An blog by a member of the Catholic peace movement, Pax Christi, to explore the nexus between contemplation and resistance. "The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Descent Into Hell

We begin with two quotes. One to show what war is doing to our soldiers in Iraq and another to frame these effects in the underlying social forces that continually freeze the love which God never ceases to sneak into our hearts:

"The narrowness of his vision is exactly how even the best and most humane soldier unwillingly becomes a monster, and the people who create war know this. Out of grief and rage, with the stench of his buddy's shredded flesh in his nostrils, the soldier stops asking questions and then begins making up his own rules with a rifle. He has touched the heart of darkness and there's no going back ever. Embracing the whore called war destroys morality, and doing all this in a dishonorable cause compounds the damage." Tony Swindell, "Our Descent into Hell has Begun", Counterpunch, May 4, 2006.

The next from "Resurrection" by Leo Tolstoy: "Suppose a problem in psychology was set: What can be done to persuade the men of our time - Christians, humanitarians or simply good-hearted people - into committing the most abominable crimes with no feeling of guilt? There could be only one way: to do precisely what is being done now, namely, to make them governors, inspectors, officers, policemen, and so forth....It all comes down to the fact that men think there are circumstances when they may treat their fellow beings without love, but no such circumstances ever exist."

To make someone a soldier is to tell them that killing is good. We cordone off an area and say, "In this area, under these circumstances, the normal moral rules which we established in the churches and enforced through law no longer apply. Instead, the opposite rules now apply. Put an end to the compassion that wells up in your heart for the weak ones whom you must now destroy. No longer quell your violence and anger, but let them boil. Let cruelty grow strong within you and feel its power to the tips of your fingers. Go to the outer bounds of what restraints of humanity you have managed to imbibe. Let all that go and release the demons within that you have so long repressed. Let the gun be your argument and fire the only reason you know."

Now the stage is set. We have discovered the circumstance in which we may treat our fellow human beings without love. But, of course, we discover these circumstances every day. Under ideal circumstances, when the parousia occurs, we will learn to love our brothers, but not in the particular circumstance that confronts us today. Love is impossible here and I surrender myself to this impossibility more or less reluctantly. We have now cordoned off such an area in Iraq and the Iraqis act with the violence which our actions have established in that area.

A recent post on the wonderful Adventus blog summarizes much of what I try to convey here as a Catholic and Christian: "The nature of humanity is not bestial, only held in check by power and reason. And the nature of the universe is to do justice, and love mercy. Freedom is rooted, not in power or in order, but in justice. Seek justice, and you will have freedom; seek justice, and you will establish order; seek justice, and you will not need to concern yourself with law." The war in Iraq, in its most generous interpretation, is an attempt to impose what we call "law and order" on the social chaos that is Iraq. It is a manifestation of the unshakeable faith in force which is the true faith of America at present. America has apparently lost its faith in the deep underlying justice that lives in Christ and the mercy that God showed us on the Cross. Instead, they believe in the efficacy of smart bombs to establish order and justice in the hearts of Iraqis. Such "faith" will sooner or later destroy its bearer. Those of us who surrendered to this empty and cowardly faith in war-imposed "order" as the bringer of justice moan in our spirits for God's cleansing river to pour over us and through us. In the words of Martin Luther King, "No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream."

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