"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
Without a Why
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."