"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, March 30, 2008
"And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need." Acts 2: 44 - 5.
Communism is foundational for Christianity, and Communism remains an ideal that all Christians should cherish. It is the opposite of the type of economics that always places profit and technology ahead of human need. Such a system is antithetical to the Christian spirit.
What is opposed to the Holy Spirit is an economic system that privatizes belief and makes public relationships of economic oppression, while demanding that religion have nothing to say about economic justice. Indeed, the way "religion" is conceived in the West makes it ideologically impossible for religion to be more than a kind of psychological escape valve where anything can be believed as long as it has no effect on the realities of daily life. Moreover, religion itself has become an object of consumption, a commodity that can be produced to enhance the profit margins of corporate interests. Most Christians accept the power structure that marginalizes their deepest beliefs without examination.
Many of us are beginning to understand that the spiritual does not reside in a realm separate from social-political life. Reduction of religion to private belief is very convenient for the forces of global capital, but is a fundamental distortion of human spirituality. Every political and economic formation, such as a corporation, has both a physical and transcendent dimension. This is the basis for what we call the "principalities and powers" referred to by Paul.
The separation of the corporal and the spiritual is un-Biblical and violates the traditional Catholic teachings as presented by St. Thomas Aquinas. It is a fundamental distortion of the unity which should characterize our life as a child of God. As in matters of personal activity, matters of political activity require spiritual preparation by the Christian. "In preparation for political activity, one must first journey to God, in order to shed an obsessive egoism. True self-realization comes only in relation to a larger concern. Only through a sustained spiritual discipline could one prepare for engagement in political affairs, that is, to preach the word of God and implement the divine will in society." - Richard A. Horsley. Religion and Empire: People, Power, and the Life of the Spirit (Facets). (Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 2003). Page 59.
"True self-realization comes only in relation to a larger concern." In other words, true spirituality involves something larger than the self. This concept separates genuine spirituality from the privatized spiritualism which has dominated the West, as if Jesus came to save individual persons abstracted from their socio-political framework. The notion that we can reform that framework "one soul at a time" by encouraging the growth of individual virtue is not merely forlorn from a materialist perspective, but violates human spiritual integrity.
Today, the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, is a day to remember what justice means. In the hearts of many, justice has died. But, even now, 40 years later, in places as distant as Anchorage, Alaska, the memory of what that death meant and means, is still alive in hearts whose flame should have died according to the all the best prognostications. Yet it lives.
The emptiness which Robert Kennedy pointed beyond has now engulfed us. But, in spite of that, we can always lift our eyes again, as he did when he said, "We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization - black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion and love." - Robert F. Kennedy
To understand and to comprehend, words that at the time seemed simple and obvious, yet have been rendered dense with the complexity of 40 years of complicity with the system that killed Martin Luther King. How light the flight of truth now seems compared to the heaviness that has engulfed us.
This heaviness was well known to Robert Kennedy's favorite poet, "He once wrote: 'Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.'" - Robert F. Kennedy
Today it is almost unimaginable that politicians once spoke with the words of a great poet. That there was once a politics that valued humanity over the technical manipulation of voter moods. And the words of Martin Luther King now ring out like the words of some forgotten ancient poet, "Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path." - "Beyond Vietnam" Today, as in Jesus' day, peace is not merely questioned, but openly ridiculed.
What hearts burn now for justice? Who now is moved to break the betrayal of our silence? All, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
Like Vietnam, Iraq has become the political play thing sucking the humanity from this country, or, in the words of Dr. King, "...as if it were some idle political play thing of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube."
Only now it is much worse than Vietnam because we have already been through Vietnam, and apparently "learned our lesson". Only we haven't. The realization has begun to dawn on many of us that the same system that produced Vietnam has also produced Iraq and will continue producing nightmares as long as we continue to feed the beast.
The great prophet foresaw it long ago, "The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy, and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation. We will be marching and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy."
As Christians, we have failed to provide the necessary spiritual analysis of the social principalities that rule this corrupted planet. Great beginnings have been made in the works of William Stringfellow and Walter Wink, but these simply begin the process. Without a spiritual understanding of what lies at the heart of the dehumanization within which we all participate, our efforts will remain superficial and ineffectual.
Of course, love of peace is central to any viable definition of Christianity. The sin of war is the central reality that defeats the message of Christ. Dr. King marveled at those who couldn't see the connection between civil rights and war, "To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men, for communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the One who loved His enemies so fully that He died for them? What then can I say to the Viet Cong or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this One? Can I threaten them with death, or must I not share with them my life?"
Is it not equally obvious that the slaughter must go on because a system such as ours will continue to manufacture enemies until the end of time? It needs enemies like it needs cheap energy. The manufacture of enemies is meant literally. In addition to manufacturing a shadow called "Islamo-fascism", we deliberately stirred up hatred between Sunni and Shiite, a hatred that had not existed previously, in order to weaken the capacity of the people to resist our invasion. We are Christ's opposite because we bring division and aggression wherever we go.
No reform can change the three signs of this principality. The core of a Christian analysis of this corruption are contained in these words: "When machines and computers, profit and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered."
It soon becomes clear what the purpose of the laboratory in Iraq is for, just as the laboratory in Vietnam was: "What do they [the Vietnamese] think as we test out our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam [Iraq] we claim to be building?"
And what are the weapons we may use against this principality? "Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and non-violence, when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know of his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition."
Yet this is the spirit that is strikingly absent today. Even on the left, real sympathy with the Iraqi people, a sympathy deep enough to understand their violence, is almost totally absent.
The final result is spiritual death: "This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."
"Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world." - Robert F. Kennedy
Saturday, March 22, 2008
During the protests of the past week, CNN sought to undermine the moral authority of those opposed to the Iraq occupation. Jeanne Moos' "coverage" of the war protests was a case study in how to lampoon and undermine the moral force of protest. If you wish While this clip illustrates the attitude of those in power to the anti-war protesters, it is also symbolic of the larger project to see the piece and judge for yourself, go here: CNN Trivializes Iraq and Hits a New Low.
The piece leads with four repetitions of the phrase "Shock and Awe", the first by Jeanne Moos saying "We were shocked and awed", then the rest by a female protester who weaves in and out throughout the clip. Jeanne's use of the word "shocked" implies that the fact that we are now in the fifth year is "shocking", but the meaning of the word is immediately trivialized by its repetition by the pro-war protester. Note that the pro-war voice represents the first image, while "critics of the war" represent the second image, symbolized by protesters with Bush and McCain masks. By presenting the images in this order, the pro-war voice is given an implicit priority over those opposed the occupation. Indeed, throughout the clip, the constant return to this pro-war woman lends her irritating voice a central and dominating position in contrast to the diverse and childish activities of the protesters. Hints throughout build up her image as a mother trying to reign in her disrespectful children.
The two dominating images weaving through the video are the pro-war female protester yelling Bush slogans and a pair of anti-war protesters dressed as Bush and McCain, singing a 70s surfer anthem twisted into anti-McCain sarcasm. The overt message of the "coverage" is that protest is fodder for comedy. This is part of an overarching media strategy which would characterize all such protest as under no circumstances to be taken too seriously. In fact, for the corporate media the cardinal sin is to take oneself too seriously, a crime which demands a lampoon, but one that delivers another covert message as we will see below. The underlying vision embodies a nihilist dissolution of values in which all moral perspectives are equal - and equally absurd.
Protesters in death masks representing dead Iraqis and Americans are characterized as "a lot of dress-up", thus overlaying this powerful image with the latent image of children dressing up and playing at being adults. This image was carefully selected because the image of the death mask has mythic significance and highlights one of the most potent arguments against the war - the millions of dead bodies who will haunt this country for centuries to come. Clearly, Moos is attempting to strip the power from this image by characterizing it as a childish game.
Variations of protester's Bush images are interwoven with images of the real Bush presenting his pro-war message. Notice the cut from the three Bush images to the real Bush. Though it is slightly slurred the words at the point of transition are "while the real George Bush was hoping not to bomb with his speech". The subliminal message is that Bush hopes "not to bomb" and therefore is acting as the responsible, adult party as reinforced by his suit and backdrop images. The protesters are silly children with whom Bush's speech will "bomb" in the second sense of the word, perhaps because he is acting as the adult and is committing the sin of taking himself too seriously. The overall effect is to hollow out the meaning of the word "bomb". This is reinforced by the earlier clip of McCain singing "Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" to the Beach Boys tune, which makes bombing both a silly song and the result of a bad speech, not something that tears off children's arms and legs.
Next, the Bush sound byte "removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision" is presented. This sound byte is the one the media needs to repeat as often as possible in order to support Bush's decision. This is followed by a direct cut to an arrested protester, also in suit and tie, shouting "Stop the war, shut it down!" The purpose here is to create a telling contrast between the responsible decision made by Bush and the irrationality of the protester. The subliminal message is that though the protester may appear to be responsible (he has a suit and tie just like Bush), in fact, protesting the war is childish nonsense compared to the weighty decisions made by Bush, though he may "bomb" with his speech, meaning he may execute his responsible decision incompetently. A secondary message that will often be reinforced is that the protesters' message is purely negative - to "stop", to "end" - while having no positive components. Protesters are consistently portrayed as whining children who simply want a discomforting situation to "end", not responsible adults who are capable of facing the often distressing realities of the world.
This "responsibility" message is reinforced as images of arrested male protesters cuts to Bush saying "The surge is working", which is the second major sound byte that the media intends to reinforce. This Bush image cuts immediately to the female pro-war protester repeating his words in a silly sing-song voice. In fact, her sing-song repetition of Bush's sound bytes is the leitmotif of the entire piece. The switch in voices helps reinforce the message by repeating it in two different keys, while bypassing conscious, rational evaluation of the idea by undercutting its seriousness. Moos' purpose is to undercut the seriousness of the pro-war message by making it resemble a child's nursery rhyme, but at the same time reinforce the underlying message.
The word "surge" is then undercut by comparing it to the "surge of traffic" which is being blocked by protesters. Far longer than any of the anti-war voices is the speech of a woman sitting in traffic denouncing the protesters for interfering with the ordinary business of America. She is given an extra dose of sympathy and absurdity by her final "Have a good day". The comic force of this scene is dependent on the viewer identifying with the woman in traffic denouncing the irrationality of the protesters. Clearly, she has no awareness of the purpose of the protest or why blocking traffic might be part of their tactics - she is just an ordinary woman trying to go about her business, a business that is being impeded by protest. By identifying with the women, the viewer assumes the same position, seeing the protest as an absurd phenomena in which irrational people interfere with business, even when that business is the manufacture of death. The final "Have a good day" is the Moos signature that places distance between the viewer and the woman so that she too becomes a part of the absurdity of the situation.
Next, we see a protester "playing chicken with a bus". The key words are "playing", since protest must be consistently characterized as "play", as in "play-acting", not a serious activity like driving a bus and "chicken", which characterizes the political position of the protesters. In fact, the final image is one of the bike riders fleeing from the bus. Clearly, they have lost the game of "chicken", just as the message of the protest will lose to the serious activity of war making.
Next, we meet the "Granny Peace Brigade", challenged by "a few former members of the military" and we are back to the pro-war woman screaming in her slightly silly New York accent. A major contrast is made between "granny" and "former members of the military" with implication that the grannies are senile old coots while the military are defenders of honor and liberty. While granny is silent, the "former member of the military" woman shouts, "and you have the audacity to come out here on the fifth anniversary of Shock and Awe to demoralize, to besmirch our troops".
"Besmirch" then becomes the keyword. Granny "besmirches" "mission accomplished", the by now catch word for the incompetence of the Bush mission in Iraq. Then granny says, "Our mission is to end the mission in Iraq. End it now!" One implication is that the "mission" of the protesters is as incompetent as the Bush mission. It also reinforces message through the clip that the protester's only message is a negative one - their purpose is only about "ending" and "stopping", as symbolized by blocking the flow of traffic. They have no positive message, but their protest only interferes with the serious business of ordinary people who are charged with "continuing the mission" that they besmirch.
This contrast of "ordinary people" with "protesters" is reinforced in the next clip which could be subtitled "Good Cop, Bad Cop". At first the policeman is "lovey dovey" with the protesters, hugging and trading hand and fist locks. The sound byte is "coolest cop in the country, everyone". Then we cut to him slugging one of the protesters using the same fist as before. The effect of these two scenes is to attribute extra humanity to the policeman by providing him with a range of emotions, while the protesters drone on in their monotone. Notice the surprised smile on the protester's face when the cop slugs him. The subsequent pan on the still standing protester shows that he wasn't really hurt by the blow. One underlying message is that beatings by police is just more street theater.
Another point to note is the order of the clips. First, sympathy for the policemen is built by showing the hugs and humanity, then the slugging incident occurs. Then Jeanne states that "earlier the coolest cop lost his cool". The word "cool" is repeated three times in reference to the police. Note that the sequence is to go back in time rather than forward. If the earlier incident had been shown first, then we would have lost sympathy for the cop. If the scene of reconciliation had been shown later, we would have seen him progressing toward greater humanity, with the implication that as we examine our violent behavior, we become more sympathetic with the protesters. By first showing his humanity and then showing him striking the protester, the implication becomes that even the most humane cops can be driven to violence by protesters, but in the end it is all just fun and games because no one is really hurt.
The clip is rounded off with the historical origin of the peace sign. At the statement "the peace sign comes from semaphore flags", the image of "No more blood for oil" with peace symbols on the back of a protester flashes across the screen. The protest message is immediately trivialized by synchronizing it with the words "semaphore flags". An image from the sixties of two soldiers, one painting a peace symbol, the other doing is military job as a signaler is flashed on the screen. The words "fifty years" are emphasized in describing the origin of the peace symbol. The idea communicated is that this type of protest is as old and outdated as the sixties. The contrast between the sign on the back and the ship to ship signals sends the implicit signal that protester's messages are as uninteresting and outdated and trivial as this prattle about signal shapes.
The "former member of the military" woman shouts again, this time saying, "You need to go home", as a mother would do with her naughty children. "Go home to your mothers" where you should be spanked for your behavior is the implication. As the camera shifts a disembodied voice repeats over and over "Go take your Geritol, go take your Geritol", as a grey-haired female protester is arrested. The idea communicated is that protesters are mostly senile old people that never grew up, never really let go of the sixties.
The other component of the protesters are rowdy college age students just having a good time. The voice over says, "Protesters are already demonstrating against what they think could be the next one", meaning war with Iran, while a bare chested young man jumps on what looks like a coffin. The word "think" synchronizes with the young man falling backward in a clumsy, misdirected leap. The word "already" implies that this leap is premature, just as virtually everything about these protesters lacks maturity.
As the clip fades out, we see Bush and McCain images again while the sound tracks reverts to the sarcastic Beach Boys tune and John McCain's face and final words are "John, John McCain...", who reigns triumphant over the childish protesters.
While this clip illustrates the attitude of those in power to anti-war protesters, it also characterizes the larger project of subverting the moral force which protesters represent. The corporate media has come close to the perfecting the art of neutralizing radical critique in the years since the rebellions of the 60s and 70s. Several tools have been designed to counter specific aspects of that critique. The underlying nihilism of the clip by Jeanne Moos has its counterpart in the academic fashion known as post-modernism.
Post-modernism, while growing out of the radical critiques of the 60s, has actually become a primary instrument of their domestication. For post-modernists, the idea of "truth" is an instrument of domination by the ruling social group, whether that group characterizes its ideology as "capitalist" or "socialist". Only the quality of stories matter to post-modernists, though they tend to prefer "leftist"-type stories. But clearly that is simply a matter of taste and "rightist" stories might be equally compelling if the "leftist" ones go out of style. The powers currently ruling global capitalism clearly relish and encourage this trend because its practical effect is to undermine the strength of those social forces which challenge it. If "truth" is simply an instrument by which one social group attempts to gain power over another group, then radical critiques are subverted at their foundation. This echoes William Stringfellow's description of one of the pillars of demonic power: "A rudimentary claim with which the principalities confront and subvert persons is that truth in the sense of eventful and factual matter does not exist. In the place of truth and appropriating the name of truth are data engineered and manufactured, programed and propagated by the principality. The truth is usurped and displaced by a self-serving version of events or facts, with whatever selectivity, distortion, falsehood, manipulation, exaggeration, evasion, concoction necessary to maintain the image or enhance the survival or multiply the coercive capacity of the principality. Instead of the truth as that which may be disclosed empirically, the principality furnishes a story fabricated and prefabricated to suit institutional or ideological or similar vested interests." - "An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land"
Precisely so, a "story" is fabricated and data collected to enhance the coercive capability of that principality. Post-modernism, while elaborating the trappings of radicalism to new extremes, in practice becomes a literary critic of radical "stories", while undercutting the basis of radical action.
When this trend filters down to the corporate media, it tells the story of protest in a way that makes protest no more meaningful than a Beach Boys song, while millions are displaced, murdered and mutilated.
Friday, March 21, 2008
"Good Friday comes before Easter. And the radical gift of Good Friday is Christ's revelation of the power and the truth of nonviolence. There is no easy way to create a world where men and women can live together, it will be accomplished by persons who have the courage to put an end to suffering by willingly suffering themselves rather than inflict suffering upon others." - Jonah House, HOLY WEEK FAITH AND RESISTANCE RETREAT
One day we will be able to say openly that Jesus came into this world to end violence and war, that his mission was carefully crafted to demonstrate the lie that lay at the foundation of our institutions, the lie of violence. It is blasphemy to think he came primarily to uphold conventional morality, though he was indeed a moral force unlike any the world has ever experienced. He did not come to uphold the morality that makes for a smoothly functioning empire, routinely delivering its profits to those who have already violated the common good beyond the ability of nature or man to bear. He came into this world to bear a new man.
Until we have the courage to face life as a whole without privatizing the spiritual part and going public with all our hatred and cluster bombs, we will not be able to fully understand the message of Jesus. If you want to see the real meaning of Lent, watch the Winter Soldier videos - watch what inner healing looks like. Yet rather than accept the healing in his wings, the corporate media has compounded its original crime of war propaganda by hiding the tears that could make our hearts live again. The only honest faces out there are those of the veterans weeping for the sins of us all.
But we can't be allowed to repent and wash away the sin of war with our tears because that inner healing leads to inner growth which blossoms into resistance against the empire of lies. The deeds which our mania for revenge after 9/11 pushed these young men into can never be washed out of their memories, no matter how well the media struggles to fill our minds and hearts with trivia. Something has taken place inside the hearts of those young men who testified and that something is more powerful than all the lies and all the wealth that that this sick empire can touch. Such are the spiritual earthquakes which are never registered by corporate media until long after the aftershocks have faded away. But those with living hearts know that a new star has appeared in the sky over America.
Watch the Winter Soldier videos: Iraq Veterans Against the War
"A lone CPTer stood for two hours at the central intersection of his hometown with a large sign 'Love Thy Enemy' and a photo of Tom Fox, a CPTer killed in Iraq in 2006. He explained, 'I have come to believe that witnessing for peace as a group of one is more effective than in larger groups. We can cover many more intersections or towns, we are more approachable, and the vulnerability of standing alone carries a message of clarity, conviction and courage.'" - Christian Peacemaker Teams
Standing alone does indeed bear up the message. The old hymn says that you must do it by yourself, that no one can do it for you. Just as Jesus stood completely alone, we must have the courage of our isolated convictions. The truth we believe cannot depend mainly on the agreement of others, but the power of our own sense of truth, wrong though we will sometimes be. The test comes comes in solitude, when no one agrees with us. In the words of another man of solitude, "One thing seems sure; the new man will not spring from Jove's forehead. The gods, the true gods of man's history, of his worship, do not work miracles of debased magic, on behalf of the morally indolent. No, such a man will get born because he has trodden the furnace, and died there." - Daniel Berrigan
Or as another great Catholic thinker put it, "To reach liberation I strain to move the wheel of bondage under one guise or the other, and the wheel I choose rolls into the flame of truth. Perhaps then, if my commitment can endure the fire, I realize a dimension of freedom." - James W. Douglass
"Lo, your king comes to you, triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt. … He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations. His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth" - Zechariah 9:9-10
"In a final attempt to humiliate Him, the Roman soldiers stripped Jesus of his clothing. Were they aware that they could have power over His body, but not His mind? Even in death He was still greater than they.
Our clothes are part of our identity. Stripped of our clothing we can be seen as worthless in worldly terms.
In Guantanamo Bay prison the US strips prisoners of any clothing that makes them identifiable as an individual human being. All prisoners must wear the same shapeless, orange jump suit.
In Abu Ghraib (Iraq) the US guards stripped prisoners naked in order to shame and humiliate them.
Throughout the world prisoners are regularly 'strip searched' for no good purpose other than to humiliate them.
At the numerous military checkpoints all over the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Israeli soldiers attempt to humiliate Palestinians by making them lift up, or sometimes remove their clothing. Any ‘security check’ deemed necessary could easily be carried out using a metal detector wand.
Despite the threat of these searches Palestinians continue to travel throughout their land. Here in Hebron Palestinians continue to come to the Ibrahimi mosque, to their shops in the Old City souq, and to live in their homes near the Israeli settlements, even with the risk of degrading searches at checkpoints. They stand firm and steadfastly refuse to be stripped of their dignity.
Just as we are called to accompany Christ on his road to crucifixion, so too we are called to accompany those who are stripped and humiliated by the powers of this world." - Christian Peacemaker Teams
May we have the courage of our nakedness.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
"We see Jesus falling beneath the cross the second time. Despite the help of Simon of Cyrene, the cross has crushed Him once more, and Roman soldiers have beaten him down. Let us see Jesus in the Beqa’a Valley, outside of Hebron, now.
It is 1998. Just before sunrise, the Israeli military had come in the name of the State of Israel, gun and demolition orders at ready, driving out the families, forcibly holding them back while the bulldozers smash homes that had been rebuilt with the help of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions… In the piles of rubble, the families sit crushed.
It means nothing that these Palestinian families have held the land for generations. Above them, on the top of a hill, the settlements continue to expand, clearing this area of Palestinians and taking their land." - Christian Peacemaker Teams
In the spirit of penance, let us confess to God that we have sinned in thought, word, and deed.
For the thousand daily betrayals that allow me to accept war inwardly and outwardly -
Lord, have mercy.
For accepting the spirit of routine that makes horror banal -
Lord, have mercy.
For laughing as the media satirizes moral passion in the same way as soldiers laughed at Jesus -
Lord, have mercy.
For letting my tolerance for violence and other blasphemies grow endlessly without protest -
Lord, have mercy.
For colluding with the majority who make a god of false security -
Lord, have mercy.
For deceiving myself and my neighbors about the criminality of the empire whose fruits I enjoy -
Christ, have mercy.
I accuse myself of letting murder become a distant routine enabled by my silence and cowardice.
I accuse myself of bracketing off concerns about justice until they fade and die.
I accuse myself of succumbing to media propaganda that makes the deliberate infliction of pain on another seem normal.
I accuse myself of consciously ignoring what I know to be true because acting on it would be inconvenient.
I accuse myself of making eloquent excuses for my inaction while my brothers and sisters suffer.
I accuse myself of seeking religious consolation while neglecting the justice and truth that must be its foundation.
I recognize that the god I truly worship is my own comfort and that I ignore the violence necessary to maintain that comfort.
For these and all the sins of my life, Christ have mercy. Open my eyes to the depths of my sin so that I can at last experience the blessing of repentance.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
"Let us try to imagine Veronica as she steps out from the jeering, mocking crowd. Was she afraid as she walked past the hostile, armed soldiers? It was not appropriate for her, as a woman, to touch a man, but Veronica refused to be constrained by social norms. She saw the suffering, bleeding Christ, and she was moved by compassion and mercy to step forward." - Christian Peacemaker Teams
Veronica was converted from a silent bystander at the death of God to one ready to forget self by submersion in the sorrows of the innocent. In Silver Springs, Maryland at the Winter Soldier gathering, Iraq veterans have also chosen to cease being silent bystanders to the crucifixion of the Iraqi people and the American conscience. In the halting voices of men whose consciences have ruptured and flowed over into rage, sarcasm, tears, defiance, and love for their brothers both living and dead, Iraqi and American, we hear in their voices and see in their broken faces the response which Howard Thurman described when he said, "One man's response to the sound of the genuine in another man is to ascribe to the other man the same sense of infinite worth that one holds for oneself." This infinite worth arises from the love with which God made each one of us, mar it as we will. In the voices of these veterans we can hear the sound of a distant roar, the mighty waters of righteousness which are rolling towards us on the flood of justice that longs to break forth over the earth.
Geoff Millard penetrates right to the dehumanizing core that turns Iraqis into stick figures for our violent amusement. The purpose of military dehumanization is not merely to make it easier for empire to neutralize the resistant, but it is primarily to gain full control over those who must carry out the order to kill. In gathering rage at the betrayal of all that is best in us, these winter soldiers have poured the balm of truth over the calcified conscience of the American soul and this balm will bear its fruit one day.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
"Simon was an innocent bystander in the crowd. We know from the accounts in the gospels of Luke and Mark that Simon did not step forward to take the cross. Different Bible translations tell us that the soldiers of the occupying Roman army 'grabbed', 'seized', 'laid hold upon' him, then 'compelled', 'forced' him to carry the cross." - Christian Peacemaker Teams
Each of us is a bystander at the crucifixion and the empire has laid hands on us to carry His cross. Perhaps none suffer this cross so much today as the Palestinians who are slaughtered while the world yawns: "In the first two months of 2008, Israeli security forces killed 146 Palestinians in the Palestinian Occupied Territories and Gaza Strip. Like Simon, at least 42 were bystanders, who 'did not participate in fighting when killed'." We other bystanders stand and watch while the murder goes on, forced to participate in the torture and humiliation which our country and Israel inflicts on those whose existence is inconvenient to the exigencies of power.
Yet, there are no bystanders at the crucifixion. Christ does not let us be bystanders, nor does the empire. "Just as the Roman soldiers 'seized' and 'grabbed' Simon, those with military power target the bystander. On 27 February the Israeli military targeted the civilian Interior Ministry in Gaza, damaging nearby buildings and killing a six-month-old baby. The same day, Palestinian military groups in Gaza targeted the Israeli town of Sderot, killing a 47 year old civilian." - Christian Peacemaker Teams
We cannot be innocent when we allow the innocent to be tortured before our awareness, whether it be for our "safety" or for any other reason. To do so is to abandon the only real safety we have - peace which castes aside safety in absolute trust in God. "There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared. It is the great venture. It can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The demand for security always brings violence because such a demand contains the seed of all violence - mistrust of God. Separation barriers will never bring safety, but justice might.
Jesus shows us the way to peace by daring peace. "We know that Jesus was not 'compelled' or 'forced' to take up the cross. We too are called to willingly take up the cross by speaking out against war, by saying that the death of any one person is too much, that violence leads to violence, it will never lead to peace." - Christian Peacemaker Teams
For all the peace warriors who will take up the call tomorrow - pick up the cross and let your love of peace, order, truth, and justice be the guide to all your anti-war actions. May peace of Jesus Christ be with you.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Conservative "values" Christians only see one Holocaust in the world today - the holocaust of abortion. And it is indeed a holocaust, a burnt offering made by the world of global capitalism to the god of Moloch. But it is only one of many offerings made to the same god. Fundamentalists and Catholics often raise aloft pictures of aborted fetuses during pro-life protests to evoke outrage toward the crime that is abortion. But pictures of the horror of the Iraq and Palestinian occupations are never shown alongside the aborted fetuses though the same crime has been committed.
When John Paul II spoke of a "culture of death" he was clearly referring to the abortion society of the modern West which kills innocents for the sake of convenience, pleasure and economic efficiency. These murders are necessary to ensure the smooth functioning of modern economies. But his admonitions against the culture of death encompassed another type of murder which is almost universally accepted by American Catholics - "War is always a defeat for humanity", "Never again war. No, never again war which destroys the lives of innocent people; throws into upheaval the lives of those who do the killing and always leaves behind a trail of hatred and resentment." - John Paul II.
No truer or more passionately believed words have been spoken by a modern pope, yet American Catholics, from bishops to lay people, pretend that these words do not exist. In Catholic terms, this is a culpable failure to rightly form the conscience, a failure that has led directly to the death of over a million Iraqis. When will pictures such as this be carried in pro-life demonstrations?:
Do you see any guilt here? What kind of "catechesis" or "conscience formation" allows silence in the face of such crimes while encouraging the faithful to act for the "right to life" of fetuses? What about Iraqi fetuses? or living children?:
Please show me the "culture of life" among those who permit this murder to go unchallenged. Catholics who are so easily outraged by the approved horrors of abortion while tolerating equal and unchallenged horrors in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine are acolytes of the culture of death.
And why does the culture of death gladly allow anti-abortion protests and actions while smothering any word of protest toward the wars in the Middle East? Primarily because one is a nonthreatening distraction that empire can exploit to neutralize the progressive spirit while the other is a direct threat to its life blood. The empire promotes the battle over abortion because it helps divert progressive forces into fighting for the right to uninhibited sexual indulgence. Such sexual practices weaken and corrupt the spirit of resistance. The empire makes a double gain from this battle. On the one side, it redirects those Christians who have nascent insight into the death worship of modern culture toward suspicion and hatred of progressive forces. By making progressive ideas appear "anti-life", it helps to demonize the whole range of such ideas, neutralizing Christian support toward those who would otherwise be their natural allies in saner (and less manipulated) circumstances. On the other side, when those progressive forces win their pro-abortion battles, the empire also gains by diminishing the reverence for life, a sentiment which interferes with the smooth operation of its profit-making potential.
Encouraging this battle also illuminates why the empire winks at sexual practices that lead to spiritual death while pretending to support the decencies of moral rectitude. Both sides of this corrupt equation support its power. Those who serve empire receive the reward of death, but this death is usually clothed in a bundle of material gifts. One of the greatest myths arising from the rebellion of the sixties was that the one that proclaims that sexual self-indulgence and drug taking is "liberating" because it challenges the "hypocrisy" of conventional moral norms. The cliched feel to that description should be an immediate giveaway that this widely encouraged sentiment hides a deeper subversion of the spirit. Note also that this is the aspect of the sixties that has been allowed to become deeply embedded in current culture, whereas striving for political and economic liberation has been completely suppressed. In fact, such practices present no challenge whatever to capitalist culture but instead secretly reinforce its fundamental death-orientation. This culture is essentially an anti-human culture that worships material force and can only conceive rewards in the form of uninhibited hedonism. Such rewards weaken and corrupt the spirit, but are quite compatible with those "Christianists" who would truncate the word of God with fundamentalist butchery. Fundamentalism is a form of spiritual amputation that substitutes a secret materialist literalism for the genuine word of God. And whichever box you put yourself in, the empire profits.
If you become an advocate of abortion and sexual insanity, you make it easier for the empire to kill those that impede its plan to control Middle Eastern oil because you diminish reverence for all human life. You also encourage an atmosphere of cynicism that empire exploits to neutralize the possibility of protest. If you "convert" and become a fundamentalist Christian who believes in the "gospel of prosperity", this intellectual abdication opens you to the whole array of mind-destroying propaganda which empire uses to support its wars. And by opposing abortion and other effects of the domination of capital over humanity, you suture your conscience with pro-life slogans.
Watch the video: What Should You Do?
Go to Resist in March and start by watching the video. Then, for the sake of God, act.
If you haven't heard about it yet and why would you when the corporate media has practically blacked out all coverage, go to Iraq Veterans Against the War and watch the Winter Soldier hearings, described as follows: "Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan will feature testimony from U.S. veterans who served in those occupations, giving an accurate account of what is really happening day in and day out, on the ground. The four-day event will bring together veterans from across the country to testify about their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan - and present video and photographic evidence. In addition, there will be panels of scholars, veterans, journalists, and other specialists to give context to the testimony. These panels will cover everything from the history of the GI resistance movement to the fight for veterans' health benefits and support." - ivaw.org
The soldier's words, often halting, are describing some of the blackest patches in the human soul at this point in history. But we are a part of that blackness and until we can face it and live it, we cannot embrace the spirit of repentance which we must receive in this season of Lent. Our silence and inaction, our false spirituality which pretends that religion bears no responsibility toward the inherently corrupt world of power and war have directly contributed to the horror in which we, the Iraqi people, and these soldiers have inured ourselves.
I know that many of you may wonder why we should struggle against what seems utterly inevitable. Why waste my small store of energy on a hopeless battle for truth against an empire that seems to control all the levers of power? For one who is spiritually alive, there are a lifetime of answers to this question. One answer is that the empire actually hides a fundamental weakness - that it only understands force and manipulation, but the spirit of humanity can never be bound by material forces.
Another answer comes from one who watched the priests of Latin America struggle against violent repression in the power of the spirit:
Once a wise old Spanish anarchist was confronted with the fact that his beautiful ideals were unrealizable, and he replied, "Of course it is impossible to realize them. But don't you see that everything that is possible today, is worthless?"
Why worthless? Surely, the great works of our day are worthwhile - the medical advances that cure sicknesses that formerly led to inevitable death, the technological wonders of the Internet, the flood of cheap goods that gives the lowliest American wealth unheard of in history. But as one who tries to keep Jesus in at least one eye most of the time, I have to agree - worthless. Because these things are built on a foundation of injustice and without justice and the love which is built upon it, such material rewards can only lead to Hell.
In the words of Joel Kovel regarding the Spanish anarchist: "Sensible people might see this as evidence of quixotism, but they would be wrong. For a radically spiritual attitude, though it may have no immediate possibility of realization, is, when turned outward, the most practical thing in the world. The reason we should fight for spirit is the here and now, is because spirit creates a new sense of the possible, and the belief that the possible is worth striving for. Thus the impossible must be imagined if it is to be realized, and it is true sanity to do so." Joel Kovel, "History and Spirit"
Can we let the darkness of this present age destroy our humanity? Can we not, like Malcolm X, make prison into a seminary in which we are regenerated into the living truth? Spirit can only be kept alive by imagining what seems impossible to realize given the present realities of power. We continue to speak the inner truth even though we hear no echo in the world around us because we know that one day that echo will come and be all the more beautiful for its long travels through the wilds of this world.
We give birth by bearing witness to the best spiritual visions which we hold, impossible as they may be to realize in this present darkness. Death is the same voice that spoke through Martha in the gospel of John when she told Jesus, "If only you had been here, my brother would not have died!" The culture of death is not comfortable with possibilities that lie outside the boundary of its power and profit. Jesus' response is to thank God for his responsiveness to our requests for life. Christians are never bound by the circle of death, no matter how hard the empire tries to convince us that Christianity is really a matter of adherence to the conventional social norms that support a system that has no alternative. In the regime of controlled despair, the only releases are hedonism and alienated spirituality, but Jesus calls out, "Do not despair!"
"We all know despair. We think: 'There is nothing that can be done. We will always have war, poverty, nuclear weapons and global warming. We will always be violent. Death is in control. Militarism rules the land, violence rules our hearts.' But the voice of Jesus rings out across the centuries: 'Take away the stone. Come out of your tombs. Unbind the oppressed and let them go. Live and let live. From now on, you are free of despair and the culture of death. Live in hope, in the new life of resurrection and give thanks to the God of peace.' That is the mission for the rest of our lives." - Fr. John Dear, "The Lenten Journey of Gospel Nonviolence (Part 6)
Sunday, March 09, 2008
The following is a dream Shane Claiborne, a founding member of the Simple Way Community in Philadelphia, had while in Iraq at the beginning of the war and occupation. Read it carefully and prayerfully.
"Sometimes it is hard to sleep -- so many thoughts. A bomber flew over. I looked up and could see, 'U.S. Air Force' on it. I tried to think only of Jesus – the beautiful Lover of Nazareth. The other night I dreamed of Jesus. At first I could only see his back, somehow I knew it was him. His large, strong back was shirtless (and not as fair-skinned as I had once thought!). He was stooped over on all fours as if he were cradling something on the ground. I wondered what it was, so I tried to get a better glance.
A little head popped out from beneath his arm, giggling hysterically. Then another squirmed out from the other side. And another. How many were there?! Still kneeling on all fours with his arms spread wide, Jesus frantically tried to keep them gathered beneath him, as if he knew danger was looming. There were hundreds of little faces [Author's note: Jesus was gigantic, not to scale. I know it's weird; it's a dream.] So there was this huge Jesus, sprawled out above all the children. He looked like a kid frantically trying to keep a litter of young puppies from scattering.
And then there was a loud crack. Out of nowhere a whip struck Jesus on his back. He yelled in pain. Then again – the skin ripped open. And again. The children began to cry. A few young stragglers ducked safely under Jesus' chest with the others. As the whip continued to strike him, rocks began to fall from the sky like hailstones – pounding on his back and bouncing off. The children huddled beneath him, sobbing. His body convulsed in agony, but he never loosened his grip on the little ones below. As the rocks kept falling, something else started to drop from the sky. These objects looked similar to the rocks, but when they hit his back they did not bounce off like the rocks had. They sunk into his skin ... and then they exploded, tearing huge holes into his back, one after another. His bones became exposed, and soon his body stopped moving. Blood poured off his sides and rained down on the children.
STOP! STOP! In the name of God, stop. I could not wake up. The holes continued to tear into his flesh until the body barely resembled anything human. Then, at last, there was silence. Stillness. Slowly, the children began to stir. They crept timidly from beneath the rubble, covered with blood ... but alive. And I awoke ... sweating, panting, but alive." - Shane Claiborne, "The Passion of the Iraqi Christ"
The dream is rich with the truth of Jesus' love. We see Jesus suffering to protect his Iraqi children from U.S. bombs at the cost of his own flesh. We can feel the motherly compassion he feels for the Iraqi people and how he tries to keep them beneath his protecting body when they might scatter to be picked off by American snipers. In this Lenten season, these tears to the flesh of Christ are what we receive in our own bodies as repentance for the mortal sin of war and our silent complicity in it. Each bomb that falls on the Iraqi people rips another hole in the flesh of Christ.
When Shane awoke, he attended worship with the Iraqi Christians, who have since been decimated by internecine warfare in Iraq. After the service, an Iraqi bishop responded to Shane's query about Christianity in Iraq with the following, "He looked at me blankly and said gently, 'Yes, my friend. This is where Christianity began. You did not invent it in America. You have only domesticated it. Go back and tell the church in America that we are praying for them ... to be the body of Christ, to embody the gospel of Jesus.' His words still echo in my soul." - Shane Claiborne, "The Passion of the Iraqi Christ"
It does often seem as if the main American contribution to Christianity has been to "domesticate" it, extract its teeth, its bite, its power. How desperately we need the prayers of the Iraqis, both Christian and Muslim, so that we may at last become the body of Christ. Perhaps such prayers can rip us out of our air-conditioned spiritual dream, our fantasy land of higher beings who strangely care so little for the brothers and sisters whose lives and blood are the fuel of the empire which "protects" us and feeds us the luxuries that keep us tame. May we, like the Iraqi children, begin slowly to creep from beneath the rubble, covered with blood, but alive in Christ.
The "gospel of prosperity" is indeed a fitting religion for the empire. Those who accept it will get their reward, but it will not be the reward which Jesus Christ gives. The liberation which Jesus brings us is the inward growth toward an ever-deepening and ever-widening sympathy with our brothers and sisters across the wide world, especially those suffering political and economic oppression. "In terms of the Gospel, the history of man's liberation from injustice is an outward aspect of the inward growth of man into God. Liberation is the consequence of God's explosion of love in history, made visible in the cross of Jesus of Nazareth. Liberation is the political expression of humanity's transformation in love. It becomes possible whenever man turns from the will to power and instead acknowledges in his depths the power of Love. The growth of God's Love in man, and his transformation into the man-God, is the process which results finally in the breaking of chains and the freeing of slaves. The political liberation of humanity is a sign of God's redeeming presence breaking the bonds of sin." - James W. Douglass, "Resistance and Contemplation"
We should have known that it was inevitable. The housing crisis is a symptom of a much larger spiritual and economic crisis that may give birth within the next century to a new humanity, one that will break consumerist addiction and embrace a much fuller vision of what we can become. The system that began the Iraq occupation, the Afghanistan occupation, the Israeli occupation and so on is near collapse. These invasions and occupations were the result of a fundamental moral weakness engendered by an enslaving ideology of consumption that must be broken if we are to reclaim our humanity. Since we are unable to break that slavery voluntarily, the slavery will be broken by force - the onrushing force of climate change. It appears as if the legend of Atlantis is actually to take place in the near future.
The fact that the current presidential candidates think it is too risky to propose an immediate withdrawal from Iraq shows them locked into the propaganda apparatus of the ruling elite. These forces are far too powerful to be countered with anything less than actual catastrophe.
The economic forces behind these developments degrade the powers of life, the long-term nurturing of those ecological foundations that build up the human and natural bonds from which civilizing decencies such as care for victims emerge. All the profit pressure is in the direction of death, compelled as they are by it "...to neglect infrastructure when it does not contribute immediately to the generation of wealth." - Joel Kovel, "The Enemy of Nature".
The great divide is between those who merely decry the unjust effects of the capitalist system and those who realize that these effects are the inevitable result of a system that places profit before people. Such a system is inherently unjust and can't reformed itself without destroying itself.
According to St. Thomas Aquinas, since God is the creator of the universe, the goods of this world do not belong to us, but rather to Him. He gave us the goods of the world not to be hoarded by the few, but shared for the flourishing of all. As the early Christians recognized, these goods were intended for common use, and given to all. For from being pro-capitalist, true Christianity is the underlying inspiration behind all movements for economic equality. St. Thomas held that natural law decreed not private property but the common use of goods and that all human beings have a right to satisfy their basic needs.
This rich teaching provides the basis for a Christian economic perspective, one that puts human need, not profit or consumption, first. Christianity as normally presented in America means submission to the arrangements of power, the current political, economic, and military domination system. No matter how unjust the present system may appear, Christians must submit, and even relish their submission as a sign of Christian respect for authority. Socio-economic stratification is divinely sanctioned - rebellion is invariably at the instigation of Satan.
The gospel of prosperity is the spirituality of the empire. It hides the subordination of human values to material values and celebrates material power as the revelation of God's power.
The teaching of Jesus Christ is far different:
"Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." - Isa. 55:1
Biblical economics defy the imperial economy of exploitation and debt:
"And He who sits on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new' And He said, 'Write, for these words are faithful and true.'
Then He said to me, "It is done I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost." - Rev. 21:5-6
All things are renewed in Christ, including the essentials of life, which will be provided free from the hand of God. We have the ability to carry out this command of God today, but first we must break the lock of false economics supporting the system of domination which preaches submission to greed and violence.
Saturday, March 08, 2008
"As Jesus Christ is God's comforting pronouncement of the forgiveness of all our sins, so, with equal seriousness, he is also God's vigorous announcement of his claim upon our whole life. Through him there comes to us joyful liberation from the godless ties of this world for free, grateful service to his creatures.
We reject the false doctrine that there could be areas of our life in which we would not belong to Jesus Christ but to other lords, areas in which we would not need justification and sanctification through him." - Barmen Declaration against the "German Christians" in Nazi Germany.
Today, we need a new Barmen Declaration that would speak of prophetic action that makes for peace and mutual upbuilding in opposition to the despair encased in the bombs raining over Iraq and Palestine. There are no areas of life that are outside the justification and sanctification of Jesus Christ. Those Christians who will be participating in anti-war activity in the coming weeks should always remember that, despite the false doctrines proclaimed in the corporate media, we stand for law and justice, not anarchy or frivolous idealism, as they like to portray us. The man of lawlessness sits on the throne of this empire. The howling anti-logic which impels this administration into its brutal occupations and incarcerations expresses the demonic double-think which seeks ever to ignore the silent truth.
Against all that, we are sent into the world as agents of God's peace and order, bringing logic and fact where there is propaganda, bringing compassion where there is irrational hatred, bringing inner security where fear is deliberately inflicted, acting as beacons of justice where power is worshiped.
"Meanwhile, we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative means of protest possible. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest." - Martin Luther King
This is the song of freedom, the song of hope. Despite all that has happened in the last twenty years, we have not accepted the end of history or resigned ourselves to living in a hell of economic exploitation and political oppression forever, consoling ourselves with technological trinkets as a substitute for justice and love.
"I put my hand on her chest to stop the streaming blood. She told me that she could not breathe, her body trembled and she closed her eyes," said Ra'd Abu Saif of his 12-year-old daughter Safa's last moments after she was shot by an Israeli sniper last Saturday.
Safa was shot in the left side of her chest while she was inside her home in Jabaliya, northern Gaza. An ambulance tried to reach her but Israeli soldiers opened fire at it, wounding a paramedic and causing the tires to lose air, and so she bled to death three hours after she was wounded." - Sami Abu Salem, "Israeli sniper bullet takes 12-year-old girl's life", Mar. 10, 2008
"Now let us begin. Now let us re-dedicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history." - Martin Luther King
"Buried deep in the hills overlooking the blue waters of Subic Bay are ammunition bunkers used by the U.S. military to supply its various U.S. bases abroad — to facilitate interventions in all parts of the world. These quonset type bunkers are now empty except for bats' nests and spider webs that hang on the corners of the solid concrete.
Occasionally, huge pythons find their way into these bunkers, fittingly symbolic of the activity here at the height of the Vietnam war. Huge bombs for the U.S. Air Force and shells for U.S. warships and artillery and small arms ammunitions for M14 were stored in these bunkers. They destroyed millions of lives and caused destruction all over the world in the 100 years of the U.S. American military presence in the Philippines...On 19 February, 2008, together with 8 members of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), several members of the People's Bases Clean-up, and former U.S. base workers who are now dying from exposure to asbestos and other toxic waste in the former U.S. military bases, performed purifying rites at the bunkers — exorcising the bunkers of their sinful use by the American government in its imperial wars of aggression." - Christian Peacemaker Teams
Pythons also glide through the hearts of those administering the current horror in Iraq. The more we uncover the strategic objectives of empire, the more we understand that the traditional concept of war between sovereign states constitutes a historic holdover that mystifies the true objective: the elimination of civil society. Their profits flourish when cities become Hobbesian jungles of each against all. Baghdad is the experimental prototype for the city of the future where the bonds that make for peace will have been utterly dissolved.
Near Baghdad is another ancient city called Babylon, now largely desecrated by U.S. troops. But there is another Babylon that is flourishing more than ever and the worship and prayer of Christians brings manna for our resistance to its seductive power. Yet, in the words of Web Howard-Brook, "The downfall of Babylon is not brought about by a passive waiting on God. Rather, it is won by joining forces with God and the Lamb in active resistance to empire and creative participation in New Jerusalem." Wes Howard-Brook, "Unveiling Empire: Reading Revelation Then and Now".
"The problem that we face in Iraq is that policymakers in leadership have set a precedent of lawlessness where we don't abide by the rule of law, we don't respect international treaties, so when that atmosphere exists it lends itself to criminal activity," argues former U.S. Army Sergeant Logan Laituri, who served a tour in Iraq from 2004 to 2005 before being discharged as a conscientious objector." - Logan Laituri, Iraq War Veteran.
"For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way." 2 Thessalonians 2: 7.
Perhaps we can take courage from our fellow Christians in the Philippines and exorcise the snakes and bats that run Washington during the actions to come on March 19.
"One: From the arrogance of power
All: Deliver us
One: From the poverty of violence
All: Deliver us
One: From the tyranny of greed
All: Deliver us
One: From the ugliness of racism
All: Deliver us
One: From the politics of hypocrisy
All: Deliver us
One: From the hysteria of nationalism
All: Deliver us
One: From the cancer of hatred
All: Deliver us
One: From the seduction of wealth
All: Deliver us
One: From the addiction of control
All: Deliver us
One: From the avarice of imperialism
All: Deliver us
One: From the idolatry of national security
All: Deliver us
One: From the despair of fatalism
All: Deliver us
One: From the violence of apathy
All: Deliver us
One: From the filth of war
All: Deliver us
One: From the profanity of war
All: Deliver us
One: From the necessity of war
All: Deliver us
One: From the madness of war
All: Deliver us
One: From the blasphemy of war
All: Deliver us
One: From the brutality of war
All: Deliver us
One: From the demonic waste of war and of preparation for war
All: Deliver us
One: Deliver us, O God
All: Guide our feet into the ways of peace
One: In humility, we ask
All: Hear our prayer. Grant us peace." - Litany of Resistance, Jim Loney
"There remains an experience of incomparable value. We have for once learnt to see the great events of world history from below, from the perspective of the outcast, the suspects, the maltreated, the powerless, the oppressed, the reviled - in short, from the perspective of those who suffer. The important thing is that neither bitterness nor envy should have gnawed at the heart during this time, that we should have come to look with new eyes at matters great and small, sorrow and joy, strength and weakness, that our perception of generosity, humanity, justice and mercy should have become clearer, freer, less corruptible. We have to learn that personal suffering is a more effective key, a more rewarding principle for exploring the world in thought and action than personal good fortune." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison.
Very shortly, I hope, many of you will be involved in direct action against the Iraq occupation in Washington, D.C. The key principle for me is that we are outcasts not because we question justice, peace, humanity, and mercy, but because we live them. We are outcasts, out of the mainstream, because for us justice is supreme, not safety. We do not destroy whole buildings and everyone in them so that our little patrol won't be threatened, as is commonly done during battles in Iraq. It is not we who are the lawless ones, but those who elevate profit and "security", along with the security of profits, over every other value, human and divine.
Deep in our hearts we revere the law of humanity. We are not among the lawbreakers who currently rule this empire - therefore we are outcast. Their leader was well described in 2 Thessalonians:
"For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness." 2 Thessalonians 2:7-12
Our presence in Washington on March 19 can be the breath of God's mouth if we follow his law in our hearts, always living in the truth of nonviolence, acting towards our enemies with love, offering our own suffering, our own willingness to risk for peace in place of the violence offered by the powers that rule Washington, placing all hope not in our power, but the strength of he who overcame this world. St. Ambrose spoke well when he said, "All who wish to return to paradise must be tested by fire."
The fire of protest is also a struggle with temptation: temptation to pride, to violence in a good cause, to contempt that embitters the soul, to an overwhelming desire for success that allows devotion to law to be jettisoned, to envy of those in power, in short, to all that makes our protest less than a call to repentance. The purpose of protest is not simply to bring down evil structures, but to bear witness to the truth of justice, made visible and living in our action. Where conventionalism and false piety wear the borrowed rags of justice, our action brings the realities they desecrate alive once more. Such realities cannot be transmitted through technical media, but the spirit they make real is the embodiment of fundamental change.
Another temptation is to fail to think clearly about what the structure we are trying to undermine actually is. Our enemy is not some vague "Satan", "structures of societal oppression", and so on, but something disturbingly concrete, the economic power of capital which demands the forcible management of the economies of other states and peoples. In the well-wrought words of Carl Oglesby, "For us, peace finally exists when the world is finally safe for American businessmen to carry on their business everywhere, on terms as favorable as they can be made, in settings managed preferably by native middle-class governments, but if need be by oligarchic and repressive ones, by the old foreign grads of Fort Bragg, or if the panic hits in a pivotal place, by our own Marines." Carl Oglesby and Richard Shaull, Containment and Change, 1967, p. 65 - 66.
Clearly, the Iraq war was begun with these ideas as the driving force. The definition of "democracy" to be applied here is "unfettered freedom of corporate interests to maintain profit margins". Yet, as Christians, we do not conceive these interests in mere economic terms, but as spiritual forces, principalities, powers, and dominions, forces in high places. This means that it is also our responsibility to break the choke hold that consumerism has on our own lives. Each of us has his or her own piece of the chain that wraps our world in its grip and each of us can break his or her part of that chain.
Love must discover a way to free the world from the ring of military bases that enforce U.S. hegemony. We must be conduits for the force of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of justice that can break the ring.
Friday, March 07, 2008
"Fourth Station of the Cross—Jesus meets his mother on the way to his execution
Let us recall Jesus meeting His mother as He carries His cross. She was unable to stand by quietly and see her innocent son accused, condemned and on His way to execution. Not only did she reach out to her son beneath His cross, she must have spoken out to the soldiers and tried to tell them of His innocence. Let us continue with the meditation and think of Jesus in contemporary Palestine.
Here in Hebron we see mothers of six Palestinian youths accused of breaking and entering a settlement enclave in the Old City. Their mothers know their innocence and we witness these women trying to stop the police from taking their sons to the Israeli police station, where anything can happen to them. They rush to the Israeli soldiers to tell them their sons were at home all day. They reach out and actually hold back the military armored personnel carrier in which their sons have been placed. In the face of hostile settlers with guns pointed at them, their courage inspired those who could do so to join with them and ask for mercy." - Christian Peacemaker Teams.
Mothers, even the Mother of God, can never be detached. They do not stand aside in the spiritual world waiting while their sons and daughters lay suffering on earth.
"Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) escalated their aggression against the population of the Gaza Strip. Following its withdrawal from north Gaza on 4 March 2008, the IOF continued air strikes yesterday. IOF penetrated the Wadi al-Salqa village in the central Gaza Strip, assassinated one man, and killed an infant less than one month old. The number of the people killed by the IOF since 28 February 2008 has reached 120, including 72 civilians. Among the civilians were six women and thirty children.
According to affidavits given to Al Mezan by witnesses, the family and the guests left the house as they were instructed by the IOF. The house's outside lights were on and the IOF kept its light on them the entire time. However, the soldiers continued shooting and, consequently, the mother Nadia Abu Aser was hit by a live bullet to her left arm. Her infant daughter, Amira, was injured by a live bullet to her head. Also, the shooting injured four other residents of the house.
There is reason to believe that Yousef al-Smiri was murdered after being stopped. After he fled his house, his body was found at approximately 10:00am the next day (5 March). Believing that he escaped from the IOF, the neighbors found al-Simiri's lifeless body lying in an open area about 150 meters from his house. When the body was examined at the hospital, a live bullet was found in his chest, and his head was crushed." - "Gaza man assassinated and run over, baby shot in the head", Mar. 6, 2007
It sometimes seems that only their own mothers are capable of caring for the Palestinians. Certainly the corporate media will treat the killing of the Jewish seminary students as the "real" crime, while the life of Amira Khaled Abu 'Aser will be buried with deadly silence. The lives of those without significance in the eyes of the world are where Christian eyes see the face of Christ.
In the time of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, humanity was denied to the Jews and he challenged Christians, "Only he who cries out for the Jews is permitted to sing Gregorian chants!" Understanding that Christ's light lived in the face of Amira Khaled Abu 'Aser, the baby shot by Israeli forces, we find our joy in recognizing God not in the approved victims, who have their own reward, but in those totally without status, just as a mother cares for children who are clumsy, crude, stubborn, jealous, and unreasonable.
Why do we rarely hear the voice of the voiceless in today's churches? They are usually dedicated to another purpose - to ensure their own preservation. Of course this motive is well-decorated with noble sentiments about preserving the gospel treasure for future generations, but how can that treasure be preserved for the future by betraying it in the present? "Our church, which has been fighting in these years only for its self-preservation, as though that were an end in itself, is incapable of taking the word of reconciliation and redemption to mankind and the world...Our being Christians today will be limited to two things: Prayer and action by the just person on behalf of people." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
The preservation of "church" is not an end in itself. The gospel can only be preserved by being lived in solidarity with those this world would rather forgot about because they are inconvenient and cause friction to the plans for domination. Faith cannot be walled off and air conditioned, uplifted by funereal music, and preserved in splendid isolation. "Faith must be lived in response to real life and suffering in the world...It is not the religious act that makes the Christian, but participation in the suffering of God in the secular life...Jesus calls men not to a new religion, but to life." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
"Only he who cries out for the Palestinians is permitted to sing Gregorian chants!"
Sunday, March 02, 2008
Peace through Conviction Award to US Deserter See the joy of following conscience.
Within the wisdom of Christ we find the weapons to resist the obscene flood of violence that now sweeps across the world. The principle purveyor of this violence is the empire that has emerged from what was once the democratic republic of the United States. This principality claims the power to devastate entire countries by identifying its material interests with the interests of the kingdom of God. This is a blasphemy against the kingdom of Christ, and we are called to resist this illusion.
We undercut the power of violence by breaking its illusions, its idols of silver and gold. The myth of redemptive violence is the illusion that is killing children in Palestine and destroying the humanity of the Iraqis. In one sense, it is the illusion of the power of matter to solve the problems of the spirit. As James Douglass describes it, "War in our time discloses the inherent powerlessness of matter at its most powerful to resolve the injustices of man's spirit. Thus the dead end of war forces the Christian conscience into a confrontation with the issue of war itself, and into a growing recognition of that gap between the intention of peace and the execution of the sword which in the light of Gospel reduces the notion of a just war to legalized fratricide." - James W. Douglass, "The Non-Violent Cross". With Gandhi, we believe in the power of the cross which is the essence of nonviolence.
At last, the Church is beginning to take the next step and show her faith in our Lord may really be without limit. Forty years ago, James Douglass wrote, "Not until the condemnation of total war has become in the Church merely the background for the emerging Gospel mandate for total peace will the revolution of conscience be assured." - James W. Douglass, "The Non-Violent Cross".
Almost exactly one year ago today, the Holy Father called for a "Christian Revolution", by which he meant an end to violence and a love powerful enough to embrace the most bitter enemy. According to the Pope, "Love your enemies" is "...the "magna carta" of Christian nonviolence; it does not consist in surrendering to evil -- as claims a false interpretation of "turn the other cheek" (Luke 6:29) -- but in responding to evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21), and thus breaking the chain of injustice. It is thus understood that nonviolence, for Christians, is not mere tactical behavior but a person's way of being, the attitude of one who is convinced of God's love and power, who is not afraid to confront evil with the weapons of love and truth alone." - "Benedict XVI Calls for a 'Christian Revolution' Invites Faithful to Respond to Evil With Good", Feb. 18, 2007
"Loving the enemy is the nucleus of the "Christian revolution," a revolution not based on strategies of economic, political or media power. The revolution of love, a love that does not base itself definitively in human resources, but in the gift of God, that is obtained only and unreservedly in his merciful goodness." - "Benedict XVI Calls for a 'Christian Revolution' Invites Faithful to Respond to Evil With Good", Feb. 18, 2007
In the words of the great Council father, Abbot Butler, "The weapons of the gospel are not nuclear but spiritual, it wins its victories not by war but by suffering...Our help in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth."
In the practical circumstances where we must live out the gospel, it is clear that the empire regards war not as a moral dilemma, but as one of many instruments by which to strengthen its economic power, ensure that threats to its interests are neutralized before they can grow, and preserve its ability to repress dissent efficiently by providing realistic training opportunities.
In such circumstances, the duty of the man who is or has become a Christian while serving as one of the empire's soldiers is clear:
"Refuse to fight! Refuse to kill!"
In the words of Jonah House:
"You are being ordered to war by the most powerful nation on earth. You are being ordered to war by a nation with the most destructive weapons ever conceived, developed, deployed or used. You are being ordered to war by a nation whose self-acknowledged posture is that of world domination, mastery, control. This nation can have no moral justification for war."