We will fight for peace, but we will do no violence.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Why I Object to Israel’s Military Campaign

[Even as Hamas fires missiles at my city]

Even today – when rockets are exploding above the city I love most in the world – even now, I oppose this military operation wholeheartedly.

I would still like to believe that this whole thing is a misunderstanding, and that if my own people would only give some more thought to the reality in the occupied territories, they would change their minds overnight. I want to believe that they don’t fully grasp the nature of the occupation, which is why they are so enraged by whatever the Palestinians do. This mindset leads to yet another violent Israeli response, which only paves the way for the next escalation. I do not know if this line of thinking is more naïve or more patronizing on my part, but what other explanations are there?

I keep running into Israelis who don’t know, for example:

  • That we still control Allenby Bridge (which connects the West Bank to Jordan)
  • And with it each entrance and exit of every Palestinian into the West Bank
  • That the Israeli Defense Force still operates in Area A, supposedly under the full control of the Palestinian Authority
  • That there is no 3G network in the West Bank because Israel doesn’t permit the Palestinian cellular providers to use the necessary frequencies
  • That we imprison hundreds of Palestinians without trial for months and years
  • Or any other factual, undeniable aspect of the occupation.

If all this is unknown, then perhaps this is all just a big misunderstanding.

Most of the time I try to correct misconceptions and argue over such details, but if I had to explain the whole thing briefly, I would use the following metaphor:

We’ve built two giant prisons. Let’s call them “West Bank Prison” and “Gaza Prison.”

The West Bank Prison is similar to a minimum-security facility, where prisoners get to run their own affairs as long as they behave. They are entitled to vacations from time to time, and once a year they are even taken to the beach. Some lucky people get below-minimum-wage jobs in nearby factories, and when you consider the low prices in the prison canteen, it’s actually not a bad deal.

Gaza, on the other hand, is a maximum-security facility. It is difficult to visit and impossible to leave. We allow in essential food, water, and electricity so that the prisoners don’t die. Apart from that, we don’t really care about them—that is unless they approach the prison fence, or the “forbidden” perimeter, where anyone who wanders too close is shot, or if they try to throw something over the fence.

The prison facilities now hold a total of 3.5 million people—an entire nation—all sentenced to life. Under such conditions, prisoners can turn to desperate measures, such as suicide missions, digging long tunnels, or swimming miles and storming our tanks with their old rifles.



Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Potential Beauty That Could Come From Dying For An Enemy by Benjamin L. Corey

I sit down to write this post I’m realizing that I’m probably going to get branded as “that guy who writes about nonviolence”, but I can think of no core aspect of the message of Jesus that I’d rather talk so much about. Nonviolence is one of those utterly insane ideas that becomes ridiculously beautiful and exciting once that light bulb goes off in your mind.

As I’ve said before: there’s nothing more offensive in the teachings of Christ than the simple phrase “love your enemies”. It’s a phrase that defies common sense to the point that even most Christians I know, or talk to online, don’t functionally believe it should be followed– even if they do claim to believe the inspiration or inerrancy of scripture.

People reject this aspect of the teachings of Jesus for a variety of reasons. I think this is primarily because it’s a doctrine that’s been so neglected under the era of Christendom that when someone brings it up, it just sounds like complete hippie nonsense. One of the main ways some of my critics push back against the doctrine of Christian nonviolence is through questions such as, “How could it bring glory to God if your enemies kill you?”, “What good are you to anyone if you’re dead?”, or “It would not honor God to get shot by a guy who is stealing your television”. I’ve heard about seventeen different ways of asking the same question.

These questions appear to be driven by a few underlying assumptions that seem to be rational, but are revealed to be false when we consider what I believe is the core purpose for a Jesus follower. The false assumption is essentially this: “if I die before my time, God’s plan plan for my life will be thwarted”, or perhaps “I am no use to God or anyone else if I’m dead”.

And, I get it. The idea of dying for one’s enemies is crazy– and I’d reject it to if it were not for the fact that this is precisely what the guy who kicked this whole movement off did with his life. In Undiluted (you can pre-order your copy here), I write that it’s one of those things that makes me actually believe Jesus, because his message is too crazy to not be true.

Unfortunately, I think both assumptions are completely untrue when you look at the big picture of what we’re really here for. Instead of the above assumptions, I start with two different ones:

1. The first (central) purpose of my life is to follow Jesus, whatever that looks like.

2. The second purpose of my life is to invite others to do it too. One of the last things Jesus asked his followers to do was to go into “all the world” and create more followers, so that this movement keeps reproducing itself, and God’s Kingdom grows.

With those two new assumptions, let’s look at why I think dying for an enemy, instead of killing an enemy, could potentially be more beneficial to the goal of Kingdom growth:

Let’s say an intruder broke into my house to steal my television or raid my medicine cabinet. I accidentally walk in on what’s happening and end up getting attacked. Instead of reaching for something that could be used as a weapon, I pass on all opportunities to kill my “enemy”. However, let’s also say that passing on those opportunities costs me my very life– I die, and they live.

Here’s two things that could potentially happen that would play right into my master plan to keep inviting more and more people into this Jesus thing:

 1. The person who killed me, while sitting in their jail cell, is going to have a lot of time to think about it. In doing so, my hope would be that they’d start asking some questions about why I didn’t try to kill them when I had the chance. As they dug into my story, they’d find out the reason why I didn’t try to kill them was because I believed with all of my being that they had infinite worth and value to God– and that they were worth dying for. They would then potentially see that I was filled with a radical, self sacrificial love for them which I hope would spark a new question: “why the hell did that guy believe that about me?” This question would lead them to only one answer: Jesus.

 Furthermore, if I killed my enemy, I might potentially seal their fate of separation from God (if there’s no postmortem redemption), but dying for my enemy would give them more time and opportunity to be reconciled to God through Christ. I have already been reconciled– which means the loving and unselfish thing to do would be to sacrifice what was left of my years here, in hopes that this would help my enemy be reconciled before the end of their years.

By trading my life for theirs, an enemy could potentially spend the rest of their natural life asking the question, “why did he love me so much?” and every time, the ONLY answer it would lead to would be, Jesus. If I am thinking “long-game” for the Kingdom of God, that’s the right answer even if it seems like sheer foolishness in the eyes of the world. However, Jesus taught that whoever looses his life for the sake of the Kingdom will find it again (and that the opposite is true too)– and call me crazy, but I believe him.

2. The second potential impact would be the exponential discussion about Jesus that could potentially happen far and wide. It’s not often that someone willingly gives their life in place of an enemy’s life– and when they do, it generates some buzz. Just look at my hero, Dirk Willems (see image at top of article). Dirk was an Anabaptist and was sentenced to be burned at the stake (we Anabaptists tend to get that a lot). However, he escaped his holding cell and tried to escape– with his jailer fleeing close behind. When crossing a semi-frozen river, Dirk made it across safely, but his jailer fell and and would have died in minutes. Instead of continuing on to freedom and life, Dirk decided to save the life of his enemy– who, as it turns out, didn’t return the favor. Dirk was burned to death on May 16, 1569. But guess what? We’re still talking about Dirk Willems in 2014, and when we talk about him, we’re forced to talk about Jesus! If I were to give my own life in order to allow my enemy to live, people would talk about it because that’s a pretty crazy thing to do. But when they did, they’d be forced to talk about this Jesus guy who I’ve given my life to. That could be potentially huge for the Kingdom– perhaps even bigger than anything I could accomplish while still living.
Is it true that dying for an enemy is a poor use of your life? Not at all! In fact, if our dedication is to building the Kingdom and making it as big and as crowded as we possibly can– over and above temporal self preservation– giving our lives for our enemies might actually be one of the most practical and valuable things we could do.
But yeah, I know it all sounds crazy. Jesus is sorta like that sometimes

Read more:

Monday, July 21, 2014

Disarm My Heart, by Mary Emily Briehl Duba

It was February of my senior year in college.

I was studying and working abroad in northern Thailand,
but my heart was not present.

Back on campus,
my dearest friendship was falling apart.

We had had a terrible falling out,
just before I left,
and now—in my absence—things were getting worse.

Each Monday, my day off, I would travel into the city to use the internet.

I would read what my friend had sent during the week—read it with anger and suspicion,
ready to be hurt by whatever it said,
and I would reply,
sending the same sting straight back across the Pacific Ocean.

I said things in those emails,
I simply could not have said in person.

Had I been looking into her eyes,
standing in her presence,
I could not have said such hurtful things.

But in the disembodiment of email,
and in the physical distance that lay between us,
I felt protected.

I felt as though I were playing a character,
that, somehow we were writing a novel together,
or a screenplay,
and that this hateful dialogue would not be later held against me.
it would not cause real harm.
It did. 
Sin prays on disembodiment.
Sin says,
Why come face to face?
Why be that vulnerable to one another?
This September
saw a landmark in the war in Afghanistan.
It marked the most significant use yet,
of Drones.
Drones are unmanned planes,
remotely controlled from military bases, like the one in Creech Nevada.
These drones collect live video footage
          and send it back to the control station,
                   where the pilot—from the safety of his or her office—
          can drop missiles
without ever being in physical danger.
It is disembodied warfare.
Why come face to face?
Why be that vulnerable to one another?
*        *        *
In response to the horrific violence of World War II,
Albert Camus wrote,
“Hope only remains in the most difficult task of all:
          to reconsider everything from the ground up,
so as to shape a living society inside a dying society.”
A secular French philosopher,
          Camus nonetheless articulates for me the meaning of the incarnation:

Jesus is God reconsidering everything from the ground up.
Seeing our world of violence,
          God reconsidered the whole creation.
Choosing not to act with wrath or terror,
          God imagined a way of making peace with humankind.
God entered the dying world from the ground up
as the new Adam—a being of the earth—
          the firstborn of a new creation.
God entered human life,
          to bring us the embodied presence of the reign of peace.
The Incarnation—God dwelling among us in Jesus—is God’s
          supreme and subversive act of peacemaking.
Into a world that looks to military might to secure the peace
          and save the people,
                   into a region of the Middle East occupied by the Roman army,
          God entered human life as a dependent, vulnerable infant.
This confounded the ancient expectation that God would send
          a warrior-king,
and that Israel’s salvation would take the form of military victory
over its enemies.
God subverted the occupying powers with the weakness of a baby.

In Jesus,
God says:
I come to you face to face
I desire to be vulnerable with you.
In response repentant and joyful response to this God,
Christians embody the ancient practice of peacemaking and nonviolence.

We do not do it well.
But don’t we hunger for it?
          For communities where peacemaking is a way of life?
I invite you to share a practice of peacemaking with me.

It is a simple practice,
a prayer to say before leaving the house each morning, perhaps,
          or before responding to an email,
                   or anytime sin whispers in your ear:
          Why come face to face?
Why be vulnerable to one another? 
The prayer is this:
God of Peace, disarm my heart.

Disarm my heart. 
It is the prayer I prayed last winter,
          five years after I last spoke with my friend,
when I received word that she had given birth to her first child.
It is the prayer I prayed,
          as I knit a sweater for that little one,
                   that soft and vulnerable body,
          to welcome him into this world.
And this fall,
I received a thank you note in the mail.
It read: 
“I love putting Peter in your sweater when we walk in the chilly evenings—I feel
like I’m wrapping him up in a warm, safe hug.”
God the Incarnate,
knows that Peace comes in bodies.
In bodies, brought face to face,
in bodies vulnerable to one another.
And so, for the gift of the Incarnation,
          the gift of Peace made possible in the messiness of embodied life,
we say:
Thanks be to God!
Morning Prayer at Valparaiso University on December 8, 2010.
Original title: “The Word of God for the people of God”

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Challenge To Hamas, Israel and The Christian Church by Mike Rivage-Seul

The entire world stands aghast at the cruelty of Israel’s vicious and illegal collective punishment of Palestinian civilians for the perceived “crimes” of Hamas – the group of Palestinian resisters committed to the expulsion of illegal Zionist occupiers from the Palestinian homeland.

Today’s liturgy of the word implores the Zionists to abandon their butchery.

It also challenges Christians to denounce such ethnic cleansing and to withdraw the last vestiges of support for a group that more resembles their former Nazi persecutors than the “People of God” celebrated in the Hebrew Bible.

At the same time, today’s readings support rabbi Michael Lerner in cautioning Hamas against its policy of violent resistance. Though many of us would agree that Hamas’ tactics are understandable and often justified by principles of self-defense, today’s Gospel reading identifies them as counterproductive and ultimately harmful to the very people Hamas seeks to defend.

Instead, Jesus suggests that violent resistance should be replaced by greater reliance on more subtle and patient strategies. Such strategies are reflected in the three basic themes of today’s readings. They emphasize (1) the power of God expressed in leniency and forgiveness, (2) the futility of violent response to unwanted foreign presence, and (3) resistance that takes the form of patient trust that God’s forgiving power will prevail. In succession, the themes suggest challenges for Jewish Zionists, Palestinians, and Christians.

Begin with the first reading from the Jewish Testament’s Book of Wisdom. It is particularly relevant to Zionist Jews. The reading says explicitly that God’s power is not expressed in violence but in leniency to all, Jew and non-Jew alike.

That theme is repeated in today’s responsorial psalm with equal relevance to Zionists. There God is described as belonging to all nations. The divine Spirit, as Paul insists in today’s second reading, dwells within all humans regardless of nationality. It is slow to anger, good, forgiving, abounding in kindness.

From this, Jewish wisdom insists that the “People of God” must in turn be kind, lenient and forgiving to all – presumably even to their worst enemies. There is no room here for exceptions involving the indigenous tribal people of Palestine.

The second theme of today’s liturgy enjoys direct relevance to contemporary Palestinians. Whether they are Muslims or Christians (and many are Christians), they also recognize the Bible as the Word of God. I point to Palestinian relevance because this second theme addresses the question of resisting illegal occupation.

That is, Jesus’ parable of the weeds planted by an enemy in a landlord’s field can be read as addressing the Roman occupation forces encumbering Israel during Jesus’ lifetime. [According to John Dominic Crossan, Matthew’s allegorizing of Jesus’ parable – making it about the end of the world – is more reflective of the situation of the Jewish diaspora (following the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE) than of the actual revolutionary situation of Jesus’ own day.]

In occupied Israel, the suffocating Roman presence was as unwelcome, alien, and destructive as weeds in a garden or field. It was like the presence of basically European Zionist colonizers who have encumbered Palestinian land since their colonial invasion in 1948.

The question was how to deal with such odious foreign presence. Zealot revolutionaries had their answer: Uproot the weeds here and now. Take up arms; assassinate Romans and their collaborators; drive them out mercilessly. Be as cruel and vicious as the Romans.

Jesus’ response was different. As a non-violent revolutionary, he could surely understand the more apocalyptic strategy. After all, much of his teaching expressed sympathy to the Zealot cause which included land reform, debt forgiveness, and expulsion of the hated Roman occupation forces. Many scripture scholars even identify possibly five members of Jesus’ inner circle as Zealots themselves.

But Jesus’ Parable of the Weeds is more prudent and sensitive to civilian casualties than the strategy of the impatient Zealots – or that of Hamas.

When the landlord’s workers ask, “Should we uproot the weeds?” Jesus’ landlord answers: “No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them.”

In other words, Jesus agrees with El Salvador’s Oscar Romero and with Brazil’s Dom Helder Camara that revolutionary violence, though understandable (and justifiable on the grounds of just war theory), is imprudent at the very least.

This is because when faced with a vicious, overwhelmingly armed oppressor (like the Zionist state) resistance inevitably leads to state terrorism – to the war crime of collective punishment impacting women, children, the elderly and disabled. At the very least, that’s why Jesus eschews Zealot violence.

How then respond to illegal occupation like Rome’s in the 1st century or Israel’s over the last more than 60 years?

Jesus’ response? Be like mustard plant, he says. Be like yeast in flour. Both puzzling recommendations are relevant not only to Palestinians, but to Christians who wish to help their brothers and sisters in Palestine against the Zionists-turned-Nazis.

First of all think of the puzzlement that must have struck Jesus’ listeners. Jews didn’t have much use for yeast. They preferred unleavened bread. Neither would any farmer sow mustard seeds in her field or garden. The mustard plant was like kudzu – itself a kind of weed that eventually can take over entire fields and mountainsides while choking out other plants weeds or not. The mustard plant was unstoppable.

So Jesus is saying:

ü * The Romans are weeds in your garden.
ü * Don’t try to uproot them.
ü * That will only lead to slaughter of the innocent.
ü * Rather become weeds yourselves – like the mustard plant which is much more powerful than simple Roman (or Zionist) weeds.
ü * Resist the Romans by embodying the Spirit of God that is slow to anger, good, forgiving, abounding in kindness.
ü * Only imitation of Wisdom’s God can defeat the evil of imperialism.

What does that mean for Christians wishing to express solidarity with Palestinians against their cruel oppressors? At least the following:

ü * Reject U.S. militarism in general as counterproductive, since fully 90% of the casualties it inflicts in war are civilians.
ü * To bring about change, be instead like the yeast a homemaker puts into 60 pounds of flour, “infecting” the greater culture by non-violent resistance rather than seeking to destroy enemies.
ü * Recognize the Zionists for what they are: an outlaw European “settler society” illegally occupying Palestinian land.
ü * Take sides with Palestine’s indigenous tribal People.
ü * Recognize them for what they are: “the Jews’ Jews” – treated by Zionists in the same way the Nazis treated Jews in Germany.
ü * Petition the U.S. government to withdraw its support of Israel (more than one million dollars per day) unless the Zionists obey UN Resolution 242 and abandon the occupied territory while tearing down the odious Wall of Shame protecting the illegal Zionist settlements.
ü * Support boycotts of Israel’s products by not buying them and by urging our churches and places of business to do the same.

Surely Jesus’ Way of non-violent resistance, forgiveness and love of enemies will strike many (non-believers and believers alike) as unrealistic. But according to the faith we Christians pretend to embrace, Jesus’ Way is God’s way.

But then perhaps we think we’re smarter and more realistic than Jesus -- or God?

- Mike Rivage-Seul

Green Beret Contemplates Just War Theory As He Shoots Man In The Face

AFGHANISTAN — A Special Forces soldier engaged in an ambush in eastern Afghanistan today mulled over the complex issues surrounding the current conflict and his own moral responsibility in it while shooting a young Taliban insurgent in the face, sources confirmed.

 The surreal nature of the confrontation triggered a philosophical dialogue within Staff Sgt. Emile Kyle, who was on a routine training mission with a local militia when his team came under fire from multiple locations.

After coming upon a lone gunman, Kyle hit the insurgent with a buttstroke to the face and stood over the prostrate man. “Surely there are rules against this type of activity?” Kyle reportedly told himself, then adding: “In a vacuum, this type of conduct would never be justified. Yet, here I am. Not only is it considered acceptable for me to put a 5.56 into his brain, its encouraged. Why is this?” “If you raise that weapon, I’ll shoot you in the fucking face!” Kyle then screamed.

Amidst the chaos, Kyle then reasoned, “The obvious answer is that I’m in a war zone. But, to end the inquiry here is simply intellectual laziness. I need to make a qualitative assessment between the two states: war and peace. In sum, if we assume that some wars will justify killing, we have to contrast these wars against other acts of violence, like the blind feeling at the trunk of an elephant. In this way, we will find the qualities which are required for justifiable war. Thus reasoned The Philosopher.”

As Kyle went over his intellectual exercise on the nature of man and war, the insurgent on the ground began to slowly shift his grip on his AK-47. Kyle, wild-eyed, reportedly shouted “I SAID, DON’T RAISE THAT FUCKING RIFLE, HAJJI!”

The man, Asadullah Kip, then lunged forward and, swinging his weapon, knocked Kyle’s M4 to the side. Kyle responded with a primal scream and stepped forward to plant a solid kick into the man’s chest. Asadullah fell back, only to find himself pinned by Kyle’s combat boot. Sources confirm that, with clenched teeth, Kyle pondered thus, “If we are defining a just war, we must establish some essential elements; it seems that many agree with Thomas Aquinas’ approach.”

After a momentary pause to re-aim his rifle and consider where Asadullah’s hands were moving, Kyle continued, “Aquinas posited: first, just war must be waged by a properly instituted authority such as the state; second, the war must occur for a good and just purpose; and third, peace must be a central motive.” “On the first note, of course the United States would be considered a ‘properly instituted authority. It would be foolish to even attempt to argue otherwise,” Kyle said.

 Those close to the confrontation reported that Asadullah suddenly went for a large curved blade that was hidden in his many layers of clothing. Kyle’s right thumb slid his rifle’s selector switch into the three round burst position with a slight, but audible, click. “The second, I guess is a bit more tricky. Are we here for a good and just purpose? I guess that we originally came here to nab bin Laden. But, we’ve already got him. Yet, here I am, about to put a 5.56 into this guy’s left eye. Weird. Even if the original invasion was acceptable, surely that can’t carry over into the present. Such an justification would be ludicrous — allowing for the perpetual waging of war upon the single instance of a just purpose.”

Asadullah’s attempt to draw his knife was interrupted by a drum roll of three shots from Kyle’s weapon. The insurgent’s head flew backwards and hit the ground violently as the sand was painted red. Kyle removed his boot from the man’s chest in order to fire another round into the still form.

“You know, I guess the third element would take care of that concern. If we are all striving and fighting for an eventual peaceful resolution, the problem of never-ending conflict would take care of itself. I’m not sure we are actively pursuing peace as the objective though.”

Kyle paused for a moment and stroked his large beard in contemplation, before shrugging and adding: “In the end, I guess this isn’t really my lane.”

Only upon noticing the flight of the remaining attackers did Kyle bend down, pick up Asadullah’s AK-47, and fired staccato bursts from the hip, shooting the insurgents in the back as they fled.

Read more: 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

What Did Jesus Think Of The American Revolution?

by Chuck McKnight

More than two centuries ago, the founding fathers of this country signed a statement known as the Declaration of Independence. This document officialized the American colonies’ break from Great Britain. The colonists believed they were justified in this action—along with the bloody conflict itself—due to an increase in taxes without sufficient representation. In fact, many of them were convinced that God was on their side in the war for independence from their oppressors. Let the revolution begin!

A similar situation existed two millennia ago. Much like the colonists under British rule, the Jews were under the oppressive rule of Rome. However, Israel was not a rightful colony of Rome; their land had been taken by force. Like the colonists, the Jews faced heavy taxation, but they also faced constant abuse, and their whole way of life was being destroyed. They couldn’t do anything without the interference of Rome. Caesar even considered himself to be god—the ultimate blasphemy against Yahweh.

Surely, they were justified in their desire to break from Rome. Surely, God was on their side.

And then, rumors of a messiah began to surface. Had God sent Israel a deliverer? Was this Jesus going to free them from Rome? Let the revolution begin!

But Jesus wasn’t going to play their game. He withdrew from the Jews when they tried to make him their king (John 6:15). He told them to pay their taxes (Matthew 22:17–21). 

He told them not to resist their oppressors (Matthew 5:39). He even told them to deliberately go out of their way to help Roman soldiers (Matthew 5:41). Worst of all, Jesus told them they had to actually love their enemies—including the Romans—or they could not be considered sons of God (Matthew 5:44–45).

The apostles gave exactly the same message. In particular, Paul made our appropriate response to authorities perfectly clear:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except by God, and those that exist are put in place by God. So then, the one who resists authority resists the ordinance which is from God, and those who resist will receive condemnation on themselves. (Romans 13:1–2, LEB)
Don’t forget, when Paul wrote this, he specifically had in mind the corrupt and unjust authority of Rome. If Paul instructed followers of Christ to willingly remain under Roman oppression, it’s obvious how he would have reacted to the colonists’ break from Great Britain.

Let there be no doubt, the American Revolution was first and foremost an act of rebellion against God.

So what’s my point? Should we avoid celebrating the Fourth of July? Of course not! Go spend time with your family, eat some good food, and enjoy the fireworks.
But let’s keep things in perspective. Enjoy the great country we live in—and for the most part, the USA is a great country. But don’t think for a second that this is a “Christian nation” founded on “Christian principles.”

We must reject unreservedly the sort of nationalism that ties the cross of Christ to America’s sword.

Originally published here>