"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.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Revolution of Prayer

Civil Disobedience for a Moral Budget

Let us raise a prayer of thankfulness for the actions of the true religious leaders of our country, those who joined Jim Wallis and were “arrested in front of the Cannon House Office Building while kneeling in prayer to protest the immoral budget and tax agenda which slashes spending on the poor to finance tax breaks for the rich.” Sojourners, Dec. 15, 2005. When I contemplate their action within the light of the cross, I am filled with joy that the Holy Spirit still stirs our hearts. This willingness to suffer for the sake of the poor is precisely what Jesus came to show us. In the words of John Howard Yoder, “The willingness to suffer is then not merely a test of our patience or a dead space of waiting; it is itself a participation in the character of God’s victorious patience with the rebellious powers of creation.” John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1971, p. 209.

To be silent in the face of such a strike against human dignity is to be complicit in contributing to the suffering of millions of the weakest and most vulnerable in our society. As Christians we are not only under no obligation to “submit” to a government that carries out such violations of basic human rights, while wallowing in massive corruption, but are directly obligated by our Christian vocation to resist it to the limits of our strength. Yoder shows how Romans 13, often invoked by fundamentalists as banning all resistance to the governing authorities in fact shows that those authorities are ministers of God only to the extent that they carry out his will. “We should then read ‘they are ministers of God to the extent to which they busy themselves’ or ‘in that they devote themselves’ to the assigned function…But we can judge and measure the extent to which a government is accomplishing its ministry by asking namely whether it persistently … attends to the rewarding of good and evil according to their merits.” Yoder, p. 205.

They can arrest us, detain us, torture us, crucify us, but they cannot stop the flood that pours from the fountain of the Spirit. Though we cannot resist with the weapons of the Powers, our insubordination is the more total for that very fact. “The conscientious objector who refuses to do what government demands, but still remains under the sovereignty of that government and accepts the penalties which it imposes, or the Christian who refuses to worship Caesar but still permits Caesar to put him or her to death, is being subordinate even though not obeying.” Yoder, p. 209. We submit to the sovereignty of Caesar not because we accept his justice, but because we fundamentally reject the system maintained by the Powers of this world.

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