"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, September 08, 2007

Beg for an Increase of Love

"People say, 'What good can one person do? What is the sense of our small effort?' They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time. We can be responsible only for the one action of the present moment. But we can beg for an increase of love in our hearts that will vitalize and transform all our individual actions, and know that God will take them and multiply them, as Jesus multiplied the loaves and the fishes." - Dorothy Day

As is so often the case, Dorothy Day identifies the essence of the paralysis that grips the soul - "Freedom - how men hate it and chafe under it. How unhappy they are with it." Today Christians are being called to fight for justice, to stand against war, but they hate the responsibility that this would entail. Mouthing slogans and feeling outrage is completely inadequate, though it is a great leap for the majority of Christians. What's called for is a break with the corporate culture - an inner, spiritual break that begins with a commitment to freedom and responsibility.

For instance, many of those who are supposedly anti-war continue to believe that the Democrats can somehow be pressured by the citizenry into ending the Iraq occupation. They attempt to place the responsibility for ending this madness on institutions that have shown no propensity whatever for supporting the cause of justice. In fact, if you listen carefully to the Democratic leaders, they continue to support the occupation of Iraq, but wish to oppress the Iraqi people and control their resources more effectively, along with those of Iran. They express a distaste with the crude and ineffective methods of the administration, not a difference in the basic goal. Hoping in them for an end to the violence that wounds God's heart so grievously is self-delusional.

The corporate media seeks to instill in us the notion that our anti-war efforts are meaningless and worthless through the use of several tactics. The first and most effective is simply to ignore them. The implicit message is that only what marks the media with its impact has any meaning or value. The silent efforts of those who pray daily for peace, who struggle to find time to inform themselves, talk to their friends, organize members of their churches for peace and justice made to seem completely without value because their impact is so negligible compared to the vast power of the corporate media and their political minions. If an action involves hundreds of thousands of protesters, the media suppresses the significance in two ways. One is to minimize the size and impact of the crowd. The other, and more effective tactic, is to create a false dichotomy by focusing attention on the always minimal number of counter-protesters. These tactics bear a strong affinity to those used to break prisoner's will in Guantanamo and Bagram Air Force base in Afghanistan. The "interrogator" always works to minimize the detainee's sense of self-worth, placing him or her in position where he or she has to earn the right to humanity. But our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but powers, dominions, and thrones. As Christians, we believe that the spirit is primary, not the flesh.

War is the expression of Christian faithlessness. "Christians, when they are seeking to defend their faith by arms, by force and violence, are like those who said to Our Lord, 'Come down from the Cross. If you are the Son of God, save yourself.'" Christ did not perform for the media. He accepted his powerlessness in the face of the empire's might. Our faith is a sharing in his suffering that is more powerful than the world. The world does not know us and that is our pride and joy. We do not measure ourselves and our actions by the world's standards and we do not judge the value of our anti-war efforts by their worldly success. We are not Marxists who believe that material success is the only measurement of value.

However, this does not excuse us from an intelligent analysis of the world's structure of sin. The array of power and persuasion is formidable indeed. We cannot challenge it on its own terms, but must uncover its weakness through the spirit. What is nothing in the eyes of the world has conquered the world and we are the evidence of its triumph. Or do we really place our hope in power?

Blessed Franz Jagerstatter, Pray for us!

1 comment:

Rich said...

Thanks for this beautiful, profound essay. I'm looking for answers. I found this inspiring.