Does Jesus see a big difference between ISIS and the US, really?

I’ve had a few stimulating conversations about death, fear, and anxiety this week. The willingness of the Islamic State (CNN’s ISIS fact list here) to use photos and video of their violent exploits has a lot of Americans worried and stressed out. It’s not difficult to hear the calling for the rise of more violent heroes to alleviate the situation – and their stress.

Perhaps because I have two daughters, I find the stories of the Yazidi women’s stories of their ISIS captivity and escape particularly disturbing. Without a doubt, God grieves, too. I think injustice is an affront to God’s Shalom, brought about in a good creation and restored through the work of Jesus. I do not think the rise of the state has been good. I wonder what Jesus thinks.What must it be like for Jesus to look at ISIS and then look at the United States. Some of my friends think the first thing Jesus would notice would be religious & spiritual differences. I’m not so sure.

Especially when we are threatened or anxious, we as North Americans are given the same archetypical choice of the crowds all those years ago. Like my friend Kirby recently mused about, do we want to release the violent insurrectionary or release Jesus? I think even most of the Christians in the United States forget who they are and at least tacitly accept the release of Notjesus. Others are pretty open about their chant “Give us Barabbas.”

Clint Eastwood & Bradley Cooper tried, among other things, to humanize the American fighter. I like increasing the humanity of the situation. To make a similar film humanizing an IS warrior probably wouldn’t go over so well here- but why not? Are we really so diluted to think the cause of the so-called War on Terror (or the Cold War, Monroe Doctrine, the Transatlantic Slave, or Manifest Destiny) was ever less brutal? More tolerant? More just for people outside the dominant group? If drone pilots put footage of their surgical precision bombings on Youtube would my friends have nightmares about them also?

I think the question for Christians needs to go beyond “What should we do about ISIS?” If one thinks that Christians are synonymous with the United States in our the US is a blessed nation that can devastate & dominate the world and God is pleased because of a high % of Christians – yikes. Ask a Native, a descendent of the enslaved Africans who routinely get harassed by the state, or someone who locked up in Guantanamo Bay without due process – this American project hasn’t been about freedom,  The U.S. is directly and/or indirectly responsible for not only the conditions of ISIS forming (Operation Cyclone in Afghanistan with the mujahideen, Bin Landen, Zarqawi,Taliban) but for the current unstable state of the region.

Today a few of my Facebook friends posted this article about how “plank in the eye” it is for U.S. Americans to have strong reactions to the burning ofMoaz al-Kasasbeh (Jordanian fighter pilot) but continue to tell Black folks to “get over it” with lynchings and other horrific unimaginables that continue at home. While it would seem safe to condemn all violence and feel like we did the right thing, we have systemic and spiritual work to do that requires more.

What is the Spirit leading us to do as we live seemingly subjects in a individualized, violence loving, hypocritical society? I hope it doesn’t make our apathy stronger. I hope these words don’t just fuel your Notjesus. I find hope in MLK’s famous speech Beyond Vietnam – A Time to Break Silence. Rather than thinking about how to be Good Samaritans on the side of the road we have to address systemic issues to make the Jericho Road safer for travel so they are not at risk of being robbed and beaten. Comparing violent regimes seems like comparing blenders. Different. But basically they blend stuff.

For one thing, you are invited to come tomorrow night to process some of these issues with the Circle of Peacemakers. We’re bringing together four people from the community (Gwen White, Shane Claiborne, Scotty Krueger, and myself) who spent time in Iraq. Let’s humanize it all, not just war heroes. Let’s let the Spirit spiritualize it all, with inspiration and power to embody solutions.

 

Three ways to turn up the Love during a violent week

On November 17, 1957 MLK was preaching in Montgomery [full text and lots of audio here] when he said “Somewhere somebody must have some sense. Men must see that force begets force, hate begets hate, toughness begets toughness. And it is all a descending spiral, ultimately ending in destruction for all and everybody. Somebody must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate and the chain of evil in the universe. And you do that by love.” It’s actually pretty simple. I have a lot of feelings – some of which might be approaching hate and I need to check my heart.

I’m heavy today for Iraq, Kurdistan, Syria, ISIS, and the United States. I am also feeling heavy about the situation around the violent conflict that put a gay couple in the hospital in Center City a two weeks ago. As I’ve been praying through (always wise) all the violence, I am trying to listen for God to direct me for how to respond rather than shoot from the hip all the time. Here are three things that I feel will turn up the love during a particularly violent week.

Turn up the good news, especially those that fly in the face of conventional hate.

One of my best friends leaves today on a Christian Peacemaker Teams delegation to Iraqi Kurdistan. You may want to read more about what Peggy Gish (working there now with CPT) had to say about it last week in her blog about a step to coming up with new strategies is halting the old, dysfunctional ones. I tend to think most things in the media [whether intentional or not] pull Americans away from the super military waging war for the windfall of profits for transnational corporations. Like so many other empires, if we have enough food to survive and something to keep us entertained we’ll tacitly go along with the bigger plan.

When ISIS cuts off heads on camera or gets headlines from Austrailia to Indonesia to Algeria, the US ramps up fear which increases our tacit approval of this horrible war. When we turn up the good news, God can use us to assuage fear that keeps the violence cycle going. Come out on October 7 to make some good news in the face of Drone Warfare if you want to be with a bunch of Philadelphians trying to do the same thing.

Before you put someone on blast, consider whether you are actually as confident as you are about to sound. It’s easy and often cheap to make blanket statements, stereotypes, and colorful remarks to get people to “like” your passionate status before we understand what we’re really talking about. As someone whose attempts to make space for more dialogue and often is dips into the rhetorical, I need to watch my mouth – and it’s hard.

I feel fortunate that it wasn’t too long after I read the “Meet the Three Worst People in Philadelphia” blog that I saw a beautiful statement by the victims. For some it’s tempting to dehumanize the victims by not listening to them as people by not taking their ask seriously.

Thank you to the  community for their help and support, as well as the Detectives who did a great job gathering details,” they wrote. “We are thankful the DA is working so hard to make sure this doesn’t happen again in Philadelphia. Finally, we ask you to keep your comments regarding the suspects respectful and non-hateful. Please show your support for legislation change protecting the LGBT community this Thursday in LOVE Park at 2 p.m.

For others it’s tempting to dehumanize the perps in all sorts of ways, by doing so alleviating our responsibility to make a more whole community. You may want to join the throngs of posts commenting on their parents, Twitter feed, zip codes, or work history – as if we know them, don’t think they can get better, and don’t think we are anything like them. I really appreciate people for zooming out even through the pain. Besides having an occasion to update PA’s lack of “hate crime” distinction for future violence prevention, some people are even taking a societal sense of responsibility in their anger. On a Raging Chicken Press post, Debra Leigh Scott pleads that the “reality is that Kathryn Knott [one of the suspects] is OUR child. She is the poster child of the kind of people born and raised in America. Fired in the kiln of inequality, elitism, prejudice, consumerism and fear, she is just what America’s schools, media and values create.”

We need to make more love. MLK was working with some Jesus in Matthew 26 when he was preaching above. Like him, I don’t want to go out as a person to die by the sword – whether it a physical or metaphorical weapon. Living by the sword is confusingLike when my cell was talking about how confusing violence in the Middle East is for us, Scott shared this little gem.

We need more lovers and we need them to outlove the haters and transform the bystanders. We need lovers who will demonstrate to others what it means to be a lover. We need love to dismantle systemic injustice. We need love to make our communities whole. What do you think we can do to turn up the Love this week?

As I finish the 2nd steeping of pu-erh (that was love-ly at least), I’m about to go hug my family and take them to celebrate the compassionate work in our community. Come on by if you want to be with some lovers tonight.

Have you forgotten?

Have you forgotten? by Darryl Worley.  I was singing this to some friends the other day and they didn’t believe me that it was a real song, or that it was a #1 hit in 2003.

official video here.

It feels almost indulgent to listen to it.  So rich with the ideology that we are so surrounded by that even people in the resistance don’t often know how to respond.  Here’s the first verse and chorus…

I hear people sayin’. We Don’t need this war.
I say there’s some things worth fightin’ for.
What about our freedom, and this piece of ground?
We didn’t get to keep ’em by backin’ down.
They say we don’t realize the mess we’re gettin’ in
Before you start preachin’ let me ask you this my friend.

if I were reading this for the first time I would have naturally assumed that it was written by Zulu in South Africa or Lakotah in the North American midwest.  So fighting in Afghanistan is actually about fighting for Tennessee?  If anyone questions us about the long-term ramifications about the proposed perpetual pre-emptive war in response to 911 we should then reply with the following?

Chorus
Have you forgotten, how it felt that day?
To see your homeland under fire
And her people blown away
Have you forgotten, when those towers fell
We had neighbors still inside goin through a livin hell
And you say we shouldn’t worry bout Bin Laden
Have you forgotten?

Wow.  Rest of lyrics here.  Wow.