"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, December 31, 2006
If the Christian leaders of America extend their moral failure in the face of the crimes being committed in Iraq, then no institutional "strength" can redeem that failure. Their silence betrays Christ's heart which cries out for an end to bloodshed and wasted souls. It is their refusal to heed this voice that eats away at the foundations of Christian life. But they do not own all the guilt - "We want to kill the murderers, and Jesus says to us: 'You are all murderers. If you have called your neighbor "Raca, Fool" you are guilty of murder in your heart.' Again the stones drop. We are all murderers and adulterers and terrorists. And we are all precious." - Shane Claiborne.
The leader of the ideology we struggle against is the success God, who blesses only what succeeds directly in front of us. When nonviolent struggle, in both its lesser and greater forms, seemingly falls flat and achieves nothing but echoing silence, when our best efforts meet with blithe ignorance, I always try to keep in mind Meister Eckhart's sunder warumbe, the idea that creatures of God live without a why and act from the spiritual center of their lives without enslavement to an external purpose. In terms of striving for justice, we struggle not for mere worldly success but because this is what God's spirit demands of us even, especially, when we see not even a shadow of a response from the world around us. The God of success who speaks so glibly and convincingly in our hearts tells us that our efforts are wasted and more cunningly, that lack of success is testimony to a lack of understanding, that we are out of touch with the world around us due to a unknown, but devastating moral failure. When we correct this failing, then success will bless our efforts, much as those who accept the gospel of prosperity find their work blessed.
But we who struggle nonviolently often do not see our labors prosper. We need to keep this in mind when we characterize the war in Iraq as the result of incompetence. When we do this, we have once again accepted the God of success as the final arbiter of all human effort, and evaluations oriented solely toward success are fundamentally cynical. This cynicism corrodes every movement toward justice that it touches. We protest because it is the response of a living thing to the smothering creep of death over God's creatures, and though we pay with failure, there is a glory in this failure that no "success" can touch.
Our moral failure starts to end when we look on the face of those we have murdered, not with the silly triumph of a "tough-minded" pundit, but with the words of Henri Nouwen, "In the face of the oppressed I recognize my own face and in the hands of the oppressor I recognize my own hands. Their flesh is my flesh, their blood is my blood, their pain is my pain, their smile is my smile."
Thursday, December 28, 2006
I do not applaud the swinging corpse of the dictator we created, nor do I delight in the death of the guilty. The God I serve is a God of life, who does not take pleasure in the death of the living. Who was the rich young man who goaded Saddam into the war with Iran which led to the deaths of a million and a half souls? Why can't we Christians look into our souls and see the the all-consuming desire for revenge that inhabits us? What overpowering need for absolute security led us to sell him "the components for the chemical weapons with which he drenched Iran and the Kurds?" (Robert Fisk, "A Dictator Created then Destroyed by America"). And what about "the mass killings we perpetrated in 2003 with our depleted uranium shells and our 'bunker buster' bombs and our phosphorous, the murderous post-invasion sieges of Fallujah and Najaf, the hell-disaster of anarchy we unleashed on the Iraqi population in the aftermath of our victory'"? And what about "the Shia who rose up against the dictator at our request in 1991 and who were betrayed by us - and whose comrades, in their tens of thousands, along with their wives, were hanged like thrushes by Saddam's executioners"? And in the end, what crime did Saddam die for? Not that he gassed his people - we supplied the gas - but that he failed to obey his orders from Washington. What reflections on the sacrifice of Christ does this bring to us, his tardy followers? We have no responsibility for these crimes because the God of security has absolved us of them.
When we will learn that most of our subject peoples do not wish to be encased in the skin of death that encases us? "Fullness of life, the reign of God, eternal life - all shatter before wealth of possessions, exploitation, and injustice." Who is the God we worship? It crouches in us; it has possessed us. We cannot experience fullness of life as long as we live beneath its shadow. It is the security we crave, the embalmed preservation of our own security, no matter what tortures and massacres must be permitted to ensure it. "Militarism is humanity's greatest attempt to get rid of God once and for all, to unmake creation and to prevent redemption to fullness of life." Dorothee Soelle, "Life to the Full". Whether it be gentle depression or desperate exultation, the Christians of America have made a deal with the God of death, "have made security their national ideology and armaments their political priority." And then we wonder why our lives seem so empty.
The king is not saved by his army,
nor a warrior preserved by his srength.
A vain hope for safety is the horse;
despite its power it cannot save.
The Lord looks on those who revere him,
on those who hope in his love,
to rescue their souls from death,
to keep them alive in famine.
Our soul is waiting for the Lord.
The Lord is our help and our shield.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
"April 20, 9:40 in the morning. Headphones on, local Christian band Olivia playing a song called 'Heaven,' and Logan's thoughts on what in the world to do about his beliefs. Then, for a moment, heaven itself seemed to open.
'I felt like somebody was showing me something,' he says of the 'short video clip' from above that followed.
'I saw myself in the Middle East, I'm pretty sure it was Iraq,' he says, describing the emotionally vivid experience. 'What struck me were two things: number one, that I did not have a weapon.' The second thing was a feeling of 'confidence;' the confidence that he was 'doing what was right.'
It was his calling. He would go to Iraq, but without a weapon. At first he thought he might be able to do that as a non-combative member of his company. So after prayer and consideration, he applied for Conscientious Objector (CO) status, as per the Army regulation allowing a soldier to request discharge for reasons of conscience, as long as military officials deem the applicant 'sincere' at the end of the stipulated process. He was ready to go to prison if need be, which, in today's for-us-or-against-us climate is a real possibility for CO applicants. Major Jones says the majority of CO applications are denied."
Either love underlies our striving for liberation or else that striving is for something other than liberation - most often a hidden struggle for another type of domination. This is the power that that must ensoul all our efforts of resistance against the structures of sin under which our hearts bake like cracked earth. It is not sufficient to struggle for liberation - the struggle must be carried out in a liberating way. The word of God constantly reminds us that those at the pinnacles of power "wither quickly like grass", so our hearts must trust in the goodness of God and fight only with the instruments of love. If we struggle for power, then we become the tools of power.
"Christianity exists for slaves. It is the religion of the oppressed, of those marked by affliction...People are pronounced blessed not because of their achievements or their behavior, but with regard to their needs. Blessed are the poor, the suffering, the persecuted, the hungry." Dorothee Solle, Suffering.
The words of the soldier Logan Laituri, whose love for Jesus has called him to lay down his weapon in Iraq, show what this courage involves: "This is what He bid me to do; to be an active example for the unconditional love that He grants. This call does not have to make sense to me, I simply obey... Jesus came to protect us from evil, not seek and destroy evil (John 17:15). If he did intend to deliver us from the "evil enemy," why did he not conquer Rome, as the established religious leaders expected of Him, and other messianic pretenders of His time hoped to do? Perhaps he was preoccupied with personal sin and blindness; the same blindness that keeps us from seeing the plank in our own eye. How much more evil are our enemies to us than we were once to God, and don’t they deserve to be offered Grace just as we were granted it?"
May we all pray for the courage to lay down our weapons and open our hearts to the source of true strength, as Logan has done. Read his blog at http://www.xanga.com/courageouscoward.
Saturday, December 09, 2006
"I actually sought to return to Iraq for a second tour, but I would not go as an agent of intimidation or fear. That is what a weapon does (short of killing or destroying); it incites fear. Those who have fear in their hearts are not made perfect in love, which Christ offers (1 John 4:16-21). Additionally, for the argument; "In order for evil to prevail, all it takes is for good men to do nothing (which has been leveled against me, based on the illogical argument that non-violence is ‘nothing’)" to work, one must base such an argument upon 1) there is nothing between violence and peace. (men do not exist in moderate disagreement, they can only exist in either absolute peacefulness or absolute violence), or basically 2) that there are no alternatives but war to solve the worlds problems (since we must have exhausted all other possibilities, even if you subscribe to Just War theory), and 3) that good men must go to war to prevent evil, which is hypocritical, since even the most conservative of religious folk know that war is not God’s hope for mankind.
So we have a catch-22. In order to quell evil, must good men commit a “necessary” evil in order to avoid doing nothing? Romans 3:5-8 has a grim outlook for those who claim evil is necessary for good; Paul says their condemnation is deserved. Additionally, that argument must assume that sin is necessary for salvation. What about other alternatives? I volunteered to lay down my weapon because having it gave me no real security whatsoever. It would cause me more moral and spiritual damage than anything else; continuously tempting me to use it to kill or harm our nation’s enemies (a direct contradiction of Christ’s command to bless them, see Romans 13:10 too), or worse, into thinking that carrying a weapon or wearing a Kevlar vest (physical security) somehow assures my moral or spiritual superiority over them. I trust in God, I do not need a security blanket to remind me that He loves me and the scary, 'evil' men who know nothing of His love for them. Aren't we charged, as disciples of Christ, to be the light for those deceived, mislead men? Do I lie that responsibility down for a nation of the earth? The challenge is simple; do I love my country? Yes, but I love Jesus even more.
This is what He bid me to do; to be an active example for the unconditional love that He grants. This call does not have to make sense to me, I simply obey. Do I need religious freedom to do that? No, they do it in restrictive countries just fine. I firmly disagree with the statement that without religious freedom we would not go to Church on Sunday morning. Men and women in the persecuted church do it all the time; that is when true faith comes into play, when it costs something, when the title 'Christian' comes at a great price, one which true believers are willing to give all (Grace comes at a scandalously high cost to some). We should not rely on temporal freedom to worship God, but only on a renewed heart and His Holy Spirit. Jesus came to protect us from evil, not seek and destroy evil (John 17:15). If he did intend to deliver us from the 'evil enemy,' why did he not conquer Rome, as the established religious leaders expected of Him, and other messianic pretenders of His time hoped to do? Perhaps he was preoccupied with personal sin and blindness; the same blindness that keeps us from seeing the plank in our own eye. How much more evil are our enemies to us than we were once to God, and don’t they deserve to be offered Grace just as we were granted it?
Finally; of course we do not live in a perfect world. However, we are undeniably called to begin His work so that when He comes in glory, it will be completed. Dispensationalist-type theology is flawed in that it effectively seeks to absolve us on earth of our responsibility to obey His commands. We then walk a precarious path; Matthew 7:21 - "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." He knows we will fail, but He is pleased by our faith that all things are made possible through Jesus. It is also a poor theology to live by since it insists that Jesus was simply an idealist. I think Man, in all his 'wisdom,' has distorted Jesus’ realism into non-reality; forever condemning the Kingdom of Heaven from ever taking root on earth as it is in Heaven. I, however, will continue in my foolish idealism, because it is the only way change has ever been accomplished. Jesus died rejected and humiliated on a Roman cross as punishment for proposing a new kingdom ('Iesvs Nazarenvs Rex Ivdaeorvm' threatened both religious and national leaders’ sovereignty). It is this kingdom He calls us to be an active part of today and forever. All of His apostles were martyred for the same kingdom (except John, and believe me, the Romans tried…); most notably Peter and Paul, who remind us to be subject to government, not blindly obedient to it. Each follower must rely on his or her own conscience to discern how and when to 'obey God above man (Acts 5:29b).' As the reformer Martin Luther said; 'My conscience is captive to the Word of God, for to go against [my] conscience is neither right nor safe… Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.' Allow me to close with a request…
As a nation, let us repent of our political arrogance, economic obesity, and lack of concern for our fellow man (Ezekiel 16:49). Let us be as the publican Jesus describes, not as the Pharisee (Luke 18:9-14)"
This text is a fountainhead of raw truth. Now has the time come to lay aside the volumes of theology mounted like the Separation Barrier in Israel and open our hearts to the vision of heaven. We have piled up means such as Thoreau spoke of when he said, "The opportunities of living are dimished in proportion as what are called the 'means' are increased." But these means have not led to the fullness of life, rather to engorgement with the fruits of our obsession with security. "'Security' is hope reduced to middle-class terms, yearning on a small scale, a kind of self-limitation that already amounts to mutilation." Dorothee Soelle, "We Want Peace, not Security". This mutilation of the spirit is what Logan Laituri refuses. He refuses to cut off the arms of his awakening in order to protect the inner death that his country has brought upon itself. "Only life that opens itself to the other, life that risks being wounded or killed, contains promise. Those who arms themselves are not only killers; they are already dead."
"To have our fortunes restored, we must first admit that we are empty." - Adventus
"We three, members of a Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) delegation to Iraq, were kidnapped on November 26, 2005 and held for 118 days before being freed by British and American forces on March 23, 2006. Our friend and colleague, Tom Fox, an American citizen and full-time member of the CPT team working in Baghdad at the time, was kidnapped with us and murdered on March 9, 2006..."
"We unconditionally forgive our captors for abducting and holding us. We have no desire to punish them. Punishment can never restore what was taken from us. What our captors did was wrong. They caused us, our families and our friends great suffering. Yet we bear no malice towards them and have no wish for retribution. Should those who have been charged with holding us hostage be brought to trial and convicted, we ask that they be granted all possible leniency. We categorically lay aside any rights we may have over them."
Here indeed is the central creed that Jesus Christ is calling many to in our time: "Through the power of forgiveness, it is our hope that good deeds will come from the lives of our captors, and that we will all learn to reject the use of violence. We believe those who use violence against others are themselves harmed by the use of violence." Violence harms the perpetrator far more than the victim. Every act of violence is a wound in the soul, which can only be healed by Christ's love, which is often manifested in acts of nonviolent resistance such as the Christian Peacemakers practice.
But do we embrace weakness for the sake of weakness? Do we forgive because we lack the power to do anything else? Is this an acceptance, a resignation, to powerlessness, an acceptance of the fate of the slave? It is rather a knowledge of where true power lies: "But what is decisive for Christian mysticism is first of all the knowledge that the one who suffers wrong is also stronger (not just morally better) than the one who does wrong. That 'God is always with the one who is suffering' entails not only consolation but also stengthening: a rejection of every ideology of punishment, which is so useful the the cementing of privileges and for oppression."
We forgive our oppressors not because we love or even accept our oppression, but because we are stronger than they are and our refusal of their violence in itself contains their defeat.
Friday, December 08, 2006
Until Christians begin to roar, the darkness will endure. Christians are outraged by injustice and will not be silent - they cannot endure the darkness and would rather die than tolerate it. But this does not mean they embrace the laws of power:
"Power," wrote Rienhold Niebuhr, "always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak; and that it is doing God’s service when it is violating all His laws. Our passions, ambitions, avarice, love and resentment, etc., possess so much metaphysical subtlety and so much overpowering eloquence that they insinuate themselves into the understanding and the conscience and convert both to their party."
What is so disturbing about the current rebellion against the Iraq occupation is how it is being framed by virtually all parties, but especially the Democratic establishment. The argument that persuades Americans of all political stripes is that we have been ineffective and incompetent, but that implies that once we make our technical adjustments, the moral dilemma will be resolved. This is precisely the moral dilemma that Niebuhr saw so presciently: "Yet our American nation, involved in its vast responsibilities, must slough off many illusions which were derived both from the experiences and the ideologies of its childhood. Otherwise either we will seek escape from responsibilities which involve unavoidable guilt, or we will be plunged into avoidable guilt by too great confidence in our virtue."
To accept the end of childhood is to fully embrace responsibility as an inherent and inherently ambiguous part of our being. The American ideology acts as a hard and shiny shell from which this responsibility can easily be wiped, leaving us as "innocent" as we were in the misty beginning. Our leaders continue to cling to this childhood and in this clinging, violate every Christian law that such innocence ever embraced.
But my soul shall be joyful in the Lord
and rejoice in his salvation.
My whole being will say:
"Lord, who is like you
who rescue the weak from the strong
and the poor from the oppressor?"
Saturday, December 02, 2006
A few weeks ago, Nonviolent Jesus reported the following words from Patrick Cockburn: "Gaza is dying, its people are on the edge of starvation. A whole society is being destroyed. The sound that Palestinians most dread is an unknown voice on their cell phone saying they have half an hour to leave their home before it is hit by bombs or missiles. There is no appeal."
In response, Palestinians have been placing their last weapon, their bodies, in front of the houses about to be destroyed, risking their own dismemberment to peacefully resist brutal and blatant injustice. Yet even these desperate attempts to stand for justice are condemned, and precisely by those who have accepted the mission of protecting human rights: "On November 18, hundreds of people crowded in and around the home of Mohammed Baroud, a leader of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) after Baroud received a telephone call warning of an Israeli air strike. The calls from the Israeli air force are meant to terrorize Palestinians into fleeing. But Baroud refused to leave his home in the Jabaliya refugee camp, and hundreds of neighbors gathered outside the building, with about 50 climbing on the roof to chant anti-Israeli slogans. With dozens of people remaining in the house in a round-the-clock vigil, the Israeli military called off at least two air strikes, according to the Kuwait Times."
The reaction from the human rights community was a swift and decisive condemnation: "Prime Minister Haniyeh and other Palestinian leaders should be renouncing, not embracing, the tactic of encouraging civilians to place themselves at risk." In other words, the tactics of Gandhi and Martin Luther King are now crimes, but the bombing of innocent civilian's houses in an act of collective punishment is not.
The Lord hears the cry of the poor. We Christians are too stupid and unhip to fill our ears with the nonstop blast of extremist chatter that has deafened the majority in this country. We are simple people who believe in simple justice, and we hear the cry of Jesus in the screams of the Palestinians as they wait to be slaughtered:
"Two weeks before, in the town of Beit Hanoun, some 200 women surrounded a mosque where a dozen Hamas militants were trapped inside by a siege of Israeli tanks and bulldozers.
Responding to a call by Hamas commanders, the women marched in front of the vehicles as they prepared to demolish the mosque. According to reports, the women went into the mosque, helped the male fighters disguise themselves and led them to safety. During the standoff, Israeli forces opened fire on the women, killing two in a hail of bullets. A few days later, the Israeli military took revenge--with a nighttime air strike on an apartment building in Beit Hanoun that killed 19 people, including eight children and 11 members of the same family."
Some will say that the Palestinians are guilty of violence, and indeed some are, but not as guilty as the Americans who sit with stuffed ears and folded hands while 3 billion dollars a year pours into corporate coffers to build weapons to shred human beings in Gaza. And, in the words of Moltmann, "He enters not only into the situation of the limited creature, but even into the situation of the guilty and suffering creature."
Saturday, November 25, 2006
And when human hearts are breaking
under sorrow's iron rod,
then we find that self-same aching
deep within the heart of God.
We mourn for the kindergarten teacher murdered by an Israeli missle and thank God it did not destroy a busload of kindergarten children, which would be declared one more "tragic mistake" in a very long string of them. But we do not surrender to the paralysis of grief. We often speak of the impotence of love in these pages because it is critical to create a counterbalance the ideology of power which is so persuasive that the vast majority isn't even aware of an alternative, including "Christians". But there are deadening griefs and life-giving ones, a distinction which the one-dimensional world most of us inhabit is incapable of grasping. In the words of Jurgen Moltmann, "If fellowship with the dying and the dead takes the pain of love seriously, it will also protest against the conditions in pulbic life which do not allow people the liberty and free space to mourn, but compel them to repress their grief, because mourning is considered illegitimate." So we are the illegitimate mourners who continue to feel grief while the world shouts Enjoy! in our deafened ears and hearts. We resist the culture of Forever Young that tramples over the weak and the failures and those too abandoned by the world to defend their stolen land. We mourn and feel the resurrection hope in our grief.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
"Gaza threatens to become Chechnya. There are thousands of wounded, disabled and shell-shocked people in Gaza, unable to receive any treatment. Those on respirators are liable to die due to the frequent power outages since Israel bombed the power plant. Tens of thousands of children suffer from existential anxiety, while their parents are unable to provide help. They are witnesses to sights that even Gaza's old-timers have never seen before...
"Brutal and dizzy ideas compete against each other," Levy continues, "the defense minister suggests liquidations and the agriculture minister proposes tougher action; one advocates 'an eye for an eye,' the second wants to 'erase Beit Hanoun' and the third 'to pulverize Beit Lahiya.' And no one pauses for a moment to think about what they are saying. What exactly does it mean to 'erase Beit Hanoun'? What does this chilling combination of words mean? A town of 30,000 people, most of them children, whose measure of grief and suffering has long reached breaking point, unemployed and hungry, without a present and without a future, with no protection against Israel's violent military responses, which have lost all human proportionality."
Christ died for the people of Beit Hanoun. Muslim or Christian, the question is the power of love. And the impotence of love. We fighters for human rights must accept our impotence, the deafness of those entranced by power, and continue to fight. We must be able to look at inevitable failure, at our inability to save even a single child from the jaws of the Israeli/US death machine and then swear we will never lower the volume of our No!
"Whoever abides in love abides in God and God in him (I John 4.17). Where we suffer because we love, God suffers in us." And we feel that suffering when we raise our impotent and invisible hands to shield the children and find that they go on suffering and dying. Then we look to the death of Jesus where we find the origin of this despairing love and suddenly, the strength to continue protesting floods our veins. "Where he has suffered the death of Jesus and in so doing, has shown the force of his love, men also find the power to continue to love, to sustain that which annihilates them and to 'endure what is dead'." Jurgen Moltmann, The Crucified God.
It is not a "mistake" or "incompetence" when forces are committed to destruction and the inevitable blood starts to flow. This arises in a hatred that objectifies the living flesh of God, our brothers and sisters. These are not tactics, but the eruption of sin's potency that condemns both itself and its victim. Let love's power connect your heart to the hearts of those suffering in Gaza and Iraq, so that you begin to see these brothers and sisters as God sees them.
Each time we deliberately dismiss our knowledge of these crimes and those our government is committing in Iraq, we diminish our humanity. The case of Alyssa Peterson, referred to a few posts ago, is emblematic of what participation in these acts, either silent or active, inflicts on the soul. Alyssa Peterson, as you may remember, died of self-inflicted wounds after two days of participating in interrogations in Tal-Afar, at a place referred to as "'the cage' - where she saw fellow soldiers hitting a naked prisoner in the face. She said, 'They stripped prisoners naked and then removed their blindfolds, so that I was the first thing they saw. And then, we were supposed to mock them and degrade their manhood.' Other soldiers later told her that the old rules no longer applied. This was a different world and a new kind of war."
She may have seen other things as well: "What happened to other prisoners was much worse. At the request of the White House, U.S. servicemen and women, contract interrogators and CIA employees have beaten, maimed, sodomized and killed prisoners held in custody by the United States. In Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and in secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe, prisoners have been electrically shocked, water boarded, starved, beaten and frozen to death, suffocated with hoods, hung upside down until dead and had their flesh seared off with chemicals. More than 100 Afghan and Iraqi prisoners have died in this manner while in U.S. custody." Brian Moench, "Has the Military Lost its Humanity?", Nov. 22, 2006.
Alyssa perhaps felt that the loss of her humanity was the loss of everything that made life valuable - to be a part of the madness which our rulers have forced on us is to abandon membership in the fellowship of decency.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
"The assault took place on a crowded apartment building in the dead of night. Eight of the dead were children, and 11 were members of the same family.
For days, the Israeli military carried on operations in Beit Hanoun. More than 53 were killed in one week, and more than 300 injured, and then the Israelis withdrew from the village. But the next day, they launched an artillery strike on a very crowded building, and the outcome of this one attack was 18 killed, and about 150 injured."
I should not have to make this story compelling and "interesting", politically aligned with what the pundits say Christian concerns should be. We should simply look on our brothers and sisters with the eyes of love that God has given us, and open our hearts. Each such death is our chance to quell the violence that lives within us through non-violent action.
"The message of the new righteousness which eschatological faith brings into the world says that in fact the executioners will not finally triumph over their victims. It also says that in the end the victims will not triumph over their executioners. The one will triumph who first died for the victims and then also for the executioners, and in so doing revealed a new righteousness which breaks through the vicious circles of hate nad vengeance and which from the lost victims and executioners creates a new mankind with a new humanity. Only where righteousness becomes creative and creates right both for the lawless and for those outside the law, only where creative love changes what is hateful and deserving of hate, only where the new man is born who is neither oppressed nor oppresses, can one speak of the true revolution orf righteousness an dof the righteousness of God." - Jurgen Moltmann, The Crucified God.
Friday, November 10, 2006
I tremble at the shouts of the foe,
at the cries of the wicked,
for they bring down evil upon me.
They assail me with fury.
My heart is striken within me,
death's terror is on me,
trembline and fear fall upon me
and horror overwhelms me.
O that I had wings like a dove
to fly away and be at rest.
So I would escape far away
and take refuge in the desert.
"A boy of 14, who was wounded, said, 'We were asleep and we were awakened by shells hitting the house of my uncle next door. Then the windows to our houses were blasted away. We fled the house only to be hunted outside. The shells killed my mother and sister and wounded all my siblings.'"
These are the gifts that American Christians have bought for the people of Gaza. Expensive gifts. What are these Christians and Jews seeking but the will to political power and the domination of others in service of a fantasy that sucks the life out of those who believe in it? When will we see and believe God in the person of Christ, who was powerless and crucified, who died to set us free from the desire to have power and domination over others? When will Christians take on the cross that lies on the broken backs of our brothers and sisters in Gaza? This is the imitation of Christ to which we are called today - the suffering love for despised, betrayed and beaten human beings, living at the edges of our polished world, not to betray them again with a false objectivity, but to take passionate sides with the dehumanized.
Friday, November 03, 2006
"Declaring that torture and war are sins, the group called on the U.S. Catholic Bishops to do the following:
• call for an end to the U.S. practice of torture.
• call for an immediate end to the U.S. war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
• offer counsel to and support for conscientious objectors.
• call for the closing of Guantanamo and all secret military prisons and torture centers.
• call on all Catholics and people of faith to engage in prayer, fasting and acts of nonviolent resistance to stop torture and to end the war."
On Sept. 15, 2003, U.S. Army specialist Alyssa Peterson, 27, died by "non-hostile weapons discharge," according to the military.
"Her story lay dormant until longtime radio and newspaper reporter Ken Elston decided to probe further in 2005. On Oct. 31 he reported the following on her hometown radio station KNAU in Flagstaff, Arizona: "Peterson objected to the interrogation techniques used on prisoners. She refused to participate after only two nights. Army spokespersons for her unit have refused to describe the interrogation techniques Alyssa objected to. They say all records of those techniques have now been destroyed."
"Elston reports on interviews with her colleagues, "The reactions to the suicide were that she was having a difficult time separating her personal feelings from her professional duties." Peterson was a devout Mormon. She is described by a friend as being "genuine, sincere, sweet - a wonderful person." Among the things she was ordered to do may have been waterboarding, recently praised by Cheney as a "nobrainer" that keeps Americans safe. As a Christian, I would rather be tortured than to be kept safe by torturing others. This kind of "safety" is a scar on the soul, a blasphemy against God's image.
Hear the voice of those who have known torture: "...torture is more than merely an abstract idea or a vague metaphor. Its reality is not just in some distant place or time, but exists as a feeling in my body. The tortures of my friends traumatized my nervous system, creating a scar. I go through periods of not thinking about it. Upon reading about torture, I remember." Shepherd Bliss, Torture Memories, CounterPunch, Nov. 4, 2006. How long before we have Christian leaders who reveal to us that torture is suicide, spiritual suicide?
"It is a terrible thing, to watch a bloody nightmare go on day after day after day -- and to know that it can be stopped, if only we faced the truth squarely. But we absolutely refuse to do so." If the bishops would speak out, then the truth could be faced squarely. If they fail to speak, then pray to God that the rocks and stones will scream out from the ground beneath our feet.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
"...the current US–UK axis is embarked on the re-imposition of absolute sovereign impunity, through the structural dismantling of the rule of law. Torture and assassination are proclaimed as executive prerogative; international tribunals shrugged aside; habeas corpus and trial by jury revoked; personal privacy abolished. The new Hobbesian state seeks to unfetter its every movement, to intimidate and isolate its citizens—all under the rubric of ‘security’. Once upon a time, the law provided a means of defence against the excesses of power; but such a strategy depended on the state’s willingness to acknowledge its own limits. No such willingness survives." - Retort Collective.
The beating started the following day. Without no warning...(long pause as he fights tears) without no warning the interrogator came in with a cable. He asked me to open my right hand. I did open it. And he hit me strongly on my palm. It was so painful to the point that I forgot every moment I enjoyed in my life."
Forget every moment you have ever enjoyed and think of the torture that sucks all that life into its empty maw. That is what America now means to most of the world. Obsession with security to the point of torture, trampling that world, a death force that shatters individuals at random, the abstracted rage that we will not own, so it comes to own us.
"This moment is still vivid in my mind because it was the first I was ever beaten in my life. Then he asked me to open my left hand. He hit me again. And that one missed and hit my wrist. The pain from that hit lasted approximately six months. And then he would ask me questions. And I would have to answer very quickly. And then he would repeat the beating this time anywhere on my, on my body. Sometimes he would take me to a room where I could, where I was alone, I could hear other prisoners being tortured, severely tortured. I remember that I used to hear their screams. I just couldn't believe it, that human beings would do this to other human beings."
Sitting in the cell with Maher Arar was his true friend, Jesus Christ. "God is the 'great companion - the fellow suffer who understands. God experiences us. God goes with us, God suffers with us, God rejoices with us, God understands us. So our life is eternally presnt to him, remains eternally present for him." - Jurgen Moltmann, "The Coming of God"
Do you remember the first time you were beaten? Each of us lives his or her own torture, his own abandonment by humanity. Whenever we abandon the fight to free the Maher Arars of the world, we strike them on the palm with our silence, our tacit approval of the cable and blade. Human beings can do this to other human beings and human beings can chase mutely after entertainment while fellow images of God scream. Both Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton now endorse torture and this endorsement raised virtually no response. Whether Democrats or Republicans control the government, more blood will be poured out and more screams sent to heaven. Which is why we must place our trust in God alone and pray with all our hearts for the coming of his reign. The horror will only cease when we cease being horrors to ourselves, when the desire for false peace no longer seals our mouths while our brothers and sisters suffer.
Monday, October 16, 2006
"We can murder hundreds of thousands, or even millions, and we remain forever pure."
What does our purity as Christians consist of? As much as lies within us, we do not deliberately sin. We love God more than we love our pleasure, our power, our righteousness. Because of our love, we seek into our inner motives to see if what lies there is as pure as it pretends to be. We do this because part of loving God is loving truth. So what is our response when we hear that our country has caused the death of 655,000 people?
Is it the response of Isaiah? "'Do you indeed speak righteousness, O you judges, do you judge the children of our people fairly?' It is an evil time when the world lets injustice happen silently, when the oppression of the poor and the wretched cries out to heaven in a loud voice and the judges and rulers of the earth keep silent about it, when the persecuted church calls to God for help in the hour of dire distress and exhorts people to do justice, and yet no mouth on earth is opened to bring justice. Do you indeed speak righteousness, O humankind on whom injustice is perpetuated? Must that always be forgotten in such times? Do you hear? Children of humankind who are creatures of God like you, who feel pain and misery like you, you who do violence to them; who have their happiness and hopes like you; who feel their honor and their shame like you; your brothers and sisters! Are you mute? Oh, no, they are not mute, their voice is heard on earth. But it is an unmerciful, a partisan word they speak. It judges not by what is right, but by a person's standing." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "Vengence and Deliverance"
Do you hear the voice of Maher Arar? Is he not the voice of the "least of these"? "He said 'life in the cell was impossible' and that he contemplated suicide as soon as he realized he was in Syria. The beatings were so painful, he said, that 'I forgot every moment I enjoyed in my life.'" This is the voice of one whom our silence condemned to a filthy grave for a year while this innocent man was tortured for our sins and for our "security".
When will we hear the voice of love? "God charms and captivates our ears with the Word of grace. God attracts us with the sweet words of love. God persuades us and subdues our hears so that we are compelled to listen to God as if spellbound and be obedient to God." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer. But when we seek revenge, no matter how justified, we become deaf to the words of grace, and mute to the righteousness of God.
"But whoever leaves revenge in God's hands alone has become willing to suffer and bear it patiently - without vengeance, without a tought of one's own revenge, without hate and without protest; such persons are meek, peaceable, and love their enemies. God's cause has become more important to them than their own suffering. God will win the victory in the end." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
there was a cry of horror. Then a hundred were butchered. But when a thousand were butchered and there was no end to the butchery, a blanket of silence spread. When evil doing comes like falling rain, nobody calls out 'stop!'
When crimes begin to pile up they become invisible. When sufferings become unendurable, the cries are no longer heard. The cries, too, fall like rain in summer." --Bertolt Brecht
3,590 people were killed in July '06; 3009 in August. Altogether, 655,000 of our fellow human beings have been murdered in Iraq and our Christian leaders have nothing to say, no word of admonishment for these laughing butchers. In the words of Arthur Silber, "It does not matter how immense the pile of corpses grows: we will not surrender or even question our delusion that we are right, and that nothing we do can be profoundly, unforgivably wrong."
Yet every one of those 655,000 corpses has a name, a family, and a God who loves him or her. And one day soon we will have to confront each face our contemptuous silence has deleted. "There is one final point to be made about all this -- and that has to do with the supreme value of a single human life. In our desensitized, dehumanized age, most people have almost no appreciation for what I'm talking about, and our political establishment and media only make this grievous failing worse. Each of us is unique; not one of us can be replaced. Each of us has a family, loved ones, friends and a life that is a web of caring, interdependence, and joy. When even one of us is killed or horribly injured for no justifiable reason, the damage affects countless people in addition to the primary victim. Sometimes, the survivors are irreparably damaged as well. Even the survivors' wounds can last a lifetime."
As Christians, we must feel the enormity of this sin as deeply as possible. We must make it our own and reach out to the victims of our silence. Make these victims as real to you as your brother, friend, teacher, or parent.
I will give you a new heart
and place a new spirit within you,
taking from your bodies your stony hearts
and giving you natural hearts.
Saturday, September 30, 2006
"Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins...
Is not this the fast that I choose; to loose the bands of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them; and not hide yourself from your own kin?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard." - Isaiah, 57_414-58:14
The question that cuts to the core of the current Christian debate is only this: "What is power?" If power is the ability to have our way, glut ourselves on the goods of this world, and stay safe from those who would challenge our gluttony or try to share in it, then seeing God as the ultimate power means placating that which guarantees our dominance. Was that the power revealed on the cross? Or is the cross the most absolute renounciation of what we call power ever perpetrated? We find safety not in the power to hurt, but in the power to be wounded and so made whole. We glut ourselves not with ever more lovely and efficient chains, but with works of love for those who hate us. We rejoice not in our own will, but in the will of Him who allowed himself to be led to the cross.
"Is there any doubt the paradox of vulnerability, just like the paradox of powerlessness, is at work here, and our very willingness to accept risk in the name of justice, is what makes us stronger than any enemy who denies justice to us?" Adventus, Oct. 4
"Power only and ever and always serves the ends of power. If God is not about the power of powerlessness, then Paul and I are agreed that the crucifixion was pointless, and all we're really waiting for is for God to get around to making us all believers, whether we like it or not.
But if God is about the power of powerlessness, then even taking up power in God's name is contrary to God's purpose. And a basiliea tou theou where the first are always last, and the last first, is a place with no political power at all." - Adventus, Oct. 6, 2006.
When we Xians (I can no longer bear to use the name "Christian" to refer to those who look on the torture of the innocent with indifference) look in the mirror of our world, we see our incompetence and failure reflected back. Torture is indeed "another thorn in this entire crown America has fashioned for itself, crucifying its own values and humanity yet again." Why do we not see Jesus' bloody face in the brown faces of those we have decided to revenge ourselves on? And why do we so easily decide to drive the nails into our own values? The surest proof of barbarism is that we are no longer capable of seeing the barbarian in ourselves.
"We have already devolved into barbarism, by attempting to define boundaries within barbarism that are good and bad, that are moderately barbaric vs. too barbaric, and calling all of it moderation, and praising it in our press, and praising it in our politicians. We are already a broken country, made more broken by men looking for any distraction, any shred of bloody color to help hide the deeper truths of their incompetence and failure." - Hunter, Daily Kos, Sept. 27, 2006.
"The knowledge of the cross is the knowledge of God in the suffering caused to him by dehumanized man, that is, in the contrary of everything which dehumanized man seeks and tried to attain as the deity in him. Consequently, this knowledge does not confirm him as what he is, but destroys him. It destroys the god, miserable in his pride, which we would like to be, and restores to us our abandoned and despised humanity...It destroys the destruction of man. It alienates alienated man. And in this way it restores the humanity of dehumanized man." - Jurgen Moltmann, The Crucified God.
Saturday, September 23, 2006
The Pope was not trying to contrast Islam with Christianity, but to contrast a religion that uses violence to convince versus a truer faith that has no room for violence. In fact, faith in God and violence are incompatible, whether one is a Muslim or a Christian. God does not conquer by blood and God's revenge is manifested through suffering for those who have shown him outrage. In fact, the Pope's words were primarily directed at Christians, particularly those who would bring on the apocalypse with smart bombs and mythical theories, who justify violence against the violent, while harboring inhuman dreams which violate the very nature of the soul. There is no "virtue of war", war being incompatible with the concept of theological virtue. Freedom cannot be spread by cluster bombs. It is blasphemy to think we can torture and burn our way to Christ's peace. Pope Benedict has asked the question that every Christian should ask him or herself, "Is it still licit to speak of the very existence of a 'just war'?" Have you answered that question in your heart and daily life?
"... the pope rejects the very basis for violence. It is not rational. One way of putting the pope's point is that the authentic commands of God are reasonable, even if faith is needed to penetrate their depths. And, of course, to see what the Father commands, we turn to the Son who shows us the face of the Father. In that turn, to Jesus Christ, we have full clarity. Christ offers a way of nonviolent, sacrificial love of friends and enemies. Period. No wiggle room for building nukes—whether it is Muslim Iran or Christian America-—or using violence to further principles." Catholic Peace Fellowship Newsblog, Sept. 22, 2006.
To contrast, this is what the religion of revenge has brought: "The bodies in Baghdad's morgue 'often bear signs of severe torture including acid-induced injuries and burns caused by chemical substances, missing skin, broken bones (back, hands and legs), missing eyes and wounds caused by power drills or nails', the UN report said. Those not killed by these abuses are shot in the head.
Human rights groups say torture is practised in prisons run by the US as well as those run by the Interior and Defence ministries and the numerous Sunni and Shia militias.
The pervasive use of torture is only one aspect of the utter breakdown of government across Iraq outside the three Kurdish provinces in the north. In July and August alone, 6,599 civilians were killed, the UN says."
Saturday, September 09, 2006
"Arun Gandhi told us that by failing to prevent the impoverishment and humiliation of people around the world, we are engaging in passive violence, the result of which is physical violence. He said that we need to work for peace actively, not be satisfied with peace in our own hearts or private lives, but insist on taking peace out into the world everywhere we go." David Swanson, truthout, Sept. 11, 2006
The Christians that shout in their megachurches are committing passive and often active mega-violence against the poor of this world. Somewhere beneath all the righteous protesting we know that this is true - that Christ's face protrudes from their swollen bellies. Yet we cannot confront our compulsion to violence, but continue to justify the murders required by our lust to possess. There can be no true peace in the heart while our brothers and sisters starve and die to feed our consumption. Instead we must begin to accept their death as our own.
"Peace is to be built in the hearts. It is here that the feelings develop which can either nourish it or, on the contrary, threaten it, weaken it, suffocate it. For it is the heart that is the place of the interventions of God. The great task of the religions is to build peace in hearts. To be peace, even in the midst of war, remains an aspiration that cannot be renounced, the dream of a world which is finally, human. Politics, culture, the relations between people in daily life, all have need of spirit, of breath: of dreams of peace, of the hope of building a better and more just future." - Pope Benedict XVI, Sept. 2006
How is this peace to be sought? By keeping Christ's cross before us, and letting the sorrows of cities such as Nablus and Rafah sink into our subconscious. We should feel the misery of those whose lives our government has shattered: "When the mothers tell me about their sons taken from them. Killed in front of them, or arrested from their family home. Some mothers tell me that their fourteen or fifteen year old sons rush to them when the army arrives in their street and cry to them to hide them. Some say that their sons ask to be put back inside their bellies because they would be safe there.
Can you imagine this? Fifteen year old boys! And the world hears of them only as terrorists.'
One mother came to the sanctuary and for an hour sat on the stones and howled till her heart would break: 'I could not hide him! I could not hide my son!' She cried over and over again." - Death and Tears in Nablus, CounterPunch, Sept. 16, 2006.
To break free from the compulsion of violence, we must enter the feelings of others, sometimes howling till our hearts would break, to understand what our passive violence has meant to millions who hold to no inner retaliation, just a longing for life. Hold on to the tears, for they are the waters of life.
Friday, September 08, 2006
Sometimes the Israeli army gives a warning before a house is destroyed. The sound that Palestinians most dread is an unknown voice on their cell phone saying they have half an hour to leave their home before it is hit by bombs or missiles. There is no appeal." -- Patrick Coburn, "Gaza is Dying", CounterPunch, Sept. 7, 2006.
In the most densely populated region of the world, its people are starving to death as a result of the policies of our Christian president, widely supported by both parties. Ironically, while our Israeli allies have shown the most brutal contempt for Christian values, many of those they are murdering daily are our brothers and sisters in Christ, yet it is a rare word indeed that is spoken in their defense from our pulpits.
"Many people are being killed by Israeli incursions that occur every day by land and air. A total of 262 people have been killed and 1,200 wounded, of whom 60 had arms or legs amputated, since 25 June, says Dr Juma al-Saqa, the director of the al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City which is fast running out of medicine. Of these, 64 were children and 26 women...the Israeli army has been rampaging through Gaza - there's no other word to describe it - killing and demolishing, bombing and shelling, indiscriminately. Gaza has essentially been reoccupied since Israeli troops and tanks come and go at will...
Sometimes the Israeli army gives a warning before a house is destroyed. The sound that Palestinians most dread is an unknown voice on their cell phone saying they have half an hour to leave their home before it is hit by bombs or missiles. There is no appeal." -- Patrick Coburn, "Gaza is Dying", CounterPunch, Sept. 7, 2006.
Where is the place of a Christian if not at the side of our Palestinian brothers and sisters, with whom we can cry out, in the words of Milton:
Why was my breeding ordered and prescribed
As of a person separate to God,
Designed for great exploits, if I must die
Betrayed, captived, and both my eyes put out,
Made of my enemies the scorn and gaze,
To grind in brazen fetters under task
With this heaven-gifted strength? O glorious strength,
Put to the labor of a beast, debased
Lower than bondslave! Promise was that I
Should Israel from Philistian yoke deliver;
Ask for this great deliverer now, and find him
Eyeless in Gaza, at the mill with slaves,
Himself in bonds under Philistian yoke.
What do we gain by identifying ourselves with the least and most oppressed peoples on the face of this sad earth? Our eyes, blinded by ever more refined and seductive lies of the corporate media, are opened, and we see our bondage to the Philistines who strut over the waste they have created in Lebanon and Iraq. We see Christ's bleeding face in the father bent over his dead son, killed by a "precision air strike" to punish a whole people for aspiring to live. We learn the meaning of mysticism:
"The place of mystical experience is in very truth the cell - the prison cell. 'The witness to truth' is despised, scoffed at, persecuted, dishonored and rejected. In his own fate he experiences the fate of Christ. His destiny conforms to Christ's destiny. This is what the mystics called conformitas crucis, the conformity of the cross. That is why he also experiences the presence of the risen Christ in the fellowship of Christ's sufferings, and the deeper the fellowship in suffering, the more assured of his fellowship the witness will be." Jurgen Moltmann, The Spirit of Life.
When did we visit you in the prison cell, O Lord?
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
"Let us leave aside those Israelis whose ideology supports the dispossession of the Palestinian people because 'God chose us.' Leave aside the judges who whitewash every military policy of killing and destruction. Leave aside the military commanders who knowingly jail an entire nation in pens surrounded by walls, fortified observation towers, machine guns, barbed wire and blinding projectors. Leave aside the ministers. All of these are not counted among the collaborators. These are the architects, the planners, the designers, the executioners.
But there are others. Historians and mathematicians, senior editors, media stars, psychologists and family doctors, lawyers who do not support Gush Emunim and Kadima, teachers and educators, lovers of hiking trails and sing-alongs, high-tech wizards. Where are you? And what about you, researchers of Nazism, the Holocaust and Soviet gulags? Could you all be in favor of systematic discriminating laws? Laws stating that the Arabs of the Galilee will not even be compensated for the damages of the war by the same sums their Jewish neighbors are entitled to (Aryeh Dayan, Haaretz , August 21).
Could it be that you are all in favor of a racist Citizenship Law that forbids an Israeli Arab from living with his family in his own home? That you side with further expropriation of lands and the demolishing of additional orchards, for another settler neighborhood and another exclusively Jewish road? That you all back the shelling and missile fire killing the old and the young in the Gaza Strip?" - Amira Haas, Haaretz, Sept. 2, 2006.
To those Xians who see the world through a bombsight, I plead that you will at least look at the children that have been killed by American-made weapons over the past two months in Gaza. Is this what the lamb shows us in the visions of Revelation? Are these the signs that thrill us with hopes of Christ's coming? When we make ciphers of the lives of human beings by those animated with inhuman absolutes, then our Christianity becomes a cipher as well. Then Christianity becomes a matter of unreal "miracles" and fantastic "revelations" that reveal nothing but our own inner poverty.
Monday, August 14, 2006
"The Nuremburg Trials showed America and the world that citizenry as well as soldiers have the unrelinquishable obligation to refuse complicity in war crimes perpetrated by their government. Widespread torture and inhumane treatment of detainees is a war crime. A war of aggression born through an unofficial policy of prevention is a crime against the peace. An occupation violating the very essence of international humanitarian law and sovereignty is a crime against humanity. These crimes are funded by our tax dollars. Should citizens choose to remain silent through self-imposed ignorance or choice, it makes them as culpable as the soldier in these crimes."
I have broken no law but the code of silence and unquestioning loyalty. If I am guilty of any crime, it is that I learned too much and cared too deeply for the meaningless loss of my fellow soldiers and my fellow human beings. If I am to be punished it should be for following the rule of law over the immoral orders of one man. If I am to be punished it should be for not acting sooner. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period … was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people."
Now, I'm not a hero. I am a leader of men who said enough is enough. Those who called for war prior to the invasion compared diplomacy with Saddam to the compromises made with Hitler. I say, we compromise now by allowing a government that uses war as the first option instead of the last to act with impunity. Many have said this about the World Trade Towers, "Never Again." I agree. Never again will we allow those who threaten our way of life to reign free - be they terrorists or elected officials. The time to fight back is now - the time to stand up and be counted is today.
I'll end with one more Martin Luther King Jr. quote:
One who breaks an unjust law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law." Lieut. Ehren Watada, Veterans for Peace National Convention, August 12, 2006.
Once again, the voice of conscience has risen irrestibly in the act of one willing to make sacrifice. No one can read the words of Lieut. Watada and have any further doubt as to where right stands in the cause of Christian justice and peace. His noble words characterize in all its stringent glory the honor that some still are capable of holding in their hearts. One Ehren Watada is worth a whole host of religious professionals.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
"The people who love, because they are freed through the truth of God, are the most revolutionary people on earth. They are the ones who upset all values; they are the explosives in human society. Such persons are the most dangerous. For they have recognized that people are untruthful in the extreme, and they are ready at any, and just for the sake of love, to permit the light of truth to fall on them. This disturbance of peace, which comes to the world through these people, provokes the world's hatred. Therefore, the knight of truth and love is not the hero whom people worship and honor, who is free of enemies, but the one whom they cast out, whom they want to get rid of, whome they declare an outlaw, whom they kill. The way, which God's truth in the world has gone, leads to the cross." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
"Between July 12 and August 14, the Israeli air force conducted more than 7,000 air attacks in Lebanon, supplemented by 2,500 naval bombardments and an unknown number of artillery barrages. An estimated 1,183 people were killed, about one third of whom were children, 4,054 were injured and 970,000 people, or 25 percent of the total population, were displaced. Half a million people sought shelter in Beirut, many in parks and public spaces without basic facilities...
The destruction of infrastructure was a deliberate policy designed to drive hundreds of thousands of civilians out of the south of the country and terrorise the Lebanese population as a whole. The aim was to make the entire southern region uninhabitable. The AI report explained: 'With the electricity cut off and food and other supplies not coming into the villages, the destruction of supermarkets and petrol stations played a crucial role in forcing local residents to leave. The lack of fuel also stopped residents from getting water, as water pumps require electricity or fuel-fed generators,' the report [of Amnesty International] stated."
Let us lift our voices in praise to the God of homes, of land lovingly tilled, and of the spirit that creates when all speak of the madness of love - it is madness to believe in Christ, to walk with him when he has "no power, only words; that they, the powers of reality, speak the language of facts and this language is more convincing than the language of Christ." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The facts which fell from the sky can only be countered by the neverending renewal of the life and love of community. May the Spirit of life be with the brave people of Lebanon and may those who would crush them into dust look into the emptiness of their hearts.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers." Henry V. 4.3. The number of those who believe in Christ's message of peace is small, but sometimes we rejoice in our tiny numbers. Our message is utterly drowned out by the lies that pour forth daily from the corporate media which celebrates violence as the ultimate distraction from the boredom engendered by the savage greed of the Empire. Yet our message will not be lost - the time will come when the pablums which promise soothing to the comfortable Christians who can't be bothered with their Lebanese or Iraqi brothers and sisters will lose their savor. Emptiness will lead to desperation and our message will be sought out, all the stronger for its present obscurity.
Remember, Lord, how your servant is taunted,
how I have to bear all the insults of the peoples.
Thus your enemies taunt me, O Lord,
mocking your anointed at every step.
Blessed be the Lord for ever. Amen, amen!
A survivor of the Qana massacre speaks: "What in the name of God have we done to deserve this?” survivor Nejwah Shalhoub said to Independent reporter Robert Fisk from her hospital bed. 'So many of the dead are children, the old, women. Some of the children were still awake and playing. Why does the world do this to us?"
I see no deeper proof of our abandonment by God than the fact that so many believe that God is merciful to us and angry with them, the terrorists, the unworthy, the immoral, the lost. May God protect us from such gratitude! In the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "May God lead us to a true understanding of God's goodness. Don't we see that the gifts of God's goodness become a curse for us if we have such thoughts about them and act in such a way; if we look upon ourselves as models of virtue, instead of growing humble as we look at the imcomprehensibility of God and the worry and anxiety our wealth creates in us and if we thank God only for God's goodness to us instead of becoming conscious of the immeasurable responsibility which is laid upon us by God's goodness? If we want to understand God's goodness in God's gifts, then we must think of them as a responsibility we bear for our brothers and sisters. Let none say: God has blessed us with money and possessions, and then live as if they and their God were alone in the world. For the time will come when they realize that they have been worshipping the idols of their good fortune and selfishness. Possession are not God's blessing and goodness, but the opportunities of service which God entrusts to us."
It may well be that, far from being the blessings we imagine, our possessions are the judgement that God has laid on us. The idol of abundance has enslaved us and we worship our selfishness to the point of being oblivious to the murders it requires. Let us sing the louder the fewer and more despised we are, confident that God will hear us just as he heard his Son.
Monday, August 07, 2006
Her mother also lay dead on the floor with bullet wounds in her chest and abdomen, he said.
In another room, the medic found what remained of the girl's father in a pool of blood. "The brain was on the floor and parts of the head were all over the place," the medic said. Next to him was his other daughter, who was about 6years old. It appeared to him as if a bullet had "entered the front of her face and out the back of her head," he said.
With the help of Iraqi soldiers, the medic said, he put the remains of the family in bags and stored them in an air-conditioned ambulance because there was no room at the Mahmudiyah hospital."
Saturday, August 05, 2006
Lord, each of us is often a Pharoah, demanding the slavery of those who share our domains. Today, many of your children in Israel have become Pharoahs to the children of Lebanon and Gaza and their hearts are wrapped in cordite. Break open our encased hearts, O Lord, and make them flow with compassion for all people, not merely our own people. We wish not the death of the Pharoahs, but that they might find their true life which is hidden in you.
"On a mountain road just south of here, a convoy of Lebanese villagers was fleeing north shortly after the war began. They had heard Israeli soldiers telling them to evacuate. Suddenly, a rocket struck a pickup truck full of people. Twenty-one people were killed, more than half of them children.
Israel said it believed the convoy was transporting rockets. The convoy had not notified Israel that it was going to make the trip. Those who survived said in interviews that they were simply following Israeli orders to flee the south as best they could."
On the day you hear my voice, harden not your hearts.
"In one of the worst atrocities since the war began, an Israeli air strike claimed the lives of over 33 farm workers, blown to pieces as they loaded plums and peaches onto trucks at a farm warehouse in the far north of the Bekaa Valley, near the Syrian border. At least another 20 people were wounded in the attack. Most of the victims were Syrian Kurds. They were taken across the border to Syrian hospitals, because previous bombing raids had demolished roads leading to hospitals in Lebanon itself."
"This massacre of farm workers followed airstrikes that systematically demolished bridges on the main coastal highway linking Beirut and the Lebanese south to the northern half of the country. Marking the first major attacks on the predominantly Christian North, these attacks served to cut the country in two and to cut off the sole remaining lifeline for relief supplies from abroad. At least five people were killed in these bombings, which were conducted during the morning rush hour, including motorists who were crushed to death as the bridges were bombed from beneath them."
And what is the reaction of the orthodox, conservative Christian who places the crucified one at the center of our religion? Adventus perhaps said it best, "Comfortable middle-class Xians don't need apocalyptic literature because life is just dandy, and promises to be better in the sweet bye and bye. If others are suffering, we (us middle-class Xians) are sweetly oblivious to it, or figure God will reward them in the after life (or, more darkly, that they deserve it. Everybody likes karma because it seems to work so well for them!) This world, in other words, is passing away, but since we find it a comfortable place, we don't mind waiting a while for the passing, and we know what comes next will be even better!" Here, indeed, is a religion that fits right in with a narcissistic ethic that focuses exclusively on me and my immediate circumstances, regarding everything else with varying degrees of unreality. But God has not called us to be as psychologically comfortable as possible, as satisfied with our life as we can possibly be - he has called us to bear not merely our own sorrows, but those of others as well.
"[The disciples] simply bear the suffering which comes their way as they try to follow Jesus Christ, and bear it for his sake. Sorrow cannot tire them or wear them down, it cannot embitter them or cause them to break down under the strain; far from it, for they bear their sorrow in the strength of him who bears them up, who bore the whole suffering of the world upon the cross. They stand as the bearers of sorrow in the fellowship of the Crucified: they stand as strangers in the world in the power of him who was such a stranger to the world that it crucified him." Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship.
Pray that the hearts of the Pharoahs in Washington and Tel Aviv will soon melt with the compassion and humility of our Lord.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Are we willing to open our hearts to this suffering? Can we take on the wounded, weak, helpless, and disabled human life which God has made a part of his eternal life? Do we have the courage to stand with despised and say, "This is my family!"? "God heals the sicknesses and the griefs by the making the sicknesses and the griefs his suffering and his grief. In the image of the crucified God the sick and dying can see themselves, because in them the crucified God recognizes himself. Through his passion Jesus brings God into the God-forsakeness of the sick and into the desolation of dying. The crucified God embraces every sick life and makes it his life, so that he can communicate his own eternal life. And for that reason the crucified One is both the source of healing and consolation in suffering."
"The top United Nations aid official today made an urgent appeal for a 'humanitarian truce' lasting at least three days between Israel and Hezbollah to allow children, the wounded and the elderly to escape the fighting and food, medicine and other emergency supplies to get through to the conflict zones." Unfortunately, our Christian President and his devout administration have damned those children to quick and slow deaths. Such simple humanity is deleted in the drive for absolute security, "Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon proclaimed that 'maximum firepower has to be used.' As justification, he cited the meeting in Rome, from which 'we have in effect obtained the authorization to continue our operations until Hisbullah is no longer present in southern Lebanon.'" We hear the deafening applause of our Christian brethern to this butchery and wonder we have so few priests in the Catholic Church.
Saturday, July 22, 2006
'Carpenters are running out of wood for coffins,' reported the New York Times. 'Bodies are stacked three or four high in a truck at the local hospital morgue. The stench is spreading in the rubble.'
'The morbid reality of Israel’s bombing campaign of the south is reaching almost every corner of this city...[W]ild dogs gnawed at the charred remains of a family bombed as they were trying to escape the village of Hosh, officials said. Officials at the Tyre Government Hospital inside a local Palestinian refugee camp said they counted the bodies of 50 children among the 115 in the refrigerated truck in the morgue.'
The Holy See has also spoken out: "The Holy Father has declared July 23rd to be a day dedicated to prayers and penance for people of all religious faiths 'to implore God for the precious gift of peace.' In a brief statement issued by the Vatican press office on July 20, Pope Benedict XVI urged prayers for 'an immediate cese fire between the (warring) sides,' the establishment of 'a humaitarian corridor in order to bring aid to the suffering people,' and the start of 'reasonable and responsible negotiations so as to end the objective situation of injustice exisitng in that region.'
I share this information with you in hopes that you will find a way to share it with the priests and people of your (arch)dioceses. Also, I wanted you to be aware that both the Holy See have spoken out on the current crisis in the Middle East and you can find those statements on the USCCB website: http://www.usccb.org/comm/archives/2006/06-145.shtml.
Unfortunately, these statements make no mention of the provocations which the Israelis have inflicted on the Palestinians just in the last eight weeks. In the words of Alexander Cockburn: "Let’s go on a brief excursion into pre-history. I’m talking about June 20, 2006, when Israeli aircraft fired at least one missile at a car in an attempted extrajudicial assassination attempt on a road between Jabalya and Gaza City. The missile missed the car. Instead it killed three Palestinian children and wounded 15.
Back we go again to June 13, 2006. Israeli aircraft fired missiles at a van in another attempted extrajudicial assassination. The successive barrages killed nine innocent Palestinians.
Now we’re really in the dark ages, reaching far, far back to June 9, 2006, when Israel shelled a beach in Beit Lahiya killing 8 civilians and injuring 32." CounterPunch, July 21, 2006.
Devoid of context, the charges made against Hezbollah and Hamas become pretexts for may soon amount to ethnic cleansing in southern Lebanon, paid for by your tax dollars. Do the good bishops mention that one-third of the Lebanese civilians murdered by Israel’s attacks on civilian residential districts are children? "That is the report from Jan Egeland, the emergency relief coordinator for the UN. He says it is impossible for help to reach the wounded and those buried in rubble, because Israeli air strikes have blown up all the bridges and roads." Paul Craig Roberts, CounterPunch, July 22-23, 2006. Our bishops seem unable to ask questions as simple as "If Israel is targeting Hizbollah, why are Israeli bombs falling on northern Lebanon? Why are they falling on Beirut? Why are they falling on civilian airports? On schools and hospitals?"
In fact, though I welcome statements in support of those suffering so grievously in Lebanon, when they tacitly accept the equivalence between a few rocket attacks and the destruction of an entire country's infrastructure, such statements become complicit in the terror campaign long planned and currently being carried out by Israel. We must raise our voices against such immoral unbalanced statements. Where is the church that is the voice of the poor? Are we not eating and drinking damnation unto ourselves when we sit silently while blatant crimes are carried out in our names and with our money? Where are the bishops who will speak about that?
In the end, we must trust in the reality of divine justice with all our hearts, for divine justice is what guarantees the instability of unjust conditions - it is the power of life that eats away continuously at the foundations of the empire of violence. Only by more and more violence can these unjust conditions be kept upon an even keel. The rulers of Israel and the U.S. must keep adding more and more police, more and more military control to preserve the illusion of their dominance. The trajectory is clearly toward toward total annihilation of the living world that will never cease to resist their lust for power for its own sake. "All that grows on the foundation of injustice is organized peacelessness. So unjust systems have feet of clay. They have no lasting development. The hidden presence in world history of the divine justice in God's Spirit 'destabilizes', so to speak, human systems of injustice, and sees to it that they cannot last." Jurgen Moltmann, The Spirit of Life. May each one reading this blog become part of that destabilization!
Friday, July 14, 2006
The acceptance of responsibility for this crime begins in the heart of each Christian who truly loves his or her God. In the face of such crimes, we must examine the violence that lives within ourselves and pledge to work inwardly and outwardly day and night until it diminishes and is at last becomes controllable, under the grace of God.
"Why did we elect Bush? Because we are George W. Bush. As individuals, as families, as religious communities, we aren't; but as a nation, he is the perfect representative of what we are and what we want. He is the nation's Id. We are attracted and repulsed by him, which is why he's never quite won election, and has always had to cheat his way back into power. But he isn't to blame; we are." Adventus, July 14, 2006.
Though Bush bears a unique responsibility (or rather, a lack of responsibility), we participate in his abdication by our silence and passivity. Before we can be truly healed, we must recognize the inner Bush. He is that part of us that loves to exult in consumables, that roars with delight at the SUV in the Internet-enabled garage, that plays our part in war movies where we stand with pride before the barbaric hordes of subhumans consumed with jealousy for our 'way of life'. We must recognize that this drive lives within us and seek, slowly, with patience, humility, and what was once called 'character', to live the future that Jesus Christ has bought for us with his death and resurrection. We are the future that lies beyond the Machiavellian exploitation that has brought us to the edge of ecological death, if only we will embrace it. What we see before us is what we have wished for - it has been granted to us. What we see in the Middle East today is the hell of having our own way. Can we let it go? Can we let God have his way?
Are these extreme statements? I think that they are simply reflections of the truths of the Catholic Catechism - "we gain responsibility for the sins of others when we "cooperate with them . . . by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them; by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so; by protecting evil-doers."
Our silence as Catholics in the face of an illegal invasion and occupation has added the sins of this administration to our own sins, reluctant as most Catholics are to admit the reality of social sin. The following is a reflection, I believe, of the constant teaching of the Church by the Most Reverend John Michael Botean, of the Rumanian Catholic diocese of Canton, Ohio, who has said: "...any direct participation and support of this war against the people of Iraq is objectively grave evil, a matter of mortal sin. Beyond a reasonable doubt this war is morally incompatible with the Person and Way of Jesus Christ. With moral certainty I say to you it does not meet even the minimal standards of the Catholic just war theory. Thus, any killing associated with it is unjustified and, in consequence, unequivocally murder. Direct participation in this war is the moral equivalent of direct participation in an abortion. For the Catholics of the Eparchy of St. George, I hereby authoritatively state that such direct participation is intrinsically and gravely evil and therefore absolutely forbidden."
Saturday, July 08, 2006
"...there can be no liberation from sin without bearing of sin, that injustice cannot be eradicated unless it is borne" - Jon Sobrino, Jesus the Liberator.
"[Lieutenant] Watada said he was morally obligated to obey the Constitution, not what he claimed were unlawful orders to join in an illegal war. He also released a DVD statement criticizing what he said was the 'wholesale slaughter and mistreatment of the Iraqi people.'"
As Christians, we must ask why Lieutant Ehren Watada has chosen the path of suffering for his conviction that as one who has sworn loyalty to the Constitution and what it represents, as well as to the value of human life (a truly "pro-life" position) that it is better to suffer injustice than to commit it. It is an acceptance of personal responsibility, a clear-eyed recognition of the fact that our actions directly contribute to contempt for human life or defend it. To defer to authority in a situation where there is serious doubt about whether that authority is deliberately violating the dignity of human life is to implicitly accept that violation. Paul's words are often cited in this type of situation, "You must all obey the governing authorities. Since all government comes from God, the civil authorities were appointed by God, and so anyone who resists authority is rebelling against God's decision, and such an act is bound to be punished." Romans 13:1. But Paul is not saying that government inherently represents God and must be obeyed as He must be, but that "the state is a servant of God for our good. It has no legitimacy or authority in and of itself, apart from subjection to the rule of God." - Brian Walsh, Colossians Remixed. When that authority is abused by men contemptuous of God to destroy innocent human life, then their authority is abrogated and no longer commands obedience. In fact, to obey such men once we see the true nature of their deeds in good conscience is not to follow Christ, but to strike and insult him as did the Roman soldiers.
In future years, this case may become a classic illustration of Paul's words, because Lieut. Watada is embodying precisely what Paul called government to be - an honest upholder of God's will. "And when the state clearly abrogates its responsibility to do good, when it acts against the will of God, then the Christian community has a responsibility to call it back to the its rightful duty and even to engage in civil disobedience (see Acts 12: 6 - 2). The state has no authority to do evil." Colossians Remixed. In his person and by his willingness to suffer, he is upholding the governmental obligation to the rule of law that the government itself has abandoned. Lieut. Watada believes that since "...the order to take part in an illegal act is ultimately unlawful as well, I must as an officer of honor and integrity refuse that order." Of course, I keenly realize that Lieut. Watada has made no explicitly Christian references as part of the motivation for his act, but I submit that his act is Christian, as is every true defence of justice. His act upholds the sanctity of international and domestic law precisely as it defends the innocent against unjust invasion and occupation. In Catholic moral terms, he has formed his conscience to recognize the value of law and justice. To fail to follow his rightly-formed conscience at this point would be a renunciation of the light of God's truth, no matter the terms in which he explains his deed to himself. He has also received direct corraboration from the Supreme Court which in Hamden vs. Rumsfeld last week "broadly ruled that the Administration has violated both national and international law." Hamdan and Watada, The Nation. The Supreme Court of the United States has found that the President's actions "violates the Constitution and War Powers Act which limits the president in his role as commander in chief from using the armed forces in any way he sees fit." These are precisely the principles that Lieut. Watada seeks to uphold.
Now comes the time of suffering. Lieut. Watada will be subjected to persecution and contempt by the military, as well as the current administration. He may soon be sent to prison for a far longer period that those convicted of murdering and torturing the Iraqi people. Will you stand up for him? Please visit http://www.thankyoult.org/ and show your support for him in any way that your conscience moves you. Can a Christian do any less than bear the suffering which the sin of this government has caused? Lieut. Watada has shown us how. Watch the video: http://www.thankyoult.org/mmedia/msg-13jun06.html.