Sunday, December 20, 2009
The Things That Make for Peace
...to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah,* the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’
As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.’
Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube.
Martin Luther King, April 4, 1967
...if you look at countries throughout history that can be described — as ours should be described — as permanent war-fighting states, then you see that the character of the country changes in all sorts of radical and fundamental ways. When you're fighting a war, it means that the government has claims to far more power than it does when wars aren't being fought. The executive branch has all kinds of claims to unfettered and unchecked power. There are secrecy justifications that are made constantly and are accepted in the name of war that allow the government to exist in a very opaque fashion. So, beyond all the moral cost and the financial cost and the human cost of endless war — which are, by themselves, sufficient to make this endless war posture something that's horrible — it changes the nature of what kind of country we are. And I think more than anything that's the debate that's missing. What is it doing to the United States to say that we're going to devote as our primary activity our resources to being a warrior state. A state that fights wars permanently?
Glenn Greenwald, journalist in an interview with Bill Moyers, October 30, 2009
Tis the season to celebrate the Prince of Peace and to increase the Department of Defense budget to $636 billion (this does not include the $30 billion+ for Obama's surge in Afghanistan). Our prayer during this somber season of violence, anxiety, greed and materialism is that we can taste the tears of Jesus who wept over Jerusalem because the leadership of God's People continued to lead them down a path of violent destruction. Just a few decades after Jesus' tearful lament and death, the Romans finally tore through this capital city, destroying the Temple. Jesus' life, ministry, teaching and death embodied the way of peace. Unfortunately, Christians in the American Empire today interpret the significance of Jesus in terms of spiritual salvation and highly selective timeless truths of personal piety.
Today, we Americans live, work and play in a society gone mad on war. We are a warrior state, sacrificing humane endeavors like universal healthcare, education and meaningful work for worldwide dominance in the name of 'national security' and 'the war on terror.' Young men, 18-year-olds like my student Billy Molidor, long to participate in something bigger than themselves, to join a community on mission to kick-ass against evil forces of radical terror that threaten our freedom. Billy grew up in the American empire without a father (who died when he was 3) and with a disabled mother and her verbally abusive husband. The Marines are his ticket to the American Dream. Can't we come up with better options for Billy with that $636 billion?