Friday, March 24, 2006

What the heck is going on?

I felt like this was a big enough issue to expand it to a regular post, so this post is in response to Leah's post about CPT and Jake and Ryan's comments that followed.

I'm also incredibly disturbed and uncomfortable with the events surrounding their "rescue." (release? aquisition? re-capture? resortation unto freedom?)
While I am very, very happy that they are alive (particularly Jim who was one of my CPT trainers and an amazing human being), I also find it really strange that there has been such a silence surrounding the fact that they were rescued with a military operation. I know that "no shots were fired," but it almost seems that CPT's stressing of this was to make them feel better about the the fact that our (I'm a CPTer, you know) friends and workers were rescued by the forces we condemn, in what Jake rightly points out was only a vaguely nonviolent operation in the most basic sense of the word, ie: apparently no one was hurt, and definetly not in the sense that CPT would regulary use it (nonviolence is not merely a lack of violence nor a negative inverse of violence, but a positive blah blah...), and was in fact only "nonviolent" because the army got lucky and the people holding the CPTers had left.

Now I become much more disturbed upon reading this recent addendum, as mentioned by Jake, in which it is said, "We are grateful to the soldiers who risked their lives to free Jim, Norman and Harmeet."

Who wrote this sentance? I have never in my life heard nor imagined a sentance like this coming from the mouth of a single CPTer! Just yesterday, (and the whole time CPT has existed) they said, "We believe that the illegal occupation of Iraq by Multinational Forces is the root cause of the insecurity which led to this kidnapping and so much pain and suffering in Iraq."

It's your fault and we are against everything you are doing and our whole mission in Iraq is based upon that, but hey thanks for finding our friends.

More disturbing is, "As peacemakers who hold firm to our commitment to nonviolence, we are also deeply grateful that they fired no shots to free our colleagues." The whole phrasing of this gives the power to the army, to the empire, the very thing we are resisting! Oh you guys, we are so, so, so, thankful to your big army powers, and what would we, simple peacemakers, do with out you? It paints us exactly as Cal Thomas and the rest of the "peacemakers are naive idiots" gang want us to look. As if the Army tried not to fire any shots just for us, because they know we don't like big bad guns! It's the Army!

I am just stunned and overwhelmed that nothing is being said about this by anyone within CPT. Our email discussion list for workers, usually overflowing with all sorts of arguements and opposing views, is deathly silent. No one is saying anything. If we are ashamed that this has happened why don't we speak up about it? In the least if this is not being addressed publicly why isn't it being addressed within CPT?

This is what shocks me so much. There is absolutely no reason CPT couldn't or wouldn't come out with a statement saying that while we are overjoyed to have our friends and co-workers, back and alive, we never supported nor requested any kind of military intervention to free them, and we did not support this one. We rejoice that those holding Jim, Norman, and Harmeet, had left and were not harmed in this action. While to the world this may look to be a successful rescue operation, as Christians dedicated to a life of nonviolence, we are saddened that the military took this into their own hands. We hope that our mission and work will not be tainted by this and we will continue to work to free Iraqis from oppression.

There is no reason not to say this. I cannot undestand. CPT's members and supporters and everyone involved has no stake in anything that could possibly put them in any kind of political or whatever risk by saying this. We are peacemakers and our whole mission is almost entirely opposed to what the coalition forces are doing in Iraq and around the world. Why now do we falter? We weren't involved nor would we endorse such a "rescue mission." It's even in the Iraq teams statement on kidnapping which they formulated prior to starting thier mission in Iraq. We reject and refuse military intervention. Obviously we aren't going to send our members back. But we can rebuke the way in which it was done. I think we have to or risk legitemizing it and delegitemizing ourselves.

After all we did say that when the CPTers went to Iraq, "They knew that their only protection was in the power of the love of God and of their Iraqi and international co-workers."

oh, and apparantly now the US military.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Scan in the end times!

One time, in Junior High, a gentleman came to our church and gave a great long talk about the one world government that was coming, the one world economy that it would bring, and how soon everyone would be required to put a chip in their wrists if they wanted to buy things. He said those who resisted would be chased down by black helicopters (which had in fact already been after him) and all true Christians would have to move underground and live in tunnels or they would be killed. I remember not sleeping for a week and crying all the way home. But I guess the guy is at least sort of right, or at least still has a spot somewhere in my mind. I was at Jewel the other day (a grocery chain for you non-Chicagoans) and noticed a peculiar payment option on the everpresent card scanner. The Tribune today ran an article that helped answer all my questions about the latest in consumer technology: Pay by Touch.

According to the article, anyone confusing this with fingerprint commerce are sorely confused:

" No image of the fingerprint is actually stored, Morris said, so even if in a worst-case scenario hackers intercepted and decoded the equation, they still wouldn't have a fingerprint, just elements of it. And the information is not sold or shared with other companies or the government--at least not without a court order, he said."

So, of course, no one could ever convert the mathmatical equation into a fingerprint image and steal your identity. Nope, not possible. If you are nervous about signing up, I'm sure the sign up process will win you over. According to the print edition of this article all it takes is the following simple, risk free steps at any one of the pay by touch machines.

1. enter a seven-digit search code, usually your phone number.
2. scan your driver's license or other government issued ID.
3. insert a blank check.
4. scan your jewel card.
5. scan both your right and left index fingers.

See, that's it. Nothing to be concerned about! I'm not sure what part of the machine actually puts a bar code or chip into your wrist, but I haven't tried signing up yet.

For those who are still hesitant, not to worry, apparently Py by Touch isn't really interested in you:
"The word [fingerprint] might have some baggage. But your fingerprint can only be used by you," he said. "The people who see baggage in it might be people we don't want to sign up anyway." In all honestly I have no idea what that means but there you have it.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Theological Haiku #2.1

Why to be evangelical:

random flute solos;
jesus lives in my organs--
a ghost runs the church.

Martyrdom as more than a web poll

Recent discussion regarding the death of Tom Fox has provided an interesting case study on the relationship between the Christian faith and politics. That there is such a relationship between faith and politics would be a given to anyone associated with Tom Fox or Christian peace keeping, as the motivation for such politically charged actions are based on the message and way of Jesus Christ. I want to propose a dual use of the term political, wherein the base meaning incorporates this sort of relationship (or the general sense of the term that includes doing anything basically) but another, perhaps more prevalent meaning, would refer to the politicaliztion of Tom Fox's death (and those like him) for causes other than the Gospel.

While Sojourners, amongst others, have avoided using the term 'martyr' in commentary on Tom Fox's death, other groups, specifically peace activist groups like Catholic Peace Fellowship, have used the term liberally. (Interestingly, CPT has avoided the term) Why would some groups choose to use the term while others avoid it?

First, let's look at a working definition of the term. After discussing the historical development of the term in relation to the earliest Christians, culminating in the death of Steven, The Catholic Encyclopedia defines martyrdom as:
"Thus, within the lifetime of the Apostles, the term martus came to be used in the sense of a witness who at any time might be called upon to deny what he testified to, under penalty of death. From this stage the transition was easy to the ordinary meaning of the term, as used ever since in Christian literature: a martyr, or witness of Christ, is a person who, though he has never seen nor heard the Divine Founder of the Church, is yet so firmly convinced of the truths of the Christian religion, that he gladly suffers death rather than deny it." (emphasis added)

Here we see why martyrdom is political. Historically, the person is killed by a political body of power, usually a system appealing to justice, that condemns the person who is unwilling to publicly deny their faith. For a classic contemporary case of martyrdom, check out this story out of Afghanistan that was on the front page of the Tribune. Here, all the pieces are there, including the death via system of justice, option to spare life if he will deny his faith, etc. The Tribune, however, is apparently facing the same questions raised here, mainly, what to do about the concept of martyrdom today, as they changed the article title from "Afghan man faces death for being a Christian" to "Afghan man faces death for abandoning Islam." The article doesn't use the term martyr at all, however it does point out that under Islamic law someone can be put to death for converting (hence the more accurate revised title) however in this case the issue is clearly that Abdul Rahman insists that people know he is a Christian and refuses to repent.

In contemporary theology, discussions regarding the issue of martyrdom have taken a looser meaning of the term, ranging from meaning the death of anyone at the hands of oppression (Sobrino) to the death of anyone acting toward "the good." Two examples of this expanded meaning of the term will shed some light into this topic. Regarding the resignation of Harvard president Lawrence Summers, the AP refers to him as an "unlikely conservative martyr." Basically, Summers, a liberal in many ways, was run out of Harvard because he was not liberal enough. In a different example, less metaphorical than the previous one, JFK is considered by many to be a liberal martyr because he was killed for what he believed in (or by the government...)

In a certain sense, then, a colloquial meaning of the term "martyrdom" has developed that includes anyone dying for their beliefs or anyone who is treated badly for their beliefs. It is this colloquial meaning of the term that makes it difficult then to talk about the death of Tom Fox or Rachel Corrie or Abdul Rahman. Because of the religious background of the term media outlets are going to be less likely to call Tom Fox a martyr. The irony of it is that according to the colloquial definition that justifies the use of the term martyr for Lawrence Summers dismissal at Harvard more than applies to Tom Fox or Abdul Rhaman (should he be executed). In summary, it seems as though theological discussion regarding the topic of martyrdom in relation to Tom Fox is complicated by the colloquial use of the term and the apparent political implications, mainly that if Tom Fox is a martyr than what he believed was true about God. Likewise, non-religious media will not use the term in this instance would be too classical. Man dies for religious belief, although more like classical martyrdom, is less safe than say JFK or Lawrence Summers because of the possible political fallout.

Add into this mix the use of the term martyr by Islamic Suicide Bombers and everyone is really mixed up. This is exactly what Friends for a non-violent world have done, however, in their commentary on Tom Fox's death.
"Tom Fox‘s life and manner of death demonstrate a true martyrdom, absolutely unlike the so-called martyrdom of suicide bombers. A martyr is a ‘witness’ to a truth unseen, a truth that God is and that God is good, powerful, loving and infinitely compassionate, even if life for us humans is full of violence and suffering. A martyr does not take the life of others, nor does a martyr take his or her own life. A martyr gives life for others to take, so that those who see this may gain a glimpse of who God is through that act of giving. This is utterly unlike the act of a person who kills him or herself, in order to have the greatest opportunity to kill others. This act of violence is not martyrdom; it is a mass murder-suicide, pure and simple. It shows nothing of God, except the degree to which human beings can brutally distort God’s image."

I think that this quote shows the importance for having nuanced meaning for the term. Here we have someone arguing that Tom Fox is a martyr and Islamic suicide bombers are not because the reality of God Tom Fox witnessed to is the true one. While I agree with this in principle, the term martyr and the death of Tom Fox can quickly become a tool of the other type of politics I mentioned above, wherein the other is demonized or Tom Fox's death is used simply as a statement against the government or war in general. Whether it is the Islam in this quote or the above mentioned conservative martyr, or even the peace activist death of Rachel Corrie, the one doing the killing is made out as obviously evil. But using these deaths or the term in this manner has shifted the focus from a witness to the resurrected Jesus and an unwillingness to deny this faith to another way to do violence to the other, something contrary to the Jesus witnessed to in the classical sense of martyr. I suppose what I am getting at is that the true power in the term martyr and the deaths of those who are martyrs is the critique of the systems that cause such possibilities (unjust politics, war, etc.) based on that which is witnessed to: the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Simply using these deaths as a numerical support of the belief that war is violent or people are suffering or Islam is wrong is to limit the power of the term.

In conclusion, I point out the tensions that remain:
1. in a way, all martyrdom is a political statement. however, I am weary of instances where the death and witness are turned from the reality of Jesus Christ and instead focused on "political agendas," be they peace, coservativism, or liberal democracy. How can we preserve themeaning of the term, the consistency of non-violence with the Christian gospel, and avoid this sort of negative politicalization?

2. How can we distinguish between those killed fitting the classical definition of the term, (the potential execution of Abdul Rahman seems to fit this precisely) and those who have died because of what they believe in general? It seems that both are important issues to acknowledge. I do not want to discredit anyone for dying for what they believe in, however I want a positive way to speak of how Tom Fox, suicide bombers, and JFK fit the general meaning of the term, yet only someone dying for the sake of the way of Jesus Christ is a Christian martyr.

3. Is there any value in the term or has it lost potential meaning and strength because of the complexities included here? While some groups jumped to use the term in relation to Fox's death, some of which seem to do so for the sake of furthering their causes, others avoided it entirely. Why did Sojourners not call Fox a martyr? Are they sensing the difficulties I have written about here and opted to avoid the discussion?

A Life Update

For those of you wondering, don't expect to see me in one of these outfits anytime too soon. I decided to "defer" my admission to Garrett's PhD program to focus on other pressing concerns like listening to music on jonny's computer, scrubbing boats, and watching pro wrestling. I am currently accepting job offers effective May 12th. I have so many job skills I couldn't even begin to list them on here. Specifically, I can read, write, speak, and scrub. I also know how to use e-mail, microsoft word, and google image search. Anyone looking for someone with these abilities should contact me.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Theological Haiku #2

Why not to be evangelical:

electronic drums,
overhead screens, James Dobson,
and pits of hell talk.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Theological Haiku

God is like a fox;
beautiful, kind and orange.
but dangerous too!