"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, October 01, 2005

The Citadel

“Evil has insinuated itself into our very souls and rules over us from the very citadel erected to guard us against it.” Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996, p. 89.

This citadel often manifests itself in the form of smugness radiating from our Christian identities. When we become addicted to comforting lies our vision of the world devolves into cartoonish battles of enlightened civilization and dark swarms of “terrorists” engendered from the marshes of perverted beliefs, beliefs moreover that mirror our own. The religion of Christ becomes the sickly sweet expression of our church leaders which scent calls for the assassination of our enemies, those who own resources we covet.

Walter Wink describes the mirror image of the true church in the following words:
“The myth of redemptive violence is nationalism become absolute. This myth speaks for God; it does not listen for God to speak. It invokes the sovereignty of God as its own; it does not entertain the prophetic possibility of radical denunciation and negation by God. It misappropriates the language, symbols and scriptures of Christianity. It does not seek God in order to change; it claims God in order to prevent change. Its God is not the impartial ruler of all nations but a biased and partial tribal god worshiped as an idol. Its metaphor is not the journey but a fortress. Its symbol is not the cross but a rod of iron. Its offer is not forgiveness but victory. Its good news is not the unconditional love of enemies but their final liquidation. Its salvation is not a new heart but a successful foreign policy. It usurps the revelation of God’s purposes for humanity in Jesus. It is blasphemous. It is idolatrous.” Walter Wink, Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992, p. 30.

How do we become aware of the evil that grows within us? Sometimes it is only by confronting the bodies of those we seek to dominate, “Three U.S. army personnel—two sergeants and a captain—describe routine, severe beatings of prisoners and other cruel and inhumane treatment. In one incident, a soldier is alleged to have broken a detainee’s leg with a baseball bat. Detainees were also forced to hold five-gallon jugs of water with their arms outstretched and perform other acts until they passed out. Soldiers also applied chemical substances to detainees’ skin and eyes, and subjected detainees to forced stress positions, sleep deprivation, and extremes of hot and cold. Detainees were also stacked into human pyramids and denied food and water.” Human Rights Watch, “New Accounts of Torture by U.S. Troops”, Sept. 24, 2005. As good Christians, we hold ourselves aloof, untouched by the torture committed in our name by our born-again President and his prayerful Cabinet. To allow in the cries and screams of our victims would be too painful, yet it haunts us like a sin we can barely remember. Our continuing silence and the silence of our Christian leaders makes a powerful contribution to those screams and cries, but the citadel is far too comforting to leave.

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