"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.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Summer Rains

"Israel is exacting a deadly revenge on the Palestinians after its failure to defeat Hezbollah in Lebanon. More than 200 Palestinians--44 of them children--have been killed and thousands forced to leave their homes since the beginning of Operation Summer Rains, the name the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) gave its 10-week-old intensified assault on Gaza."

"Let us leave aside those Israelis whose ideology supports the dispossession of the Palestinian people because 'God chose us.' Leave aside the judges who whitewash every military policy of killing and destruction. Leave aside the military commanders who knowingly jail an entire nation in pens surrounded by walls, fortified observation towers, machine guns, barbed wire and blinding projectors. Leave aside the ministers. All of these are not counted among the collaborators. These are the architects, the planners, the designers, the executioners.

But there are others. Historians and mathematicians, senior editors, media stars, psychologists and family doctors, lawyers who do not support Gush Emunim and Kadima, teachers and educators, lovers of hiking trails and sing-alongs, high-tech wizards. Where are you? And what about you, researchers of Nazism, the Holocaust and Soviet gulags? Could you all be in favor of systematic discriminating laws? Laws stating that the Arabs of the Galilee will not even be compensated for the damages of the war by the same sums their Jewish neighbors are entitled to (Aryeh Dayan, Haaretz , August 21).

Could it be that you are all in favor of a racist Citizenship Law that forbids an Israeli Arab from living with his family in his own home? That you side with further expropriation of lands and the demolishing of additional orchards, for another settler neighborhood and another exclusively Jewish road? That you all back the shelling and missile fire killing the old and the young in the Gaza Strip?" - Amira Haas, Haaretz, Sept. 2, 2006.

To those Xians who see the world through a bombsight, I plead that you will at least look at the children that have been killed by American-made weapons over the past two months in Gaza. Is this what the lamb shows us in the visions of Revelation? Are these the signs that thrill us with hopes of Christ's coming? When we make ciphers of the lives of human beings by those animated with inhuman absolutes, then our Christianity becomes a cipher as well. Then Christianity becomes a matter of unreal "miracles" and fantastic "revelations" that reveal nothing but our own inner poverty.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Appalling Silence of the Good People

"Today, I speak with you about a radical idea. It is one born from the very concept of the American soldier (or service member). It became instrumental in ending the Vietnam War - but it has been long since forgotten. The idea is this: that to stop an illegal and unjust war, the soldiers can choose to stop fighting it"
"The Nuremburg Trials showed America and the world that citizenry as well as soldiers have the unrelinquishable obligation to refuse complicity in war crimes perpetrated by their government. Widespread torture and inhumane treatment of detainees is a war crime. A war of aggression born through an unofficial policy of prevention is a crime against the peace. An occupation violating the very essence of international humanitarian law and sovereignty is a crime against humanity. These crimes are funded by our tax dollars. Should citizens choose to remain silent through self-imposed ignorance or choice, it makes them as culpable as the soldier in these crimes."
I have broken no law but the code of silence and unquestioning loyalty. If I am guilty of any crime, it is that I learned too much and cared too deeply for the meaningless loss of my fellow soldiers and my fellow human beings. If I am to be punished it should be for following the rule of law over the immoral orders of one man. If I am to be punished it should be for not acting sooner. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period … was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people."

Now, I'm not a hero. I am a leader of men who said enough is enough. Those who called for war prior to the invasion compared diplomacy with Saddam to the compromises made with Hitler. I say, we compromise now by allowing a government that uses war as the first option instead of the last to act with impunity. Many have said this about the World Trade Towers, "Never Again." I agree. Never again will we allow those who threaten our way of life to reign free - be they terrorists or elected officials. The time to fight back is now - the time to stand up and be counted is today.

I'll end with one more Martin Luther King Jr. quote:

One who breaks an unjust law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law." Lieut. Ehren Watada, Veterans for Peace National Convention, August 12, 2006.

Once again, the voice of conscience has risen irrestibly in the act of one willing to make sacrifice. No one can read the words of Lieut. Watada and have any further doubt as to where right stands in the cause of Christian justice and peace. His noble words characterize in all its stringent glory the honor that some still are capable of holding in their hearts. One Ehren Watada is worth a whole host of religious professionals.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Divine Disruption

Sometimes the simple act of returning home is the most revolutionary act that we can achieve. "As the Associated Press reported on August 14, immediately upon the start of the UN sponsored cease fire tens of thousands of Lebanese families defied orders from Israeli commanders, took to the roads, and returned to their villages in southern Lebanon. Their courageous action stifled any hope the Israeli government may have had for accomplishing its grand vision for southern Lebanon with this war." Ultimately, love of home, the land, and the people we were born among always defeats the schemes of the warmongers, who would like to see us on the move, anonymous, afraid to touch the neighbor sitting in the house next door. It is this love which makes nonsense of the well-laid plans of those who put their faith in cluster-bombs.

"The people who love, because they are freed through the truth of God, are the most revolutionary people on earth. They are the ones who upset all values; they are the explosives in human society. Such persons are the most dangerous. For they have recognized that people are untruthful in the extreme, and they are ready at any, and just for the sake of love, to permit the light of truth to fall on them. This disturbance of peace, which comes to the world through these people, provokes the world's hatred. Therefore, the knight of truth and love is not the hero whom people worship and honor, who is free of enemies, but the one whom they cast out, whom they want to get rid of, whome they declare an outlaw, whom they kill. The way, which God's truth in the world has gone, leads to the cross." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

"Between July 12 and August 14, the Israeli air force conducted more than 7,000 air attacks in Lebanon, supplemented by 2,500 naval bombardments and an unknown number of artillery barrages. An estimated 1,183 people were killed, about one third of whom were children, 4,054 were injured and 970,000 people, or 25 percent of the total population, were displaced. Half a million people sought shelter in Beirut, many in parks and public spaces without basic facilities...

The destruction of infrastructure was a deliberate policy designed to drive hundreds of thousands of civilians out of the south of the country and terrorise the Lebanese population as a whole. The aim was to make the entire southern region uninhabitable. The AI report explained: 'With the electricity cut off and food and other supplies not coming into the villages, the destruction of supermarkets and petrol stations played a crucial role in forcing local residents to leave. The lack of fuel also stopped residents from getting water, as water pumps require electricity or fuel-fed generators,' the report [of Amnesty International] stated."

Let us lift our voices in praise to the God of homes, of land lovingly tilled, and of the spirit that creates when all speak of the madness of love - it is madness to believe in Christ, to walk with him when he has "no power, only words; that they, the powers of reality, speak the language of facts and this language is more convincing than the language of Christ." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The facts which fell from the sky can only be countered by the neverending renewal of the life and love of community. May the Spirit of life be with the brave people of Lebanon and may those who would crush them into dust look into the emptiness of their hearts.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

We Happy Few

"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers." Henry V. 4.3. The number of those who believe in Christ's message of peace is small, but sometimes we rejoice in our tiny numbers. Our message is utterly drowned out by the lies that pour forth daily from the corporate media which celebrates violence as the ultimate distraction from the boredom engendered by the savage greed of the Empire. Yet our message will not be lost - the time will come when the pablums which promise soothing to the comfortable Christians who can't be bothered with their Lebanese or Iraqi brothers and sisters will lose their savor. Emptiness will lead to desperation and our message will be sought out, all the stronger for its present obscurity.

Remember, Lord, how your servant is taunted,
how I have to bear all the insults of the peoples.
Thus your enemies taunt me, O Lord,
mocking your anointed at every step.
Blessed be the Lord for ever. Amen, amen!

A survivor of the Qana massacre speaks: "What in the name of God have we done to deserve this?” survivor Nejwah Shalhoub said to Independent reporter Robert Fisk from her hospital bed. 'So many of the dead are children, the old, women. Some of the children were still awake and playing. Why does the world do this to us?"

I see no deeper proof of our abandonment by God than the fact that so many believe that God is merciful to us and angry with them, the terrorists, the unworthy, the immoral, the lost. May God protect us from such gratitude! In the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "May God lead us to a true understanding of God's goodness. Don't we see that the gifts of God's goodness become a curse for us if we have such thoughts about them and act in such a way; if we look upon ourselves as models of virtue, instead of growing humble as we look at the imcomprehensibility of God and the worry and anxiety our wealth creates in us and if we thank God only for God's goodness to us instead of becoming conscious of the immeasurable responsibility which is laid upon us by God's goodness? If we want to understand God's goodness in God's gifts, then we must think of them as a responsibility we bear for our brothers and sisters. Let none say: God has blessed us with money and possessions, and then live as if they and their God were alone in the world. For the time will come when they realize that they have been worshipping the idols of their good fortune and selfishness. Possession are not God's blessing and goodness, but the opportunities of service which God entrusts to us."

It may well be that, far from being the blessings we imagine, our possessions are the judgement that God has laid on us. The idol of abundance has enslaved us and we worship our selfishness to the point of being oblivious to the murders it requires. Let us sing the louder the fewer and more despised we are, confident that God will hear us just as he heard his Son.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Descent into Hell

"In the opening day of testimony in a military hearing in Baghdad to determine whether there is enough evidence to hold a court-martial for five U.S. soldiers, the medic, whose name was withheld for security reasons, testified that he saw smoke when he arrived at the family's home in Mahmudiyah on the afternoon of March 12. Inside, on the floor of the living room by the window, a teenage girl lay dead on her back, her legs spread, her clothes torn off, her body burned from her waist to her head, a single bullet hole under her left eye, he said.

Her mother also lay dead on the floor with bullet wounds in her chest and abdomen, he said.

In another room, the medic found what remained of the girl's father in a pool of blood. "The brain was on the floor and parts of the head were all over the place," the medic said. Next to him was his other daughter, who was about 6years old. It appeared to him as if a bullet had "entered the front of her face and out the back of her head," he said.

With the help of Iraqi soldiers, the medic said, he put the remains of the family in bags and stored them in an air-conditioned ambulance because there was no room at the Mahmudiyah hospital."

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Lord, do not harden Pharaoh's heart

Lord, please do not harden Pharaoh's heart ...but break it open into humility and compassion. Amen.

Lord, each of us is often a Pharoah, demanding the slavery of those who share our domains. Today, many of your children in Israel have become Pharoahs to the children of Lebanon and Gaza and their hearts are wrapped in cordite. Break open our encased hearts, O Lord, and make them flow with compassion for all people, not merely our own people. We wish not the death of the Pharoahs, but that they might find their true life which is hidden in you.

"On a mountain road just south of here, a convoy of Lebanese villagers was fleeing north shortly after the war began. They had heard Israeli soldiers telling them to evacuate. Suddenly, a rocket struck a pickup truck full of people. Twenty-one people were killed, more than half of them children.

Israel said it believed the convoy was transporting rockets. The convoy had not notified Israel that it was going to make the trip. Those who survived said in interviews that they were simply following Israeli orders to flee the south as best they could."

On the day you hear my voice, harden not your hearts.

"In one of the worst atrocities since the war began, an Israeli air strike claimed the lives of over 33 farm workers, blown to pieces as they loaded plums and peaches onto trucks at a farm warehouse in the far north of the Bekaa Valley, near the Syrian border. At least another 20 people were wounded in the attack. Most of the victims were Syrian Kurds. They were taken across the border to Syrian hospitals, because previous bombing raids had demolished roads leading to hospitals in Lebanon itself."

"This massacre of farm workers followed airstrikes that systematically demolished bridges on the main coastal highway linking Beirut and the Lebanese south to the northern half of the country. Marking the first major attacks on the predominantly Christian North, these attacks served to cut the country in two and to cut off the sole remaining lifeline for relief supplies from abroad. At least five people were killed in these bombings, which were conducted during the morning rush hour, including motorists who were crushed to death as the bridges were bombed from beneath them."

And what is the reaction of the orthodox, conservative Christian who places the crucified one at the center of our religion? Adventus perhaps said it best, "Comfortable middle-class Xians don't need apocalyptic literature because life is just dandy, and promises to be better in the sweet bye and bye. If others are suffering, we (us middle-class Xians) are sweetly oblivious to it, or figure God will reward them in the after life (or, more darkly, that they deserve it. Everybody likes karma because it seems to work so well for them!) This world, in other words, is passing away, but since we find it a comfortable place, we don't mind waiting a while for the passing, and we know what comes next will be even better!" Here, indeed, is a religion that fits right in with a narcissistic ethic that focuses exclusively on me and my immediate circumstances, regarding everything else with varying degrees of unreality. But God has not called us to be as psychologically comfortable as possible, as satisfied with our life as we can possibly be - he has called us to bear not merely our own sorrows, but those of others as well.

"[The disciples] simply bear the suffering which comes their way as they try to follow Jesus Christ, and bear it for his sake. Sorrow cannot tire them or wear them down, it cannot embitter them or cause them to break down under the strain; far from it, for they bear their sorrow in the strength of him who bears them up, who bore the whole suffering of the world upon the cross. They stand as the bearers of sorrow in the fellowship of the Crucified: they stand as strangers in the world in the power of him who was such a stranger to the world that it crucified him." Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship.

Pray that the hearts of the Pharoahs in Washington and Tel Aviv will soon melt with the compassion and humility of our Lord.