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, July 26, 2009
We pass police stations that were simply flattened, and all the young (most Palestinians are young) officers in them killed, hundreds of them. We pass ministries, bombed into fragments. We pass a hospital, bombed and gutted by fire. If one is not safe in a hospital, when one is already sick and afraid, where is one safe? If children are not safe playing in their schoolyards, where are they safe?" - Alice Walker, "The Best Place One Could be on Earth", July 26, 2009.
"How doofus humans are going to look -- we thought as we marched, sang, accepted our handcuffs -- still firing rockets into apartment buildings full of families, and dropping bombs on school children and their pets, when the ice melts completely in the Arctic and puts an end to our regressive, greed sourced rage forever." - Alice Walker, "The Best Place One Could be on Earth", July 26, 2009.
"Doofus" is not exactly the word I would pick, but it does express the absurdity of our violence and greed in a way that celebrates the wisdom of the earth. It reminds us of the spiritual powers that lie behind all that we see, before whom we are mites crawling on the surface of mystery. Moreover, this mystery has a personality and a love that will one day put an end to our raging greed, and there's not a damn thing we can do about that.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Until we feel the humanity of other peoples of the world, for instance Afghanis and Pakistanis and Hondurans, with the same intensity that we demand respect for our own, so far will our humanity be degraded and ultimately destroyed.
But a larger vision needs to be invoked. Our denial of our duties to humanity works in both directions. We have refused our duty to help create a world where everyone has adequate nourishment and health care while the rest of the world has desperately pleaded for our help. The fact that for a fraction of the cost of our luxuries this could be accomplished imposes the absolute moral obligation to do so. If our churches actually followed the teachings of Jesus, this would be beyond doubt - and would be the central moral imperative of a genuine Christianity. The tragic flaw of the American personality is complete blindness to our inherent relationship to other peoples and the natural environment, all of which have been transformed into objects to be consumed for profit. This denial of responsibility on a global scale will ultimately destroy us.
The Church of Benedict XVI continues to subsist in a world of Platonic forms untouched by history, untouched by the misery inherent in the capitalist world order that is determined to extract the last dribble of profit until the planet is reduced to a scalding desert. Regarding this system of economic idolatry, the Church is silent even as it proclaims eternal verities to the starving.
In contrast to God's attempt to share our humanity in Jesus' life and death, the Church worships an objectified God, a God who underwrites the ruling economic order, a God who can't be bothered with the massacre of Gazans, as Pope Benedict recently demonstrated in his visit to Israel.
In this regard, the Nonviolent Jesus calls out to the Honduran people to ignore the lies of the U.S. government and joyously to affirm the model of Hugo Chavez' Bolivarian Revolution as the authentic model for liberation from the dictatorship currently being imposed by U.S. corporate interests. How ironic that the U.S. State Department is currently publishing long discredited lies about Venezuela drug trafficking in Columbia. Colombian military cohorts in Honduras now want a share of the profits as well and Washington is doing everything it can to enable them to open new drug trafficking routes through Honduras.
The Honduran president has the opportunity at this moment to go beyond words, as we all do, and to march toward his capital holding the spirit force, the "truth force", the satyagraha of his people, in his heart. It could mean his death, but it would acquire a force that would place a permanent mark on the spirit of American. Or in the words of Eva Gollinger, "Personally, I think he needs to just continue inside Honduras, despite all risks, and fight to reunite with his family and his people, who have been risking their lives now for almost one month, struggling to defeat the coup regime." - Postcards from the Revolution, July 24, 2009.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Obama’s primary imperial mission is to reinstate U.S. dominance in those areas where it has waned in recent years due to movements of popular resistance. Today this drama is playing out primarily in Latin America and portions of the Middle East. His strategy, likely to be effective, is to subtly manipulate the framing of events so that the result will reinforce corporate domination while appearing to support “democracy” in those countries. The following article is a speculative reading of recent events in Honduras based on the study of previous U.S.-orchestrated coups in Central and South America.
The coup in Honduras may well become a model for the re-imposition of control by the military and their corporate sponsors in Latin America. Rather than openly denouncing the coup, Obama and Clinton have framed the crisis as contending concepts of legality - on one side the legality of the electoral process and on the other side, the contested legality of the call for a constitutional referendum. Ostensibly standing above the warring sides, Obama calls for “negotiations”, an irreproachable moral stance. But, as Eva Gollinger puts it so well, “The question still remains as to why negotiations - imposed by the United States - are even taking place. By giving the coup government equal participation in a ‘dialogue’ to find a solution, their illegal actions are being legitimized. This creates a dangerous and unacceptable precedent for other undemocratic groups seeking to remove their elected leaders from power and then ‘negotiate’ a resolution, gaining ground politically and weakening the democratic system.” – Postcards from the Revolution, July 8, 2009. Note carefully how well Obama has positioned himself politically by this call for negotiations. Notice also how adroitly it sets up his next move, which will likely be the gradual silencing of Zelaya and the legitimizing of the coup-based government. And the coup de grace to Zelaya will be accompanied by passionate protests against violations of democracy.
By framing the two parties as political equals, whereas in fact one party’s only claim to legitimacy is an act of blatantly illegal violence while the other side has all the force of international and national law supporting him, Obama has provided strong, though tacit, support to the coup leaders. Now that the other countries of the region and Zelaya himself have accepted this imposed equality, much will have been accomplished. In addition to confirming their political power, the coup leaders’ violence will have been recognized as a path to political leverage which will be implicitly supported by the Obama administration. This lesson will be carefully absorbed by closely watching military leaders in other Central American countries. Like Reagan, Obama has discovered the secret of keeping his glory bright while promoting U.S. interests through unrelenting violence. As savvy political observers might have expected, nothing came of the much ballyhooed “negotiations” on Thursday, July 9 which were supposed to occur between Zelaya and the coup leaders. In fact, no direct negotiations took place between Zelaya and the coup leaders at all. Zelaya met with Oscar Arias and then Roberto Micheletti met with Arias. The political reality is that such “negotiations”, in which neither side directly bargains with the other, but merely states their non-negotiable positions to a “neutral” third party, is merely a delaying tactic. They lengthen the time that Zelaya is out of power and allow the coup leaders to establish facts on the ground which will strengthen their political leverage.
At this point, everything depends on framing. As Reuters reported it, “The stumbling block is that the de facto government accepts the return of the constitutional government," [Organization of American States chief] Insulza told reporters in Washington. ‘Everything else is negotiable.’” Note the phrase, “de facto government”. This “de facto” government has been placed in the decision-making position regarding the return of Zelaya. Whether it does or does not, “everything else is negotiable”, which, of course, includes all of Zelaya’s reforms, such as providing a livable wage for the poor.
Another purpose of the “negotiations” strategy, is to place Zelaya in the humiliating position of having to debate the lies perpetrated by the coup leaders and enthusiastically repeated by the corporate media that he was trying to extend presidential term limits. The big lie technique has been very successful in this regard. Zelaya in fact proposed a constitutional referendum that made no mention whatever of presidential term limits. The true story is provided by Eva Gollinger, “Major international media are still reporting the reason behind Sunday's coup as an alleged ‘reelection’ attempt by President Zelaya. But in reality, Sunday's scheduled opinion poll was not a reelection bid by Zelaya, it was a non-binding consultation with the people of Honduras, backed by more than 800,000 signatures from Honduran citizens that would merely consider the possibility of adding a 4th issue to the election ballot this coming November, when presidential elections are to be held. The question posed for Sunday's poll was: ‘Do you agree that, during the general elections of November 2009 there should be a fourth ballot to decide whether to hold a Constitutional Assembly that will approve a new political constitution?’” Nothing about term limits was mentioned.
During the face-to-face meetings with the de facto government which will ensue, Zelaya’s return to the presidency will likely be contingent on his willingness to abandon the substance (though maybe not the “style”) of these reforms, along with his renunciation of membership in ALBA (the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas). If he clings to these positions, he will be castigated in the international press as an “ideologue”, or a tool of Chavez, which will frame him as unworthy of his position as President (a “dictator”) and therefore justifying the action taken by the coup leaders. If, on the other hand, he becomes “reasonable” and abandons his mild reforms, he will be praised for his “statesmanlike” behavior. If sufficiently obedient to the neoliberal agenda, he may then be returned to power, but having abandoned his base, he will be so weakened that when elections take place, the candidate supported by the coup leaders will likely win, thus accomplishing the primary political goal of the coup by the Obama administration. Obama will then praise the triumph of “democracy” in Central America.
The beauty of this strategy is that all Obama and Clinton have to do to accomplish it is to make lots of vague statements condemning the coup and cutting off token amounts of military aid. Simply by neglecting to perform any act that would actually accomplish his return, which they can justify as a non-interventionist policy, they ensure that neoliberal policies will be enforced while keeping their hands clean. If Senor Zelaya finds himself unable to land in his country’s airports because of U.S. funded air power, that’s unfortunate, but the result of an internal struggle that the U.S. has no right to interfere with. The corporate media can be relied on to frame the story as the attempted return of a dangerous leftist to power, one supported by Chavez, Ortega, and Castro. Obama can then continue to claim the moral high ground while letting the situation drift in the coup leaders’ favor. The social forces that now support Zelaya will be worn down with time. Gradually, the Honduran people will get used to dictatorship and the de facto will morph into the constitutional, though not without “controversy”.
Thus the first step in the reversal of recent gains in Latin America for economic justice will have been accomplished.
Sunday, July 05, 2009
"At 7.30 in the morning on 3 June, a seven-month-old baby died in the intensive care unit of the European Gaza Hospital in the Gaza Strip. His name was Zein Ad-Din Mohammed Zu’rob, and he was suffering from a lung infection which was treatable." - John Pilger, "Smile on the face of the tiger", June 11, 2009.
In the Talmud, it says, "Whoever saves a single life is as if he saved the whole world, whoever destroys a single life is as if he had destroyed the whole world."
"Denied basic equipment, the doctors in Gaza could do nothing. For weeks, the child’s parents had sought a permit from the Israelis to allow them to take him to a hospital in Jerusalem, where he would have been saved. Like many desperately sick people who apply for these permits, the parents were told they had never applied. Even if they had arrived at the Erez Crossing with an Israeli document in their hands, the odds are that they would have been turned back for refusing the demands of officials to spy or collaborate in some way." - John Pilger, "Smile on the face of the tiger", June 11, 2009.
In December and January of this year, Israeli forces brutally massacred hundreds of helpless civilians in Gaza, many of them children, a crime that will be remembered for generations to come. They have continued their slow-motion genocide by denying basic supplies and humanitarian aid to the Gazans. They have gone so far as to threaten to murder those bringing aid to the Gazans, even though they were in international waters and included former Congresspersons and Nobel Prize winners.
The current champion of Israel, Barack Obama, made a speech in Cairo the day after Zein Ad-Din Mohammed Zu’rob died. The speech has been well-characterized as follows: "Naturally, unlike George W Bush, Obama did not say that 'you’re either with us or against us.' He smiled the smile and uttered 'many eloquent mood-music paragraphs and a smattering of quotations from the Holy Quran', noted the American international lawyer John Whitbeck. Beyond this, Obama offered no change, no plan, only a 'tired, morally bankrupt American mantra [which] essentially argues that only the rich, the strong, the oppressors and the enforcers of injustice (notably the Americans and Israelis) have the right to use violence, while the poor, the weak, the oppressed and the victims of oppression must... submit to their fate and accept whatever crumbs their betters may magnanimously deign suitable to let fall from their table.' And he offered not the slightest recognition that the world’s most numerous victims of terrorism are people of Muslim faith – a terrorism of western origin that dares not speak its name." - John Pilger, "Smile on the face of the tiger", June 11, 2009.
The people of Gaza have cried out to Yahweh and he has heard their cry. The Israelis will be destroyed, but not by our violence or the futile violence of the Palestinians, but by their self-inflicted destruction of their own humanity. What is the price of cold-blooded murder? The slaughter of thousands of innocent lives? From the viewpoint of the Domination System, there is no price to be paid for these crimes. But there is a God who cares about the widows and orphans which Israel has made.
The poor and needy ask for water, and there is none,
their tongue is parched with thirst,
I, Yahweh, will answer them,
I, the God of Israel, will not abandon them.
- Isaiah 41:17
What will the day of judgment mean for you, O Israel,
It will mean darkness, not light.
Saturday, July 04, 2009
Christians who truly believe that God can only be loved by doing justice to the oppressed must think through their convictions. To say that we are concerned about the poor, but that we have no competence in matters of social structure is a refusal of both responsibility and compassion. The attitude is well characterized by Walter Wink, a theologian whom I admire above all other living theologians, "No social struggle can hope to be effective if it only changes structural arrangement without altering their spirituality...We are not commission to create a new society; indeed, we are scarcely competent to do so. What the church can do best, though it does so all too seldom, is to delegitimate an unjust system and to create a spiritual counter climate. We may lack the wisdom to determine how homelessness can be solved; and our attempts as churches to feed, clothe, and house the homeless may only obscure the true causes of homelessness and fill us with false righteousness. But what we can do is create an insistent demand that homelessness be eradicated." - Walter Wink, Engaging the Powers.
Are we Christians incompetent to analyze the "true causes" of oppression? Have we not be commissioned to create a new society? Or did Jesus only commission us to found churches? Is the attitude above not simply another variation on the theme that spiritual and material concerns are safely isolated from each other? As the rulers of this society devoutly wish them to remain.
If Christ came to save the world, then did he only come to save it "spiritually", and not materially? "...is unrestricted fidelity to Jesus Christ to be reproached as preoccupation with the material? How are we going to give food to all who are hungry if we leave the means of production in private hands, which necessarily destine these means to the augmentation of capital and not to the satisfaction of the needs of the population?" And again, "The God of the Bible is knowable only in otherness, in the call for help of the poor, the orphan, the widow, the stranger...Our revolution is is directed toward the creation of the new human being. But unlike the attackers, we seek to posit the necessary means for the formation of this new human being. And the indispensable means is a new social structure." Jose Miranda, "Communism in the Bible".
The moral principle is that if you will the end, then you must will the effective means. Far from being incompetent to envision and implement new social structures, Christians led the way by founding communism in the Acts of the Apostles. It is only with the modern uncovering of the mechanism of social and economic oppression that Christians can take the next step toward the fulfillment of Jesus' vision. Only through common ownership of the means of life can that vision be fulfilled: "In conformity with the material position of the men belonging to this class, the first Christians put forward the demand for property in common - communism. What could be more natural? The people lacked means of subsistence and were dying of poverty. A religion which defended the people demanded that the rich should share with the poor the riches which ought to belong to all and not to a handful of privileged people; a religion which preached the equality of all men would have great success." - Rosa Luxemburg, "Socialism and the Church"
Communism was first established by Christians, as we learn from the words of a contemporary, "...these do not believe in fortunes, but they preach collective property and no one among them possesses more than the others. He who wishes to enter their order is obliged to put his fortune into their common property. That is why there is among them neither poverty nor luxury – all possessing all in common like brothers. They do not live in a city apart, but in each they have houses for themselves. If any strangers belonging to their religion come there, they share their property with them, and they can benefit from it as if it their own. Those people, even if previously unknown to each other, welcome one another, and their relations are very friendly. When traveling they carry nothing but a weapon for defense against robbers. In each city they have their steward, who distributes clothing and food to the travelers. Trade does not exist among them. However, if one of the members offers to another some object which he needs, he receives some other objects in exchange. But each can demand what he needs even if he can give nothing in exchange."
Such was the origin of Communism. The original Christians did not consider themselves incompetent to envision and implement new social structures, but considered such implementation the fulfillment of Jesus' vision of the kingdom of God. However, the effort ultimately failed because of an inability to challenge the underlying mechanism of wealth and poverty, precisely the weakness that continues to be encouraged among Christians today.
Economic conditions are far more compelling than the most insistent spiritual demands. If we truly love our neighbor, then we will create material conditions in which our neighbor can flourish. The Church continues to fail in this responsibility and its excuse is that "We are incompetent in matters of social and political structures." This from an institution that structured the politics of entire continents for centuries.
The more fundamental cause is fingered by Luxemburg, "The communism, this community of the consumption of goods, which the early Christians proclaimed, could not be brought into existence without the communal labor of the whole population, on the land, as common property, as well as in the communal workshops. At the period of the early Christians, it was impossible to inaugurate communal labor (with communal means of production) because as we have already stated, the labor rested, not upon free men, but upon the slaves, who lived on the edge of society. Christianity did not undertake to abolish the inequality between the labor of different men, nor between their property. And that is why its efforts to suppress the unequal distribution of consumption goods did not work. The voices of the Fathers of the Church proclaiming Communism found no echo: Besides, these voices soon became less and less frequent and finally fell silent altogether. The Fathers of the Church ceased to preach the community, and the dividing up of goods, because the growth of the Christian community produced fundamental changes within the Church itself."
The Christians among us today are sitting in Israeli jails for bringing humanitarian supplies to those who represent the face of Jesus today - the Palestinians of Gaza. Jesus lives in their dignity and courage in the face of a power structure that denies their right to exist.
"Israel’s murderous 22-day offensive last December/January left more than 50,000 homes, 800 industrial properties, 200 schools, 39 mosques and two churches damaged or destroyed. The International Committee of the Red Cross says the 1.5 million Palestinians living in Gaza are 'trapped in despair', unable to rebuild their lives because Israel, having wantonly wrecked their civil society and infrastructure, is blocking efforts to bring in the necessary repair materials. Those on board the Spirit of Humanity were acting in accord with donors’ pledges of $4.5 billion for reconstruction and rehabilitation and US President Obama’s request to Israel to let those supplies pass." - Stuart Littlewood, Dissident Voice, July 4, 2009.
Let all of our prayers be with the followers of Christ sitting in Israeli jails or in the words of Isaiah, "Justice will go before you/ And the glory of Yahweh behind you." - Isaiah 58:8