--in memory of Andy (1977-1994)
THE CENTER FOR PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIANITY is promoting what I call THE NEW CHURCH FOR THE NEW AGE with great energy and wisdom. Please visit this website often & contemplate the 8 points & read the articles & buy the books & go to the events & join the forum.
... are the nine attributes of heaven which we experience and enjoy as we embrace our fantastic journey, the ...
+ A SUGGESTION FOR SURFING THROUGH THIS BLOG: Use your TAB key to go from link to link to link. Soon you will move beyond the buttons on the left to the main body of the BLOG. You can use SHIFT and TAB together to go back up the page. When you want to check out a link, press your ENTER or RETURN key (or click on the link with your mouse) and you will go to the selected web page. You can get back here by pressing down your ALT and LEFT ARROW keys together or you can use your browser's BACK button with your mouse. You may have to do this more than once depending on how much exploring you do.
You can really have some fun by keeping your TAB key pressed down for a second or 2 or more. When you release it, press your RETURN or ENTER key and see where you go!! But please do come back sooner or later.
SOME GREAT SPIRITUAL WEBSITES:
+ What's Going On? Common Dreams offers "What's Going On?" by Marjorie Cohn. Excerpts: "In 1971, singer Marvin Gaye raised hackles when he tried to make sense of the madness of the Vietnam War by asking, "What's Going On?" The song, told from the perspective of a returning Vietnam veteran, was inspired by Gaye's brother who had recently returned from that disastrous war. Gaye would be asking the same question if he were alive today. Nearly 3,000 U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis have died. A brutal civil war continues to escalate, aggravated by intense opposition to the U.S. occupation. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell, General John Abazaid - commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East who just resigned - and the vast majority of the American people oppose sending more U.S. troops to Iraq. Yet George W. Bush is planning to do just that." | "It seems more likely the Republicans, not the Democrats, will try to derail the Cheney-Bush war express. Senator Gordon Smith (R-Ore) declared last week on the Senate floor: 'I, for one, am at the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way, being blown up by the same bombs day after day. That is absurd. It may even be criminal. I cannot support that anymore.'"
+ Get Carter! I have finished reading Palestine Peace Not Apartheid by former President Jimmy Carter and it is excellent. Carter's love of Israelis and Palestinians and all humanity comes through page after page after page. Carter has taken a huge risk in writing this book with its provocative title. He is truly a prophet of biblical dimensions.
Prophets are always attacked and often attacked viciously. Many human beings, for whatever reasons, resist truth and resist it with passion. So, I am not surprised that Carter has had heaps of mean and ignorant insults poured on him in recent weeks. Chris Hedges now has given Carter some great support. The Witherspoon Society offers "Chris Hedges comments on the attacks on Jimmy Carter’s book". Excerpt: "Jimmy Carter’s recent book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, has been savagely attacked by the Anti-Defamation League and many other Jewish groups for his view that Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories amounts to a kind of apartheid. He has been called anti-Semitic – and worse. Chris Hedges has written two brief essays in response to the attacks on Carter. In "Worse than Apartheid", he argues that the Israeli treatment of the Palestinian people is in fact worse than the apartheid ('separation') practiced by the white South African government against the black people of their land."
Here's an excerpt from the second article, "Get Carter": "The Israel lobby in the United States does not serve Israel or the Jewish community--it serves the interests of the Israeli extreme right wing. Most Israelis have come to understand that peace will be possible only when their country complies with international law and permits Palestinians to build a viable and sustainable state based on the 1967 borders, including, in some configuration, East Jerusalem."
+ The Center for Progressive Christianity is promoting Evolution Sunday, February 11, 2007. Evolution Sunday is a project of the The Clergy Letter Project. Here's an excerpt from their promotional material: "On 11 February 2007 hundreds of congregations from all portions of the country and a host of denominations will come together to discuss the compatibility of religion and science. For far too long, strident voices, in the name of Christianity, have been claiming that people must choose between religion and modern science. More than 10,000 Christian clergy have already signed The Clergy Letter demonstrating that this is a false dichotomy. Now, on the 198th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, many of these leaders will bring this message to their congregations through sermons and/or discussion groups."
+ TomPaine offers "A Parable for Our Times" by Bill Moyers. Excerpts: "The story is told of the devil and a companion walking along the streets. The companion saw a man reach down and pick up the truth from the sidewalk. 'You're finished,' the companion said to the devil. 'I just saw that man pick up the truth from the street, and that means you are finished.' The devil smiled and answered, 'Don't worry. He's a human, and in 15 minutes he will have turned the truth into a concept and no one will know what it is.'" | "Ronald Reagan once described a particular man he knew who was good steward of resources in the biblical sense. 'This is a man,' Reagan said, 'who in his own business, before he entered politics, instituted a profit-sharing plan, before unions had ever thought of it. He put in health and medical insurance for all his employees. He took 50 percent of the profits before taxes and set up a retirement program, a pension plan for all his employees. He sent checks for life to an employee who was ill and couldn’t work. He provided nursing care for the children of mothers who worked in the stores.' That man was Barry Goldwater, a businessman before he entered politics. It’s incredible how far we have deviated from even the most conservative understanding of social responsibility. For a generation now Goldwater’s children have done everything they could to destroy the social compact between workers and employers, and to discredit, defame, and even destroy anyone who said their course was wrong. Principled conservatism was turned into an ideological caricature whose cardinal tenet was of taxation as a form of theft, or, as the libertarian icon Robert Nozick called it, 'force labor.' What has happened to us that such anti-democratic ideas could become a governing theory?"
+ Don't miss this movie! Spirituality & Practice offers a film review by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat of Joyeux Noel which is available on DVD. Review Excerpt: "This story is inspired by the Christmas truce of 1914, a miraculous occurrence of peace for two days when men laid down their arms, came out of their trenches, and celebrated the holiday together. The aftermath depicted in the film is also part of history. The German, French, and Scottish commanders were severely reprimanded for 'fraternization with the enemy.' New troops were brought in to replace those who had been tainted by the experience. After all, war depends upon seeing the other side as subhuman."
+ Spirituality & Practice offers a film review by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat of The Devil Wears Prada which is available on DVD. Review Excerpt: "The Devil Wears Prada is a smashing success both as a portrait of the fashion world in New York and as a touching and alluring story of a young woman's initiation into the moral and ethical decisions that form character on the job."
+ Spirituality & Practice offers a book review by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat of I Am a Palestinian Christian by Mitri Raheb. Review Excerpt: "The chapters in this book had their origin in lectures and sermons delivered at local and international conferences. According to Raheb, Palestine was blessed by God as a fertile land but fought over and torn apart by human beings. Five powers have ruled the country in this century alone. He discusses the tide of Palestinian Christians leaving the country, the Intifada as a cry for justice, the Israeli occupation as a system of injustice, and an agenda for Christian Arab Theology in the Twenty-First Century." Book Excerpts: "For us Christians, the Incarnation plays an important role in better defining a human being. God became human in Christ and thereby gave divine significance to all human life. That is why racism, fascism, and religious fanaticism are alien to every true religion. Since the Incarnation one can no longer use religion against human beings or pit God against human beings. It must obviously also be impossible since the Incarnation to wound, discriminate against, or even make war against human beings in the name of God. If a human being is wounded, then God is wounded also. If a human being is honored, God is too. Whoever loves God also loves the 'brother or sister' (I John 4: 19-21). To be religious, therefore, means simply to be a true human being." | "I have a dream about two peoples in whom one can see the cradle of three monotheistic religions. It can be seen not only in the ancient stones of the Wailing Wall, of the Church of the Resurrection, and of the Dome of the Rock, but in the people themselves — Jews, Christians, and Muslims. A bit of the divinity of their God is evidenced in their dealings with each other, in the way they use the freedom and power granted to them."
+ Spirituality & Practice offers a book review by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat of Lord, Have Mercy: Praying for Justice with Conviction and Humility by Claire E. Wolfteich . Review Excerpt: "'Prayer, Wolfteich states, is "the glue and the ground for the life of the Christian community' and as such it is naturally connected to the challenges and struggles of individuals and communities to live in peace and justice in a world of violence and inequities. The 'pause' of prayer is a necessity for those working for social change who otherwise may run short of the energy and patience needed to bring about transformation in places where people are hurting. Wolfteich commends the desert fathers and mothers, practitioners of Ignatian spirituality, and Teresa of Avila for their Christian guidance on humility, discernment, and action." Book Excerpt: "We also face the problem of discerning God's will, not in generalities but in the particularities of concrete situations. It is one thing to affirm that God desires justice and dignity for all. It is another thing to be specific about what that means in any particular policy debate, be it about foreign policy or stem cell research or abortion. Deciding how faith leads to a certain course of action becomes complicated."
+ KUCINICH FOR PRESIDENT! I am so glad Dennis is running again. He tells it like it is. He wrote a wondeful book before the 2004 campaign, A PRAYER FOR AMERICA. I heard him speak twice in 2004 and was very inspired. He is knowledgeable and wise and enthusiastic. I really appreciate his approach.
+ Spirituality & Practice offers a review of Blood Diamond, an important new film. Excerpt: "Early in the film, we learn a sobering truth about Africa's plight. 'When a substance is found, the locals die.' It was true at the height of the ivory trade. It's true in the Congo now where sales of gold and coltan (used in cell phones) are fueling the conflict. It threatens to be true in the Ivory Coast. And the Bushmen, who lived like their ancestors as hunter-gatherers in the Kalahari desert, are now living in relocation camps after diamonds were discovered on their traditional lands. Blood Diamond is as important as any of the films we've seen over the years about the Holocaust. It shares with them the vital message: 'We must not let this happen again.'"
+ The Campaign to Defend the Constitution offers "Tell Wal-Mart: Stop Selling Religious Violence for Christmas". Excerpt: "Just in time for Christmas, the religious right has released a violent video game in which born-again Christians aim to convert or kill those who don't adhere to their extreme ideology. Disturbingly, the game's apparent attempts at religious indoctrination are aimed at children. While the religious right apparently has no problem pushing the product this holiday season, America's #1 video game seller should know better."
+ Sojourners / Call to Renewal offers "A Covenant for a New America: From Poverty to Opportunity". Many religious leaders gathered together last June to call for "overcoming poverty with religious commitment and political leadership." Jim Wallis is reminding us of this important initiative now as he promotes the great idea that every candidate for President in 2008 should endorse this covenant.
+ CNN offers "Ahmadinejad's letter to Americans. The President of Iran has written us a letter and I think we should read it! He makes quite a few valid points. I don't agree with everything but most of it is quite compelling and intriguing. Try to read it with out the prejudice and bias our propaganda has instilled in most Americans.
We could talk to Stalin and other tyrants.
I see Ahmadinejad as a far better person than Stalin and many other tyrants.
Some of you probably have the idea that even reading this letter is some kind of treason but my loyalty is more to God and to the whole human race than to the Bush administration and the government of the United States. I invite you to see yourselves as citizens of the global village and to read this letter from a fellow human being who has a right to speak to us and indeed does so with a lot of intelligence and wisdom and even love.
I definitely want my government to talk to the leaders of Iran and Syria. We can find ways to increase peace and justice and security for all humanity if we work at it through efforts to understand and compromise.
Please don't miss his condemnation of terrorists. We could work together on this common problem for all humanity.
+ Thanks to my friends at The Coalition for Peace With Justice which is based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina I have found that CounterPunch.org offers "Does It Matter What You Call It? Genocide or Erasure of Palestinians" by Kathleen and Bill Christison. This is a very important article on the horrible oppression of the Palestinians by the Israelis. It is long but worth reading. I was brought to tears as I contemplated how horrible it is for the people of Palestine. The background of the authors is significant. Here is the blurb about them: "Kathleen Christison is a former CIA political analyst and has worked on Middle East issues for 30 years. She is the author of Perceptions of Palestine and The Wound of Dispossession. Bill Christison was a senior official of the CIA. He served as a National Intelligence Officer and as Director of the CIA's Office of Regional and Political Analysis. They spent October 2006 in Palestine and on a speaking tour of Ireland sponsored by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign."
+ I have some more great election analysis for you!
I pointed out after the election that the Northeast bloc now exceeds the South bloc for the first time in perhaps a century even though the South has more population. Without the South, the GOP is extremely weak now: 174 Democrats to 116 Republicans. I think the Southern Strategy has finally backfired since it has made the Northeast and Coastal West mad, really mad that their concerns have been ignored in Congress in recent years. We have heard often that the Democrats were not viable in many states. Now it is clear that Republicans are not viable in many states.
Slowly but surely the South will look like the rest of the nation. Until then, the country will probably remain regionally divided. This is now working to the advantage of the Democrats. Until now, it worked to the advantage of the Republicans. What changed is that the Northeast has now become more solidly Democratic than the South is solidly Republican. Few have noticed this most significant shift.
Karl Rove's strategy of pandering to the base has possibly made the Republicans a minority party once again. The Democrats are re-establishing their great tradition of being the Big Tent.
In a sense it has been good for the Democrats that the Liberal base is smaller than the Conservative base. The Democrats know that they have to appeal to the Moderates to win elections. This is a good thing. Clinton was smart enough to get elected twice and keep the Conservatives out of executive power for eight years. But the Democrats in Congress went too far Left and lost election after election. Now that they seem to be recognizing that their strength is in the Center (and always has been), they have regained their majority. I am not sure they have learned this lesson. Only time will tell.
Number Three: ... voters repudiated conservatism itself.
I wouldn't quite go that far. I think they repudiated the radical Right which is different than true conservatism. I think voters respect real Conservatives and will vote for real Conservatives. I think the voters repudiated the cynical and hate-filled so called Christian wing of the GOP which has had too much power in this country in recent years. Americans still know what a real Christian looks like. They know that Jesus is quite unlike Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell and others who come across with arrogance and intimidation and ignorance and intolerance and hate. That kind of Conservatism got "thumped" and the Republicans so far look like they haven't gotten the message. We will see.
I figured out many years ago why the progressive wing of Christianity which is associated with the so-called mainline denominations has been on the decline. The mainline denominations have not figured out that the culture changed since the 1950s. We have been offering a style of worship which simply doesn't appeal to the Baby Boomers. Once we finally come to the awareness that our style doesn't work any more, we just might surprise everybody and make a huge rebound.
People under 30 voted Democratic in higher numbers than in the older age groups. They haven't bought the agenda of the radical Right. The opportunity for progressives is enormous. I believe that this is an opportunity not only for political progressives but also for spiritual progressives. We are evolving. We are progressing. Young people intuitively know this and are eager to participate in progressive movements.
+ In my quest for wisdom on the heavenly gift of abundance, I have found GetMotivation.com which offers "Building REAL Abundance" by Laura V. Hyde . Excerpts: "A Course in Miracles teaches us that whenever we are looking outside ourselves for anything, we will only feel more incomplete. This is referred to as "the scarcity principle" which is based upon the common belief that somehow we are incomplete and not whole just the way we are." | "Throughout each day we have numerous opportunities to give, and we grow in abundance as we act on those opportunities. Just a little stretch is all that’s required in order for us to experience a sense of true giving."
+ Common Dreams offers "The Victory That Masks Defeat: Democrats Right-Leaning 'Win'" by Sally Kohn. This is an interesting article which might possibly make Conservatives somewhat happy. I have already pointed out that there was no ideological shift in the electorate and there has not been since Reagan won. Yes, the Democrats won by moving to the Right, maybe even a little Right of Center. If they had moved to the Left, they would have lost. But my analysis differs from Sally Kohn because I believe that the victory does not reward the Conservative agenda but, rather, a centrist, pragmatic agenda. It was a rejection of the radical Right. The radical Left has been rejected for some time.
The basic ideological orientation of Americans is Center-Right at this point, closer to Center than Right. The GOP mistake was its pandering to the Conservative base. Almost half of Americans describe themselves as Moderates. About one-third describe themselves as Conservative. About one-fifth say they are Liberal.
The GOP had and possibly still has an opportunity to be a majority party for many years. But they would have to honor Moderates far more than they do now. Even Liberals should be honored and respected by the GOP. You don't have to agree with somebody to honor and respect them. I honor and respect Conservatives even as I disagree with Conservatives.
I begin to lose respect for people who do not respect and honor others. Sadly, Bush & Cheney & Rove & so many others have failed to honor and respect those with whom they disagree. The moderate and liberal voters of America -- two-thirds of the elctorate -- do not like to be dishonored and unrespected. Do you get the message now, Republicans? If you don't get it, you will lose again and again and again even if the country does not move to the Left.
I suspect that America will move significantly to the Left within the next decade. The window of opportunity for the GOP will close. They either will become more moderate or they will be defeated. America rejects the agenda of the radical Right as well as the radical Left. This is nothing new. Ask Barry Goldwater. Ask George McGovern. Only 8 years separated those 2 elections. Both the radical Right and the radical Left got "thumped" badly. Americans are moderate, pragmatic, sensible.
"W" tried to paint himself as a moderate in 2000 but then he governed as if the electorate had given the radical Right a mandate. The people were fooled until recently. I knew the Moderates would figure it out sooner or later. They did.
+ Common Dreams offers "Our Salvation: Abiding by Limits" by Carl N. McDaniel. He begins: "Every important environmental trend today is negative: growth of population and consumption, global warming, mounting pollution, loss of soil, declining biodiversity. Our modern world is headed toward the same place as old civilizations that overreached their ecological means: collapse -- only this time on an unprecedented scale."
Well, I can't end on that note, so here is how he concludes: "Making global culture consistent with what the natural sciences teach us just might enable global civilization to avoid collapse -- what the theologian Thomas Berry calls 'The Great Work.' It is time to roll up our sleeves and get on with it."
+ There are many reasons, of course, for the huge Democratic victory on Tuesday. I like to look at the returns region by region and state by state and here are some of my findings so far:
The Northeast is more solidly Democratic than the South is solidly Republican. This is a significant shift since 2004. Even with less population, the Northeast now cancels out the South and then some. I believe this is a reaction to the Rove strategy of depending on the Conservative base. Liberals and many Moderates became increasingly frustrated and angry and have now claimed a majority which may last for a while.
Gerrymandering favors the Republicans in the Midwest. The Democrats outpolled the Republicans 11,160,000 to 10,070,000 in House elections but the Republicans won 51 seats and the Democrats won 49 seats. If Democrats have a bigger say in drawing up districts after the next census, then the Democrats should be able to pick up a few more seats in the Midwest. Ohio & Michigan gave Democrats many more votes -- 3.9 million to 3.4 million -- but Republicans won 20 seats and Democrats 13. There's definitely something wrong there.
Here's the breakdown of the House seats by regions:
By vote count, The Democrats won in the Northeast, Midwest and West. The Republicans won in the South.
Karl Rove's strategy of pandering to the Conservative base has backfired and left the Republicans in a bad position for 2008. The Democrats have both strenghthened their Liberal base and won over the Moderates. Some are saying that the great Conservative revolution of 1980 (Presidential) and 1994 (Congress) is over. Maybe!
1) Last One Standing: the path of competition for remaining resources. (This appears to be our current administration's plan to control the remaining oil reserves militarily).
2) Powerdown: the path of cooperation, conservation, and sharing. (This would require all nations of the world to name the issue, change drastically our way of living, and work for justice so that all people of Earth may have access to basic needs).
3) Waiting for a Magic Elixir: wishful thinking, false hopes, and denial. (This appears to be the option of most of our population. We think that in the nick of time we will find some magic technological advance to replace fossil fuels and be able to continue our way of life).
4) Building Lifeboats: the path of community solidarity and preservation. (This involves working with our neighbors to sustain small communities (gardens, energy sharing, etc.)"
+ In my quest for wisdom on the practice of humility, I have found that Spirituality & Practice offers "The Challenge of Humility" by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat. Excerpts: "Humility comes naturally to some people but usually it needs to be learned. We become humble by being around humble people and by consciously acknowledging that we are not #1." | "Many of the great spiritual masters practiced what could be called "downward mobility." Jesus, for example, encouraged his disciples to create a community of equals. After they argued over who was the greatest, he knelt before them and washed their feet. "I am among you," he said another time, "as one who serves." Strive to create the conditions in the world that will lead to a this kind of community. In daily life, this means working to break down the barriers that separate people and put the rich over the poor, the able-bodied over the disabled, the literate over the illiterate, the strong over the weak. Reread the Beatitudes (Matthew 5: 3 - 11) for more specifics."
+ Here is a great Witherspoon Society find about consumption and sustainability and simplicity: Utne offers "The Devil Wears Prada and Drives a Hummer: The faithful join forces to fight reckless consumption" by Suzanne Lindgren. Excerpt: "'Buy, buy, buy. Sell, sell, sell,' goes the mantra of the capitalist. But our disposable lifestyle has gotten us into quite a mess, and if there's one thing all the talk about biofuels and wind power confirms, it's that we can't buy more space on the planet to fulfill our food and energy needs or sell our way out of the environmental damages we've already inflicted. Many on the left see the stereotypical conservative Christian consumer as the villain in this story -- Bush crystallized the image with his post-9/11 call for Americans to open their pocketbooks and ward off economic collapse. Giving the lie to that stereotype are the leagues of religious groups looking inward -- and to each other -- to find an escape from the consumerist trap responsible for the current state of planet Earth."
+ It is so convenient and energizing to have an enemy. Nothing like it. War. Heroes. Spoils. Rewards. Medals. Celebrations. Victory.
Many warriors say there is nothing like the rush, the state of consciousness achieved in war. We say wonderful things about our heroes, our martyrs, our freedom fighters. We say that men and now women look so great in their uniforms. We claim that our enemies deserve to be killed, destroyed, oppressed, repressed, tortured, maimed, marginalized. They started it. They are terrorists. They are fanatics. They are different. They aren’t human. They are gooks. They are evil. They hate our way of life. We must destroy them in order to save civilization. Propaganda. Rallying cries. Rhetoric. Slogans. Soundbites. Misinformation. Lies. Hysteria. Hatred. Vengeance. We are good. They are bad. No doubt about it. No dissent allowed. Dissenters are traitors. Dissenters are cowards. Dissenters are unpatriotic. Dissenters aid the enemy, the wicked enemy. Dissenters are the reason why our soldiers die. “The truth is the first casualty of war.” God is on our side. He must be. We have the best weapons. This must be God’s will. Any one opposing this war or any war must hate God. It is written! Only the naïve could ever believe that this war is bad. Our fearless leaders are protecting us, making us safe. Our fearless soldiers are fighting over there so we don’t have to fight them here. That’s written in stone. Our fearless leader went to the mountaintop and God told him to fight the evil enemy maybe even for the next generation or 2 or 3. We will win. God said so. Then, of course, God will find us another enemy. Then there will be more celebrations, victories, medals, rushes, rewards, spoils, heroes, security, safety, euphoria, freedom (except for those who dissent. They are traitors, remember. They hate freedom like our enemy and therefore do not deserve freedom. They are evil like our enemy.)
And a wise man came along and said: Love your enemy. Forgive 70 times 7. Turn the other cheek.
But he was a dissenter, a traitor. We had to kill him for the sake of the nation.
+ Chuck Currie offers a blog post with extensive notes on his sermon on Christian Principles in an Election Year. Such an excellent sermon deserves to be widely shared so here are several excerpts including ten Christian principles to keep in mind at election time: "Every two years we face a terrible truth: to make it to Christmas we have to get through the fall elections." | "The political process ought to be one that has as a central goal the reconciliation of the American people. But political professionals have found that the easiest way to get votes is to divide people. This can be a disheartening time of year. There are too many times that with great certainty religious leaders announce what God’s position is on an issue or how they believe God would for a candidate (sic). Our faith ought to be free of such political distinctions. God is not a Republican or a Democrat, as Jim Wallis likes to say, and Christianity is not liberal or conservative. Those are modern political terms. Sadly, some have tried to co-opt Christianity to advance their partisan political agendas. All Christians need to guard against that." | "Two years ago leaders from the National Council of Churches USA – a body of mainline and orthodox Christians – sat down together and wondered where Christians of all stripes might find such common ground during the elections. They agreed on a set of principles and have asked that all our churches consider them again as we prepare to vote this November. And so, I share these principles with you now for your consideration:
1. War is contrary to the will of God. While the use of violent force may, at times, be a necessity of last resort, Christ pronounces his blessing on the peacemakers. We look for political leaders who will make peace with justice a top priority and who will actively seek nonviolent solutions to conflict.
2. God calls us to live in communities shaped by peace and cooperation. We reject policies that abandon large segments of our inner city and rural populations to hopelessness. We look for political leaders who will re-build our communities and bring an end to the cycles of violence and killing.
3. God created us for each other, and thus our security depends on the well being of our global neighbors. We look for political leaders for whom a foreign policy based on cooperation and global justice is an urgent concern.
4. God calls us to be advocates for those who are most vulnerable in our society. We look for political leaders who yearn for economic justice and who will seek to reduce the growing disparity between rich and poor.
5. Each human being is created in the image of God and is of infinite worth. We look for political leaders who actively promote racial justice and equal opportunity for everyone.
6. The earth belongs to God and is intrinsically good. We look for political leaders who recognize the earth's goodness, champion environmental justice, and uphold our responsibility to be stewards of God’s creation.
7. Christians have a biblical mandate to welcome strangers. We look for political leaders who will pursue fair immigration policies and speak out against xenophobia.
8. Those who follow Christ are called to heal the sick. We look for political leaders who will support adequate, affordable and accessible health care for all.
9. Because of the transforming power of God’s grace, all humans are called to be in right relationship with each other. We look for political leaders who seek a restorative, not retributive, approach to the criminal justice system and the individuals within it.
10. Providing enriched learning environments for all of God’s children is a moral imperative. We look for political leaders who advocate for equal educational opportunity and abundant funding for children’s services."
+ Democracy Now! offers an interview with Tariq Ali, author of Pirates of the Caribbean, a new book about the hope being offered to the world by the increasingly powerful social movements in Latin America now led by Hugo Chavez, the elected President of Venezuela who the Venezulelan plutocrats supported by the Bush Administration tried to remove from power in a failed 2002 coup. I really don't like it when my government works to undermine democratically-elected governments. We have a sad history of doing so.
+ The New York Times offers "Pirates of the Mediterranean" by Robert Harris (Free Registration required). Harris, in an op ed piece, tells of a terrorist attack on the ancient Roman Republic which led to panic among the population and, then, a dramatic reduction of freedom and, soon after, a transition from a semi-democratic republic to an authoritarian and sometimes brutal empire. Here is his conclusion which connects with the current situation in the USA: "It may be that the Roman republic was doomed in any case. But the disproportionate reaction to the raid on Ostia unquestionably hastened the process, weakening the restraints on military adventurism and corrupting the political process. It was to be more than 1,800 years before anything remotely comparable to Rome’s democracy — imperfect though it was — rose again. The Lex Gabinia was a classic illustration of the law of unintended consequences: it fatally subverted the institution it was supposed to protect. Let us hope that vote in the United States Senate does not have the same result."
+ Spirituality & Practice is featuring a response to the important new documentary: Jesus Camp. Here is the current feature box at S&P:
A Not-to-be-Missed New Documentary
Earlier this year, progressives flocked to see An Inconvenient Truth, declaring that documentary a critically important commentary on what is happening to the planet due to global warming. Jesus Camp is every bit as important for its expose of another development: the efforts of evangelical Christians to recruit the younger generation to fight for the very soul of America. Young children are all being home schooled and taught at summer camp to be zealous soldiers in "God's army" fighting the Devil and the godless culture in the "sick old world." This documentary reveals, as no other film has, the breadth and depth of the culture war that is going on in America.
+ In my continuing quest for wisdom on the heavenly attribute of wisdom, I discovered that Wahaddudin's Net offers a challenging daily bowl of saka today: “To fall beneath one's ideal is to lose one's share of life.” -- Hazrat Inayat Khan. The Sufi Master goes on with this commentary: “If anyone asked me what is the life of life, and what is the light of life, what gives one interest in life, I should answer him in one word, and that is: the ideal. A man with wealth, with qualifications, with learning, with comfort, but without ideal to me is a corpse; but a man without learning, without qualifications, without wealth or rank, but with an ideal is a living man. If a man does not live for an ideal what else does he live for? He lives for himself, which is nothing. The man who lives and does not know an ideal is powerless and without light. The greater the ideal, the greater the person. The wider the ideal the broader the person. The deeper the ideal the deeper the person, the higher the ideal the higher the person. Without an ideal, whatever a man may be in life, life for him is worthless.”
+ In my continuing quest for wisdom on the heavenly attributes of abundance, joy, wisdom, beauty, love, truth, peace, justice and freedom, I have discovered Wahiduddin's Web which promotes the teachings of a Sufi Master, Hazrat Inayat Khan, one of the best advocates of the Perennial Philosophy, or Mysticism.
Excerpt: "While some apologists attempted to argue that the pontiff’s speech was intended to create dialogue, insulting the very foundations of the “other’s” faith is not a useful approach. As one leading liberal US Catholic theologian argued, a more appropriate message might have been a genuine mea culpa for Manuel’s words, or an apology for Christianity’s own history of violence."
Zogby is one of the best commentators on the American scene and deserves to be read frequently. He opposes US policy in The Middle East in a reasonable and informed way. He strives to bring people of all creeds and views together.
+ Faithful America offers an interview with Bob Edgar, the General Secretary of The National Council of Churches of Christ. Dr. Edgar has just written a book called Middle Church: Reclaiming the Moral Values of the Faithful Majority from the Religious Right.
Interview Excerpts: "Morality does include a measure of self-restraint, especially when it comes to the coarsening of our culture. But that’s not all. Morality is also measured by our view on hunger, illiteracy, disease, war, and environmental degradation." | "The last thing I want to be guilty of is doing to the far Religious Right what they do to the Religious Left: dismiss them with overbroad labels and personal attacks. What I do consider a problem, however, is when faith becomes political rather than personal—when it is co-opted for the sake of legislation rather than love." There is a new website promoting the ideas of the book: Middle Church.Net.
+ Recently we saw LOST CITY about Havana before and during the Castro takeover 1958-59. It is about a family which bitterly divided over the Revolution and even a budding romance was torn asunder. Most critics didn't like it but we did. Andy Garcia's 16-year long quest to make this movie was worth it.
+ Common Dreams offers "United Professionals, Unite!" by Katrina vanden Heuvel, Editor of The Nation. Excerpts: "In fact, according to PR Newswire, 31 percent of college educated workers have no employer based health coverage, and 39 percent have no employer-provided retirement plan. More than half of the non-union workforce tells pollsters they would like to be part of some type of collective bargaining entity." | "Last week, Paul Krugman wrote in a New York Times op-ed that, 'What we should be debating is why technological and economic progress has done so little for most Americans, and what changes in government policies would spread the benefits of progress more widely. An effort to shore up middle-class health insurance … would be a good place to start.'"
+ How do you like the new format?
+ The Clinton Global Initiative is a powerful witness to what human beings can accomplish in the world. Over 7 billion has been committed this week to causes such as reducing global warming and eradicating disease and poverty.
+ I just discovered PATHWAYS TO PEACE which is another website connected with today's INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PEACE featuring a model for peacemaking for all 365 days called the Peace Wheel.
+ Here are several more websites connected with today's INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PEACE including a rally for peace this afternoon in Rochester:
ROCHESTER RALLY FOR PEACE | DECLARATION OF PEACE | INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PEACE | WORLD PEACE | CULTURE OF PEACE
+ The Guardian offers "We cannot afford to maintain these ancient prejudices against Islam" by Karen Armstrong. Excerpt: "The Pope's remarks were dangerous, and will convince many more Muslims that the west is incurably Islamophobic." Armstrong is an expert on the Christian & Jewish & Muslim religions and her viewpoint is an important contribution to the quest for understanding and reconciliation. The many comments following the article are worth taking a peek at too.
+ At noon today, or when you read this post, please offer a moment of silence for world peace. Many events are planned for this International Day of Peace which happens to fall on my Mother's birthday. She was born 100 years ago today and died in 1999. She spread peace through music and conversation and domestic arts and deep and humble commitment to Christ.
I have been moved to tears every time I have watched the documentary called PEACE ONE DAY. Jeremy Gilley, an English film maker, led a movement to get a fixed date for the International Day of Peace which calls for a global cease fire. The UN established this date in 2001 and calls for a moment of silence at noon among other things.
+ Dragonfire offers "Former Israeli and Palestinian warriors find a new cause to fight for: peace" by Sara Toth. It is encouraging to hear the stories of courageous Palestinians & Israelis who are working hard for peace and justice and reconciliation. I thank The Witherspoon Society for pointing out this article which they found in Utne.
+ In just 2 days -- which happens to be the 100 anniversary of the birth of my mom -- many people will observe the International Day of Peace. Here are two websites promoting vigils and other events on this day when the UN has called for all nations to observe a day of cease fire. 24 hours of peace. Wouldn't that be wonderful?
The founder of the movement which has reinvigorated this day is Jeremy Gilley. He decided in 1999 that he would do a film documentary of his efforts to get Peace One Day fixed on the calendar. It had been connected with the opening day of the UN General Assembly which changed from year to year. The documentary is inspiring and challenging. I cry everytime I see it and then try to spread the word about this day. It is one way we can do something for peace connecting with thousands and maybe millions who will pray and teach and learn and sing for peace on September 21.
+ SAVE DARFUR offers information about a rally in NYC this Sunday. Another page offers information about rallies this Sunday in other locations.
+ In my quest for wisdom on the heavenly attributes of love, truth, peace, justice and freedom, I just discovered that Wide Hive Records offers lyrics and a free MP3 download of "Love, Truth, Peace, Freedom and Justice" by Azeem and Gregory Howe. This caught my attention when I googled love & peace & justice & freedom. In this search the Abundancetrek "Heavenly Attributes" page is second out of 20,400,000 web pages. The song is fifth.
+ In my quest for wisdom on the heavenly attribute of wisdom and the spiritual practice of simplicity, I just discovered that Golden Trines offers the revered and amazing Deserata. This is great wisdom for those who decide to simplify their lives and find true meaning and joy.
+ NINE ELEVEN IMPACT: The Independent (London) offers "September 11: The price we've paid" By Jonathan Raban . "The blow inflicted on America by September 11 was unprecedented in its scale and horror. But is it really the date to remember? Five years on, it's clear that the true turning point for the world came seven days later."
+ Orion Magazine offers "Whither Wind?: A Journey through the Heated Debate over Wind Power" by Charles Komanoff. Excerpt: "With very few exceptions, then, wind output can be counted on to displace fossil fuel burning one for one. No less than other nonpolluting technologies like bicycles or photovoltaic solar cells, wind power is truly an anti–fossil fuel."
+ In my quest for wisdom on the heavenly attribute of justice, I just discovered that Common Dreams offers "Globalization" for Americans is Really About Income Distribution" by Mark Weisbrot. Excerpt: "From 1972 to 2001, the bottom 20 percent of wage and salary earners got only 1.6 percent of the increase in this income over the three decades. The majority got less than 11 percent. But the richest one percent received 18.4 percent of the increased income – vastly more than went to the majority of Americans."
+ In my quest for wisdom on the heavenly attribute of wisdom and the spiritual practice of simplicity, I just discovered that The Sufi Order International offers "Ten Sufi Thoughts" by the great Sufi teacher Hazrat Inayat Khan.
+ In my quest for wisdom on the central heavenly attribute of love, I just discovered that Peter Russell offers an illuminating poem on LOVE. I urge you to explore this wonderful website filled with wisdom about our current awakening, a breaktrough in consciousness. A delightful page is called The Church of I AM.
+ In my quest for wisdom on the heavenly attribute of abundance, I just discovered that Spirituality & Practice offers a book review of ALCHEMY OF ABUNDANCE: USING THE ENERGY OF DESIRE TO MANIFEST YOUR HIGHEST VISION, POWER, AND PURPOSE by Rick Jarow. An excerpt deals with faith and the importance of paying attention. Here's an excerpt from the excerpt: "Abundance is learning to trust life. It is reality lived fully — being conscious, present, and whole. Therefore, the quality of your attention is the genuine measure of abundance, and it is your greatest capital asset in any situation." Spirituality & Practice offers a a variety of resources on the spiritual practice of faith.
+ In my quest for wisdom on the heavenly attribute of abundance, I just discovered that Spirituality & Practice offers a book review of A SIDEWAYS LOOK AT TIME by Jay Griffiths. An excerpt deals with play which is the wonderful activity which happens because of the abundance God provides. Spirituality & Practice offers a a variety of resources on the spiritual practice of play.
+ Ekklesia offers "Bishop's waning over Christian Zionism"
by Mark Porthouse. Four Jerusalem-based bishops from 4 different denominations have signed a statement condemning Christian Zionism which threatens the peace of the world with the false belief that a battle of Armageddon fought in what is now Israel will soon bring the rapture and the second coming of Christ.
+ Wow! What a speech! Common Dreams offers "We Won't Be Quiet"
by Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson. He delivered the speech at Washington Square in Salt Lake City, Utah on August 30 at a rally on the day President Bush came to Salt Lake City to speak to the American Legion convention.
+ How can Christians & Muslims Reconcile?
Some Christians and some Muslims have achieved reconciliation and mutual respect and live at peace with each other. But not enough.
I long for the day that the blaming will come to an end and we could begin to love one another. Not with one religion winning and the other one losing.
Both Christians and Muslims need to admit that violence has been all too acceptable for both of our great wisdom traditions. One out of every 2 people on the planet are either Christian or Muslim. How did this happen? The answer is, unfortunately, violence. Most people originally became Christian in Europe by force and this spread to America. Most people in the Arab world and beyond originally became Muslim by force.
Empires and nations which officially endorsed either Christianity or Islam became the norm in Europe and in the Middle East and North Africa and into Asia. Religious Minorities were often treated poorly in these empires and nations. This is our history and we must learn from it and repudiate it and choose a new path.
Isn't it interesting that the USA is threatened now by a political movement which is trying to make Christianity the official religion of our country while, at the same time, we are threatening Iran, a country which has made Islam its official religion?
Nations should not endorse religions. This has caused so much war and violence over the centuries. Muslims & Christians will never get along if we continue to believe that our religion is best and our soldiers prove it. Muslims and Christians must repudiate violence of all kinds.
As a citizen of the USA, I do not support my country's continuing violence and selfishness as the nation with the world's number one military and economy. This is wrong and we must repent.
I urge citizens of all nations to work for the day when we don't use arms to force others into our religion. We can do better than this. We must do better than this for the sake of true peace and justice all over the planet.
September 21 is The International Day of Peace, a day when the UN has called for a global cease fire. Maybe we can come closer to a true day of peace and justice by observing this day with prayer and workshops and concerts and rallys.
+ The Presbyterian Church (USA) offers "God’s grace in the midst of hostility: PC(USA) mission worker visits Lebanon’s war zone" by the Rev. Nuhad Tomeh who is the PC(USA) regional liaison for Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and the gulf. This is a sobering and yet hopeful article. We must believe that reconciliation among Jews & Muslims & Christians & others is possible. It is.
+ In my quest for wisdom about the heavenly attribute of peace, I just discovered that Wayne Dyer offers some significant suggestions on empathizing with our enemies. He cites former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara who has courageously admitted that he made huge mistakes as the architect of the Viet Nam war because "our side" did not understood the reasons why "their side" was fighting and vice versa. At a time when our current Secretary of Defense is telling us to learn the lessons of history, the wisdom McNamara has attained as an Elder is quite relevant and calls Rumsfield's wisdom into question. Secretary of Defense Rumsfield claims that Iraq war opponents are "morally and intellectually confused" and are "appeasing the enemy" in the same way that the Western democracies appeased the Fascists in the 30s. Dyer reminds us that Christ calls on us to love our enemies and we now know that a loving approach could have prevented the horrible suffering of the Viet Nam war (not to mention other wars). Many of us believe that our security will grow as we work hard to understand and empathize with our enemies seeing them as human beings with real grievances and hopes and dreams like us. Let's have the courage to negotiate, to talk, to share, to build relationships of lasting repect. Yes, criminals must be brought to justice. But we need not assume that all those who are taking up arms against us are criminals. Do we believe that our soldiers are criminals? Let's talk. Let's share. Let's find ways to build trust and respect between us and our supposed enemies. It can be done. It must be done.
+ In my quest for wisdom about the heavenly attribute of truth, I just discovered that Spirituality & Practice offers a book review of LIVING THE TRUTH by Alan Jones. Jones is the Dean of Grace Episcopal Church in San Francisco. He says we need to have the humility to see ourselves as "pilgrims of the truth" because "we haven't arrived." He also says that moral truth is far more important than factual truth. This is important to remember as we read scripture where the story is the means for telling us great truths.
+ The Wings are Out of Control: I don't believe the Liberals -- whatever that means these days -- have all the answers. Nor do I believe the Conservatives -- whatever that means these days -- have all the answers. Nor do I believe the Moderates -- whatever that means these days -- have all the answers.
I do believe that we can create all the answers we need when we work together for the common good with humility and patience and gentleness and kindness and compassion and open-mindedness. We need Liberals and Conservatives and Moderates.
A bird needs two strong wings in order to fly. But the bird is more than its wings as important as they are. In between the wings the bird has a head and stomach and other important parts of the body. The wings are controlled from this part of the body.
We need a Left Wing and we need a Right Wing. We need their proposals, their plans, their programs, their passion. But the Center must be in control. The extremes need to be moderated. I believe our wings currently have too much power and the center is weak. How do we empower the moderate, pragmatic, wise Center and bring the 2 wings back under control?
+ Christians & Muslims & Jews for Peace: I just googled "Muslims for Peace" and "Christians for Peace" and "Jews for Peace".
The Jews won with 26 million 'hits." Muslims were next with 23 million. Christians were last with 21 million.
Let's stop focusing on how bad the other religions are. We all want peace with justice. Don't we?
Too many people of all 3 faiths are tolerating violence, especially violence toward civillians. Let's admit that and stop blaming the other religions.
I think we will have a cataclysmic world war if we don't stop all of this pointing the finger at everybody else rather than seriously looking at ourselves and seeing the sin within our own communities and nations. I find all 3 faiths at fault. My own faith is definitely at fault for all kinds of violence but I see it in the Jewish & Islamic faith too. It's a big problem for all 3 faiths. We need to proclaim peace boldly and make it happen. That's what sincere people of faith need to do and we can't wait. The time is now.
+ Like most of the critics, we were impressed and inspired by the acting of Felicity Huffman in TransAmerica which we saw at home last night. While the transgender issue is always a major theme of the movie, a more important one is becoming your real self.
+ War with Iran?: I am wondering if war with Iran is becoming inevitable. I sure hope not. I know war can be avoided if negotiations take place. I am sure that there are some in both governments who want to go to war. I am also sure there are some in both governments who want to avoid war. Let’s pray that those who want to avoid war prevail in both governments. Let’s pray that negotiations lead to a mature dialogue with a real airing of grievances on both sides. Let’s pray that our side becomes willing to negotiate. John F. Kennedy once said: “Let us never negotiate out of fear but let us never fear to negotiate.” Good idea. Let’s negotiate with the teaching of Jesus in mind: “Love your enemy … Bless those who curse you.” Why is our side afraid to negotiate? Do too many of the policy makers in our government believe that war is a better idea? Let’s pray that the better idea of peace shines brightly in the White House and Capitol in the months and years ahead.
War is viewed by many in romantic ways. It is glorified. Heroes and legends are created in war. The cries for peace seems weak to many so-called realists. The drumbeat for war is hard to stop once started. Iranians & Americans will listen to their own propaganda and believe that war is necessary. Now is the time to stop this drumbeat. The horrors of war must be considered seriously by the leaders and all the people on both sides.
War … let’s not go there. Peace … let’s go there. Pray for peace and encourage others to pray for peace. Now is the time to pray for peace between the USA and Iran as well as in many other situations. Now. Prayer leads to new ways of thinking and acting. So, begin with prayer and then let’s see what happens.
Another scholar, Walter Wink, has impressed me a lot with his biblical scholarship and reflections on the current state of the world. He makes the case that most of the world is still under the spell of the Babylonian Redemptive Violence Myth which is closely connected to the dominion of the "principalities and powers" or "the world ruler." He argues that authentic Christianity repudiates this myth but most Christians have yet to learn how much we are spellbound. An excellent summary of Wink's profound thoughts can be found on "Confronting the Powers" which is an online course offered by Vern Rossman. Taylor's thesis is similar. He points out that the post 9/11 narrative has been largely drawn from a long standing idolatrous approach to our nation's purpose or mission.
The Right Wing Spin Room & the Left Wing Spin Room:
I believe America's traditional strength lies in our pragmatism and moderation. These strengths are not encouraged in the Right Wing Spin Room or the Left Wing Spin Room. I believe the Right Wing Spin Room has been far more powerful than the Left Wing Spin Room in recent years. Many Americans still believe, for example, according to polls, that Iraq was behind 9/11 and some of the murderers were Iraqis. The major media outlets have failed us and the Right Wing Spin Room has often lied and misled. The Right Wing has managed to dominate and control much of the political conversation in recent years. They have been clever and they have enormous wealth.
+ PEACE ONE DAY is the name of a grassroots global movement to create a global ceasefire for one day each year, September 21. It is hoped that we can achieve this in 2006. If not this year, then hopefully in 2007, or in 2008 or in some year soon. And, hopefully and prayerfully, global consciousness can gradually be changed and a global ceasefire will become a reality not for just one day but for all days. The movement was started by Jeremy Gilley, a British filmmaker who documented his campaign to establish Septemebr 21 as the fixed annual date for an International Day of Peace with the goal of establishing a global ceasefire on that day each year together with a variety of observances around the globe promoting peace.
Here is what the 2004 United Nations webpage on the International Day of Peace said: “The General Assembly, in resolution 55/282, of 7 September 2001, decided that, beginning in 2002, the International Day of Peace should be observed on 21 September each year. The Assembly declared that the Day be observed as a day of global ceasefire and non-violence, an invitation to all nations and people to honour a cessation of hostilities during the Day. It invited all Member States, organizations of the United Nations system, regional and non-governmental organizations and individuals to commemorate the Day in an appropriate manner, including through education and public awareness, and to cooperate with the United Nations in establishing a global ceasefire.”
Here is what UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on the 2005 International Day of Peace: “The International Day of Peace is meant to be a day of global cease-fire, when all countries and all people stop all hostilities for the entire day. And it is a day on which people around the world observe a minute of silence at 12 noon local time.”
But where is the page for 2006??? September 21 is only 45 days from today but the United Nations website barely refers to it at all. I wonder if the various organizations supporting the International Day of Peace particularly PEACE ONE DAY and INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PEACE VIGIL have alerted the United Nations of this serious omission? There is a page on it but it is hard to find and nothing like the pages for the previous 4 years.
+ WHEN WILL THEY (ISRAEL) EVER LEARN ... AND US TOO:
Israel has the fourth largest military in the world. This is mostly a gift provided by the United States of America. So, Israel believes it can always overwhelm any Arab attempt to strike at Israel. So far, they have been able to do this. Ever since 1948 and even before when some Jews were already moving into Arab land by force.
There are about 6 million Jewish citizens in Israel today and about 4 million Arabs in Israel and in Gaza and the West Bank. Beyond Israel and Gaza & the West Bank are about 200 million Arabs in many countries. Israel believes that it can gradually take over the West Bank forcing out the entire Arab population and then some day live at peace with its Arab neighbors. But the West Bank and particularly Jerusalem is considered Holy Land by Muslims. The chances of a long term Arab acceptance of a Jewish West Bank is extremely low. A much better approach would be the long overdue acceptance by Israel of an Arab (Palestinian) West Bank and a shared Jerusalem either by partition or making it an international city. I believe Muslims would accept this and live at peace with Israel as long as reparations were made by Israel to the Palestinians for lost land and lost lives going back 60 years and a total withdrawal from all the illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
Every Muslim knows that it is the United States which makes the Israel military second to none in the region. Most Muslims make the connection and consider the United States a legitimate target since they know that they are all targets of the Israeli military as long as the US is there to support Israel.
We -- the United States -- need to tell Israel to withdraw from the illegal settlements, withdraw completely from the West Bank, find a way to share Jerusalem and agree to reparations for 60 years of illegal death and destruction and occupation. The sooner the better.
+ Since Americans hear the story of the Palestinian plight so rarely, I thought I would post this letter from an anonymous European (I think) spending time in Palestine even though it is quite long. I don't agree with the belief expressed here that violence is justified but I do understand the rage and bitterness and I think all Americans need to deal with this.
I would certainly love to see the Palestinians use the non-violent methods of Gandhi & King but just because many have turned to violence does not mean that we should ignore their legitimate grievances.
Letter from Palestine
Somewhere in Palestine, July 1 — Morning came and we found that 90 of the nation's best men were captured by Israel from their homes in the night. Our mayor, who was released from four years in prison just a month ago. Someone for whom I have the utmost respect and admiration, as do his people here, political allies and opponents alike. And our vice mayor, too. The last time I talked with him, earlier this week, he was struggling a lot with chronic back pain. I wonder where they are now. If they have been fed today, or tortured. If they will sleep on beds tonight, or not at all. If they will be home tomorrow. If we will never see some of them again alive.
It's the first time Palestinians have captured an Israeli soldier in a long time; families of prisoners have begged the resistance not to release him until there is a prisoner exchange no matter what the consequences to the community—being well acquainted with the suffering that implies.
Everyone went about their business today, wedding processions in the streets, families eating icecream and watermelon in the sticky heat. Some with the heavy numb shock of loved ones vanished suddenly, shock without surprise; they expected that the price that has been paid, and paid, and paid, for keeping one's spirit from being broken, must be paid again. Myself, I couldn't keep from crying from time to time, although for me it is just a very small taste of the shock, seeing two good men that I know a little, powerful in their community with the power the community has entrusted them with, suddenly made helpless, pieces of meat for Israeli intelligence officers somewhere to enjoy, and knowing that if I knew them more, if I knew others, the sense of anger and sorrow and disbelief would be multiplied. I know that for the people around me these tears formed years and years ago. The anger and sorrow and loss and disbelief have happened too many times to count, but it does not diminish, to the world it is one more added to a large number, for each mother and sister and wife it is an unconsolable agony, an irreplaceable loss, an unimaginable theft, a violation of a family, a marriage, that might never be able to recover from the traumas and abuses that are being suffered, will be suffered in the days ahead.
Israel has over 10,000 Palestinian hostages, hundreds of them children, and slaughters Palestinians of any age on a daily basis. When Palestinians take 2 Israeli hostages and kill two soldiers, Israeli bombs Gaza. Bombs out the power stations, the water reticulation; no electricity, no water, bridges blasted severing cities from each other. Gaza Strip, the most densely populated area on earth on account of Israel using it as a specially designed human garbage can where refugees are disposed off and hermetically sealed off from the rest of the world. Brilliant, but unsuccessful. If you treat humans as garbage and they know that they are humans and not garbage, they will not quietly disappear. You will never sleep safe at night. You will never have the right to sleep safe at night. May you never sleep safe at night. A young woman in my neighborhood asked, can you believe Israel kidnapped most of our government last night? Imagine waking up to hear that Palestinian forces had kidnapped 90 Israeli government leaders. It's hard to imagine that Israel would leave one house standing, one person uninjured.
Imagine if Palestinians had the military capacity to punish Israel on a comparable scale for every two hostages it takes and two it kills. Imagine if Americans, and Europeans, valued the blood of Palestinians and Iraqis as much as their own blood. Imagine if the nations of the world used their armies to protect the lives of the innocent and bring to justice thieving, raping, murdering states.
A couple days ago I sat with someone I know, who was taken hostage last night. He explained part of Hamas' interpretation of the Qur'an as follows: there are three kinds of people that Muslims have to deal with. 1) Those who treat you with respect. In this case, it is a crime against God to treat them with anything but respect, kindness, and hospitality. In other words, if a Jew wanted to immigrate to Palestine with full respect for the people here, wishing to become a member of Palestinian society, he should be welcomed. 2) Then there are those who do not respect you, and oppose you. You have no obligation to extend hospitality to them. 3) Then there are those who have no respect for your humanity, your property or your religion, they take power over your land and your lives, destroy your land and kill your people. In this case you have an obligation to fight against them to protect your land and your people. If they kill your people, you can kill their people.
Today I visited with another friend who thinks he may be captured tonight; so many of his friends were captured last night. He said, Israel doesn't care too much about the lives of the Israeli hostages, in the past there were cases of them killing the hostages themselves by indiscriminate bombing of communities. But Israel has been waiting since Hamas' election for Hamas' first military operation, and so they knew this massive attack on the community would come, sooner or later. Even though different groups have participated in the Palestinian military operations in the past few days, all of Israel's targets are Hamas leaders. Israel wants to see Hamas destroyed, Europe and America want to see Hamas destroyed, and Abu Mazen seems to be trying his best to join them. Many of those arrested were among the Hamas members that Israel exiled to the no mans land between Israel and Lebanon, a decade ago.
He told me some of his friend's stories from those three terrible years, living in tents through snowy winters. He talked about the warm spirit that thrived in the tents during freezing months. He told of how hungry men went to an apricot orchard and couldn't find the owner, so they took some fruit and then tied some money in a handkerchief to the tree. When the owner found it, he tracked them down, and said to them, with tears coming down his face, what kind of men are you, starving and rejected by the world, who have such principles that you will not even take fruit that you find on a tree. I give you my fruit, I give you my orchards!
I felt the poverty of being from the West, where the media can say nothing about these men except to endlessly regurgitate simpleminded slander… of those captured I know just a few names, and little of their stories. For anyone here, each of these names represents a rich story, decades of struggles, of suffering, heroism, years of prison, of pain, of courage, of trying again, of hopes betrayed, of disappointment and endurance that continues forward to find new hope. We had this conversation over lunch in his daughter's home. She and her husband were active with Hamas and he was seized by Israel and killed in prison, leaving her with their three small children. Don't forget, it is America that gives Israel everything it needs to do this to us, she said. When we left, she and her three boys kissed him over and over, not knowing if tomorrow they will wake up to hear that her dad, their grandpa, has become a prisoner.
This week I spent with a French student, an orphan of war in Bangladesh, who is doing research on women's views of dignity. Dignity is a word thrown around a lot in international law but without definition; people have a "right to dignity" but since no one knows what it is, when it comes right down to it violations of this right cannot be prosecuted. I helped her interview dozens of women this week, from Fatah, Hamas, PFLP, poor and wealthy, educated and illiterate, young and old. We would sit down with strangers and as soon as dignity, al karame, was mentioned, the room burst into life with passionate opinions, terrible stories, and incredibly brave and inspiring statements.
Here are some of the things I heard about dignity.
There is no dignity in Palestine; we face humiliation at checkpoints, restriction from visiting our families or going to school, soldiers in our homes during the night, prison… Israel's war is first of all against our dignity which Israel attacks from every angle and with every means possible, because if it can succeed in destroying our dignity, we will not be able to resist anymore. There is tremendous dignity in Palestine; perhaps more than anywhere else in the world, because the occupation with all its mechanisms for humiliation makes us aware of our dignity; the more they try to destroy our dignity the stronger our dignity becomes; they are getting the opposite results that they want. There are two kinds of dignity: one that you get from others, when you are treated with dignity, the other comes from inside of you, from what you know about who you really are before God, and no one has the power to take this away from you unless you let them. Even if as women we are captured by Israel, stripped naked and raped in the prisons, if we resist every attack upon our dignity it will not be lost. A woman was told at a checkpoint to remove her scarf. She refused, and the soldier showed her a metal rod and said he would drive it through her eyes if she did not take it off. You can have your eyes, or you can have your dignity. She refused. He drove it through her eyes. She survived, but she is blind. And she did not lose her dignity. A friend of the Prophet Mohammad, a woman, was tied to the ground by a man who made her choose between her dignity or her life. The only thing she was able to do was to spit in his face, and she did. He killed her. But he did not destroy her dignity.
Arab people have a great source of dignity from the rich and deep history of our culture. But now all Arab lands are captive and only in Iraq and Palestine are we free within ourselves, because we do not accept the enslavement that is forced upon us; our resistance gives us great dignity.
We get our dignity from our land. It is our life. As long as we are in our land, no matter how much we suffer, we will have our dignity. If they succeed in expelling us to Jordan, our dignity will be lost forever. I have my family's olive trees. Every year I used to have precious olive oil from my own trees that I could give generously to my friends and neighbors. Now Israel has killed half of my trees and imprisoned the rest. These trees are like my own children. It is a terrible, terrible sorrow and shame for me each day to know that I am powerless to help them. Now, when we need olive oil for ourselves, we have to go to the store and buy it. But I was one who could generously give olive oil to my friends and relatives.
We get our dignity from Islam, as women, and as human beings. In our culture, before Islam, women were just seen as property, baby girls could be buried alive. We see women in many parts of the world who have no dignity. Islam has given us our full rights as women in every sense, and full equality with every other human being. In the Qur'an God says that he has given the same dignity to every human being—it does not depend on whether you are male or female, or whether you are Muslim or from another religion, each of us has the same worth.
What do you expect and hope for in the future?
Things will get much, much worse. It is written that we will suffer like this until near the end.
Our hope comes from knowing that Jesus will come back and will remove all injustice from the earth, and at last the race of mankind will be free to live in peace and equality.
What do you believe should be the political outcome for Palestine?
If only they would all go back where they came from, we could live in peace in our homes and land again.
We can never live with them; if someone has killed your children, can you accept them as a neighbor?
We already live with them, of course we can in the future.
We cannot live with them, we must have a state, and they must have a state. About all the refugees who have their homes and lands in Israel, I don't know……..
We can live with them in one state, the refugees must be given back their homes and their land.
If we have an Islamic state on all of Palestine, it is the only way we will be able to live together, us and them, because Islam is the only system where equality between people of different religions is protected.
Do you think negotiations or armed struggle is the best strategy at this time?
Of course, if we could get our rights back without violence, that would be the best way. If negotiations ever worked, then we should use that instead of armed struggle, but they have never produced anything. We have to keep fighting to protect our land and our community. How could it be right to do nothing when daily they are attacking our lives and our land?
As a woman would you participate in armed struggle?
I admire women who do, but I myself don't think I'm capable of it. My contribution is to study and be a good mother to my children.
No, I don't think women should carry weapons.
Yes! It would be a great honor to fight for my country!
Yes! How I wish we had the chance to be trained as soldiers like all the Israeli women are. I am not married yet, but I hope that one day I will have a son who will give his life for our country to be free. The Americans, Europeans and Israelis place more value on the blood of their dogs and cats than they do on the blood of Palestinians. None of us can ever forget the sight of little Huda screaming for her father on the beach of Gaza, throwing herself on the sand next to his dead body over and over. No one in the world has expressed their outrage, or even sorrow, to us about these atrocities against us. They care deeply about the Mundial, and Huda's agony is an interruption, a distraction, from the soccer score. Our blood is so, so cheap to the world, and Israeli blood is so valuable. They do not see our humanity at all.
How do you find your sense of your own humanity, when all the world is telling you your life, your death, your blood is worthless?
When it comes down to that, we know that God sees us, even if we are suffering in an Israeli torture chamber and no one in our family knows if where we are or if we are alive or dead, we know that God sees us and knows our value, our humanity. We belong to him, and in that is our worth, and our hope, our fates are in his hands and our lives are very precious to him, no matter how worthless they are to our brothers and sisters in the human race, and in the end, that is what matters. We know who we are. Our lives, our deaths, our suffering, our hopes, our disappointment, are not insignificant. Yesterday I met a new appointee from the German government in Jerusalem, a young guy with an American accent. He was happy that Hamas and Fatah had agreed on the Prisoners' Document. Great, we've gotten Hamas to recognize Israel, he said. Now we just have to get them to renounce armed struggle, and then get rid of these ideas of an Islamic state. The problem is when we bring democracy to the middle east, we always have to deal with the challenge of making sure there is a secular state when so many people want an Islamic state. (Jewish states, apparently, are just dandy.) What these Palestinians just don't understand, he said, is that armed struggle won't get them anywhere. Haven't they learned anything, after all these years? It's really hurting their image in the international community. Well, I said sarcastically, since you understand this so well, and none of the Palestinians have been able to grasp it, maybe you should explain it to them then. Oh, I am, every Palestinian I meet, he said with sincerity.
And what is that dazzling offer that Europe will extend, if Palestinians promise to sit on their hands and open their mouths? In exchange for your dignity, what? Maybe longlife, lifelong food rations? Maybe the chance to clean toilets in Israel, and the dream that your grandchildren could do the same?
I have not been here too long, but it is long enough to be sure of one thing: It is the Europeans, the Israelis, and the Americans who fail to grasp the central truth, after all these decades of trying to finetune the catastrophe they have engineered in Palestine: these women and men and children, who carry their heads so high, know who they are. They are prepared to sacrifice their lives, but they are not prepared to sacrifice their dignity. While the world discusses the moral or strategic aspects of armed resistance, there is no confusion about these issues here. Undefended, dignity—and the land—would be lost, and death would be better. With or without your permission, they will continue to fight.
(This letter was received by NECDP, New England Committee to Defend Palestine)
+ Last night I saw AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, a documentary featuring Al Gore's very challenging and courageous and comprehensive slide show on global warming. Today I came across a proposal for action by Senator Diane Feinstein of California. The documentary offers many suggestions for taking action. Another important website on global warming is climatechange.net.
+ I love meeting people in cyberspace who share a lot of my goals and values. I just met Caleb who has a blog worth reading. He is working on intercultural and interfaith understanding and has been doing a lot of important thinking and reflecting.
RECENTLY DISCOVERED ON THE WEB:
EXCERPTS FROM WHITEHEAD & HARTSHORNE
a progressive Christian book & website
but get out your wallet!
The Peace & Justice Activist William Sloane Coffin who died last month was the Pastor here for a long time
Click on it and buy it from northernsun.com.