Monday, May 31, 2004

You Can't Stop at Evil

From The Witness; excerpts from an article based on a sermon that was originally preached by the Rev. Chris Chivers at Westminster Abbey on May 9, 2004:

It is the evening of April 28, 1990. Two friends, Andrew and Michael, are sitting in their house in Harare, Zimbabwe, talking as they prepare to listen to the 8 o'clock news. They reflect on the events of another day as Michael, who is an Anglican priest, sorts through his postal mail. After a few minutes he breaks off the conversation, remembering that he must make a phone call before the news starts. So he fetches the cordless phone from his study and returns to the living room. Sitting down on the sofa, he dials the number and listens for the connecting tone, whilst unwrapping a parcel containing two books, one of which he opens.

Of the next few moments, all that Andrew remembers is a deafening blast, the sound and sight of falling ceilings, crashing debris, and billowing clouds of dust, whilst Michael's memories are of being thrown from the sofa, and of a piercing physical sensation, convulsing his whole body with pain, the like of which he has never experienced before or since.

Later, trawling the debris, the police piece together evidence of the enormous explosive devise triggered by Michael as he opened the pages of that book. But for now, Andrew is desperately trying to reach his friend. The cloud of dust means that he can barely see him. But, as it begins to clear, he finds him collapsed on the floor. Michael is still alive, so Andrew rushes through the house to unlock the security gates, and to fetch help.

Other friends have heard the blast and are already on the scene. Despite their fear of further explosions, several of them rush in to be with Michael and discover him lying amid the wrecked furniture and scattered papers, slumped against a wall. His face blackened and bleeding, he is in agonising pain. Horrified, his friends see that both his hands have been blown off in the blast. He is losing so much blood that they know they must get him to hospital immediately. Realising that it will take too long for an ambulance to arrive, they manoeuvre him carefully into the back of a car, and speed to the hospital which they reach within a few minutes. There, Michael is lifted onto a stretcher and within seconds is whisked into the building. Will he live, his friends wonder, as they follow the stretcher? Michael is, by now, desperate for pain killers, but despite his insistent demands the doctors cannot yet give them to him. They must keep him conscious until he is sedated for surgery. So his friends surround him in a valiant attempt to offer some support. They have to shout, because both his eardrums have been shattered in the explosion, but Michael clearly knows who they are, since he begins to cry out to one of them:

“Pray with me, Phyllis.”
“I don't know how,” she says.
“Pray the Lord's Prayer.”
She battles to remember “. . .and deliver us from evil. Amen.”
“Go on.”
“That's where it ends.”
“You can't stop there. You can't stop at ‘evil'.”
“For thine is the kingdom, the power and . . . the glory.”

You can't stop at evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory...

... We can't stop with evil, we can't get stuck with suffering, despair, fear, denial, and the like. The story doesn't end there. . . That is the message of Easter. And if Michael Lapsley discovered this truth in his own agonising night of trial and suffering we can and must do the same. For deep clouds of darkness are similarly engulfing us at this time...

... But God forbid that we stop, that we get stuck with abuse, with xenophobia, and the like. For, as the shameful events of these last few days and weeks have reminded us, the story mustn't be allowed to end there. That way lies the Judas road to self-destruction. Rather, what we must do is somehow to recover, to learn again, what it means to walk the Christ-like path to glory. Since though we cannot undo the past – even the horror of the immediate past – we can and must transcend it. Which is why the lines with which today's Gospel passage ends are so timely, tellingly simple, yet demanding. For if glory is, seemingly against all probability, to be discerned amidst the evil we experience, if victims are indeed to become not just survivors but victors, then as human beings we must actually relearn what it means to be human. And when we see representatives of so-called Western civilisation treating their fellow human beings in a degrading and dehumanising way, when we see a soldier tugging a prisoner along the ground by a dog leash about his neck, and reflect on the culture of humiliation that underpins this, then we know that the moral fabric of our world is being pulled apart, and that the time has come for us to reclaim again the truth of the resurrection by reasserting some basic and absolute human values of respect, tolerance and compassion. For it is only when we accord others the dignity due to them that we in fact discover our own humanity, as we uncover the truth that our at times dismal world may yet gloriously be transformed through mutual love. “By this,” Jesus says, “everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another,” an invitation and challenge in respect of which each one of us dare not fail Christ.
This is such a critical point; even in the midst of being surrounded by so much evil, we cannot forget to seek the glory of God. God is moving among us, with us, rolling through all things, and the movement of God is always from glory, to glory. We are called to move, as St. Paul tells us, from faith to faith, trusting that the glory of God will prevail. As we strive to discern God's movement, and join in this dance, we become co-creators with God, gloriously transforming this world through mutual love.


Sunday, May 30, 2004

How Dare They...

Al Gore's speech of last Wednesday was excellent; the best I've seen for a long time. Here's just a few excerpts;

...More disturbing still was their frequent use of the word "dominance" to describe their strategic goal, because an American policy of dominance is as repugnant to the rest of the world as the ugly dominance of the helpless, naked Iraqi prisoners has been to the American people. Dominance is as dominance does.

Dominance is not really a strategic policy or political philosophy at all. It is a seductive illusion that tempts the powerful to satiate their hunger for more power still by striking a Faustian bargain. And as always happens - sooner or later - to those who shake hands with the devil, they find out too late that what they have given up in the bargain is their soul.

One of the clearest indications of the impending loss of intimacy with one's soul is the failure to recognize the existence of a soul in those over whom power is exercised, especially if the helpless come to be treated as animals, and degraded. We also know - and not just from De Sade and Freud - the psychological proximity between sexual depravity and other people's pain. It has been especially shocking and awful to see these paired evils perpetrated so crudely and cruelly in the name of America.
This brings to mind Walter Wink's work on the Domination System and the myth of redemptive violence.

...President Bush set the tone for our attitude for suspects in his State of the Union address. He noted that more than 3,000 "suspected terrorists" had been arrested in many countries and then he added, "and many others have met a different fate. Let's put it this way: they are no longer a problem to the United States and our allies."

George Bush promised to change the tone in Washington. And indeed he did. As many as 37 prisoners may have been murdered while in captivity, though the numbers are difficult to rely upon because in many cases involving violent death, there were no autopsies.

How dare they blame their misdeeds on enlisted personnel from a Reserve unit in upstate New York. President Bush owes more than one apology. On the list of those he let down are the young soldiers who are themselves apparently culpable, but who were clearly put into a moral cesspool. The perpetrators as well as the victims were both placed in their relationship to one another by the policies of George W. Bush.

How dare the incompetent and willful members of this Bush/Cheney Administration humiliate our nation and our people in the eyes of the world and in the conscience of our own people. How dare they subject us to such dishonor and disgrace. How dare they drag the good name of the United States of America through the mud of Saddam Hussein's torture prison.
Gore was shouting at the end of this litany. About time someone did some shouting. How dare they indeed.

One of the Generals in charge of this war policy went on a speaking tour in his spare time to declare before evangelical groups that the US is in a holy war as "Christian Nation battling Satan." This same General Boykin was the person who ordered the officer who was in charge of the detainees in Guantanamo Bay to extend his methods to Iraq detainees, prisoners. ... The testimony from the prisoners is that they were forced to curse their religion Bush used the word "crusade" early on in the war against Iraq, and then commentators pointed out that it was singularly inappropriate because of the history and sensitivity of the Muslim world and then a few weeks later he used it again.

"We are now being viewed as the modern Crusaders, as the modern colonial power in this part of the world," Zinni said.

What a terrible irony that our country, which was founded by refugees seeking religious freedom - coming to America to escape domineering leaders who tried to get them to renounce their religion - would now be responsible for this kind of abuse..

Ameen Saeed al-Sheikh told the Washington Post that he was tortured and ordered to denounce Islam and after his leg was broken one of his torturers started hitting it while ordering him to curse Islam and then, " they ordered me to thank Jesus that I'm alive." Others reported that they were forced to eat pork and drink alcohol.

In my religious tradition, I have been taught that "ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so, every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit... Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them."

The President convinced a majority of the country that Saddam Hussein was responsible for attacking us on September 11th. But in truth he had nothing whatsoever to do with it. The President convinced the country with a mixture of forged documents and blatantly false assertions that Saddam was in league with Al Qaeda, and that he was "indistinguishable" from Osama bin Laden.

He asked the nation , in his State of the Union address, to "imagine" how terrified we should be that Saddam was about to give nuclear weapons to terrorists and stated repeatedly that Iraq posed a grave and gathering threat to our nation. He planted the seeds of war, and harvested a whirlwind. And now, the "corrupt tree" of a war waged on false premises has brought us the "evil fruit" of Americans torturing and humiliating prisoners.
I think the nation needs to be asked to "imagine" how terrified we should be to have a president that intentionally ignores the Geneva Convention, sanctions secret "holding facilities" for "suspects," and wages a preemptive war that has cost the lives of over 11,000 innocent civilians.

...It is now clear that their obscene abuses of the truth and their unforgivable abuse of the trust placed in them after 9/11 by the American people led directly to the abuses of the prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison and, we are now learning, in many other similar facilities constructed as part of Bush's Gulag, in which, according to the Red Cross, 70 to 90 percent of the victims are totally innocent of any wrongdoing.

The same dark spirit of domination has led them to - for the first time in American history - imprison American citizens with no charges, no right to see a lawyer, no right to notify their family, no right to know of what they are accused, and no right to gain access to any court to present an appeal of any sort. The Bush administration has even acquired the power to compel librarians to tell them what any American is reading, and to compel them to keep silent about the request - or else the librarians themselves can also be imprisoned.

They have launched an unprecedented assault on civil liberties, on the right of the courts to review their actions, on the right of the Congress to have information to how they are spending the public's money and the right of the news media to have information about the policies they are pursuing.

The same pattern characterizes virtually all of their policies. They resent any constraint as an insult to their will to dominate and exercise power. Their appetite for power is astonishing. It has led them to introduce a new level of viciousness in partisan politics. It is that viciousness that led them to attack as unpatriotic, Senator Max Cleland, who lost three limbs in combat during the Vietnam War.
This dark spirit of domination must be transformed. How can we do that?

The answer is, we go where we always go when a dramatic change is needed. We go to the ballot box, and we make it clear to the rest of the world that what's been happening in America for the last four years, and what America has been doing in Iraq for the last two years, really is not who we are. We, as a people, at least the overwhelming majority of us, do not endorse the decision to dishonor the Geneva Convention and the Bill of Rights...

...So today, I want to speak on behalf of those Americans who feel that President Bush has betrayed our nation's trust, those who are horrified at what has been done in our name, and all those who want the rest of the world to know that we Americans see the abuses that occurred in the prisons of Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and secret locations as yet undisclosed as completely out of keeping with the character and basic nature of the American people and at odds with the principles on which America stands.

I believe we have a duty to hold President Bush accountable - and I believe we will. As Lincoln said at our time of greatest trial, "We - even we here - hold the power, and bear the responsibility."
Preach it, Brother Al! Powerful stuff. My only regret is that he didn't show this kind of passion four years ago. We might have avoided this whole ugly chapter of our history. Read the whole thing.

And register to vote. Let's transform this spirit of domination that is making the entire world our enemy.


Saturday, May 29, 2004


Something that Walter Wink said in his excellent article from the last post has been bouncing around in my head;

As Gandhi once quipped, "The only people on earth who do not see Christ and His teachings as nonviolent are Christians."
Let that sink in for a minute. Don't leap to the "Yea, but..." Don't get defensive. Just sit with it for a minute.

If we are rigorously honest, most of us will admit that no amount of words, or bible verses, or just war theories, can help us escape from this indictment. In the end, our actions speak louder than our words. So-called "right beliefs" cannot wipe the blood from our hands.

Anthony de Mello, S.J., in his book Contact with God makes this comment;

What the modern world, and in particular the younger generation, is saying to us today is: "Don't just talk, show me." This is what India has been saying for centuries. I remember the good Father Abhishiktananda telling me some years ago of a holy Hindu he met in the south of India. He said to him; "You missionaries will never have any impact on us unless you come to us as gurus. The guru is a person who does not merely talk about what he has read in a book, but talks from the assurance of his own religious experience.
"Don't just talk, show me." What are we showing the world right now? If Christians are silent about the war in Iraq, we will be affirming Gandhi's observation; that Christianity has abandoned the teachings of Jesus Christ. It is time to repent, and show the world the true heart of Christ.

Repentance begins with being convicted of sin. We confess our lack of action in doing whatever we can to stop the killing. We admit, with no justifications, without crying, "But he hit me first!" that we have sinned, against God and our neighbor, and have fallen short of the glory of God.

And then we reorient ourselves back towards God; we amend our lives. We don't trust ourselves for this amendment; we seek a higher power for healing. We seek the infusion of God's Holy Spirit. This is our greatest need right now, as Anthony de Mello goes on to tell us;

The greatest need of the Church today is not new legislation, new theology, new structures, new liturgies - all these without the Holy Spirit are like a dead body without a soul. We desperately need someone to take away our hearts of stone and give us a heart of flesh; we need an infusion of enthusiasm and inspiration and courage and spiritual strength. We need to persevere in our love without discouragement or cynicism...with new faith in the future. In other words, we need a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Veni Sancte Spiritus.


Friday, May 28, 2004

Active Pacifism

I've been pondering some of the shifts that have been going on within my own heart over the last few weeks, and the various attempts I've made to capture some of that movement in words. I find language so inadequate sometimes. How do we give voice to the heart?

I really tried to stay rational, and even "politically savvy" for a long time. Not so long ago, I was seriously considering the wisdom of sending more troops over to Iraq, to establish better security. But eventually, the stories coming out broke my hard heart. Instead of blaming "them," I faced the truth; I also share the responsibility for over 11,000 civilian deaths. I gave our leaders the benefit of the doubt, and did not actively resist this war when it began. When Colin Powell addressed the United Nations, I believed him. If Powell said we have to go in, then maybe we do. I remained silent.

It was the reports of the massive civilian deaths in Fallujah that got my attention. It didn't take much looking around to see that there had been high civilian casualties from the beginning. That troubled me. And, still no WMDs. Maybe we had been hoodwinked. But, wanting to be sensible, I looked for alternative military plans, still convinced there was a way out, even if we had made a terrible mistake.

In the last few weeks, the prison tortures, the "mission from God" talk from Boykin and Bush, Nick Berg, and the consistent description of Iraqis as "the enemy" finally forced me to realize that I couldn't fix it; that none of us can fix it. And then I wept.

And then I prayed. Sure, I'd been praying all along; for those in danger, both American and Iraqi. But those prayers were more like asking for God's sanction of what was happening. This time, I offered a prayer of surrender. This thing has spun out of control. I don't think we can fix it. We are killing people in Your name. And those with whom we fight are also killing people in Your name.

No blinding flash of revelation. Charlton Heston's voice did not bellow down from on high. But the tears stopped. And there was a calmness that actually made me feel a little guilty, tucked away in my safe little house.

Eventually, one phrase came to mind. I think I recently heard this phrase in something Frank Griswold wrote. Maybe it was from a book I read some time ago. Anyway, my point is, this wasn't anything weird like some word of prophesy (yes, I was a Pentecostal for a brief time when young). It was more a remembering; something forgotten in the background being ushered onto center stage. It was the phrase, "...for the sake of the world..."

My heart leaped at that, like a young pup who almost snatches off your fingers along with the Scooby snack. My head is still playing catch up. But, for me, I think, or I suppose I should say I feel, like this is the way forward.

It's not about me, or my family, or my church, or my nation. As a part of the Body of Christ, I exist, we exist, for the sake of the world.

Jesus said, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." For the sake of the world, we must stand for life, not destruction.

It is not about just this war. Iraq is the symptom of a disease that seems to have plagued humanity from the beginning; the disease of violence; which left unchallenged mutates into a demon known by the name war.

The cycle of violence, the strong victimizing the weak, the weak attempting to escape being a victim by preying on the weaker, can stop with me, if I refuse to respond to violence with violence; if I refuse to give evil for evil. When I am reconciled with my victims; when I refuse to strike back, the cycle has been broken.

I'm still trying to work this out. What I do know is that I don't believe that pacifism means we have to be passive. When Jesus took up the whip and cleared out the money changers, he wasn't exactly the passive gentle Jesus meek and mild my Sunday School teachers presented to me many many (well, maybe not that many) years ago. When Jesus stood up to the Pharisees and Saducees, he was not a doormat.

I think the way forward is active pacifism, or non-violent resistance, as taught by Jesus, Tolstoy (The Kingdom of God is Within You), Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

The idea that Christians cannot resist evil may have originated with Augustine's understanding of Matthew 5:39; "But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also." One of the most intriguing understandings of that passage that I have come across is from Walter Wink;

The word translated "resist" is itself problematic; what translators have failed to note is how frequently anthistemi is used as a military term. Resistance implies "counteractive aggression," a response to hostilities initiated by someone else. Liddell-Scott defines anthistemi as to "set against esp. in battle, withstand"...

...In short, antistenai means more in Matt. 5:39a than simply to "stand against" or "resist." It means to resist violently, to revolt or rebel, to engage in an insurrection. Jesus is not encouraging submission to evil; that would run counter to everything he did and said. He is, rather, warning against responding to evil in kind by letting the oppressor set the terms of our opposition. Perhaps most importantly, he cautions us against being made over into the very evil we oppose by adopting its methods and spirit. He is saying, in effect, Do not mirror evil; do not become the very thing you hate. The best translation is the Scholars Version: "Don't react violently against the one who is evil."

"If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also." Why the right cheek? A blow by the right fist in that right-handed world would land on the left cheek of the opponent. An open-handed slap would also strike the left cheek. To hit the right cheek with a fist would require using the left hand, but in that society the left hand was used only for unclean tasks. Even to gesture with the left hand at Qumran carried the penalty of ten days' penance. The only way one could naturally strike the right cheek with the right hand would be with the back of the hand. We are dealing here with insult, not a fistfight. The intention is clearly not to injure but to humiliate, to put someone in his or her place. One normally did not strike a peer thus, and if one did the fine was exorbitant. The Mishnaic tractate Baba Qamma specifies the various fines for striking an equal: for slugging with a fist, 4 zuz (a zuz was a day's wage); for slapping, 200 zuz; but "if [he struck him] with the back of his hand he must pay him 400 zuz." But damages for indignity were not paid to slaves who are struck (8:1-7).

A backhand slap was the usual way of admonishing inferiors. Masters backhanded slaves; husbands, wives; parents, children; men, women; Romans, Jews. We have here a set of unequal relations, in each of which retaliation would be suicidal. The only normal response would be cowering submission.

Part of the confusion surrounding these sayings arises from the failure to ask who Jesus' audience was. In all three of the examples in Matt. 5:39b-41, Jesus' listeners are not those who strike, initiate lawsuits, or impose forced labor, but their victims ("If anyone strikes you...wants to sue you...forces you to go one mile..."). There are among his hearers people who were subjected to these very indignities, forced to stifle outrage at their dehumanizing treatment by the hierarchical system of caste and class, race and gender, age and status, and as a result of imperial occupation.

Why then does he counsel these already humiliated people to turn the other cheek? Because this action robs the oppressor of the power to humiliate. The person who turns the other cheek is saying, in effect, "Try again. Your first blow failed to achieve its intended effect. I deny you the power to humiliate me. I am a human being just like you. Your status does not alter that fact. You cannot demean me."

Such a response would create enormous difficulties for the striker. Purely logistically, how would he hit the other cheek now turned to him? He cannot backhand it with his right hand (one only need try this to see the problem). If he hits with a fist, he makes the other his equal, acknowledging him as a peer. But the point of the back of the hand is to reinforce institutionalized inequality. Even if the superior orders the person flogged for such "cheeky" behavior (this is certainly no way to avoid conflict!), the point has been irrevocably made. He has been given notice that this underling is in fact a human being. In that world of honor and shaming, he has been rendered impotent to instill shame in a subordinate. He has been stripped of his power to dehumanize the other. As Gandhi taught, "The first principle of nonviolent action is that of noncooperation with everything humiliating."
Read Wink's complete article. It is excellent, and provides some specific guidelines, which he calls "Jesus' Third Way." He concludes with these words that are worth noting;

Out of the heart of the prophetic tradition, Jesus engaged the Domination System in both its outer and spiritual manifestations. His teaching on nonviolence forms the charter for a way of being in the world that breaks the spiral of violence. Jesus here reveals a way to fight evil with all our power without being transformed into the very evil we fight. It is a way--the only way possible--of not becoming what we hate. "Do not counter evil in kind"--this insight is the distilled essence, stated with sublime simplicity, of the meaning of the cross. It is time the church stops limping between just war theory and nonresistant pacifism and follows Jesus on his
nonviolent way.
It is time to stand up. It is time for acts of civil disobedience. Over 11,000 Iraqi civilians have been robbed of life. The killing must stop, not just for their sake, or yours or mine, but for the sake of the world.


Prayers for Peace

The following are prayers suggested by Episcopal Peace Fellowship members as an offering to you:

Lord we pray that you will lead us into your LOVE - You sent Jesus as a token of that love.

Lord we pray that you will lead us into your JUSTICE. You sent the Prophets and gave us The Law to show us your justice.

Lord we pray that you will lead us into your RECONCILIATION. You showed us how to forgive and reconcile.

Lord we pray that you will lead us into your PEACE. Your LOVE and JUSTICE and your way of RECONCILIATION. Amen
(by Bishop William Davidson, Past Chair of EPF)

Lord God, we pray for all the bombed out, burned out, driven out, relocated, wondering , wandering, unwilling pilgrims in this world. Forgive us for our part in uprooting them. Restore their lives, make us partners with in the rebuilding of their lives. We pray in the name of the Son of Man, who had no place to lay His head.
(by Arnold Kenseth and Richard Unsworth in Prayers for Worship Leaders)

Take all hate from our hearts, O God, and teach us how to take it from the hearts of others. Open our eyes and show us what things make it easy for hatred to flourish and hard for us to conquer it. Then help us to change these things.
(by Alan Paton)

Spirit of God, forgive us. For 2000 years, we Christians have failed to live the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.

Instead of sharing with our sisters and brothers, instead of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and healing the sick; we have stored up treasures and sent the vulnerable, sick, hungry and homeless from our door.

Instead of forgiving , we have sought vengeance retribution, harsh punishment and death. We have asked the state to kill in our name.

Instead of crying out against injustice, we have dominated, discriminated and demeaned; and we have benefited from the economic oppression of our neighbors.

Instead of holding your Creation in sacred trust, instead of respecting the inter-connectedness and beauty of our universe; we have wasted and polluted, disrupted the balance, and ignored our responsibility to those who come after us.

Instead of loving our enemies, we have demonized them. Instead of peace, nonviolence and reconciliation; we Christians have unleashed in your name, violent crusades, slavery, the Holocaust, and nuclear war. We have killed through landmines, depleted uranium, bombing runs, smart weapons and economic sanctions.

We confess that we have neglected our prayer life and community building. We have lost our way and are not the people you called us to be. Accept our prayer and restore us. In your mercy, forgive us. Forgive us. Forgive us. Amen.
(by Janet Chisholm, Vice Chair of EPF)

O Lord Jesus Christ, whose perfect love met death by violence and was not extinguished; so enter the hearts and minds of those affected by violence that frailty may give way to your strength, loss to gain, bitterness to your total and victorious love. (by Susan Williams)

O God, who called the peacemakers your children, we beseech you that as you did send Your Son with the heavenly voice of peace on earth to be the Prince of Peace to men, so you will keep our hearts and minds in his peace, and make us both to love and defend the same. Guide the counsels of the President and of all leaders, in equity and steadfastness, to establish unity and concord among the nations, that all mankind may render you the fruits of peace and righteousness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Diocese of Canterbury)

Book of Common Prayer, p. 823
BCP p. 260

Oh God, we stand before you with so many fears and uncertainties--imagined and real. Come into us and all people who truly seek your way. Bring into creation the chaos that is war and use us as your sons and daughters to show and live the way of peace and love. For we take our stand on your promise that love is stronger than hate, kindness greater than revenge. Turn our hearts, ever convert us to this truth and make us more whole as your Body in the world. Through your child, Jesus, who overcame violence and death with love and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit now and for eternity. AMEN
(by Rev. T. Scott Allen, EPF Board)

Gracious God, after the Resurrection Jesus bestowed upon the disciples the gift of Peace by proclaiming "My Peace I leave with you, my Peace I give to you." Inspire us with that hope in the gift of shalom and salaam, the gift of wholeness and the promise of your presence.

Give us wisdom to seek nonviolence as an answer to the violence of our lives and world.

Give us courage to seek wholeness in a fractured and divided world, to find reconciliation rather than revenge, to interfere with the madness of militarism and war.

May your presence fill us and others with the thirst for unity, wholeness,
and a desire to see all people valued as created in your image. May we and others receive your shalom and salaam, that we might be instruments of your love. Blessed be your name forever. Amen.
(by Rev. David Selzer, Chair of EPF)

Lead us from death to life
Lead us from falsehood to truth
Lead us from despair to hope
Lead us from fear to trust
Lead us from hate to love
Lead us from war to peace
Let peace fill our hearts, our world, our Universe.

Loving God, We beg your forgiveness for the war that the U.S. is waging against the Iraqi people,for destroying Iraq's infrastructure by massive bombings, for using highly toxic weapons that contaminate Iraqi land and water, and are causing major increases in cancers among children. Forgive us for imposing economic sanctions that have killed over one million Iraqis, mostly children. Forgive us for placing oil interests above human welfare.

Heal us of our moral blindness and fill our hearts with love. Help us to renounce all killing, to stop demonizing our adversaries, to value all life as sacred, and to see the Iraqi people as our brothers and sisters. Empower us to engage in nonviolent action to end this slaughter of the innocents. O God, make us channels of your peace and reconciliation. Amen
(by Art Laffin)

Christ, no one on earth really wants the pain and horror of war. We do not want to kill or be killed, to hurt or be hurt. But we all see injustice, and sometimes it makes us angry and we see no other way to right the wrong except by war. Christ, teach us the ways of peace! Calm our angry hearts and grant to all peoples and their leaders patience in the search for peace and justice. Help us to be ready to give up some of our comforts and power and pride, so that war will leave the face of the earth and we may work for you in peace.
(by Avery Brooks, in Plain Prayers in a Complicated World)

Two Prayers for Peace:
l.) Eternal God, the Creator of all, we commit to you the needs of the whole world: where there is hatred, give love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is distrust, faith; where there is darkness, light. We pray for those who out of the bitter memories of strife and loss are seeking a more excellent way for the nations of the world, whereby justice and order may be maintained and the differences of people be resolved in equity. Bestow your blessings, we pray You, upon all who labor for peace and righteousness among the peoples, that the day may be hastened when war shall be no more and Your will only shall govern the nations upon earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

2.) Almighty God, Creator of all people upon the earth, most heartily we pray that you will deliver your children from the cruelties of war and lead all the nations into the way of peace. Teach us to put away all bitterness and misunderstanding, both in Church and State; that we, with all the people may draw together as one community of peoples and dwell evermore in the fellowship of that Prince of Peace, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, now and ever. Amen.

Grant us prudence in proportion to our power,
wisdom in proportion to our science,
humaneness in proportion to our wealth and might.
And bless all races and peoples
who travel in friendship along the road to justice,
liberty and lasting peace.
(Conference of European Churches, Gloria Deo Worship Book 1986)

Beloved God, we give you thanks for the life and message of Jesus, Jesus the Rebel, who remains our guide and inspiration and the promise of Hope in our time.
For Jesus calls us to love in a time of indifference, to nonviolence in a time of injustice, and to life in a time of death. He teaches us not only how to live, but how to die; how to transform not only the world but our own broken hearts, as well. His revolution transcends all our dreams for a better world and declares your reign here and now, at this very moment in human history.

In Jesus, we meet you, our beloved God. We see your true face. From now on we know that you are not a god of despair but of hope, not a god of wrath but of mercy; not a god of condemnation but of compassion; not a god of imperial power but of suffering; not a god of domination but of loving service; not a god of oppression but of liberation; not a god who blesses injustice but the God of justice; not a god of war but of peace; not a god of violence but of nonviolence; not a god of death but of Life. From now on we know that we all have been created to share in the fullness of life, in your love and unending mercy.

We step forward into the future, supporting each other, building community, making peace, practicing nonviolence, resisting the forces of war, and reconciling with our enemies, come what may. We have met Jesus the Rebel. He is alive and goes before us, summoning us to carry on the mission of nonviolence. We have been changed forever.

Beloved God, you have begun the revolution within us.
Our hearts burn with the fire of Hope. Amen.
(by Janet Chisholm, Adapted from and inspired by Jesus the Rebel by John Dear)


The Just Adultery Theory

On Wednesday, I was given a book, It's a Sin to Build a Nuclear Weapon; The Collected Works on War and Christian Peacemaking of Richard McSorley, S.J. The following is from Fr. McSorley's The Violence That is War;

Paralleling the just/unjust war theory is the Just Adultery Theory. A look at it helps us see how differently Christians towards murder and adultery. A Christian minister or priest who openly preaches the Just Adultery Theory would be run out of his church; not so with the just/unjust war theory. Yet both theories equally violate commandments of God; "Thou shall not kill," and "Thou shall not commit adultery." Both set up conditions to get around commandments. Conditions for just adultery are:

1. Last Resort. Every other means of getting along must be tried: discussion, advice of a third party, reconciliation of differences, expressions of affection, anything short of adultery.

2. Good Intention. There must be no intent to harm one's spouse or any other person. Revenge for unfaithfulness of one's partner would not be considered a sufficient cause, nor would the need for more children, or a second home. The cause must be genuine love and affection for the companion in adultery, needs that cannot be satisfied in any other way, and conversely, a genuine need of that love and affection on the part of the one initiating the adultery. The main point to be kept in mind is that the adultery must be in defense of love. There must be pure intention. This condition entirely excludes aggressive adultery, which is sometimes called "rape."

3. Protection of the Innocent. The aggrieved partner must not be harmed. Every effort at secrecy must be made; no open flaunting or even informing the aggrieved partner would be consistent with this condition. If children are born of the adultery, both partners to the act must have the intention of caring for the children. The use of a contraceptive device, or the intent of having an abortion, violate this condition and make the adultery immoral.

4. Proportion. A favorable balance of good over evil must be reasonably hoped for. The foreseeable harm to absent partners, and to living children, must be weighed against the need for affection and love on the part of the adulterers. This need must honestly predominate over the cumulative harm.

The damage to family life, and the weakening of the respect for the marriage bond, must be offset by the marked increase in human love, affection and respect for the human person who is endangered by the social effects of adultery.

Provided these conditions are fulfilled, adultery is not a violation of the Gospel, but an act of love and mercy.

Absurd? Perhaps, but less absurd than the just/unjust war theory. Adultery is a personal act. It does not kill millions of people, or even one person. It does not have government support. It always allows for the possibility of repentance and reconciliation which are precluded by killing. On balance from the view of morality, the Just Adultery Theory has much more in its favor than the just/unjust war theory. Why is it, then, that most Christians understand the weakness of the Just Adultery Theory, but are blind to the greater weaknesses of the just/unjust war theory? Could it be that we understand morality to be limited to a person and to personal conduct, and that what a group or a government does is beyond the limits of morality?

Or do we put the authority of a government above that of God? If a president, king, dictator or general says an action is necessary for the defense of a country, do we say a Christian may do it, and not be guilty of sin? Since the president knows more about what is required for national security than anyone else, then each Christian can obey in good conscience. It follows that if the leader says, "Rape," the Christian rapes. If the leader says "Kill," the Christian kills.

If, as a follower of Jesus, a person can intentionally kill another human because the president says it is okay, then surely he can rape another if a president, king or dictator orders it.

Can we serve both God and government when the government orders what God forbids?
Let's stop using the just war theory to justify the use of force. Let's stop claiming it is possible to love our enemies as we murder them. Over 11,000 innocent Iraqi civilians are dead. It is time to abandon absurd theories, and to begin to speak clearly.

John Dear, in the article linked above , made these comments regarding Fr. McSorley;

Though he was a teacher and peacemaker, he was first and foremost a man of God, a person of prayer, a contemplative.

I remember him calling me one summer day in the early 1990s. He said that he had done everything he could to work for the abolition of ROTC on Catholic campuses, everything except pray for that intention. He had decided that he would pray for the end of ROTC, war and nuclear weapons out loud at every Mass for the rest of his life.

One month later, ROTC was temporarily closed at Georgetown (for lack of funds). He attributed this to his prayer.

As we remember Richard McSorley, at this critical moment when our nation prepares to bomb Iraqi children and continues to maintain a massive nuclear arsenal, we might want to take up Richard’s prayer, and ask the God of peace to abolish war, ROTC, nuclear weapons, poverty and every form of violence, once and for all. Surely, he is now petitioning God face to face to grant our prayer.

Thank you, Richard, for your prophetic life.

May we take up where you left off.

May the church become a church of peace.

May we become people of nonviolence.

May war finally be abolished.
Thanks for the book, R. I'm going to continue reading now.


Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Pacifism for Violent SOBs

A profile of Stanley Hauerwas:

As a theological ethicist, Duke University Divinity School professor, and as a writer cruising through his forties and fifties, Stanley Hauerwas enjoyed the twin blessings of personal achievement and professional obscurity. Then, in 2001, the assessors of talent at Time magazine declared him "America's best theologian." Oprah Winfrey gave him air time. Invitations to talk, exhort, and entertain poured in.

Hauerwas, a Texan who speaks in the twangy cadences of Jim Hightower and is as adept with the barbs and jibes, guffaws when recalling the praise from Time: "Best is not a theological category! Faithful or unfaithful are the right categories. The last thing in the world I'd want to be is the best."

By the measure of fidelity to his Christ-centered beliefs, Hauerwas is steadfast, whether as an intellectual trading in the nuanced language of theology, or as a member of his local Durham, North Carolina, parish that comes together for the succor of liturgy, community, and prayer.

"I am a Christian pacifist," he says. "Being Christian and being a pacifist are not two things for me. I would not be a pacifist if I were not a Christian, and I find it hard to understand how one can be a Christian without being a pacifist."

That puts Hauerwas in a distinct minority. When countless Christian leaders--from popes, cardinals, and Jesuits to assorted divines stretching from Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell to Jesse Jackson--say that wars can be just, if not just dandy, and when pacifists are denounced as cowards and misfits on the nation's airwaves and op-eds, Hauerwas's voice seems to come out of an increasingly vast wilderness.

It doesn't bother him, as it never bothered Dorothy Day, A. J. Muste, Emily Balch, the Berrigans, David Dellinger, Arthur Laffin, and a long list of others for whom pacifism--active pacifism, which has nothing to do with passivity or appeasement--was both a spiritual creed and a political philosophy.

"I say I'm a pacifist because I'm a violent son of a bitch. I'm a Texan. I can feel it in every bone I've got. And I hate the language of pacifism because it's too passive. But by avowing it, I create expectations in others that hopefully will help me live faithfully to what I know is true but that I have no confidence in my own ability to live it at all. That's part of what nonviolence is--the attempt to make our lives vulnerable to others in a way that we need one another. To be against war--which is clearly violent--is a good place to start. But you never know where the violence is in your own life. To say you're nonviolent is not some position of self-righteousness--you kill and I don't. It's rather to make your life available to others in a way that they can help you discover ways you're implicated in violence that you hadn't even noticed."
"I say I'm a pacifist because I'm a violent son of a bitch." Exactly! He has nailed the issue for all Christians. That's almost good enough to forgive him for being a Texan. My personal bias is showing; as a 5th generation Californian, I despise Texas...everyone knows that REAL cowboys are only grown in California, and maybe Oregon...possibly Wyoming...but I digress;

(Hauerwas) is part of the minority Christian community operating under the consistent life ethic that calls for alternatives to the violence of war and militarism, capital punishment, abortion, euthanasia, and suicide. These, and other issues involving public morality and personal ethics, have been at the core of Hauerwas's writing and teaching. Much of his prose has been in low-circulation theological journals and books from small publishers. In 2001, Duke University Press published The Hauerwas Reader, a 729-page volume of literate and often feisty arguments drawn from such books as The Peaceable Kingdom (University of Notre Dame Press, 1983), Truthfulness and Tragedy (University of Notre Dame Press, 1977), Character and the Christian Life (Trinity University Press, 1975) and Resident Aliens (Abingdon, 1989).
Even if I might disagree with him a bit, one has to honor the consistency of his ethical stance. I've often thought it was bizarre that the same folks who are opposed to abortion are often the same folks who advocate for capital punishment and so-called "just" war. Honoring the sanctity of life as a response to a higher call would seem to be an specific ethical lens that would not allow such picking and choosing.

Resident Aliens is the only work by Hauerwas that I've read more than once. It's been awhile however. My dog (two dogs ago) violently attacked and shredded most of my copy. That pup was not a pacifist, and, apparently, disapproved of me reading such pacifist literature. Or he might have been teething. I've still got the remnants of it somewhere. Might be time to get another copy.

"As far as just war is concerned, I think it's a terrific theory," (Hauerwas) tells me. "Unfortunately, it has no purchase in reality. For example, I note that the reason people think the theory can be used in Iraq is because we have the capacity (and the `we' means the United States) to fight a war in Iraq. Did `we' get that capacity on just war grounds? No, the United States got that capacity on the grounds of political realism shaped by the Cold War. So, just warriors need to get serious and tell us what would a just war foreign policy, shaped by an equally just war Pentagon, look like."

As with many who are committed to nonviolence, Hauerwas has found himself asked what are his alternatives to bombing Afghanistan and Iraq. "Such questions," he replies, "assume that pacifists must have an alternative foreign policy. My only response is I do not have a foreign policy. I have something better--a church constituted by people who would rather die than kill."
And there's the rub; the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ laid bare; we will die before we resort to violence. To accept that truth, we have to let go of our desperate drive to survive. Is survival what it's all about in God's kingdom? I think not; it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

A tangential consideration is the parallel to this and what is going on in the Episcopal Church right now. Some say that the direction ECUSA is going will destroy us. Then we will die. And God will raise up something new from the ashes. The fear of death is no justification to buy into the evil of oppression and domination by use of force and threats of force. But once again, I digress;

In The Peaceable Kingdom, Hauerwas writes: "The functional character of contemporary religious convictions is perhaps nowhere better revealed than in the upsurge of religious conservatism. While appearing to be a resurgence of `traditional' religious conviction, some of these movements in fact give evidence of the loss of religious substance in our culture and in ourselves. Christianity is defended not so much because it is true, but because it reinforces the `American way of life.' Such movements are thus unable to contemplate that there might be irresolvable tensions between being Christian and being `a good American.'"
Unfortunately, we are quickly arriving at the point where these tensions cannot even be discussed anymore. I know I no longer have any interest in such discussions. And, yes, I admit that is a mistake. But I simply see no common ground with those who desire to wrap the cross in the stars and stripes. I do not understand that kind of thinking. I suppose such a lack of understanding makes me part of the problem. But do we still have time for the luxury of dialogue? 11,000 Iraqi civilians are dead. 5 more just yesterday. Who knows how many today. No time left. It needs to be said bluntly; these actions are an atrocity, and are done in direct opposition to the God who has been revealed to us through Jesus Christ!

Hauerwas believes that Christianity, to be authentic, must take a stand. In a 1991 interview, he said: "If you ask one of the crucial theological questions--why was Jesus killed?--the answer isn't `because God wants us to love one another.' Why in the hell would anyone kill Jesus for that? That's stupid. It's not even interesting. Why did he get killed? Because he challenged the powers that be. The church is a political institution calling people to be an alternative to the world. That's what the cross is about."

If, as Gandhi often stated, nonviolence is a creed for the brave and the bold---"its seat is in the heart, and it must be an inseparable part of our being"--then Hauerwas may not be our best theologian, but he is one of our bravest and boldest.
What is needed is a change of heart. How can this transformation be made?

First, we have to stop the behavior. Second, we have to listen to our victims. Third, we have to have a sincere amendment of heart. Fourth, we must be reconciled with one another. And then maybe, just maybe, trusting in God whose property is always to have mercy, we will be reconciled with God.

I'm inclined to rant. I need help with changing hearts, including my own. This violent SOB needs to rant less, and listen more. Maybe I'll dig out my tattered copy of Hauerwas, and listen to him for awhile.


Is This Liberation?

Excerpts from an address delivered at a Conference at Karbala University, Iraq, on Imam Hussein and his relevance today;

...The truth is that politicians, tyrants and military chiefs all use the language of liberation very easily and for their own purposes. But liberation for a people is a deeper process that involves much more than the relief of the removal of tyranny. It is both material and spiritual. It requires not just being rid of a tyrant but truth telling; it requires not so much 'reconstruction' as healing. It requires the building of trust and the possibility of real hope and it needs to arise from the people themselves.

The language of liberation is something that is prevalent in our religious traditions. I come from the Christian tradition and I read that tradition as one that speaks and offers liberation. In the story of Jesus Christ, in his ministry, death and resurrection we believe that we are shown a God who is with the poor and marginalised. We are shown a God who in the crucifixion faces the worst of human violence and responds not with wrath and destruction, but with love: in the resurrection we believe Christ offers us God's love again. We are called to embrace that love and live it in the world. We are called to seek the crucified of today - the victims of injustice and violence and to respond to the complexities of the violence and pain of our world with love and compassion, to identify with those who are marginalised and from that place to seek resurrection in real healing, reconciliation and hope. For me Christianity is a spirituality that struggles with the realities of our world. It is not a retreat into an other- worldly piety but a spirituality that is rooted in the real violence, exploitation, hatred and confusion of our world and offers a way of redeeming it through meeting God in our active identification with the marginalised and in our refusal to use violence...

...But in retelling the atrocities of the recent past and in looking for hope in the future we must also be awake to the realities of the present. I think of Imam Hussein and of his father Ali, both men of principle who sought to act with justice and to use power wisely and for the good of all, seeking not to oppress others. And then I think of Iraq today, under the rule of the occupation forces. The 18,000 people in detention some because their relatives are suspected of crimes even though they themselves have done nothing. I think of the 234 people who were arrested at the village of Abu Hisma last November - the water was cut off by the US military and has not been reconnected for several months. The wife of the local school teacher was shot dead going to the village's one water supply after curfew. A bomb was dropped on the house of a suspect - Hebron style and the village citrus grove destroyed. People are prisoners in their own homes. The village is surrounded by barbed wire and a 5pm curfew is in operation so no one can enter or leave the village after dark. Similar things are happening in other villages like Abu Siffa. I wonder how Hussein would have reacted to the injustice of criminalising whole villages and oppressing their people.

I ask you - is this liberation?

My friends, I hope and I pray that you the Iraqi people -- a warm, welcoming, hospitable and generous people - - will be helped by the international community to together heal yourselves of the wounds of tyranny, imperialism and war -- drawing on the best of all the religious traditions in this great land -- the cradle of civilisation. And I will do my best to campaign for this in my own country.

Liberation is not something that is brought by invaders or by the removal of one form of tyranny -- it is something that people experience and achieve for themselves, utilising their own spiritual, political, emotional and cultural resources. I pray to God the Merciful and Compassionate One, that there may be a process of healing, truth telling, justice and reconciliation in this land that is informed by the light of the story of Imam Hussein.

- Is This Liberation?
by Ray Gaston, February 28, 2004.
Ray Gaston is Vicar of All Hallows Church in Leeds (UK).


Dear Mr. President,

Please explain to me how this is Christ-like behavior?

From the Independent:

...This brings to something like 11,500 the number of civilians who have died since March last year. Greater precision is not possible. America and Britain have not only declined to count the number of civilians killed, but have obstructed any attempts to discover the total. The Iraqi Health Ministry tried to collect data on deaths several months ago, but was ordered to stop.

Those seeking to know the human cost of this war have to turn to academic organisations and campaigns such as, which collates verified reports from mainstream news sources. Their total, not updated for some weeks, stood yesterday at 11,005.


Tuesday, May 25, 2004

What is Truth?

From the BBC (and elsewhere):

...Mr Bush suffered "minor abrasions and scratches" during the fall, Trent Duffy told reporters.

He was wearing a bike helmet and mouth guard, he said.

"It's been raining a lot and the topsoil is loose," Mr Duffy said...
The weather report for his ranch tells us there hasn't been any rain since May 14. Sunny and warm for over a week.

Why lie over such a small thing? Why not just say he fell? Is it that difficult to admit to making a mistake? I would never wish such is mishap on anyone, but the lack of honesty regarding a little spill on his bike does give rise in my mind to the quip offered by Kerry, "Did he take the training wheels off?"

Such a lack of honesty in little things makes me wonder about the honesty of this administration in regards to bigger things.

The "slip" made by John Kerry a few months ago, when he thought his microphone was off, may prove to be closer to the truth than anything we're hearing from the White House of late; a gang who were described by Senator Kerry as "the most crooked, you know, lying group I have ever seen."

All of which made last night's speech a little dull, seeing as I simply did not believe in the sincerity of the speaker any more. Who writes these speeches? It sure could have used a little color. How about some stories about real people? How about some emotion about the lives that have been lost because of the mistakes that have been made?

Oh...I forgot. This administration doesn't make mistakes.

I did find the anticipation of hearing yet another novel way to pronounce Abu Ghraib rather riveting. I'm sure there is an explanation for that. It couldn't have been a...gasp...mistake? Maybe all the various dialects of the Middle East were being used as an attempt to be inclusive?


Monday, May 24, 2004

A Different Perspective

Are you one of those people who wake up happy, even before your first cup of coffee? Does this drive those around you crazy? Do your friends sometimes mutter behind your back that you're just a bit too perky? Do you wish you had a story of gloom and doom to share with your co-workers around the water cooler?

Here's the solution. Welcome to someone else's bad day.


What Do You Want? What Do I Want?

Sometimes I feel like this physical vessel I call "me" contains two different entities. The tension between them is the cause of much confusion. For the last few years, the internal chaos has been dramatically reduced. But it is still there.

I've finally found myself at the point in life where I can more objectively observe this tension. It is questionable how objective such observations actually are, of course. Finite humans are doomed to be always bound by the limitations of subjectivity. The thing observed is our perception of it, not the thing as it actually is.

The latest observation is the huge difference between my public self and my private self. Let me offer a couple of examples to explain;

This weekend, I officiated at a burial rite on Saturday. I knew four people who were present. As the family gathered, I found myself shifting various details of the rite. The basic format was already in place; the Book of Common Prayer defines the structure of the order of service. But a lot of details are left up to the discretion of the officiant. In talking with the family, changes were made regarding lessons, and my homily, even though these details had been discussed prior to the gathering for the rite.

On Sunday, I was celebrant at one Eucharist, followed by a community meeting, in which I offered a presentation based on the theme, "Who Are We Now?" Once again, I made changes at the last minute, including almost completely rewriting the sermon, and fine tuning the presentation. The changes were based on subtle pieces of information picked up as the people gathered.

These kind of last minute changes are not unusual, as most clergy will tell you. I think they are more common for interim clergy, as we have less time to get to know folks, and so have to put out our feelers even more to pick up the messages being sent by body language, tones of voice, and feelings in the air. It's a very intuitive thing; responding from gut feelings, but my experience is to trust those intuitions.

To do this well requires an emptying as much as possible of the self, to be an empty vessel. The question in your mind in every encounter prior to the liturgy or event is, "What do you want?" The people gathered bring with them their own corporate energy. The leader, or the facilitator, has to be a clear conduit, collecting these energies, and offering them, on the behalf of the people, to God.

It's not as difficult to do as it may sound. Intuitive types know what I'm talking about. After 15 years, I usually tune into the stuff floating around in the air without thinking about it. The difficult part is setting aside my own needs, in order to incorporate the needs of the community in our outward expressions of worship, study, and apostolic action.

Saturday I made some hospital calls. The shift from personal self to public self is sometimes even more pronounced in these situations, especially if the personalities of those being visited are quite different, which was the case on Saturday. My routine is to allow my mind and heart to wander in the drive over to the hospital; listen to the radio, argue with myself, get a cup of coffee, etc. Upon entering the hospital, I first find a place to wash up (a personal routine; one I suspect those I visit appreciate!). A transition happens when I take one last look in the mirror. The personal self begins to shut down. On the walk to the hospital room, the reflections are about the person being visited. A mantra of prayer begins in the back of my head, allowing me, most of the time, to enter the room with the conscious thought directed towards the person, "What do you want?"

After concluding that visit, all the "stuff" brought up from that encounter has to be set aside, or at least quieted down, before stepping into the next room. To be open to the needs of the next person requires becoming empty and silent once again. Sometimes, especially if lots of emotion was stirred by the last visit, I have to wander a bit in the halls of the hospital, or even step outside for a few minutes, before making that second visit.

This is all basic stuff; usually learned in Clinical Pastoral Education which is required during the summer of your first year of seminary.

What continues to shock me is the dramatic transformation that occurs when I get home, change clothes, take care of the chores, and am finally able to shift to a new question, "What do I want?" The flood of personal passions that have been shoved down during the public time can be overwhelming. At one time, they were literally overwhelming. I fell into a deep pit; a pit of my own creation no doubt; but still one that was deep and dark, regardless of who is blamed for its creation.

By the grace of God, I continue to crawl out of that pit. Crawling out requires letting go of some of the baggage I drag around (the image of De Niro dragging his armor in The Mission springs to mind). It requires me to ask the question daily, "What do I want?" and to be willing to explore the answers, even if they lead to paths that seem bizarre, and even dangerous.

I continue to ask that question every day. The answer is much simpler now than it was six years ago. I really don't want much, other than what I already have, and what I am already working towards. Many of the fires of earlier desires have died down, proven through experience to be offering illusionary fulfillment at best, and self destruction at worst.

It is confusing, however, to function as a clear conduit publicly, and a self-centered, narcissistic a**hole when alone. But I wouldn't ever want to abandon either of these personas. They both have their place. The public self provides a way to gather together the bits and pieces of a select group. The private self, not limited to the specifics of a particular group, can sometimes tap into a larger undercurrent; the collective unconscious, if you will, and give voice to both the positive and negative energies discovered there.

Although, at other times, the private self is simply engaging in a bit of navel gazing, and wanders off into tangents that may have nothing to do with anything external. And the public self sometimes works on autopilot, while internally fretting over some personal dilemma.

Why am I posting all of this? Because I am still new to this medium; blogging. I have yet to decide if this place is public or private. Sometimes I respond to the musings that spring from the private question; "What do I want?"...other times I am responding to the public question; "What do you want?" Both seem very real at the moment, although I am beginning to suspect that their juggling act may be a distraction to avoid the recognition of a third entity behind them both; an entity that is not confused, is at peace and is fully convinced that all is well.


Friday, May 21, 2004

In the Name of God?

A an excerpt from a sworn statement by Abu Ghraib detainee Ameen Sa'eed AL-SHEIKH:

The night guard came over, his name is Graner, open the cell door, came in with a number of soldiers. They forced me to eat pork and they put liquor in my mouth. They put this substance on my nose and forehead and it was very hot. The guards started to hit me on my broken leg with a solid plastic stick...they stripped me naked. One of them told me he would rape me. He drew a picture of a woman to my back and makes me stand in shameful position holding my buttocks. Someone else asked me, "Do you believe in anything?" I said to him, "I believe in Allah." So he said, "But I believe in torture and I will torture you"...They ordered me to curse Islam and because they started to hit my broken leg, I cursed my religion. They ordered me to thank Jesus that I'm alive. And I did what they ordered me...They left me hang from the bed and after a little while I lost consciousness. When I woke up, I found myself still hang between the bed and the floor. Until now, I lost feeling in three fingers in my right hand.
There is much more, and 13 additional statements from detainees.

The Religious Warrior of Abu Ghraib:
An evangelical US general played a pivotal role in Iraqi prison reform

Sidney Blumenthal
Thursday May 20, 2004
The Guardian

Saving General Boykin seemed like a strange sideshow last October. After it was revealed that the deputy undersecretary of defence for intelligence had been regularly appearing at evangelical revivals preaching that the US was in a holy war as a "Christian nation" battling "Satan", the furore was quickly calmed.
Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, explained that Boykin was exercising his rights as a citizen: "We're a free people." President Bush declared that Boykin "doesn't reflect my point of view or the point of view of this administration". Bush's commission on public diplomacy had reported that in nine Muslim countries, just 12% believed that "Americans respect Arab/Islamic values". The Pentagon announced that its inspector general would investigate Boykin, though he has yet to report.

Boykin was not removed or transferred. At that moment, he was at the heart of a secret operation to "Gitmoize" (Guantanamo is known in the US as Gitmo) the Abu Ghraib prison. He had flown to Guantanamo, where he met Major General Geoffrey Miller, in charge of Camp X-Ray. Boykin ordered Miller to fly to Iraq and extend X-Ray methods to the prison system there, on Rumsfeld's orders.

Boykin was recommended to his position by his record in the elite Delta forces: he was a commander in the failed effort to rescue US hostages in Iran, had tracked drug lord Pablo Escobar in Colombia, had advised the gas attack on barricaded cultists at Waco, Texas, and had lost 18 men in Somalia trying to capture a warlord in the notorious Black Hawk Down fiasco of 1993.

Boykin told an evangelical gathering last year how this fostered his spiritual crisis. "There is no God," he said. "If there was a God, he would have been here to protect my soldiers." But he was thunderstruck by the insight that his battle with the warlord was between good and evil, between the true God and the false one. "I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol."

Boykin was the action hero side of his boss, Stephen Cambone, a conservative defence intellectual appointed to the new post of undersecretary of intelligence. Cambone is universally despised by the officer corps for his arrogant, abrasive and dictatorial style and regarded as the personal symbol of Rumsfeldism. A former senior Pentagon official told me of a conversation with a three-star general, who remarked: "If we were being overrun by the enemy and I had only one bullet left, I'd use it on Cambone."

Cambone set about cutting the CIA and the state department out of the war on terror, but he had no knowledge of special ops. For this the rarefied civilian relied on the gruff soldier - a melding of "ignorance and recklessness", as a military intelligence source told me.

Just before Boykin was put in charge of the hunt for Osama bin Laden and then inserted into Iraqi prison reform, he was a circuit rider for the religious right. He allied himself with a small group called the Faith Force Multiplier that advocates applying military principles to evangelism. Its manifesto - Warrior Message - summons "warriors in this spiritual war for souls of this nation and the world ... "

Boykin staged traveling slide show around the country where he displayed pictures of Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. "Satan wants to destroy this nation, he wants to destroy us as a nation, and he wants to destroy us as a Christian army," he preached. They "will only be defeated if we come against them in the name of Jesus". It was the reporting of his remarks at a revival meeting in Oregon that made them a subject of brief controversy.

There can be little doubt that he envisages the global war on terror as a crusade. With the Geneva conventions apparently suspended, international law is supplanted by biblical law. Boykin is in God's chain of command. President Bush, he told an Oregon congregation last June, is "a man who prays in the Oval Office". And the president, too, is on a divine mission. "George Bush was not elected by a majority of the voters in the US. He was appointed by God."

Boykin is not unique in his belief that Bush is God's anointed against evildoers. Before his 2000 campaign, Bush confided to a leader of the religious right: "I feel like God wants me to run for president ... I sense my country is going to need me. Something is going to happen."

Michael Gerson, Bush's chief speechwriter, tells colleagues that on September 20 2001, after Bush delivered his speech to the Congress declaring a war on terror, he called Gerson to thank him for writing it. "God wants you here," Gerson says he told the president. And he says that Bush replied: "God wants us here."

But it's Bush who wants Rumsfeld, Cambone and Boykin here
I read both of these items within a few minutes of each other. Afterwards, I was shaking with rage. Later, while driving to dinner with Demi, the tears came. What have we become? Is this Christianity? If so, I don't want anything to do with it anymore. Is this the United States of America? If it is, it's time for another revolution.

There was a flap awhile back over Atrios taking the progressive Christians to task for not standing up to the fanatics. At the time I thought Atrios showed a lot of damn gall to make such an accusation. I take it back. I do feel some of the responsibility. For too long, I've held out the hope that the extremists would either fade away, or some kind of bridge could be built.

To hell with that. These people, with their apocalyptic bs have taken us into a war "in the name of God," and are dragging the name of Christ through the blood with them.

There is no justification for this war in Iraq. None. There are no WMDs. There is no connection with 9/11. This is all about Saddam threatening Bush's daddy. It is about revenge.

And now these bloodthirsty warmongers have the audacity to not only wrap themselves in a bloodsoaked American flag, but to claim this is their "Christian duty"?!?!

The damage done to the good name of the United States of America may never be repaired. But that is almost a secondary tragedy to me. The damage that has been done to the name of Jesus Christ tears my heart apart.

In the name of God, clear the troops out of Iraq, and clear the fanatics suffering from megalomania out of the White House.


The Heresy of Christian Zionism

Why are we not hearing more about the atrocities committed in Gaza? Amnesty International has declared these actions by the Israeli Army to be war crimes. The UN Security Council adopted a resolution condemning the deaths and demolitions. The US abstained from the vote.

Why did the US abstain? As I have mentioned before, many Christians may not be conscious of it, but in the back of their minds is the idea that some have been taught that on the last day, in the battle of Armageddon, the "good guys" will be on the side of Israel. Having identified the Israelis as the "good guys," the obvious next step is to identify the Arabs as the "bad guys." I suspect that is the real reason for the apparent pro-Israeli bias on the part of the US.

Last month, the International Sabeel Conference met for five days in Jerusalem. The final statement of the Conference rejected "the heretical teachings of Christian Zionism" that, in its extreme form, "places an emphasis on apocalyptic events leading to the end of history rather than living Christ's love and justice."

Peace and Justice Ministries of the Episcopal Church has offered a report on the conference. There are a few items in this report of interest to everyone, but of special interest to Anglicans;

The tensions in the region also seeped into the conference in a dramatic way when Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams decided not to attend and deliver a keynote address, reportedly at the urging of local religious leaders. Instead he sent his ecumenical secretary to read it. In making apologies, the Rev. Jonathan Gough said that the archbishop's priority "is to be able to act as a bridge builder" and that his attendance "could be misunderstood."
I have the deepest respect for Rowan Williams. He is a first class theologian. But his cautionary approach to things (backing down from the appointment of Jeffrey John as bishop, for instance) I find infuriating. Those at the conference were disappointed and angered by this slight. There is little doubt that his last minute cancellation "could be misunderstood."

Stephen Sizer gives us a glimpse of the history of Christian Zionism;

The Rev. Stephen Sizer, an Anglican priest who is chair of the International Bible Society in the United Kingdom, said that the thesis of Christian Zionism is that "every act taken by Israel is orchestrated by God and should be condoned-period." He said that its influence is immense, with estimates ranging to as many as 100 million people in the US. As a movement it goes back to early 19th century England when a commitment to restoration of the Jews to Palestine as an antecedent to the Second Coming and the end of the world began to take shape. Conservative British politicians like Lord Balfour were convinced that the purpose of history is to carry out the divine purpose but he was "entire duplicitous," said Sizer, because he never intended to take into account the people already living there. But he is responsible for giving Zionism a political legitimacy, especially in the Balfour Declaration of 1917 calling for establishment of a Jewish state.

Christian Zionists are ultra-literalists in interpretation of Scripture, they support Jerusalem as the eternal and exclusive capital of Israel, they favor rebuilding the temple and they express antipathy for Arabs who stand in the way of such a vision, Sizer said.
Rosemary Ruether, a familiar name among most Anglicans, reminds us that Christian Zionism is not found just among the fanatics; it is alive and well among the mainlines;

But Prof. Rosemary Ruether of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley warned participants not to assume that "this is a problem of fanatics and fundamentalists." She said that there is also subtle collaboration with Israel and a "sophisticated and unconscious Zionism in mainline churches." She deplored the tendency to think that good relations with Jews comes only by ignoring the Palestinians, therefore making them pay for sins against the Jews. "Christians in the West must look at ways to break that silence about Jewish election promises of land and restoration as part of a redemptive process."

She asked, "what is the appropriate repentance for Western Christians who bear the burden of guilt? Not collaboration with another injustice. One evil does not justify another."
Gershom Gorenberg offers a note of warning to those Israelis who might consider an allegiance with Christian Zionism as a positive development;

Israeli journalist Gershom Gorenberg of the Jerusalem Report said that Christian Zionism represents a classic anti-Jewish theology because, at the end of the script, Jews convert or die. He said that the Christian millenialists, who are looking for the return of Jesus to establish his kingdom, are not Zionists because they have no concern for the welfare of Jews. The goal is not peace, it's the end. In such a scenario, the Arabs become mere stage props in the drama. "We must get to a better place, even if it is not a perfect place," he added.
These fanatics, some of whom currently reside within the Bush administration, are hard-core fundamentalists. No amount of reason or bloodshed will sway them from their conviction that they are doing God's will. I know. Many of my relatives are among this group. The GOP made the mistake of forming an alliance with these extremists, thinking they could use them as tools. It is questionable as to who is using whom, at this point. I pray that Israel does not make the same mistake.

NPR reports that the Israeli Army will continue the destruction of Palestinians in Gaza. International outrage has not even slowed them down. Why should it, as long as they've got Uncle Sam in their back pocket?


Conservative and Liberal Morality

A few days ago, I came across an excellent article written by Michael Tomasky, the executive editor of The American Prospect. I assumed that the big political blogs would pick this article up, but to date that has not been the case. It's just too good to get lost in the flood of information we are bombarded with daily, so I'm going to link it.

More than that, I'm going to offer it here in its entirety. I've got this new feature, the sitemeter thingy, which has informed me that the majority of my visitors click right through. For the benefit of those casual readers, who may not use the link, I'm reproducing the whole thing, in the hope that maybe it will catch the eye of someone just passing through:

End Times
The Bushies may be accomplishing what liberals never could -- bringing the era of conservative morality to a close.
By Michael Tomasky
Web Exclusive: 05.17.04

We aren't witnessing just the disastrous meltdown of Bush administration policy in Iraq. Nor are we witnessing merely the potential end of the line for one cabinet official, although it does seem possible that, in the wake of Sy Hersh's devastating New Yorker takeout this week, George W. Bush will downgrade his assessment of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from "superb" to "expendable" (with the president now within the margin of error of approval ratings in the high 30s, he desperately needs to roll a head that will make a statement).

Those developments, important as they are, don't really show us the big picture. The meta-story here is that we are watching the total collapse of conservative morality.

Liberals and conservatives, as George Lakoff and others have observed, operate according to distinct moral systems. Lakoff's research has tended to emphasize the moral universes of individual liberals and conservatives; liberals believe in questioning authority, conservatives believe in respecting authority, that sort of thing.

But the differences in the two moral systems also play out on the social or civic plane, and not just on the individual level. And in that civic sphere, the differences come down to this: Liberals believe in public morality and in adherence to democratic process, while conservatives value personal morality and positive, efficiently achieved results. What has happened at Abu Ghraib specifically and in Iraq generally are, in fact, direct expressions of conservative morality unchecked.

And it's clearer every week that conservative morality is a contradiction in terms, and that the American people are coming around to that view. I think this theory explains, well, basically everything. For example: How many conversations have you had with a fellow liberal, discussing the latest administration effrontery, that concluded with one of you asking the other some version of, "How can it possibly be that this isn't considered a scandal?!"

Indeed, liberals have watched this administration in a state of perpetual disbelief about the number of stories that should have blown up into scandals but never did. From Harken Energy to Thomas White and Enron to the Tom Scully-Richard Foster-Medicare story to the more general rancid politicization of every agency of government, the potential scandals have been nonstop. And liberals, who care about public integrity and process, can't comprehend that these things haven't become full-fledged scandals.

There are particular reasons they haven't -- no smoking gun was found on Harken, for instance. But the big historical reason they haven't is that we live in an age in which conservative morality is dominant. Public morality and adherence to democratic process just aren't as important.

In the 1960s and ’70s, when we lived in an era of liberal morality, those two qualities were more important, and the kinds of scandals we had then? Watergate, most obviously, but smaller-fry dustups like the Bert Lance affair reflected the privileged position of those concerns. Liberals didn't care so much about personal morality, and while they cared about positive results, they were less likely to bend rules to achieve them. (It's worth remembering, too, that as far as public service in this country was concerned, liberals wrote most of the rules.)

But beginning in the 1980s, conservatives successfully discredited liberal morality and substituted their own. Now, personal morality was pre-eminent -- Ronald Reagan as the stand-up man's man, contrasted with Bill Clinton, or at least with the image of Clinton that the right successfully peddled, as a licentious and corner-cutting and self-indulgent baby boomer. That Clinton was nearly brought down in the web of a personal-morality scandal was a reflection not only of his own weaknesses of the flesh but also of the fact that this was the sort of thing conservatives cared most about and sought most fiercely to expose. To them, Clinton’s personal failings disqualified him from capable public service, and they got the mainstream media to agree with them (though, fortunately, not the majority of the country).

The packaging of George W. Bush in 1999 and 2000 was nothing less than a conservative morality play. He was a "good man"; he'd gotten himself off the sauce and found Jesus; he didn't, as far as anyone knew, play around on his wife. Meanwhile, as governor of Texas, he'd squelched an investigation into a funeral-home chain run by a friend; he'd stacked the board of the University of Texas Investment Management Company, a huge deal that no major national media ever took a close, sustained look at; he kept starting failing businesses, losing money, and somehow getting richer and richer. But none of these issues, all having directly to do with public morality, mattered. He was a good, strong man who "got results" for Texas and would do the same for America.

Bush used such language often early in his administration to describe his appointees: They were good people, and the rest of us should trust them. His famous remark that he and Russian President Vladimir Putin "looked into each other's souls" provided another case in point: The policies Putin was pursuing -- his public morality, from undemocratic (the Russia media) to disastrous (Chechnya) -- weren't important. What was important was that Putin, too, was a good, strong man who has certainly, after a fashion, gotten "results."

What's this got to do with Iraq? Everything. Rumsfeld was another one who was sold to us as a good, strong man. He reveled in the image, and the press, especially after September 11, went right along ("You're America's stud!" Tim Russert once gushed to him). Paul Wolfowitz, the neocons in general -- strong men who knew exactly what the United States needed to do in the world and who didn't have time for all this sissified diplo-speak with the United Nations and the French, all fit into this process. They would eliminate al-Qaeda. They'd corral Saddam Hussein and bring democracy to Iraq. And they'd do it all as a function of their personal morality, their intense will. If they bent a few rules, well, they were on the side of good versus evil, and they were making one of history's grandest omelettes. Eggs would be broken. That's the way it is.

Read Hersh's piece in this context. Adherence to process was treated with contempt, never regarded as anything other than a roadblock to be circumvented.

"Since 9-11, we've changed the rules on how we deal with terrorism," a Pentagon consultant told Hersh, "and created conditions where the ends justify the means."

And now, at Abu Ghraib, that "end" stands revealed as America's greatest disgrace before the rest of the world in decades -- to say nothing of the fact that al-Qaeda has been far more, not far less, active since 9-11, and that Iraq in general is in tatters. Their personal morality, to the extent they possessed it in the first place, is irrelevant. The results are calamitous.

I'm not prepared to say that the American people are going to wake up tomorrow and say collectively, "Golly, we need to go back to an era of liberal morality." Liberal morality had its shortcomings, too, and liberal and Democratic politicians have to learn how to be comfortable again talking about issues in moral terms.

But it is clear that conservative moral arguments -- chiefly about Iraq, but on other fronts as well -- are losing their hold on people. It's a shame it took this much mayhem, and a set of photographs, for this to happen. But it is happening, and it couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of people.

Michael Tomasky is the Prospect’s executive editor.

Copyright © 2004 by The American Prospect, Inc. Preferred Citation: Michael Tomasky, "End Times", The American Prospect Online, May 17, 2004. This article may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author. Direct questions about permissions to
The Seymour Hersh article referred to above can be found here. It is also a must read.

Tomasky offers us a particularly concise filter that will be helpful in sorting out the benefits and the flaws of various proclamations and civic actions:

"Liberals believe in public morality and in adherence to democratic process, while conservatives value personal morality and positive, efficiently achieved results."

This filter works when trying to understand Church politics as well. The pendelum has swung. It is time for liberals to stop playing defense.


Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The horror! The horror!

Anything approaching the expression that came over his face I have never seen before, and hope never to see again. Oh, I wasn't touched. I was fascinated. It was as though a veil had been rent. I saw on that ivory face the expression of strange pride, of mental power, of avarice, of blood-thirstiness, of cunning, of excessive terror, of an intense and hopeless despair. Did he live his life through in every detail of desire, temptation, and surrender during that supreme moment of complete knowledge? He cried whisperingly at some image, at some vision--he cried twice, with a cry that was no more than a breath--

'The horror! The horror!'
- The Heart of Darkness
; Joseph Conrad.
From Apocalypse Now:

KURTZ: "I've seen horrors...horrors that you've seen. But you have no right to call me a murderer. You have a right to kill me. You have a right to do that...But you have no right to judge me. It's impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror. Horror has a face...And you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies. I remember when I was with Special Forces...Seems a thousand centuries ago...We went into a camp to inoculate the children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for Polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn't see. We went back there and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile...A pile of little arms. And I remember...I...I...I cried...I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out. I didn't know what I wanted to do. And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it. I never want to forget. And then I I was shot...Like I was shot with a diamond...a diamond bullet right through my forehead...And I thought: My God...the genius of that. The genius. The will to do that. Perfect,genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger than we. Because they could stand that these were not monsters...These were men...trained cadres...these men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love...but they had the strength...the do that. If I had ten divisions of those men our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral...and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling...without passion...without judgment...without judgment. Because it's judgment that defeats us..."

RADIO: "PBR Street Gang, this is Almighty, over...
This is Almighty, standing by, over.
This is Almighty, how do you copy, over..."

Willard leaves the boat and starts going to Kurtz' temple with a machete:

WILLARD (voice over): "They were going to make me a major for this and I wasn't even in their fucking army any more. Everybody wanted me to do it, him most of all. I felt like he was up there, waiting for me to take the pain away. He just wanted to go out like a soldier, standing up, not like some poor, wasted, rag-assed renegade. Even the jungle wanted him dead, and that's who he really took his orders from anyway. "

Kurtz sits in the temple :

KURTZ (dictates to tape): "They train young men to drop fire on people. But their commanders won't allow them to write fuck on their airplanes because it's obscene! "

Willard kills Kurtz with a machete, simultaneously the natives sacrifice a water buffalo and kill it with their machetes .

Kurtz is dying, his final words :

KURTZ: "The horror. The horror..."

- Apocalypse Now, Transcript
; John Milius and Francis Coppola.
Most of us invest much time and energy trying to hide from the horror. We live in gated communities behind locked doors, with armed police units only three digits away. We hoard our resources, keep to our routines, and avoid strangers. We want to be safe. Our society enables this facade that safety is an external commodity. Yet, regardless of our efforts, in the middle of the night we awaken trembling; the fragility of our fate made manifest within the darkness that surrounds us. We cannot keep the horror out, because it dwells within;

...I no longer had a healthy mind that could contemplate the world in a cheerful light. I had found that any such vision was indeed infirm and weak, because I had experienced the horror that lay just beneath our ordinary waking consciousness. Nothing could change that. Even if I never had another panic attack, I would never be able to forget what I have seen...
- The Spiral Staircase: My Climb out of Darkness,
Karen Armstrong.
Even though the horror is nothing new, our means of global communication is greatly enhanced today. More of humanity is being forced to confront the horror than ever before. To some, it is the death of an age of innocence. We are witnessing a time of grieving over the loss of more carefree days. Fear, denial, anger, and depression are anticipated responses.

Eventually, we must enter into acceptance. The horror is part of our reality. We do not have to surrender to it, of course. But we have to know it well. We have to know the horror that dwells in the darkness because we must enter into it. Our personal escape from the horror is not enough. We are called to enter this dark place, to guide others lost within it back into the light of hope. Our salvation is yoked to the salvation of all of creation.

We are powerless against the horror. The fragility of life, and the potential depravity of humanity, is a reality that must be faced. Only then can we admit our brokenness. Only then can we turn to a power greater than ourselves for healing. Only then do we dare to enter the darkness in search of those who are lost, not trusting in our own sputtering spark, but in the One who walks with us, the One who is is known in some traditions as the Ain Sof; Limitless Light.

Karen Armstrong found a particular poem instrumental to the rebirth of hope. May it offer such a rebirth in your life as well;

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the agèd eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is
nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessèd face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgment not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.
- Ash Wednesday I,
T.S. Eliot.