Levellers

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

Afghanistan’s Law Allowing Marital Rape

As you may have heard, the Afghanistan legislature passed a law last week that requires married women to have sex with her husband up to four times per week unless she is ill or unless sex would aggravate an illness!  At European and American objections, President Karzai promised to review the law (which the United Nations is calling a legalization of marital rape) has promised a thorough review of the law, but so far “doesn’t find anything objectional.”  The law is causing problems for the U.S. and NATO as we send both more civilians to help nation-build and more troops to hunt al Qaeda, protext civilians, and train Afghan military and police–an escalation I object to and predict will backfire. (By the way, anyone notice that the supposedly successful Iraqi “surge” is coming undone?)

When asked, Pres. Obama called the law “abhorrent” and I agree.  I think we should pressure Afghanistan to reverse this horrid law.  But before we in the West start to act superior and call this an illustration of how backward Afghanistan is or how patriarchal and sexist Islam is, etc., let’s use this nasty legislation as a time for a good hard look in the mirror.  In MANY Western countries “marital rape” is still unknown AS A LEGAL CONCEPT.  And before we act shocked at this Afghan law, let us remember in how many cultural contexts it would be assumed that wives give up all right to say no to their husband’s sexual advances.  How many of your own relatives, especially of a certain age, would speak of constant sexual availability as among a wife’s “marital duties?”

Here in Kentucky, we passed a law outlawing marital rape for the first time in the late 1990s.  Speaking with attorney friends, I can tell you that the law has proved unenforceable.  A wife appealing to it sometimes incurs domestic abuse–the opposite of the law’s intention.  And getting a KY jury to convict a husband of raping his wife has so far proven impossible.  It’s been tried 12 times since the law was signed. Zero convictions.  And many other U.S. states (including many which have far more liberal reputations than my adopted home here in KY) do not yet even acknowledge marital rape as a legal concept.  And conservative Christians are among those who most often respond to polls by denying that wives can morally refuse their husbands.

Sure, legalizing the inability of wives  to  say no, as the Afghan law does, is even more horrible.  But maybe we better start by acknowledging just how patriarchal and sexist our own religion and culture is, how far from sexual equality are the heterosexual  marriages in OUR cultures, before we act as if the Afghanis (or their Islamic heritage) is uniquely anti-woman.  Protest this law? Yes. Stand up for women everywhere and against the kind of cultural relativism that would sweep this under the rug? Definitely.  But not out of false  feelings of moral superiority–only with humility and a renewed determination to stand up for women, including married women, in our own lands and cultures and faiths, too.  Anything less is just hypocrisy.

UPDATE:  Good News:  Karzai has scrapped the law, for now.  Bad News:  The law’s failure will probably be a recruiting tool for the Taliban. Sigh.

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April 6, 2009 Posted by | Afghanistan, Christianity, family, feminism, Islam, sexism | 11 Comments

Another Barrier Crossed

Women continue to make progress in Baptist life around the world–everywhere except the increasingly far-right and  cultic Southern Baptist Convention.  My friend Dan Schweissing reports that back on 01 March of this year, Margarita Campos became the first woman ordained to the ministry in CHILE.  See his full report here.  In the ’90s such firsts happened in Nicaragua, Cuba, and Bolivia.  At the turn of the millenium, such firsts happened in several Eastern European nations.  Meanwhile, a Southern Baptist “scholar” blames wife abuse by conservative Christian men on the supposed failure of women to submit to their husband’s “God-given authority” quickly enough. 

For the sake of my daughters, I rejoice constantly that, although I remain a Baptist from the (U.S.) South, I have long since ceased to be a Southern Baptist.  My daughters have grown up knowing that their mother is an ordained Baptist minister (and formerly a pastor), having a woman for a pastor, women as over half of the diaconate in the congregation.  They worship in a congregation of several racial/ethnic groups (at one time, we had 5 separate racial/ethnic groupings in the membership, though “whites” remain the numerical majority) and with out gay and lesbian Christians.  A congregation that works hard to be accessible to its members in wheelchairs and which contains a wide diversity of education levels. We have to let middle-aged white men like myself preach at least twice a year just so the children know that it’s allowed. 🙂

I just worry that they won’t be able to find many congregations like this when they go off to university. But the news from Chile suggests that things are changing all over the globe.  Hallelujah.

July 21, 2008 Posted by | Baptists, sexism, women | 8 Comments

Race and Gender Faultlines

The faultlines in U.S. politics over race and gender are becoming extremely obvious.  But this is hardly new.  This country, including it’s great promise, was built on the genocide and stolen land of Native peoples and the chattel slavery of Africans–and almost every civilization throughout history has oppressed women.

As a white, male, Southerner, I continue to grieve at the way the Powers That Be use race and gender to exploit not only women and racial minorities, but also poor whites.  Poor and lower-middle class whites continue to allow racism to be used to harm our own best interests.  Slavery didn’t help poor whites–because free labor beats cheap labor every time! So how did rich white slaveowners convince thousands of poor whites in the South to fight and kill and die so that other people could continue to own human beings as property??

After the Civil War, during the Gilded Age of Robber Barons (our current economic inequality is reaching those levels), the Populist movement rose up fight money power with people power, led by Tom Watson, a Southern white who tried to forge a multi-racial coalition to overcome economic exploitation. Racism was used to break up the coalition and, by the end, Watson himself had become a racist demagogue who supported the worst of the Jim Crow segregation laws.

In the North, they used race and ethnicity to set Irish against Italian against Pole–and all of them against African-Americans, while the rich laughed all the way to the bank.

The first women’s movement came from the involvement of white women in the work to abolish slavery–and women’s rights were championed by black abolitionists like Frederick Douglass. But when the only version of the 15th Amendment (banning restrictions on voting based on race) which would pass enfranchised only black males, a schism appeared between the movements for racial and gender equality. Hurtful things were said on both sides.

This reappeared during the Civil Rights movement and the 2nd Wave Feminist movement:  Remember Stokely Carmichael’s infamous comment that the only role for women in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was “prone!”

Race affects even the healthcare debate: Bill Clinton has rightly mentioned several times that we came closest to getting universal healthcare under Harry Truman’s post-WWII presidency. That’s the time period when Canada and most of Europe adopted universal healthcare and was a perfect time for us to do so as well. Truman had campaigned on completing Roosevelt’s New Deal. Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress. Healthcare expenses were a much lower percentage of the economy. But it was blocked by Southern legislators, despite the fact that the South would have benefitted most and contributed the least to the plan in taxes. Why? Southern legislators feared that universal healthcare would force them to integrate their hospitals! (They were probably right.  Southern hospitals were finally integrated after the 1965 passage of the Medicare and Medicaid Bills–which were nearly blocked by Southern Senate filibusters!)

And no one should be surprised at the Black/Latino split in the U.S. (though it is not as wide as white media pundits make it out). In many places following the Civil Rights movement, white power brokers would allow one “minority position” in city councils or business boards, etc. so that Brown presence meant no Black presence and vice versa.  White politicians would and still do condemn a black owned business, wipe it out, and rebuild with a white company–and hire all Latino workers to build the new construction.

This election could end tragically with divisions along race and gender lines.  The Powers of repression, economic exploitation, ecological degradation, and military imperialism could get their way by exploiting our fears and resentments.  Or we could refuse to let that happen this time.

Regardless, we clearly need more national conversations–real dialogues–on race and gender matters. They will not always be comfortable, especially for white males. We have benefitted from our race and gender even when we have not asked to–and when we are struggling ourselves it can feel as if we are blamed for what others have done in our names.

Healing has to begin somewhere. Let it begin in each of homes, churches, and communities.

April 26, 2008 Posted by | family, prejudice, race, sexism, U.S. politics | 2 Comments

Peace Quote

A church which cannot take a firm stand against war is a church which does not deserve to be believed.” Harvey Cox (1929-), American Baptist minister and Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard University Divinity School.

April 25, 2007 Posted by | Baptists, heroes, peace, sexism | 2 Comments

Peace Quote

“Twelve men went out from Jerusalem into the world, and they were unlearned men, unable to speak [i.e., unable to speak eloquently because not trained in Greek rhetoric]; but by the power of God they told every race of humanity that they were sent by Christ to teach all people the word of God.  And we who formerly slew one another not only now refuse to make war against our enemies, but for the sake of not telling lies or deceiving those who examine us [i.e., investigators charged with getting them to confess to the crime of being Christian], gladly die confessing Christ.”–Justin Martyr (c. 100-165).

In a description of the early Christian movement to the Roman Emperor about the year 150.

April 22, 2007 Posted by | evangelism, heroes, love of enemies, nonviolence, Obituaries, peace, sexism | 1 Comment

Peace Quote

“We hold Not to the shedding of blood and refrain from all violence and war.” 

From the church covenant of the First Baptist Church,Kingston, Jamaica, 1795.  Written by George Liele (c. 1750-1828). 


 Liele (also spelled “Lisle”) was a slave in Colonial Georgia given his freedom when called to preach the gospel.  He founded the earliest known Black Baptist church in continual existence, the First African Baptist Church, Silver Bluff, South Carolina.  He also founded churches in Savannah and Augusta, Georgia.  When children of his former master, Henry Sharpe, tried to recapture him, Liele traveled to Jamaica as a missionary of the Black Baptist churches he founded.  Thus, he anticipated by over a decade William Carey’s mission to India, usually considered the start of the modern missions movement.  In all of Liele’s work, he preached that slavery was an abominable evil, but, he also preached and taught nonviolence consistently.

April 22, 2007 Posted by | Baptists, discipleship, heroes, peace, sexism | Comments Off on Peace Quote

Peace Blogger Interview #6: Marty Friedrich

I don’t usually post these interviews so close to one another, but I am trying to catch up a backlog.  Plus, this gives folk all weekend to read it without me posting anything else. So here goes:

Today’s Christian Peace Blogger interview is with Marty Friedrich, a church administrator in Houston, Texas, USA.  Her blog, On the Homefront, was begun after her son was sent to Iraq as part of the U.S. Army and his emails to her in 2003 opened her eyes to the horrors of war. Marty’s blog is very political (and, in Texas, it very much swims UPSTREAM) and includes numerous pictures, videos, audio interviews, etc., giving it quite a hi-tech look.  She is dedicated firmly to the view that “peace is patriotic” and that one can love and support military members and veterans and still vigorously oppose particular wars and/or war and violence itself. Welcome to the CPB interview, Marty.

MLW-W:  Let’s start, as all these interviews have, by telling us something about yourself, personally. 

Marty: I have a bit of rebel in me. Well…maybe more than a little bit.  Left over from my “hippie” days in the late 60s early 70s. I am shy and reserved, but do not hesitate to speak my mind if I feel it appropriate. Presently, I am obsessed with exposing the lies that led us into
Iraq and doing all I can to bring the troops home and take care of them when they get here.  

 MLW-W:  Tell us about your immediate family. 

Marty: I am married with 2 children: A married daughter (28); a son (33) who is now an Iraq War combat veteran. I am lucky to still have both my parents. My mom just turned 86 and my Dad turned 90 this past November.  He is a WWII combat veteran.

MLW-W: That’s quite a family. You’ve spoken of your son’s military service in Iraq and we’ll say more about that in a bit, but you haven’t spoken about your family’s reaction to your new-found activism.  Were they supportive or opposed? 

Marty: My family has not really reacted much at all.  I’ve always been left of center so I don’t think any of them are surprised at my recent activism.  My kids are very supportive and proud of me.  My husband doesn’t share my activism, but he isn’t opposed to me doing it. He can’t stand politics and sometimes becomes annoyed at my ranting.   My mom has always been against war but she was never an activist. She and my Dad (while on military leave) were married in 1942 and shortly thereafter my Dad went overseas and didn’t come home until 1945. It was a very stressful time for my mom. She does not like for my Dad to talk about “the war.”  She amuses me when Bush is on TV.  She becomes really agitated and calls him a “warmonger.” She can’t stand to look at him and can’t understand why anyone could like him. 

 My Dad doesn’t say too much, but I can tell he doesn’t have much respect for this administration and their policies.  I have no siblings; I am an only child. 

 My husband’s family are all extremely conservative.  I don’t talk politics, religion, or activism with them.                                                                                                 

MLW-W: I’m so glad that your peace activism hasn’t caused the family rifts that sometimes happen.  Switching topics, what do you do for a living?  When not working or blogging, what do you like to do? 

Marty: I have been a church administrator/secretary for the last 25 years. [Marty works at a different church than she attends.]  I enjoy spending time with my family, eating good food (not necessarily healthy), working out, and sitting in a comfy chair with a good book.  I am a member of Military Families Speak Out  and am presently helping to establish a Houston Chapter. I enjoy “short” vacations, which must include a museum or two and must not include an airplane.  I like to take the “scenic route” with the wheels firmly on the ground.  

MLW-W: We’ll return to your work in Military Families Speak Out and the “no airplaine” thing. First,tell us something about your faith. How long have you been a Christian? 

Marty: I can’t remember when I wasn’t a “Christian.”  My mother read the scriptures to me from the time I was in her womb . There is no defining moment that I can pinpoint and say “this is when I became a Christian.”  It has just always been a part of who I am. I have gone through periods of doubt and drought, however.

MLW-W:  Of what local congregation/parish are you a member? If your local church is part of a denomination, what is it?  

Marty: I am a member of a local United Methodist Church in the Houston area. [Because her peace activism is somewhat controversial in Texas, Marty prefers not to identify the particular United Methodist parish she calls home.]

MLW-W:  Were you raised United Methodist? Have you ever been part of a different Christian denomination or tradition? 

Marty: No. I was raised Southern Baptist and continued in that denomination until I became a United Methodist in 2003. The church that I had grown to love was in full “warrior” mode and the war drums beat loudly.  “Support the troops” meant “support the war and George Bush.” I wasn’t buying it.  Pride in America was overflowing.  I was drowning in it.  I made a hasty exit and have not looked back.

 MLW-W: How did you get into blogging?  

Marty: I came across the blog of a former pastor of mine and rather than rant and rave in the comments section of his blog, I decided to do him a favor and start my own blog. It has given me an outlet to speak my mind without fear.

MLW-W: Are there problems you see with blogging? 

Marty:  Yes, there are problems with blogging. For me at least.  It can be addicting.  I sometimes leave things undone to blog. It can be very time consuming.   

MLW-W: With all the news stories and multi-media parts to your blog, I imagine that it is even more time consuming than some of us other bloggers find it! J Switching gears, again, how do you relate your faith to issues of peacemaking? What sources of strength have you found? 

 Marty: “Love your enemies and blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God”…that pretty much says it all for me.  I find strength in the peace bloggers I’ve met on my journey. The UMC [United Methodist Church]  has been a place of rest in the midst of the storm.  I have found strength in the military families that I have met in person and online who are struggling along with me against war, yet have loved ones fighting in war.  The tension between the two can be overwhelming at times. It is a blessing to have someone who understands that tension. War brought us together, yet it is peace that we work together to achieve. 

 MLW-W: You are the daughter of a veteran and the mother of a veteran. Do you have  military experience, yourself?  

Marty: I’ve never been in the military, but come from a long line of those who have going back to American Revolution.

MLW-W: Wow. As a member of a family with a military tradition, myself, I know something of what that’s like.  The tensions between that heritage and a commitment to gospel nonviolence can be very strong.  Other than your son’s email messages, I am wondering just what experiences initiated you into the nonviolent tradition. 

Marty: I took a class “From Violence to Wholeness“- a ten part process in the spirituality and practice of active nonviolence in 2004.  I have tried to incorporate what I learned in my daily life. 

MLW-W: Is that the Franciscan course by that name? 

Marty: Yes, by Ken Butigan in collaboration with Patricia Bruno, O.P. [It is from] Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service . I learned about this class at church.  The woman who led the class was a nun and she came and spoke about the class during a morning worship service. I couldn’t wait to talk to her after the service.  While taking that class my son’s (first) tour in Iraq was extended for an additional 3 months . It was during the Al Sadr uprising. It was in that class that I began to heal and find the courage to speak out. Unfortunately, not long after this my pastor was appointed elswhere and the minister that took his place was obviously a Bush and war supporter. Everything about the church immediately changed. People that I had connected with left and started attending other churches.  It would take me two years to find another church.MLW-W: Okay, you may have already answered this, but do you consider yourself a pacifist?  

Marty: Yes, I would consider myself a pacifist.  The gospel is peace. It isn’t just “peace in your heart.” It’s more than that, much more. I’ve always known that and believed it but never really gave it a lot of thought.  It took my son’s involvement in the Iraq War and especially his letters from Baghdad, to cause me to take peace and peace activism more seriously. His letters were a wake-up call for me.  I began to see every aspect of my life differently, including my faith and what it meant to be a Christ-follower.

MLW-W: Wow.  What led you to join Christian Peace Bloggers?   

Marty: I wasn’t sure I would qualify for the Christian Peace Bloggers and hesitated to even join because of the nature of my blog.  Hopefully, I will learn to be a better peacemaker by participating. Thank you, Michael, for allowing me that opportunity.  

MLW-W:  Do you read any of the other blogs in the blog-ring? Which ones do you like and why?  Have you alerted any readers to your blog about these blogs (or specific posts on them) which you like? 

Marty: Since I joined the blog-ring I’ve not had an opportunity to read many of the other blogs.  My plan is to take the time to do that and will alert my readers to posts that I like.

MLW-W: Again, you have partly answered this, but, outside of blogging, do you participate in any other peace-related activities or organizations? If so, tell us about them. 

Marty: Military Families Speak Out  (everyone in this organization is against the Iraq War, but not everyone is a pacifist). We work to support the troops by ending the occupation of Iraq and to take care of them when they come home.  We also support reparations to
Iraq. [Nota bene for readers outside the U.S.: As in most nations, traditionally in the U.S. military personnel, veterans, and military families have been expected to keep any criticisms of a particular war or of government policies to themselves.  Cracks in this tradition began at least as early as the Vietnam War when many returning veterans began joining the peace movement, forming organizations such as Veterans for Peace and Vietnam Veterans Against the War.  But, perhaps because of instant email communication with loved ones, the U.S. and U.K.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq has, for the first-time, spawned vocal resistance from family members of active-duty military personnel. In addition to MFSO, with which Marty is affiliated, there is Gold Star Families for Peace, composed of family members who have lost loved ones to the war and whose most famous member is Cindy Sheehan, and the Aztec Warrior Project, founded by Gold Star member Fernando Suarez del Solar in memory of his late son, Jesus Alberto Suarez del Solar Navarro, to conduct counter-recruitment among Latinos and African-Americans who are the special targets of U.S. military recruiters.]

Freeway Bloggers. We stand on overpass bridges during rush hour traffic with signs such as “Stop the Killing,” “Bring ‘em Home,” “Wage Peace.”

Various local peace events and marches.

MLW-W Does your church take peace issues seriously? Give us some examples, if “yes.” If “no,” what could you do to raise awareness about this in your local congregation? 

Marty: Yes they do. There are several peace activists in my congregation.  I learn of ways to work for peace and justice through the United Methodist Women, the General Board of Church and Society, and the Peace with Justice Ministry of the UMC.

  MLW-W:  Have you travelled outside your home nation?

Marty: No I have not traveled outside the U.S. That would require me to board an airplane.

MLW-W: Hmm. If you could travel by car or boat to another country (Canada, Mexico, etc.), would you be open to this?  Say, a short-term mission experience or a church-based peace conference in which you represented your congregation? 

Marty: It would depend on the distance and the time of year. Plus I would not drive that far alone.

 MLW-W: Okay. Now, as a reader of your blog, I know this next question sounds crazy. But, for the benefit of those new to you, how well do you stay informed of global events? 

Marty: I am an internet news junkie.  I try to stay aware of what is happening all over the globe.

MLW-W: What internet news sources do you find helpful and trustworthy? 

Marty: Common Dreams, Raw StoryInformation Clearing House, Tom Paine, Think Progress, Crooks and Liars, Anti-War.com, Democracy Now, Liberty TV, Free Speech TV, Link TVPacifica Radio ….to name a few. 

MLW-W:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with us? Marty: Thank you Michael for letting me be a part. 

MLW-W: Marty, you are more than welcome. You add much to Christian Peace Bloggers. Folks, be sure to check out On the Homefront.  And, if you have family or friends who believe they cannot “support the troops” without supporting war, send them to Marty’s blog.

April 13, 2007 Posted by | blog-ring, human rights., peace, politics, sexism | Comments Off on Peace Blogger Interview #6: Marty Friedrich

Peace Blogger Interview # 5: Lee McCracken

Welcome to the 5th installment in our series of interviews with the folks in the Christian Peace Bloggers blog-ring.  For the previous interviews in this series, see #s 1, 2, 3, & 4. Up today is Lee McCracken who runs the blog, A Thinking Reed.   Welcome to the interview, Lee.

MLW-W:  Let’s get right to it. How would you describe yourself? 

Lee: In the words of my blog description: a thirty-something mainline Protestant, political outlier, aspiring vegetarian, heavy metal aficionado, husband, and coffee addict. (Not necessarily in order of importance). I grew up in western
Pennsylvania and attended college there. I pursued graduate studies in the Midwest, and since then have lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, Philadelphia, and now Boston.

MLW-W:  I’ve been an “aspiring vegetarian” before and found it quite difficult. But what is a “political outlier?” I’m not familiar with that term. 

Lee: That’s just my way of saying that I don’t really feel like I fit in anywhere on the current American political landscape. Philosophically, I’m pretty conservative, but I think contemporary political conservatism is more or less a disaster. But nor do I think of myself as a liberal or leftist.

MLW-W: I think many readers of these interviews, and not just those in the U.S.,  could make similar comments.   Shifting topics, tell us about your family. 

Lee: I’m married to my wife of six years and we have two cats; I’ve got one older sister who’s married and has two adolescent boys, who all live in the same town where we grew up, as do my parents.

MLW-W:  What do you do for a living?  When not working or blogging, what do you like to do? 

Lee: I work in the editorial department of a large publishing firm. In my spare time I like to spend time with my wife, enjoy the outdoors, read books on theology, philosophy, culture, politics, and even the occasional novel, spend time with friends, and enjoy the cultural offerings of the Boston area.

MLW-W: How did you get into publishing? 

Lee: The way I personally got into it was by applying for an entry-level position as an editorial assistant. I had just come out of grad school studying philosophy and had essentially no experience in the corporate sector. While being an editorial assistant isn’t the most glamorous (or high-paying!) job in the world, it provided a stepping-stone to better things.

MLW-W:  Tell us something about your faith. How long have you been a Christian? 

Lee: I’ve been a convinced and practicing Christian since about 2001.

MLW-W: That’s pretty recent to be as well-informed as your blog shows you to be. You must not be kidding about reading theology!  Of what local congregation/parish are you a member? If your local church is part of a denomination, what is it? 

    Lee: I attend the Church of the Advent in Boston (Episcopal), often called the “flagship parish” of Anglo-Catholicism in the
U.S.
 

MLW-W:  You mentioned that you have been a practicing Christian only since 2001, but some people come back to the churches of their childhood.  So, were you raised as a cradle Episcopalian? Have you ever been part of a different Christian denomination or tradition? 

Lee: I was baptized in a Reformed church and attended Presbyterian and Methodist churches during my childhood. From about age 15 to 25 I was more or less completely unchurched. My wife and I have been members of several Lutheran (ELCA) congregations since we’ve been married, but we started attending “The Advent” shortly after moving to Boston in the summer of 2006.

MLW-W: How did you get into blogging?   What do you like about it?  Are there problems you see with blogging? 

Lee: Blogging seemed like the ideal way to spare my long-suffering wife my political tirades and inflict them on an unsuspecting world instead. I also initially saw it as a way of “thinking out loud” about various things I’m interested in. One problem I see with blogging is that there’s a temptation to write with more certainty than one genuinely has. What begins as a tentative and exploratory project can quickly become polemical.

MLW-W:  How do you relate your faith to issues of peacemaking? What sources of strength have you found? 

Lee: I think for me the most important resource provided by my faith has been a certain critical distance over the last six years as we see our nation launching into what our rulers have called a generation-long “war on terror.” I see the role of Christians to be, in part, one of asking tough questions and questioning the assumptions that a lot of modern statecraft takes for granted. Christians of all people should be able to critically examine their own motives and not neatly divide the world into the Children of Light and the Children of Darkness.

MLW-W:  How do you think Christians can foster such critical distance from unthinking nationalism? We know that this kind of national idolatry has been a problem in other times and places in church history, most notoriously during the Nazi period when most German churches and pastors uncritically supported Hitler and turned a blind eye and deaf ear to the sufferings of the Jews. So, what kinds of practices could churches adopt which would help to immunize them against such nationalist fervor and help them be able to pose such critical questions to the nation-state?

Lee: I think Christians need to be reminded that our first allegiance is to God. One way of doing that is to learn the Christian story as the most important story of our lives, rather than the story of any particular political entity. As a liturgical Christian I find the church year with its seasons and feasts to be a good way of learning this story and beginnning to see ourselves in its light.

Another obvious issue is to be better connected with Christians around the world and try to understand how our nation’s policies affect them.

MLW-W: I have been stressing the second part of your answer for some time.  I think U.S. Christians have less contact with Christians around the world than ever before.  It used to be that furloughing missionaries regularly toured local churches in their denomination while on furlough and taught about their host culture (along with drumming up financial support). They also often arranged for representative leaders from their host culture to visit U.S. churches, too. Since most mainline Protestant denominations have been fielding fewer missionaries and instead mostly providing financial support to indigenous leaders in various former mission fields, that contact is much smaller.  I think that one result has been that U. S. Christians usually know only what the mainstream media propaganda tell them about other cultures. Combined with the fact that most Americans are not fluent in any other language than English and many are remarkably uncurious about the world outside our borders, and we have a people that is ripe to believe any nationalist propaganda that comes down the pike.  It’s a very scary situation.

Switching gears, do you consider yourself a pacifist? If so, say something about how you see nonviolence (or nonresistance) and its connections to the gospel.  Were you raised a Christian pacifist or did you convert to this view and, if the latter, tell us something of how that came about? 

 

 

Lee: I don’t consider myself a pacifist, though I’m very sympathetic to pacifism and have learned a lot from the writings and examples of pacifists.

MLW-W: Do you consider yourself part of the Just War tradition?  How do you connect JWT to the gospel and to Jesus’ command to be peacemakers? 

Lee: I do consider myself part of the Just War tradition broadly speaking. This is the tradition in which the churches under whose authority I most directly stand are situated, and reason and experience seem to me to corroborate this stance.

Just War theory, as I understand it, is rooted ultimately in the call to love our neighbor. Protecting the innocent from aggression can be, in my view, a legitimate function of the political authorities, just as ensuring social and economic justice is. But the rationale for going to war also delimits it; it’s the commitment to protecting the innocent that gives rise to the limitations JWT puts on the conduct of war.

Jesus’ call to be peacemakers is an important part of the gospel and I see the role of Christians to be to press for nonviolent solutions to problems wherever possible. According to Just War theory war should be a last resort, and I believe our polity has failed to take that seriously enough. So, one of the roles of Christians ought to be to press our leaders not to consider war-making a routine tool of policy.

MLW-W: Are you familiar with the emerging ethic of Just Peacemaking? It attempts to find common ground between pacifists and Just War folk by providing real content to the criterion of “last resort,” spelling out what “resorts” should be tried first. There would still be differences between Just War theorists and pacifists if all efforts failed, but this kind of ethic puts the emphasis on what we should be doing actively for a just peace, rather than on when and if we are ever allowed to make war.  

Lee: I’m not too familiar with this line of thought, but it’s definitely something I’m interested in learning more about.

MLW-W:  Well, in that case, I refer Lee and our readers herehere, and here, as well as here , and here .  Switching gears, again, what led you to join Christian Peace Bloggers?  Since joining have you blogged any posts on peacemaking?  Have they gotten any feedback from readers?

 Lee: CPB seemed to me a good way to bring together bloggers of both pacifist and just war outlooks who share a concern about current U.S. policy, especially in Iraq. I see more uniting than dividing pacifists and JWT-ists with respect to issues like preventive war as well as associated issues connected with civil liberties and the treatment of detainees. I think it’s good to have a critical Christian perspective represented in the blogosphere.  I’ve posted several items on war & peace and have received good feedback from readers, some of it critical, which I like.

MLW-W:  Do you read any of the other blogs in the blog-ring? Which ones do you like and why?  Have you alerted any readers to your blog about these blogs (or specific posts on them) which you like? 

Lee: I’m a long-time fan of Avdat, The Ivy Bush, Leaving Münster, and A Conservative Blog for Peace, (and Levellers too, of course!). I like to read blogs that provide a wide range of viewpoints – theological, political, etc. I think CPB has done a great job bringing together voices from across the spectrum.

MLW-W: Those are some good blogs, by some good Christian thinkers. I’m not sure being a fan of Levellers is “of course,” but thanks, anyway. I agree that the blog-ring has brought together a wide range of voices and approaches to peacemaking and started some interesting cross-fertilization of perspectives. It’s caught on much faster than I had any reason to expect.  MLW-W:  Outside of blogging, do you participate in any other peace-related activities or organizations? If so, tell us about them. 

Lee: I’m not much of an activist, but I do try to lend some support to organizations that I think are doing good work. I think one of the more promising recent organizations is the National Religious Coalition Against Torture , which has been spearheaded by theologian George Hunsinger. I happily signed their petition and have tried to use what small influence I have to bring attention to that particular issue. 

MLW-W: That campaign is also one that I have tried to highlight on this blog, along with the recent spin-off organization, Evangelicals for Human Rights and the work of torture-survivor, Sr. Diana Ortiz, and her organization, Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International.  Does your local congregation take peace issues seriously? Give us some example, if “yes.” If “no,” what could you do to raise awareness about this in your local congregation? 

Lee: I wouldn’t necessarily say that my parish is active in “peace issues” as such. We have a wide diversity of political outlooks among parishioners from the ultra-conservative to the ultra-liberal, which is actually part of what I like about it. However, we are involved in the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization which promotes interfaith cooperation in addressing local issues like health care and urban violence. This strikes me as a good thing both in bringing a faith-based perspective to issues faced by the city, but also in fostering cooperation among Christians, Jews, Muslims and others, which seems more necessary than ever.

 MLW-W: What about your denomination or your church’s wider connections to the Church Universal?  Are peace issues a part of those non-local/denominational connections? 

Lee: The leadership of both the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the two bodies I identify most closely with, were vocal in their opposition to the Iraq War. Both are also very involved in overseas humanitarian projects and promoting social justice which, one hopes, will help uproot at least some of the causes of conflict in our world.

MLW-W:  Have you travelled outside your home nation? How well do you stay informed with global events? 

Lee: I’ve been to Canada, the UK, Ireland, and Italy, and had wonderful experiences in all those places. The Internet has made an unprecedented amount of information from around the world available to anyone with a connection (even if it has also made an unprecedented amount of garbage available). I’d say I get 90% of my news from the Internet in fact. There’s also a plethora of alternative media available online, if you can separate the wheat from the chaff.

MLW-W: What do you think would help folk learn to separate wheat from chaff in either mainstream media or the alternatives available online? 

Lee: This is tricky because most of us have to rely on the accounts of others to know what’s going on – we’re not in a position to be on the ground in Iraq, say. And most people, to be fair, simply don’t have the time to sift through the vast sea of information out there – they’re too busy working, raising their families, etc. For those who have the luxury, I think it’s good to expose yourself to a variety of viewpoints from across the political spectrum as well as to international news. There’s a very noticeable difference between the way certain issues are covered in the U.S. just compared to other Anglophone nations.

MLW-W:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with us? 

Lee: Just that I’m thankful for the opportunity to participate in this endeavor.

MLW-W: Thanks for participating. Folks, if you enjoyed this and would find more of Lee’s perspectives, be sure to keep checking out, A Thinking Reed.

April 11, 2007 Posted by | blog-ring, just war theory, peace, sexism | 2 Comments

Powerful Resurrection Messages from Around the World

DLW of the Anti-Manichaeist blog notes the powerful resurrection messages on Easter in the Ukraine and by Christians in Pakistan.  Ukraine, of course, is seeking to keep the democracy it won through the nonviolent Orange Revolution a few years ago. And the bishop of the Raiwind-Church of Pakistan stressed Jesus’ nonviolence and that His way is the way of peace–such a contrast to American Christians who think are enthusiastic for wars and who see invasions of Muslim-majority countries as “missionary opportunities.”

See also the Easter message of Dr. Bernard Sabella, speaking in Jerusalem for the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Palestine-Israel, “A Holy Week for All.”

April 9, 2007 Posted by | Christian calendar, discipleship, Easter, nonviolence, peace, sexism | 3 Comments

Peace Blogger Interview #4: Aric Clark

clark-aric.JPGWelcome to the next in our series of interviews with the members of Christian Peace Bloggers, blog ring. Today, we interview Aric Clark, whose blogging nom de plume is “The Miner,” who is a Presbyterian seminary student and who blogs at Mined Splatterings. Welcome to the Peace Blogger interview, Aric, even if the picture you sent looks MUCH younger than the one on your blog profile! 🙂

MLW-W: How would you describe yourself? 

Aric: Husband. Father. Adventurer. Student. Preacher. In that order… 

MLW-W: Interesting. I am finding the self-descriptions in these interviews to be very fascinating. Since you place “husband,” and “father” first in your list of roles, tell us about your family. 

Aric: I am wed to the incredible Stacia Ann, father of Avery, and soon to be father of another child (June15th). We are hopeless romantics and travelers with a passion for exotic food, archaeological digs and, um, Hot Wheels.

MLW-W: Congrats on a great family and your and Stacia Ann’s upcoming birth! Er, do you want to explain about the passion for Hot Wheels? Or archeology? Have you been on any digs? 

Aric: Well, the Hot Wheels are my son, Avery’s passion–so I get to play with them a lot by default. It’s really a great lesson in reordering priorities.  As for the archeology, I haven’t worked on any digs, but I’ve just had a fascination with it since childhood.  If I wasn’t going into the ministry, archeaology would be my other option. I devour National Geographic, and, if given the opportunity, I visit every dig or site I come within a hundred miles of–and I have far more fun than most people at museums.

MLW-W: Okay. Well, friends and family of Aric, think about giving him a gift subscription to Biblical Archeology Review  for his birthday or Christmas, right? Well, you’ve partly answered these next questions, already, but, what do you do for a living?  When not working or blogging, what do you like to do?

 Aric: I am full-time student in the M.Div. program at San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo, CA.  However,  I work plenty of part-time jobs to make ends meet. The most recent ones have been waiting tables, painting houses and a paid internship. I am a very social person, so much of my free time is just spent in conversation. I also love movies and the theater. I host a weekly game-night where we cycle through different pen and paper RPG’s. I write fiction. I read, a lot, both fiction and theology.  

MLW-W:  Tell us something about your faith. How long have you been a Christian?

 

Aric: There are two answers to this. On the one hand, I was baptized as an infant and raised in a Presbyterian household. On the other hand, I wasn’t very engaged in church or active discipleship until about three years ago after returning from some pretty dramatic experiences overseas. My call to ministry and commencement of active discipleship were pretty much simultaneous.

MLW-W:  Of what local congregation/parish are you a member?  

Aric: I am active in two congregations. My home church, which is supporting me through seminary, is Federated Church of Placerville (a Presbyterian/Methodist congregation), CA which is in the Sierra Nevada foothills on the way to Lake Tahoe. Nearer to seminary, and where I have been attending regularly lately, I am involved in First Presbyterian of Richmond, CA which is near Oakland.

MLW-W:  Were you raised in this particular tradition? Have you ever been part of a different Christian denomination or tradition? 

Aric: I was raised Presbyterian, but my family attended worship only rarely – as such I managed to avoid being indoctrinated, but I also missed a lot of formation. Although, I’ve never been actively a part of another denomination or tradition I have experience of many traditions. I have lived with Buddhist monks in Taiwan. I spent a month in an Orthodox Monastery in Greece. I have frequently attended worship at Roman Catholic and Anglican churches when overseas.

MLW-W: Say something more about these experiences in Taiwan and Greece, please. 

Aric: During my undergraduate education I participated in a program called Comparative Religions and Cultures (which you can read more about here). As part of that program I spent time learning Chan meditation, doing dharma talks, sleeping, eating and observing life at the four major Buddhist “mountains” in Taiwan. We Christians have a lot to learn about nonviolence and compassion from Buddhists.

MLW-W: I agree and know several others who would, as well.  

Aric: While in Greece I did a similar thing at an Orthodox Monastery, which was unquestionably the most spiritual experience of my life. I adored the daily rhythm of the divine office, communal meals, observation of silence, vigils. That would be my third option for a vocation if ministry or archeology didn’t pan out (and I was unmarried).

MLW-W: How did you get into blogging?   What do you like about it?  Are there problems you see with blogging?

Aric: Friends dragged me into it. I love that it’s a public conversation. I adore getting comments on my blog – especially when they disagree with me. The main problem with blogging is that it takes up a fair amount of time that could arguably be better spent elsewhere. It is a bit narcissistic, isn’t it?

MLW-W: How do you relate your faith to issues of peacemaking? What sources of strength have you found? 

Aric: To me these are one and the same. The enterprise of the Church is carrying out Jesus ministry – the goal of which is to bring God’s Shalom to the whole of creation. For me it is not possible to be Christian without also being a peacemaker.

MLW-W: Do you have (a) military experience? (b) experience in nonviolent struggle? (c) experience in conflict resolution/transformation practices?  Describe your experiences with any or all of these. 

Aric: My father was in the army when I was very little, but that is my only connection to the military. I have always been active in local peace protests, at least as a warm body in the crowd – not usually as an organizer, though I’ve recently been thrust into the role of social-justice minister at a congregation where I am interning so I expect I’ll be doing more of this.

MLW-W: Do you consider yourself a pacifist? If so, say something about how you see nonviolence (or nonresistance) and its connections to the gospel.  Were you raised a Christian pacifist or did you convert to this view and, if the latter, tell us something of how that came about? 

Aric: Yes. I was not raised a pacifist, but I am a Californian and my family has always been very liberal and generally anti-war (despite my father’s time in the military), so it is obvious from which vector I came into the church. However, as I read the gospel there is at almost every point a strong condemnation of the use of coercive power of any kind. I honestly think the burden is on the JWT and others to show how they possibly think violence is acceptable, because the scripture seems rather strongly opposed.

MLW-W:  What led you to join Christian Peace Bloggers?  Since joining have you blogged any posts on peacemaking?  Have they gotten any feedback from readers? 

Aric: Largely I decided to join this ring as an encouragement to myself to step up my engagement on this issue. I am, and have always been very passionate about peacemaking, but it has not always played the central role in my active life that it deserves. I have posted several times about the build-up in the media of the case for war against Iran. I am still livid that our nation was so easily misled about
Iraq.

MLW-W. Do you read any of the other blogs in the blog-ring? Which ones do you like and why?  Have you alerted any readers to your blog about these blogs (or specific posts on them) which you like? 

Aric: Obviously, I read Levellers. I got to you through some of your fantastic comments in Kim Fabricius’ diatribes over at Faith and Theology. I’m also a follower of Fire and the Rose. I don’t always agree with David[Congdon], but his writing is definitely thought provoking. I just recently found the Jesus Manifesto through this ring and I plan on digging into it quite a bit.

MLW-W: Thanks for those kind words about my blog. I found Mined Spatterings  from your comments at Faith and Theology, too. Ben Myers has the best theology blog on the web, in my view. And I share your high view of D.W. Congdon’s Fire and the Rose. I like his Barthian theology and the way he connects that to social justice and peace views very directly. Outside of blogging, do you participate in any other peace-related activities or organizations? If so, tell us about them. 

Aric: I’ve been involved in World Peace Prayer Ceremonies all around the globe. I helped plan the event in Scotland three years ago which the Dalai Lama came for. I’m involved in Wesley Clark’s movement to stop a war with Iran.

MLW-W: Good movements and much work.  Have you ever been a part of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship or the Fellowship of Reconciliation? 

Aric: No.

 

MLW-W: Well, you are very busy already, but I think that you’d find the PPF right up your alley.

MLW-W: Does your local congregation take peace issues seriously? Give us some example, if “yes.” If “no,” what could you do to raise awareness about this in your local congregation? 

Aric: My home church has been very active in the past in funding aid workers to go into war-torn regions and provide relief or to help refugees. There is always much more we could be doing in this regard, though I think it is more important for the local church to teach their members how to live nonviolently and to give a consistent message in the local arena rather than to try and campaign nationally and have little impact.

MLW-W: What about your denomination?  Are peace issues a part of those non-local/denominational connections? 

At the denomination level the PC[USA] is right now very torn and focused on internal strife rather than witnessing to the world, which is tragic. There have been a few letters to congress and the president issued by General Assembly opposing the Iraq War, opposing our present stance with Israel and encouraging action in the Sudan. However, there has been very little outside this.

MLW-W: Well, that’s more than many U.S. denominations.  You have already said something about global travel, do you want to say more? 

Aric: Yes. I have lived extensive time abroad. In the context of ethnographic study I have lived and worked in Brasil, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, and the UK.

MLW-W: Explain “ethnographic study,” please. 

Aric: What I mean by that is I was involved in educational programs that used ethnographic methods (participant observation, semiotic anthropology, daily journaling…). Basically, I went places, got involved in projects or communities and analyzed my experiences with social-critical tools.

MLW-W: How well do you stay abreast of global events and have your experiences abroad shaped how you view such events? 

Aric: I make a consistent effort to stay informed though I have grown quite cynical about most news outlets as providing accurate coverage. I always lament how many critical issues are ignored in our country in favor of detailed coverage of celebrity gossip.

My experiences have unquestionably impacted, nay completely reinvented, my view of world events. It is impossible for me, now to simply accept someone else’s blanket judgment about another culture or region no matter how much expertise that individual has. I’ve been through too many “eye-opening” moments regarding other cultures to hold too strongly to any one point of view as though it
were absolute truth. I am, therefore, always trying to read the news as though I were Persian or Korean or Arabian.

MLW-W: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us? 

Hmm…I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts?

MLW-W: Thank-you, Monty Python. Thanks for joining us, Aric, and continued blessings on your seminary work, church life, and especially blessings for Stacia Ann’s  healthy pregnancy and birth in June.

March 27, 2007 Posted by | blog-ring, discipleship, peace, sexism | 6 Comments