The Common Good

Easter Good News Edition

Sojomail - April 14, 2004

Editor's Note The good news of Easter
Quote of the Week Victory is certain
Spiritual Practices Rose Marie Berger: Via Crucis, Via Lucis
Politically Connect Signs of hope: Women and the global - and biblical - struggle for justice
Funny Business SATIRE: Poverty rate of southern continent at all-time low
P.O.V. Paying taxes with the currency of love
Culture Watch A novel approach to subway crime
Building a Movement The soul of service
Under the Wire Good news you may have missed
Web Sitings Bittersweet theology | Life on the edge | Legos online
Boomerang Readers write

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In observance of the Easter season and in the spirit of resurrection, we offer this special "Good News" edition of SojoMail. We know that sometimes in our pursuit of justice and peace we have to tell stories about injustice and violence, but this week we offer stories of hope and signs of the in-breaking of God's upside-down kingdom. And, we promise to continue to include "good news" for future issues...

Preaching the Word is an online resource for preparing sermons and scripture reflections based on the Revised Common Lectionary for Sundays. We've done the work so you don't have to. Go to:


"In the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, we see God's decisive victory not only over death but over all God's other enemies as well. In that one climactic event, we see the certainty that someday, in the kingdom of God, there will be no more violence, war, jealousy, or death.... These forces are still alive and at work in the world, but because of the victory that God won at Easter, their doom is certain."

- Stephen T. Davis, in Risen Indeed

Via Crucis, Via Lucis
by Rose Marie Berger

It's an old Latin adage. "Via Crucis, Via Lucis." Can you see the abuelita, the old grandmother, shrugging her shoulders and patting her teenage grandson on the cheek? Where there's the cross, there's also light.

A few years ago Pope John Paul II decided to officially resurrect an ancient Christian custom called the Via Lucis - the Way of Light. It's a devotional practice similar to the Stations of the Cross, but it focuses on the Easter appearances. It's also called the Stations of the Resurrection or the Stations of Joy. Well suited for the 50 days of the Easter season prior to Pentecost, the Via Lucis scriptures reflect on the final chapters of the four gospels, which narrate the resurrection appearances. There are 14 "stations of light."

We are all familiar with the cross and what it symbolizes. Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ serves as a bloody reminder about this form of state-sponsored torture. Many Christians symbolically "carry the cross of Christ" through the season of Lent, maybe through fasting or almsgiving or saying extra prayers. Maybe by figuring out how to get right with an estranged family member. Maybe by practicing a "rigorous moral inventory." Often the penitential purple shows up in our churches.

If I'm honest with myself, I'd say that most of the year feels like Lent. The daily headlines read like Christ's crucifixion. There are the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, lying "public servants," CEOs stealing billions, too many kids "left behind," gangs so crazed by anger that they opt to become suicide-bombers. Add in your own. To put it simply, all this hurts Jesus. All this is another blow of the hammer nailing Jesus to the cross.

But what does the Via Lucis feel like? Where do I find and celebrate the Way of Light? In my neighborhood it includes the community gardens where grandmothers from rural North Carolina teach their tough urban grandkids how to plant tomatoes. It includes the pick-up soccer games in the park where "enemies" play together on the same team. It involves the Salvadoran priest, a torture survivor, who is raising money to plant flowers in a park that's a home for the homeless. My Via Lucis even stops in Foz Do Iguacu, Brazil. When CNN falsely accused the town of harboring "terrorist cells," the mayor fought back with humor by placing ads in more than 160 travel magazines that said, "If he can find the time to see our waterfalls, why can't you?" under a photo of bin Laden. My Way of Light would also pause at the World Trade Center where a friend planted corn seeds in the ash-seeds given to her by survivors of the El Mozote massacre in El Salvador. A year later she returned to Ground Zero to find an 8-foot corn plant growing in Manhattan.

To enter Easter and the qualities of light, I need reminders that Jesus was not "cured of death," as theologian James Alison puts it. That's what happened to Lazarus. Instead, Jesus kept fidelity with life.

His Via Lucis includes an empty tomb, honoring Mary Magdalene, teaching on the way to Emmaus, breaking bread, breathing peace on the disciples, forgiving them, engaging Thomas' questions, teaching Peter about love, teaching the disciples how to continue in The Way, overcoming the powers and principalities by ascending to heaven, and encouraging the followers to wait and watch for the Holy Spirit.

"Via Crucis, Via Lucis." Where there's the cross, there's also light. It may not be easy to wear light on a chain around the neck, but then again, as people of the resurrection, we don't need to. I pray that it will be obvious to all who see us that we are people of joy. We walk in illumination. Where we pass, our footprints puddle with light.

How will you practice the Via Lucis?

Rose Marie Berger, an associate editor of Sojourners, is a Catholic peace activist and poet.

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Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. - Matthew 5:9

Join the Sustainers Circle, Sojourners' monthly giving program, with a gift of $10 or more per month and you will receive a complimentary subscription to Sojourners magazine. Join online today at: or call 1-800-714-7474 and ask for donor relations.

Signs of hope: Women and the global - and biblical - struggle for justice
by Nontando Hadebe

Nontando Hadebe, a development assistant at Sojourners, was invited to participate in the 48th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), held in New York in March.

As I reflect on my experiences at this United Nations Session, I am reminded of the story in Numbers 27:1-11 of Mahlah and her four sisters who brought their experience of injustice to the entire community of Israel. What makes this story intriguing is that their experience of injustice came as a result of the law that was given by God to Moses. Upon hearing the women's challenge, Moses placed the case before God. God responded by acknowledging the validity of the challenge and changed the law. Justice appears to be the overarching ethic that guided the law. Rather than viewing justice as static, the story in Numbers presents justice as a living, dynamic, and powerful ethic that continues to say a resounding "no" to injustice. It is a story of hope for all who experience injustice because it reveals God as one who upholds justice at all times.

I link this story of hope to the hope I experienced at the CSW conference. The United Nations, with all its imperfections, is a symbol of hope; it represents an attempt by the global community of nations to work together toward a just and equitable world. The CSW is a permanent structure within the U.N. that was established in 1946 in response to the experiences of injustice brought to the U.N. by the global community of women. Like Mahlah and her sisters, women from all over the world gather during the CSW Session and bring to the U.N. their experiences of injustice. Their challenges have transformed and continue to transform the U.N. and the global community.

Read more at:

Call to Renewal's Pentecost 2004

Call to Renewal's Pentecost 2004"Join us in Washington as we tell politicians and the nation that reducing poverty is a religious and electoral issue in 2004. Our convictions on other issues do not prevent us as Christians from uniting to overcome poverty." - Jim Wallis

Join Us For a Pentecost Show of Unity
May 23-25, 2004
Washington Plaza Hotel, Washington, DC

* Plenary Panels * Washington National Cathedral Worship Service featuring Rev. James A. Forbes * Keynote Luncheon with Bill Moyers * Congressional Prayer Breakfast and More! Register at:

SATIRE: Poverty rate of southern continent at all-time low
by Ryan Beiler, Sojourners Antarctic Bureau Chief

Antarctica, long neglected by industrialized nations as an aid-dependent "basket case," is finally on the economic upturn. This, due solely to the fact that Bruce Jovanovich of the National Science Foundation's Antarctic Program tripled his income by convincing superiors that his research into penguin migrations was a vital component in the war against terrorism. His raise, when averaged with the income of the 17 other scientists huddled in underground bunkers in this frozen God-forsaken wasteland, increased the per capita income of the continent by 22%.

Jovanovich has already invested his largess in the local economy by installing an open-air Jacuzzi from which to observe his penguin subjects. "Sometimes my binoculars get a little steamed up," said Jovanovich. "But it's worth it just to sit there in 105 degree water with the antarctic wind whipping through my hair! That invigorating sensation really helps me do a lot of science, which as we know is essential to stopping terrorism. God bless America. And also Antarctica."

Jovanovich's neighbors are somewhat less enthusiastic about their continent's economic boom. On condition of anonymity, one ice core analyst commented through chattering teeth, "Bruce is such a jerk. Now please excuse me while I massage some feeling back into my frostbitten extremities."


Sometimes you don't even want to read the morning paper: war, executions, abortions, poverty, the arms race, racism, euthanasia. Many good groups oppose one or more of these outrages on life. One organization, CONSISTENT LIFE, works against ALL OF THEM. Please join CONSISTENT LIFE. Send $25 to Consistent Life, P.O. Box 792, Garner NC 27529, (919) 779-1912.

P.O.V. ^top
Paying taxes with the currency of love
by Tom Blodget

The most famous quote in the New Testament about taxes has to do with someone who asked Jesus whether Jews should pay the taxes demanded by the Roman imperialist government.... Jesus asked the man to produce a coin, any coin, and to say whose image was stamped thereon. The man replied that it was that of Caesar, the ruler of the empire. Jesus then replied with a cryptic admonition, "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and unto God that which is God's." ...

To advise paying taxes isn't to give advice; it's simply to make an observation of the obvious obligation. In other words, those who profit by the system must also pay the taxes that the system requires. On the other hand, there is a system of relationships that do not involve money. The currency of such a regime is love, not money.

Read more at:


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A novel approach to subway crime

When Mexico City officials were considering how to reduce petty crimes on the city's vast subway system, instead of hiring armed guards they "decided to try improving the atmosphere with books instead of guns," reports The Washington Post. In a country where major newspapers sell fewer than 150,000 copies a day, and books selling more than 20,000 copies are considered bestsellers, subway employees are handing out free volumes containing stories, poems, and plays designed to be read during the course of a 10- to 15-minute ride. Using the honor system, the books are then intended to be returned as passengers exit their stations. Though it's too early to measure the success of the program's initial goals, it's so popular that workers handing out books are having a hard time keeping up with the demand.

Read more at:


Signs of Hope - Steps for Change is a new CD-ROM produced by the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance available free of charge to individuals and organizations. The CD, developed out of the Global Poster Competition against HIV and AIDS-Related Stigma and Discrimination, contains more than 80 of the winning posters in multiple formats for use in local exhibitions. Also included are more than 100 multi-lingual fact sheets, worship resources, theological reflections, and advocacy tools developed to increase understanding about HIV and AIDS, challenge stigma, and empower faith-based organizations to work toward a positive change in attitudes and care within communities.

To order the CD-ROM, send your request to (fax: +41 22 710 2387)

For more information contact Sara Speicher, or see

The soul of service

While it's often easy to say what Christians are against, it's often difficult to say what it is that they are "for." But for the past 10 years, Soul Survivor has been active in demonstrating the positive side of what those who believe in Jesus are about: serving the poor, helping those in need, and showing compassion with tangible acts of service. This summer, the organization is organizing events on both sides of the Atlantic to encourage thousands of youth to put their faith into action through acts of service and the forging of cross-community relationships.

Learn more at:


by Charles Dickinson

If Christianity - without losing its soul - is yet to avoid losing touch with the world, it must constantly update itself by dialogue with all the intellectual currents of today. To this end, the author proposes a necessary two-way dialectic between theology and the world, an ongoing dialectic ultimately essential to both church and world. $25 hardcover. To order call (313) 624-9784. Dove Booksellers, 13904 Michigan Avenue, Dearborn, Michigan, 48126.

Good news you may have missed

Harvard eliminates tuition for low-income students

Maryland Senate approves first state government living-wage ordinance

'We are the world' makes a comeback

Religious shareholder activists win human rights commitment from Occidental Petroleum

Look but don't munch: Genetically modified plant can detect landmines


The birds are chirping, the cherry blossoms are blooming, and we're cleaning up the Sojourners Resource Center. We've got books, study guides, tapes, sweatshirts, posters, buttons, stickers, and back issues at bargain prices. Order today at: or call: 1-800-714-7474

Bittersweet theology

It takes a while to get the hang of it, but this interactive "visual poem" offers insight into the resurrection, chocolate, and hot chilis:

Life on the edge

The Social is already cool as an online monthly social justice and faith magazine, but we like them most because their site uses the vibrant and engaging color orange:

Legos online

For those of you who miss the chance to play with Legos, here's an online game of logic and fun to ease your nostalgia:

Readers write

Vicki Evans writes from Salt Lake City, Utah:

[Regarding "Focus on the corporation: Wal-Mart," SojoMail 4/7/2004]: Just think how many low-interest business loans Wal-Mart could have made to the people of Inglewood with the $1 million they spent just on advertising. If they really wanted to help neighborhoods and create employment, they could help low-income entrepreneurs start small businesses and employ people. Even if it were on some kind of partnership basis that would allow both Wal-Mart and small business to work side by side, it would be more of a win-win situation.


Rev. Rick Reynolds writes from Seattle, Washington:

[Regarding the Quote of the Week for SojoMail, 4/7/2004: "...God has no joy in our pain, but he sometimes uses pain and suffering as bitter medicines for the treatment of souls." - Sundar Singh, in Wisdom of the Sadhu]: Sometimes suffering can be used by God for our benefit. But not always. I work with homeless people and live in a marginal neighborhood. Folks in a nearby apartment building moved out, leaving behind the body of their daughter in a cardboard box in the closet. There are people around us every day who have survived horrors we can never know. Let us not be too quick to say that their suffering is for their benefit.


Terry Messman writes from Oakland, California:

I wanted to take a moment to tell you how much I appreciated your recent column on Michael Novak and his gospel of greed ["A gospel of personal wealth meets the gospel of commonwealth," SojoMail 3/24/2004].... I think it is inspiring and admirable that you had the heart to confront him at a formal public event with the two different theologies. For the life of me, I simply can never understand how the super-rich are able to bend the gospels and delude themselves into thinking that God rewards their virtue with money, and that's why they are rich. The prophets and the gospels consistently bless the poor and warn the rich. Specifically, they warn the rich that you cannot love both God and money, for you must hate the one to love the other. Yet somehow, "corporate Christianity for CEOs" recasts God in the image of a banker, and completely distorts God's blessing by recasting it as money. Re-creating God in the image of money: that's transparently idolizing money, which, of course, is exactly what corporate capitalism unthinkingly does.


The not-at-all bald Andrew Schleicher writes from Nashville, Tennessee:

I want to send a note out to Ed Spivey for his satire on the Bush administration going after the bald ["Don't hate them because they're beautiful," SojoMail 4/1/2004]. While Kerry may have a full head of hair himself, he is also a sure defender of the bald. Seriously! Check out the April 5 Newsweek. In 1982, John Kerry, then a practicing lawyer in Boston, went before a jury with the case of a man whose scalp was infected after getting it implanted with carpet fibers. The procedure is now banned by the FDA, and I am sure that Kerry's work had something to with it. While, as the article points out, Kerry has not talked much about his work as a defender of the bald, if Spivey's satire were to become reality, I am sure this would be bigger news.


Dordt College student Andrew Hoeksema writes from Sioux Center, Iowa:

I appreciate the fact that Sojourners magazine and SojoMail often publish points of view and commentaries and make them available to a number of readers who might not stumble upon them otherwise. In this light, I request (heck, I beg of you) that you publish (in its entirety if possible) the Senate floor remarks made by Senator Robert Byrd on April 7, 2004.... These remarks represent the opinion of an incredibly fast-growing number of Americans, yet an opinion too rarely spoken in political forums. I am in complete admiration of Senator Byrd's boldness, wisdom, and eloquence. This is the best representation of true American patriotism by an elected representative that I have seen in months, if not years. These are the speeches that peace advocates of all varieties need to celebrate, disseminate, and encourage more of.

[Senator Byrd's speech is available at: ]


Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of views that do not necessarily represent those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice heard? Include your name, hometown, and state/province/country in a concise e-mail to: . We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity.

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