An blog by a member of the Catholic peace movement, Pax Christi, to explore the nexus between contemplation and resistance. "The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
On the back window of Sgt. Mathew Gonzalez' truck is a decal that reads, "Lord please forgive me, I have committed sins for our freedom." The good soldier explains that as a Catholic, he believes that he committed sin by killing Iraqis. One wonders what the sense of sin should be among those of us who sent him there to kill by our active or passive connivance. The only quibble I might have with the sentiment is whether these sins were indeed committed for "freedom" rather than to deepen a slavery of the spirit that grips tighter with every bullet fired.
"This Sunday the Catholic Church celebrates the feast day of St. Martin of Tours, one of the first saints not to be martyred. In fact, St. Martin was one of many to be beatified who, by today's standards, would be identified as a conscientious objector - an individual verifiably opposed to 'war in any form.' At one time a Roman centurion, Martin came to a 'crystallization' of conscience, laying down his sword and declaring, 'I am a soldier of Christ, it is not permissible for me to fight.' - Logan Laituri, another Christian who laid down his sword for Christ.
The story of St. Martin is one that has guided at least one soldier to salvation, "It was the practice at the time to give money to soldiers before battle, in order to infuse the soldiers with a greater love of their country and desire to fight. When Julian lined up the soldiers in Gaul to give them their bounty, Martin refused to accept the money -- and to fight -- saying, 'Put me in the front of the army, without weapons or armor; but I will not draw sword again. I am become the soldier of Christ.' ... Julian, furious at what he saw as cowardice, told Martin he would grant him his wish and put him right in the middle of battle the next day. Until that happened, he had Martin imprisoned. However, against all predictions and all explanation, the nomads sent word that they wanted to negotiate for peace and the battle was postponed. Martin was released from his prison and from the army."
The story illustrates two key aspects of what it means to be a solder of Christ. First, the goods of the empire must be refused. The reward for killing is not primarily the "freedom" that Sgt. Gonzalez refers to, but the material goods for which wars are fought. The spirit that is free in Christ is not motivated by these goods. Secondly, to be a soldier for Christ means to lay down the sword of violence and fight with new weapons, the weapons of prayer and of self-suffering.
In the same way, Martin Luther King faced the same ideology of violence and responded by seeking for its root, "As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion, while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But, they asked, and rightly so, what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government." - The Trumpet of Conscience.
In the same way as St. Martin challenged the ideology of the Roman Empire, Dr. King attempted to dislocate the ideology of power in his time, a far deeper threat to the national security state than gaining equal rights for the sons and daughters of slavery. It is likely that this is exactly what ultimately led to his assassination. He proposed that our government should be nonviolently disrupted and shut down to the extent that it failed to embody the values it professed.
In his own words: "Mass civil disobedience as a new stage of struggle can transmute the deep rage of the ghetto into a constructive and creative force. To dislocate the functioning of a city without destroying it can be more effective than a riot because it can be longer-lasting, costly to the larger society, but not wantonly destructive. Finally, it is a device of social action that is more difficult for the government to quell by superior force." - The Trumpet of Conscience
This is precisely what governments such as the Nazi state most fear, as we saw last week when considering Franz Jagerstatter's resistance. Christian nonviolence is effective because it does not fight the world on the world's terms, asking for more material goods for itself, but seeks first to awaken the conscience. Then the works of the activated conscience can attain whatever material goals that justice may demand, while reaching a far more crucial aim - for once conscience is awakened in this way, it can never return to permanent sleep. No matter how unequal the forces may appear, or how minuscule the gains, such gains are etched permanently in the conscience of humanity and can never be erased.
In the words of Jim Douglass, "Jesus' cross liberated the early Christians from fear of the empire's cross, whose purpose was to terrify and deter the empire's subjects from rebellion." Today, the empire seeks to terrify us with torments of Abu Ghraib and CIA black sites, but we conquer by absorbing their violence in our own flesh. The empire works its will with shock and awe, but we are not awed by their terror for our Lord has risen triumphant.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
As Christians, it is up to us to build the kingdom of God on earth. God is preparing a new world for us that we will inherit after death, but this is only a part of the kingdom of heaven. God has also given us his Church, and we are loyal sons and daughters of her. But it seems that Jesus himself taught another way of seeing the kingdom of God, as "the utopia of a fully reconciled world, a utopia that is prepared and begun here and now in history through the committed action of people of good will." - Leonard Boff.
Christ came to reconcile us with ourselves, which can only be achieved by creating a unity of the inner and outer self, otherwise known as being true to oneself, inner integrity. We try to put an end to the Abu Ghraibs that exist in our own behaviors and at the same time, we put an end to violence externally by supporting those who obey the voice of conscience regarding the dehumanization and murder of the people of Iraq.
One concrete way to do this is to support the "Canada: Let Them Stay" campaign by Courage to Resist. War resistors in Canada are currently being threatened with deportation. The campaign will send letters to Canadian officials, asking them not to expell them. The letter begins: "I am writing from the United States to ask you to make a provision for sanctuary for the scores of U.S. military servicemembers currently in Canada, most of who have traveled to your country in order to resist fighting in the Iraq War. Please let them stay in Canada..."
Please go to Dear Canada: Let the War Resisters Stay and consider signing the letter and making a donation.
Each soldier that lays down his weapon in an unjust war adds a brick to the kingdom of heaven.
Anyone who knowingly tortures another human being is an enemy of humanity and has forsaken his or her own humanity, which, as Christians, we must continue to respect even in those who have abandoned self-respect.
Though it is the role of the media to uncover torture and brutality so that we may purge it from our midst, the media in Iraq has abandoned its responsibility, as was acknowledged at the War Tribunal on Iraq in 2005, "The judges found that the mainstream media reportage on Iraq was guilty under article six of the Nuremberg Tribunal, set up to try Nazi crimes, which states: 'Leaders, organizers, instigators and accomplices participating in the formulation or execution of a common plan or conspiracy to commit any of the foregoing crimes (crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity) are responsible for all acts performed by any persons in execution of such a plan.'"
A well-planned campaign is breaking down resistance against torture and genocide among the American public with ice-cold consistency. In a pattern that has become as predictable as rising temperatures, Democrats at first pretended to be outraged by Mukasey's inability to know what torture was. This incapacity was highlighted night after night in order to induce a similar incapacity among the watchers. Along with this was a description of what the technique actually consisted of. The purpose of this juxtaposition was to force a suspension of judgment on the part of viewers. Following this setup, two key Democratic senators, Feinstein and Schumer, caved in and accepted the nomination. In this way, acceptable viewer behavior was effectively modeled by the Democrats. The subtext of this demonstration is "We understand that you are outraged by torture, but the responsible approach is to suspend judgment, then accept the inevitable need to torture."
This media campaign was reinforced with an explicit defense of torture by the administration. The basis of this defense was that the Attorney General was the front line in the "war on terrorism", which means that all methods must be available to him, even the most debased and inhuman. It became the role of Presidential candidates to explicitly defend waterboarding, as did Fred Thompson, thus completing the logical superstructure of the defense of torture. The range of options portrayed by the media ran from uncertainty and incapacity to a robust choice for torture, thus communicating the message that those who know how to defend us must torture.
In order to resist the conditioning, we must recognize that these media spectacles are always guided by a specific psychological purpose and that any apparent debate in Congress is a calculated distraction designed to make the conditioning more effective. It also reinforces the pattern that may eventually be used in an attack on Iran. Once again, on the day of the attack the Democrats will pretend outrage, many claiming no knowledge of the administration's plans. The media will speak of a "constitutional crisis" and highlight a array of rebellious words and actions in Congress. Then "the facts on the ground" will trump all the noise and Democrats will "accept the inevitable", while claiming to bring a modicum of humanity to the process of murdering and maiming the tens of thousands of Iranians, whose sufferings, while regrettable, are the sad price of our "safety."
"The US State Department denounces the practice [water boarding] as torture when it is used by other countries. When American personnel carry it out, however, it is defended as an 'enhanced interrogation technique'—the same euphemism employed by the Nazis—that is indispensable in the war on terror." - wsws.org
In fact, the same process of desensitization regarding torture was systematically carried out in 1930's Germany by similar techniques of propaganda. The key to these techniques is to arouse outrage so that it can be neutralized using various frameworks of national safety. The fear of "sleeper cells" (first used by Stalin in the 1930's) is stoked through the media. This is the purpose of the invariably phony discovery and arrest of supposed American or British terrorists by the Justice Department or the British equivalent. Even though few successful terrorism prosecutions ever result from these raids, they keep alive the notion of sleeper cells ready to be activated in an instant. The arousal of this type of fear is a primary control mechanism and torture acts as a backup threat. In every known case in the last century in which torture was used against foreign enemies and internal subversives, it was eventually used against ordinary citizens once the taboo had been worn through.
"Engaged in dirty wars of aggression and pursuing a predatory policy of colonial conquest in the Middle East and Central Asia, the American ruling elite has embraced torture as an instrument of policy. This has found its hideous expression in Abu Ghraib and in the secret prisons of the CIA around the globe." -wsws.org Ultimately, the ruling elite will jettison the last vestiges of democracy and apply the same techniques at home that they have perfected abroad.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
The story of Franz Jagerstatter should be known to every peace activist. Here is a short summary from Bishop Thomas Gumbleton: "He was in his early 30s when he was finally called up to be conscripted into Hitler's armies. As a peasant farmer, he was not called at first because they needed farmers to produce the food for the nation and for the army, but then as the war turned against the Nazis and they began to be defeated in Russia, North Africa and so on, in late 1942, the command came for Franz to be conscripted into the army.
Now he had already spoken out very strongly against Hitler and Hitler's ideology because he was the one person in his tiny village of St. Radegund in Austria, who voted against the joining together of Austria and Germany that Hitler was insisting upon. That was back in 1938. Franz was known as someone who was speaking out against Hitler and Hitler's ideology, so it was not a surprise to the people that he was going to say no, but they tried to talk him out of it.
They resented the fact that he was showing what, in fact, all of them should have been doing. Many, in fact the parish priest and the bishop of the diocese, tried to convince Franz, 'Wait, you must go. You must serve your country like all the others are doing. Besides, you have three children and a wife. If you don't go, they will kill you.' They tried to convince him that he had to go, but Franz continued to say no.
So he was taken off to prison, first to the city of Linz and then over to Berlin, and then on Aug. 9, 1943, he was beheaded, a true witness to faith, one who rejected war, who rejected violence, and who, like St. Paul tells Timothy, was willing when it's convenient or inconvenient, when it's dangerous or not dangerous, when it seems sensible or not sensible, 'You must follow the way of Jesus,' so Franz did."
The lives of the saints lead us to the source of life. But now we must sadly contrast Franz's noble act with the unwillingness of most Christians to follow his example in the face of the Iraq occupation. Most of those who have studied the situation without right-wing blinders agree with the following assessment: "Only Iraqis--not the U.S., UN or any other power--can overcome the catastrophe that the U.S. has caused in Iraq. The damage will not be undone overnight, but only Iraqis have the right to shape their society and overcome their divisions. The only role for the U.S. government is to pay unconditional reparations for the nightmare it has caused." - Socialist Worker.
Franz paid for his Christian convictions with his life, saying yes to family values in far deeper way than most of us will ever know, to oppose an unjust war, whose injustice was an almost exact analogy of the injustice of the Iraq occupation. But most Christians can't bear the inconvenience of driving a few miles to participate in a demonstration, though the vast majority of them now strongly oppose the war. It is our undying attachment to the conveniences of consumerism which corrupts the love of justice that God placed in our hearts.
Yet we could be so much more. In the Nazi court papers found after WWII, it soon becomes clear that resistance arising from Christian convictions was what the Nazis feared above all. Of one executed religious resister, they said, "Moreover, due to its inherent persuasive power, his behavior is particularly capable of undermining the morale of others. It was therefore necessary to impose the death penalty." The phrase "inherent persuasive power" occurs over and over again in the court papers referring to religious resisters. What might have happened in Germany if all those who bore the name of Christian had exercised that persuasive power for peace?
"Jägerstätter said that he could not be both a Nazi and a Catholic; it was impossible. It was twice mentioned that Jägerstätter was ready to serve as a military paramedic out of Christian brotherly love. He said there are some things in which one must obey God more than men; due to the commandment 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself', he said he could not fight with a weapon."
Can one be a Christian and support the Iraq occupation? Can one support the deliberate destruction of an entire country to create an wasteland without resistance to U.S. oil corporations and still kneel in Church on Sunday? Can one remain pious while 1.2 million Iraqis are put to death?
I leave you with the judgment of the Church: "The farmer and sacristan Franz Jägerstätter recognized the complete irreconcilability of the Christian faith and the criminal system of Nazism more clearly than many of his contemporaries.
Despite being well aware of the consequences, he felt compelled
by his conscience to refuse to perform military service for Hitler.
Jägerstätter’s witness is a shining example in dark times, which can also help people today, living in a very different situation, to sharpen their consciences through studying the Gospels."
See the biography of Franz Jagerstatter at
Franz Jägerstätter – Martyr - Long biography
A Shining Example in Dark Times
Author: Erna Putz
Saturday, October 13, 2007
"Chevron, Total and other oil companies have poured billions in Myanmar's booming natural gas industry in recent years. Natural gas projects generated $2.16 billion in revenue for Myanmar's military regime in 2006, according to Human Rights Watch. Human rights groups say the revenue from taxes and fees on the gas pipelines have become the largest source of cash for Myanmar's generals and have helped to prop them up." - Avni Patel, "Amid Deaths, Censorship, Oil Companies Continue Myanmar Operations"
The agony in Burma must draw a larger picture in our hearts than that of monks laying dead in pools. What put them there is an economic system that turns human beings into commodities. The economic exploitation by Chevron and other oil companies lies at the root of the military dictatorship's power. Until the Christian conscience is roused to action by slave labor and the conditions that foster it, the agony will continue. At the root of this economic system is "the pitiless selfishness of competition, the turning of man into a thing and of his work into a commercial commodity", which is "intolerable to the Christian conscience." - Nicolai Berdyaev.
"Christianity has to condemn the exploitation of man by man and of class by class from a religious and moral point of view, and she has to protect the worker and the exploited, for the Christian faith attaches a value beyond price to personality and to the human soul. There it is impossible for her to refrain from condemning also that regime under which this personality and this soul are turned into a means towards the unhuman economic process." - Berdyaev.
The reduction of human beings to slaves of a Burmese pipeline sets the stage for the slaughter which has taken place over the last few weeks. Once again, an economic abstraction has been given mastery over the needs of human beings. To help support globalized oligarchy, the corporate media has been busily promoting a degenerate form of Christianity in which economic success is the sign of God's favor, thus deadening the religious conscience. The truth lies elsewhere: "There is nothing more inconsistent with Christianity than the optimistic idea that the economically strongest and most successful are of necessity the best, that wealth is a favor granted to man as a reward for his virtues." - Berdyaev.
In fact, the gospel of success belongs to the same atheistic creed to which the Burmese dictators subscribe: "A few days earlier, on October 5, a message was left at the entrance of the North Okkalapa Mae Lamu Pagoda in Rangoon which said '[Even] I myself, Lord Buddha, am under house arrest.' And later that day, a wreath was found hanging on the banyan tree in front of State High School No. 3 in Tamwe Township with a portrait of Than Shwe and the words "Military Dictator Than Shwe, the Atheist."
We should think deeply about the meaning of this atheism. It is the denial of the divinity that lives within each human heart. This atheism raises an impersonal good, economic achievement, over all other values, including those of the spirit. This is the atheism that crowds out all values except material ones and lets the stone hearts rule. The fantasy world of savage capitalism obscures the way of God in us: "They have nothing to hold on to, they cannot stop themselves: their spirit fails, for they no longer contemplate divine things." - Berdyaev.
The voice of humanity calls out in this pamphlet circulating anonymously in Burma:
"Afflicted by military dictator and lackeys
Shootings and beatings
My head is bloody
Friday, October 12, 2007
"Nonviolence in its dynamic condition means conscious suffering. It does not mean meek submission to the will of the evil-doer, but it means pitting one's whole soul against the will of the tyrant. Working under this law of our being, it is possible for a single individual to defy the whole might of an unjust empire." - Gandhi
One pure soul, filled with the love of the God of justice, is enough to change the world. An army of calculating political operatives cannot match a single gesture from such a soul. The fallacy of pressuring Democrats to end the violence in Iraq lies in the hidden assumption that Congressional Democrats are collection of free individuals who can act as their conscience directs. In fact, they have surrendered their power to act freely to economic interests that dictate to the syllable how they must speak and behave to fulfill the role those interests have designed for them. That role is to attract and drain off the political energy that might otherwise be used to challenge the power relations which sustain the war, and therefore the profits, of those interests. In other words, while Republicans act as direct enforcers of economic domination, the Democrats play a diversionary role, deflecting the energy of challenge into paths guaranteed to sustain the ruling oligarchy.
To end this dictatorship, God has given us a sign in the faces of the Buddhist monks of Burma. Inner and outer revolution are combined in deeds that illustrate the principles that must underlie genuine rebellion.
The correct attitude toward the Democratic party can be compared to a current act of Burmese rebellion: "...a third poster [was placed] on an 'independence monument' (erected by the current [Burmese military] regime to honor themselves) in the capital city said to the people of Burma: 'Remember! This is a fake independence monument. Are we really free?'" The current Democratic party represents a false and empty gesture of challenge against the ruling powers.
Cindy Sheehan's recent article "Leadership Void" illustrates her unfailingly right instincts, and points toward a deeper analysis of the relation between a rightly formed conscience and the current Democratic leadership. The unqualified support of Democrats for the revolutionary repression and war machine of the current Administration is not "inexplicable" as Sheehan states, but all-too-explicable once we realize that their statements are "psyops", the military term meaning deliberately positioned lies intended to mislead the enemy about the real state of our intelligence and intentions. So, just as the Burmese rebels drape the symbols of false independence with posters, we must tag the Democratic "opposition" with symbols of emptiness.
"Additionally, on Friday in Mandalay, the movement leadership proclaimed a three-day vigil of prayers in honor of the Buddhist monks who had been killed or injured by the regime. A pro-democracy activist in contact with movement leaders in the country reports that, 'After people engaged in a "Silent Protest" the whole night, some people left "coffins" at downtown. On the coffins is the name "Than Shwe." (Shwe is the head of the ruling junta.) This tactic can be considered a form of non-cooperation with the regime's insistence on maintaining an appearance of 'life as usual.' It is a sign individual citizens - acting collectively - are withdrawing their consent to be controlled, in this case, by signaling that moral authority lies with the monks, not the regime." - Cynthia Boaz, truthout
The symbolism of death can be applied creatively in anti-war protests against the War Party in Washington, whose worship of death can be turned against them. In a larger sense, Christians can "die to" the current regime as Paul advocated death to "this world", by which he meant the empire that worships Caesar in place of God.
Withdrawal of consent is key to anti-war effectiveness. One practical pillar of this non-cooperation is the anti-recruitment movement on high school and college campuses, a movement that is currently causing effective pain to the empire's ability to wage terror on the peoples of the Middle East. When a government violates its own laws and directly attacks human dignity through torture and unjust, indefinite detention, then its moral authority and our obligation as Christians to support that authority is at an end. Just as the Buddhist monks have become the true moral authority of Burma, we Christian revolutionaries can become the moral authority of this country. Of course, this moral authority is directly dependent on deeds which reflect our love of justice, deeds which signal that we silent Christians are no longer the undertow of history. In the words of Berdyaev, "If Christians, who live by faith in their private lives, lay aside their faith when they approach the things of political and social life, they must be content to be towed like slaves in the wake of history."
Meanwhile, in Burma, "...citizen journalists, possibly emboldened by other signs of resistance as well as daily rumors of cracks in the ranks among soldiers, have reportedly begun submitting lists of names of military commanders, soldiers and informers to the Democratic Voice of Burma." - Cynthia Boaz.
The same tactic could be applied the Democratic enablers of the war. Their pro-war votes and other acts of support for violence should be constantly highlighted. Those who say that by weakening the Democrats we are removing the last remaining impediments to the Republicans are invoking a frame that directly aids the war party. The most effective support for the war is actually coming from the Democrats. Their supposed opposition makes their support for war funding much more compelling. That "opposition" plays an irreplaceable role in corporate media agitprop. The corporate media can only manufacture consent for empire policies by creating a facade of sincerity. By casting Democrats in the role of conflicted, but sincere opponents of their policies, they animate the inevitable Democratic capitulation with an undeniable persuasive force. This narrative can be undercut by constantly focusing on their deeds, leaving their words as an ironic afterthought.
In fact, the whole narrative of "Democratic failure" or "lack of backbone" supports the war party's frame. It reflects an underlying assumption that while Democrats secretly oppose the war, they can't reveal their true feelings because of right-wing political pressure. This allows that same right wing to portray them as duplicitous, pretending to support the war while secretly working to undermine the troops, conjuring images of treachery that move the unthinking base profoundly. It also portrays Democrats as weak, therefore unreliable as protectors of the country. Democratic lack of conviction in opposing the war strongly reinforces the robust pro-war convictions promoted by corporate media.
The actions of the Buddhist rebellion in Burma are the result of long planning, well-thought-out tactics, and spiritual growth. "In any struggle for rights or freedom, a critical variable for a movement's survival is its ability to adapt, to continue to come up with new and creative tactics that keep the oppressor on notice, and remind the people the will to resist is shared by their neighbors and countrymen." - Cynthia Boaz, "Resistance, not Repression, is the Real Story from Burma.
"Where commands are no longer obeyed, the means of violence are of no use." - Hannah Arendt. This is the fundamental contradiction at the heart of all dictatorships, including the rapidly developing one in America. All regimes must depend primarily on persuasion. Violence can support the persuasion, but it cannot replace it. When vast majority no longer consent to the violence done in their name (through deeds, not poll responses), then the empire is reduced to the pitiful band that it actually consists of. No matter how many smart bombs they pile up, someone has to point the bomb and press the button. If the finger is connected to a mind that is open to the influence of rightly-formed conscience, then the power of the empire dies.
The monks of Burma chant, "Love and kindness must win over everything!" When will Christians take up that chant?
Saturday, October 06, 2007
"How is it possible to be a nonviolent Christian within a violent Christianity based on a violent Christian Bible? How is it possible to be a faithful Christian in an American empire facilitated by a violent Christian Bible?" - John Dominic Crossan.
In the words of Fr. John Dear: "The vision we seize, says Crossan, must be the one incarnated by the historical Jesus. And Jesus was nonviolent. On this matter both Crossan and I insist. 'It is not the violent but the nonviolent God who is revealed to Christian faith in Jesus of Nazareth and announced to Christian faith by Paul of Tarsus.'"
As most of us have known for several years, the Bush Administration authorized medieval torture techniques such as waterboarding - similar to dunking old women under water to see if they were evil witches (if they drowned, they were innocent). For reasons best known to the corporate media, they have now decided to pretend that the revelation of two secret Whitehouse memos admitting to the practice represents new information. The underlying strategy seems to be that this occasion can be used as were the previous revelations - to reinforce the notion that torture is not "cruel, inhuman and degrading." This is the hidden message that gets slipped through the hole of false moral outrage. The current phrase that covers this degradation of the image of God is "the corners of the law", where Bush presumably has established a beachhead against terror. Careful reading of the news stories reveals that only highly partisan players with an obvious political agenda believe that torture is illegal and immoral. Those who truly wish to protect us know that what they are doing is moral and we should trust them.
As Christians, we must discern the hidden messages within this corporate propaganda that would turn us away from our devotion to Jesus' message. The message they intend to communicate is that we must accept torture, to speak out against it is to endanger ourselves. Once we accept that our fellow images of God can be treated in this way, we pave the road to our own similar degradation.
The best antidote to these degenerate lies is to imitate the practice of the first Christians: "Here is a startling revelation of God in Jesus -- almost too good to be true. God is nonviolent. God worked through Jesus and his followers to subvert, nonviolently, the empire of Rome. And the young Christian communities took up the challenge. They were bands that emulated as best they could Jesus' nonviolent resistance against the Roman Empire." - John Dear.
Our mission as Christians today is to subvert the American Empire, but not through the self-defeating path of violence. The Empire is not disturbed by violent revolutionaries because that kind of violence is a reflection and a powerful justification for its own violence. The Empire thrives on violence of all kinds.
Jesus said, "My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the [Judeans]. But as it is, my kingdom is not here." (John 18:36)
Jesus is telling us that swords are not the instruments of his kingdom, but those of the "world", the "empire and the barbarism of civilization", that is killing him. In the words of John Crossan, Jesus meaning was "Your Roman empire, Pilate, is based on the injustice of violence, but my divine kingdom is based on the justice of nonviolence."
Our kingdom is not among the stars, but stares us straight in the bloody face of Jesus, who embodied the truth of nonviolence as he stood before Pilate. Heaven is a destination found in our hearts on this planet, not in a cloudy "heaven" that exists without our hands that have become the healing hands of God.
Nonviolence is far more than protesting and working for justice in the world, critical as these are. In the words of Thich Nhat Hanh: "Practicing nonviolence," he once said, "is first of all to become nonviolence … The essence of nonviolence is love. Out of love and the willingness to act selflessly, strategies, tactics and techniques for a nonviolent struggle arise naturally. Nonviolence is not a dogma; it is a process. Other struggles may be fueled by greed, fear or ignorance, but a nonviolent one cannot use such blind sources of energy, for they will destroy those involved and also the struggle itself. Nonviolent action, born of the awareness of suffering and nurtured by love, is the most effective way to confront adversity."
So become mindful of the peace that God wishes to grow in our hearts. Let that peace so shine from our lives that the torturers and their enablers in the media will feel holy shame rising in their hearts and at last put away the instruments that fill them with false strength and surrender to the power of God.
"Beauty is not opposed to truth. It is simply truth in its most attractive form."
Before we present the courageous actions of the Blackwater protesters, it is worth considering the moral foundation on which war resistance is based. "Forty years ago, a handful of smart Americans had an idea how to end a war. They published a call for moral, political and financial support for those refusing to serve." It was called the RESIST foundation and it can serve as a model for how we must act and believe today. After detailing the moral, religious, and philosophical grounds for opposing the Vietnam war, they summarized: "Therefore, we believe on all these grounds that every free man has a legal right and a moral duty to exert every effort to end this war, to avoid collusion with it, and to encourage others to do the same...Each must choose the course of resistance dictated by his conscience and circumstances. Among those already in the armed forces some are refusing to obey specific illegal and immoral orders, some are attempting to educate their fellow servicemen on the murderous and barbarous nature of the war, some are absenting themselves without official leave. Among those not in the armed forces some are applying for status as conscientious objectors to American aggression in Vietnam, some are refusing to be inducted. Among both groups some are resisting openly and paying a heavy penalty, some are organizing more resistance within the United States and some have sought sanctuary in other countries."
Those among us who have not been made barbarians by a debased culture and mindless acceptance of endless war have the obligation to use every morally acceptable means of resistance to the unjust occupation of Iraq and the broader Middle East.
Before the next wave of repression begins, let us call out with our brothers from the sixties: "We believe that each of these forms of resistance against illegitimate authority is courageous and justified. Many of us believe that open resistance to the war and the draft is the course of action most likely to strengthen the moral resolve with which all of us can oppose the war and most likely to bring an end to the war."
Resistance to the war is our school of soul-building, the gymnastics of moral resolve which God uses to make new creatures for his kingdom.
"We call upon all men of good will to join us in this confrontation with immoral authority. Especially we call upon the universities to fulfill their mission of enlightenment and religious organizations to honor their heritage of brotherhood. Now is the time to resist."
Blackwater Protest Action Statement
As people of faith who wish to shed light and enkindle hope, we come
today to the headquarters of Blackwater Worldwide in an act of
nonviolent protest, appealing to Blackwater personnel to disassociate
themselves from a corporation which:
• Operates in connivance with the U.S. Military to prosecute the
illegal, unjust, aggressive war against Iraq in order to secure
American imperial objectives in the Middle East;
• Reaps huge revenues amounting to billions of dollars, in effect
robbing the American public of valuable resources needed for the
basic necessities of life: food, shelter, health care, etc;
• Murders innocent Iraqi noncombatants, including children, women and
• Performs these evil deeds without any accountability and operates
with complete immunity;
• Works side by side and colludes with the world’s number one
terrorist, the United States Government.
Please consider supporting those who put their bodies on the line to expose the crimes of Blackwater. Go to Atlantic Life Community to learn more. And please take a look at the YouTube video: Peace activists invade Blackwater. Here you can hear the names of those Blackwater murdered - each an beloved image of God.
Much as we admire these protesters, we strongly believe that "...a fight that doesn’t aim toward the elimination of the causes is simply not serious." And that cause is not to be sought simply in the disordered affections of our hearts, but in a social system that thrives on that disorder.
"All things considered, then, it's a great blessing to be found guilty of speaking out against this evil war." - John Dear.
"We have war criminals in the White House. What are we going to do about it?" - Andrew Sullivan.
The following are the words of James Circello, part of the legion of honor that has decided to obey conscience rather than shouts of hatred by going AWOL from Iraq:
"I saw kids turn into animals.
Members of my own unit, who I will never speak negatively about,
doing things that one day I know
will haunt them.
I saw soldiers mistreating detained Iraqis.
Detained on nothing more than pure suspicion in some cases.
But why not, it was the Old West, anything goes and anything did go. Honestly.
Questionable decisions by superior commanders.
Nothing ever questioned by your superiors.
You as the Soldier were always in the right.
One platoon in particular killed so many people,
maybe not so legally.
They were investigated.
Nothing ever came from it.
Everyone always knew nothing would come from it.
In the military you watch each other's back, against the "bad guys" --
including the investigators."
The answer to this comes from God, in the words of a priest, Fr. Louis Vitale, about to be jailed for praying against torture, "My conviction is that we can work together. We can transform our world, culture by culture, drawing on the way of the Gospel, drawing on the example of Francis, Clare and other witnesses to nonviolence. All human beings have the heartbeat of compassion and love. But we have to help them," Louis said. "We have to help them locate the desire for peace that beats already in their hearts."
Those who have asked about the fundamental theological orientation of our words should consider the words of Leonardo Boff, "Faith will guide our choice toward the socio-analytical framework that is best at discovering the mechanisms that generate injustice, that offers us a suitable mechanism for overcoming them, and that does most to foster the notions of brotherhood and participation." The economic root of the these injustices are the sinful social structures engendered by capitalism and the remedy is a socialism that exalts the spirit of freedom and the preciousness of the human person and does not weigh itself down with the chains of materialism.
To "apolitical" Christians, I would say that part of the body of Christ is missing in you. God did not create us as pure individuals, no matter how penetrated we are with that corporate media message. The social dimension will ever intrude itself because it is part of the love that God created us for. Therefore, "In our present historical situation noncommitment would signify acceptance of the existing situation and a subtle stand in favor of those already favored." - Leonardo Boff.
Such noncommitment is no mark of purity, but of lack of spiritual maturity. Recognition of oppression is the identification of what is contrary to God's historical design for humanity, not encasing oneself in the narrowness of a political sect. It is the embrace of the fullness of humanity's freedom, which is God's will for us, and the consequences of that freedom. Witness means clinging to the truth (satyagraha) especially when it hurts.
Friday, October 05, 2007
The Amish community forgave their killers - can we heal the killer in our hearts?
"I am increasingly confident that when the history of the Bush Administration is written, this systematic violation of statutory and treaty-based law concerning fundamental war crimes and other horrific offenses will be seen as the blackest mark in our nation's recent history -- not only because of what was done, but because the programs were routinely sanctioned, on an ongoing basis, by numerous esteemed professionals -- lawyers, doctors, psychologists and government officers -- without whose approval such a systematized torture regime could not be sustained." - Marty Lederman
The moral outrage that these facts should raise should not be wasted in support of Democratic fakery. The channels of power that have led to the deaths of one million Iraqis must be broken, not restocked with the warm blood of a new generation of anti-war action. Voting to support the current crop of Democratic "leaders" is endorses a sham designed to fool those whose outrage is the real object of government fear.
This endorsement of emptiness is widely touted as the best we can do in current circumstances. But Christians do not worship success. With Jesus, they share in another power than the power that rules this world. In the words of Dorothy Day: "We believe that success, as the world determines it, is not the criterion by which a movement should be judged. We must be prepared and ready to face seeming failure. The most important thing is that we adhere to these values which transcend time and for which we will be a personal accounting, not as whether they succeeded (though we should hope that they do), but as to whether we remained true to them even though the whole world go otherwise." With Jesus, we submit to the cross rather than embrace the violence that leads to success in this world. And we pay for it with obscurity and contempt. For the anti-war movement, seeming failure will often be our lot, but "these values which transcend time" must be preserved in our hearts with all the purity we can muster. One person with a sufficiently pure intent can change the world, but buying into shams for the sake of the crumbs that drop from the master's table will never lead to the kingdom of God.
What matters is on what our ideal is focused. "If your focus is on how others are treated, how society regards them, how they are cared for, then your ideal is justice, not what you possess. If you are paying attention to the lot of others, you aren’t paying attention to the boundary lines. And if you aren’t paying attention to the boundary lines, you are paying attention to people. Which is the beginning of hospitality; which is one of the real purposes of the law, and of society: it’s a way of caring for one another." - Adventus
Many of us have begun to realize that we are the "Good Germans" of the current war, a war as horrific to the Iraqis as WWII was to the French. We pretend to weep and moan over the war, but it was our post-sixties lifestyle choices, the constant watering-down of our passion for justice, and the acceptance, at first grudging, later enthusiastic, of the fundamental value of consumerism, that leads in a direct line to the catastrophe in the Middle East, which has barely begun. Bush might have pulled the trigger, but we sold him the gun.
In the words of Frank Rich, "It's time to confront the darker reality that we are lying to ourselves." The corporate media smooths the edges of the lies that we must tell in order to sleep at night. Their unpleasant, but vital job is to smother the screams that resound in the American torture chambers and keep alive our decent self image. What the Gestapo did in secret is now openly endorsed by our President. The phrase "enhanced interrogation methods" was adopted directly from the Nazis: "Verschärfte Vernehmung, enhanced or intensified interrogation, was the exact term innovated by the Gestapo to describe what became known as the third degree.' It left no marks. It included hypothermia, stress positions and long-time sleep deprivation." - Frank Rich, New York Times, Oct. 14, 2007.
By our silence, we have consented.