Wednesday, April 23, 2008

More from Human Smoke

Someone asked Mohandas Gandhi about English pacifists. It was May 1938.

The problem with the English pacifists, Gandhi said, was that they made moral calculations: "When they speak of pacifism they do so with the mental reservation that when pacifism fails, arms might be used." A true pacifist never calculated. "Someone has to arise in England with the living faith to say that England, whatever happens, shall not use arms," said Gandhi. "They are a nation fully armed, and if they having the power deliberately refuse to use arms, theirs will be the first example of Christianity in active practice on a mass scale. That will be a real miracle."
No miracle occurred.

Oswald Garrison Villard, an editor of The Nation, wrote that great armaments were the road to fascism. "They bring with them increased worship of the State, increased nationalism, increased State service, and therefore play into the hands of those like Hitler and Mussolini who declare that the citizen is made for the State and not the State for the citizen," he said. It was July 2, 1938.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Happy Birthday, Israel: 60 years of. . . .

I wanted to say "screwing the Palestinians," but that would be rude. God forbid we be rude and say a word like "screw." Someone might get upset.

But we don't get upset over 60 years of oppression of the Palestinian peoples. Go to for a good account of the history of this oppression.

Church leaders around the world are signing on to a document that states clearly the oppression of the Palestinians, and Christian complicity in that oppression. Click here to read about it.

Part of the story recounted in Human Smoke (the history of the beginnings of WWII I'm currently reading) is that the Jews were sent to Palestine because no one else would take them. Great Britain refused. The United States refused. No one would let the Jews from Germany emigrate because everyone hated Jews. Everyone else in the Western world shared the antisemitism of Hitler and Goebbels and Goering. So we refused to let them emigrate to our countries, largely leaving them in Germany to be slaughtered, then afterward sending them to Palestine and thus giving away the land that had belonged to the Palestinians for centuries. Yes, the western nations gave away land that wasn't theirs. Why? Because we could. We had the military might to make it stick. The Palestinians couldn't resist against it.

So, Jews were slaughtered in Germany because of German/European antisemitism; Jews were banished to Palestine because of British and American antisemitism. We continue to suffer from terrorism today because of an antisemitic past. And here's the really neat trick: we disguise it by creating a Jewish state! So, it LOOKS like we are "Pro-Jewish"!!! Ingenious!

We owe both sides a deep apology.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Human Smoke

From Human Smoke, the book I'm currently reading:

Captain Philip S. Mumford, a former British officer in Iraq, joined the Peace Pledge Union. He gave a speech about why. "What is the difference between throwing 500 babies into a fire and throwing fire from aeroplanes on 500 babies?" he asked. "There is none."
Good question. Good point.


The church bells in Guernica begain ringing. It was market day, Monday, at 4:30 P.M., on April 28, 1937. German pilots were in the air. They wore the badge of the Kondor Legion: a condor plunging earthward with a bomb held in its claws.
They were over the town for three hours. The curate of the Church of Santa Maria de Guernica wrote: "Before God and my country I bear witness that the airplanes threw incendiary bombs." The Times of London wrote: "The whole town of 7,000 inhabitants, plus 3,000 refugees, was slowly and systematically pounded to pieces." A reporter for the Daily Mail wrote: "A sight that haunted me for weeks was the charred bodies of several women and children huddled together in what had been the cellar of a house. It had been a refugio."
Later Hermann Goering said that Guernica had been a testing ground for the Luftwaffe. "It was a pity," he said, "but we could not do otherwise, as we had nowhere else to try out our machines."
Read this book.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

On Being Alien

A good friend currently wonders if he "fits here anymore." Here is my late-night response.

I suppose that depends in part on what you mean by "here." Abilene? Church of Christ? Earth? You probably don't fit any of them very well, especially given the fallenness of them all. But the last two (!) are what God is working on redeeming (certainly he's abandoned Abilene??? :-) ), and I think that's where we "fit" into the world -- with the memory that it is God's, that God isn't happy with it in its present state because God doesn't "fit" here anymore, either. I mean -- when's the last time you saw God walking around in the garden? The world has done its best to kick God out. No wonder that we who are imago dei also feel like it's a bad fit (when we're aware, at least). The only way we can "fit" is to join forces with God, which means to be fighting against the way the world is, which means NOT to "fit." A paradox. May God have mercy.