"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.
Friday, December 02, 2005
Now that the Tide is Turning
Jesus Takes Up His Cross
See the complete set of paintings at Church's "Anti-War" Paintings Draw Fire
As Christians, it seems that our duty is to dig deeper than the merely pragmatic concerns now being raised about the war in Iraq, valid as these may be. Our first concern should not be success, but whether our national projects advance the Kingdom of God. No matter how successful or otherwise the war in Iraq might be, we should struggle against it if it contradicts that Kingdom and the laws that should govern it. Perhaps a few more words by John Howard Yoder might bring this point to it's head, "He who resorts to blows confesses he has no better arguments. Violence is weak not only in the motivation and the moral resources which keep out the enemy but cannot create a wholesome society. It can aggress but not defend; it can revolt but not build. It can eliminate a specific abuse but cannot bring social health. If a regime established by violence is to survive, this can only be by demonstrating its capacity to increase progressively the areas of freedom and of orderly legal process. The one thing you cannot do with bayonets, as the dictum has it, is to sit on them." John Howard Yoder, The Original Revolution: Essays on Christian Pacificism, Scottsdale, PA: Herald Press, 1971, p. 167. The failure in Iraq goes far deeper than incompetent execution. The spirit that prosecuted this enterprise emerged from a culture of death, as Pope John Paul II so often described it.
John Paul II's attitude toward this war can be fairly summed up in his statement made on January 13, 2003 in an address after the American Congress authorized the use of force, "NO TO WAR! War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity." The culture of death in which this war was gestated can be characterized in the following passage from John Paul II's Gospel of Life, "This reality is characterized by the emergence of a culture which denies solidarity and in many cases takes the form of a veritable 'culture of death'. This culture is actively fostered by powerful cultural, economic and political currents which encourage an idea of society excessively concerned with efficiency." This is the culture that justifies war as long as it can be successfully spun, but turns against it and its promoters once they are perceived as ineffective. It then becomes painfully clear that it is the ineffectiveness that is condemned, not the naked aggression involved in invading a sovereign country based on lies. The Tribunal at Nuremberg stated, "To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole." This is the evil that Christians should, in my opinion, be focused on, not the fact that the aggression is not going well. It would be far worse if this deeply sinful plan were actually working. I also see an analogy here with Yoder's insight that the church should rejoice in her weakness, that her duty is not to make the powerful more effective, that we Christians need "no longer hold ourselves to be morally or psychologically obligated to tailor or moral standards to the needs of the people who are running the world", or running it into the ground in the current situation.