"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.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

On Our Knees

To be a Christian is to suffer and forgive, not to seek vengence, to take on additional suffering rather than refuse to feel the sufferings of others. So we cry out with the wounded Lebanese and Gazan Palestinians and ask the Lord to heal their wounds, which means suffering for him and for us. We take their suffering into our hearts - we do not push it away. In their faces, we seek our own, and above all, we see the face of Jesus. We hear the crack of every bomb blast and in them, we remember the words of Isaiah, "He took our infirmites and bore our diseases." Our worst disease being the pride that makes other human beings our necessary if unwilling sacrifices to our safety and security, a goal as illusory as the rhetoric we use to justify it. We cannot find Jesus' healing power in outrage and million dollar missles, but in a power that does not come from magic or technology. "Jesus' healing power is not to be found in his supreme power over sickness and disease." Listen carefully here - the power we are dealing with is not miraculous as we have come to think of that term - an unknown spiritual technology. "His power to heal is the power of his suffering. He heals by 'carrying' our sickness. 'Through his wounds we are healed' (Isa. 53:5). His passion and his self-surrender on Golgotha are the secret of his healing of the sick." Jurgen Moltmann, The Spirit of Life.

Are we willing to open our hearts to this suffering? Can we take on the wounded, weak, helpless, and disabled human life which God has made a part of his eternal life? Do we have the courage to stand with despised and say, "This is my family!"? "God heals the sicknesses and the griefs by the making the sicknesses and the griefs his suffering and his grief. In the image of the crucified God the sick and dying can see themselves, because in them the crucified God recognizes himself. Through his passion Jesus brings God into the God-forsakeness of the sick and into the desolation of dying. The crucified God embraces every sick life and makes it his life, so that he can communicate his own eternal life. And for that reason the crucified One is both the source of healing and consolation in suffering."

"The top United Nations aid official today made an urgent appeal for a 'humanitarian truce' lasting at least three days between Israel and Hezbollah to allow children, the wounded and the elderly to escape the fighting and food, medicine and other emergency supplies to get through to the conflict zones." Unfortunately, our Christian President and his devout administration have damned those children to quick and slow deaths. Such simple humanity is deleted in the drive for absolute security, "Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon proclaimed that 'maximum firepower has to be used.' As justification, he cited the meeting in Rome, from which 'we have in effect obtained the authorization to continue our operations until Hisbullah is no longer present in southern Lebanon.'" We hear the deafening applause of our Christian brethern to this butchery and wonder we have so few priests in the Catholic Church.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Nobody is Safe

First, the reality that you won't see on CNN: "In Tyre, a city in southern Lebanon and the country’s fourth-largest urban area, the main hospital has run out of room in its morgue. The dead are being buried in mass graves.

'Carpenters are running out of wood for coffins,' reported the New York Times. 'Bodies are stacked three or four high in a truck at the local hospital morgue. The stench is spreading in the rubble.'

'The morbid reality of Israel’s bombing campaign of the south is reaching almost every corner of this city...[W]ild dogs gnawed at the charred remains of a family bombed as they were trying to escape the village of Hosh, officials said. Officials at the Tyre Government Hospital inside a local Palestinian refugee camp said they counted the bodies of 50 children among the 115 in the refrigerated truck in the morgue.'

The Holy See has also spoken out: "The Holy Father has declared July 23rd to be a day dedicated to prayers and penance for people of all religious faiths 'to implore God for the precious gift of peace.' In a brief statement issued by the Vatican press office on July 20, Pope Benedict XVI urged prayers for 'an immediate cese fire between the (warring) sides,' the establishment of 'a humaitarian corridor in order to bring aid to the suffering people,' and the start of 'reasonable and responsible negotiations so as to end the objective situation of injustice exisitng in that region.'

I share this information with you in hopes that you will find a way to share it with the priests and people of your (arch)dioceses. Also, I wanted you to be aware that both the Holy See have spoken out on the current crisis in the Middle East and you can find those statements on the USCCB website: http://www.usccb.org/comm/archives/2006/06-145.shtml.

Unfortunately, these statements make no mention of the provocations which the Israelis have inflicted on the Palestinians just in the last eight weeks. In the words of Alexander Cockburn: "Let’s go on a brief excursion into pre-history. I’m talking about June 20, 2006, when Israeli aircraft fired at least one missile at a car in an attempted extrajudicial assassination attempt on a road between Jabalya and Gaza City. The missile missed the car. Instead it killed three Palestinian children and wounded 15.

Back we go again to June 13, 2006. Israeli aircraft fired missiles at a van in another attempted extrajudicial assassination. The successive barrages killed nine innocent Palestinians.

Now we’re really in the dark ages, reaching far, far back to June 9, 2006, when Israel shelled a beach in Beit Lahiya killing 8 civilians and injuring 32." CounterPunch, July 21, 2006.

Devoid of context, the charges made against Hezbollah and Hamas become pretexts for may soon amount to ethnic cleansing in southern Lebanon, paid for by your tax dollars. Do the good bishops mention that one-third of the Lebanese civilians murdered by Israel’s attacks on civilian residential districts are children? "That is the report from Jan Egeland, the emergency relief coordinator for the UN. He says it is impossible for help to reach the wounded and those buried in rubble, because Israeli air strikes have blown up all the bridges and roads." Paul Craig Roberts, CounterPunch, July 22-23, 2006. Our bishops seem unable to ask questions as simple as "If Israel is targeting Hizbollah, why are Israeli bombs falling on northern Lebanon? Why are they falling on Beirut? Why are they falling on civilian airports? On schools and hospitals?"

In fact, though I welcome statements in support of those suffering so grievously in Lebanon, when they tacitly accept the equivalence between a few rocket attacks and the destruction of an entire country's infrastructure, such statements become complicit in the terror campaign long planned and currently being carried out by Israel. We must raise our voices against such immoral unbalanced statements. Where is the church that is the voice of the poor? Are we not eating and drinking damnation unto ourselves when we sit silently while blatant crimes are carried out in our names and with our money? Where are the bishops who will speak about that?

In the end, we must trust in the reality of divine justice with all our hearts, for divine justice is what guarantees the instability of unjust conditions - it is the power of life that eats away continuously at the foundations of the empire of violence. Only by more and more violence can these unjust conditions be kept upon an even keel. The rulers of Israel and the U.S. must keep adding more and more police, more and more military control to preserve the illusion of their dominance. The trajectory is clearly toward toward total annihilation of the living world that will never cease to resist their lust for power for its own sake. "All that grows on the foundation of injustice is organized peacelessness. So unjust systems have feet of clay. They have no lasting development. The hidden presence in world history of the divine justice in God's Spirit 'destabilizes', so to speak, human systems of injustice, and sees to it that they cannot last." Jurgen Moltmann, The Spirit of Life. May each one reading this blog become part of that destabilization!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Let Freedom Ring

"Imagine your 14-year-old sister or your 14-year-old daughter. Imagine her being gang-raped by a group of psychopaths and then the girl was killed and her body burned to cover up the rape. Finally, her parents and her five-year-old sister were also killed. Hail the American heroes... Raise your heads high supporters of the 'liberation' - your troops have made you proud today. I don't believe the troops should be tried in American courts. I believe they should be handed over to the people in the area and only then will justice be properly served. And our ass of a PM, Nouri Al-Maliki, is requesting an 'independent investigation', ensconced safely in his American guarded compound because it wasn't his daughter or sister who was raped, probably tortured and killed. His family is abroad safe from the hands of furious Iraqis and psychotic American troops." Bagdad Burning, July 11, 2006.

The acceptance of responsibility for this crime begins in the heart of each Christian who truly loves his or her God. In the face of such crimes, we must examine the violence that lives within ourselves and pledge to work inwardly and outwardly day and night until it diminishes and is at last becomes controllable, under the grace of God.

"Why did we elect Bush? Because we are George W. Bush. As individuals, as families, as religious communities, we aren't; but as a nation, he is the perfect representative of what we are and what we want. He is the nation's Id. We are attracted and repulsed by him, which is why he's never quite won election, and has always had to cheat his way back into power. But he isn't to blame; we are." Adventus, July 14, 2006.

Though Bush bears a unique responsibility (or rather, a lack of responsibility), we participate in his abdication by our silence and passivity. Before we can be truly healed, we must recognize the inner Bush. He is that part of us that loves to exult in consumables, that roars with delight at the SUV in the Internet-enabled garage, that plays our part in war movies where we stand with pride before the barbaric hordes of subhumans consumed with jealousy for our 'way of life'. We must recognize that this drive lives within us and seek, slowly, with patience, humility, and what was once called 'character', to live the future that Jesus Christ has bought for us with his death and resurrection. We are the future that lies beyond the Machiavellian exploitation that has brought us to the edge of ecological death, if only we will embrace it. What we see before us is what we have wished for - it has been granted to us. What we see in the Middle East today is the hell of having our own way. Can we let it go? Can we let God have his way?

Are these extreme statements? I think that they are simply reflections of the truths of the Catholic Catechism - "we gain responsibility for the sins of others when we "cooperate with them . . . by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them; by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so; by protecting evil-doers."

Our silence as Catholics in the face of an illegal invasion and occupation has added the sins of this administration to our own sins, reluctant as most Catholics are to admit the reality of social sin. The following is a reflection, I believe, of the constant teaching of the Church by the Most Reverend John Michael Botean, of the Rumanian Catholic diocese of Canton, Ohio, who has said: "...any direct participation and support of this war against the people of Iraq is objectively grave evil, a matter of mortal sin. Beyond a reasonable doubt this war is morally incompatible with the Person and Way of Jesus Christ. With moral certainty I say to you it does not meet even the minimal standards of the Catholic just war theory. Thus, any killing associated with it is unjustified and, in consequence, unequivocally murder. Direct participation in this war is the moral equivalent of direct participation in an abortion. For the Catholics of the Eparchy of St. George, I hereby authoritatively state that such direct participation is intrinsically and gravely evil and therefore absolutely forbidden."

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Bearing Injustice

"...there can be no liberation from sin without bearing of sin, that injustice cannot be eradicated unless it is borne" - Jon Sobrino, Jesus the Liberator.

"[Lieutenant] Watada said he was morally obligated to obey the Constitution, not what he claimed were unlawful orders to join in an illegal war. He also released a DVD statement criticizing what he said was the 'wholesale slaughter and mistreatment of the Iraqi people.'"

As Christians, we must ask why Lieutant Ehren Watada has chosen the path of suffering for his conviction that as one who has sworn loyalty to the Constitution and what it represents, as well as to the value of human life (a truly "pro-life" position) that it is better to suffer injustice than to commit it. It is an acceptance of personal responsibility, a clear-eyed recognition of the fact that our actions directly contribute to contempt for human life or defend it. To defer to authority in a situation where there is serious doubt about whether that authority is deliberately violating the dignity of human life is to implicitly accept that violation. Paul's words are often cited in this type of situation, "You must all obey the governing authorities. Since all government comes from God, the civil authorities were appointed by God, and so anyone who resists authority is rebelling against God's decision, and such an act is bound to be punished." Romans 13:1. But Paul is not saying that government inherently represents God and must be obeyed as He must be, but that "the state is a servant of God for our good. It has no legitimacy or authority in and of itself, apart from subjection to the rule of God." - Brian Walsh, Colossians Remixed. When that authority is abused by men contemptuous of God to destroy innocent human life, then their authority is abrogated and no longer commands obedience. In fact, to obey such men once we see the true nature of their deeds in good conscience is not to follow Christ, but to strike and insult him as did the Roman soldiers.

In future years, this case may become a classic illustration of Paul's words, because Lieut. Watada is embodying precisely what Paul called government to be - an honest upholder of God's will. "And when the state clearly abrogates its responsibility to do good, when it acts against the will of God, then the Christian community has a responsibility to call it back to the its rightful duty and even to engage in civil disobedience (see Acts 12: 6 - 2). The state has no authority to do evil." Colossians Remixed. In his person and by his willingness to suffer, he is upholding the governmental obligation to the rule of law that the government itself has abandoned. Lieut. Watada believes that since "...the order to take part in an illegal act is ultimately unlawful as well, I must as an officer of honor and integrity refuse that order." Of course, I keenly realize that Lieut. Watada has made no explicitly Christian references as part of the motivation for his act, but I submit that his act is Christian, as is every true defence of justice. His act upholds the sanctity of international and domestic law precisely as it defends the innocent against unjust invasion and occupation. In Catholic moral terms, he has formed his conscience to recognize the value of law and justice. To fail to follow his rightly-formed conscience at this point would be a renunciation of the light of God's truth, no matter the terms in which he explains his deed to himself. He has also received direct corraboration from the Supreme Court which in Hamden vs. Rumsfeld last week "broadly ruled that the Administration has violated both national and international law." Hamdan and Watada, The Nation. The Supreme Court of the United States has found that the President's actions "violates the Constitution and War Powers Act which limits the president in his role as commander in chief from using the armed forces in any way he sees fit." These are precisely the principles that Lieut. Watada seeks to uphold.

Now comes the time of suffering. Lieut. Watada will be subjected to persecution and contempt by the military, as well as the current administration. He may soon be sent to prison for a far longer period that those convicted of murdering and torturing the Iraqi people. Will you stand up for him? Please visit http://www.thankyoult.org/ and show your support for him in any way that your conscience moves you. Can a Christian do any less than bear the suffering which the sin of this government has caused? Lieut. Watada has shown us how. Watch the video: http://www.thankyoult.org/mmedia/msg-13jun06.html.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Face of Integrity

Lieut. Ehren Watada said with respect to Iraq deployment, "My participation would make me party to war crimes." On June 22, he refused deployment with the following words: "I refuse to be party to an illegal and immoral war against people who did nothing to deserve our aggression. My oath of office is to protect and defend America’s laws and its people. By refusing unlawful orders for an illegal war, I fulfill that oath today."

As a Catholic, what I find so remarkable about Lieut. Watada's decision is the fact that hundreds of thousands of Christians now serving in Iraq have not made his decision - in fact, many have chosen not to fulfill their oath or their duty of conscience to our Lord or in the case of Catholics, to our Holy Father who has been absolutely consistent in opposition to this war. Please support Lieut. Watada by going to his website and signing the petition and consider making a donation: http://www.thankyoult.org/

If you wish to examine the full legal case supporting Lieut. Watada's position, see the Nation article: http://www.warcrimeswatch.org/news_details.cfm?artid=1676&cat=1. The immediate consequence for those who follow our risen Lord is to ask what we are doing to show that we also oppose these ongoing crimes. This is not simply one cause among many, it unifies many causes into a single cry of conscience. If we are now unwilling to stand for the least of these, the Iraqi people who are being butchered and tortured as a direct consequence of our actions, then what future cause will we be willing to be held accountable for? Pro-lifers, why are not as willing to protect the innocent living? Christians of all persuasions, how can you not see the face of Jesus in brutalized faces of those we have reduced to misery?

Lt. Watada now faces possible charges of mutiny. "The conservative group Military Families Voice of Victory is already "demanding the Army prosecute Lt. Watada to the fullest extent under the Uniform Code of Military Justice." Our Lord guides our footsteps along the path of mutiny against the powers of this world. Or to let the Lieutenant have the final say, "When you are looking your children in the eye in the future, or when you are at the end of your life, you want to look back on your life and know that at a very important moment, when I had the opportunity to make the right decisions, I did so, even knowing there were negative consequences." Would that the millions of followers of Jesus in this country and in the military would do the same.