"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, March 31, 2007

The Failure of Christian Imagination

"...we Christians have to ask ourselves the extent to which willingness to embrace a military response to "radical Islam" is little more than a failure of confidence in the gospel. We seem far more willing to put confidence in our own cleverness and in our economic and military might than in the power of the Spirit. Is it remarkable how little we trust in the power of the gospel to transform the hearts and lives of those who are "other" to us. The point here is not that all will be converted to Christianity, but rather that the ability of truly evil men to recruit others can be substantially reduced. In fact, to put more trust in the power of the gospel than in our own cleverness would be to recognize that nothing has more potential for success than interacting with "others" in ways that imitates the life of Jesus. This is the longer term promise of the gospel, a thing we Christians have lost sight of and have become increasingly unwilling to even try."

How clear it is that our warmaking is the product of Christian despair, of faithlessness in the Gospel. How much confidence we have in marketing, in propaganda campaigns, in the power of media manipulation to coerce favorable beliefs. How much does this tell about our relationship to the Gospel. For us, the gospel (God-sell) is a body of beliefs, a frame in today's terms, that is external to our hearts, and more certainly, to our behavior taken as a whole. Our "enemies" do not accept this frame, not because of their stubborn intransigence, but because of their clear perception that this frame is part of a deliberate campaign of manipulation aimed at their subjegation and the theft of their resources. The fact that they are considered "enemies" is due directly to our lack of faith.

The fact is that we believe in the power of force and the force of power and manipulation - that is where our faith lies. We wish that could accept the power of love, but we can only honor it as an ideal. Yet "Christ is justice itself" according to Thomas Aquinas. It is the god of success, not the God of justice that we must purge from our hearts. Powerlessness is a risk, faith in a Christ who is not rich or well-connected is to court failure - to stand powerless with nothing but faith in the nonviolent Jesus. It is a risk to support a group that in worldly terms has little chance for success, such as the antiwar movement. In fact, it is precisely it's lack of wordly power that should attract Christians to it. Real Christians have never put their faith in worldly power and whenever they did, the Spirit has fled.

In fact, the struggle for justice is at the heart of the Christian way of life. To concentrate on condemning carnal sins while neglecting the spiritual openness to the Spirit and the works of justice which must be carried out is serious spiritual sin. This sin is most often caused by fear. According to Aquinas, when people are brought up under "a regime of fear people inevitably degenerate. They become mean-spirited and adverse to many and strenous feats." Many teachings from the Bible and the catechism demonstrate how the type of irrational fear inculcated by the U.S. media is the direct opposite of the spirit of the Gospel.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

War is Our Failure to Love You, Jesus

"A wail rises from the throat of all who love these people and shakes our hearts as it reaches for the crucified open arms of Jesus. We are here tonight as the church: Each one of us are witnesses to this war and to our own complicity in it - when were we silent and should have spoken, whose eyes would we not meet to face the truth? Now we are prostrate at this altar, begging, "Lord, help us. War is our failure to love you, and peace is your command. Peace is not the easy way out, its creation is the most confounding - the hardest - thing we can do. Help us."

"Now, war is the absence of hope. War is the declaration that only violence can conquer the hearts and minds of a people. We are here tonight to dare to say that is not true."

War is the anti-Gospel, the negation of the hope that Jesus Christ came to give us. "Hope, for Christians, can never just be a word – it must become an action. Hope for Christians must be a public commitment to follow Jesus in the non-violent struggle for justice and peace. Hope for Christians must be a public sharing of the love of Jesus. Hope for Christians must be a public witnessing to the power of love to overcome hate, to overcome cynicism, to overcome war, to overcome death itself."

What is the contradiction at the heart of all war? Dr. King expressed it as follows: "The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate." Instead, you multiply it. Violence encapsulates despair - it is the loss of faith in our ability to accept healing.

"In fact, violence merely increases hate.
So it goes.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." - Celeste Zappala

Friday, March 23, 2007

An Appeal to Soldiers

"I would like to appeal in a special way to the men of the army, and in particular to the troops of the National Guard, the Police, and the garrisons. Brothers, you belong to our own people. You kill your own brother peasants; and in the face of an order to kill that is given by a man, the law of God should prevail that says: Do not kill! No soldier is obliged to obey an order counter to the law of God. No one has to comply with an immoral law. It is time now that you recover your conscience and obey its dictates rather than the command of sin. The Church, defender of the rights of God, of the law of God, of the dignity of the human person, cannot remain silent before so much abomination.

We want the government to seriously consider that reforms mean nothing when they come bathed in so much blood. Therefore, in the name of God, and in the name of this long-suffering people, whose laments rise to heaven every day more tumultuous, I beseech you, I beg you, I command you in the name of God: Cease the repression!" - Oscar Romero

Soldiers, you can lay down your weapons. For the sake of Christ, lay them down. You are not obligated to kill - God does not will it. If you stop, then the whole machine will grind to a halt and you and all of us will be free at last. All you have to do is stop shooting.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Ending ALL War is a Christian Duty

"By our deepest convictions about Christian standards and teaching, the war in Iraq was not just a well-intended mistake or only mismanaged. THIS WAR, FROM A CHRISTIAN POINT OF VIEW, IS MORALLY WRONG - AND WAS FROM THE VERY START. It cannot be justified with either the teachings of Jesus Christ OR the criteria of St. Augustine’s just war. It simply doesn’t pass either test and did not from its beginning. This war is not just an offense against the young Americans who have made the ultimate sacrifice or to the Iraqis who have paid such a horrible price. This war is not only an offense to the poor at home and around the world who have paid the price of misdirected resources and priorities. This war is also an offense against God." - Jim Wallis at the National Cathedral, March 16, 2007.

"A wail rises from the throat of all who love these people and shakes our hearts as it reaches for the crucified open arms of Jesus. We are here tonight as the church: Each one of us are witnesses to this war and to our own complicity in it - when were we silent and should have spoken, whose eyes would we not meet to face the truth? Now we are prostrate at this altar, begging, 'Lord, help us. War is our failure to love you, and peace is your command. Peace is not the easy way out, its creation is the most confounding - the hardest - thing we can do. Help us.'"

"We lay our souls - broken, open - before you and question: How do we follow your command to love each other? Surely it can not be by mindlessly sending the children of others off to kill people we do not know."

"And though I know nothing, I say: No amount of logic or protest will bring my son back to me, or any of the lost ones home, yet I ask the Lord to help us. We lay this grief before the Lord - our souls broken, open – ready to rise to witness; ready to rise to love God’s world to peace." - Celeste Zappata

The Torment of Silence

Elie Wiesel declares. "Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."

We must apply the following words to our victims in Iraq: "However remote to us may be the victim of torture, abuse, or mistreatment, Christians must seek to develop the moral imagination to enter into the suffering of all who are victimized. Having personally witnessed the horrors of the Cambodian genocide of the 1970s, Robert A. Evans writes: "The motivation of basic human rights can never again become a matter of statistics, or theory, or strategy, or legislation, or judicial decision. It will always be, for me, the violation of the dignity of other children of God."

The broken child on the nightly news is the face of Christ.

"Human rights place a shield around people, even when (especially when) our hearts cry out for vengeance. It is precisely when we are most inclined to abandon a commitment to human rights that we most need to reaffirm that commitment."

The following summarizes one of the primary themes of this blog: "We live in a free society, a representative democracy, and while only a few may be direct perpetrators of human rights violations or even torture, we all share the responsibility because we are the citizens on whose behalf interrogators and military personnel are working. Whether we commit an offense against humanity, or simply sin by refusing to speak up for someone who is being victimized, as individuals and a society we are accountable for the indignities that are authorized and carried out by our nation. We each have responsibility to exercise our right/obligation to participate in the deliberative processes of our democracy. Those who have greater social or political power have even greater moral responsibility to act."

And again, "When torture is employed by a state, that act communicates to the world and to one’s own people that human lives are not sacred, that they are not reflections of the Creator, that they are expendable, exploitable, and disposable, and that their intrinsic value can be overridden by utilitarian arguments that trump that value. These are claims that no one who confesses Christ as Lord can accept."

Please read the whole declaration, AN EVANGELICAL DECLARATION AGAINST TORTURE:
PROTECTING HUMAN RIGHTS IN AN AGE OF TERROR, and for those of us who are Catholics, let us pray that our Church will begin to concentrate more on protecting human rights and dignity and less on persecuting theologians such as Jon Sobrino, whose whole life is an impassioned example of that struggle.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Love's Failures

We Christians are love's failures. The word of nonviolent love has been given to us, has been planted in our hearts, but the tree is barren. We must ask once more for mercy and pray that the sap may bring new buds. We must bear witness against violence in all forms, internal and external and our lives must flow with the waters of peace. Internal violence consists not merely of violent thoughts which are repressed, but primarily of violence against the self, a slave-like resignation to the unjust command, the consent to allow one's own violation, which contains a nugget of self-satisfied matyrdom in it. Our Lord does not will that we should suffer violence - he does not justify violence. To consent to our own violation is to fail to love a creature of God - the one he gave us to be. When we delve more deeply into this consent, we find an unwillingness to suffer for God. We play along with the injustice against ourselves because it would entail too much pain to challenge it. Standing up against this injustice does not mean revenge, retaliation, or returning in kind the demeaning order that we received. It means adjusting the balance, restoring order in the relations between us, a balance maintained by respect. The giver of the unjust command sustains the greatest spiritual damage, but our consent makes us participants in that damage, a critical failure to love our enemy. Reclaiming that love is the foundation for resistance to tyranny - we love the tyrant to repair the damage his soul sustained by his injustice. This is the obligation to fight we have received in receiving the mark of Christian.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Quo Vadis, Domine?

"Millions of people around the world sadly believe this is a Christian war," said the Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners/Call to Renewal, one of the groups sponsoring the event. "We have to clear up the confusion."

"'Quo vadis, Domine?' his voice asked at last, punctured by his sobbing. 'Where are you going, Lord?' Nazarius heard no answer. But a voice of ineffable sweetness and abundant sorrow rang in Peter’s ears, 'When you abandon my people,' he heard, 'I must go to Rome to be crucified once more.' The apostle lay still and silent with his face pressed into the dust. Nazarius thought he had either died or fainted, but he rose at last, picked up his pilgrim’s staff, and turned again toward the seven hills.
'Quo vadis, domine?' the boy asked like an echo of the apostle’s cry.
'To Rome,' Peter murmured." Quo Vadis, Henryk Sienkiewicz.

To the question, "Where are you going, Lord?" the answer always returns, "I am going to be crucified for your neglect, your silence in the face of injustice, and the face of injustice that you so continually display to those who have done no wrong to you." The words should ring louder and louder in our hearts until, at last, we find the strength to respond.

"One 15 year old year old called Ban Ismet, hit in the legs, described how she had watched her friend Maha bleed to death. "The shrapnel hit her in the eyes," she said, "and there was blood all over her face. She was dead." These are the sights that Christians wish to hide from themselves, so that they don't have to understand what their civilization means to the other peoples of the world.

"The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), which represents about 45,000 churches across America, endorsed a declaration against torture drafted by 17 evangelical scholars. The authors, who call themselves Evangelicals for Human Rights and campaign for "zero tolerance" on torture, say that the US administration has crossed "boundaries of what is legally and morally permissible" in the treatment of detainees."

Now if only the Catholics would make a similar repudiation of torture.

"Only love is more powerful than hatred," the teacher said simply. "Only
love can clean the world of evil." Believe in the power of love - there is no cleansing by violence. Violence can only cleanse us of life, as its brown and sandy footprints across the face of our mother so clearly reveal. It does not bring justice, heals nothing, and destroys the souls of those who practice it or tolerate it. The Christian martyrs knew this, why don't we, who have inherited a far enriched tradition, know it as well?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Burying the Ration of Hope

"Then something happened that haunts my dreams to this day. All the women were led back inside the house and our entire platoon was ordered to stand guard outside it. Four U.S. military men entered the house with the women. They closed the doors. We couldn't see anything through the windows. I don't know who the military men were, or what unit they were from, but I can only conclude that they outranked us and were at least at the level of first lieutenant or above. That's because our own second lieutenant Joyce was there, and his presence did not deter them.

Normally, when we conducted a raid, we were in and out in 30 minutes or less. You never wanted to stay in one place for too long for fear of exposing yourself to mortar attacks. But our platoon was made to stand guard outside that house for about an hour. The women started shouting and screaming. The men stayed in there with them, behind closed doors. It went on and on and on.

Finally, the men came out and told us to get the hell out of there.

It struck me then that we, the American soldiers, were the terrorists. We were terrorizing Iraqis. Intimidating them. Beating them. Destroying their homes. Probably raping them. The ones we didn't kill had all the reasons in the world to become terrorists themselves. Given what we were doing to them, who could blame them for wanting to kill us, and all Americans? A sick realization lodged like a cancer in my gut. It grew and festered, and troubled me more with every passing day. We, the Americans, had become the terrorists in Iraq."

In order to kill, we must first dry up the stream of charity that wells so naturally in our native hearts. Deliberate conditioning is necessary to destroy these impulse, which will well up and overthrow the deepest self protection, as long as it is not staunched. In Iraq, the heart is made to dry in the Iraqi sun: "Former Marine Cpl. Matt Howard provided a harsh picture of the US effort in Iraq. He explained that when he attempted to give out humanitarian rations to impoverished Iraqi children, “The First Sergeant in my unit put an M-16 in my face and said, ‘I dare you to give out those rations.’ They later ordered us to bury all our humanitarian rations.” Of course, soon we will find that those rations feed our own starved souls. The consequences of violence devastate the perpetrator far more than their victims. One day we will beg forgiveness from those whose lives we have deprived of the rations that we threw away. "I also oppose war," Aguayo added, "because I have seen first-hand the direct result of deployments to war zones. As a result of Operation Iraqi Freedom II, I have seen many veterans whose lives have been shattered. Many men came back with missing parts, and countless physical and emotional scars, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I have personally seen my comrades come back to commit suicide, drink themselves to death, and develop a strong addiction to drugs. It is obvious to me that these men's lives were destroyed by war. What participation in war does to our own soldiers is another reason why war is fundamentally immoral and wrong."

Show the world what a Christian conscience looks like this Lenten season. For more information on Aguayo's case, see http://www.aguayodefense.org/. Every conscience you bring alive strikes a blow in the only true battle - and, yes, it's a slow one, but it's the only one we are destined to win.