"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.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Where is the Christian Alternative?

"He came to us after a speaking event, telling us we must get our story into the schools. He came with a pleading voice, desperate to find a way to keep our young people from making a decision that could eventually send them to war. He said they need to hear what you have to say. We said words are not the answer if there is no program for change in the works to back them up. We cannot tell our youth not to join the military if we are not willing to raise the funds, create the programs and present the alternative in something other than idle talk.

As we sellout to the highest bidder in the race to get rich, leaving small communities in the dust, forsaking the values that have helped them survive through depressions, oil busts and droughts, we leave little behind for our youth to turn to except the very corporate entities we claim to disdain." - Monica Benderman

According to the Zimbabwean bishops, "The God of the Bible is always on the side of the oppressed. He does not reconcile Moses and Pharaoh, or the Hebrew slaves with their Egyptian oppressors. Oppression is sin and cannot be compromised with. It must be overcome. God takes sides with the oppressed. As we read in Psalm 103:6: "God who does what is right, is always on the side of the oppressed". ...

We conclude our pastoral letter by affirming with a clear and unambiguous "yes" our support of morally legitimate political authority. At the same time we say an equally clear and unambiguous "no" to power through violence, oppression and intimidation. We call on those who are responsible for the current crisis in our country to repent and listen to the cry of their citizens. To the people of Zimbabwe we appeal for peace and restraint when expressing their justified grievances and demonstrating for their human rights."

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Make It New

"A hermit was asked why we are troubled by demons and he answered, 'Because we throw away our armour, that is, humility, poverty, patience and men's scorn.'"

This scorn is the price of resisting our soul's decomposition. The growth of the spirit is found by extending the circle of love, to one's enemies, to those far off, to members of alien religions and foreign cultures, until the whole of God's world is embraced.

Abdul Khaffer Khan taught: "The Holy Prophet Mohammed came into the world and taught us 'that man is a Muslim who never hurts anyone by word or deed, but who works for the benefit and happiness of God’s creatures. Belief in God is to love one’s fellowmen.'"

Nonviolence "is active, powerful, because it comes from the soul and it therefore has the power of truth, and is simply the right thing to do." - Mairead Macguire.

Our task is not to strut and bellow, but to attain humanity. In the words of Shakespeare, "O, there be players that I have seen play, and heard others praise, and that highly, not to speak it profanely, that, neither having th' accent of Christians nor the gait of Christians, pagan, nor man, have so strutted and bellowed that I have thought some of nature's journeymen had made men and not made them well, they imitated humanity so abominably." Hamlet 3:2.

Notice the progressive declension in this passage from Christian to pagan to mere humanity. In the U.S. today, war and greed have dropped the net from our scramble for mere humanity. To be apathetic in the face of organized murder is to abandon the struggle for humanity.

To attain humanity in the current age means to liberate one's mind from the frenzied rush of words. The first step is to deconstruct the propaganda that the war machine spews forth and analyze its true purpose. We have often attempted here to disambiguate that purpose and we will continue to finger the knot that ties our mind to lies and our heart to false enthusiasms, especially now that so much of the media has apparently embraced an antiwar message. Careful analysis shows that this is not the case.

Instead, the antiwar sentiments of the majority have forced a change in tactics. The media now acknowledge that sentiment so that it can be redirected into safe channels. This is not to prevent a democratic uprising - the corporate powers are still firmly in control, but the failure in Iraq threatens to divert resources from the effort to extend that control over Middle Eastern oil. Therefore, a false opposition is set up in the form of the Democratic party which attempts to channel the refocused antiwar energy long enough so that favorable oil agreements can be concluded under the banner of "ending sectarian strife". At that point, the media will reduce the visibility of our Iraq presence as much as possible and the issue will begin to fade.

Our Christian task is liberation from the internalized values and presuppositions of the Domination system. One major tactic of that system is to drain the will to act politically by projecting an illusion of total control, or "full spectrum dominance", as the military like to put it. An example of this was the "shock and awe" campaign at the beginning of the Iraq Occupation. The purpose was to install a magical sense of awe at American control not merely of the streets, but of the very sky above. A related tactic is the profusion of video cameras and email monitoring. The Israeli checkpoints in occupied Palestine fill a similar function. The system is not actually all-pervasive, but if the illusion of such control can be engendered, their purpose is accomplished.

However, these physical control mechanisms simply reinforce internal mechanisms that are the real locus of control. That purpose is well-defined as "decomposition" of the will to act without the sanction of the domination system. "Decomposition meant blocking people from acting. It meant paralyzing them as citizens by convincing them that everything was controlled. It meant relentless application of quiet coercion leading to compliance." - Walter Wink, "The Human Being".

The counterforce is the inner "well of life", fons vitae, which the Holy Spirit plants in our hearts that lets us act without the sanction of greed or pride. It heals the wounds inflicted by the crushing of the self. From this new center, we can see war for what it is, a disgrace not merely to Christians, but the decomposition of our very humanity. God has so created us that to fail to rise above the current state of our humanity is to devolve from it, and to bury our snout in the fascinating garbarge of consumer society is to do exactly that.

Success means that our hearts have remained faithful. In the words of Gordon Crosby, "Therefore, somehow, we have to learn to get our satisfaction and our joy in faithfulness and in our intimate relationship with Christ. Then the question of effectiveness and success, in the usual sense of those terms is not the issue. We can transcend that and get energized and nourished by faithfulness knowing we are doing what we must do to live - not what we must do to change the neighborhood."

Friday, April 20, 2007

Heal the wounds that we have made

Blessings are upon the head of the just; but violence
Covereth the mouth of the wicked.
- Proverbs

"On April 11, 2007, the Red Cross issued a report entitled 'Civilians without Protection: the ever-worsening humanitarian crisis in Iraq.' Citing 'immense suffering,' it calls 'urgently' for ' respect for international humanitarian law.' Andrew White, Anglican Vicar of Baghdad added, "What we see on our television screens does not demonstrate even one per cent of the reality of the atrocity of Iraq."

No flags have been flown half staffed for the hundreds of daily murders in the streets of Iraq. How can this be? Our Christian leaders continue by their silence to proclaim, "What have they to do with me? I have no responsibility to defend the innocent unless they stand in my pews and sing praises to the God I worship."

"My experiences in Iraq made my convictions stronger... In the end I felt that I had to listen to my conscience." - Agustin Aguayo

These are the convictions that make us one with Jesus Christ. The son of man that lives within each of us whispers to us, but the voice is drowned and the true greatness of his message submerged. "The greatness of Christianity lies in its being hated by the Domination System (kosmos), not in being convincing to it." (Ignatius of Antioch). To amplify that inner voice is our vocation.

"He was bleeding. I’m looking down at his eyes, and he looked up at me. It was an intense moment. I feel like this communication, questions he might have been feeling or asking. Like, 'why did he get shot?' 'Why does it hurt so much?' 'Why are we there?' 'What’s going on?' 'Why is this happening to him?' I was asking these questions… I was on the same team of people that just took this person’s life so casually and unnecessarily..." - Ricky Clousing

"Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy."

Love Loudly

"...we read the news through acts of violence rather than the hidden acts of love that keep hope alive."

"Violence kills the image of God in us. It is a cry of desperation, a weak and cowardly cry of a person suffocated of hope. Violence goes against everything that we are created for – to love and to be loved – so it inevitably ends in misery and suicide. When people succumb to violence it ultimately infects them like a disease or a poison that leads to their own death."

"So in these days after Easter, even as we see the horror of death, may we be reminded that in the end love wins. Mercy triumphs. Life is more powerful than death. And even those who have committed great violence can have the image of God come to life again within them as they hear the whisper of love. May the whisper of love grow louder than the thunder of violence. May we love loudly." - Shane Claiborne

The answer blares: "We can make the power of those who exploit us irrelevant... Choose to know the truth about global struggles, and live in a way that supports a just alternative."

Make power irrelevant. Make horror irrelevant. Make fear irrelevant. This is the end of oppression. All we have to do is give up worship of power, our own and that which flows through us from the symbols to which we cling. Give up the tunnel of violence that focuses us on despair. The media focuses on this because it helps reinforce the sense of helplessness that prevents rebellion. As long as most people sit locked in unchangeability, those who enforce their will with blood and torture can continue unhindered.

The madman in Virginia killed 32 innocents. The madmen in Washington have killed 655,000, but you'll look in vain for the parade of psychologists explaining why they kill, what secret mental illness caused the war in Iraq. "This week’s deaths in Iraq are the ones we should all be contemplating with due solemnity, because they belong to us." Accept that ownership and start to bellow. Loudly.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Walking over the Dead

"According to the Associated Press, 233 people were killed Wednesday throughout Iraq, making it the second deadliest day since the news agency began keeping a tally of the dead two years ago. Iraqi police said that 191 people were killed in Baghdad alone.

"The Sadriyah marketplace in the center of Baghdad, a predominantly Shia area, was the scene of the most horrific of the bombings, which claimed 140 live, while wounding 150 others, making it the deadliest such attack since the US invasion of March 2003. Angry crowds at the scene denounced the Iraqi government and the US occupation as those responsible for the carnage..."

"Bush began the meeting with a ritualistic statement about Democrats and Republicans alike sending “our prayers to the families of the victims” of the massacre at Virginia Tech. No such expressions of concern were voiced, however, for the seven times as many people killed under the US occupation in the hours before the meeting began."

For the Iraqis, every 4 hours is another Virginia Tech massacre. We will be inundated for months with minute analyses of the psychology of the VT murderer. There will be no such analyses for the 655,000 Iraqis who have died. Psychologists will not parade across the screen explaining the motivations for those U.S. soldiers who murdered 184,000 Iraqis in the past four years. Before you go to bed tonight, another Virginia Tech massacre will have taken place in Iraq. By the time you wake up, two more. Can you spare a moment to send up a prayer for their families? Do you have a tear for them?

Monday, April 09, 2007

To Be Just is to be Cleansed of War

"The U.S. Catholic Bishops Peace Pastoral letter of 1984 said non-violence was perfectly legitimate for Catholics. And on May 2, 2003, a few years before becoming pope, Benedict wrote: 'There were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq. To say nothing of the fact that, given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a just war.'"

"In Afghanistan, 'Virtually any activity is regarded as 'threatening'. A 16-year-old "schoolboy was shot dead on February 8, 2005 while walking near an American base. A sniper in a watchtower apparently thought the boy’s school bag looked like a dangerous object. The claim was dismissed due to 'lack of evidence' and 'loss resulting from combat operations'. On February 13, 2006, US soldiers shot dead a fisherman on his boat on the Tigris river. He had held up his fish and shouted 'Fish, Fish' to show he meant no harm and was killed as he bent down to turn off the motor. His cousin was paid $3,500 for the boat, which drifted away and was lost, but nothing for the death of his relative, which was judged to arise from 'combat activities'."

"A particularly horrific incident involved the slaughter of a family on March 3, 2004 in Dibig village. US troops opened fire on a house, killing four people including the claimant’s father, mother and brother, and injuring another 40, including the claimant. The mother was shot dead while sleeping and the father after he took the family’s AK-47 and stepped outside. US soldiers also killed the family’s flock of sheep, leaving the claimant without a livelihood. In a carefully worded finding, the US military declared that the soldiers, “may have been shooting at another house”. While their activity was "not wrongful", it appeared “to have been conducted negligently”. Compensation of $11,200 was granted."

When will we see that only compassion can break the chain that wraps our necks and twists the tighter with every gunshot and explosion? When will we find the courage to accept the pain that stopping violence must entail? When we will understand that money is not equivalent to life?

"The study published in October in the British medical journal, the Lancet, found that the US invasion and occupation of Iraq was responsible for the deaths of an estimated 655,000 Iraqis. Of those, 31 percent, or 186,000, were attributed directly to coalition forces—that is, the American military or its allies killed these Iraqis."

"The opposition in Iraq has the right — no matter how painful this is for me to say — they have the right to oppose an occupation," Sheehan said, comparing the U.S. occupation to British control in North America before the American Revolution. "We overthrew that occupation," she said.

Sheehan, who is Catholic and worked eight years as a Catholic youth minister, said her family lost many friends after Casey’s death. "When I started to speak out against George Bush, they started to disown me. They said, ‘But Cindy, he’s pro-life,'" she said. “And I said, "If he’s pro-life, how come my son is dead?'"

The president’s concern for human life doesn’t extend to life after birth, Sheehan said. Sheehan said she wishes Catholics who oppose the war would become more visible, particularly the clergy. When Sheehan starts seeing priests, the pope and other church leaders in clerical garb marching against the war, 'that’s when I’ll know the church is really against bloodshed,' she said to applause."

Friday, April 06, 2007

Convert Us to Foolishness, O Lord

"Even on Christianity's most joyous day, Pope Benedict XVI lamented the 'continual slaughter' in Iraq and unrest in Afghanistan as he denounced 'the thousand faces of violence which some people attempt to justify in the name of religion.'

"Afghanistan is marked by growing unrest and instability," Benedict said. "In the Middle East, besides some signs of hope in the dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, nothing positive comes from Iraq, torn apart by continual slaughter as the civil population flees."

Compared to the experienced experts who calculated the benefits of control over the world's oil supply through war in Iraq and ignored those whose lives would be shattered to seize this control, we Christians are fools indeed. We are the fools standing at the grave and believing in the risen Lord. Such people have no power in this world - psychologists will explain their deluded beliefs as wish compensation for their lack of power. But they do not lack another type of power. In the words of Jim Wallis, "That same foolishness is the only hope we have of breaking free from the present realities that so gravely threaten us. Only in the recognition of something that is more real can we see their authority as unreal. The greatest threat to any system is the existence of fools who do not believe in the ultimate reality of that system. Indeed, the first step in making new realities possible is to break free from the grip and the authority of the old realities. To repent and to believe in a new reality - that is the essence of conversion. We join the body of Christ whose purpose is to make visible this new reality in the world."

By not believing in their power, the powers of this world are emptied. Ultimately they rest on belief, the mythologies of redemptive violence, the theological absolutes enforced by bombs and artillery. We are foolish enough to doubt, which is why the Romans called the early Christians atheists. Indeed, we are atheists to the domination that would rigidify us into caricatures of humanity.

Jim Wallis again: "Without the resurrection, the defeated followers of Jesus would have simply faded away. He would have been just another prophet who was killed. But the resurrection vindicated the cross and validated the way of Jesus, establishing the authority of his Lordship. At the same time, the resurrection invalidated the authority of the system. It showed the world's way to be a lie. The world's definition of reality crucified Jesus. His resurrection proved that definition of reality to be false. Our system, too, has its definitions of reality - national security, economic expansion, political realism. The way of Jesus is thought to be as foolish today as it was in his day. His kingdom is totally alien to the present world order."

The purpose of mainstream media is to make the world's definition of reality entertaining where possible and compelling if necessary. This kingdom is one where quantities of eyeballs are first calculated precisely and truth is measured in units of political influence. Proudly, we raise our irrelevant eyes above the all-consuming tube and glory in our lack of influence.

Jim Wallis has the last word: "We stand before the world as fools. We are foolish enough to believe that Jesus' way is stronger and more true than the way of the world. We rest secure in the knowledge that he has, and will, overcome. We are called to be fools for Christ, a people saved by his cross and converted, finally, by his resurrection.

May God convert us to such foolishness."

O Christ, thou Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
O Christ, thou Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
O Christ, thou Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, grant us they peace.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Let the Stones Cry Out

"'A time comes when silence is betrayal,'" preached King. That time has come for us in relation to Iraq. How will you lift high the cross this Holy Week? How will you follow the Lord through the streets of American cities and the streets of Baghdad and Basra? Will you help carry the cross? Will you let your hearts be broken and converted? Will you shout that death has no dominion in the cross and resurrection of Christ? Will you proclaim that we are "better than this"? We, "the whole multitude of Jesus' disciples" must "praise God aloud with joy for all the mighty deeds" we have seen (Luke 19:37). We must shout out that the Prince of Peace is sovereign: "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest" (Luke 19:38). If we don't do this—or if we are prevented from doing this—Jesus says: "I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!" (Luke 19:40)."

"Direct US abuse of Iraqi detainees has occurred since early 2004 at sites like the 'black room' at Camp Nama, the headquarters of the secret Task Force 6-26 near the Baghdad airport. The American motto at Camp Nama is “No Blood, No Foul.” [NYT, Mar. 19, 2006]. Inmates are beaten, kicked, blindfolded, and forced to crouch in 6-by-8 foot cubicles in a compound called Hotel California. Despite 2003 warnings by military investigators, the right-wing Christian Gen. William Boykin found no misconduct at the site in an official investigation."

Don't talk to Christians about the 'black room'. The definition of a Christian in this society is one who cares more about his own pious purity than his guilty brothers, to paraphrase Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Please don't disturb his dreams with the "Salvador option" necessary to protect his purity. A faith that has to be protected in such a way is a Satanic caricature of the religion of Jesus. Look no farther for an explanation in the decline of Western morality.

"We stand before the world as fools. We are foolish enough to believe that Jesus' way is stronger and more true than the way of the world. We rest secure in the knowledge that he has, and will, overcome. We are called to be fools for Christ, a people saved by his cross and converted, finally, by his resurrection.

May God convert us to such foolishness." - Jim Wallis

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Unreasonable Dreams

"The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said on Sunday that one in eight Iraqis had been forced from their homes because of the bloodshed raging across the country, and warned that the numbers will only rise.

"Already two million have fled Iraq altogether, he said, while another 1.8 million are already displaced inside the country, which has an estimated population of around 27 million.

'The biggest displacement in the Middle East since the dramatic events of 1948 has now forced one in eight Iraqis from their homes,' he added, referring to creation of the state of Israel that triggered a massive Palestinian exodus.

'Last year alone, we estimate that nearly 500,000 Iraqis moved to other areas inside the country,' he added."

In response to this outrageous treatment, Christian ministers and Catholic priests throughout the United States have called for fairness to the Iraqis whose lives we have destroyed through our thoughtless aggression. Many have organized refugee camps in their churches to house homeless Iraqis and have called on Congress and the President to unite to save hundreds of thousands of Iraqis from a hideous death through starvation, disease, and violence. "We are Christians - therefore we will open our megachurches to the poor and homeless that Jesus died for!" proclaimed Rick Warren along with Pope Benedict XVI.

How I wish I lived in a world like that! Instead, the mouths of those who would cry out with prophetic justice are twisted shut through the intellectual strangulation of the media.

Imagine a world where the instant the revelations of torture at Guantanamo were made known, universal outrage swept across the Christian community and pentitents volunteered by the thousands to make reparation for the crimes committed against our Moslem brothers. Would we then need hydrogen bombs to protect ourselves?