Friday, June 27, 2008

Where is home?

We've just about finished moving out of the Chino Hills flat to the 3 bedroom house we've rented in Chino. Maggie the cat understands something important.

Maggie doesn't really care whether she is in the flat or the house. What Maggie very much cares about is not being abandoned somewhere. She was pretty jumpy about not seeing Gayle's stuff in the new place. But with Gayle and Stephen in the new place, that's home. The old flat now definitely is not home. She wouldn't be pleased if we left her behind there.

Maggie knows that home is not a location but a family. People, and especially Christians, should have Maggie's understanding.

For us, home is where God is, so if he moves, so does home. "Our Father who is in heaven" means heaven is our home, and nowhere else is.

My friend Bill wondered one day why he would get upset and weepy if the University of Michigan lost a big football game, so he wisely asked God about it. He promptly understood that he was thinking that Michigan was home, that he was from there. He understood, and now he doesn't waste water when Michigan loses big games.

"Our Father who is in heaven" must be the beginning of our prayer, as Jesus rightly stated, because if we don't know that then we can't think straight about anything, and therefore cannot pray straight about anything. We're really nuts when we don't know where home is - and where it isn't. We might say that all idolatry amounts to being wrong about home.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

How do you know these stories are true?

Someone commented on my recent post "Support our troops? How about listening to them?" and asked a question that needs an answer: how can you tell these soldiers are telling the truth, and not just bad-mouthing the US. More generally, how can you see through the bias of any writer and know you're not being lied to?

First of all, bias or bad faith is in itself no reason to dismiss a story. The Gestapo were not nice people, and they could certainly lie. But they were telling the truth in 1943 when they said they had found the corpses of 20,000 Polish officers shot by Stalin in the Katyn Forest in 1939.

This question about the veracity of soldiers recounting atrocities reminds me of how Communists denied the testimony of 200,000 refugees fleeing Hungary in November 1956. These "patriots" want to support soldiers until those soldiers threaten their illusions. As soon as that happens, they want to find some reason to blow off their testimony - but consider how ridiculous that is. Look at all the accounts by so many, the routine torture now more covered up than in 2004, but clearly still happening.

Are soldiers in any army quick to tell such stories unless they're true? They can hardly be persuaded to talk about them when they are. These "patriots" who are so eager to disbelieve these men they so lately brayed about supporting show that they don't want to "support our troops" but rather to support their own illusions. And when those troops don't support them too, far from supporting them they want to find a way to call them liars.

Only those determined not to know can doubt these men. Look at all the supporting evidence. Consider how the Iraqi people are routinely called ragheads, hajis, and such like. You don't call people names like that except to license yourself to treat them like non-humans. When peoiple have called you names like that in your life, what did they do next?

I know moreover that these accounts are truthful because all occupation armies act like this. The theological truth that makes it inevitable is simply given by the apostle Peter: "Let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or an overseer of the business of others."

It turns out that these four are one; if you do one, you will always do them all. That's why overseeing the affairs of others is so insidious. It looks the most benign, and therefore draws you in, where you soon find yourself in the other three, which you would never have started with.

Colonial wars like Iraq are always in their nature about overseeing the affairs of the lesser breeds. This inherent arrogance is why they're all about murder, theft, and evildoing, no matter who does them. This is nothing new: American soldiers behaved just as abominably in their colonial wars in the Philippines and Vietnam - just like Frenchmen, British, Germans, and all other colonial occupiers in their turn.

Consider the remarks of Pierre Leuillette, a French paratrooper who wrote of what he saw in Algeria:

Whatever the outcome of this Algerian war, it is certain that fifty, a hundred years from now, the Algerians will still remember, and will still be telling their children, about this year 1957: when the Casbah, the symbol of all they had most deeply in common, was day and night in a state of siege, when terror was absolute master, when every one of its inhabitants could every moment say to himself: "Within an hour, men will perhaps be knocking at my door to take me away forever."

Make no mistake. That is exactly the reality that the US occupation has brought to the neighborhoods of Iraq, both at the hands of American soldiers themselves and the militias and death squads the occupation authorities have sponsored. 4 million in a population of 30 million are not driven from their homes by anything less. All occupiers act like this. If they did not, they would not have to call the occupied slopes, gooks, ragheads, niggers, hajis, and ragheads. As the Bible says, "Your speech betrays you."

Despite strict orders, I escape to Algiers as often as I possibly can. I have been silent among jailers so long I feel myself becoming vile, and what is more serious, I feel that in my mind the scandal of all these crimes that make up our day-to-day war is daily losing a little of its virulence.

To civilians capable of talking calmly about the army - there aren't many, but they do exist even in Algiers in 1957 - I tell about what I see every day. They have always had a lofty idea of the greatness of France. They listen politely. But I sense their disbelief. They are thinking: "This isn't possible. We'd have known about it." Will they ever know about it? The German people, after the war, never stopped saying, and it was probably true: "We didn't know . . ." Have they ever really believed in the crimes of Dachau and of Auschwitz? Have they ever realized that not knowing is also a way of being guilty?

They wouldn't believe Pierre Leuillette about the French Army, and they won't believe Philip Crystal about the American Army. "Support our troops" until they tell us the truth. Then, because they rebuke our willful blindness and complicity in evil, they're self-hating Americans.

If you value your soul, take Pierre Leuillette's warning so that you too do not become vile. See. Hear. Do not be silent. And do not be intimidated by the Americans imitating the "good Germans" that didn't see or believe Dachau, and the Frenchmen that blew off Pierre Leuillette when he told them the truth in Algiers.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

"Written on the body"

The Christian faith is "written on the body," specifically in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. This reflects a deep truth about the structure of creation - all truth, justice, and mercy, along with the denial of these, are written on the body. This is why when we do evil, we turn everything into abstractions like "collateral damage;" the meaning is on the bodies, and so if you get the bodily sufferings of the actual humans out of view, everything is permissible. The perpetrators even feel virtuous as they fight terror, meet educational goals, finally solve the Jewish question, or build socialism. Abstracting death to conceal ourselves from the impact of evil we do is exactly what the Bible calls being an "enemy of the cross of Christ," which is how any of us can turn into monsters.

With that intro, have a red pill!

Written on the Body: The Reality of War

Friday, June 13, 2008

Interesting student travelogue

Student account of visits and discussions with various Lebanese and Syrian politicians just after the Doha agreement. Especially interesting description of times with Samir Geagea of the "Lebanese Forces" (LF in the article), and with Bashar and Asma al-Assad.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Support our troops? How about listening to them?

Chris Hedges today in Asia Times Online (Singapore):

The folks praying for the success and safety of "their" troops - will they listen to the truth told by these and be taught by it?

The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy, says the Revelation. Jesus said to Pilate, when asked if he is a king, "You say that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice."

That's what Jesus has us asking for when he tells us to pray, "Your kingdom come!" That's a demand for the truth that overthrows our own kingdoms, constructed of the lies we love best. In the churches you know of today, who wants God to do that? That is to say, who actually prays the Lord's Prayer? Who can prophesy who hates truth, except falsely?

Here's some truth from Specialist Philip Crystal, raiding homes in Kirkuk:

"I mean, if someone has a fan, they're a white-collar family. So we get started on this day, this one, in particular. And it starts with the psy-ops [psychological operations] vehicles out there, you know, with the big speakers playing a message in Arabic or Farsi or Kurdish or whatever they happen to be saying, basically, saying put your weapons, if you have them, next to the front door in your house. Please come outside, blah, blah, blah, blah. And we had Apaches flying over for security, if they're needed, and it's also a good show of force. And we were running around, and we'd done a few houses by this point, and I was with my platoon leader, my squad leader, and maybe a couple other people, but I don't really remember.

"And we were approaching this one house, and this farming area; they're, like, built up into little courtyards. So they have like the main house, common area. They have like a kitchen and then they have like a storage-shed-type deal. And we were approaching, and they had a family dog. And it was barking ferociously, because it was doing its job. And my squad leader, just out of nowhere, just shoots it. ... the motherf---er ... he shot it, and it went in the jaw and exited out.

"So I see this dog - and I'm a huge animal lover. I love animals - and this dog has like these eyes on it, and he's running around spraying blood all over the place. And the family is sitting right there, with three little children and a mom and a dad horrified. And I'm at a loss for words. And so I yell at him. I'm like, 'What the f--- are you doing?' And so the dog's yelping. It's crying out without a jaw. And I'm looking at the family, and they're just scared. And so I told them, I was like, 'F---ing shoot it,' you know. 'At least kill it, because that can't be fixed. It's suffering.' And I actually get tears from just saying this right now, but - and I had tears then, too - and I'm looking at the kids and they are so scared. So I got the interpreter over with me and I get my wallet out and I gave them 20 bucks, because that's what I had. And, you know, I had him give it to them and told them that I'm so sorry that asshole did that. Which was very common.

"Was a report ever filed about it? Was anything ever done? Any punishment ever dished out? No, absolutely not."

Christian! How would you like somebody to be praying for the success and safety of people doing your neighborhood this way, somebody who doesn't want even to hear what they're doing to you - the way you pray?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

"I never imagined anyone could make sense of this drivel!"

That was Gayle's summation after spending some time in Galations 5 and seeing some sense there. Of course if she had really been so sure it's drivel, why would she have spent hours working it through as she has?

It's really a great line.

What a contrast to others who loudly affirm the divine inspiration of God's word, who nevertheless blow off the most obvious teachings in it, who get their understanding from preachers on TV and the radio.

So which one believes the Bible is the word of God?

I'm reminded of the parable of the two sons that their father sends out to the fields to work. The one says, "I'm going!" and doesn't. The other refuses, and then he goes.

So which one did his father's will?

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Thanks be to God?

The fewest American soldiers were killed in Iraq in May in a long time. The "Christian" American nationalists, like the good German "Christians" 65 years ago, will be giving thanks to their God for this answer to prayers for the safety and success of their heroes.

However, the god responsible for this success is the hundreds of Hellfire missiles fired into Sadr City, packed full of civilians, so that the Mahdi Army has faded away so as not jeopardize their people, as guerrilla armies do. I've seen in Lebanon how people are packed together in such neighborhoods, as described in Psalm 122. These are the places into which our heroes, standing afar off in their AH-64 helicopters, launch Hellfire.

I think that as they do this they are not thinking of their own far more sparsely populated neighborhoods, which they would not want treated that way, or of Rabbi Hillel teaching, "What you hate do not to others," or as Jesus restated Hillel, "Do unto others as you would have them do to you." Certainly the "Christians" who crave God's protection on these heroes are keeping these points well out of mind, calling Jesus Lord, but certainly blowing off this fundamental teaching of his.

German Christians praying for "their" soldiers on the Eastern Front, fighting Communism, ascribed to our God the dazzling success of Nazi arms. The gods responsible were otherwise, but were in fact the gods that these Christians truly worshiped. One of the awful things about praying according to our own lusts and our friendship with this world is that we may indeed receive from the gods of this world - violence, lying, Mammon, and such like - the answers to our prayers, so that our fellowship is with demons while we think we have the favor of God. As Jesus said, "The days are coming when those who kill you think they are doing service to God." American Christians rejoicing in the "answers" to their prayers are already far on the road to deception, thinking their heroes are doing service to God through their acts of oppression and slaughter. Truly, what's even worse than not getting what we ask for (James 4:1-2) is if God lets us get these things from the demonic powers that we love.

In this matter, the US military is far more orthodox in theology than their "Christian" supporters. Hellfire is rightly named. It was developed as a tank killer, and it's very good at it because it's full of depleted uranium. Therefore, the babies slaughtered in the initial explosions are only the beginning. The depleted uranium oxide dust is breathed in by other babies, some of whom will die of ghastly cancers in years to come. Others will give birth in 20 years to other babies with missing limbs, perhaps, or missing eyes, or their guts developing outside of their bodies - a lasting monument to the wrath of the frustrated imperial will.

Thanks be to the god of Hellfire!