"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, January 21, 2006


Jesus Nailed to the Cross

See the complete set of paintings at Church's "Anti-War" Paintings Draw Fire

Part of my work as an antiwar activist has been to help returning soldiers cope with PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which will affect some 50,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, according to predictions. Yet the more I contemplate this "personality disorder", the more I have come to believe that it is no "disorder" but rather the spirit's shriek of protest from a sanity that refuses to die. In the words of one who has lived within this agony of moral clarity, "Post-traumatic stress is not a disorder. Calling it that earns it a place in the DSM IV, professionalizes and medicalizes this very accurate perception that the world is not safe, and that life is not a comforting film convention. Calling it an individual 'disorder' cloaks the social systems responsible for experiences like Vietnam and Iraq." Stan Goff, "Returning Home Alive", trouthout, Jan. 20, 2006. He is refering to Douglas Barber, an Iraq veteran who blew his head off with a shotgun on Jan. 16, 2006, in the words of Goff, to "quiet the chaos in his head". Too many Christians have made their peace with this chaos, the deep chaos of believing in a nonviolent Jesus while the Douglas Barbers of the world suffer the chaos our silence has inflicted.

Stan Goff once again: "And it renders invisible the fact that Douglas Barber was not merely a suicide. Douglas Barber was nurtured on the illusions that secure our obedience, but when the real system needed to demonstrate to the rest of the world just how unsafe our nation could make them as the price of disobedience, the vile carnival barkers of the Bush administration, like administrations before them, did not recruit the children of Martha's Vineyard or Georgetown...They went, as they have always done, to places like Lee County, Alabama, where simple people have formed powerful affective attachments to the myth of our national moral superiority. When that world view, that architecture of meaning, collapses in the face of realities like convoy Russian roulette, and women holding babies up to prevent being shot, and daily stories of slaughter by the people one sleeps with, the profound betrayal of it is not experienced as some quiet, somber sadness. It is experienced like bees swarming out of a hive that has been broken, as a howling chaos. So we quiet it with marijuana, alcohol, heroin, and even shotguns."

The women holding up their babies to prevent Americans from slaughtering busloads of Iraqis attempting to go about what's left of their business refers to the following incident in Douglas' tour of duty in the War for Democracy, "When Doug was in a traffic jam one day, feeling very vulnerable, and the US units dismounted to clear the traffic jam - angry and afraid and waving weapons at the civilians - a woman in a bus held up her baby for them to see ... like that window-sign we see in cars on American highways, 'Baby on Board.' Only she wasn't cautioning other drivers to be careful. She was trying to prevent an armed attack that could kill her child."

What inner compromise prevents us from questioning the god of "Christians" who let babies be murdered so that we can safely rape the planet? Is the failure to be adjusted to this "Christian civilization" a psychological disease to be banished by numbing the inner scars of our warriors with drugs?

As Christians we should celebrate our maladjustment. "[The prophets] were maladjusted to the quiescence and obedience that passed for good social order, an order of mass impoverishment and copious bloodshed. They were abnormal in their refusal to join in the endless rounds of compromise of spirit and conscience. In short, as Abraham Heschel described it, the maladjustments and abnormalities that beset the prophets were actually a form of 'moral madness.'" Lee Griffith, "The War on Terrorism and the Terror of God, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2002, p. 116.

When the priests were about to kill Jeremiah, he spoke as follows, "Yahweh himself sent me to say all the things you have heard against this Temple and this city. So now amend your behavior and actions, listen to the voice of Yahweh your God...For myself, I am as you see in your hands. Do whatever you please or think right with me." Jeremiah 26: 12 - 13. Where are the Christians who refuse to believe that their faith is a therapy of adjustment to empire?

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