The Common Good

Frist, Rove, DeLay: Who's looking the other way?

Sojomail - October 13, 2005

Quote of the Week : 'She's not Elmer Gantry, but...'
Batteries Not Included : David Batstone: Frist, Rove, DeLay: Who's looking the other way?
SojoPoll : Harriet Miers' faith - what do you think?
Palestine Journal : Gaza: What is peace?
Colombia Journal : Paramilitary demobilization: Neither justice nor peace?
Building a Movement : Cast your vote for the next One America Book Forum
Media Watch : Sojourners in the news
Boomerang : Readers write
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Work Will Never Be the Same

"The most important questions in business are often never asked: What is our motive? What is our purpose? Are they worthwhile? Motive and purpose guide behavior, color decisions, and add or subtract joy from work." - Dennis Bakke

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"People in Dallas know she's a conservative. She's not Elmer Gantry, but she lives what she believes.... I'm like, y'all, has George Bush appointed anyone to an appellate court that is a betrayal to conservatives?"

- Ed Kinkeade, a federal district judge and friend of Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers.

Source: The Washington Post


Frist, Rove, DeLay: Who's looking the other way?
by David Batstone

Tom DeLay and Bill Frist, the two political operatives in Congress with arguably the deepest support among Christian churches, both face serious allegations of financial trickery. Karl Rove, the Bush administration power broker who speaks almost daily with Christian leaders to coordinate political action, is under investigation for divulging classified information, then covering up his misdeed.

The details of each case can be pursued in most major media outlets. In brief, DeLay was indicted by a Texas grand jury of illegally funneling corporate campaign contributions into Texas legislative races. DeLay, who has stepped down at least temporarily from his position as majority leader of the House of Representatives, is also under federal investigation for his questionable relationship with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, on the other hand, has fallen under serious investigation by federal prosecutors and the Securities and Exchange Commission for possible insider trading (what got Martha Stewart in trouble), not to mention legislative conflict of interest.

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove personally assured President Bush in the fall of 2003 that he had not disclosed to anyone in the press that Valerie Plame, the wife of an administration critic, was a covert CIA employee, according to Associated Press reports. It now appears possible Rove was the source of the leak that destroyed Plame's career and potentially put her life at risk.

I find it more than a bit disturbing that Christians who back Rove, DeLay, and Frist in their political efforts express so little concern about the possibility of corruption at the highest ranks of government. Worse still, many Christians express blind allegiance to these men. Is this what we have come to, when we sell our birthright for a pot of political porridge?

The Jerusalem Post reports DeLay appeared publicly for the first time after his indictment at a Sept. 28 event hosted by "Stand For Israel," an organization of evangelical Christians and Jews who support a Zionist future for Israel. The Post reports that DeLay received a standing ovation, saying, "It's really good to be here among so many old friends and brothers and sisters in the cause for justice and human freedom." Some participants called out, "We love you, Tom," according to the Post.

I grant that the aforementioned misdeeds are only allegations, so a measured response would be appropriate. DeLay, Frist, and Rove should receive due process. I do recall, however, that many Christian leaders and the religious media did not manifest any such restraint during the moral ineptitude of the Clinton era. At the time, we at Sojourners joined others in the religious world to express our concern - for example, go back to a piece written by Jim Wallis in 1998 titled, "Seeking Moral Consistency." At the time, Jim chided liberal religious leaders: "Why have churches and church leaders been so quiet in this crisis of morality? ...Could it be that this too falls out along political lines? Are those church leaders most sympathetic to Clinton's agenda unlikely to offer much comment on the many ethical issues involved here? Are only those opposed to the president's political agenda ready to speak challenging words to the White House? What are our primary colors?"

It would be comforting to observe that same desire for moral consistency in our body politic at the moment. To be frank, I do not expect Focus on the Family, The 700 Club, or any other influential media network of religious conservatives to raise a red flag about political corruption in the Republican Party any time soon. The specter of political power seems too enticing, too close within reach, to be held back by traditional values such as honesty and integrity. Oh, woe to us, that we shall we gain the whole world, yet lose our own soul.

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Jim Wallis, Anne Lamott, and Richard Rohr
Jan. 14 to 16, 2006 - Washington, D.C.

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Harriet Miers' faith - what do you think?

Much has been made of Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers' evangelical faith. Do you think her faith makes a difference regarding her fitness to be a Supreme Court justice?

[] Yes, it matters - it makes her a better choice.
[] Yes, it matters - it makes her a worse choice.
[] Her faith is irrelevant - she should be judged solely on legal criteria.

+ Click here to cast your vote and view results


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Gaza: What is peace?
by Philip Rizk

We live in a culture that prefers things simplified. We like to see reality simplified so we can communicate it with little effort, so we can attempt to grasp it with little effort.

But peace cannot be grasped. Peace must be held with open hands; it is fragile and easily broken. To communicate peace is no simple matter. It requires a spirit of humility and reconciliation.

Gaza is a place nearly void of peace. In the coming weeks and months I am afraid Gaza will be a place of unrest physically, spiritually, and politically. It will be easy to point the finger. But Jesus taught us to love our enemies; Jesus taught us to be peace in a world void of it.

+ Read the full article


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Paramilitary demobilization: Neither justice nor peace?
by Irene Erin Kindy, Christian Peacemaker Teams

"If I get a house and the financial support to step back into society it sounds good to me," commented a paramilitary foot soldier of the Central Bolivar paramilitary organization (BCB) while seated near the La Florida school over a week ago. He was telling someone on our team his perspective on the demobilization process that his paramilitary organization has begun with the Colombian government.

The BCB is one of the paramilitary organizations in dialogue with the Colombian government about disarmament. Colombian President Uribe made demobilization a key component of his platform while campaigning in 2002, and the process of demobilization began in 2003. The newly passed Colombian Justice and Peace law provides the legal framework to work out the details for the disarming of combatants. Critics say the law does not provide adequate consequences for perpetrators of atrocious crimes nor sufficient reparation to victims.

+ Read the full report

+ Learn more about Colombia with Sojourners' multimedia project: Suffering Servants


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Cast your vote for the next One America Book Forum

The One America Committee is out to change the fact that there are two different Americas in our country today - one for those at the top who get everything they want, and another for everybody else who struggles just to get by. The One America Committee has started the Book Forum. The forum's first selection was David Shipler's The Working Poor: Invisible in America.

The forum will begin a new book this month and will narrow suggestions down to 15 nominees, including Jim Wallis' God's Politics.

+ View the list and make your selection.


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    MEDIA WATCH ^top

    Sojourners in the news

    Katrina brings 'rude awakening' of poverty in U.S. Tennessean

    For the love of God The Texas Observer

    Gospel democrats The American Spectator

    Hurricane didn't help poverty rates Minuteman Media

    Religion and politics The Washington Times

    Archbishop lights way for today's leaders Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    Reclaiming religion from the right Harvard University Gazette

    What has become visible: A matter of fairness Chicago Defender



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    Amnesty International's National Weekend of Faith in Action this October is an opportunity for faith communities nationwide to devote time to the issue of the death penalty. For more information on the weekend, visit

    Preaching the Word. Sermon preparation for those who preach "with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other."

    Job openings with Sojourners. We are currently accepting applications for SPEAKING EVENTS COORDINATOR, ADVERTISING MANAGER, and more. Click here for more info.

    BOOMERANG ^top

    Readers write

    Bill Samuel writes from Silver Spring, Maryland:

    Jim Wallis once again writes about budget priorities without mentioning a word about military spending, which takes more than half of U.S. discretionary spending ["Budgets are moral documents: A campaign for compassionate priorities," SojoMail 10/6/2005]! The money is going for the machinery of death. One cannot talk meaningfully about U.S. budget priorities while ignoring the largest category of budget spending.

    [Editor's note: For the record, Jim Wallis has made mention of defense spending in previous articles on the budget earlier this year.]


    Dan Troxell writes from Boiling Springs, South Carolina:

    I have followed your articles on the poverty that Katrina and Rita exposed. I read the readers' comments and commended those who would not sign the Katrina Pledge. I too will not sign for many of the same reasons. But as a "person of faith" I have noticed a glaring omission in the dialogue of articles and readers' comments: Jesus! Jesus came to save us from our sins, not to rescue us from poverty! These people's greatest need is a Savior from their sin! That is my greatest need and praise God I have a Savior! I do understand that we need to speak up for the poor, but to only address poverty through government action is of no value to their soul. Our objective in feeding the body should be to have the opportunity to also give them the Bread of Life. Overcoming poverty was not the purpose of Jesus' life; providing a way for eternal life was. We would do well to align ourselves with the priorities of Christ.


    Kristi Thurmon writes from Searcy, Arkansas:

    I have been really disappointed in a lot of Christians since the Katrina disaster. I have heard numerous people of faith in my community state that they have a hard time feeling sorry for the victims of Katrina because "those people choose to live that way," or, "those sinners are paying the price for their lifestyle."

    This is reprehensible. What happened to love thy neighbor? Why would anyone choose poverty? I don't know the solution to this problem, but if anything good is to come of this disaster, I pray it is that the nation's poverty problems are finally addressed in a compassionate but real way.


    Lee Hauser writes from Federal Way, Washington:

    Erin Schor writes that the government consists of hundreds of thousands of individuals who work in the public sector, and criticizes Dean Nelson's dismissive attitude toward what our government does [Boomerang, SojoMail 9/28/2005]. Though she is correct that federal, state, and local government employees are individuals who care about their communities and nation, she doesn't seem to acknowledge that as employees, they do as they are directed by those elected and those the elected appoint. It is at the leadership level that our government often fails us, and the effects of leadership inevitably trickle down.

    I don't blame the firefighter, the sheriff's deputy, the national guard corporal, or the FEMA worker when their agencies fail to fulfill their duties to us, but I do blame the mayors, the county executives, the legislators, governors, and presidents when they show selfishness, lack of leadership, and failures of morality, and I blame the voters who made bad choices at the polls and fail to demand better from those elected to lead them.


    Dave Long writes from Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico:

    I found the "CEO hall of shame" a fascinating and discouraging report [SojoMail 10/6/2005]. For some time I have been concerned about the high salaries paid to religious CEOs - some of them ought to be included in the hall of shame. As pastor of an international congregation in Mexico and a former Southern Baptist Convention missionary who has lived outside the United States in four different countries for 28 years, I am concerned to see the salaries of denominational and parachurch group executives continue to outpace the growth of salaries of pastors and missionaries and the majority of our church people. There is something immoral about the salary structures. I am not sure how we can accurately speak Jesus' words about the poor while living like the rich, unless we are using that surplus income to feed and house and educate the poor. Unfortunately, I don't see much of that happening.


    Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of views that do not necessarily represent those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice heard? Because of the volume of letters we receive, concise responses that include a name, hometown, and state/province/country are the most likely to be published. We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity. E-mail:

    Brother Sun and Sister Moon: The Good News About God's Creation
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