RSS Feed

Category Archives: Violence

Reading James Through an American Lens

Posted on

A Reading of James 2: 14-17 with a 21st Century,

United States Gun Violence Hermeneutic:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t act on it? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is a victim in a mass shooting, or has had a child shot to death at school, and one of you says to them, “Our thoughts and prayers are with you,” and you do nothing to oppose the senseless madness of such horrific violence, allowing more madmen to easily acquire weapons of mass destruction, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it doesn’t lead to action, is dead.

Your Tax Dollars at Work: U.S. Soldiers Handcuffed Iraqi Children, Shot Them in the Head

Posted on

From the We’re Sure as Hell not a Christian Nation Department, via McClatchy:

A U.S. diplomatic cable made public by WikiLeaks provides evidence that U.S. troops executed at least 10 Iraqi civilians, including a woman in her 70s and a 5-month-old infant, then called in an airstrike to destroy the evidence, during a controversial 2006 incident in the central Iraqi town of Ishaqi.

The unclassified cable, which was posted on WikiLeaks’ website last week, contained questions from a United Nations investigator about the incident, which had angered local Iraqi officials, who demanded some kind of action from their government. U.S. officials denied at the time that anything inappropriate had occurred.

McClatchy's copy of the cell phone photo taken by Ishaqi resident of children executed in U.S. raid.

But Philip Alston, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said in a communication to American officials dated 12 days after the March 15, 2006, incident that autopsies performed in the Iraqi city of Tikrit showed that all the dead had been handcuffed and shot in the head. Among the dead were four women and five children. The children were all 5 years old or younger.

According to Alston’s version of events, American troops approached a house in Ishaqi, which Alston refers to as “Al-Iss Haqi,” that belonged to Faiz Harrat Al-Majma’ee, whom Alston identified as a farmer. The U.S. troops were met with gunfire, Alston said, that lasted about 25 minutes.

After the firefight ended, Alston wrote, the “troops entered the house, handcuffed all residents and executed all of them. After the initial MNF intervention, a U.S. air raid ensued that destroyed the house.” The initials refer to the official name of the military coalition, the Multi-National Force.

The cable also backs up the claims of the doctor who performed the autopsies, who told Knight Ridder “that all the victims had bullet shots in the head and all bodies were handcuffed.”

The cable notes that “at least 10 persons, namely Mr. Faiz Hratt Khalaf, (aged 28), his wife Sumay’ya Abdul Razzaq Khuther (aged 24), their three children Hawra’a (aged 5) Aisha (aged 3) and Husam (5 months old), Faiz’s mother Ms. Turkiya Majeed Ali (aged 74), Faiz’s sister (name unknown), Faiz’s nieces Asma’a Yousif Ma’arouf (aged 5 years old), and Usama Yousif Ma’arouf (aged 3 years), and a visiting relative Ms. Iqtisad Hameed Mehdi (aged 23) were killed during the raid.”

Read the cable here.  It was addressed to the then-Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice.   One wonders if it was given the same serious scrutiny as other correspondence.

Quote for the Day: The Powers of Violence, Hatred and Love

Posted on

“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. … Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”  –Martin Luther King Jr., “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” 1967

Gay Anarchist Arrested in Vandalism of Denver Democratic Party Headquarters

Posted on

Nobody told me there’d be days like these,

Nobody told me there’d be days like these,

Nobody told me there’d be days like these,

Strange days indeed.    — John Lennon

Denver police arrested a transgendered anarchist, Maurice Schwenkler, also known as “Ariel Attack,” in the vandalism of the Denver Democratic Party headquarters in the early morning hours this past Tuesday.  Police said at least two hammer-wielding bicycle riders were responsible for the damage.  Ariel Attack was apprehended after police pursuit.

The motive for the vandalism remains unclear.   Ariel Attack has been linked with several anarchist and radical gay groups, including Denver Bash Back!

The Colorado Independent reports that Schwenkler was paid last November by a get-out-the-vote group working on behalf of the Democrats.  Yet Schwenkler also recently posted to the Queers Against Obama blog, denouncing Obama’s stance on the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

Wake Up And Smell the Coffee

Posted on

As advice columnist Ann Landers used to say, it’s time for all of you “I want my theocracy, and I want it now!” folks to wake up and smell the coffee.  I’ve more than had my fill of hearing you say it’s time to put God back in the public schools, and in the public square, and that we should make God an active mover and shaker in our national legislative process.   As I listen to your screeds, or read the stuff that comes from your annoyingly cute FW: emails, I get the notion that you believe  the God who created all that is, seen and unseen, has been tossed out of our society like some unruly drunk might be tossed from a bar.  Sorry, people, but if you’ll just look at the the God revealed by your Bible, you’ll find that God is much too big to be tossed out of any aspect of our existence.  Even when you try to limit God with patriarchal male pronouns, or by using the Bible as your inerrant crutch, God nevertheless remains bigger, more mysterious, and beyond any sense of control you might wish to impose.

You need to wake up and realize how much you’ve been used by people who know how to name-drop God’s name so that they can get you to do their bidding, thereby making themselves much more rich and powerful at your expense. The most glaring examples in recent times have been people like Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, theocrats Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, and most anyone that led, served in or was appointed by the Bush Administration.

You also need to wake up and realize that the LaHaye/Jenkins update on 19th century millenialist Darbyism–you know, your beloved “Left Behind” library–is little more than unbiblical, lame-assed fiction.  It reads mostly as if it was written by a third-rate romance novelist who suffered one of those strokes that leaves a person moody and irritable.  Instead of writing about a world in which the mysterious love of God is at work within and without the lives of people to redeem, renew and restore,  this stroked-out fiction prefers to dwell in a world where Angry Jehovah kicks things off with a catastrophic and horrific event called the Rapture.  Here is why I would say such a thing about this event that I know you hold so near and dear to your hearts:

I spoke with one of you on the morning of 9-11, 2001, soon after the first tower collapsed.  She was the leading community pastor of the largest church in a small, rural farming town.  She was also the president of the local ministerial alliance, and she was calling to suggest we postpone the alliance’s annual picnic scheduled that evening.  We talked about the eerie, unfathomable events still unfolding on the TV screen; how two planes could so unthinkably smash into these Twin Towers and explode, how another plane was said to have crashed in PA, how another was said to have hit the Pentagon.   Somehow the talk veered to Israel, where the Intifada had broken out after Ariel Sharon had put on a show at the temple mount with scores of heavily armed, black-shirted security.  At some point, this woman said, “Isn’t it all exciting?”  Exciting???!!!  I’ll never forget the high energy level in her voice that day.  It was like she had been waiting for Santa Claus to come, and finally he was on his way.  This, with the smoke billowing from the tower yet to fall, along with the early reports telling us that as many as 25-30 thousand people might have been there that day.   Her words came through the phone like a slaughterhouse stunning hammer.  I could do nothing but quickly conclude the call, and then set about the many tasks of organizing an evening prayer service that might help people deal with this unfolding national tragedy.  Later, after someone had “kindly” lent me their dog-eared copy of the first installment of the Left Behind series, I discovered the place from whence this woman had gained such enthusiasm about 9-11.    You see, your whole LaHaye/Jenkins Rapture theology kicks off with God (Pissed-off Jehovah) bringing about the Rapture for all the really, really good people.  The people Left Behind are instantly left as passengers on planes without pilots, on trains without engineers, in cars without drivers.  So planes crash into buildings, cars careen out of control, trains don’t stop.  There is catastrophic horror visited upon the people who don’t measure up to being whisked away by the Rapture.  Merry f**king Christmas!  Isn’t it exciting?

I’ve got news for you.  There is a catastrophic horror of our own collective making that is presently unfolding while you eagerly bury your heads like ostriches in your Rapture religion.  I’d call it Global Warming, but that would just send you back into your ostrich-hole squawking, “That Al Gore is a two-faced liar!”  That’s why polite society has tried to mollify you and pacify you with the seemingly more amenable term, “Climate Change.”  But Global Warming is what the scientists tell us we’re already experiencing.  I know; you’re convinced these scientists are just Godless tools of the Anti-Christ.   Science is bad, unless it’s warped into the Creationism you call Intelligent Design.   To you, any real science ought to be championed by Bible-believing scientists who’ve got a pocket version of the King James stuffed in their lab coats.

Guess what?  Just because you want it to be science, and want it really badly, doesn’t make it science.  And the real science tells us we are already in Global Warming.  We probably have passed the tipping point that would allow us to reverse these changes anytime soon, and we have an amazingly short amount of time to stave off the prospect of future tourism to New York, Florida, Houston and Los Angeles consisting of chartered, underwater dives.  But you really don’t give a rat’s hindquarters about all that, do you, what with the federal government wanting to restrict what lightbulbs you can use and what toilets you can flush.  You’re worried about all those “Obamunists” at work to undercut the foundations of the Mom-Apple Pie-Chevrolet America you have embroidered on your pillows and on your walls.  And you keep listening to and following the people who would lead us all into the great sausage grinder, while the sausage makers sing their songs of fear-mongering, fundamentalist xenophobia.

Guess what?  You’ve enabled and lauded the launch of a modern Crusade against the Muslims, and your annointed leader has said that the Iraq invasion was necessary to wipe out God’s enemies, Gog and Magog.  The result, though you hate to look at it, has been a body count upwards of 3 quarters of a million people. Lots and lots and lots of innocent men, women and children, slaughtered during the initial invasion and slaughtered even more in the resulting chamber of horrors wrought by this blind dedication to giving Iraqis a taste of our Mom-Apple Pie-Chevrolet notions of freedom.  Though you’d just rather hang with those official government casualty counts offered by the Department of Defense, wouldn’t you?  That is one area of the federal government that you seem more than willing to offer your unquestioning trust and your unwavering support.

Now the sausage makers have whipped you up into a banshee-like frenzy over the issues surrounding healthcare reform.  Of course, you couldn’t be bothered with the issues, or the details, or those little things we call rational discourse and civil debate.  Those big-ol’-bills are just too ponderous to actually read, much less digest in ways that form cogent ideas in favor of, or in opposition to the proposed legislation.  So you adopt what is familiar territory when it comes to public expression and show up to town hall meetings like you would to a hockey game.  There is an opponent to be jeered, screamed at, intimidated, and beaten.  And you are just the people to do it, aren’t you?

Wake up and smell the coffee.  Mom-Apple Pie-Chevrolet America hasn’t been the real America for a while, if indeed it ever was.  Chevrolet is in the crapper. The apple pie is now store-bought and mass-produced and laden with the processed foods and preservatives that send us to the doctor or to the hospital.  And mom?  Well, mom’s gotten old and debilitated and a bit too “Alzheimery” to keep at home any more.  So the kids begin to pressure dad to divorce the old gal, so as to put her in the state-of-the art Alzheimer’s facility without actually having to pay for it.  Because if you’re good at playing shell games with retirement funds and other assets, and make mom newly-divorced and destitute on paper, why you can get the federal government to pick up the whole whopping tab on mom’s care without having to pay a cent.  Now that’s the sort of socialism that you can appreciate, isn’t it?   Shame on you.

My final bone to pick with you all has to do with the way you interfere with my vocation as a Christian pastor.   Part of my job is to share the good news of the message brought by Jesus and handed on to the apostles.  It’s a great message, full of hope, and tantalizing in its possibilities as well as its paradoxes.   It’s a message that reveals God as much more than some pissed-off, angry old man upstairs.  It says nothing about a deity who wants to love everyone, but whose divine hands are tied by an ultimate law of righteousness, thus dooming many “unbelievers” to the eternal fires of punishment.  Notice how I put “unbelievers” in quotation marks.  It’s because you might want to spend a little bit more time on the notion of what it means to truly believe in Jesus as God’s Son.  Belief leads to actions that reflect the nature of the belief.  I see very little in your actions that suggest a belief in the teachings and life of Jesus, much less his death and resurrection.   Oh, you talk a good game.  Until the sausage makers whip you into a right-to-life frenzy over some comatose, brain-dead woman whose autopsy reveals that part of her brain had liquified long before you began your passionate crusade to “save” her life.   I see not one inkling of awareness or belief in the Jesus of Easter in such behavior.  And there’s nary a notion about living life and promoting life according to the teachings of the one you say is your Lord and Master.  Of course, we all have a long way to go in that regard, of conforming our lives to the life and teachings of Jesus.  It’s freakin’ hard to do in the world we live in.  It’s easier instead to find a suitable ostrich hole, one that is Rapture-sized.   It’s easier to try and live life like you’re a spectator at a sports event, where there are the good people to cheer for and the bad people to scream at.  It’s easier not to wrestle with the glaring, paradoxical complexities bundled into the books that have been stitched together to make up the bigger book we call the Bible.  But that is what we’re called to do if we are people who feel called to grow in faith, hope and love.   And as St. Paul reminds us, the greatest of these is love.  God is love, says the writer of 1 John.  Jesus says he showed up because God loves the world, and in Him we find that we are all members of an unimaginably huge family, a blood family united by the blood of Jesus, who offers to be our Christ, the Way out of the path that leads to the sausage grinder.

But back to that interference in my vocation thing.  Whenever I speak with someone outside Christianity looking in, they rarely- if ever- see the aspects of Christianity I’ve just lifted up.  Instead, they assume we’re all fundamentalists, that we’re all narrow-minded, judgmental, and warped people.  And it’s because of the brand of Christianity they see playing out on the main stage, your brand of Christianity.  You must stop this, if you are to avoid what our Lord says comes to those who would be stumbling blocks to others coming to faith.  You are Millstoners, the whole lot of you.

Wake up and smell the coffee.

Ex-Bigwig Southern Baptist Prays For God to Whack Obama

Posted on

And he thinks the shooting of George Tiller in a church narthex was divinely inspired.

From The BEattitude:

Former Southern Baptist Convention officer Wiley Drake claimed on Fox News Radio that he is praying “imprecatory prayer” against Obama. In other words, he is praying for God to kill President Obama.

Drake said on “The Alan Colmes Show” that unless Obama repents, he is praying that God will kill the president. He believes that is what happened to slain abortion provider George Tiller. It worked on Tiller, why not the president?

The good news:

  • Drake is a former officer and not a current officer.
  • There is push-back being led by a heavy-hitter in the SBC, Pastor Dwight McKissic, a prominent leader serving at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas.

The more light that shines on people like Drake, combined with the necessary push-back from more clear-headed and decent people like McKissic, the better our chances are to move away from this dark, dangerous place that bears such toxic fruit.

While I don’t often engage in polemic, it must be said, again and again, that the sentiments of people like Wiley Drake and the actions of people like George Tiller’s murderer, are Anti-Christ.

Frank Schaeffer, Former Pro-Life Extremist, Apologizes, Admits Power of Rhetoric

Posted on

He also calls out O’Reilly and FOX, suggesting they too need to own up for their ceaseless, over-the-top language, language he calls complicit in the murder of  Dr. Tiller.   The casualties continue to mount in the Global War on Tolerance. 

The Collateral Damage of Violence

Posted on

Daniel LeClair, Reuters Photographer, reports his experience covering a shooting in Guatemala City, revealing the emotional and psychic damage wrought by a single bullet, damage that spreads like a toxic spill.

The police scanner says there was a shooting in Zone 7, very close. We arrive right behind the firemen. Two men on a motorcycle had been shot with the same bullet. Neighbors start to gather as I make a few pictures of the rescue crew loading the victims into the ambulances and rushing off to Roosevelt Hospital in Guatemala City. The neighbors are angry and start taunting the police, accusing them of incompetence.

Out of the corner of my eye I see family members arriving. You can tell who they are by their faces. Their confusion and disbelief stands out even through the dozens of people scuttling around. They are not crying yet…They still don’t know exactly what is going on. Eight-year-old Erica Estrada, dressed in shades of pink and burgundy, follows her grandmother. She draws my attention. Her hands are in her pockets and her face is twisted, but her eyes are still dry. Her grandmother screams as she realizes that her grown son, Erica’s father, was wounded badly and her husband, who was sitting on the back of the motorcycle, wasn’t expected to live.

Erica is half everyone’s size. Dropping the camera from my eye, I lower it to my waist, to her level. She is surrounded by strangers who have formed groups around her and her grandmother and who in their own horror seem to completely forget the young girl. Erica finds my eyes and stares at me in pain.

Daniel LeClair, Reuters

Daniel LeClair, Reuters

The kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.–Matthew 11:12

Will President Obama Listen to This Spiritual Advisor?

Posted on

The following  excerpts come from “The Crescendo of Violence,” written by Father Thomas Keating in the winter edition of the Contemplative Outreach News.

The last hundred years have witnessed two world wars, the cold war, local wars, and the horrors of genocide (the murder of thousands of noncombatants for reasons of race, nationality, religion, ethnicity, or just plain greed). In time of war one is now safer in the military rather than remaining a civilian, since noncombatants suffer a much higher proportion of casualties than soldiers.
Everyone involved in war loses, including the winners. Success is ephemeral and quickly passes. Empires of the past are gone, except for their horrendous legacies of economic inequalities that keep vast populations mired in abject poverty.A nation that supports a military/industrial complex creates a mindset that easily loses sight of basic human values. No expense seems too much for the sake of defending one’s country and its economic interests anywhere in the world. This attitude enables governments to disregard the needs of the poor at home and abroad in order to finance weapons designed to destroy as many human beings as possible. Has economic domination become for us more important than addressing the grinding poverty of a third of humanity? A billion children in the world suffer extreme deprivation because of war, disease, and poverty according to a UNICEF
report published in the New York Times.1 Millions of the world’s poor are refugees, without work,enough food, or adequate medical care.

Violence lurks in the unconscious of every one of us as an effect of our evolution from lower forms of life. Under the extreme conditions of war such as constant danger, the dismemberment of bomb victims, the hatred of mobs, or the sudden death of friends, anyone can revert to barbarism or sadistic conduct unthinkable in normal situations. Torture is the ultimate capitulation to the primitive instincts of our lower nature. It destroys the souls of victims and perpetrators alike and may radically undermine their capacity to live any kind of normal life. In people suffering oppressive treatment over a long time, despair may lead to the conviction that nothing matters, not even one’s own life. Some have chosen suicide bombing to express their desperation and hatred of enemies.
The Present Moral Dilemma of the United States
At this historic crossroads, our country stands at the threshold of its greatest opportunity-or on the brink of its demise. The fading hope of a world order based on justice and peace, symbolized by the United Nations, depends on the choice that we make at this time.  The United States as a dominant economic and military power in the world today faces a critical moral dilemma. Will we continue on the path of empire building that will inevitably collapse into a black hole of self-interest and military power? Or do we choose to be a major contributor to the emerging global community by sharing our experience and vision as the world’s predominant democratic society?
If the United States abandons its long held democratic ideals, it will seal its decline as a nation, replacing these ideals with the pseudo accomplishments of economic domination brought about by the imposition of the American brand of capitalism on the developing world.

The only fully adequate alternative to utmost violence is utmost charity: the practice of mutual love in personal relationships and among nations, even to the point of dying for the sake of the survival, enhancement, and transformation of the whole human family, past, present, and to come.

As a postscript:  last Fall, a good friend I’ve known since college asked me why I went into the ministry.  I surprised myself with my response, which was immediate, from the heart, and unlike any previous answer I’ve given to the question.  I told her that I felt like we humans were locked in a global struggle some call the War on Terror, but one I call the War on Tolerance.  It threatens to wipe us out and I feel called to do my part as God’s footsoldier to whatever I can to bring the Biblical life-principles of forgiveness, peace and agape–or charity– into that struggle.    I find it significant that religious figures such as Father Keating would seem at first glance to be detached from the world given their monastic lifestyle.  However, his article reveals that he is very much engaged in this struggle as well, and in a much bigger way.