"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, February 24, 2008

In Dust and Ashes

"Only he who cries out for the Jews is permitted to sing Gregorian chants!" - Dietrich Bonhoeffer after the implementation of the Nuremberg laws in 1935.

Today we say, "Only he who cries out for the Palestinians is permitted to sing psalms, hymns and inspired songs!"

"Watch as A, a Hamas soldier, runs for his life into his house. His pursuers miss shooting him so they launch three rockets into the house on the edge of Jabalya camp killing everyone inside (four family members). They are angry now so every house in the way gets the same treatment and without the "militant" to guide their next moves: rockets fired into the interiors of homes with no knowledge of who is inside. Eye-witnesses report this and worse: a six month old baby girl becomes tiny body parts with her mother and brother. A small child is cut apart by shrapnel and screams that she doesn't want to die just before leaving this world. The mothers and fathers cannot protect them so they weep and scream at the funerals that this side of the world never views, especially during basketball season.

Who really cares about these children? Every Palestinian is a militant because everyone (sooner or later) wants Israel off their land, out of their lives, and forgotten like a horrible dream. It is for this reason that they are all equal targets: none of them is intelligent enough to understand that their land isn't their land, their lives are not their lives, and their horrible dream is their present and future. Have no pity on those who don't get it." - Jennifer Lowenstein, "Gazan Holocaust", Mar. 3, 2008.

The basis of this massacre is an ancient lie - that safety and therefore peace can be found through violence. "There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared. It is the great venture. It can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to mistrust, and this mistrust in turn brings forth war. To look for guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means to give oneself altogether to the law of God, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won where the way leads to the cross. Which of us can say he or she knows what it might mean for the world if one nation should meet the aggressor, not with weapons in hand, but praying, defenseless, and for that very reason protected by a 'bulwark never failing.'" Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "The Church and the People of the World"

There is no shame deeper than the shame of inhumanity, "Plea after plea from human rights organizations, legal organizations, religious charities and leaders, children's welfare organizations, medical aid projects, refugee relief societies, international humanitarian agencies, celebrities, parliamentarians, foreign policy analysts and countless others go not only unheeded but unread, unheard, a waste of one's time. Is there a reason why the carnage in Gaza is continuing before our very eyes and no State or Non-state actor strong enough to make a difference is bothering to step in? The shame is ours, for Israel and its US Master have long since resided in the lowest circle of Hell for betraying the name of humanity." - Jennifer Lowenstein, "Gazan Holocaust", Mar. 3, 2008.

Try not to add your betrayal to that of Israel and the US - live as if peace, real peace based on justice, were alive for you.

The 'Magna Carta' of Christian Nonviolence

"I met with two children who survived Wednesday's Jabalyia soccer bombing: the other 4 kids were, as you likely know, killed. One of the children I saw had no flesh on their legs, had burns all over their bodies from the tank's shelling. This was one of the scariest things I have seen yet, and I have seen a lot more than that. Only today, 35 killed, still going on and 180 injured, many were women and child. Hospitals appeal for blood donation and fuel for ambulances." - Mohammed Omer, "Fear in Gaza", Mar. 1, 2008. Most Americans have no idea that Israelis are currently raining missiles on children's soccer games. Palestinian suffering is not real suffering - only Israeli or American pain is worthy of response.

Almost exactly one year ago today, the Holy Father called for a "Christian Revolution", by which he meant an end to violence and a love powerful enough to embrace the most bitter enemy. Is is unreasonable to expect that this could begin with a recognition of the humanity of our brother and sister Palestinians?

"He was crying as he told the story, his tears hurting him even more than his psychological pain, as he has burns in his eyes. His mother uncovered his wounded leg where I could only see bones without flesh in places. I could not understand how he managed to lay down conscious, but knew it was a consciousness full of pain and anguish. I felt this pain in my own heart and head." - Mohammed Omer, "Fear in Gaza", Mar. 1, 2008.

Perhaps even Christians can feel the pain of those who are now being murdered and maimed using our tax contributions to Israel. According to the Pope, "'Love your enemies' is ...the 'magna carta' of Christian nonviolence; it does not consist in surrendering to evil -- as claims a false interpretation of 'turn the other cheek' (Luke 6:29) -- but in responding to evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21), and thus breaking the chain of injustice." - "Benedict XVI Calls for a 'Christian Revolution' Invites Faithful to Respond to Evil With Good", Feb. 18, 2007

Breaking the chain of injustice means breaking the chain of hatred, of strike and counterstrike. Is it conceivable that the Church could intervene in the massacres now being carried out in Gaza and plead that the chain be broken, even at the cost of political retribution?

"As I talked to this child's mother, she said that she'd had to evacuate her children, as it's no longer safe to be in that area where the children had been playing. The kids ranged from 6 to 14 years old. The two ones who survived said they had all been playing soccer in front of the door of their house in Jabalyia when the Israeli missile hit them." - Mohammed Omer, "Fear in Gaza", Mar. 1, 2008.

It is thus understood that nonviolence, for Christians, is not mere tactical behavior but a person's way of being, the attitude of one who is convinced of God's love and power, who is not afraid to confront evil with the weapons of love and truth alone." - "Benedict XVI Calls for a 'Christian Revolution' Invites Faithful to Respond to Evil With Good", Feb. 18, 2007

Convinced as we are of God's power, of the potency of love and truth alone, we speak out for the victims that the world has abandoned to the refuge heap. Even when Israelis call for a "holocaust", a shoah against the Palestinians, the world averts its gaze in complacent silence. Palestinians are "unpeople" - their pains don't hurt. Their only hope is the hope of Mohammed Omer, the writer of the article referenced here: "If I have to die (not my wish) , I want to be awake, so I know I'm dying, and by whom. Not asleep."

"But the real genocide in Gaza cannot or will not be assessed through sheer numbers. It is not a massacre of gas chambers. No.

It is a slow and calculated genocide -- a genocide through more calibrated, long-term means. And if the term is used in any context, it should be this. In many ways, this is a more sinister genocide, because it tends to be overlooked: all is ok in Gaza, the wasteland, the hostile territory that is accustomed to slaughter and survival; Gaza, whose people are somehow less human; we should not take note, need not take note, unless there is a mass killing or starvation." - Laila El-Haddad, "The Gaza genocide", Mar. 2, 2008

"Loving the enemy is the nucleus of the 'Christian revolution,' a revolution not based on strategies of economic, political or media power. The revolution of love, a love that does not base itself definitively in human resources, but in the gift of God, that is obtained only and unreservedly in his merciful goodness." - "Benedict XVI Calls for a 'Christian Revolution' Invites Faithful to Respond to Evil With Good", Feb. 18, 2007.

"The innocent laughter of six-month-old baby Mohammed al-Bor'i stopped forever on Wednesday night when shrapnel from an Israeli missile and rubble struck the infant in the head, minutes after he enjoyed his last meal.

'The baby sucked milk, he was playing with his mother; I was reading a book when a rocket hit the Ministry of Interior,' said Nasser al-Bor'i, the baby's father." - "Israeli missiles silence baby's laughter in Gaza", Feb. 28, 2008.

Please consider signing the letter of those of us consider that the Pope's upcoming visit to George Bush will be received as a blessing on his policy of murder and displacement against the Iraqi and Palestinian people: http://www.jonahhouse.org/Kobasa_Benedict.htm

The Pope who has given us this glorious magna carta may listen.

Unbelief is the True Root of Violence

Family standing next to their home demolished without compensation by the Israelis.

"We see Jesus falling the first time beneath the weight of the cross... the full weight of the Roman Empire! It is someone crushed and unrecognizable, beaten down by soldiers of the Occupying Roman Forces and the unseen power behind Jesus' nonviolent Cross" - Christian Peacemaker Teams

The weight of the cross was made heavier today when Israelis called for a "Shoah" against the Palestinians of Gaza, "Deputy Israeli Defence Minister Matan Vilnai said on Friday the Palestinians would bring on themselves what he called a 'bigger holocaust' by stepping up rocket attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip." - "Israel minister warns Palestinians of 'holocaust'", Reuters, 3/1/2008. His actual words were as follows: "Speaking to Israeli army radio today, Vilnai said, "the more Qassam [rocket] fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, [the Palestinians] will bring upon themselves a bigger shoah because we will use all our might to defend ourselves." - electronic intifada, Feb. 29, 2008.

The fact that they called it a "bigger shoah" is significant in two ways: 1) Because it openly acknowledges that the Israelis have been committing a holocaust against the Palestinians up to this point and 2) They can't quite use the word "holocaust" by itself in this context because it would reveal the true depths to which they had sunk in their determination to destroy the Palestinian people. Using the word "Shoah", a word that designates the unique crime which the Nazis committed against the Jews during WWII invokes the sacred aura that the word has held for Jews for so long. Can we ever forget the endless cries of "Never again!"

As believers in nonviolence, we must condemn the firing of rockets into Israel. By doing so, the Palestinians who do this, though we understand their rage and frustration and for that reason, do not judge them, help perpetuate the violence of which they are the victims. Nevertheless, what the Israelis have said amounts to consciously placing themselves in the same category as the Nazis who systematically destroyed 6 million Jews, which they consider a crime of such magnitude as to make it unique in history. Such a use of the word "Shoah" indicates that they are at last recognizing the real nature of their policy aims, "The comments came a day after Israeli occupation forces killed 31 Palestinians, nine of them children, one a six-month-old baby, in a series of air raids across the Gaza Strip. Israel claimed that the attacks were in retaliation for a barrage of rockets fired by resistance fighters in the Gaza Strip which killed one Israeli in the town of Sderot on Wednesday, 27 February."

Soon there will likely be a ground invasion of Gaza in which the democratically elected government of Palestine will be deposed. When this happens, the corporate media will spend hours debating the meaning of words such as "holocaust", "massacre", and "democracy". When the debate is over, thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of Palestinians will be dead and Israel will have reasserted its prison warden role over Gaza. It appears that the only Palestinian negotiating stance acceptable to Israel is voluntary suicide. If Palestinians will simply agree to stop resisting Israel's attempt to murder them, then they can have "peace", as much "peace" as they want.

"Israel’s military killed at least 54 Palestinians yesterday - almost half of them civilians, including four children - in its most violent assault on the Gaza Strip since the Islamic militant group Hamas seized power last June. The latest deaths bring to more than 80 the number of Palestinians killed since a rocket fired from inside Gaza killed a 44-year-old Israeli in the town of Sderot last week...The latest bloodshed comes as an Observer investigation revealed how Israel is again deliberately obstructing the transfer of urgent medical cases for treatment outside Gaza in the latest extension of its policy of collective punishment of Palestinians." - "Scores Die in Raids on Gaza", Observer, Mar. 1, 2008

These are not the acts of God, but of men, men with hearts of flint who are walking blasphemies of the God they pretend to adore. Let us pray and fast with enough power to lift the weight of the cross from our Lord's shoulder, and find the suffering humanity in ourselves that it may flood into the hearts of those in power in Israel.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A Conspiracy of Hope

In this video, Pete Seeger and a young Iraq vet keep hope alive by adding their spoonful of sand to the world's sad seesaw: Pete Seeger to Winter Soldiers

This is most apropos to the Lenten observance that many readers of the Nonviolent Jesus are carrying out, both in support of People Breaking the Silence, which you can join by clicking on the link on this blog and in support of the CPT Palestine Lenten campaign, where we see the face of Jesus in our brothers and sisters in Palestine, who, like him, are despised and rejected by all humanity, their sufferings unworthy of news coverage because they are not people in the same sense as the Israelis.

Today, we contemplate the second station of the Cross: "When the chief priests and the guards saw [Jesus] they cried out, 'Crucify him, crucify him!' Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and crucify him. I find no guilt in him." ... They cried out, "Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!' Pilate said to them, 'Shall I crucify your king?' The chief priests answered, 'We have no king but Caesar.' Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and carrying the cross himself he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha. John 19: 6, 15-17

For 40 years, Palestinians have born the cross of military occupation. Palestinians have lost their land, their homes, their olive trees, their cultural traditions, and their lives. Throughout these 40 years, people around the world, but especially Christian Zionists, have offered their support to the Israeli military occupation of Palestine. Because the unconditional support our governments offer the state of Israel, we are complicit in the suffering of the Palestinian people." - Christian Peacemaker Teams.

O Lord, how long shall the wicked,
how long shall the wicked exult?

We begin in solidarity with the suffering which will always remain the central act of a Christian, "To say the same thing in another way, the biblical witness not only stands against tyranny and oppression as such but comprehends tyranny and oppression as blasphemy, that is, as the repudiation and defamation of the Lordship of Christ in common history by the ruling powers and political principalities." - William Stringfellow, "Conscience and Obedience"

To tyrannize over the weak is not merely a violation of just order, but is a direct offense against the kingdom of heaven. The coming of Christ changes every relation in the world and what was once a crime becomes a violation of the new order. "The offense against humanity which any tyranny or injustice represents is, as it were, escalated because of Christ's dominion over fallen creation, so that it is not merely an offense against specific, conspicuous victims but is a burden for all humanity and for the life of the whole of creation, an aggression against the Word of God in which that life is bestowed, or so that it is exposed as blasphemous. It is, hence, not happenstance or sentimentality or, even, compassion that occasions the biblical association of the people of God with the impoverished, dispossessed, imprisoned, diseased, outcast, but that identification verifies, honors and implements the confession that Jesus Christ is Lord." - William Stringfellow, "Conscience and Obedience"

To confess that Jesus Christ is Lord means to identify with the oppressed. But this identification cannot remain theoretical - it must embrace a revolutionary praxis and a realistic analysis of the causes of oppression. "In the contemporary world of affluence and poverty, where man's major crime is murder by privilege, revolution against the established order is the criterion of a living faith." - James W. Douglass, "The Nonviolent Cross"

This too is the cross: "Man either gives life by himself taking on their suffering in that community of Christ working toward a new earth or he murders by turning from the God in man to the idolatry of a distant deity. There is only one God, and he has become man. Man can possess no life in God apart from God's life in the Suffering Servant." - James W. Douglass, "The Nonviolent Cross"

So we fast for the Christian Zionists who worship a Disneyland of illusory deities and pray that they might become human and suffer with us by looking into the eyes of those to whom we have caused so much pain. In that cross lies the true conspiracy of hope.

The Just Shall Live by Faith

"Mairead Maguire, the Nobel Laureate from Belfast, ends her lectures by inviting those confused about the just war theory, violence and nonviolence, to spend an afternoon alone, for two or three hours in a church, looking up at a crucifix. Take all your questions about violence and nonviolence to the crucified Jesus, she advises, and not only will you begin to be disarmed of your own inner violence, you will hear those great commandments--Put down the sword, Love your enemies, Blessed are the peacemakers--in a new light." - Fr. John Dear, "The Lenten Journey of Gospel Nonviolence (Part 3)"

If you follow this way, prepare yourself to be laughed at, scorned, marginalized, and dismissed as unworthy of consideration. Expect it, relish it, because just so did they treat our Lord. You won't hear the gospel of peace coming from any of the popular candidates in the U.S. election. Miraculously, there was one, Dennis Kucinich, who held out for a few months against the tide of hatred, but sooner or later he was bound to be dismissed. Currently, he is fighting for his political life against his own party, who finally noticed him when he introduced articles of impeachment against Cheney and Bush.

1,173,743 Iraqis have died as a result of our action in their country. How has this policy goal been achieved? "The United States is funding and in many cases arming the three ethnic factions in Iraq-the Kurds, the Shiites and the Sunni Arabs. These factions rule over partitioned patches of Iraqi territory and brutally purge rival ethnic groups from their midst. Iraq no longer exists as a unified state. It is a series of heavily armed fiefdoms run by thugs, gangs, militias, radical Islamists and warlords who are often paid wages of $300 a month by the U.S. military." - Chris Hedges, "The Calm Before the Conflagration", Feb. 25, 2007.

The empire always works by division. Shiites and Sunnis did not have an ancient hatred ready to break out any moment which the United States haplessly stumbled on. The U.S. knew only too well that it could not conquer the country if it was united, so they deliberately and violently drove wedges into existing divisions and inflamed them into murderous hatred. Once this work was done, they divided Baghdad into walled off sections, thus cementing the divisions they had so carefully fostered.

The apparent U.S. attempt to buy peace with the Awakening groups is actually maneuvering Sunnis into a new attack position, "The Sunni Arab militias, though they have ended attacks on U.S. forces, detest the Shiite-Kurdish government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and abhor the presence of U.S. troops on Iraqi soil. They take the money and the support with clenched teeth because with it they are able to build a renegade Sunni army, a third force inside Iraq, which they believe will make it possible to overthrow the central government...These militias are the foundation for a deadlier insurgent force, one that will dwarf anything the United States faced in the past." - Chris Hedges, "The Calm Before the Conflagration", Feb. 25, 2007.

War resistance is one way of carrying out the gospel directive to bear witness against empire. If you live in the Bay Area, you can participate in Direct Action Against the War: "Two 'mass direct actions' are being planned for the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. For March 19th, 2008—the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq—DASW is organizing a day of decentralized, multiple-target direct action against government offices and war profiteers in downtown San Francisco. DASW has a list of San Francisco offices of federal agencies, corporations with military contracts or contracts in Iraq, politicians who have failed to stop the war, and foreign embassies of countries linked to the war in Iraq on its website."

These actions should live and breath the life of nonviolence, always remembering the words of William Stringfellow, "Biblical spirituality means powerlessness, living without embellishment or pretense, free to be faithful in the gospel, and free from anxiety about effectiveness or similar illusions of success." - "The Politics of Spirituality". Only by freeing ourselves from our own inner violence can the world be freed from its lust for domination.

Only thus can we act with freedom, unchained by law of success which rules the empire and all those who carry the mark of the Beast.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Hidden Scars of War

If you want to understand what the Iraq occupation has meant to most Iraqis, take a look at this video from Bill Moyer's Journal: Lori Grinker on Iraq's Displaced

As Susan Jacoby put it on a recent Bill Moyer's Journal show, we should not be concentrating so exclusively on the fact that we were lied to by the Bush Administration, but asking ourselves the deeper question, "Why was it that we were so willing to be lied to?" This is especially pertinent for Christians, who need to constantly examine and strengthen their conscience. What made it so easy to slide into war mania? Beyond blaming the media, what is it in ourselves that made us deaf to all voices but those that funneled all our attention into war?

It is our own demoralization, our surrender to entertainment as the real meaning of existence, the inner evasion implanted in us through years of snarky propaganda, that there can be no final truth or unwavering moral commitment. The principalities that rule this world have firmly instilled the notion that "...truth in the sense of eventful and factual matter does not exist. In place of truth and appropriating the name of truth are data engineered and manufactured, programmed and propagated by the principality." - William Stringfellow, "Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land."

Those of us of a certain age have watched the news media in the U.S. devolve into a mouthpiece for noisy and trivial opinion scientifically designed to reinforce certain attitudes. In place of news, we get entertaining senselessness wrapping notional nuggets meant to shape our beliefs and responses to current events. Or, "Sometimes doublespeak is overtalk, which which the media themselves so accentuate volume, speed, and redundancy that communication is incapacitated..." - William Stringfellow, "Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land" At the same time, our ability to politically analyze situations is neutered and the voice of real life drowned out.

Those in leadership are no less victims than are we. They invariably commit their atrocities by proxy, while professing devotion to Christianity. But their deeds cannot sully the faith of those who recognize the source of their delusive power.

1,173,743 Iraqi lives have been lost because of our action and inaction. Yet so effective have the instruments of the corporate media become that even now "...with the war costing Americans more than $338 million a day, MoveOn says, 'The tradeoffs are stark: Bombs or unemployment insurance for people laid off as the economy slows? Billions for Halliburton and Blackwater, or help for people on the verge of losing their homes because of the subprime meltdown?'" - "In Iraq Forever?", PWW, Feb. 23, 2008. Indeed, the trade offs could hardly be starker, but the choice to kill has been set to default for the foreseeable future. And, short of a miracle, there will be no united Christian voice rising up against this blasphemy. Such is the power of the illusions which enmesh us that even if the vast majority of Americans are notionally opposed to the war, the dominions trump all calls to end the occupation. These powers hardly even bother to consult Congress any more, their role having become as meaningful as that of the Roman Imperial Senate.

"Negotiations are set to start Feb. 27 between the White House and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki over an open-ended military, political and economic agreement that would secure a heavy U.S. military/corporate presence in Iraq for decades. To date neither the U.S Congress nor Iraq’s Parliament has been consulted about the proposed deal." - "In Iraq Forever?", PWW, Feb. 23, 2008. Why bother consulting with the empty shell of one never-to-be-born and another long-dead democracy? It won't be long before we dispense with even the pretense of elections.

The spiritual power which might rise up against this horror has been effectively neutralized, "By now truly demoralized, they suffer no conscience and they risk no action. Their human interest in living is narrowed to meager subsisting; their hope for life is no more than avoiding involvement with other humans and a desire that no one will bother them. They have lost any expectations for society; they have no stamina left for confronting the principalities; they are reduced to docility, lassitude, torpor, profound apathy, and default. The demoralization of human beings in this fashion greatly conveniences the totalitarianism of the demonic powers since the need to resort to persecutions or imprisonments is obviated, as the people are already morally captive." - William Stringfellow, "Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land."

Joseph Gerson of the American Friends Service Committee recently spoke candidly about imperial aims: "'It is important to remember that Bush’s original goals in Iraq were not only to gain control over Iraq’s oil but also consolidate long-term control over the entire region’s oil and geopolitics ... The Bush administration is planning for 14 long-term military bases in Iraq. The aim is to 'turn Iraq into a virtual unsinkable aircraft carrier for the U.S.'"

Even with impending economic meltdown, they will proceed with their plan and they will pay as much attention to letters to Congresspersons as to Iraqi deaths. In the words of Glenn Greenwald, "What were the consequences for the President for having broken the law so deliberately and transparently? Absolutely nothing. To the contrary, the Senate is about to enact a bill which has two simple purposes: (1) to render retroactively legal the President’s illegal spying program by legalizing its crux: warrantless eavesdropping on Americans, and (2) to stifle forever the sole remaining avenue for finding out what the Government did and obtaining a judicial ruling as to its legality: namely, the lawsuits brought against the co-conspiring telecoms. In other words, the only steps taken by our political class upon exposure by the NYT of this profound lawbreaking is to endorse it all and then suppress any and all efforts to investigate it and subject it to the rule of law." - Glenn Greenwald, "Amnesty Day for Bush and Lawbreaking Telecoms"

Truly, we suffer no conscience and risk no action other than personal action to protect ourselves from the beast's punishment.

Listen to the beast: "And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months; it opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also, it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and tongue and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain. If any one has an ear let him hear:

If any one is to be taken captive
to captivity he goes;
If any one slays with the sword,
with the sword must he be slain."
- Revelation 13: 5 - 10

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Act of Trusting God Rejects All Forms of Violence.

The very act of trust in God is the end of violence. Conversely, all violence arises from a lack of trust in God.

The silence now pervading Iraq is the silence of catastrophe for Iraqis and for us. It is the eerie silence that broods over the scene of death, death of liberty, death of human rights, the death of hope. It defines the Roman version of peace, "They made a desert and called it peace." - such is the holocaust of all that once defined America.

Yet even though there are fewer to kill because so many lay buried under the bridge, still the killing continues. "Hundreds died in a series of explosions in Baghdad last month. This was despite the strongest ever security measures taken by the U.S. military, riding the "surge" in security forces and their activities." - "In Tatters Beneath a Surge of Claims", Inter Press Service, Feb. 22, 2008.

"'Two car bombs exploded in Jadriya, killing so many people, the day the American Secretary of Defence (Robert Gates) was visiting Baghdad last week,' a captain from the Karrada district police in Baghdad, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS." - "In Tatters Beneath a Surge of Claims", Inter Press Service, Feb. 22, 2008. "The surge is working!" proclaims the Democratic candidate for President.

"Unidentified bodies of Iraqis killed by militias continue to appear in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities. The Iraqi government has issued instructions to all security and health offices not to give out the body count to the media. Dozens of bodies are found every day across Baghdad, residents say. Morgue officials confirm this." - "In Tatters Beneath a Surge of Claims", Inter Press Service, Feb. 22, 2008.

And the destruction is not limited to humanity - the natural creation is falling along with our fallenness: "Antarctica’s massive coastal glaciers are quickly melting into the sea as the oceans around the continent grow warmer - and the pace of ice loss is speeding up." - "Antarctic Glaciers Melting More Quickly', Jan. 26, 2008.

Yet the harmony of God still stands within our reach, "In the event of creation, each and every creature and each and every aspect of the totality of creation receives life integrity and relationship, in harmony and fulfillment within the scope of God's sovereignty. Persons and principalities, all the creatures, all realities or elements of creation are named by the Word of God." - William Stringfellow, "Conscience and Obedience"

But the honor of God is not what the U.S. has brought to Baghdad: "Some of the eerie calm in areas of Baghdad comes because togetherness has ended. Sunnis and Shias who lived together for generations are now partitioned. This is not the peace many Iraqis were looking for, surge or no surge." - "In Tatters Beneath a Surge of Claims", Interpress Service, Feb. 22, 2008

In the end, the empire understands only death: "In the fall, the reign of death is pervasive and militant, it spares no life whatever: every relationship is broken or corrupted or diminished to violence, antiworship is endemic for institutions and nations as much as persons, time means confinement to the power of death, instead of possessing dominion over creation human life is enslaved to and dominated by the rest of creation. In fallen creation, the power of death appears triumphant over the existence of this world." - William Stringfellow, "Conscience and Obedience"

But the Word of hope will reign at last over all those over whom the empire has surged:

'Never again in you, America
will be heard the song of bankers and generals,
the music of drum and bugle marching abroad;
never again will technicians of every skill be found
or the sound of great industries be heard;
never again will shine the light of the frontier,
never again will be heard
the voices of explorer and traders.
Your corporate heads were the princes of the earth,
all the nations were under your spell.
In America you will find the blood of prophets and saints."
- Revelation 18: 21 - 24.

Violence is the Voice of Despair

Commenting on a dismissive remark by a right-wing pundit, Glenn Greenwald wrote the following, "Look at how personally vital — how indispensable — the War of Civilizations is to McCarthy, to his identity and sense of purpose. He doesn’t even need to go anywhere near combat, or fight in the Wars he cheers on. He still gets to be on the front line — a gruff, hard-nosed, no-nonsense veteran-warrior who has been in the trenches, who has stared down the ugly realities of the Civilization Wars and — despite it all — still soldiers on. Think of the emptiness and loss of purpose if the Threat from the Enemy were exaggerated and all of that faded away. This is why our nation’s faux-warriors can never be reasoned with. It’s why their greatest fear is having the Threats from Our Enemies be put into rational perspective, alongside all the other garden-variety manageable threats we face. To argue that they are exaggerating and melodramatizing the Enemy and the threat is to take away from them that which is most personally important to them." - Glenn Greenwald, "The Fun and Excitement of Civilization Wars (Fought from Afar)", Feb. 17, 2008

It would be well if such childishness were confined to the video game room. Instead they have revealed a rift, a secret illness in the mind of the rulers of this empire that has erupted into war causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands, the displacement of millions more and the destruction of an entire country. "But the 9/11 attacks and ensuing events catapulted their paranoia and powerlessness syndromes from clownish sideshow to dominant political faction. And their fevered, self-serving fantasies have empowered the Federal Government beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, created a completely out-of-control domestic surveillance state, subordinated even the rule of law to the lawless dictates of Security State officials, and dismantled long-standing constitutional protections and political values so basic that they were previously beyond debate." - Glenn Greenwald, "The Fun and Excitement of Civilization Wars (Fought from Afar)", Feb. 17, 2008

As Christians, we must discern the spirit manifested here. To help us, let us contemplate Jesus' temptation in the desert. According to Fr. John Dear, the nature of the last temptation is as follows: "After the temptations to despair and doubt comes the last temptation to domination. It is the temptation of imperial power. It urges us to be number one, to be emperor over all, owners of everything, in control of everyone, in charge of life itself. It is the temptation to be god -- and it comes with a price: the loss of our souls. It requires the worship of false gods, the idols of death. As we give in to this last temptation, try to dominate the world, and resort to imperial violence and nuclear weapons to maintain our imperial domination, we stop worshiping the living God and instead worship the false gods of violence." - Fr. John Dear, Feb. 12, 2008

Note the connection between the temptation to despair and the desire for domination. This brings to mind the title of Chris Hedges' great book on war, War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, in which a veteran war journalist fully explores how the quest for meaning functions in real wars. "War is always a failure for humanity," in the words of John Paul II. It is invariably the result of a failure to hope, dream and trust in God. "The first temptation to violence is the temptation to despair ... It renounces patient trust in God and relies on its own power, which, in the end, amounts to nothing." - Fr. John Dear, Feb. 12, 2008. The emptiness fostered by the inhumanity of empire is the perfect petri dish in which to cultivate violent fantasies of domination, such as those promoted by Christian dominionists.

Out of this despair come the plagues that we are currently enduring, which is well-described as "worshiping the false gods of violence." The psychological needs behind this worship are clear enough, but the cure for this spiritual disease can only be found in Jesus Christ. "Jesus rejects the temptation to dominate the world. 'Get away, Satan!' he orders. 'Satan' was a code word for the Roman empire. Jesus and the early community resisted the empire and its domination over others. He teaches us not to lord it over others but to serve one another, love our enemies, show compassion to each other, and worship the living God. Because he turns his back on the domination system, the empire eventually kills him. The Gospel invites us likewise to reject the way of domination and empire and worship the living God of peace." - Fr. John Dear, Feb. 12, 2008

'Satan' is still the code word for empire, for the despair of God that feeds the fantasies so well described by Greenwald. The bargain is well-known - we give up our souls and Satan pays us back in the coin of dreams in which we play the role of "gruff, hard-nosed, no-nonsense" veteran-warriors fighting an enemy of unimaginable evil. Such are the wages of sin, and such will be their reward.

The Illness of the Powerful

"Jesus, healer, physician of the spirit, relentless diagnostician of the illness of the powerful." - Daniel Berrigan, "You Shall Love"

"... a UCSB researcher worked on technology for a new type of bomb which was dropped on an Afghan wedding, killing 40 Afghanis gathered to celebrate the love between two people and their families. U.S. officials denied responsibility for the bombing until camera footage made it impossible to deny. To the researcher's horror, his teammates working on the bomb expressed no remorse for the innocents killed by their invention. Instead, they celebrated the news because the bomb worked as they intended it to." - "UCSB Students Against War Disrupts Collaborative Biotechnology Military Research Conference", Feb. 12, 2008, Santa Barbara Indymedia.

In the words of Jacques Ellul, we are a "civilization of means." As long as those means fulfill their purpose, namely destroying human life according to the technical requirements specified in the contract, then we should celebrate our triumph, even though the celebrants of love must go quietly to their graves. All is justified when the "bomb worked as they intended it to do." The Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies does research that "give[s] the Army multiple sensing and identification options, depending on the target's complexity, source, availability and distance." - from their website. These "targets" are invalid units of biologically human organic material that require elimination.

Our worship of technique blinds us to the ends that it creates. These biotechnologies foster the illusion of omnipotence, that we can control life, while resulting in a deepening reality of impotence towards the true end of man. In fact, technology has been and will remain fundamentally ineffective for humanity as long as it is worshiped in itself. It frees us from our subjection to nature while enslaving us to the technological processes themselves. The biotechnologies pursued at the ICB will achieve their end with spectacular success - they will end life in an exponentially more efficient way. While we are busy with "Reusable Solid-State Optically Amplified Conjugated Polymer Sensors", we are constructing ends from these means that will destroy any human value that this research might contain.

Let me be as clear as possible about what the real crime here is. It is not merely spending billions to murder our fellow humans while most of the world is starving, though for earlier generations of Christians that would be sufficient to justify outrage. It is that we have entered an era of deliberate self-deception that is hidden and fostered beneath the gleam of our technological wonders. We have entered a kind of collective hypnosis in which we no longer recognize that our technological means create their own life-destroying ends, no matter how noble we pretend our ultimate goals are. If the goal is to eliminate terror, then we cannot begin by spending billions on biotechnology to identify and eliminate biological targets. "We are no longer even at the criminal stage of justifying our murderous means by a compromised end, but at the pathological stage of refusing to acknowledge, much less resist, the real and overwhelming end emerging from our civilization means like the beast from sea." - James Douglass, The Non-Violent Cross.

This beast can only be defeated by the power of penance. "The alternative to deepening slaughter and guilt, and one seldom chosen in international politics, is repentance: the admission that the existential end implicit in the execution of our policies was criminal from the beginning." - James Douglass, The Non-Violent Cross.

Let us pause for a moment to contemplate the end implicit in "...advancing the survivability of both the soldier and weapons systems through fundamental breakthroughs in the area of biotechnology," including sensors, electronics, and photonics for these military applications. The survival of soldiers and weapons systems is necessary for the continued elimination of invalid biological units. The end implicit in these means is to strengthen the powers of destruction while celebrating biotechnologies.

On Feb. 12, 2008, the powers of life won a momentary victory: "500 UCSB students and Santa Barbara community members disrupted the [ICB] conference to demand an end to UC complicity in illegal weapons research designed to kill Iraqis in an illegal war."

The article continues: "There was a heavy police presence but protesters were not intimidated and conducted their non-violent direct action against UCSB war profiteering with courage and determination. Police arrested three protesters. Eyewitnesses said there was no justification for the arrests and hundreds of people chanted "Let them go! Let them go!" and laid their bodies on the pavement around police cars as a human shield demanding that the peaceful protesters be released. The arrested protesters urged everyone to return to the ICB conference to finish what they came to do and protesters returned to the Corwin Pavilion peacefully to continue disrupting the ICB.

Students Against War Santa Barbara declared victory as the ICB conference was disrupted, military scientists were informed about the consequences of their actions and a message was sent to UCSB officials that students will not rest until UC complicity in war ends.

UPDATE: The ICB conference was shut down and did not continue its second day sessions. This constitutes a major victory for UCSB students in the campaign to demilitarize UCSB and the whole UC system." - "UCSB Students Against War Disrupts Collaborative Biotechnology Military Research Conference", Feb. 12, 2008, Santa Barbara Indymedia.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Thou Shalt Not be a Bystander

"Members of Washington-area Catholic groups began the Lenten season Wednesday by smearing ashes over walkways in front of the White House as a symbol of what they called repentance for the country's involvement in the war in Iraq and the torture of Guantanamo detainees." - theday.com, Feb. 7, 2008.

One particular sin that all Americans should do penance for is the sin of abandoning the human rights for which we once were admired. The following is a passage from the Military Commissions Act: "No person may invoke the Geneva Conventions or any protocols thereto in any habeas corpus or other civil action or proceeding to which the United States, or a current or former officer, employee, member of the Armed Forces, or other agent of the United States is a party as a source of rights in any court of the United States or its States or territories." The U.S. thereby revokes 800 years of evolution toward humanity.

Clearly, the purpose of this act is to instill fear and intimidate those who might be tempted to resist the empire's reach. Ft. Huachuca is one of the principle sites where our military are trained in torture techniques against "enemy combatants" under an infamous veteran of the Iraq occupation, Major General Barbara Fast. In the words of one who has risked and accepted jail repeatedly in witness to the law of Christ, Fr. Louis Vitale, "We are becoming more aware of how central the mission of Ft. Huachuca is to the Domination System's apparatus for world control and for intimidation of those who might thwart our political/economic purposes both here and abroad (witness Guantanamo). Our effort may just be the first steps in exploring what is happening at Ft. Huachuca, but the larger picture continues to emerge. I feel an ever greater commitment to do what we can to stop what is happening at Ft. Huachuca and wherever we encounter this force of domination and suffering."

Along with him stood Fr. Steve Kelly, about whom his Jesuit provincial has written, "Guided by the Gospel mandate of peace and nonviolence, as well as the Ignatian commitment to a faith that does justice, Steve is no stranger to being imprisoned for speaking and acting out against institutions and mechanisms of violence. Steve's prophetic witness against nuclear proliferation and war-making speaks a Christ-like love for peace--a voice all too often drowned out and actively suppressed by the cultural and political powers that support violence and war. His incarceration provides a powerful point of reference for contemplating the truth of Holocaust historian Yehuda Bauer's famous line: 'Thou shall not be a victim. Thou shall not be a perpetrator. Above all, thou shall not be a bystander.'" - Letter of Provincial, California Province, Society of Jesus.

To those Christians who believe that Romans teaches them to obey the government no matter what the justice or injustice of its laws might be, I reply in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, "[T]here are two types of laws: just and unjust … One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that 'an unjust law is no law at all.' ... We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was 'legal' ... Any law that degrades human personality is unjust ... I submit that an individual who breaks a 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.'" - Letter from the Birmingham Jail.

"An unjust law is no law at all." This has been the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church for over fifteen hundred years, as most fully expounded by St. Thomas Aquinas. The idea that Catholics could defend a law that allows torture is blasphemous. From the traditional Christian viewpoint, it is the major generals, the judges and the politicians who use law as an instrument of power to dominate the weak who are the true lawbreakers. It is they who diminish respect for the law by protecting its abuse as an instrument to shield mercenary murderers from the justice which will one day come calling.

Secret trials have become a reality in the U.S. and they are not just for alleged "enemy combatants." "A month after the Nisour Square massacre, on Oct. 20, a group of about 50 activists gathered outside Blackwater’s gates in Moyock, N.C. There, they reenacted the Nisour Square shooting and staged a 'die-in,' involving a vehicle painted with bullet marks and blood. The activists stained their clothing with fake blood and dramatized the deadly shooting spree." - Jeremy Scahill, "Pioneering Blackwater Protesters Given Secret Trial and Criminal Conviction"

For those who need a reminder, armed thugs from Blackwater gunned down 17 Iraqi civilians and wounded more than 20 others in Baghdad’s Nisour Square last September. As of yet, no charges have been brought. Indeed, because of the State Department's illegal guarantees of immunity, it is very unlikely that any charges will ever be brought. The treatment given to those whose conscience moved them to bring these crimes to public notice was far different.

"Their action at Blackwater, the activists said, was in response to war crimes, the killing of civilians and the fact that no legal system — civilian or military — was holding Blackwater responsible. The Nisour Square massacre, they said, 'is the Iraq war in microcosm.'"

But the judge had no mercy for this flagrant display of the duties of American citizens to bring crime to the attention of the state. "But District Court Judge Edgar Barnes would have none of it. So outraged was he at Baggarly, the first of the defendants to appear before him that day, that the judge cleared the court following his conviction. No spectators, no family members, no journalists, no defense witnesses remained. The other six activists were tried in total secrecy — well, secret to everyone except the prosecutors, sheriffs, government witnesses and one Blackwater official. Judge Barnes swiftly tried the remaining six activists behind closed doors and convicted them all. It was as though Currituck, N.C., became Gitmo for a day." - Jeremy Scahill, "Pioneering Blackwater Protesters Given Secret Trial and Criminal Conviction"

Every last one of these dangerous Christians, upholding God's law in the face of blasphemous disregard for human life, was secretly convicted while their accusers looked on. Truth - what is that? No one was allowed to hear the truth.

So blatantly illegal was the action of the judge that the ACLU stated, "'It’s a clear violation of constitutional rights, not only of the defendants but the press and public,' said Katy Parker, the group’s legal director. 'They have a right to a public trial, so any trial that goes on behind closed doors is a farce.' She added, 'We are very concerned about this reported disrespect for the laws of our land by a member of the judiciary, especially in a controversial and politically laden case such as this.'" - Jeremy Scahill, "Pioneering Blackwater Protesters Given Secret Trial and Criminal Conviction"

But where was the arm of American justice when Mohammed Hafiz cried out? "Mohammed Hafiz was driving four children when Blackwater mercenaries riddled the car with bullets. His ten-year-old son Ali was shot in the head. Mohammed had to gather up pieces of the child’s skull and brains for the burial. During one point in the massacre, Blackwater operatives concentrated fire on a passenger bus. A small boy fled the bus in terror and was shot down as was his mother who ran after him." - statement of Steve Baggarly at his trial.

While drug-crazed butchers are coddled, those who publicize the killing are prosecuted to the limits of the law and even subjected to lectures on theology. After hearing the reasons for their action, the judge said, "'I’ve always thought that if you’re going to be a follower of Jesus or someone who appreciates the Constitution, you can’t select the portions that you like and disregard the rest,'" - Jeremy Scahill, "Pioneering Blackwater Protesters Given Secret Trial and Criminal Conviction"

I'm sure Jesus would agree with the judge, but would show mercy to the "Christian" thugs who had no mercy for the inhabitants of Nisour Square.

"So where there is illegitimacy in political authority or the disorder of coerced order, or injustice of any degree afflicted upon anyone, there is blasphemy. And when nations conceive their own sanctification and pronounce wars just, there is a bombast and blasphemy of the Antichrist." - William Stringfellow, Conscience and Obedience.

Stations of the Cross: Sixth Station

"Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged."

"As we recall Jesus standing before Pilate, who represents the Occupying Roman Forces, and the full weight of the Roman Empire, let us meditate on a scene happening in Hebron. Six Palestinian youths, between the ages of fifteen and nineteen, stand before the Israeli military, accused by a settler woman of breaking and entering her home."

When the Israelis move to demolish homes, what is the response of Palestinians? One of them, Jaber, struggling to build a clinic that is now scheduled for demolition, said: "We want the world to know that with our new clinic that has the demolition order, if there was an automobile accident on the Bypass Route 60, and Israelis were injured and could not get to a hospital, we would give them medical treatment right here in this Palestinian clinic. Tell the world." Israeli authorities demolished Jaber’s home in the Beqa’a Valley three times.

The problem is to find a response to Israeli violence that does not perpetuate injustice, a creative resistance that does not add more fuel to the flames, a patient endurance that draws the sting of evil, a total abandonment of revenge that leaves evil empty, unable to find a target and thus starved of the food of hatred. By refusing to join in the enemies' hatred and contempt for human life, we make the enemy visible to himself and to others. Creative non-violence is a mirror in which our sinfulness and that of our "enemy" can come to the surface. Rather than surrendering to the trance of revenge and counter-revenge, we awaken and raise our eyes from the deadly gleams flashing from the myth of redemptive violence. When it is met creatively, without the automatic counter-response to which we are daily conditioned, violence exposes its true nature even to the blindest eye - that of its perpetrator. Violence condemns itself when it fails to evoke counter-violence.

When we renounce the ego and its demand for revenge, we embrace the freedom of Jesus Christ. That is why Gandhi never aimed at non-violence in and of itself, but at Truth in and for itself. When our eyes are turned away from each other and toward the one who is Truth, then the Holy Spirit can find a chink in our hearts and come rushing in.

Creative non-violence does not justify the aggressor and it does not concede rights to unjust aggression. It is not a "balanced" approach, where the supposed "rights" of both sides are recognized in the manner of the corporate media which attempts to smother the rights of the Palestinians beneath a false "complexity." Patient endurance of Israeli insult does not concede its unjust authority. Where counter-violence attempts to say, "You cannot conquer me - part of me is free from you and triumphs over you!", non-violence says, "We are both free from the dominion of hatred - it's reign has ended in our hearts!"

Far from justifying evil, creative non-violence exposes the depth of evil so that it can be washed away. Evil has no rights, but it can only be slain in our own hearts. The Christian, more than anyone, recognizes the true nature of evil and never concedes it any rights and hunts it out wherever it is whitewashed. In the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "The disciple must realize this, and bear witness to it as Jesus did, just because this is the only way evil can be overcome. The very fact that the evil which assaults him is unjustifiable makes it imperative that he should not resist it, but play it out and overcome it by patiently enduring the evil person. Suffering willingly endured is stronger than evil, it spells death to evil." - The Cost of Discipleship.

"The worse the evil, the readier must the Christian be to suffer." By doing this, we place the evil one in the hands of Jesus. "And the cross is the only justification for the precept of non-violence, for it alone can kindle a faith in the victory over evil which will enable men to obey that precept. And only such obedience is blessed with the promise that we shall be partakers of Christ's victory as well as of his sufferings." - The Cost of Discipleship.

God's Graceful Company

"Please remember that our Maker (& Sons and Daughters of the Holy Spirit))
requires that each of us, consistent with our capacity and experience, stand up to and intellectually confront with love in our hearts and with a brave soldier's resolve, those persons who torture, imprison or kill our Brothers and Sisters everywhere on this earth; we may not,for the most part, simply hide under the image of the Great One whom we pretend to worship and thereby presume to live eternally in God's graceful company." indymedia argentina, "fbi/cia must be stopped", Feb. 11, 2008

In order to understand the cost of our silence, we must open our hearts as wide as they will go and see the human face of the disaster in Iraq. Bassim is a Sunni Iraqi that Patrick Cockburn had befriended.

"[Bassim] loved the house, which had a sitting room and two bedrooms, because he had built it himself in 2001. "I didn't complete it because I didn't have enough money," he said. 'But we were so happy to have our own home.' - Patrick Cockburn, "Is the US Really Bringing Stability to Baghdad?", Feb. 15, 2008.

"He was living there in the summer of 2006 with his wife Maha, 38, and his children Sarah, 13, Noor, eight, and Sama, three, when Shia militiamen took over Jihad. The struggle for the capital had begun on February 22 when Sunni insurgents blew up a revered Shia shrine in Samarra. Bassim fled to Syria with his family and, when he returned to Jihad three months later, he found pictures of Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia nationalist cleric who heads the Mehdi Army, pasted to the gate of his house." - Patrick Cockburn, "Is the US Really Bringing Stability to Baghdad?", Feb. 15, 2008.

"'I have nothing else to lose aside from my house,' he wrote to me in a sad letter in the autumn of 2007, 'and because of what happened I had a heart attack. I worked as a taxi driver for a few days, but I couldn't do it any longer because of the dangerous situation and I had no other way of earning a living.'" In another war he might have fled to America, but this time Americans have little appetite for seeing the faces of those whose lives they have destroyed.

"Neighbors told Bassim to get out as fast as he could before the Mehdi Army militiamen came back and killed him." - Patrick Cockburn, "Is the US Really Bringing Stability to Baghdad?", Feb. 15, 2008.

He tried to flee to Sweden, but all the doors were shut. After a 3 months of desperate attempts to find a place where his family would not be killed, he finally discovered that "...'for Iraqis, all the ways from Asia to Sweden are shut'... Demoralized, and hearing that many Iraqi refugees trying to get to Europe through Indonesia simply disappeared, Bassim used his last few dollars to fly to Damascus and took a shared taxi across the desert to Baghdad. "The journey took three months but it felt like 10 years,' he said. 'I have lost everything.'" - Patrick Cockburn, "Is the US Really Bringing Stability to Baghdad?", Feb. 15, 2008.

The same system that makes the lives of a few comfortable in the United States has made the lives of millions in Iraq miserable beyond belief. "But for millions of Iraqis like Bassim, the war has robbed them of their homes, their jobs and often their lives. It has brought them nothing but misery and ended their hopes of happiness. It has destroyed Iraq." - Patrick Cockburn, "Is the US Really Bringing Stability to Baghdad?", Feb. 15, 2008.

Naturally, we Christians will keep our eyes safely averted, lest we see the price that others must pay for our sanctity.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

An Orderly and Peaceable World

Palestinians brutalized by settlers while working their own land. (Christian Peacemaker Teams).

"The courts pretend that adherence to the law is what makes for an orderly and peaceable world," said Steve Baggarly, one of the protest organizers. "In fact, U.S. law and courts stand idly by while the U.S. military and private armies like Blackwater have killed, maimed, brutalized and destroyed the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis." - Statement of Steve Baggerly on being sentenced for protesting Blackwater's murder of 28 Iraqis in Nissour Square, Baghdad.

We are currently facing one of the most massive failures of political imagination to ever visit our fair race in this orderly and peaceable world. In an era when we have the political dreams of the ages at our fingertips, we can conceive no alternative, literally no alternative to endless inhumanity and planetary rape. As if our wills had been medically enervated and our minds stripped of the glories to which they are heirs, we live in deadened world where consumption and violence are only the realities still supportable. Lord, free us from the prison where imagination sits encased by sin.

This Lent, remember the people of Palestine and Iraq, many of whom are starving as these words are written. Let us release ourselves from the spiritual cartoons drawn by well-trained performers who feed off the goodness that longs to burst from our hearts and embrace those from whom God's eyes look out. Let this be a holy Lent, filled with fasting and prayer.

The Christian Peacemaker Teams call us to the following acts of penance:
  • Fast proactively. CPT Palestine urges that, every Friday during Lent (Fridays being traditional Christian fast days, particularly through Lent), supporters commit to writing letters or make phone calls to end the support of Israeli occupation of Palestine. As a Lenten discipline, on Fridays write or call government officials, write letters to the editors of newspapers, etc.
  • Fast from mainstream media. Choose a day every week (or 40 days!) and commit to reading Arab news sources: Al Jazeera, Maan, International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC), Palestine News Network (PNN), etc. to hear a perspective different from that often portrayed by mainstream Western media.
  • Fast from food. Choose to fast a meal a week, fast from desserts, fast from sunup to sundown, or some other type of fast. Use this fast as a reminder to pray for an end to the occupation and reflect on the suffering experienced by Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation."

It would be a real miracle if Israeli hearts could be en-fleshed and mercy for the Palestinians at last be born with that birth from heaven. In our fast, let us call for this miracle with faith, faith which yet might succeed where all the stratagems of this world have failed, where we stare across desert plains watching murder and see no springs of water.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Dust and Ashes

Today's picture is a tree on Palestinian land burned by Israeli settlers in Tel Rumeida in an act of blind hatred to force Palestinians from their ancient home. Imagine this Lent, what you might feel if strangers came onto your property and began burning trees that had been in your family for generations. Part of penance is awakening the imagination that leads to humanity. Let your humanity awaken this Lent as we pray for those our silence has made homeless.

"Creator God, the Parent of all people, we remember on this day of mourning all those suffering from injustice, war, and military occupation. We remember especially those living under military occupation in Palestine. We repent and mourn of the ways in which our government has participated in or complied with this occupation. May these ashes remind us of trees in Palestine that have become ashes – trees on Palestinian land that Israeli settlers have set on fire." - Christian Peacemaker Teams

We could be silent - we could simply surrender and conform - and everyone would approve. We could join in the mad rush to consume and everyone would say we had at last grown up, but instead "...the Word of God brings me insults and reproach all day long...But if I say: 'I won’t do it any more. I won’t even consider what you want, God, there’s just no point in starting trouble.' Your message of Truth, Nonviolence, Justice, Hope, Compassion for Mother Earth and all your creation burns like a fire, a
fire shut up in my bones. It’s wearing me out - I can’t keep it in anymore - I can’t ... shut out that voice in Ramah, weeping and great mourning. Rachel, crying for her children and refusing to be comforted because they are no more (Jer 31.15; Mt. 2.18)"

"Well, God, I still find You pretty clever. You might have pulled a fast one on me, but I rejoice in the meaningfulness You've given to those who take risks in a myriad variety of ways for the sake of a world renewed, where Rachel's tears will cease and
we'll hear Your sacred song: 'Your struggle is over. There is hope for your future.' Amen, (Jer. 31:16)."

The fast that many of us will choose this Lent comes from the words of another prophet, Isaiah, "Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?"

How many of us have the strength to fast from injustice? From unloving acts that dehumanize those whom we oppose? To fast from outbursts of temper and impatience against those who love us?

Let the spotlight move off the drama at the center of our ego this Lent. For moments during the day, in prayer, let our attention wander to the suffering experienced by Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation, to Iraqis living under U.S. occupation and let our hunger be felt in solidarity with those who have no choice.

Keep the Voice Alive

"Jan. 28, 2008, is a date that will live in congressional infamy. Congress surrendered the power of the purse over national security affairs to the White House.

President Bush appended a signing statement to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 denying the power of Congress to withhold funds for establishing permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq, or to control its oil resources. The statement tacitly averred that Congress was required to appropriate money to support every presidential national security gambit, for example, launching pre-emptive wars anywhere on the planet or breaking and entering homes to gather foreign intelligence.

....The National Defense Authorization Act's restrictions on President Bush in Iraq were no novelty. Congress has repeatedly legislated to constrain the president's projection of the military abroad or has otherwise overridden his national security policies.

....Yet Congress acquiesced...." - Kevin Drum, Politico

But Democrats are no longer satisfied with merely approving all the emperor's whims. Now they seek to punish those who dare dissent from their submission:

"Before the Nevada primary, [Presidential candidate] Dennis [Kucinich] was visited by representatives of Nancy Pelosi and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — AIPAC. They told Dennis that if he would drop his campaigns to impeach Cheney and Bush, they would guarantee his re-election to the House of Representatives.

Kucinich threw them out of his office. (Note: this story has since been denied by Kucinich. However, it remains symbolic of the relations between progressives and Democratic leadership).

Dennis now faces the toughest election campaign of his entire tenure in congress, with huge amounts of money being spent to turn his constituents against him due to 'his neglect of his district while he ran for president.'" - Portland IndyMedia, Feb. 6, 2008.

Those who have followed the words and deeds of Mr. Kucinich over the past few years know that he is being punished for much more than honoring his obligations to the Constitution to impeach those guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors. "Kucinich has aggressively challenged the Democratic Party leadership in Congress and on the presidential campaign trail on the issues of war, civil liberties, impeachment and big business control of government. He's even refused to pledge to endorse the party's presidential nominee." - Kevin Zeese, "Is Kucinich Being McKinnied?", Feb. 8, 2008.

His real crime was exposing the craven surrender of Democrats to the imperial agenda and for that he must now pay the price. Pelosi and AIPAC might well study the results of similar acts of tyranny in recent history. But such tyrants seem incapable of learning from history that " ... every frail being slain by Church and State grows and grows into a mighty giant who will someday free humanity from their perilous hold." - Emma Goldman. Kucinich is targeted because he has made himself vulnerable by his stubborn and daring adherence to principle. It is likely that the Democrats will soon rid themselves of this irritating voice of courage and truth, but once they have succeeded, they may well discover the price of their moral comfort is far more bitter than any could foresee. Be this as it may, the exigencies of power compel them to make an example of Kucinich, "So, Kucinich needs to be taught a lesson that other members will learn from. The growing revolt of the 'Out of Iraq Caucus' needs to be kept impotent. Knocking out Kucinich will prevent others from too loudly disobeying leadership." - Kevin Zeese, "Is Kucinich Being McKinnied?", Feb. 8, 2006.

Throughout history, those who spoke as Dennis speaks have almost invariably been crucified. They are rarely attractive, never the preferred talk show guest, and those in power feel great relief as soon as their screeching is removed. But something dies in us and the world in the silence following their removal. And nothing ever replaces that voice.

The voice of conscience is not so easily silenced. Dennis is now in the fight of his life. We can allow Democrats to complete their surrender by attacking all those who don't join in their moral collapse, or we can give help to those who keep the voice alive. Please consider making a sacrifice to keep Dennis in office: Re-Elect Dennis Kucinich for Congress

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Stuck in the Elevator of Peace

"You are a renegade priest and a renegade citizen. Many people think you're a hero of nonviolence, but you're a phony. You're a fraud. You are a person of violence because you used a hammer on one of our nuclear weapons! You're a coward. You're afraid. You are no Gandhi. I will not join your cause, but I will not make a martyr out of you so that the world thinks you are the heir of Gandhi." - U.S. Magistrate Don Svet on sentencing Fr. John Dear to the limit of the law's severity.

Thus do the violent defend themselves against the threat of peace, even when it's stuck in the elevator. Fr. Dear's threat to our government consisted of "failing to comply with signs and regulations in a federal building."

"No violence is private. On the contrary, violence is so dynamic, variegated, and pervasive that all violence must be regarded as essentially political." - William Stringfellow.

"In September 2006, Dear and other peace activists spent four hours in an elevator after security guards prevented them from going to Domenici’s third-floor office where they wanted to talk with Domenici and his staff about changing his support for the Iraq war."

Prophetic acts such as Fr. Dear's are necessary in order to achieve these spiritual purposes: 1) To show our willingness to suffer for the sake of our love of Christ and 2) In order to demonstrate that these injustices are not "ordinary", but cry out to God for public recognition and public action. Clearly the war in Iraq is not a private matter between each person and his or her conscience, but a public crime that can only be justly addressed in a public way.

To sit in your room and pray about the war in Iraq is a worthy act that may well bring spiritual benefit to this world, but if it is not accompanied by public acts, it is difficult to avoid the suspicion of hypocrisy. When there is a blatant act of public mortal sin carried out by an institution that has been charged with the public good, then private activity is not morally sufficient to the justice required by the situation. The war-making authorities in this country have direct access to the corporate media and blanket us with unremitting and scientifically-crafted propaganda. For Christians to respond to this circumstance by limiting themselves to private conversations and prayer is in practice to surrender to the evil principalities against which we are called to fight.

For Christians, there can be no obedience to illegitimate power. This is a quite traditional principle and it immediately gives the lie to Judge Svet's conception of authority and violence. Resistance like that of Fr. Dear is actually an act of love for true authority, not a repudiation of authority itself, as the judge would have us believe in his vitriolic fit. Legitimacy can only be attributed to this or any government when it acts according to its true vocation so that its authority can be conscientiously obeyed. If those in authority violate the principles that legitimate their authority, for instance by repudiating the rule of law that should guide their own actions, then by that very act they cancel our obligation to obey their rule, though not, of course, to obey the rule of law that they have disdained. Public opposition to a regime that falsifies evidence in order to enter a war that has been declared illegal by international authority is necessitated by our obligation to honor the sovereign - the rule of law in this instance. Not to discontinue our allegiance to such an authority would be to join in its promotion of contempt for the rule of law. The sovereign we honor is justice, the only possible source of governmental authority.

The point is worth all the emphasis we can give to it. Fr. Dear's "criminal" behavior is an act of obedience to government's true vocation, which is to defend and cherish the rights of its citizens. To obey a government that builds weapons of mass slaughter is in itself a criminal act. Judge Svet's characterization of hammering a nuclear warhead as "violence" is the reduction of the term to a technical definition as an act which interferes with the purpose assigned by the owner to an item of corporate property. The far more significant violence of continuing a war that has caused the death of over one million Iraqis is a crime of such magnitude as to condemn those who fail to oppose it. Acts of resistance to this criminal regime are legitimated by the Christian vocation to defend just order.

To suppose that God is pleased with his children when they unthinkingly submit to whatever government happens to be in power because that government "does not bear the sword in vain" is a blasphemy. Instead of participating in governmental crimes by our "submission to authority", let us submit to the authority of justice.

I'll let Fr. Dear have the last word: "As a Christian and Jesuit, I feel I must say no to the war, in this case by resisting the system. During those moments when my life feels disrupted, I recall the millions of Iraqis and Afghanis who have had their lives disrupted and destroyed because of our war, and I realize it's a small price...

The Gospel story remains the primary motivation for my resistance. I'm always amazed that Jesus did not spend his life sitting under a tree, dispensing his wisdom. He stood up, spoke out, and marched to Jerusalem, where he confronted the culture of injustice, the empire and its religious backers, and suffered the consequences of his civilly disobedient, nonviolent action. His life was disrupted, wrecked, shattered...

If I want to enter his story, share his life, and follow his lead, I have to enter the fray and resist the empire, too, and that's a messy and complicated business. Still, it's a blessing to be misunderstood, insulted and in legal jeopardy for one's pursuit of God's reign of peace. As I left the courthouse, I remembered the Sermon on the Mount: 'Blessed are you when they insult you…Rejoice and be glad!'" - Fr. John Dear, My day in court

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Resistance to Death

It has become chillingly clear that democracy is nearly dead in the United States. The government is now controlled by those who have ceased even to pretend to believe in it: "[Mukasey] repeatedly endorsed patently illegal behavior — including torture — and refused even to pretend that he cared what the Senate thought about any of it. He even told Republican Senators that they have no right to pass a whistleblower law allowing federal employees who learn of lawbreaking to inform Congress about it, because such a law would infringe on the President’s constitutional powers. In Mukasey’s worldview, the President has unlimited power and Congress has none." - Glenn Greenwald, "Mukasey’s Radical Worldview Is Now the Norm", Jan. 31, 2008.
Congress has come to the state where, when they learn of Bush lawbreaking, they simply vote after the fact to legalize anything he might have done. Indeed, you won't find any "partisanship" in this Senate. Their power has devolved to the point that legalizing the emperor's lawbreaking is their last claim to relevancy. As in ancient Rome, the senate's role is simply to put the Senate's imprimatur on whatever the emperor decrees. In their defense, they have little choice but to do nothing or cling to the image of power by ratifying whatever lawlessness the emperor chooses to practice.

The ruling elite is faced with a dilemma that they believe can only be resolved though the abolition of democratic politics and it's replacement by technocratic management. The mentality that sets the stage for this nullification of human dignity is the demoralization, in the most literal sense, that has been carried out over the past thirty years. The following description applies equally to American citizens and their representatives: "By now truly demoralized, they suffer no conscience and they risk no action...They have lost any expectations for society; they have no stamina left for confronting the principalities; they are reduced to docility, lassitude, torpor, profound apathy, and default. The demoralization of human beings in this fashion greatly conveniences the totalitarianism of the demonic powers since the need to resort to persecutions or imprisonments is obviated, as the people are already morally captive." - William Stringfellow, "An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land."

We are captivated by internal prisons that we have created for ourselves. In fact, the ruling elite can't build enough prisons to immobilize opposition, but they can use motivational techniques through visual and audio media in order to much more effectively douse the flame of justice.

The institutional engines of resistance have become completely exhausted: "Congress long ago decided it would do nothing about any of it, would acquiesce to it, and thus — as was predictable and predicted — it has all become normalized." Glenn Greenwald, "Mukasey’s Radical Worldview Is Now the Norm", Jan. 31, 2008. Americans who even take an interest in subjects outside the technical expertise that allows them to maintain the status and wealth of the elite will soon be marginalized.

Indeed, like Roman senators, we have now become suppliants pleading for mercy, for some pretense of human consideration, before the seats of power. And none is given: "They were supplicants pleading for some consideration, almost out of a sense of mercy, and both they and Mukasey knew it...Mukasey can go and casually tell them to their faces that the President has the right to violate their laws and that Congress has no power to do anything about it. And nothing is going to happen. And everyone — the Senators, Bush officials, the country — knows that nothing is going to happen." - Glenn Greenwald, "Mukasey’s Radical Worldview Is Now the Norm", Jan. 31, 2008.

Nothing can happen now because we have accepted our roles as technocratic tools in support of empire. A common tactic of the 60's involved an overarching risk that has now come to fruition - the encouragement of cynicism. The original purpose of this tactic was to encapsulate outrage and make the case that the powers that ruled America were never to be trusted, that they always pursued Machiavellian strategies of total power. The message was close to the truth, but the means - inculcating cynicism about politics into the masses - was self-defeating for a group that intended to challenge injustice through politics. Shortly after this cynicism became the norm in the early 70's, the movement quickly unraveled and evolved into it's opposite. The ultimate emotional impact it made resulted in the condition we see today - no effective resistance to power is possible because genuine hope has been sapped dry by cynicism. The cynical embrace of power and wealth for its own sake has become the norm. Thus the hidden violence of the 60's opposition has come home to roost.

"Virtually every Democratic Senator, after expressing some 'disappointment' in Mukasey’s answers, then proceeded to lavish him with praise, eagerly assuring him that they did not want conflict and were not attempting to be partisan or acrimonious." But resistance is partisan and acrimonious, as was Jeremiah and Ezekiel in similar situations. These are the noises made when submitting to autocratic power - to lavish praise on the emperor's minions and beg for his favors. "Mukasey would nod politely and acknowledge their pleas, assuring them that he wasn’t offended by their questioning, almost embarrassed at times by how obsequious they were." - Glenn Greenwald, "Mukasey’s Radical Worldview Is Now the Norm", Jan. 31, 2008.

Yet what the Senators and the emperor's minion were discussing was the systematic degradation of the human person, now sealed in a protective acronym:"EIT": "They don’t even use the euphemism 'enhanced interrogation techniques' any more. That phrase has been so normalized that they now all know and use an abbreviation for it — 'EIT.' So Senators ask questions about when 'EITs' can be used and the Attorney General outlines the elusive formula he applies to determine its legality and all controversy, all passion, all intensity is completely drained out of the discussion in the U.S. Senate of our torture policies. 'Torture' is now an EIT Unit." - Glenn Greenwald, "Mukasey’s Radical Worldview Is Now the Norm", Jan. 31, 2008. Soon the "nonpartisan" Senators will beg mercy from the emperor lest they themselves be subjected to the EIT Unit.

Another path could have been taken and is still possible now. It is the path laid out in the biblical text, which gave the anti-Nazi resistance of the thirties and forties much of its hope and strength. As with the earlier Resistance, our power of opposition has been systematically neutralized through a Matrix-like technological world-view that is unceasingly ingested by us and instills the sense that the world is far too complex for us to affect - that we are tiny, powerless units whose only choice is to attach ourselves (cynically) to the greatest power that is available and hope for its triumph. Thus our survival depends on obeisance.

We must reclaim our power, but not by pouring our God-given life into the channels which empire has provided to siphon off the energy of justice. "The biblical response - again, an answer which also has empirical authority - is that hope is known only in the midst of coping with death. Any so-called hope is delusory and false without or apart from the confrontation with the power of death, whatever momentary or circumstantial form at may have. It is a person's involvement in that crisis in itself - whatever the apparent outcome - which is the definitively humanizing experience. Engagement in specific and incessant struggle against death's rule renders us human. Resistance to death is the only way to live humanly in the midst of the Fall." - William Stringfellow, "An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land."