"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, November 25, 2006

Blessed are Those Who Mourn

"The kindergarten teacher is lying on a stretcher, covered with blood. The minibus is parked alongside. From somewhere to the left, the army cannon is firing shells. The children are lying on the ground next to one another. That is how one of the children described the morning when they were driving to their kindergarten in Beit Lahia and an Israel Defense Forces shell or missile--the army spokesman refuses to say--exploded several meters away and mortally wounded the teacher before their eyes." Gideon Levy, CounterPunch, Nov. 25, 2006.

And when human hearts are breaking
under sorrow's iron rod,
then we find that self-same aching
deep within the heart of God.

We mourn for the kindergarten teacher murdered by an Israeli missle and thank God it did not destroy a busload of kindergarten children, which would be declared one more "tragic mistake" in a very long string of them. But we do not surrender to the paralysis of grief. We often speak of the impotence of love in these pages because it is critical to create a counterbalance the ideology of power which is so persuasive that the vast majority isn't even aware of an alternative, including "Christians". But there are deadening griefs and life-giving ones, a distinction which the one-dimensional world most of us inhabit is incapable of grasping. In the words of Jurgen Moltmann, "If fellowship with the dying and the dead takes the pain of love seriously, it will also protest against the conditions in pulbic life which do not allow people the liberty and free space to mourn, but compel them to repress their grief, because mourning is considered illegitimate." So we are the illegitimate mourners who continue to feel grief while the world shouts Enjoy! in our deafened ears and hearts. We resist the culture of Forever Young that tramples over the weak and the failures and those too abandoned by the world to defend their stolen land. We mourn and feel the resurrection hope in our grief.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Palestine is the conscience of us all

Alyssa Peterson:

"Gaza threatens to become Chechnya. There are thousands of wounded, disabled and shell-shocked people in Gaza, unable to receive any treatment. Those on respirators are liable to die due to the frequent power outages since Israel bombed the power plant. Tens of thousands of children suffer from existential anxiety, while their parents are unable to provide help. They are witnesses to sights that even Gaza's old-timers have never seen before...

"Brutal and dizzy ideas compete against each other," Levy continues, "the defense minister suggests liquidations and the agriculture minister proposes tougher action; one advocates 'an eye for an eye,' the second wants to 'erase Beit Hanoun' and the third 'to pulverize Beit Lahiya.' And no one pauses for a moment to think about what they are saying. What exactly does it mean to 'erase Beit Hanoun'? What does this chilling combination of words mean? A town of 30,000 people, most of them children, whose measure of grief and suffering has long reached breaking point, unemployed and hungry, without a present and without a future, with no protection against Israel's violent military responses, which have lost all human proportionality."

Christ died for the people of Beit Hanoun. Muslim or Christian, the question is the power of love. And the impotence of love. We fighters for human rights must accept our impotence, the deafness of those entranced by power, and continue to fight. We must be able to look at inevitable failure, at our inability to save even a single child from the jaws of the Israeli/US death machine and then swear we will never lower the volume of our No!

"Whoever abides in love abides in God and God in him (I John 4.17). Where we suffer because we love, God suffers in us." And we feel that suffering when we raise our impotent and invisible hands to shield the children and find that they go on suffering and dying. Then we look to the death of Jesus where we find the origin of this despairing love and suddenly, the strength to continue protesting floods our veins. "Where he has suffered the death of Jesus and in so doing, has shown the force of his love, men also find the power to continue to love, to sustain that which annihilates them and to 'endure what is dead'." Jurgen Moltmann, The Crucified God.

It is not a "mistake" or "incompetence" when forces are committed to destruction and the inevitable blood starts to flow. This arises in a hatred that objectifies the living flesh of God, our brothers and sisters. These are not tactics, but the eruption of sin's potency that condemns both itself and its victim. Let love's power connect your heart to the hearts of those suffering in Gaza and Iraq, so that you begin to see these brothers and sisters as God sees them.

Each time we deliberately dismiss our knowledge of these crimes and those our government is committing in Iraq, we diminish our humanity. The case of Alyssa Peterson, referred to a few posts ago, is emblematic of what participation in these acts, either silent or active, inflicts on the soul. Alyssa Peterson, as you may remember, died of self-inflicted wounds after two days of participating in interrogations in Tal-Afar, at a place referred to as "'the cage' - where she saw fellow soldiers hitting a naked prisoner in the face. She said, 'They stripped prisoners naked and then removed their blindfolds, so that I was the first thing they saw. And then, we were supposed to mock them and degrade their manhood.' Other soldiers later told her that the old rules no longer applied. This was a different world and a new kind of war."

She may have seen other things as well: "What happened to other prisoners was much worse. At the request of the White House, U.S. servicemen and women, contract interrogators and CIA employees have beaten, maimed, sodomized and killed prisoners held in custody by the United States. In Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and in secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe, prisoners have been electrically shocked, water boarded, starved, beaten and frozen to death, suffocated with hoods, hung upside down until dead and had their flesh seared off with chemicals. More than 100 Afghan and Iraqi prisoners have died in this manner while in U.S. custody." Brian Moench, "Has the Military Lost its Humanity?", Nov. 22, 2006.

Alyssa perhaps felt that the loss of her humanity was the loss of everything that made life valuable - to be a part of the madness which our rulers have forced on us is to abandon membership in the fellowship of decency.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Executioners Shall not Triumph

"God is greater than Israel and America!"

"The assault took place on a crowded apartment building in the dead of night. Eight of the dead were children, and 11 were members of the same family.

For days, the Israeli military carried on operations in Beit Hanoun. More than 53 were killed in one week, and more than 300 injured, and then the Israelis withdrew from the village. But the next day, they launched an artillery strike on a very crowded building, and the outcome of this one attack was 18 killed, and about 150 injured."

I should not have to make this story compelling and "interesting", politically aligned with what the pundits say Christian concerns should be. We should simply look on our brothers and sisters with the eyes of love that God has given us, and open our hearts. Each such death is our chance to quell the violence that lives within us through non-violent action.

"The message of the new righteousness which eschatological faith brings into the world says that in fact the executioners will not finally triumph over their victims. It also says that in the end the victims will not triumph over their executioners. The one will triumph who first died for the victims and then also for the executioners, and in so doing revealed a new righteousness which breaks through the vicious circles of hate nad vengeance and which from the lost victims and executioners creates a new mankind with a new humanity. Only where righteousness becomes creative and creates right both for the lawless and for those outside the law, only where creative love changes what is hateful and deserving of hate, only where the new man is born who is neither oppressed nor oppresses, can one speak of the true revolution orf righteousness an dof the righteousness of God." - Jurgen Moltmann, The Crucified God.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Eyeless in Gaza

"I hear a loud explosion. My cab driver picks me up and we drive down the main street in Gaza City toward Erez. Suddenly, unexpectedly, there is a smoldering mass of wreckage in front of me, a car surrounded by boys picking at its still-hot exterior. Inside are four blackened, seared human shapes, crispy at the touch, faceless from the burns, charcoal, shreds of steaming cloth, a smell of barbecued human flesh, sirens in the distance. Burnt and vaporized metal looks like what you see in a science fiction movie. Burnt humans look like singed paper mache monsters whose pieces fall off at the hint of a breeze." CounterPunch, Nov. 10, 2006

I tremble at the shouts of the foe,
at the cries of the wicked,
for they bring down evil upon me.
They assail me with fury.

My heart is striken within me,
death's terror is on me,
trembline and fear fall upon me
and horror overwhelms me.

O that I had wings like a dove
to fly away and be at rest.
So I would escape far away
and take refuge in the desert.

"A boy of 14, who was wounded, said, 'We were asleep and we were awakened by shells hitting the house of my uncle next door. Then the windows to our houses were blasted away. We fled the house only to be hunted outside. The shells killed my mother and sister and wounded all my siblings.'"

These are the gifts that American Christians have bought for the people of Gaza. Expensive gifts. What are these Christians and Jews seeking but the will to political power and the domination of others in service of a fantasy that sucks the life out of those who believe in it? When will we see and believe God in the person of Christ, who was powerless and crucified, who died to set us free from the desire to have power and domination over others? When will Christians take on the cross that lies on the broken backs of our brothers and sisters in Gaza? This is the imitation of Christ to which we are called today - the suffering love for despised, betrayed and beaten human beings, living at the edges of our polished world, not to betray them again with a false objectivity, but to take passionate sides with the dehumanized.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Torture is Sin

The Catholic Workers have issued the following plea for moral sanity to the Catholic bishops of this country:

"Declaring that torture and war are sins, the group called on the U.S. Catholic Bishops to do the following:

• call for an end to the U.S. practice of torture.
• call for an immediate end to the U.S. war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
• offer counsel to and support for conscientious objectors.
• call for the closing of Guantanamo and all secret military prisons and torture centers.
• call on all Catholics and people of faith to engage in prayer, fasting and acts of nonviolent resistance to stop torture and to end the war."

On Sept. 15, 2003, U.S. Army specialist Alyssa Peterson, 27, died by "non-hostile weapons discharge," according to the military.

"Her story lay dormant until longtime radio and newspaper reporter Ken Elston decided to probe further in 2005. On Oct. 31 he reported the following on her hometown radio station KNAU in Flagstaff, Arizona: "Peterson objected to the interrogation techniques used on prisoners. She refused to participate after only two nights. Army spokespersons for her unit have refused to describe the interrogation techniques Alyssa objected to. They say all records of those techniques have now been destroyed."

"Elston reports on interviews with her colleagues, "The reactions to the suicide were that she was having a difficult time separating her personal feelings from her professional duties." Peterson was a devout Mormon. She is described by a friend as being "genuine, sincere, sweet - a wonderful person." Among the things she was ordered to do may have been waterboarding, recently praised by Cheney as a "nobrainer" that keeps Americans safe. As a Christian, I would rather be tortured than to be kept safe by torturing others. This kind of "safety" is a scar on the soul, a blasphemy against God's image.

Hear the voice of those who have known torture: "...torture is more than merely an abstract idea or a vague metaphor. Its reality is not just in some distant place or time, but exists as a feeling in my body. The tortures of my friends traumatized my nervous system, creating a scar. I go through periods of not thinking about it. Upon reading about torture, I remember." Shepherd Bliss, Torture Memories, CounterPunch, Nov. 4, 2006. How long before we have Christian leaders who reveal to us that torture is suicide, spiritual suicide?

"It is a terrible thing, to watch a bloody nightmare go on day after day after day -- and to know that it can be stopped, if only we faced the truth squarely. But we absolutely refuse to do so." If the bishops would speak out, then the truth could be faced squarely. If they fail to speak, then pray to God that the rocks and stones will scream out from the ground beneath our feet.