Saturday, June 28, 2008

Freedom from fear, aversion to war - 6 points

These are some things I've been thinking about over the past few weeks.

I realize that those who are convinced there are terrorists behind every mail box, and every Muslim is out to kill us and take away our way of life will think me terribly naive, and out of touch with reality. Like I care. We are continually told that "everything changed on 9/11". Some things did change. What changed is that Americans were willing to trust the government, and to trade freedom and liberty for "security" (and in the process got less of both). What changed is that a lot of Americans started to believe that it didn't matter what happened to anyone else in the world, as long as we were safe, fat, dumb and happy here in America, everything was OK. What changed is that we were willing to let go of some of our deepest values, the rule of law, the fact that we don't do empire, and the fact that we don't torture.

1. I will not call anyone my enemy just because my government tells me to. This includes Iranians, Iraqi's, Afghani's, Pakistani's, or any other country who happens to take a turn in the Administration's "Axis of Evil"

2. I will not be afraid because my government tells me to. Some Americans are terrified that they are going to be killed by terrorists. The Administration has done a GREAT job of stoking that fear. The media has been a willing co-conspirator. I have never been afraid of terrorists. I have a better chance of an unlicensed, uninsured, AMERICAN drunk driver plowing into me and killing me on any weekend night than to be killed by a member of Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas or the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

3. I will not give my government a pass on killings or torture just because they say they were "terrorists". There has been a lot of coverage on the killings in Haditha. All of the Marines involved have been let off the hook in one way or another. The people on the right have been crowing that this "proves" that they did the right thing. But, the fact is that 24 people, most of them women and children are still just as dead. There has also been a lot of coverage on torture, our use of secret prisons, Guantanamo Bay, etc. Some of the stories sound more like they should have come from Soviet Russia, or other ruthless dictatorships. Certainly NOT America.

4. I will keep myself informed. There is nothing more valuable to the current Administration than uninformed Americans. Uninformed Americans enabled the Administration to be able to convince that Saddam was involved in 9/11 and there were WMD's in Iraq. The Administration is going down the same road with regard to Iran - there are a few more people this time who are questioning it - this, I know must really irk the Administration - the script is not working as well this time. Unfortunately though, no matter how much questioning goes on, they will decide to go to war, and then it won't matter much.

5. I will study, pray for, talk about, write about peace. As I wrote about a quote from an Iraqi Doctor in a previous blog, dropping bombs (or torturing, or occupying a country) signals a loss of imagination. Too many Americans cannot imagine their country ever being able to be at peace with the world. It is not because it is not possible - it is because we do not have enough imagination. It is also because a lot of Americans, in reality simply do not want to live at peace with the rest of the world. I am absolutely convinced that we are on a path to war with Iran. The signs are all there. The Administration weakly bleats that they are trying for "diplomacy" but that "all options are on the table". It simply amazes me that Americans do not remember that this was almost the exact same script used for the run-up to the war in Iraq. It also amazes me that virtually every thing they said about the war in Iraq (we'd be greeted as liberators, the war would be over quickly, it would be paid for with Iraqi oil money) was dead WRONG. Why any American would trust ANYTHING they'd have to say regarding Iran is beyond me.

6. I will try not to lose hope. This is the hardest thing of all. The economy is tanking here at home. Americans continue to die in Iraq and Afghanistan (as well as Iraqi's and Afghani's). If we attack Iran, my belief is that the world's economy will crash in a huge way, and we will see misery worldwide that we cannot even imagine at this point. How can I not lose hope with all of those things? I don't know. But I'll try.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Irresistible Revolution

Just finished reading Irresistible Revolution, Living as an Ordinary Radical by Shane Claiborne

I read this book when it first came out. Normally, I do not read books more than one time, but Shane's book is definitely worth more than one read.

Re-reading Shane's book reminded me of things I had been thinking about and pondering. Mostly I have been very troubled and convicted by the implications of the last verses of Matthew 25 (Sheep and Goats).

Shane is kind of a frightening looking guy, at least to some "respectable Christian folk" (certainly not me). He has dreadlocks, a scraggly beard, weird looking glasses, and he makes his own clothes. Definitely not your typical preacher in a slick $1000 dollar suit.

He is part of a seemingly new, encouraging breed of evangelicals (this group includes Tony Campolo and Jim Wallis as well). These are Christians who are encouraging a more full living of the gospel message (i.e. working for peace, working on Social Justice and environmental issues, feeding the poor, taking care of each other), and not just a few narrow morality issues or evangelizing to get people "saved" and into heaven (certainly that is important, but it can become too narrow a focus, leaving a lot of pain and suffering for those who have to live here till it's time to go to heaven).

Shane lives in a community in Philadelphia called The Simple Way. The book talks a lot about his work on Peace and Social Justice issues. Shane talks about his staying with Mother Teresa in Calcutta (I love that he calls her Momma T).

Shane also talks of his time spent in Iraq early on in the US invasion and occupation. I love the quote from one of the doctors in Iraq that he talks to:

"Violence is for those who have lost their imagination. Has your country lost its imagination?"

I think this line speaks volumes. And it speaks volumes for our dealings with other countries such as Iran. To drop bombs and initiate wars means you have FAILED in diplomacy. I would go one further and say that in the case of Iraq, that diplomacy was not tried at all - only as a means to buy time (and to give the look of legitimacy - as they said "we tried hard, we tried diplomacy, but it didn't "work" so now we have to go to war") to get ready for the invasion which had already been decided on.

In the case of Iran, the signs look eerily similar.

A lot of bad things happened this past Friday with the economy. 5.5% unemployment. Barrels of Oil going up $11 in one day. The stock market crashing. Americans are worried. A lot of people are losing their jobs, losing their homes. Some are on the brink. Everywhere you look there seems to be gloom and doom. Comparisons are made to the time of the Great Depression (and the economy looks bad now, but if you read about the economy then - there is no comparison - the Great Depression dwarfed this economic trouble in terms of scope. That is not to say that the economy might not get worse before it is all over).

And there is a lot of pain both here and in other countries. But, we ALWAYS claim to be a Christian nation. And in the Bible there are answers to these questions on how to survive these times. How we should be taking care of one another. How we should be sharing. How we should be living out community. How we can live alternatively to the "systems" of the world. Shane's book gives great "real world" application of that.

Too often though, Christianity is not real to us. I am not so simplistic as to say that all we have to do is just read the Bible and all will be well (I struggle with the worry and the fear myself, but take great comfort in Matthew 6:28-34). I also do not say that just because you read the Bible or are a Christian you won't lose your job or your house.

What I'm saying is that I think we have lost the sense of community which says that we are to take care of each other (See Acts 2:42-47, Matthew 25:31-46). Since I read the book the first time, I had done a lot of study on the Catholic Worker Movement and the lives of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin (Shane mentions them several times in the book). I think their work also shows what true community is, and what taking care of each other really means.

As G. K. Chesterton said:

"The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried."

Shane's book shows us a little bit about how we can translate these biblical ideas into real world application.