The Common Good

A Case for Supreme Justice

Sojomail - June 2, 2005

Quote of the Week » Colson on Deep Throat: Secrecy is a moral value?
Batteries Not Included » David Batstone: A case for supreme justice
By the Numbers » New data informs abortion rate debate
Campus Lines » Campus politics through the eyes of faith
Soul Works » Bread for my neighbor
Culture Watch » A portrait of the priesthood
Building a Movement » Hunger No More: An interfaith convocation
Media Watch » Sojourners in the news
Boomerang » Readers write
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Colson on Deep Throat: Secrecy is a moral value?

"I never thought anybody with such a position of sensitivity at the Justice Department would breach confidences.... A hero is someone that you want other people to emulate...and to say he was a hero because he broke his trust...he broke the confidence of the president of the United States." (CNS News)

"Mark first served this country with honor, and I can't imagine how Mark Felt was sneaking in dark alleys leaving messages under flower pots and violating his oath to keep this nation's secrets." (Associated Press)

"Mark Felt could have stopped Watergate. He was in a position of that kind of influence. Instead, he goes out and basically undermines the administration." (Agence France-Presse)

- Charles Colson, commenting on the actions of former FBI official W. Mark Felt, recently revealed as Deep Throat, the secret Washington Post source who helped break the Watergate scandal. Colson was head of communications in the Nixon White House in 1972, and served prison time after pleading no contest to obstruction of justice in the scandal.


A case for supreme justice
by David Batstone

The radical politicization of the judicial branch at the moment should worry all of us regardless of our political leanings - Republican, Democrat, or otherwise. I am not so naïve to assume there has ever been a time in American history when the judicial system was free of special interests, political or economic. But it is striking today that judicial nominees are evaluated first and foremost on their adherence to a narrow set of ideologies rather than their proven track record on meting out justice in a fair and impartial way.

Perhaps we just take for granted the importance of an independent judicial process, executed by judges unfettered by political parties or economic elites. Indeed, checks and balances that are foundational to any real practice of democracy. A recent series of events in Peru drove that point home to me.

I have been close for some time to a street kids project in Lima named Generacíon [Generation]. For more than 15 years, Generacíon has been helping homeless children find a dignified place for shelter and work so that they can rebuild their lives. Its work is financially supported by the international NGO Save the Children as well as many private parties. The reputation and reach of Generacíon transcends the borders of Peru; the staff consults to a global network of street children activists.

In recent days, however, the continued existence of Generacíon is under threat. A Lima-based judge ordered that its shelter be shut down. One hundred riot police subsequently stormed the home where up to 60 children live peacefully, forcibly displacing them. The police now maintain a security presence around the house to ensure that no children return to the shelter.

What was the "crime" that led to the judicial eviction order? For starters, many Peruvian political leaders are angry at Generacíon for holding up the crisis of street kids as a sign of their failure to govern effectively. Additionally, Lima's economic elites are pressing for Generacíon's demise. The shelter is located in an upper-middle-class neighborhood in Lima. Most neighbors do not want to even see these children, let alone live next door to them. There is a widespread belief in Peru that street children are dangerous criminals. Therefore, the responsible way of working with children at risk is to put them in shelters that have methodologies similar to the juvenile halls, which also keeps them out of sight.

The police also show animosity to the project due to its steady reporting of police brutality. Several months ago, the municipal police burned the face of a child while he was sleeping in the street. After Generacíon reported the incident, the local government increased its legal efforts against the project. Several weeks later, Generacion reported several rapes that occurred in the streets against street children; once again, both the police and the judge refused to believe the evidence.

In the months leading up to the eviction, Lima's police stirred up conflict with street kids. They stood outside the shelter putting up posters that questioned the dignity of children and the work of Generacíon. They also regularly arrested children who left the house alone, and organized the neighborhood to protest against the shelter. When Generacíon organized a vigil asking the local government to respect children's rights, they beat several children up without provocation.

The judicial sector in Peru does not have a sterling reputation for establishing codes of justice that might counter political and economic elites. Hence, Generacíon does not have a refuge in the public sector to turn to for protection. The judge in this case justified his decision based on the need for "legal order."

That "order" is discrimination that keeps the poorest children in the dirtiest and most hostile places of the city. As an alternative, the court ruled that street kids must give up their freedom and live under surveillance wherein they would have their behavior tightly controlled. It is the only path for these children to become socialized, opined the judge.

We have reason to worry when ideologues - be they conservative or liberal - use their own vision of the right social order to trump a deliberation for justice. More often than not, might tragically makes for right in political and economic arenas. The poor and vulnerable - which might one day be any of us who fall on the wrong side of those who govern - need a shelter for justice. If we don't wake up, that public space may disappear in the United States as well.

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As God's Politics reaches the top of national best-seller lists, Sojourners is becoming more well-known than ever before! We are in a unique position to change the dialogue around religion, politics, and moral values, but we need your help!

Please consider joining the Sojourners Sustainers Circle, our monthly giving program, to help us maintain this momentum! When you give a monthly gift of $10 or more, you will receive a free subscription to Sojourners magazine! Call (202) 328-8842, x248 or visit:


New data informs abortion rate debate recently released a report attacking the claim, originally made in an October SojoMail article by Glen Stassen, that abortion rates have risen under the Bush administration. FactCheck's main criticism focuses on the scope of data used, claiming that "Stassen's broad conclusion wasn't justified by the sketchy information he cited."

Stassen has responded by affirming that new data from the Allen Guttmacher Institute (AGI) - previously unavailable since it was prompted by the debate surrounding his original article - shows that "the dramatic decline in number of abortions of the '90s...has now stalled almost to a stop. My initial study thought it had actually reversed." Though a stall in the decline of abortions is not the increase he originally projected, for those pursuing a consistent pro-life ethic, these updated statistics still paint a troubling picture.

Moreover, Stassen agrees with AGI's report that "It takes time for political decisions to be reflected in the statistical data, so it is too soon to tell what the impact of Bush administration policies will be on U.S. abortion rates," but asserts his original analysis was made with the best data available at the time, and welcomes increased attention on how factors such as financial support for mothers, availability of medical insurance, and jobless rates impact abortion rates.

+ See's article

+ Read Stassen's response

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Get your tickets! Sojourners Benefit Concert - June 3, 2005!

A Gathering of Spirits: Sojourners Benefit Concert with Carrie Newcomer, hosted by Brian McLaren, will feature a special message from Jim Wallis.

Join us for an evening of music and dialogue that will help sustain Sojourners' vision and programs for the coming year! The concert will be Friday, June 3, at 7:30 p.m. at Cedar Ridge Community Church, located in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. A reception with Brian, Jim, and Carrie begins at 9:30 p.m.

For more information or to buy tickets, go to or call (800) 714-7474, ext. 235.


Campus politics through the eyes of faith
by Jacob A. Hogan

This past year was my first as a college student at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Indiana. I chose the school because of its commitment to Christian learning and academic freedom. As 2004 was an election year and I was a political science major, I was eager to "be a world-changer" (a mantra of the school) and get involved in the presidential election. I put up a Kerry-Edwards sign in my window and a sticker on my door, and faithfully wore my John Kerry pin on the lapel of my coat every day. I then sought out the local College Democrats to help them in their efforts. I thought that a school as big as IWU was bound to have such an organization.

That's when I was surprised to find out that IWU did not have a group for Democrats. About the same time, I began to have propaganda slid under my door that insulted my beliefs and criticized my faith. After hanging up my "God is not a Republican or a Democrat" poster, someone told me that such a poster is foolish. He said, "How can you say God's not a Republican when it's so clear that he is?"

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This July 13, join former President Bill Clinton and more than 500 progressive college students at the first Campus Progress National Student Conference, hosted by the Center for American Progress.

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Bread for my neighbor

Christianity has all too often meant withdrawal and the unwillingness to share the common suffering of humankind. But the world has rightly risen in protest against such piety.... The care of another - even material, bodily care - is spiritual in essence. Bread for myself is a material question; bread for my neighbor is a spiritual one.

- Jacques Maritain

Source: Daily Dig


Can one person make a difference in the fight against hunger?


Especially when working together with other Christians.
Bread for the World helps make that happen.

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A portrait of the priesthood
by Megan Marz

A review of Priests: A Calling in Crisis, by Andrew Greeley. University of Chicago Press.

Though its focus is narrow, Andrew Greeley's recent book Priests: A Calling in Crisis reaches a conclusion that's widely applicable - a conclusion from which not only a church divided, but a country divided, ought to learn.

To help solve the myriad problems facing the Catholic Church in America, priests, Greeley writes, should stop wallowing in denial about those very problems, stop blaming them on superiors and subordinates, stop condescending to the laity, and "be quiet and listen. And listen. And listen."

But before he concludes with that simple advice, the priest and sociology professor winds through 156 pages of statistics and analysis on the state of the Catholic priesthood in America. His book, which looks through the lens of the Catholic sexual abuse crisis of 2002, is largely based on three national surveys of priests taken over a span of 30 years. Greeley uses the data to support his thesis: The abuse scandal (and by extension many of the Church's other problems) was caused not by celibacy, as many liberals argue, nor homosexuality, as many conservatives argue, but by a trenchant clerical culture that fosters "blind loyalty to the guys."

+ Read the full review

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Hunger No More: An interfaith convocation

Leaders of diverse faith groups are taking part in the "One Table, Many Voices" mobilization event to overcome poverty and hunger. The event is sponsored by Sojourners' partner organizations Call to Renewal and Bread for the World. More than 40 heads of religious communities representing more than 100 million people from numerous bodies including the Salvation Army, the Catholic Church, Evangelical and a number of the mainline Protestant denominations, as well as Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, and Native American leaders will gather at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., for an interfaith convocation against hunger. For those who will not be able to attend, a special webcast of the prayers, music, and song will help unite people across the country embracing the call to end hunger.

+ Learn more and watch the webcast


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Sojourners in the news

Book inspires faith, politics discussion
+ The Cincinnati Post

Finding religion on the Left
+ St. Petersburg Times

Exactly who and what is an evangelical?
+ Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Preaching to the choir? Not this time
+ The New York Times

As an activist, evangelical Christian, Jim Wallis challenges religious right
+ The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

How would Jesus vote?
+ All the Rage (Nashville)

God's Politics tackles taboo subjects
+ Nashville City Paper

Book prompts discussion on widening scope of moral agenda
+ Star-News (North Carolina)

God is not a politician
+ Herald Tribune (Florida)


Sisters Online is a collaborative ministry of women religious committed to global kinship, a Web site focusing on spirituality and justice, seeking to be voices for right relationships, and agents of economic/social change. Visit us at:

Engage your congregation in the pursuit of social, political and economic justice, along with community faith-building, through congregation-based organizing. Christians Supporting Community Organizing.

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Readers write

Larry Doornbos writes from Zeeland, Michigan:

Thanks for your words concerning President Bush at Calvin College ["Jim Wallis: Bush's Calvin College surprise," SojoMail 5/25/2005]. I believe, however, that your contention that Calvin's reaction to Bush is one more sign of the hunger for a more balanced and responsible approach in the political sphere is slightly mistaken. As a graduate of Calvin I can tell you that this desire for a balanced and responsible approach has been a heartbeat of Calvin for years because of its Reformed heritage. It is not a new hunger but an old and abiding one that many in the evangelical community are just waking up to. Another place you will find this hunger is Dordt College in a small town in Iowa. Out of that college grew a movement now known as the Center for Public Justice (, which is a very thoughtful and balanced political organization. With you I am pleased to see the hunger, but I am also pleased to be an alumni of a college where the hunger never has gone away.


Marv Van Wyck writes from Palos Heights, Illinois:

While I remain disappointed with the administration of Calvin College, my alma mater (1969), for having George Bush deliver the commencement address, I am extremely impressed by the broader Calvin College community for speaking out so strongly on this matter, for Elise Elzinga and her article in SojoMail, for all the friends, alumni, students, and faculty who wrote letters, signed petitions, ran newspaper ads, conducted vigils and peaceful protests. I believe these voices were heard. It is apparent to me that the speechwriters became aware of all the dissent, as his speech turned out to be much shorter than originally expected, and avoided any controversial issues.

Cost of full-page ad in newspaper: more than $9,000. Power of nonviolent action: priceless.


Jennifer Griffith writes from Stone Mountain, Georgia:

I always enjoy much of your newsletters, especially Jim Wallis' commentary. However, your most recent newsletter had an article that was a slap in the face to me, and to millions of other Jews as well as many Christians. Who is Dewey Beegle to suggest that God would break His promise - his covenant - with Abraham ["The promise and the promised land," SojoMail 5/25/2005]? You can assume the existence of new covenants if you wish, but to infer that the original covenant with Abraham was dissolved is to assume that God broke his promise, and we can probably agree that that's something only people do, not God. The New Testament focuses on the life and teachings of Jesus, and never infers the cancellation of any prior covenants between God and man. Forever means just that.

The turmoil in Israel will someday end, and I sincerely hope that the Palestinians will soon cease teaching the cult of martyrdom to their children. When both sides fully agree that each has the right to exist with secure borders, then the final steps toward peace in the region will occur. Then all the descendants of Abraham will indeed live in peace, in the land promised us.


Joe Shehan writes from Fort Worth, Texas:

I bought God's Politics several weeks ago and began reading it last week. I enjoyed the beginning chapters immensely, but began to become disappointed as I continued. Mr. Wallis began to repeat himself and use some of the exact language of the Left that I feel is part of what is dividing this nation. I agree that the war in Iraq was the wrong course of action and I agree that many of the economic plans that have come out of Congress have not been very pro-poor. However, I do not believe it is very cohesive to put the blame solely on the Republicans. I know Mr. Wallis has an affinity for the Democrats, but remember the words of our savior: "How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold a log is in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:4) I use this passage because this was a scripture Mr. Wallis was very fond of.

I say all of this only to simply say this: Be careful of who you begin to judge. St. Paul said, "We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). I still have a great desire to learn more of what you have to say, but only when it comes to the application of God's will, and the scriptures that prove it. (Stay clear of party talking points.) I want to learn these teachings because I want to find a way to recapture my party from people like Jerry Falwell. I feel that Sojourners and Mr. Wallis might be missing an opportunity to help change the Republican Party as well. In reading God's Politics I felt that I was given no encouragement to change the party I give my support to. It was as though Mr. Wallis has written off the Republican Party. It would be a shame that a group of people with clearly a God-given vision would fail to have a broader purpose. I truly pray that this is not the case.


Chadwick Anderson writes from Decatur, Illinois:

Thank you for existing. I know that sounds a bit general, but let me explain. I'm a Christian and have been a Christian most of what I can remember of my life. But I've never been called to be a Christian who cares about the world. Until recently, I've never been challenged to think outside the evangelical box. I read Brian McLaren's book, A Generous Orthodoxy, and a set of eyes were opened for the first time - the eyes that care about the world. Politics, nature, human rights, etc. - these are things most Christians either ignore completely, or take opinions of other people and go with them.

I want to think for myself. I want to be educated on issues. I want to be more "Christian" than I've been "trained" to be. I think that your publication is just one of the ways this can happen; for that I thank you for existing. Any way I can pursue a more genuine love of Christ, and be a better example of the embodiment of Jesus Christ. And I think I'm not alone. So I guess what I'm saying encouraged. The church needs you. I need you. And I'm reading. Thanks in advance.


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.


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.

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