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.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Christianity is fundamentally incompatible with anti-Communism since communism is the primary social legacy of the Christian path to truth. More to the point in these days of "hope" and "change", Christianity is fundamentally incompatible with neoliberalism. No real "change" is possible unless capitalism is forcefully remounced.
"Obama and his auto commission have decided to use the power of the capitalist state to impose a solution fully in keeping with neoliberalism. Whatever the ultimate outcome for GM and Chrysler, the industry would be modeled on the lean and mean transplants: competitive, profit-making machines with weak or no unions. Finance would retain a dominant role in deciding its priorities. And the demand for short-term profitability, discouraging longer-term investments and costly new technology, would come at the expense of the environment. The administration is using its power to force reluctant bondholders to accept hugely discounted returns, in the name of the broader interests of the capitalist class as a whole. It is using the threat of bankruptcy to force workers to accept further job loss, reductions in wages, benefits, pension rights, work intensification, and deteriorating working conditions. The firing of Wagoner was an effort to appeal to the growing anger of many Americans with the greedy CEO’s of the financial sector — while making no real fundamental changes, other than reinforcing the disciplining power of Wall Street financial interests. In a similar way, in appearing to be equally harsh with both bondholders and the UAW, the administration maintains a façade of fairness — even though workers will end up paying with their basic livelihoods and pensions."- Herman Rosenfield, "The North American Auto Industry in Crisis", Monthly Review, June 2009
The above is a key example of that which negates Christianity. Christianity is about social justice or it is an idol that puts its worshipers into a state of advanced stupor. We Christians are called to remove the workers of iniquity from the field of the world, not in a mythological way, following the Disneyland theology popular throughout North America, but in a real way, by eliminating the causes of injustice. In the real fields of the kingdom which we currently inhabit, the primary cause of injustice and environmental inferno is the ideology John Paul II referred to as savage capitalism. The kingdom of heaven is the kingdom of God, which exists beneath our feet on this beautiful earth. It is a spiritual realm indeed - the spirit of justice that lives within our hearts. There is no heaven other than the one that God creates in those hearts.
The concept of a kingdom that is not of this earth is completely unBiblical. When Jesus said, "I am not of this world,", he did not mean that he existed in some spiritual realm apart from the planet Earth. Instead, his statement had a spiritual meaning, "I am not of this system, but I bring a new system into existence with my presence, one in which the relations of domination and subordination no longer exist."
The Kingdom of God is among us.
"Oh, do not let the oppressed return ashamed!
Let the poor and needy praise Your name." - Psalm 74:21
"For God is my King from of old,
Working salvation in the midst of the earth." - Psalm 74:12
There is no Biblical concept of a permanent spiritual realm apart from the earth where we will one day live, abandoning the earth to its wickedness. Instead, the Bible teaches us that we must be part of the transformation of the earth into the Kingdom of God. We have failed our mission miserably and this failure is justified by escapist dreams of a heaven where all our earthly omissions will be forgotten. Deep down, each Christian knows that the gospel of Jesus Christ was not that there is a heaven where we can escape from all earthly suffering. Instead, the kingdom of God is within us and it blazes up whenever we fight for social justice.
Sunday, June 07, 2009
The following ideas are from a long-time struggler for social justice, Marta Harnecker, now living in Venezuela:
"1. Popular movements and, more generally, various social actors who are engaged in the struggle against neoliberal globalization today at the international level as well as in their own countries reject, with good reason, actions that aim to impose hegemony on movements. They don’t accept the steamroller policy often used by some political and social organizations that, taking advantage of their position of strength and monopolizing positions of leadership, attempt to manipulate movements. They don’t accept the authoritarian imposition of leadership from above; they don’t accept attempts made to lead movements by simply giving orders, no matter how correct they are.
2. Such a hegemonist attitude, instead of bringing forces together, has the opposite effect. On the one hand, it creates discontent in the other organizations; they feel manipulated, obligated to accept decisions in which they’ve had no participation; and on the other hand, it reduces the number of allies, given that an organization that assumes such a position is incapable of representing the real interests of all sectors of the population and often provokes mistrust and scepticism among them.
3. But to fight against an attempt to impose hegemony does not mean renouncing the fight to win hegemony, which is nothing but an attempt to win over and persuade others of the correctness of our criteria and the validity of our proposals.
4. To win hegemony, it’s not necessary to have many adherents from the beginning — a few are enough. The hegemony achieved by the Movimiento 26 de Julio (July 26 Movement), led by Fidel Castro in Cuba, seems to us to be a sufficiently convincing example of this.
5. More important than creating a powerful party with a large number of militants is establishing a political project that reflects the people’s most deeply felt aspirations and thus wins their hearts and minds. What is important is that its politics succeeds in procuring the support of the masses and creating consensus among the majority of society.
6. Some parties boast about the large numbers of militants that they have, but, in fact, they lead only their members. The key is not whether the party is large or small; what matters is that a majority of the people feel identified with its proposals.
7. Instead of imposing and manipulating, we need to convince and unite all who feel attracted to the project to be implemented. And we can only unite people if we respect others, if we are capable of sharing responsibilities with other forces."
I think what Marta Harnecker is saying here is extremely significant, especially when taken in conjunction with her first article. “But to fight against an attempt to impose hegemony does not mean renouncing the fight to win hegemony, which is nothing but an attempt to win over and persuade others of the correctness of our criteria and the validity of our proposals.” This is where much of the American left seems to break down. Since the vast majority of the American left arises in the universities, intellectual trends there have huge impact on political strategies. Post-modernism, which entered the scene in the 70s as a ultra-radical trend, has long shown its deep compatibility with the neoliberal empire. By characterizing traditional leftism as a totalizing ideology, an attempt to impose uniformity on meaning, this ideology has dealt a severe blow to attempts to create social justice. We must return to the straightforward strategy advocated by Harnecker – respect for all those social forces that resist neoliberalism and reasoned persuasion to a leftist perspective. We must become the free and open intellectuals and activists that our vision proclaims. I think particularly of Eugene V. Debs who acted as a passionate and deeply persuasive voice for those whose interests were ignored. The bonds of unity should be created through shared responsibilities in practice rather than striving for theoretical unity. These forces will coalesce when we develop the attractive power to bring them together. Theoretical unity must arise from practical unity. At the same time, we must acknowledge that the current political system is not an appropriate instrument for enabling the systemic change that is necessary. It is structured to redirect the energy for social justice into channels that doom that energy to support for neoliberal policies. I think her ideas represent a way forward, an abandonment of organizational egoism in support of the greater cause.
Monday, June 01, 2009
The drumbeat of betrayal is relentless. So far Obama has broken every progressive promise. Let’s examine the record as laid bare in Paul Street’s recent article, “The Dawning Age of Obama as a Potentially Teach-able Moment for The Left”, znet, May 30, 2009, then we will examine the spiritual pathology that underlies the self-deception of progressives regarding “hope” and “change”. So far the record is blazingly clear. Obama has extended and intensified the previous human rights assaults of the Clinton and Bush years. He has acted vigorously to:
“* Significantly expand the reach and intensity of imperial violence (replete with the mass slaughter of civilians and the related escalation of targeted assassinations) in South Asia.
* Promote a notorious assassin and death-squad leader (Lt. General Stanley A. Chrystal - former chief of the military's special Joint Special Operations Command) to the position of Commander of U.S. Forces in the newly merged ‘Af-Pak’ war theater.
* Sustain the criminal occupation of Iraq beneath rhetoric of withdrawal.” Essentially, we must remain in Iraq as long as the world remains “dangerous and unpredictable”, which it might be for some time to come – at least until the capitalist cancer has managed to make over the earth in its own spiritual image.
“ * Increase ‘defense’ (empire) spending, consistent with the following statement in a report issued by the leading Wall Street investment firm Morgan Stanley one day after Obama's presidential election victory: "As we understand it, Obama has been advised and agrees that there is no peace dividend."
* Revive military commissions.
* Continue the practice of renditions.
* Maintain secret prisons for persons ‘held on a short-term, transitory basis.’
* Continue the unspeakable torture of prisoners by an ‘extrajudicial terror squad’ (Jeremy Scahill's description of the Pentagon's sadistic ‘Immediate Reaction Force’ in Cuba) at Guantanamo Bay.
* Advance the policy of ‘indefinite detention’ (potentially permanent incarceration) for Guantanamo prisoners for whom no legally compelling evidence can be marshaled.
* Intimidate England (with a threat to withhold intelligence data on potential terrorist attacks!) into preventing a Guantanamo victim from having his day in court on the Bush administration's torture practices.
* Sustain the Bush administration's abrogation of habeas corpus rights in regard to the roughly 600 "enemy combatants" kept at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan (where people rendered out of other countries like Yemen and England can be considered ‘war [-zone]’ prisoners!.
* Advance nauseatingly specious legal and moral arguments (‘better to look forward than backward’) to prevent serious federal investigation of the Bush administration's human rights crimes.
* Sustain George W. Bush's domestic wiretapping program.
* Invoke the ‘state secrets’ (akin to the divine right of kings) doctrine to prevent disclosure of evidence in response to lawsuits emerging from Bush era rendition and surveillance policies.
* Suppress photographic evidence of U.S. torture practices.
* Justify all this and more in the name of the supposed ‘global war on terror’ that was supposedly launched in legitimate defense against the supposedly unprovoked jetliner attacks of September 11, 2001.
* Disregard qualified progressive defenders of civil liberties and human rights from consideration for appointment to succeed Supreme Justice David H. Souter and to thereby counter the hard right leanings of the court's conservative majority.
* Send clear signals of intent to roll back and partially privatize Social Security and Medicare benefits.
* Betray campaign pledges to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to insert stronger labor and environmental protections.
* Betray campaign pledges of serious intent to advance an elementary and overdue labor law reform (the Employee Free Choice Act).
* Force and approve an automobile industry re-structuring that drastically cuts domestic autoworkers' jobs, wages and benefits while subsidizing General Motors' further shifting of jobs abroad. 
* Advance a tepid, business-friendly health care ‘reform’ that leaves the leading parasitic insurance corporations (major campaign sponsors of his) in power.
* ‘Methodically erase single-payer advocates from the picture’ (Glen Ford) of health care reform despite the fact that a majority of Americans have long favored a single-payer (‘Medicare for all’) health insurance system.
* Spend trillions of federal dollars on taxpayer handouts to giant Wall Street firms who spent millions on his campaign and who drove the economy over the cliff. Obama's Wall Street bailout rejects the elementary bank nationalizations and public financial restructuring that are required to put the nation's credit system on a sound and socially responsible basis, choosing instead to guarantee the financial, insurance, and real estate industries' toxic, hyper-inflated assets while keeping existing Wall Street management in place. It amounts to a giant effort to ‘keep perpetrators afloat’ (liberal economist James Gailbraith) through a scheme in which the government takes more than 90 percent of the risk but private investors reap at least half the reward. “
I replied to the article on znet as follows:
The response of progressives has indeed been disheartening, primarily because it indicates despair and detachment from reality. Despair because somehow the assumption has seeped into political discourse that Obama is the best progressives can realistically hope for these days. Such "hope" is just a mask for a practical abandonment of hope for significant change. However, the detachment from reality is more frightening because facing the truth of the situation provides the only possible remedy to despair. Our inability to face the facts about Obama before and after the election is part of a larger failure - the failure to penetrate to the core of the issues of economic power relations in this country and to realize that they can't be reformed, but only overturned.
As Christians, we cannot tolerate illusion. Jesus teaches us to look truth square in the face. We cannot join in the cynicism of believing that the Democratic Party represents a true alternative to the Republican Party. Only an economic system that privileges human need over the rights of property owners can conform to the promise of the Gospel.