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.
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.