Thursday, April 26, 2007
Charles De Gaulle once said that politics is far too serious to be left in the hands of politicians. I agree!
The politicians in Washington are painfully divided over what should be done about the war in Iraq. The Republicans talk about “staying the course,” which our nation can ill afford. The Democrats, on the other hand, propose a “cut and run” policy, and everyone knows that this would leave a vacuum to be filled with the chaos of all-out civil war. But some of us in the religious community propose a third option, which we believe could get America out of Iraq without leaving a total mess behind. Our plan has three parts.
First, we propose that American and British troops be replaced by an international police force composed of those who better understand the Iraqi culture. Leaders in Saudi Arabia proposed such a solution almost three years ago. Americans and Brits are not only devoid of any grasp of the language and the religion of the Iraqi people, but are defined by many Muslims as a Christian army that has invaded a sacred Islamic land. Our army’s presence is perceived by many in the Muslim world as a rebirth of the medieval crusades.
Second, we propose that the United States appropriate $50 billion to rebuild the towns and cities that the invasion of Iraq has left in shambles. This would be a small price to pay, considering the $2 billion we are presently spending every week in order to keep this war going.
Third, we propose that our president go before the United Nations and ask the world to forgive America for what we have done to Iraq, and how we have set back efforts for world peace. He should point out that he is asking forgiveness on behalf of almost all Americans – because we overwhelmingly lent support to the invasion of Iraq some four years ago. He should further point out that our original intentions were good! We Americans were told that we were invading in order to remove the threat of what we thought were Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
Repentance of this kind is necessary because we need to re-establish our moral standing in the world, and confessing wrongdoing is a start for doing that. It is not weakness to admit that we did wrong, especially when the whole world knows that we did. Now is the time for us to live out that verse from 2 Chronicles 7:14, which reads:
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
If you are willing to support this proposal, go to www.tikkun.org/iraqpeace. You will find an expanded version of this proposal there, along with an opportunity to sign on with us.
For your consideration...
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
BUT ONLY polite, reasoned commenters, please. I'd hate to send a bunch of naughty bloggers his way.
Left, Right, Hawk, Dove, whatever our position, I think it very important for us as a nation and as communities to have conversations like these where we can actually listen to and speak to those who may disagree with us.
Monday, April 23, 2007
A few quotes...
Practical, personal paths can heal our lives and help our planet. As societies, we create the very inequalities and devastation of nature we as individuals abhor. The way out is individual responsibility and commitment in action. Often, the trail leads straight through the kitchen.
A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.
~Henry David Thoreau
There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.
When a man must be afraid to drink freely from his country's rivers and streams, that country is no longer fit to live in.
Only after the last tree has been cut down. Only after the last river has been poisoned. Only after the last fish has been caught. Only then you will find that money cannot be eaten.
~Cree Indian prophecy
The best thing to do with the best things in life is to give them up.
Friday, April 20, 2007
I went to ten doctors. Nine of them tell me that it looks like I might be developing lung cancer and I would be wise to quit smoking. They aren't even saying for sure that my smoking might cause or contribute to the possible lung cancer, but they are saying instead that it would just be prudent to quit smoking, just in case.
They’re telling me that a good bit of evidence suggests that there IS a link between smoking and cancer.
The good news is that the tenth doctor tells me that I may or may not be getting lung cancer, but regardless, there's no real reason to quit smoking.
Why would I listen to the one and not the nine?
What I’m wondering is for what reason would we ignore the majority of scientists or taking a prudent (conservative) approach when told that there may well be dangers in our lifestyle (global climate change, peak oil, for instance).
I doubt that we would ignore the majority in the case of a personal diagnosis…UNLESS we were committed to a certain lifestyle and we don’t want to change (as in the dedicated and/or addicted smoker), and even then, probably most of us would heed the majority of doctors.
Why, then, ignore the majority and prudent action in the cases of climate change and peak oil? This is not to say that the majority couldn’t be wrong or that prudent action un-needed, but rather to ask WHY anyone would choose to ignore the majority or prudent action?
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Returning to Bill McKibben's book, Deep Economy, we find McKibben questioning a fundamental given amongst many - if not most - if not all - economists today: Growth as Unquestionable God.
As the new millennium began, growth had become the organizing ideology for corporations and individuals, for American capitalists and Chinese communists, for Democrats and Republicans. For everyone. “Harnessing the ‘base’ motive of material self-interest to promote the common good is perhaps the most important social invention mankind has achieved,” said Charles Schultze, a former chair of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers.
George Gilder, the fervent apostle of tech-driven high-growth economics, went further: entrepreneurs, he said, “embody and fulfill the sweet and mysterious consolations of the Sermon on the Mount.” [shudder! -Dan] The so-called Washington consensus dominated far more of the world than the Union Jack ever had; it was an empire of the mind.
And it is easy to understand why. For one thing, under present arrangements any faltering of growth leads quickly to misery: to recession and all its hardships. For another, endless growth allows
us to avoid hard choices, to reconcile, in Collins’s words, the American “love of liberty with its egalitarian pretensions.”
The administration of George W. Bush assures us that we can have tax cuts and still protect Social Security because the tax cuts will stimulate economic growth so much that we’ll have more than enough cash on hand to take care of our old. No need to choose. Having found what has been truly a magic wand, the strong temptation is to keep waving it.
But, as readers of fairy tales know, magic can run out…
Is there any reason to think that the magic might NOT run out? Or - heaven forbid! - that there's no such thing as magic or a free lunch in the first place?
Monday, April 16, 2007
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Global warming poses a "serious threat to America's national security" and the U.S. likely will be dragged into fights over water and other shortages, top retired military leaders warn in a new report.
The report says that in the next 30 to 40 years there will be wars over water, increased hunger instability from worsening disease and rising sea levels and global warming-induced refugees. "The chaos that results can be an incubator of civil strife, genocide and the growth of terrorism," the 35-page report predicts.
"Climate change exacerbates already unstable situations," former U.S. Army chief of staff Gordon Sullivan told Associated Press Radio. "Everybody needs to start paying attention to what's going on. I don't think this is a particularly hard sell in the Pentagon. ... We're paying attention to what those security implications are."
Gen. Anthony "Tony" Zinni, President Bush's former Middle East envoy, says in the report: "It's not hard to make the connection between climate change and instability, or climate change and terrorism."
So, our military acknowledges Climate Change as not only a reality, but a threat to be reckoned with? My only concern here is that our leaders will finally acknowledge Climate Change as a reality but then use it as an excuse for more war-making and an even larger military budget.
We’ll successfully have gotten rid of the Commies as a boogeyman, and Terrorists are losing their fear-factor, so now we’ll have to wage war on Climate Change as our newest boogeyman.
If that’s the case, I’m wondering who we’ll have to bomb and keep bombing until we’re successful in the war against the climate and if those who object will be called obstructionists and Climate Sympathizers?
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
The topic is peacemaking and violence-as-solution. I’m borrowing on some comments I have made in conversations with Larry Who.
Some thoughts on engaging in violence in order to stop violence:
I'm okay with police trying to stop prostitution.
I'm not okay with police engaging in prostitution in order to stop it.
I'm sure we agree on that point. Clearly, engaging in the behavior we want to stop to try to stop it is a horrible notion.
But just because we don't want police engaging in prostitution in order to stop it, doesn't mean that we want to ignore the problem.
Similarly, just because peacemakers say they refuse to engage in killing innocent people doesn't mean that we want to ignore the problem. Heaven forbid!
But I think that's what a lot of people think. They hear "pacifist" and think "passivists - do nothings! Just ignore the problem - why, that's obscene!"
My contention is that we, at least we Christians, ought to try to overcome evil with good. Find ways to stand up to oppression and those who'd kill innocents without engaging in killing of innocents ourselves.
For Christians, this seems like a no-brainer to me.
I think the problem lies in that we have bought into the notion of violence-as-solution. Many people honestly think that if we're not willing to kill some of the Enemy's innocent bystanders, then we can do nothing. Either/or.
It seems that they don't believe in God's ability to do a transforming work. They don't believe in the option of overcoming evil with good.
Or at least that's how it appears from where I stand.
I think that we can indeed overcome evil with good, that we don’t need to resort to killing innocents in order to overcome evil AND even if not – if killing babies is the only way to overcome evil, then I still would be opposed to killing babies.
I use the “killing babies” as a reference and a starting point. The reason being, generally, we can all acknowledge that “killing babies” is a wrong thing to do (and it feels ridiculous to even have to make that sort of statement). So, if we can come to a consensus on the righteousness or not of killing babies, then it’s a starting point to understanding what we’re implying when we endorse wars.
In the Bible we see Jesus in at least two ways: Jesus as the man who walked amongst us and Jesus as part of who God is.
It is, of course, the same Jesus and yet God has different roles God's playing in Jesus. Understand that: Jesus as portrayed in the Gospels may act differently than you see God portrayed in other places throughout the Bible.
In Jesus the man-god who walked amongst us, we have Jesus as role model, as shepherd, as example. THIS Jesus is our standard for how to live.
God is not our standard in that we are NOT to try to make ourselves into little gods. God's role is different than ours.
But Jesus came to show us how to live, Jesus came to teach us The Way.
1 Peter 2 tells us:
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.
"He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth." When he was insulted, he returned no insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten; instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly.
God is the one who deals justly. It is God's to avenge. It is God's to decide who lives and who dies. THAT is God’s role, not humanity’s.
Jesus left us an example. NOT “how to be little gods,” but rather how to be whole humans. "To be perfect as God is perfect," meaning NOT that we should be like God making God-like decisions of life and death, but rather that we are to be completely whole human beings, living as we were designed to live.
And how is that? How do we know how to live?
Jesus. Jesus and our God-given reasoning.
Jesus the man-god who walked amongst us, teaching us to live peaceably. Teaching us NOT to kill our enemies but to love them. Teaching us to overcome evil with good.
And again, I would point out that it is this Jesus-man whom we've been commanded to obey and in whose steps we are to follow. We are told specifically in the book of Romans, “Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’”
NOWHERE in the Bible do we have commands given to us to "go and kill those sinners." In ZERO places in the Bible are we thus commanded.
But we are commanded to love our enemies. To overcome evil with good.
Given that, on what possible basis would we break the command that we've been given in order to act out a command that we have NOT been given (ie, Kill Enemies – even be willing to kill their children)? Rather, we have been told specifically, "Vengeance is MINE, saith the Lord"?
Yes, God does appear to tell some Israelis a relatively few times to go and kill those people. But God has not told US to do so. We have no commands to do such in all of the Bible. Not one.
If we're going to start implying commands from examples in the Bible (which is what the violence-as-solution folk are doing), then shall I take it as a command that I should go and marry a prostitute (as Hosea did)? Shall I go throughout Louisville and kill all the firstborn males (as the Death Angel did in Egypt)?
There are examples in the Bible where it appears that God is telling people to kill children. Shall we do this? When shall we do it? When we hear voices telling us to kill children? When our gov’t tells us it’s time to kill children?
Do you see the horrifying problem with implying commands or license from actions that happen in the OT when no such command exists for you and for me?
Sunday, April 8, 2007
Goodness is stronger than evil,
love is stronger than hate,
light is stronger than darkness,
life is stronger than death,
victory is ours through him who loved us.
~Bishop Desmond Tutu
Happy Easter everyone!
If you'd like, you can see some of our joyful Easter mayhem at the Jeff Street blog or my flickr account.
Christ is risen! Risen in our hearts. Risen in our communities. Risen from the Holy Ground bursting forth in life for us all.
And, from the resurrected Christ, I offer these words (written by Paul in Romans, but a fair summary of some of Jesus' major teachings):
Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Have the same regard for one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not be wise in your own estimation.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all.
If possible, on your part, live at peace with all. Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord."
Rather, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head."
Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.
Christ is risen, indeed.
Thursday, April 5, 2007
NEW YORK - The Bush administration’s plans to increase biofuel imports could add to the suffering of millions of impoverished peasants in Brazil and other developing countries, food rights and environmental groups say.”The benefits of biofuels cannot be achieved at the expense of food shortages and environmental degradation,” says Celso Marcatto, an activist associated with the U.S.-based anti-poverty organization, ActionAid, in Brazil.
ActionAid, like many other groups, fears that the growing U.S. demand for ethanol fuel could force agribusiness in Brazil to indulge in unhealthy competition for profits that might end up causing monopolies over farmlands and damage to the environment...
“The U.S. government should be thinking through a careful approach to biofuels based on diverse production of a mix of crops, including native grasses,” said ActionAid’s Karen Hansen-Kuhn in the United States.
Emphasizing that local ownership and sustainable agriculture must be considered as “crucial” elements of the United States’ biofuel policy, Hansen-Kuhn described Bush’s approach as a “headlong rush.”
Some researchers claim as well that investments in ethanol to fuel automobiles are driving price hikes in food products around the world...
I'll repeat my common refrain, that others (like the Nearings in the post below) have been repeating for a while now: We must reduce our hyperconsumption or there will be painful consequences.
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
I’ve read and re-read Thoreau’s Walden and the Hubbards’ Payne Hollow, as well as what Wendell Berry and Gene Logsdon have had to say about living sustainably. One couple that I’ve been aware of but haven’t read have been the Nearings – Helen and Scott.
The Nearings were something akin to socialists, pacifists, distrusted the government and were leaders in a back-to-the-land movement before there was one. They are very interesting to read and read about.
In light of some of our previous conversations on Right Living, I would like to share a bit from the Nearings’ preface of their classic Living the Good Life:
When we moved to Vermont we left a society gripped by depression and unemployment, falling prey to fascism, and on the verge of another world-wide military free-for-all; and entered a pre-industrial, rural community. The society from which we moved had rejected in practice and in principle our pacifism, our vegetarianism and our collectivism. So thorough was this rejection that, holding such views, we could not teach in schools, write in the press or speak over the radio, and were thus denied our part in public education.
Under these circumstances, where could outcasts from a dying social order live frugally and decently, and at the same time have sufficient leisure and energy to assist in the speedy liquidation of the disintegrating society and to help replace it with a more workable social system?
…We decided these tasks could better be performed from a Vermont valley than from a large city or from some point outside the United States. As it turned out, we saved enough time and energy from the bread labor and the association required by our Vermont experiment to take an active though minor part in United States adult education and in the shaping of public opinion, at the same time that we were living what we regarded as a self-respecting, decent, simple life.
Although written in response to conditions in the 1930s, it sounds as cutting edge today as it did when it was published in 1954. Thoughts?