The Common Good

And the Children Shall Lead Them

Sojomail - August 18, 2005

Quote of the Week : Demolition double-standard in Gaza
Action Alert : And the children shall lead them
Book Notes : It's an honor just to be nominated
Palestine Journal : Reflections from Gaza
Spiritual Practices : Belonging and Becoming: The challenge of Cindy Sheehan
Building a Movement : 12,000 miles later, Road to Detroit arrives in the Motor City ready for action
Soul Works : Poem: What van Gogh saw
Web Sitings : Learning from veteran activists | Wal-mart watch | The best medicine
Boomerang : Readers write
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1. When given the opportunity to use our ability to reason, make decisions, and take responsibility for our actions, we experience joy at work.

2. The purpose of business is not to maximize profits for shareholders but to steward our resources to serve the world in an economically sustainable way.

Visit for the rest of the Top 10 and discover why everyone's reading Dennis Bakke's national bestseller JOY AT WORK.

For a limited time, purchase 10 copies of JOY AT WORK and receive five free Bible study companions - a $100 value. Give an extra copy to your boss or pastor!


Demolition double-standard in Gaza

AMY GOODMAN: On the issue of demolishing homes, I have noted over the last few days with the mainstream press in the United States, there's been a great effort to get the voices of Jewish settlers out, and you can hear the pain in their voices as they talk about their homes for many years, being forced out of them.... [W]e rarely hear that kind of extended interview with a Palestinian whose home has just been destroyed.

AMIRA HASS: Well, that's, of course, the fault of, as you say, the mainstream media, and which pains much more the loss of a huge house built at the expense of the Palestinians than the loss of thousands of Palestinian houses...which were very often demolished in order to safeguard the security of those very settlements.

From the transcript of an August 15 interview between Amy Goodman of Pacifica Radio's Democracy Now! and Amira Hass, an Israeli Jewish journalist for Haaretz newspaper who has lived and worked in Gaza and the West Bank for many years.

Source: Democracy Now!

Contrary to widely held assumptions, only 5-15% of Palestinian homes that are destroyed are those of suspected terrorists. That policy was so counterproductive that the Israeli army abandoned the practice earlier this year. The majority are destroyed in "military operations" or because the homes were built without permits from the Israeli government which are nearly impossible to obtain. + Read more


And the children shall lead them
by Adam Taylor

We know that 30,000 children die each day due to preventable illness and malnutrition - that means a child dies somewhere in the world every three seconds; almost 11 million children die every year. To put that in perspective, that's nearly the number of people that live in Ohio or Michigan.

But despite overwhelming statistics like these, we must not be resigned to hopelessness. Two of the greatest enemies in the fight against poverty are cynicism and resignation. All too often we convince ourselves that poverty cannot be overcome because of greed or government corruption, or simply because of the sheer scale of the problem.

To the contrary, we have great reason for hope. Five years ago leaders of the world met at the United Nations to discuss solutions to the deepening crisis of global poverty. There, they committed to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which call for a new partnership between rich and poor countries to cut in half the number of people - now over one billion - living on less than $1 a day. More than 190 nations have now signed the Millennium Declaration, pledging to reach this goal by 2015. From September 14-16, leaders will be meeting again in New York for the World Summit to assess progress made towards the Millennium Goals.

The MDGs provide a framework to make drastic inroads to fighting global poverty. In addition to good leadership from the governments of poor countries, the world needs the United States government to show real political and moral courage in its dedication to these goals.

We have concrete examples of good and effective programs that have already been developed and are already saving lives. UNICEF reports that in Mozambique, because of debt relief, the government was able to offer free immunizations to its children. Investments in health and education are critical to spurring economic growth. Over the past forty-five years international support for childhood immunization, improved nutrition, and disease control has helped raise lifespans by more than one-third and cut infant mortality in half.

Putting resources toward common-sense solutions such as these must be the focus of the World Summit. But the World Summit's original emphasis on poverty risks being overshadowed and even derailed by a range of new issues that have been added to the agenda, including UN reform and Security Council expansion. We must ensure that the Summit yields concrete and measurable progress around poverty-reducing goals to build a healthier and more secure world. In our increasingly interdependent world, poverty imprisons the mind, body, and spirit, and when one member suffers, all the rest of us suffer too.

The MDGs represent a covenant between developing and developed nations. Developing countries must come up with strategies to meet the MDGs in their own countries and to ensure transparent and accountable governance, while richer countries must meet their commitments for increased aid, debt cancellation, and more just trade policies. The Goals provide assistance and remove barriers so that people can use their own energy and determination to change their lives.

The world possesses the science, knowledge, and resources to break the vise of poverty, and the World Summit provides a critical opportunity to shine a spotlight on global poverty and the Millennium Development Goals. As people of faith, we must ensure that this spotlight will dramatize, humanize, and personalize the crisis of poverty for our friends, neighbors, colleagues, and fellow congregants.

Adam Taylor is director of campaigns and organizing at Sojourners.

Action Alert: And the Children Shall Lead Them...

the 30,000 CAMPAIGNIt is said that when the people lead, the leaders will follow. And in this case, we are calling on the children to lead...

Here's our vision: during the world summit, we will deliver handwritten letters from children in this country and around the world to President Bush.

We are therefore asking you for your help in asking school teachers, Sunday school teachers, and parents to educate and ask their children to write a hand-written letter to our President addressing why they care about the lives of children like them around the world and what they believe should be done. We have put together an easy toolkit for teachers and parents to use to educate children to write letters. Please make sure the letters are addressed to President Bush and mailed to Sojourners at 3333 14th St. NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20010. Click here to download the toolkit.

What else can I do to shine a spotlight on poverty during the World Summit?

Write, Pray, Fast. Almost 5,000 people have already written President Bush with their pledge to fast and pray during the World Summit, when Sojourners, along with many of our partner organizations, will be calling on our government to step up its commitment to halving extreme global poverty by 2015. We are calling on 30,000 people to write President Bush, pray, and fast with us in New York and in their hometowns to dramatize the 30,000 children who die each day due to poverty and malnutrition.

Come to New York! While the United Nations is meeting from September 14-16, we are asking you to join us at Dag Hammerskjold plaza in New York City, just blocks away from the World Summit meeting at the United Nations. Over three days, we will engage in public worship, prayer and fasting for bold and decisive leadership on world poverty from President Bush, as well as from leaders across the world. E-mail for more details.


Carrie Newcomer - regulars and refugees

"Carrie Newcomer inspires me. Her music tells stories of real life that teach spiritual truths." - Jim Wallis, bestselling author of God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It

"Carrie is a touchstone of authenticity in an image-driven, media-defined musical world. She is a beautiful singer and songwriter, and deeply refreshing." - Rosanne Cash

Two years ago I wrote a short story called "Betty's Diner," which in turn became a song by the same name. After I'd written and recorded the song it became apparent that the diner people had more to say, and so arose a series of songs, poems and short stories written from the perspectives of different characters who frequent a hometown diner in southern Indiana. My life as an itinerant songwriter has given me consistently intimate glimpses of the world, which assured me that within each person's life there are moments of grace and beauty. With these songs, I honor a deep and abiding sense of place, community, and the human condition. I invite you to join me at Betty's Diner with the regulars and refugees. - Carrie Newcomer


It's an honor just to be nominated

God's Politics has been nominated for a Quills award - the publishing industry's soon-to-be inaugurated version of the Oscars! It was named one of the top five religion/spirituality books by a board of approximately 6,000 booksellers and librarians, with a final winner to be named at a ceremony broadcast by NBC in October. In the meantime, readers are invited to vote for their favorites in each of the 19 categories as well as an overall Book of the Year. Voting starts this week and runs until September 15.

Cast your vote at


How can sprucing up your garden rebuild the lives of at-risk youth?

Tribe One is a Knoxville, Tennessee nonprofit Christian ministry providing internships to at-risk minority youth in our social enterprises - screen printing, an internet studio, and a recording studio. This gives them the foundation to grow spiritually, advance educationally, gain financial skills, and to build personal assets. We've designed to empower disenfranchised youth by putting them to work. Purchase one of our beautiful birdhouses, or use our unique fundraising program for your church, nonprofit, or club.

Beautify your garden while helping lift up your community...and ours. Click here.


Reflections from Gaza
by Philip Rizk

Palestinian women and children walk past the remains of Palestinian homes facing Israeli settlements and military posts on the edge of Khan Younis, Gaza. Unlike Israeli settlers being evacuated this week, Palestinian residents received no advance warning or compensation and relocation offers from the Israeli government when their homes were destroyed. (MCC photo by Ryan Beiler)
Today, much of Gaza lies in shambles.

This week I visited a Palestinian family in the Deer Al-Balah region of Gaza. The family lives in a three-room apartment, if one can call it that. One small lavatory, a partly burnt-out kitchen, one room filled with a wall-high closet containing everybody's clothes.

Twelve members in all. The oldest son is the primary breadwinner in this household. The father lives upstairs with his second wife and completely ignores the existence of his previous family below. In Deer Al-Balah 90% of the men require mental care; the primary causes of their suffering are 37 years of conflict, the high unemployment rate, and men's consequent inability to provide for their families.

If the current Israeli 'disengagement' does not lead to the opening of borders with Egypt, access to a harbor, or the reopening of the international airport in Gaza, it is merely a political smokescreen that will make the economic situation there more dire. Currently, Israel retains full control of all borders in and out of Gaza, making it nothing less than a big prison.

The true fear that dwells in Gazan hearts today is the inability to provide for one's family. The last thing the community in Gaza needs, now and post-disengagement, is an array of temporary aid in the form of Western handouts. Rather, this society needs to be empowered: The people of Gaza need their brothers and sisters around the world to come alongside them and build up their sense of dignity.

+ Read the full article


Go With Peace
By Kelly Guinan

Prevents violence
Encourages compassion
Advances responsibility
Cultivates integrity
Empowers wholeness

A wonderful new book! 172 pages of hands-on lessons which teach peacemaking skills. Essential for anyone longing for peace, justice, hope, and a new way of being.

Proceeds support a peace education, nonprofit organization.


Belonging and Becoming: The challenge of Cindy Sheehan
by Robert Jensen

This article was adapted from remarks at an interfaith service at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, Austin, Texas, August 14, 2005.

We gather here this afternoon, challenged by Cindy Sheehan's courage. Out of her struggle to come to terms with the ultimate loss has come a moment for all of us to commit ourselves to peace, and to the actions necessary to bring peace to the world.

There is another opportunity that arises out of Ms. Sheehan's vigil, a struggle that takes us beyond that ultimate loss. Though I am not of the church, I will borrow its language: It is the struggle to reconcile that we are spirit living in flesh.

Because we are flesh, we know best that with which we are familiar. We love most those around us. We yearn for connections to real people in real places, people we can touch and who can touch us. We love most intensely those people around us. We hold our children in our arms, and we breathe with them as one, and we love them deeply in each breath. And that is as it should be. We are flesh that touches and is touched.

But at the same time we are spirit. We know that to live our humanity to its fullest requires moving beyond the flesh.

And so we know there can be no difference between how we treat those we love and those on the other side of the world whom we will never know and never touch. If our lives and the lives of the ones we love have value - if by virtue of being human we have a claim to life and dignity in living - then everyone must have that same claim.

+ Read the full article

+ Learn more about Cindy Sheehan


Are you up for Sam's challenge?

Born with cerebral palsy, Sam has received services from Easter Seals for 19 years. Now a college student, he wants to give back to the organization that gave him so much.

Watch his short film and donate online to help him reach his goal of $50,000!


12,000 miles later, Road to Detroit arrives in the Motor City ready for action
By May Boeve and Jamie Henn

The Road to Detroit (RTD) began as an idea by five students on a cold January night in Vermont and has now seen the support of thousands. RTD just rolled into the Motor City and is gearing up for the final event, the Drive the Future Weekend on August 20-22.

The students on the bio-diesel school bus will be joined with hundreds of Detroiters and students from around the country as they urge a future of clean energy innovation in Detroit. Says Monica Brown, an RTD organizer, "states don't change from red to blue when you cross the border. There is support for clean cars from all perspectives." Highlights of the event include the Woodward Dream Cruise (the world's largest car parade); talks on urban renewal, environmental justice, and automotive history hosted by the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Detroit; a youth theater troupe; and local musicians.

More than 12,000 signers of the Road to Detroit Clean Car Pledge have shared this vision. The goal for the project is 15,000 signatures, so sign now at! Monday will cap off the entire RTD summer as Clean Car Pledge signatures are delivered to representatives of the auto industry. Join us in Detroit or in solidarity as we let automakers know the time is now for clean cars!


The Romero Memorial Tree Project

Oscar Romero, the humble son of a carpenter, became Archbishop of El Salvador in 1977. Just three years after beginning his passionate ministry on behalf of justice, peace, and dignified life, he was martyred. In celebration of his life, memory, and birthday on August 15th, the Foundation for Self-Sufficiency in Central America seeks to plant at least 50,000 trees among the communities he loved so dearly.

+ Your gift of $10 will plant a tree in his memory and help to reforest El Salvador.


What van Gogh saw
by Raphaelle Kosek

Van Gogh saw
the way our hearts burn
like the pinwheel stars
swirling in the night-mad sky,

the way our spirits,
bent and bruised in life's field,
reach endlessly upward
like the cypress trees
full of knotty whorls
curling upwards to mingle with,
and plead benediction from,
the sea-waved sky,

the way wild-maned sunflowers
are almost dizzy with themselves
and the power of heavy seed
flaming within them.

Lose an ear,
lose your mind.
Lose your life,

while your resolve scatters
like crows over the wheatfield
and Lazarus forever blooms
under a fiery sun.

Raphaelle Kosek writes, teaches, and celebrates in the beautiful Hudson Valley of New York. This poem appeared in the July-August 1997 issue of Sojourners.

+ Read more about Vincent van Gogh in Sojourners magazine



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Learning from veteran activists

Through a video interview series with veteran peace and justice activists; an accompanying curriculum; workshops and training in compassionate leadership development; and a public symposium series, the Veterans of Hope Project offers resources for social change. With documentary histories of "long distance runners" for peace and justice, they pass on the values, faith, and practices that have guided their lives and work.

+ Hope

Wal-mart watch

With just 19 shopping days left until Labor Day, learn about the impact Wal-mart is having on workers, communities, and the environment - including a look at how American tax dollars subsidize health insurance for Wal-Mart's workers.

+ Always low wages

The best medicine

According to the Spirituality and Health Web site, "Research indicates that those blessed with a funnybone may actually live longer." To help you evaluate your humor index, they've developed a handy online quiz to help you see if you need to lighten up.

+ Laugh or die (just kidding)



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.

Job Openings with Sojourners. We are currently accepting applications for MEDIA RELATIONS MANAGER, WEB ASSOCIATE, EVENTS AND OUTREACH ORGANIZER, and more. Click here for more info.


Readers write

Marvin Owens writes from Concord, New Hampshire:

Brian McLaren is fast becoming my #1 hero in the Christian world, mainly because he allows himself to be walked on from both ends ["A bridge far enough?" SojoMail 8/11/2005]. Forty years ago, my #1 minister hero, with a M.Div from Wheaton College and a Ph.D from Harvard University, privately expressed his openness and tolerance for "liberal" religion, but with the caveat, "I don't dare express these ideas to [his denomination] because I will be pegged for the rest of my career." Thirty-five years ago the prominent pastor of a very large and respected evangelical church essentially told me the same thing. Five years later a minister prominent in my life and in the evangelical world echoed the message of my first two heroes.

Today, as a 70-year-old layman residing in a "liberal" Christian retirement village, I am seeing a few evangelical leaders such as Brian McLaren and Jim Wallis showing that a belief in Christ's way can co-exist with rationality and liberal religious ideas. I regret that I did not see such openness in Christian leaders in my active lifetime, and I can only pray that these men and others like them will lead to a revolution in Christian life that gives the present generation of evangelical Christians the freedom to both question and believe. (My generation did not have that privilege.) Then, perhaps the next generation will not have to choose between radicalism on the right and radicalism on the left.


Byron Borger writes from Dallastown, Pennsylvania:

Thanks for having the wonderfully inspiring and challenging piece by Brian McLaren. This call to genuine care for those with whom we tend to disagree is solid gospel sense. Brian wears those bridge bootprints well, even though it surely sometimes hurts. I hope those of us in the Sojourners circle take his gentle spirit to heart and tone down some of our occasional, haughty attitudes about conservatives. We of course don't want to minimize the radical social ethic of the reign of God nor backpedal on the prophetic critique of our deformed culture, but we must also recall how we ourselves have been shown grace in Christ, and reach out accordingly. Thanks very much for this wise and good advice.


Paulette Whitcomb writes from Westminster, Colorado:

The underlying lesson of the nuclear horror visited upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki is that a people, any people, that does not control its rulers faces the unthinkable ["Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and nuclear realism" SojoMail 8/9/2005]. Once a people abdicates its moral right to exert not only oversight, but ultimate authority, over its rulers, that people is doomed.

No, the Japanese did not deserve it, they did not ask for it, and their obeisance to their emperor did not justify what was done to them. Yes, the atrocity of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the ultimate manifestation of ignoring one of the touchstone lessons of history: Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. To which let's add, the price of our humanity. This lesson has been ignored by one people after another throughout history. It is a lesson apparently forgotten every other decade or so by the American electorate, which becomes lazy and gullible. We, Iraq, and other countries are paying the price of the latest manifestation of an allegedly civilized people sitting on its brains. Fortunately, so far that has not brought nuclear annihilation, but it has brought much tragedy along with a bone-deep corrosion of our humanity. And, fortunately, our fellow citizens seem to be awakening to their duty.


Steve Harrington writes from Allihies, County Cork, Ireland:

How about letting some authorities speak on the use of the atom bomb: General Dwight D. Eisenhower said, "It wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing." General Curtis LeMay declared that the atomic bomb had nothing to do with Japan's surrender. And Admiral William D. Leahy stated angrily that the "use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to being the first to use it, we...adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages." (Taken from an article by Marjorie Cohn.)

Defeating evil through force of arms? I wonder why Jesus didn't think of that?


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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