Be Still . . .
Among my wife's many wonderful qualities, she is extremely wise. Tonight at a church function, as we spoke about our feelings concerning the events of the past week - three school shootings, one attempted shooting, and the unfolding events in Washington - she read Psalm 46. I found it so fitting because the author of this Psalm wrote about the various troubles and horrors of life, and he prefaced each horror by saying, "Even though . . .", followed by, "God is to be praised". The author recognized that the world is full of terror and evil. Yet, God is still to be praised, not in spite of the evil in the world, but in recognition of God's ultimate soveriegnty over and love for creation. Israel is admonished to "Be still, and know that I am God." In the midst of strife, we are not to panic, we are not to run around like headless chickens; rather we are to be still, and recognize that God is still God, even in the midst of the sorrows of this world.
I wish to pause for a moment, then, and consider some things that might be missed because our media have not been silent, the blogs have not been silent, the talk-radio hosts have certainly not been silent, the political preachers have not been silent, no one has been silent enough to hear something that might be a word we need to hear. The minister to the Amish community attacked on Monday has insisted that there be no hatred for the man who assaulted his community and killed its children. He spoke for all when he offered forgiveness to this poor, wrteched soul. In the midst of our national shock and sickness and anger and revulsion at pedophiles and murderers and venal, shallow politicians, we should hear the words of this small, peace-loving, hard-working community of faith, a community living out these words from Psalm 46. Be still, and know that God is God.
When asked to reflect, I said that prayers were needed for our nation, because the events of the past week have revealed a sickness at the heart of our nation, a sickness unto death, to quote the Danish recluse. Yet, there are other signs that there is a witness to a greater health, a greater wholness, a deep faith that sees that this sickness is not the final word, and the Amish witness to this faith may be a living out of the words of that Psalm in the midst of all the volume of our noisy, media-filled lives.
Connecting the Dots
There have been four REPUBLICAN
Congressmen who have been forced to resign because of scandals, two of whom are in federal prison. The REPUBLICAN
majority leader of the Senate in under investigation for improper stock trading, as well as recently saying that we need to bow to the inevitable and allow the Taliban into the Afghan government (I thought it was the Democrats who were soft on terror?). The Conservatvie Christians
are lining up behind Speaker Hastert, equating Foley's pedophilia with Bill Clinton's adultery, and pedophilia with homosexuality. It is REPUBLICAN
Newt Gingrich who claimed that the Republicans may have not acted in a timely matter for fear of appearing homophobic (that is the most cognitively dissonant statement I have yet to hear concering the whole mess that has been a cornucopia of congnitive dissonance).
In the meantime, North Korea announces it will test a nuclear weapon, more Americans die in combat in Iraq, Rumsfeld tries to beat his tin drum over Venezuela (of all the ludicrous places), the Constitution lies shredded after last week's horrid torture bill (after years of abuse at the hands of a REPUBLICAN CONTROLLED
Congress), and Bob Woodward reveals what everyone knew anyway - that our current administration is ideological to the point of being preferring ignorance to any truth that may disturb their plans, and the leaders are simply delusional concerning the mess they have made in Iraq.
These dots I present to you to connect as we move inexorably toward election day.
Thoughts on the Evolvling Scandal
First, the scandal is only peripherally about the conduct of Mark Foley. He is gone, will not be coming back, and may spend quite some time in prison once he gets out of rehab (if, in fact, that is where he is since no one actually knows where he is). The real scandal is the lack of action by the House leadership to do anything - up to and including getting Mark Foley away from teenage boys as soon as possible. Dennis Hastert has demonstrated incompetence, and pleads ignorance - thus giving us the choice that he is either intellectually incapable of holding his position, or is morally and perhaps legally culpable in the actions of a pederast. John Boehner has clearly made sure attention focuses on Hastert (from my current state of Illinois, and an acquaintance of my mother-in-law, as well as my host for Bill Clinton's first inauguration in 1993, all in the interest of full disclosure), passing that buck faster than you can say "Harry Truman".
The political dimensions - who released what, when, and under pressure from whom - are a part of the whole story, but need to be pursued secondarily to the primary focus. As the House leadership implodes, as fingers point everywhere but towards those with the authority to actually do something, as all scramble for the cover of ignorance, let us not forget that young men may have been hurt by Foley, perhaps irrepably, and the responsibility for that damage lies at the feet of those who aided and abedded him - his enablers in power.
On a final note - pedophilia and homosexuality are not the same thing at all. Period. That is all I shall say.
Just Don't Get It
The first review article in the most recent New York Review of Books
features Frank Rich reviewing a spate of books by Democratic politicians and commentators offering policy prescriptions for the near future. Rich is, on the whole dismissive, but Rich misses the larger point because he does what he criticizes one of the authors, Peter Beinart, for doing - he ignores the fact that what he calls "the left" (which he never defines, but seems to equate with "venting bloggers") were right about the Bush Administration, especially the fiasco in Iraq, from the get-go. There has yet to be a news report that affirms even a centrist - "Let's stay in till it gets better" - approach.
On the larger "War on Terror" - of which there is little evidence for such a thing - why pursue it? You do not wage war on a tactic. Why are we allowing ourselves to be drawn into a debate on such an issue?
Of course, there are other issues that prove the Republicans have abrogated any consideration as a serious ruling party for a generation - the recent torture bill, the refusal to do even cursory oversight of the Executive Branch, the attempt to dismantle a tax structure that works well. The Democrats have the advantage of being "Not Republicans", and except for a handful (the worst offender being Joe Lieberman) who continue to support Bush (for what reason I am simply unable to marshall enough resources to fathom), that should be enough. The demand by some that the Democrats come up with "a plan" misses the point. The Republican plan has destroyed our economy, our military, our international credibility, and soon our Constitution. We need no plan, but a return to balanced, Constitutional government.
Rich and other pundits still operate as if the bunch in Washington were another group that played by the rules that have existed for a generation and a half. They don't. One would think the accumulated evidence of the past five years would suffice to prove that we have a bunch of amoral adventurists in power, a group that needs to be constrained, even removed, as soon as possible for the sake of our country, and the whole world.
That Political Element
I cannot lie and say that I do not have misgivings about much of what I have written recently. I suppose they are the same misgivings I have had repeatedly when I have attempted to clarify what I feel is true and what is not true about the relationship between faith and politics. I hate to sound quietist, because I do not believe Christianity is
quietist. On the contrary, we are called to live for others, and not to fall for the variety of honey-traps the world dangles before us - fame, money, power, sex, comfort. When we stubbornly refuse to give in, when we adamantly oppose the world's enticements to silence the radical message of God's love, force is too often applied. I am not speaking here of the killing of Christians in Pakistan, Indonesia, Somalia, and other places around the world, although those are also tragedies, but the kind warned about by Jesus himself, and to be expected. Rather, I am speaking of the forceful silencing of the message of grace by the "powers" that be.
An Episcopal priest speaks out against the war, and the IRS goes after him. ministers march against the war and are jailed. The right-wing scream-machine tries to shout down the message of the emerging progressive Christian movement. Our patriotism, faith, and morals are questioned. I had the parent of a child in Kuwait - just before the beginning of the war in 2003 - come close to physical violence because I spoke out against the war, insisting that we were being lied to and that we, even we who opposed the war, would bear as much a responsibility for all that would and has befallen us, because, as Americans, our tax money buys everything from bullets and bombs to general's salaries. I refused to back down, answering his anger with compassion and love, and rather than attack me, he finally stormed out of the room, more confused than angry.
It seems a time is coming - sooner rather than later with the recent passage of a bill giving the Executive unprecedented, and most likely illegal authority to, among other things, declare anyone anywhere at anytime an enemy combatant, strip that person of all Constitutional protections, and imprison them indefinitely - when we Christians may pay with more than villification and social ostracism for our insistence on being bearers of Good News. We face dangerous, serious times ahead, and we need to be aware of the reality of the dangers. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if some fake emergency arose between now and November 7 and the elections were postponed, under some provision or other of some bill, the interpretation of which is issued by our criminal Attorney General, ALberto Gonzalez. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if our courts weren't closed. I wouldn't be surprised if our nation became some horrible monster, a travesty of a nation, perhaps the most dangerous rogue in a world full of dangerous rogues.
Yet, neither politics, nor law, nor elections, nor courts are our salvation. We must speak out about what has become of this beloved land, but we must never rest our hopes there. Our hope lies beyond these ephemeral trappings of power, in the fearlessness that comes with knowing that all the tools at the hands of the pwoerful mean nothing because the tools will, one day, fail, and the powerful will lose all they have gained. I fear a rough road ahead; I hope it may not be, and we will soon emerge from this nightmare into which we have wandered. I do not, for one moment, believe that any of it has any ultimate, eternal significance.
I think I have rambled more than I have made a point, so it is best to stop.