The Common Good

Giving 'Burger King Moms' a Voice

Sojomail - June 4, 2004

Quote of the Week Solidarity versus charity
Hearts & Minds Jim Wallis: Giving 'Burger King Moms' a voice
On the Ground Palestine Journal: Thrice-stolen land
Politically Connect Tossed out of America
Tech Ethix What would Jesus download?
Faith and Politics Buying with your conscience without selling out
Culture Watch Taking a crack at The Da Vinci Code
Boomerang Readers write

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"I don't believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. Charity is so vertical. It goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other person and learns from the other. I have a lot to learn from other people."

- Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan social justice activist.

Source: Daily Dig

Giving 'Burger King Moms' a voice
by Jim Wallis

She was working the drive-through window at 4 in the afternoon. But whenever there was a lull between orders, the young woman returned to a table in the corner of the local Burger King. Three kids were sitting there, with schoolbooks, papers and pencils all spread out, doing their homework. And Mom was helping as best she could while keeping straight the orders for Whoppers, fries and chicken nuggets. Given her low wages, this single mother was no doubt balancing more than fast food and homework; she was also deciding between paying the rent, going to the doctor and getting prescriptions when somebody gets sick - or worrying about winter boots for her kids. I call her "Burger King Mom."

"Soccer moms" and "NASCAR dads" have received much attention in recent election campaigns. But who will speak to or for Burger King Mom? She may live in a red or blue state, but neither party is much interested in her or her family's issues. She is part of the low-income demographic most unrepresented in U.S. politics, with the lowest levels of both voter registration and turnout - and with a high percentage of immigrants. Many low-income people have a hard time connecting to voting: it's too complicated, there are too many other things to worry about, and there is too little reason for confidence that the outcome will make much difference for them.

The Republicans look after their wealthy constituents, and the Democrats want to be the champions of the middle class. Neither makes a priority of the needs of the poor. Is that because the problems of poverty are disappearing in America? Hardly. The poverty rate (including that for children) has risen over the past two years. More people than ever are without health insurance. Increasing numbers of people can't find affordable housing. The minimum wage hasn't been raised for seven years.

Yet poverty is simply not a political issue. The "p" word came up in the Democratic primaries only in the speeches of John Edwards and, briefly, Howard Dean. It has not been mentioned since. John Kerry has hardly said a word about low-income families as he reaches out to the middle class.

And George Bush's faith-based initiative has been reduced to a photo op, while domestic spending that most affects the poor has been drastically cut in favor of war, homeland security and tax cuts that mostly benefit the rich. The media have yet to report on the condition of low-income American families who have also become the casualties of war.

We need to redefine the poverty issue as one of growing income inequality in America, and one that increasingly affects working families. American inequality is now greater than at any time since the roaring injustice of the 1920s or the rampant wealth and poverty of the Gilded Age in the 19th century. The Bush administration's tax policies seem deliberately aimed at returning to the wealth distribution of those periods. But especially since the 1990s, both parties are following the dictates of their corporate donors more than the dictates of compassion or justice. The Republicans run as compassionate conservatives and then govern as corporatists, while the Democrats run as populists, then also govern as corporatists.

Most Americans believe that if you work hard and full time, you should not be poor. But the truth is that many working families are, and many low-income breadwinners must hold down multiple jobs just to survive. With stagnant wages in an economy that is growing for some but clearly not for others, more and more people and their children are simply being left out and left behind. What is at risk is the reality of a genuine opportunity society and the ethic of work when work no longer is enough to support a family.

The good news is that religious leaders and communities from across the theological and political spectrum are responding to the vacuum of political leadership on poverty and income inequality. In fact, poverty is becoming the defining moral issue for many in the faith community - including evangelicals and Pentecostals as well as Catholics, mainline Protestants and the black churches. While divided on other issues such as gay marriage and abortion, some church leaders are displaying a determined "unity" to make poverty a religious issue in this election year. Maybe Burger King Mom will have somebody speaking for her and her kids after all.

This article appeared in today's Washington Post at:

Join Jim Wallis "Live Online" from 2-3 p.m. (eastern time) June 4, 2004 at:

Read more commentary by Jim Wallis at:


From Violence to Wholeness: Retreats in the Spirituality of Creative Nonviolence

The Texas Conference of Churches is offering an interactive curriculum that helps us explore how the spirituality and practice of active nonviolence enriches our lives and the lives of our churches, communities, and nations. Participants will explore five themes: violence, creative nonviolence, successful social movements, community building, and action planning.

June 18-20, 2004
Jarrell Retreat Center
(40 miles north of Austin)
August 24-26
Cedar Break Retreat Center
Belton, TX

Lodging, meals, and materials are included. More information: Caryn Wontor, (512) 451-0991,,

Palestine Journal: Thrice-stolen land
by Ryan Beiler

Local Air Checker
Local Air Checker
Local Air Checker
Local Air Checker
Far from recent headlines about home demolitions and assassinations by airstrike in Gaza, violence of a different kind affects Palestinians every day - violence against the land itself. In the midst of the chalky, blasted-rock moonscape left by the construction of an Israeli settlement road south of Bethlehem in the Occupied Territories lies a massive mound of burgundy earth, clawed at its margins by backhoe teeth. This soil once covered the land of Hamed Issal al Bow, who grew olives, citrus fruits, and vegetables until the Israeli confiscation order came that carved away all of his cultivated slopes, leaving him with a few acres of rocky hilltop.

This wasn't a case of American-style "imminent domain," in which members of the community are forced to vacate their property for the ostensible common good - perhaps even with government compensation. As a Palestinian, Issal al Bow will not be able to travel the road that took his hillside. The special permits required of Palestinians to travel such roads are almost never given, making this essentially an Israeli-only highway that not only divides Palestinian communities, but that does so to connect settlements already illegal under international law. The Fourth Geneva Convention, of which Israel is a signatory, states that "the occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies."

Read more at:


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Tossed out of America

Since the events of September 11, 2001, more than 83,000 foreign visitors from chiefly Muslim countries have been ordered to register with the U.S. federal government. Of these, nearly 14,000 have been forced to undergo deportation processes. While these men are all undocumented residents, their religious and national identities (the greatest portion are Pakistani) are the primary reason they've been targeted. Under the auspices of preventing another 9/11, security measures have included convictions and jail time for some, along with one-way tickets home. Many of the men, once law-abiding, hard-working U.S. residents, now face separation from families and uncertain futures.

The recent crackdown, ostensibly part of intensified efforts to weed out pockets of terror on U.S. soil, has in fact led to no public terrorism charges. Moreover, the singling out of immigrants for deportation based primarily on religious and ethnic criteria has sparked controversy among those who see the measures as a threat to the American values of civil liberty and justice for all.

Read more at:,1,2494310.special [registration required]


Peace Quest

Over 100 hands-on peacemaking activities! Perfect for camps, vacation church school, and summer programs. Special SojoMail sale - limited time, order now! Two books for $25 plus discounted shipping of $3.50. (Regular low price $15.50 each.)

What would Jesus download?

Digital music theft, the thorn in the music industry's side, has life and life abundant among Christian teens. A new study shows that evangelical youth are downloading and burning CDs by Christian recording artists just as frequently as non-Christians are with secular music.

Some listeners argue that the ends justify the means, with the logic of Robin Hood applied to spreading the gospel, regardless of whether or not the message was paid for.

The lucrative Christian music industry, which hauled in $800 million last year, saw a 5.2% drop in sales, attributed to piracy trends within its consumer base.

Attitudes among executives and musicians vary, but most remain ambivalent. Reluctant to file lawsuits under the auspices of greediness, some are seeking a moral high road. Then again, business is business; and besides, some argue, fans could use a lesson in right and wrong when it comes to intellectual property. All agree, however, that changing trends will require an enormous educational undertaking.

Read more at: [registration required]

Read David Batstone's commentary, "Thou shalt not download?" at:


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Buying with your conscience without selling out

Paying more for "fair trade" or other socially responsible designations sometimes feels like a luxury. But what is the "fair" cost of the clothes we wear or the food we eat? If we're not paying it, we're passing the cost on to others - such as underpaid workers or the environment. In an article on, Tammia Bartlett offers some suggestions for being a mindful consumer and making purchases that correspond to our values. A summary:

*Stop drinking coffee that isn't fair trade.
*Don't shop at stores that have refused to sign the anti-sweatshop agreement.
*Read labels on your shampoos and detergents. If it doesn't tout animal testing-free contents, then it probably isn't cruelty-free.
*Buy produce from local stores.
*Educate yourself.
*Donate time and funds to local nonprofits.

Read more at:

Learn more about organic, fair trade SojoBlend coffee 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.

Taking a crack at The Da Vinci Code

Uproar over The Da Vinci Code has inspired more than 10 books promising to reveal the truth behind the best-selling thriller, according to The New York Times. The book taps into growing public fascination with Christian origins by denying Jesus' divinity and suggesting that the early church elevated Mary Magdalene as a leader and celebrated the worship of female wisdom and sexuality. Many churches, however, are looking for ways to respond to the novel's premise that there is a centuries-old conspiracy to cover up Jesus' marriage to Mary Magdalene and the existence of their descendents.

While some are responding fiercely to what they perceive as an attack on their faith's foundations, others, such as Harold W. Attridge, dean of Yale Divinity School, welcome the "teaching opportunity" provided by the book - while acknowledging that the book "takes facts and gives them a spin that distorts them seriously." There's a broad scholarly consensus that the depiction of the Council of Nicaea is one of the book's most blatant distortions. According to The Times, "While there was a diversity of early expressions of Christianity, Jesus' divinity was part of the church's established canons well before 325, and predates most of the newly found manuscripts such as the Gnostic and other gospels."

Read more at:

Sojourners' Associate Editor Rose Marie Berger had this to say in The Mercury News: "The United States is a place where the rights of women and equality are central. The Da Vinci Code explores that aspect of Christianity - the feminine and the realm of the Holy Spirit - and contrasts that to a certain extent with the patriarchal institutional structure of the Catholic Church."

Read that article at: [registration required]



Please join: Julian Bond, Wes Boyd, Joan Blades, Kim Gandy, Gov. Howard Dean, Sen. Jon Corzine, Robert Reich, Antonio Villaraigosa, Sen. John Edwards, George Soros, Arianna Huffington, and progressives from across the country for a national conference to TAKE BACK AMERICA, June 2-4 in Washington, D.C. Go to to register.

Readers write

Dori Marshall-Cook writes from Salt Lake City, Utah:

This is in response to David Batstone's great article on online dating ["Click here for Cupid," SojoMail 5/26/2004]. I loved it! I have to tell you, I'm a commissioned lay pastor and a Christian educator/youthworker who just married her online sweetheart in December. This method for meeting people has much to commend it, in my opinion. For one thing, I could eliminate unsuitable potential partners quickly by screening their use of language in their profiles. If a fellow can't express himself, spell correctly, or hold my interest, I can choose not to pursue even a cyber-meeting. If we proceed to e-mailing one another, that's another level. I once eliminated a possible match because all he seemed interested in were hunting, guns, and retrievers. Not rocket science...

My now-husband and I knew almost at once that we were the answer to one another's prayers. Partly because we'd both figuratively kissed a lot of frogs and were quick to recognize the prince and princess within, but also because God is good and will use even online dating in God's providence for our lives. But my key to making the whole thing work was definitely knowing the heart within first.


Bud Adams writes from Central Square, New York:

Regarding some of the responses to the gay marriage issue: As one writer alluded, it is true that homosexuality is not clearly addressed in the Bible ["James Ferguson writes..." Boomerang 5/26/2004]. Perhaps one reason is that sexual conduct was not nearly so important to Jews as was table fellowship. Even the most casual reader will realize that ritual purity - with whom and how a person broke bread - was far more crucial to the life of a Jewish person than almost any other human action - certainly more important than their sexual activities. Sexual activity/orientation is OUR lightening-rod issue. It wasn't until I did some investigation of my own that I came to realize the anti-homosexual message I had heard for most of my life was not based on sound scholarship. I read research surrounding the language Paul used, and I read research surrounding Greek cultural views - both 500 years B.C.E. (the time of Plato), and during the first century. The only conclusion I can now reach is that Paul was decrying pederasty as a sin...

What I suggest is for all who are zealously latching on to this issue as a faith litmus test to do their own independent investigations. Forget all the authors that write the things you hold so dear. Turn to true scholarship. Then jump to your own unassisted conclusion.


Michael Iott writes from Eaton Rapids, Michigan:

Dear Major Matthew,
You state in your letter to SojoMail [Boomerang 5/26/2004] that the petition to have Mr. Rumsfeld resign is based on erroneous assumptions, and then go on to state that the abuse of prisoners is a failure in leadership. Is it possible that you do not see the inherent contradiction in your assertion? The "classic leadership failure" you refer to is precisely the point of the petition. Your apparent inability to "connect the dots" between the highest levels of leadership and the behavior of their subordinates gives me a very uneasy feeling about the moral integrity of our military hierarchy. My experience tells me that subordinates mirror the values of their leaders. The behavior of soldiers, as you suggest, directly reflect the values of their leaders. "Passing the buck" down to the enlisted men demonstrates moral cowardice on the part of the military officers involved, all the way up the chain of command, and the failure of leadership of their civilian overseers. THAT is what the petition addresses.


Jackie Evangelista writes from Concord, Ohio:

The right to choose allows some to believe that there is no difference between "killing in the world and killing in the womb" ["Linda Berard writes..." Boomerang 5/26/2004]. And it allows them to act on that belief by never getting an abortion. They, however, want to deny me the same right to choose my belief and act on it.... Those who recognize that the story might be a little more complex than "life is fully formed at conception/abortion is murder" are open to considering other moral factors when faced with an unwanted pregnancy (i.e., whether they can really welcome and love a new baby, whether their circumstances will allow them to properly care for it, and even whether they want to be the agent of overpopulation). If those who favor choice had had the courage to discuss their moral convictions publicly over the past 25 years, we might have found ourselves focusing on missions both sides could support: preventing unwanted pregnancy and developing a more mature attitude about sexuality.


Sylve Davis writes from Winter Park, Florida:

I am so sick of these bleeding hearts! Did it ever occur to this organization ["No more deaths in the desert," SojoMail 5/26/2004] that the objects of their questionable attentions are breaking the law by sneaking into a country? If they so desperately need to relocate, let them do it legally! I equate them with the bank robber who, if he gets shot and killed, should have figured it into the equation before he tried to get something that did not rightfully belong to him. The laws of natural selection work sometimes when not hindered by do-gooders who have lost their common sense. These sneaky people knew there were dangers when they undertook their illegal actions.


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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