Friday, December 30, 2011

War Crimes and the American Conscience Part I

During downtimes for my training with Farmers, I was able to read an interesting book from 1970 entitled “War Crimes and the American Conscience.” The book was an analysis of US war crimes committed in Vietnam in the light of the principles of the Nuremburg conference; the recorded notes of the 1970 Congressional Conference on War and National Responsibility. Below are some excerpts.

“If we work up to the level of our technology in terms of the wars we are prepared to fight, the sky is the limit; There will be absolutely no control over what the United States can do, because it is the most powerful nation in the world and has the most advanced military technology. We will use other tactics, we will fight ‘clean’ Vietnams, where our hands don’t get dirty, where we fly in the stratosphere, not seeing what we are hitting and killing. - Hans Morgenthau Pg 27

“It is also a reality, I think, that no American President will look upon himself as a possible perpetrator of war crimes. It could not occur to him, it could not occur to the American people – except to the young – that war crimes are something that can be charged to Americans. – Daniel Ellisberg Pg 31

“The blind destruction of whole villages with artillery or from the air, on the grounds that one had drawn fire from somewhere in these villages, would seem on this basis [Nuremberg Conference Definitions of War Crimes] to be a war crime. - George Wald Pg 75

“As a nation, we have abdicated our responsibility to differentiate between means and ends in the execution of our foreign policy. We turned this responsibility over to an Executive who is not bound in the conduct of foreign policy by much more than his own perception of the world and the consciences of those who surround and advise him. – William R. Corson Pg. 91

“Can any country such as the United States, with its predominant military and economic power, with a position so commanding in the world, carry out warfare against a weaker state, without in fact pressing its advantage to the limit of its own assessment of its own security? When the United States has exercises restraint, it has done so only in response to perceived threats from a stronger or equally strong power.
The basic issues is the permissibility of basing a foreign policy on our unilateral determination to use violence whenever and whenever we see fit, to achieve ends as we determine them. This basic notion of how we use our military power really has to be attacked before we can work out ground rules for managing the violence on the battlefields. – Richard Barnet Pg 98

“Turning now to the rest of the American population and its response to My Lai, we can identify at least three psychological mechanisms called forth to avoid facing such unpleasant truths. The first is denial, ‘The massacres didn’t really happen or have been exaggerated.’ The second is rationalization, ‘War is hell.’ And the third, in a way more politically dangerous, is the mobilization of self-righteous anger; ‘Stop picking on our boys. The Vietnamese had it coming to them. You [the bearer of the news] ought to be sent to Vietnam to fight.’ - Robert Jay Lifton Pg. 106

“When we go into a village, we classify all the people into different categories. But these categories do not depend on something we perceive about them; they depend on what we do to them. If we kill them, they are Vietcong. If we capture them and tie them up, they are Vietcong suspects. If we grab them and move them to a camp, they are hostile civilians. Having don this to many people who are in fact innocent, the definitions we have imposed become real. The men who have been tied up or tortured actually become our enemies and shoot real bullets at us, but still we are facing the shadow of our own actions. – Robert Jay Lifton Pg. 111

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Red Pill, Blue Pill

"[It is a shock] to learn that in every nation where we now have terrorism, the USA had first done terrible things. We've overthrown their governments, installed dictators, undermined their economies - all to strengthen our business interests. The terror attacks are retaliation for what we've done to their countries.
Chomsky [an author] shows how our corporate media have created an image of fiendish terrorists who 'hate us for our freedom.' But they really hate us for dominating them. Since we started the aggression, the attacks, detestable as they are, son't end until we change our policies.
The most pathetic thing is that we Americans still believe it's 'our' country, when it and both political parties are firmly in the hands of the corporations.
This view went against everything [we] have been raised to believe. We've all been subjected as children to patriotic rituals that caused us to connect the nation we live in with our family and then with God - the founding fathers, our own father, and the Heavenly Father all joined in patriarchy. Because of this emotional identification, we react to criticism of the country as an attack on our family. This hurts our feelings on a deep personal level, so we reject it, convinced it can't be true. It's too threatening to us. We tune it out and often resent the people making it."

"Western propaganda uses this to whip up war fever. The media in Europe and North America have seared all sorts of atrocity stories- some of them true, some of them not - into people's minds to justify invading the country and bombing the people.
The Taliban are bad guys, no doubt about it. I'm not fond of them at all. They killed hundreds of people, including friends of mine. They would've killed me if I had stayed.
But the USA has killed fifty thousand Afghans just in this current war... and more every day. They're devastating the country. They make the Taliban look like boy scouts."

It's when you've learned enough to "take the red pill" that the above comments make sense.

I think what finally put me over the edge was Walter Wink's The Powers that Be. While reading that book, all the other biblical and extra-biblical study I'd been doing all came together.

Here are some other red pill-esque quotes.

"One of the most persistent ambiguities that we face is that everybody talks about peace as a goal. However, it does not take sharpest-eyed sophistication to discern that while everybody talks about peace, peace has become practically nobody's business among the power-wielders. Many men cry Peace! Peace! but they refuse to do the things that make for peace." - MLK Jr.

"Naturally the common people don't want war... That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or not voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country." - Hermann Goering

A Radically Patriotic 2011

Last night, Erin and I watched the movie The Help. It was a great movie! Without giving too much away, I'll share that the basic premise of the movie involves some of the characters intentionally breaking a law of the State of Mississippi (1950's Mississippi) in order to work to bring racial equality to the nation. Watching that movie made me thankful for those patriots who love our country enough to engage in the civil disobedience necessary to create a more just and right society.

I'm also reading another book that is challenging me to help make this nation a more just place, though more on that later.

But here's to a more radically patriotic 2011. More to come...

Monday, December 26, 2011

Loving Our Kids on Purpose

I just finished a powerful book on parenting, Loving Our Kids in Purpose by Danny Silk. It's very much in the Love and Logic thought framework of empowering kids with choices and letting them live with the consequences of bad decisions. Erin and I are able to implement some of the stuff proposed by the book, though we've still got a lot of learning to do. When I find myself wanting to yell at Dawson to make him do what he "needs" to do, I'm reminded that controlling my son through fear will become less and less effective the closer to my size he becomes.
I'd certainly recommend the book.

Here's a great quote from page 166:
"The right answer can only come with the right question, which is 'What are you going to do?' IF your child is truly sorry, she'll clean up her mess. But she can only get there is you have a paradigm in which you expect her to be able to find the problem and take responsibility for it. So many people don't expect that from others. They expect that when you make a mess, it is theirs to clean up, and they have to order you through the steps to clean up the mess. They need control of you in the problem. Your job is to comply or rebel. But nothing on the inside ever changes. It's a paradigm of external control."

Friday, December 23, 2011

War and Peace

In the spring of 2006, as Erin and I were preparing for a trip to Europe, I thought it would be fitting to start reading a great novel from European history, "War and Peace". Tonight, Dec. 23, 2011, I have FINALLY finished the book.

Overall, I felt it was a pretty mediocre read, not even close to as gripping as Hugo’s “Les Miserables” nor as powerful as Dostoevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov. It was better however, than Dostoevsky's “Crime and Punishment.”

I did enjoy the character development of Pierre as well as Tolstoy’s musings about why Napoleon was the product of dumb luck or fortunate circumstances rather than genius or great leadership. Tolstoy liked to point out that the people who first declared Napoleon a glorious hero for France and Europe later declared him an insane criminal who was a danger to civilization, therefore exiling him. Not surprisingly, this opinion of Napoleon differed from the opinion Hugo expressed in “Les Miserables.” The last 50 pages or so was a whole bunch of historical philosophy of which I had trouble understanding. I did find a few quotes toward the end of the book that are worth sharing.

“In the first place the historian describes the conduct of separate persons who, in his opinion, lead humanity (one regards as such only monarchs, military generals and ministers of state’ another includes besides, monarchs, orators, scientific men, reformers, philosophers and poets). Secondly, the goal towards which humanity is being lead is known to the historian. To one this goal is the greatness of Rome, or the Spanish, or the French state, for another, it is freedom, equality, a certain sort of civilization in a little corner of the world called Europe.
In 1789 there was a ferment in Paris: it grew and spread, and found expression in the movement of peoples from west to east. Several times that movement is made to the east, and comes into collion with a counter movement from east westwards. In the year 1812 it reaches its furthest limit, Moscow, and then, with a remarkable symmetry, the counter movement follows from east to west; drawing with it, like the first movement, the peoples of Central Europe. The counter-movement reaches the starting-point of the first movement – Paris – and subsides.
During this period of twenty years an immense number of fields are not tilled; houses are burned; trade changes its direction; millions of men grow poor and grow rich, and change the habitations; and millions of Christians, professing the law of love, murder one another.
What does this all mean? What did all this proceed from? What induced these people to burn houses and to murder their fellow creatures? What were the causes of these events? What force compelled men to act in this fashion? These are the involuntary and most legitimate questions that, in all good faith, humanity puts to itself when it stumbles on memorials and traditions of that past age of restlessness.
To answer these questions the common-sense of humanity turns to the science of history, the object of which is the self-knowledge of nationals and of humanity.” – Pg. 1112

“For causes, known or unknown to us, the French begin to chop and hack at each other. And to match the event, it is accompanied by its justification in the expressed wills of certain men, who declare it essential for the good of France, for the cause of freedom, for equality. Men cease slaughtering one another, and that event is accompanied by the justification of the necessity of centralization of power, of resistance to Europe, and so on. Men march from west to east, killing their fellow-creatures, and this event is accompanied by phrases about the glory of France, the baseness of England, and so on. History teaches us that those justifications for the event are devoid of all common-sense, that they are inconsistent with one another, as, for instance, the murder of a man as a result of the declaration of his rights, and the murder of millions in Russia for the abasement of England. But those justifications have an incontestable value in their own day.
They remove moral responsibility from those men who produce the events. At the time they do the work of brooms, that go in front to clear the rails for the train: they clear the path of men’s moral responsibility. Apart from those justifications, no solution could be found for the most obvious question that occurs to one at once on examining any historical event; that is, How did millions of men come to combine to commit crimes, murders, wars and so on?” – Pg. 1130

Just FYI, “War and Peace” is split up into 15 different parts each containing around 50 – 70 chapters that are from one to four pages long. This allows the book to be read in tiny little snippets over a long period of time. Long as in almost 6 years. So if you’d like to broaden your cultural and historical horizons, I’d recommend you change your bathroom reading from the newspaper to some Tolstoy. If only for about six years.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dang, it feels good to be a .... Preacha'

After almost half a year away, a couple of weeks ago I finally got back into the rhythm of preaching; the reflection, study, preparation and delivery. And what better way to get back into the swing of it than with the tension, history, despair and hope of an OT prophet.

Here is my message at Indian Creek - Gardner from a few weeks ago. The passage is Isaiah 7 and the message is entitled, "The Wonder of Hope."

Also, I talk about my TFA experience in the last 1/3 of the message.

The Wonder of Hope - Gardner Campus from Indian Creek Community Church on Vimeo.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Lingering Legacy - Part IV

So I thought I'd end with three posts, but here's another good one I needed to share.

Last Thursday night, I went to an open house for Trinity Family Midtown. The open house was a chance for this missional community to share about their new initiatives and to share testimonies of people who have come to Christ through this ministry. It was an incredible evening. While listening to one of the stories, I had a tear or two come to my eye, thinking about how just over 7 years ago, we started TFC in order to reach people far from the church and God. While a ministry to reach the LGBT community centered in midtown KC wasn't on my radar in 2004, a single-minded focus to do whatever it takes to reach people turned off to God and the church was certainly in the forefront of my mind. So while TFC is no longer in Gardner and I'm no longer the pastor, the church is still reaching people for Christ. And they're doing it in a way that almost no other church in the denomination is doing.

My old DS, Jeren Rowell was at the open house and I got to enjoy the moment with him. I told him of a story I'd just heard the day before about a Nazarene pastor who tried to start a similar ministry in the urban center of a city but because he couldn't make it fit into the Nazarene box that his DS wanted, he was forced to start it as a non-denominational church. After that decision, the DS stripped him of his credentials (the pastor regained them through the Methodist Church) and the church began to do great things and reach people for Jesus. I thanked Jeren for having a Kingdom vision that is much broader than just a single denomination and being the type of leader who supports new and unique ministries.

I also told Jeren that TFC Midtown is set up the way I was trying to move TFC Gardner toward, but just wasn't able to do so. The church is lead by several volunteer pastors, is very low on programming and very high on community and is finding new ways to serve the poor of the surrounding area. While I'm really proud that TFC became what I was hoping it would be, I feel a bit disappointed that I wasn't the one able to take it there. But as Jeren said, "that's just the way it goes sometimes."

Finally, I kept giving props to Brian Hupe that entire evening. Brian, Sara Armstrong and Bill Melvold (TFC Gardner's last church board) all deserve some serious recognition for having the boldness and foresight to vote to start the Midtown campus. It was a bold move because 1) TFC Gardner was losing people fairly quickly and 2) It was a unique ministry that no other church was doing. It was so unique that we had some people leave TFC because they couldn't reconcile a ministry that reached the LGBT community through love and compassion and not judgment and condemnation. I honestly believe that the leadership decisions of that church board will continue to have a Kingdom impact in ways that won't be fully known in this life.

And the legacy continues...