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.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
The Denial of the Incarnation
The motivating factor behind the posts to this blog is complete faithfulness to the incarnated Jesus Christ. As a foundation for its stance regarding war and economic injustice we offer the following statement: "What is then seen to be common to Christ's active and passive presence in the world is man in the state of suffering, as he first cries out in suffering for the aid of his brother and he secondly as the brother lays down his goods and his life in suffering response to that cry. If it is then recognized that suffering is the one earthly reality with which God identifies himself universally in the person of Jesus Christ, who becomes present to suffering through the love of the Holy Spirit, it will be seen that the Catholic faith - by re-emphasizing the active presence of Christ as suffering love over those dogmatic formulations which, however true, have been frozen rather than fulfilled - can be true to its self-definition as a witness to the living and universal Christ." - James W. Douglass
The Church in America must incarnate the living Christ, must become the reality of living, suffering belief. Bishops, in the face of clear calls to peace by both of the recent popes, have remained silent in the face of the most blatantly unjust and unnecessary war of modern times, an incarnational heresy that affirms the theory of faith, but excludes the practice of suffering love. Instead, the choice (or non-choice) was made to continue the long history of capitulation to culture that leaves the voice of compassion mute at the very moment when it could actually do some good.
Re-grounding ourselves in the Gospel, we recognize that peace and justice both flow from Jesus Christ. In terms of action in this world, we also see that peace divorced from revolution that restores justice is "just as futile today as revolution divorced from that peace which would keep it radically just." - James W. Douglass. In order to root out violence from our society, it is not sufficient to strive for personal peace. Without facing the root of institutional and cultural violence, we will find ourselves unwittingly re-programmed into new forms of violence no matter how sincere our personal efforts.
The mega church mentality is a kind of hypnotic self-ignorance that induces a sense of well-being and vehemently affirms the normality of institutional violence. This cultural Christianity worships the gods of established disorder rather than awakening the power to change the structures of injustice. In the words of one of greatest Christians of our time, Mahatma Gandhi, "Jesus lived and died in vain if he did not teach us to regulate the whole of life by the eternal Law of Love." Gandhi was Christian (or Christic) because he acted on Christ's principles, no matter what his formal Hindu beliefs might have been. Catholics, no matter the frozen purity of their theological principles, are stones of scandal to the extent that they fail to live those beliefs to the full current stature of human growth. Making Christ into an emblem for the unquestioning support for the conventional values of the most life-denying civilization in history reveals the true roots of the false religion portrayed as Christianity. Christ did not come to validate the virtues that support a smoothly functioning empire.
The message still to be learned by the majority of Catholic Christians was perceived by Gandhi's simple clarity. On seeing a crucifix at the Vatican, he said, "I saw there at once that nations, like individuals, could only be made through the agony of the Cross and in no other way. Joy comes not out of infliction of pain on others, but out of pain voluntarily borne by oneself." It is not through water boarding and assassination that we free ourselves from fear, but through the conscious acceptance and redemption of the suffering with which we are gifted and through ending the injustice we continue to commit against the exploitable. God will lift fear from us when we cease to terrorize others.
"The logic of non-violence is the logic of crucifixion and leads the man of non-violence to the into the heart of the suffering Christ." - James W. Douglass. In this sense, the practice of non-violence is the antidote to war. Our churches practice politic silence regarding the dehumanization of Iraqis, loudly praying that our soldiers be divinely freed from suffering and death while they deliver unbelievable agony to the subject people. A non-violent anti-war movement must therefore begin by a re-humanization of the muted Iraqi voice. Every Iraqi killed by U.S. forces must receive a name and a home. Once the full humanity of the Iraqi victim is recognized, once we see the face of Christ in the broken Iraqi child, then the potency of our smart bombs will be bled into the sands of the forgiving desert. It is precisely through the power that is no power in this world that the powers of this world are brought to shame and are made to see their true weakness.
An illustration of this weakness came on Dec. 7 in a courtroom in Currituck, N.C. where seven companions of Jesus Christ were convicted of protesting against the random murders committed in Baghdad by Blackwater mercenaries. Terrified that the words and motivation behind the protest become widely known in the area, the judge ordered the courtroom cleared. "He didn’t want people influenced by our message," Baggarly said. "There have been hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties in Iraq. If we’re going to speak about that, nobody is allowed to hear it. Obviously the system feels threatened by that. It loves darkness."