Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

The Nagasaki Principle

Writing in the Boston Globe, historian James Caroll talks about “the Nagasaki Principle.” On 06 August 1945, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. No matter whether we believe that act was justified or not, there was NO excuse or justification for dropping an additional nuclear weapon on Nagasaki three days later. We had seen what happened to Hiroshima. On 07 August 1945, 61 years ago today, we could have called off the strike on Nagasaki, but we went ahead as scheduled on 09 August 1945. Caroll refers to this kind of momentum in war, which we are seeing now in several wars around the world, as “the Nagasaki Principle.” Here’s a brief excerpt:

It is commonly said that war operates by the law of unintended consequences, but another, less-noted law operates as well. War creates momentum that barrels through normally restraining barriers of moral and practical choice. Decision makers begin wars, whether aggressively or defensively, in contexts that are well understood, and with purposes that seem proportionate and able to be accomplished. When destruction and hurt follow the outbreak of violence, however, and then when that destruction and hurt become extreme, the context within which war is begun changes radically. First assumptions no longer apply, and original purposes can become impossible. When that happens, what began as destruction for a goal becomes destruction for its own sake. War generates its own force in which everyone loses. This might be called the Nagasaki principle.

The Nagasaki principle comes in two parts. It can operate at the level of close combat, driving fighters to commit atrocities that, in normal conditions, they would abhor. It operates equally at the level of the commanders, leading them to order strikes out of desperation, frustration, or merely for the sake of “doing something.” Such strikes draw equivalent responses from the other side until the destruction is complete. After the fact, massive carnage can seem to have been an act for which no one is responsible, like the result of a natural disaster.

That’s when a second aspect of the Nagasaki principle comes into play — the refusal to undertake a moral reckoning with what has been done.

Read the rest of the essay here, before renewing efforts to work for peace. Call the White House Comment Line 202-456-1111 and urge them to try harder for an unconditional ceasefire in the Middle East and to call for a Middle East Peace Summit. We’ve seen the unintended consequences of the Nagasaki principle far too much recently.

August 7, 2006 Posted by | nuclear weapons, peacemaking, the tragic | Comments Off on The Nagasaki Principle

Death Squads Now Targetting Gays in Iraq: Many Flee

I have mentioned elsewhere that, while I abhore all dictatorships, brutal secular dictatorships are often slightly better than brutal theocratic dictatorships. Under Saddam and the Baathists, Iraq was a brutal, incredibly repressive dictatorship that was a threat to minority groups within its borders (like the Kurds), and sometimes to its neighbors (Iran, Kuwait, Turkey, and, at least during Gulf War I, Israel). It was a brutal, repressive, dangerous dictatorship that the U.S. armed and loved until Kuwait, but STILL, it was never a nice place to live. Yet, for all that, the 1 million Iraqi Christians were protected under the Baathists from extremist Muslims. Now, as I reported earlier, they have been leaving Iraq in droves.

Women now have much FEWER rights than under Saddam (not that this bothers many Christian fundamentalists who share the same attitudes toward women). Those not wearing veils have been targetted for honor killings.

And, now, as Jennifer Copestake reports in the U.K. Observer, Shi’ite death squads are targetting suspected gays and lesbians. Those who can are fleeing. Again, a brutal, but secular, dictatorship protected sexual minorities from those who would enforce a rigid understanding of Sharia law. It is clear that some Christian fundamentalists (not all, but some) would also like to impose that here, too.

For the purposes of this post, I don’t care WHAT your opinions are on the morality of same-sex acts or other aspects of “homosexuality.” I would HOPE that you would nevertheless have the decency to realize that universal human rights (like the right to life, not being tortured, harassed, etc.) belong to everyone, including those some of us believe to be immoral. Let us stand up for the rights of all persecuted minorities, including gays and lesbians now forced to flee Iraq–and those GLBT folk who are persecuted in the U.S.A., too.

August 7, 2006 Posted by | GLBT issues, human rights., Iraq | 5 Comments

Tell White House: Offer REAL Ceasefire Proposal.

This is a message from Rev. Tim Simpson of the Christian Alliance for Progress and, given the urgency, I felt compelled to reprint it here.

Tell The White House to Offer a Real Cease-Fire Proposal

Dragging its feet as long as it possibly can, the Bush Administration, along with France, late last week offered a cease-fire proposal for the war in Lebanon which was thoroughly inadequate and which is unlikely to bring about anything but more bloodshed. The proposal does not say anything about the withdrawal of the Israeli Army from Lebanon and only requires that the Israelis cease “offensive” military operations, while Hezbollah would be required to stand down and disarm completely. Such one-sided terms, in which one side stops fighting while the other continues and gets to keep its territorial gains, is obviously not going to go anywhere. It is offered, like so much this Administration has done in the last six years, as a fig leaf to try and make people think it is doing something meaningful when in reality it intends to do nothing.

What This Will Mean

The carnage has reached new levels in recent days. Yesterday’s tragic killing of twelve Israeli Army reservists at Kfar Giladi by rocket attacks has undoubtedly hardened Israeli resolve, as it would any nation. Already this morning there are reports of significant loss of life in several Lebanese villages from aerial bombardment in response. Which will only harden the resolve of Hezbollah. And so on and so. Somehow this has to end.

We are all going to pay a heavy price for what is happening over there . Whether through the rise of oil prices and increased economic volatility or by increased instability in geopolitics, whatever happens in that part of our global village will impact our world, so even if we could ignore the suffering of the Israelis and the Lebanese, which we can’t because we are Christians, whose faith demands that those who suffer be at the forefront of our attention, at the very least we should be concerned because of what this war means for our own safety and well-being.

What You Can Do

Please take the time today from your busy Monday schedule to put a call into the White House so that they will know that Christian Americans are deeply grieved over the suffering of everyone who stands in harm’s way and are concerned that our government is not doing enough to bring about the immediate cessation of all, not just some hostilities and a withdrawal to internationally recognized boundaries. No, the President or Mrs. Bush won’t answer the phone, but their aides are always sensitive to the mood of the electorate and now so more than ever. As the campaign season heats up, and with GOP poll numbers at record lows, the White House is very closely monitoring their phone messages, emails and the like and will be alert to any sense that the American people are growing restless with their dawdling on this. We must prod them into action as soon as possible.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem–and Beirut.

August 7, 2006 Posted by | just peacemaking | Comments Off on Tell White House: Offer REAL Ceasefire Proposal.

Peace Hymn

This was sung at my church, Jeff Street Baptist Community, yesterday for Peace Sunday/Hiroshima Day (06 August 2006). The music for ‘Til Wars on Earth Shall End is found on the website of Every Church a Peace Church, but it was intentionally written to also work with the tune of The Church’s One Foundation.

‘Til Wars on Earth Shall End
by Ken Medema

Let truth and mercy find here a joyful meeting place
And here let peace and justice be joined in warm embrace
And in this congregation let strangers now be friends
To do the gospel’s bidding ’til wars on earth shall end.

Let truth’s bright flame be blazing in all the darkest hours
Confronting schemes of darkness, exposing evil’s powers
Let mercy’s gentle manner so willing to forgive
Fill warring hearts with longing ’til in truth’s light we live.

So now let peace and justice be never far apart
But flowing like a river for every thirsty heart
These two shall be united, a mighty moving stream
Upon whose banks we gather to work and pray and dream.

August 7, 2006 Posted by | liturgy, peace | Comments Off on Peace Hymn

One Book Meme

There has been this meme going around the Christian blogs. I haven’t been tagged, yet, but I thought I’d tag myself before everyone I would likely tag has already had a go, which certainly seems soon as more and more of my fellow bloggers have been tagged. I’m taking the Bible off the list of personal options, but your choice if tagged.

Here it is:

1. One book that changed your life:
That could only be John Howard Yoder’s, The Politics of Jesus (1972; rev. ed., 1994)

2. One book that you’ve read more than once:

See above, but also Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (German, 1936; English, 1963).

3. One book you’d want on a desert island:
Only one? Hmm. This is a tough one. Gustavo Gutierrez, Teologia de la Liberacion (1971) so that by the time I get rescued, I’ll have a much deeper knowledge of the seminal text of Latin American Liberation Theology and my Spanish will be much improved as well. (If you’re not willing to work on your Spanish, the English translation is A Theology of Liberation (orig. publ., 1973; Rev. Ed., 1988) and you can find it here.)

4. One book that made you laugh:

Michael Moore, Dude, Where’s My Country? (2003). ‘Course it also made me cry, too.

5. One book that made you cry:
Dee Brown, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West (1970).

6. One book that you wish had been written:
Miracle After 9/11: How the U.S.A. Renounced Violence and Worked for Global Reconciliation.

7. One book that you wish had never been written:

Hal Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth (1970). (Of course, it is fun to see how wrong Dispensationalism is by comparing all the places where Lindsey’s predictions were wrong and then changed without any comment in subsequent editions!)

8. One book you’re currently reading:
Mark Theissen Nation, John Howard Yoder: Mennonite Patience, Evangelical Witness, Catholic Convictions (2005). I have been waiting for this work on Yoder by Mark Nation for 5 years. This is the best secondary analysis of Yoder, from one of the top Yoder scholars.

9. One book you’ve been meaning to read: James P. Byrd, The Challenges of Roger Williams: Religious Liberty, Violent Persecution, and the Bible (2002). I simply have to get to this in the near future.

10. Now tag five people: Kevin Borders; Gil Gulick; Pam BG; Amy Butler ; Will Prescott.

August 7, 2006 Posted by | books | 5 Comments