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, August 25, 2007
"We have crossed another tragic milestone in the war in Iraq. Our estimate of violent Iraqi deaths due to the U.S.-led invasion and occupation has crossed the one million mark." - Indy Media Antiwar
"They are our brothers, they are our sisters—we support war resisters!"
This must become the chant of every Christian who believes that Christ came to end violence in our hearts. Righteous anger must be treasured and protected, but violence must be killed and ended forever, for it is a violation of the image of God that exists in each of our brothers and sisters.
The torture is no longer confined to 'terrorists' and 'enemy combatants', but is now applied to anyone who questions or exposes corruption in the Iraqi occupation: "For daring to report illegal arms sales, Navy veteran Donald Vance says he was imprisoned by the American military in a security compound outside Baghdad and subjected to harsh interrogation methods.
There were times, huddled on the floor in solitary confinement with that head-banging music blaring dawn to dusk and interrogators yelling the same questions over and over, that Vance began to wish he had just kept his mouth shut." - Forbes, see http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2007/08/24/ap4052736.html
It is the same treatment that all lovers of truth must expect as a badge of honor for their efforts at exposing the infamy perpetrated on our Iraqi brothers and sisters. Will you join the line of honor and accept the torture which must be the lot of all who resist the empire and its methods?
A Christian insight from J.K. Rowling: "Rowling posits 'unforgiveable curses' in the world of Harry Potter, but only one is unstoppable: the 'Avadra Kedavra,' not coincidentally the curse used on Harry that sets him on the path to being 'the boy who lived.' The 'Unforgiveable Curses,' like all the magic in Rowling's world, are an effort of will, but, as Bellatrix tells Harry, to use those curses 'you have to mean it!' The killing curse, however, extracts a greater price: the price of murder (other curses kill, to, but in self-defense, not as an act of homicide) is that it tears one's soul. Voldemort, of course, has done this so often he has almost no soul left to tear. Indeed, he uses this aspect of his favorite curse to create his near-immortality (which also creates the plot of the last two books of the series)." - Adventus
Every act we perform or fail to perform leaves its mark on our soul. As with Voldemort, the only cure for the ugly marks we leave is remorse, which is too compromised a word to describe the real pain of this process. Perhaps hell begins the instant we fail to embrace remorse.
"Things bad begun make strong themselves by ill" - Macbeth.
Now we must raise up our prayers against a deeper rip that would rend our national soul - the desperate insanity of war with Iran. It is entirely possible that this administration may attempt to recover the lost honor and esteem which it enjoyed a few short years ago by an act of monumental cowardice. Like Macbeth, they are
Stepp'd in so far that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o'er:
Strange things I have in head, that will to hand;
Which must be acted ere they may be scann'd."
The Democrats cannot be depended on to do more than bark loud enough to hide the stacking of the billions they are ready to pile on the war machine. It is only in our prayers and what deeds of outrage we can muster that any hope lays of stopping this machine which now has taken on a mind of its own. A weak man grown desperate is often more dangerous than a strong man inured with arrogance. A weakened and isolated administration may risk wider war as a reckless way of evading the prosecution for what most of the world now recognizes as criminal policies comparable to those of the Nazis.
"When you cross over that line of darkness, it’s hard to come back. You lose your soul. You can do your best to justify it, but . . . you can’t go back to that dark a place without it changing you." - anonymous CIA officer.
"If we, the people, are ultimately condemned by a world court for our complicity and silence in these war crimes, we can always try to echo those Germans who claimed not to know what Hitler and his enforcers were doing. But in Nazi Germany, people had no way of insisting on finding out what happened to their disappeared neighbors."
We, on the other hands, still have what may be the last days of freedom. How will we use this precious gift?
"...the thing that makes for peace above all others is the systematic practice in all human relationships of nonviolence" - Aldous Huxley, Ends and Means: An Enquiry into the Nature of Ideas and into the Methods Employed for their Realisation
One of the lessons that the peace movement must constantly relearn is what Gandhi called "the Law of Suffering". We have inherited many good and bad tendencies from the sixties. One of the worst is a superficiality that is rooted in impatience. At its foundation, this impatience is a refusal to suffer, which has a surface relationship to the struggle for justice. The fundamental attitude to struggle against is the one that identifies all suffering with evil. Gandhi had a profound intuition of the value of suffering, one that we must embrace in order to give new vigor to the antiwar movement. It is an insight that Christians should feel a deep empathy with since it was embodied by our Savior on the cross. All true spiritual achievements are grounded in suffering, just as all real progress toward peace must accept suffering as the price of moral insight. "The purer the suffering, the greater is the progress," according to Gandhi. By making personal, felt sacrifice, we empower the peace movement.
This suffering acts to intensify the unity with those who must endure the consequences of our anti-human and anti-Christian lifestyle: "I do not believe ... that an individual may gain spiritually and those who surround him suffer ... I believe in the essential unity of man and, for that matter, of all that lives. Therefore, I believe that if one man gains spiritually, the whole world gains with him and, if one man falls, the whole world falls to that extent." - Gandhi
The time has come to start suffering: "So why don't we have A STOP THE WAR plan? That might require pain and sacrifice, something we're told we don't have to engage in as American's--not even to save the planet." - Jeff Gibbs, "Why I am not Going to Protest", CounterPunch
"I can no longer give myself a pass because MY deal, my family, my work, my ease, is more important. It's not. Afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted, even if the comfortable are ourselves. We should be ashamed that we are leaving the heavy lifting the Cindy Sheehan, to me the lone voice who has failed to be cowed into submission or giving up among us." - John Gibbs
How about some action? By Christians who believe that Jesus came to bring peace? "No shopping. No going to work. No movies released. No concerts. No TV shows produced. No schools open-the students have walked out. No buying of cars, plane tickets, gasoline. Hundreds of people driving the speed limit every rush hour-every major city will be shut down. Campus walkouts and non-violent strikes; maybe occupations." - John Gibbs.
The truth is that George Bush is not responsible for the Iraq War - you and I are. He and the Pentagon could do nothing without our willing cooperation. It is our inaction, our devotion to comfort, which sustains this war. The Democrats are a convenient substitute for action. Pressuring them bleeds the energy we need to stop the war. They will obey their corporate masters no matter what we do. Once the corporate master feels pain, he will act to stop the pain. One day we will look back on this era and realize that the issues were far more fundamental than we currently believe. We need to think protest through to its foundation until we can conceive "ending our role as the world's chief glutton" - John Gibbs. Our gluttony is the cause of the violence which ravages the poor and the life of the world.
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Mary Pipher, renowned psychologist and author of Reviving Ophelia, displays the courage that most of her colleagues are incapable of, which is quite a commentary on thirty years of empathy training: "I am writing to inform you that I am returning my Presidential Citation dated 2/02/06 and awarded to me by then President of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Gerald Koocher. I have struggled for many months with this decision, and I make it with pain and sorrow. I was honored to receive this award and proud to be a member of APA. Over the years I have spoken at national conventions many times and had enjoyed an excellent relationship with the APA and its staff. With this letter, I feel as if I am ostracizing a good friend.
I do not want an award from an organization that sanctions its members’ participation in the enhanced interrogations at CIA Black Sites and at Guantanamo. The presence of psychologists has both educated the interrogation teams in more skillful methods of breaking people down and legitimized the process of torture in defiance of the Geneva Conventions.
The behavior of psychologists on these enhanced interrogation teams violates our own Code of Ethics (2002) in which we pledge to respect the dignity and worth of all people, with special responsibility towards the most vulnerable. I consider prisoners in secret CIA-run facilities with no right of habeas corpus or access to attorneys, family or media to be highly vulnerable. I also believe that when any of us are degraded, all of human life is degraded. This letter is as much about us as it is about prisoners." - Common Dreams, "In Protest of APA Torture Stance, Author Returns Award"
As one who has grown spiritually within the healing power of modern psychology, I have been truly shocked by the implicit endorsement of torture by the APA. When those charged with healing the minds of those who have suffered abuse such as that perpetrated on the powerless at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib have turned their knowledge to break the will of the weak, then indeed we have degraded the best that is within us. Those who have cared for the victims of torture, such a Mary Pipher, will never believe the rationalizations of abuse that the APA has now signed its name to. Let us grieve for what we have become.
When any of us are degraded, all human life is degraded. Read the whole letter at In Protest of APA Torture Stance, Author Returns Award. Things that are done in secret shall be shouted from the rooftops in the kingdom of heaven. Let's start shouting.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
"In the long run, a people can be held in subjection most effectively not by brute force but by gutting them of the capacity to fight for themselves." - Hal Draper
Words of wisdom from soldiers in Iraq: "In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are - an army of occupation - and force our withdrawal.
Until that happens, it would be prudent for us to increasingly let Iraqis take center stage in all matters, to come up with a nuanced policy in which we assist them from the margins but let them resolve their differences as they see fit. This suggestion is not meant to be defeatist, but rather to highlight our pursuit of incompatible policies to absurd ends without recognizing the incongruities." The Iraq war as we see it, by seven soldiers stationed in Iraq.
Even the most generous interpretation of our invasion of Iraq leaves the people there gutted of their dignity and self-respect. The more accurate interpretation - control of energy supplies - leaves them with every good reason to fight.
Just as in Vietnam, soldiers are leading the way out, the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) has decided to fight with the weapons of peace: "IVAW formally voted this weekend to launch a campaign this Fall in support of the GI resistance, in effect, encouraging troops to refuse to fight. To underscore the point, IVAW elected Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia chair of its board of directors. In the winter of 2003, Camilo was the first soldier to refuse to return to fight in Iraq after an initial tour in the war zone. 'There's a sort of revolution taking place in the streets. It's not being reported by the mainstream media, but we in the antiwar movement know what's going on. There is a rebellion going on in the ranks of the military that is not being reported," Camilo noted to reporter Aaron Glantz.'" - Courage to Resist
Christians must return to the roots of their faith, as in the pre-Constantinian times when killing in war was considered contrary to the gospel of Christ, as it was then and remains today. Christians must shelter and support those willing to lay down their guns and stop violating the image of God in the face of their Iraqi brothers. It is time to tell soldiers to give up their arms, to stop fighting for powers that have nothing but hatred and contempt for those they use to enforce their bitter will. The powers of dominion cannot maintain their hegemony without the arms of willing soldiers - their power depends on violence.
"Please help Courage to Resist support the troops that refuse to fight with your urgently needed tax-deductible donation today. We also host a number of individual defense funds if you wish to contribute to a specific resister. --> Donate to Courage to Resist
Saturday, August 11, 2007
"A recently declassified August 2006 Department of Defense report confirms that psychologists were directly responsible for the development and use of techniques defined by the International Red Cross as "tantamount to torture." These techniques continue to be employed against enemy combatants in Guantanamo and other military and CIA run facilities." - http://ethicalapa.com/
When the science of mental healing is re-engineered to destroy the minds of those deemed "enemy combatants", we must let go of our own souls in order to carry out this work. Those who remain silent now will meet silence and understand the meaning of silence when their place in the torture queue arrives. Fundamentally, the techniques that are being pioneered in Iraq and Afghanistan are advanced techniques of social coercion, enforced by psychological agony as required. Iraq and Guantanamo are laboratories where the techniques of coercion will be perfected.
The book Torture and Eucharist by William Cavanaugh describes the antidote to the dominator's imagination: "To participate in the Eucharist is to live inside God's imagination. It is to be caught up into what is really real, the body of Christ. As human persons, body and soul, are incorporated into the performance of Christ's corpus verum, they resist the state's ability to define what is real through the mechanism of torture."
Again: "If torture is essentially an anti-liturgy, a drama in which the state realizes omnipotence on the bodies of others, then the Eucharist provides a direct and startling contrast, for in the Eucharist Christ sacrifices no other body but His own. Power is realized in self-sacrifice; Christians join in this sacrifice by uniting their bodies to the sacrifice of Christ."
We cannot allow the state to define what is real and enforce it's definitions on the bodies of the weak and the voiceless. To be a Christian is to be united with the tortured in the body of Christ. Through our prayer and protest, the tortured receive grace and can retain the inner integrity which the state seeks to rob them of through psychological torture.
"We live our personal lives aware of what those we care for, need. The only difference between us, and Abraham is the limit on who we care for. We care for our families, our friends; Abraham cares for the people in Sodom and Gomorrah. We ask for good things for ourselves; Abraham asks for good things for others. He asks for this, not just for the just, but for the unjust as well. What do we weigh on the scales of justice, for whom do we see them balance? For the many? Or for the few? Our children are the few, but in our hearts and minds they are the only ones; and still, we who are evil know how to give them good gifts. Why do we restrict those gifts only to those we care for? If we ask God to give us the Holy Spirit, won’t we be asking God to make us care for others, wherever they are, whoever they are?" - Adventus
So how should Christians consider their tortured brothers? "'And what does the Lord require of you,' asks Micah of Israel,' but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.' That is the eternal golden braid what binds all the stories of the Hebrew scriptures, and all the gospels and letters and visions of the New Testament, together. It is not about truth, it is about justice; it is not about power, it is about mercy; it is not about holiness, it is about humility. Have people abused that, refused that, misused that? Certainly. It is the way people are. But the basiliea tou theou is not about entrance requirements or admissions exams or even proper I.D. The kingdom of heaven is that place where no one is excluded, where no one is kept out, except that they keep themselves out. It is the place without any need for a refugee camp, because while we make widows and orphans and determine a person's value, God makes people, and accepts everyone of them." - Adventus
Two men of God who hear the voice of the voice are Fr. Louis Vitale and Fr. Steven Kelly, who confronted torturers at Ft. Huachuca last week: "Two Roman Catholic priests, who were arrested as they approached the Fort Huachuca gatehouse on November 19, 2006, will face a continuance of their pre-trial hearing this August 13 in Federal Court in Tucson, Arizona. The intent of Franciscan Fr. Louis Vitale, 74, and Jesuit Fr. Steve Kelly, 58, was to speak with enlisted personnel and deliver a letter denouncing torture to Major General Barbara Fast, commander at the post." - truthout
What better way to serve Christ than to serve those who have no one to speak for them? "Fr. Vitale and Fr. Steve Kelly face federal and state charges of trespass and refusal to follow police orders.
Fr. Vitale is co-founder of the Nevada Desert Experience, a faith-based organization that has opposed nuclear weapons testing for a quarter of a century. He was arrested at a Fort Benning Protest in 2005 and served six months in federal prison.
Fr. Kelley has served time in federal prison for the nonviolent, direct disarmament of nuclear weapon delivery systems. In December of 2005, he served as chaplain for Witness to Torture, a delegation of US anti-torture activists who peacefully marched in Cuba to the gates of the Guantanamo Bay naval base and prison camp."
Prison is the appropriate place for Christians - among the forgotten, the falsely accused, the tortured, and all those the empire has crushed. Please consider supporting their protest and that of the dissident members of the APA who want to stop psychological torture. Go to Ethical APA for details on how to give your support.
I'm staggered by the idea of psychologists planning and directing the torture of their fellow human beings. So how should Christians consider their Iraqi brothers? "'And what does the Lord require of you,' asks Micah of Israel,' but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.' That is the eternal golden braid what binds all the stories of the Hebrew scriptures, and all the gospels and letters and visions of the New Testament, together. It is not about truth, it is about justice; it is not about power, it is about mercy; it is not about holiness, it is about humility. Have people abused that, refused that, misused that? Certainly. It is the way people are. But the basiliea tou theou is not about entrance requirements or admissions exams or even proper I.D. The kingdom of heaven is that place where no one is excluded, where no one is kept out, except that they keep themselves out. It is the place without any need for a refugee camp, because while we make widows and orphans and determine a person's value, God makes people, and accepts everyone of them." - Adventus
Christ teaches us that compassion is the greatest of the virtues. In the words of Thomas Aquinas, "In itself compassion takes precedence over the other virtues, for it belongs to compassion to be bountiful to others, and, what is more, to succor others in their wants, which pertains chiefly to one who is superior. Hence compassion is accounted as being proper to God; and therein God's omnipotence is declared to be chiefly manifest." - S.T. II-II, q. 30, a. 4.
Hosea describe compassion in these words, "My heart recoils within me, my compassion grows warm and strong." When we feel the pain of our brothers and sisters, especially those whose misery we are directly responsible for, as in the case of Iraq, then we are most like the God of Jesus Christ. When we go beyond this feeling, and act practically to carry out the clear directives of this passion, then God's power is in our acts. Revolution, carried out not according to the dictates of an economic theory, but from passion for our brother's needs, brings to blossom the divine promise.
The heartless "gospel of prosperity" as currently practiced in America is actually an anti-scriptural sanctified Darwinism. True Christianity speaks with a far different voice: "The temporal goods that God grants are ours as to the ownership, but as to use of them, they belong not to us alone but also to those we are able to succor out of what we have over and above our needs." S.T. II-II, q.32, a. 5.
But this calls us to more than charity. Our obligation is not simply to give material goods to help those in need, but first to understand why they are in need. Then we begin to understand the structure of oppression and the truth that lays in the heart of real compassion, real identification with our brothers and sisters in their suffering: that their deepest need is for dignity, the ability to walk on their own. Charity in the modern sense robs them of this dignity and contributes directly to the spiritual justification of systemic injustice.
Charity in this sense is included in a much larger array of strategies for paralyzing social and political activism. The purpose of these strategies is to create an all-pervading sense of powerlessness, which is necessary to instill the proper sense of subordination to authority. We find ourselves somehow installed with the sense that we need aspire to no more than being spectators of the media's endless stream of low-grade entertainment. That all of us are called to be actors on the stage of history, that we cannot achieve our life's purpose without becoming committed to such action, is the demon the media was invented to exorcise.
When the oppressed become conscious of their responsibility to end their own oppression, humanity is deepened in a fundamental way. Pursuing this deepening is duty of the true Christian, not the current cartoonish religious escapism, no matter how wealthy the churches who bask in this illusion. When we throw off the consumerist zombyism induced by the media, only then can we stand as human beings, and therefore Christians.
Friday, August 10, 2007
"Lord Jesus Christ, You filled your servant Franz Jagerstatter with a deep love for you, his family and all people. During a time of contempt for God and humankind you bestowed on him unerring discernment and integrity. In faith, he followed his conscience, and said a decisive NO to national socialism and unjust war. Thus he sacrificed his life. We pray that you may glorify your servant Franz, so that many people may be encouraged by him and grow in love for you and all people. May his example shine out in our time, and may you grant all people the strength to stand up for justice, peace and human dignity. For yours is the glory and honour with the Father and the Holy Spirit now and forever. Amen. (Diocese of Linz, Austria)." - Catholic Peace Fellowship
"...Jägerstätter felt that refusing to cooperate with the Nazis was the
best thing he could do for his family. He would rather his children have a father martyred for following Christ than a Nazi for a father."
Let us rejoice for the Church, who has seen the glory of nonviolent resistance to fascism, made alive in the deeds of Blessed Franz Jagerstatter, who gave true witness to Christ by his refusal of Church-sanctioned violence.
While discussing the question "Catholic or Nazi?", Franz compares the German Christians of his day to the Christians of the first centuries: "The Christians of the first centuries could have used the same reasoning: let us make sacrifices to idols as the government demands; in secret we can still remain Christians." Gordon Zahn, In Solitary Witness: The Life and Death of Franz Jagerstatter.
The Christians of our times have made a similar surrender: Let me have the benefits of the corporate state and I will sacrifice to the idols of consumerism. In secret I will actually be a Christian, but externally I will remain silent in the face of the slaughter in Iraq rather than endanger the lifestyle that the slaughter is meant to support.
Speaking of the complicity of Austrian Catholics in the triumph of the Nazi cause, Jagerstatter says, "Almost all of us are quite willing to glut ourselves with the spoils of thievery, but we want to saddle the responsibility for the whole dirty business on one person alone!" Similarly, Christians, both liberal and fundamental, are more than willing to let the whole guilt of the Iraq war rest on the shoulders one now despised individual. The truth is that each one of us is complicit in the crimes of the Bush administration to the extent that we do not actively resist. Shall we be secret Christians and avoid the lion's mouth?
The Christian critique of the structures of domination is deeper than the Marxist one, but is not contradictory to the basic Marxist insight. Capitalism is an inherently inhuman and exploitative system, but the deeper question is why do we create such systems? Who are we that we create and maintain such a grossly anti-Christian system? The answer is that we are not followers of Christ, but of the powers that dominate this world. Christ has called us to acts of resistance against these powers, powers which are strengthened with every act of violence and weakened with every act of love.
God's kingdom lies within the movements of our heart and the acts of our hands. We are not spectators at a blockbuster movie that God will produce and direct for us, in which He will magically put an end to the structures of sin. We rub away the stones of sin each time we refuse to act with violence, each time we claim the power to act with truth.
"To the church we say:
Speak out and act against this war, from the pulpits (especially on August 1-19), from offices high and low. Read and live the gospel.
Lift up nonviolence; Honor Jagerstatter; remember the victims; repent our silence.
To the Pentagon and its recruiters we say:
End this war now. Obey international law. Leave our young people alone.
To the young people of our city we say:
There is hope in the communities of this city.
There is a future, economic and social, but we must make it ourselves.
We need one another; we need you here in the struggle for life and community.
To the dead of Nagasaki we say:
Forgive us even now. We commit ourselves to putting an end to these weapons.
To the people of Iraq, we say:
Forgive our silence and our complicity. Forgive our submission to these leaders.
We pledge to end this war. Refuse to pay for it. Refuse to fight in it." - Catholic Peace Fellowship
Blessed Franz Jagerstatter - Pray for us!