" has geographical limitations, or that we should take care of ourselves first before reaching out beyond our borders? I'm afraid Wallis' response was informed more by his politics and how this debate has been framed by politicians, rather than by his faith. Isn't the real question why we accept from Bush and Congress this false choice between helping Iraqis whose country we invaded and Americans who live in poverty? If we as a country can afford a trillion dollar tax cut, why can't we afford to help both poor Iraqis and poor Americans? It does not have to be a question of either/or, and smart, informed thinkers such as SojoNet's readers - and editors - should not fall into this rhetorical trap.


Nicholas Jesson writes from Toronto, Canada:

In response to your e-mail [action alert] "Tell the Senate: No Blank Check for Iraq!", I must disagree. I certainly think that the U.S. was wrong to ever enter Iraq, and I think that the American people have to learn how to hold their government accountable for that ill-fated and immoral decision. However, now that you are there, you cannot leave. You have an obligation to the Iraqi people that far surpasses any obligation to your own citizens. You have disrupted the only stability that they had. Dictatorial rule provided more stability than the U.S. is able to provide today. If you leave, the chaos will only lead to more suffering, poverty, and violence. Iraq is now the reluctant ward of the U.S., and you cannot absolve yourself of that responsibility. You are now responsible for the well-being of every single Iraqi, until the Iraqi people reach a certain democratic and developmental maturity to be able to walk freely.

Sure, it would be nice to get the U.S. troops out of there. It would be nice if the U.S. were not solely responsible for rebuilding Iraq. The U.S. corporations, such as Haliburton, that are profiteering on the Iraqi misery must not be supported. That would not be justice. But the Bush administration would love to wash their hands of the whole mess. They would love for it to disappear from the headlines. As long as American troops are stationed there, the Bush administration will have their feet to the flames. Don't let them off the hook!


Rev. David Wilson writes from Valparaiso, Florida:

Friends, it's one thing to be pro-peace and anti-war, but once war has happened, such a stance is harmful to the children and adults in Iraq. I'm sure you have opposed sanctions prior to the war; well, this, in effect, would do the same thing. I'm afraid your anti-Bush leaven has affected the whole lump and left you sour on the real needs.


Mary Pat Brennan writes from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania:

Re. David Batstone's article on "Globalization beyond Cancun" and specifically Coop Italia, an Italian superstore: Wouldn't it be great if Wal-Mart or a similar retailer caught that same vision and could introduce to the American public the concept of fair trade, perhaps using football as its initial marketing tool? Why, I might even be persuaded to set foot in the store if it were to start down that path!


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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