"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, March 31, 2007
The Failure of Christian Imagination
"...we Christians have to ask ourselves the extent to which willingness to embrace a military response to "radical Islam" is little more than a failure of confidence in the gospel. We seem far more willing to put confidence in our own cleverness and in our economic and military might than in the power of the Spirit. Is it remarkable how little we trust in the power of the gospel to transform the hearts and lives of those who are "other" to us. The point here is not that all will be converted to Christianity, but rather that the ability of truly evil men to recruit others can be substantially reduced. In fact, to put more trust in the power of the gospel than in our own cleverness would be to recognize that nothing has more potential for success than interacting with "others" in ways that imitates the life of Jesus. This is the longer term promise of the gospel, a thing we Christians have lost sight of and have become increasingly unwilling to even try."
How clear it is that our warmaking is the product of Christian despair, of faithlessness in the Gospel. How much confidence we have in marketing, in propaganda campaigns, in the power of media manipulation to coerce favorable beliefs. How much does this tell about our relationship to the Gospel. For us, the gospel (God-sell) is a body of beliefs, a frame in today's terms, that is external to our hearts, and more certainly, to our behavior taken as a whole. Our "enemies" do not accept this frame, not because of their stubborn intransigence, but because of their clear perception that this frame is part of a deliberate campaign of manipulation aimed at their subjegation and the theft of their resources. The fact that they are considered "enemies" is due directly to our lack of faith.
The fact is that we believe in the power of force and the force of power and manipulation - that is where our faith lies. We wish that could accept the power of love, but we can only honor it as an ideal. Yet "Christ is justice itself" according to Thomas Aquinas. It is the god of success, not the God of justice that we must purge from our hearts. Powerlessness is a risk, faith in a Christ who is not rich or well-connected is to court failure - to stand powerless with nothing but faith in the nonviolent Jesus. It is a risk to support a group that in worldly terms has little chance for success, such as the antiwar movement. In fact, it is precisely it's lack of wordly power that should attract Christians to it. Real Christians have never put their faith in worldly power and whenever they did, the Spirit has fled.
In fact, the struggle for justice is at the heart of the Christian way of life. To concentrate on condemning carnal sins while neglecting the spiritual openness to the Spirit and the works of justice which must be carried out is serious spiritual sin. This sin is most often caused by fear. According to Aquinas, when people are brought up under "a regime of fear people inevitably degenerate. They become mean-spirited and adverse to many and strenous feats." Many teachings from the Bible and the catechism demonstrate how the type of irrational fear inculcated by the U.S. media is the direct opposite of the spirit of the Gospel.