segunda-feira, janeiro 30, 2006

To Heather

This was written the day my friend, Heather, died.

There was a sparkle in your eyes
Sometimes I know that it's still there
I search for you in earth and skies
Knowing that finding is future somewhere

You're not lost, not with us crying
We look within our empty selves
Do you feel it's us who are dying??
Thinking that somewhere we'll find your help?

I keep thinking the road is still ahead
That you and I have more travels to take
That someone unknown was in your stead
And the sadness around me is only fake

I truly wish my joy was real
That I could in all honesty say
That the selfishness is not what I really feel
And that I take comfort in our reunion day.

But how does that help me in later years
When my kids don't know you and I can't explain
The wonderful times and occasional tears
That come every time that they mention your name.

Independently Together

I miss romance. The times when people sighed at cheezy lines, felt secure in their lovers' arms. When it was sweet to hold hands and love songs played. Be real, they say. How can they have a love so void of romance? Do they not feel anymore? Has life desensitized them? People don't show love. In fact, they're so careful and protective, at times even with their own spouses, that the strength (though I would, in fact, say weakness) is not in unity but in "secure in yourself" and "independent." Were we meant to go it alone? When were we made to think that passion was taboo, that romance is foolishnes and fantasy, that dreams (the dreams that remain) remain only as dreams? Do we even know how to express love anymore? Have we, in fact, settled for less than the dream has for us? Haven't we lost the value of unity in our search to be independent individuals?

terça-feira, janeiro 24, 2006

Who is responsible?

Image hosting by Photobucket

Liberty and Justice for All
America is a land that lives under the statements “All men are created equal” and “With liberty and justice for all.” A Bill of Rights states that to which men and women of every race, faith and culture, under any circumstance are entitled. But what is justice? Who is responsible for demanding and delivering justice? How can a world in which many hold the beliefs of moral relativism grasp and demand a universal justice? Questions continue to form the more I read, hear and see and, as was stated in class, once you have known, you can’t turn back.
The Problem: Ignorance and Injustice
Perhaps this, alone, explains the comfort of the general public of America—the lack of knowledge and experience of the sufferings of the world behind each political conflict. Despite having such a wide variety of means of communication, the average American has never seen the face of a starving six-year-old in Africa nor heard the story of a Christian Palestinian in Israel. In fact, some would go as far to ask why the child’s parents couldn’t get a job?
As the article by Fred Van Geest pointed out, places like Nicaragua, a starving and hurting nation, are serving as “warnings” of what happens in the unfortunate circumstance that a government might take a position, fail and, as punishment, its people suffer, hunger, and are punished. In such circumstances, one must, in fact, ask just who is being punished and is this punishment, in any sense, just?
The first step, before one ever defines justice, is to define injustice, knowing the problems and the issues. As I was preparing, my mind was bombarded with more questions than answers and it was during one of these mental battles that a certain scene came to my mind. Over Christmas break I was discussing some issues that were rather argumentative through my school district which revolved around a new (and Jewish) district superintendent who had outraged many parents when he refused to allow certain traditional Christmas celebrations and festivities. My stepbrother, who is commonly influenced by the prejudices of his father, made a derogatory statement towards Jews and, in response, my step-mom became flustered and told him to be careful. “The Jews are God’s chosen people.”
After much interaction and discussion with an individual who grew up in a Palestinian refugee camp, this comment was slightly unnerving. My readings thereafter, however, have given voice to what I felt at that moment. In a strong, Republican household, many a joke about the “wimpy Frenchman” and the “towel head” has floated through the air and I can’t help but ask in such a situation, where is the consideration for God’s chosen Frenchman, God’s chosen socialist, and God’s chosen Palestinian? Perhaps one should be more aware, in these circumstances, that the argument is not necessarily with the individual, but with the government, because it is the cultural jokes and lack of face—the ignorance that is at the very root of the injustice.
In his book, Blood Brothers, Elias Chacour asks the one who claims the faith of Christ, "Can you help me to say that the persecution and stereotyping of Jews is as much an insult to God as the persecution of Palestinians?” He later goes on to say, “God’s Israel included ‘foreigners,’ those who were not of the fleshly tribes of Israel, but who had been grafted into his family,” later quoting Galatians 3 and Romans 9, both of which state that Abraham’s children and God’s chosen people are not as such by birth, but by God’s grace and by the decision to follow Christ and, as Paul stated, likewise “not all descended from Israel are Israel.” Of whom do the prophets speak when they speak of Israel? Could God’s Promised Land not be something that is not material? Could God’s promise be extended to those who are not Jewish? As Christians, we must think more of God’s vast capabilities that reach beyond the material world in which we live.
At one point, in fact, Chacour points to the disadvantage many people of the west may have in their graspings of God’s likeness. I have often asked how those who suffer so greatly under persecution and face the worst should they convert would ever come to know Christ. One would think it should be easier for someone who has everything to acknowledge God in His character. However, Chacour makes an interesting point saying at one point that,
"People in the West seem so taken with material things. It's as if they have nothing in their spirits, so they need to surround themselves with nice comforts. ...The real problem is that Western theology starts with man as the center of all things and tries to force God into some scheme that we can understand. Then He can be regulated. Elias, we've grown up believing that God is the beginning and end of all things. He is central, not an afterthought. He's alive and has His own ways. Here, they want to tame God with their philosophy."
There is also a common misconception that the Palestinian conflict can never be solved as it is a part of God’s prophecy and plan, but is it a part of God’s will? Can God not care for the individuals involved in such a large-scale issue? I think in this statement, too many Americans would be happy to dismiss it as an issue never to be solved rather than to see “God’s plan for peace between divided brothers (Blood Brothers).”
Therefore, if we are to define justice and to solve the problems of injustice, we must realize that, as is stated in the article Biblical Basics on Justice, “God’s will for all is shalom, and the task of the community of faith is to do God’s will.” The task is liberty and justice for all, which means, as much as the average American would like to take the isolationist views of what is and is not our problem, we cannot back down of the responsibility that comes with our economic relationships (Fred Van Geest), nor can we be restricted to these relationships in say that it is not our problem because (as a politician stated in Blood Brothers), "I do not have hundreds of thousand of Arabs among my constituents."
“The injustices in other countries may be considered ‘foreign issues’ and therefore outside the realm of domestic responsibility. However this position fails to account for the relational character of international relations. …[Economic] relationships should not be considered impersonal, value-free market transactions,” says Van Geest who, in fact, continues by saying, “The biblical vision is a vision of a kingdom that transcends American, Canadian and European interests. One of the most prominent evidences of Christian weakness in the world today is the failure to pursue this political vision together in international community for the sake of justice for all people.”
According to the article Letting Justice and Peace Embrace, “The U.S. government—urged on by its citizens—will need to think less in terms of protecting its own national interests, still less of guaranteeing security against any possible future threat, and more of humbly accepting leadership in the challenge to promote multifaceted, global public justice.” One cannot, as a Christian, think solely in terms of America and its people because, as a responsibility to God and His Word, we are responsible to all with whom we have any form of relation, and these relations can be as a friend, brother or sister, or as someone whom you have not met but whose workplace you both effect and form. This, in fact, is addressed in the article My Sweatshop, My Plantation, which encourages the idea of boycott of companies who practice illegal and immoral treatment of employees.
In general, I would have to agree with the article, but I also would like to ask (on a side note) what happens to the employees of these companies when their jobs are cut from them? Sometimes we consider the idea of the job conditions and say that we cannot support a company who treats their workers as such. True. But what about countries where those are the kinds of jobs that are available. What can we do in a situation where to buy the goods is to support the torture, and to not buy is to take away the job and support the starvation?
The Definition: Justice and Mercy
The question one is asking when trying to define justice is simply what is the character of God and thus what does He expect from us? The face of God is to be shown through every Christian in all that they do as He, according to Chacour, “demanded that they demonstrate His own character to the whole world, that they show forth the face of God in every action from the way they conducted their government down to the use of fair weights and measures in the marketplace.”
In this sense, one must look at God in His full character in what seems to many a complete paradox—the paradox of being both a God who is just and a God who is love. Perhaps, however, when seeing the two as a paradox, one misses the concept of both justice and love altogether as, in a sense, they are one and the same and thus one then can equate the God of the Old Testament (often associated with justice) with the God of the New Testament (who’s focus was love) as they are indeed the same God.
The best illustration of this is found in the article The God Who Loves Justice, which sets the inevitable first point definition of justice when Wolterstorff says, “God’s love of justice inevitably implies God’s hatred of the injustice to be found in that world.” It is in this article that one can discover the Hebrew and Old Testament of shalom, a common greeting and concept in Hebrew (and thus Jewish) culture. This concept is defined by the, “flourishing in all dimensions of one’s existence. …God’s desiring the shalom of each and every one—not merely freedom from violation of one’s property but the flourishing of each and every one.” And it is this concept of shalom that is tied with justice by Chaplin when he defines both similarly as, “the right ordering of all things.”
Therefore, if our goals are Christian and our conquest is for peace, we must consider Chaplin’s statement of “Peace without justice is illusionary and transitory. But, equally, the route to justice involves nurturing peace along the way.” Are we, as Americans, doing our homework? Are we considering the people of the nation when we engage in the battles we feel are necessary? The call here is not a matter of whether or not to go to war, that is not my argument. The consideration is as such, that when we war against the government, we must consider the individual people and culture—are responsible for making sure that, in the process we know what is to their benefit and to “nurture” peace in such a way that we are not providing an American solution to a foreign conflict, but that we are Americans working towards a solution that works.
Likewise it is not our responsibility to discriminate or distinguish whom to “punish” and whom to help. Justice is not about punishment as much as it is about mercy and the relinquishment of injustice. God’s justice was not defined so much in terms of punishment as it was when he “raised the poor form the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people. God gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children.” (Psalm 113:5-9)
In our own pledge, we commit to justice for all and thus must remember as such to whom our responsibilities lie. “The way of a peacemaker was difficult—it required deep forgiveness, risking the friendship of your enemies, begging for peace on your knees and in the streets,” Chacour says, but this is the occupation to which God calls all Christians in one way or another. We are, according to Van Geest, to be “seeking to advance justice for all, regardless of nation or territory. …All of creation is to be redeemed, and Christians ought to be actively involved in the redemption of every feature of it.”
In doing this, we must look at the unfortunate view of Christians and thus combat these views with action. We must decide who we really are and think of whom we represent. During his years in seminary, Chacour remembers a professor once saying,
"If there is a problem somewhere this is what happens. Three people will try to do something concrete to settle the issue. Three people will try to do something concrete to settle the issue. Ten people will give a lecture analyzing what the three are doing. One hundred people will commend or condemn the ten for their lecture. One thousand people will argue about the problem. And one person-- only one-- will involve himself so deeply in the true solution that he is too busy to listen to any of it. ...”
Who are you in this picture? Are you thinking critically? Is religion a hobby for you as it is for the Christian of whom Oz Guinness speaks when he calls the community to “Look for a place where the Christian’s faith makes a difference at work beyond the realm of purely personal things? …Look for a place where the Christian is thinking ‘Christianly’ and critically about the substance of work.”
I ask myself, am I a Christian of theory and philosophy, the Christian of whom Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks, religion “that professes to be concerned with the souls of men and is not concerned with the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that cripple them, … a spiritually moribund religion in need of new blood?” Do I turn my back to what I see and know, leaving behind the faces of I was Hungry, those who are still very hungry and lonely and cold? What is the character that the American Christian is portraying? I cannot tolerate the idea, nor can I wait to discover the solution to the idea, that I would wish to, as Chacour states in the final chapter of the book, try to “find the easy life of blindness to pain.”
The Solution: Love and Action
“Work for peace is accomplished not by contemplators but by people of action, builders and workers willing to get their hands dirty,” Chacour says. It’s not enough to write the paper, to read the stories, to remember these things—one must act upon it out of the pure passion that comes into the heart. Decide right away what your god is and that god you must serve. What are you committed to? Because, as I have discovered through classroom lectures, discussions and out-of-class conversation, whichever god is chosen demands total surrender and if I were to put my hands in the gods I created on my own—in the quest for self-satisfaction, the god of self, of material, of laziness, of nothing at all, how can anything get done? If your service is not towards others, how can others serve you? However, if you join in one “pure and holy passion,” you trust not in the Gods you have created, but in the God who created you and you are never alone.
Micah 6:1-8 says. “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? …He has showed you, O man, what is good: and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness and too walk humbly with your God.” The message is as such that love is the answer—love in its just and verbal form.
Chacour has begun to work solutions in his situations, but a similar concept of reconciliation can be spread throughout the direst of places all over the world—the concept of reconciliation with Christ and the Christian community. The spreading of the idea that Christians are not the self-absorbed and judgmental conquerors some view them to be, but that the love of Christ is active in many forms. “Christians must begin applying Biblical principles to specific contemporary public policy,” to begin with (Van Geest).
What are we “really doing with our lives and the gifts God has given us?” Where does your heart lie? What do we hunger for? “Is it a kind of spiritual hunger that does not stir you to do anything,” as described by Chacour in For What do You Hunger and Thirst? Do you truly feel the hunger that goes/reaches to the hunger of the Rwandan and the Palestinian? Do you share the pain of humanity?
What are the solutions? I only wish I knew them all. Many times I wrestled through the active ways that I could change these things and it is then that I realized that there are keys to the doors of different areas. Many times I would argue that the approach is first to the people and then to the government. I would argue that the politicians are the furthest from changes of hearts, which is the primary goal in reconciliation. However, they are nonetheless very instrumental and important. The stages begin with the heart of the individual, to the restoration of a community, to the restoration of a government that can allow for more changes of hearts. The three foster each other, but the beginning and personal level is that of relationships and the honor with in them.
Many times I read the horrors committed on behalf of each country and wondered how did the countries expect respect if they did not give it? How can reconciliation occur in an environment of oppression—one that lacks the idea of human dignity and hope;
“The stiff laws of the Old Testament were only a shadow of the higher law of God’s love,” Chacour says. “… One of the first things Jesus did when He reconciled man to God was to restore human dignity. …Only by regaining their shattered human dignity could they begin to be reconciled to the Israeli people, whom they saw as their enemies. This, I knew at once, went beyond all claims of land and rightful ownership.”
When asked, “What do you think is the greatest need of all?” in the Palestinian villages, Chacour responded, “Hope. …Palestinians need the hope of a future. Hope that one day we can reconcile with the Jews and live in dignity again.” The Hearts and Minds article stressed this in the sense that this is more than just an idea to be played around with-- “This is not a time for peace loving, but rather for peacemaking, which is much more demanding.”
This brings us back to the idea of peace, of justice, and of shalom. Does peacemaking always mean the absence of war? Letting Justice and Peace Embrace makes a good point in the idea that;
“Imperialist, genocidal Nazism could be conquered only by force of arms. Violence within states may also require coercive intervention from outside, a challenge to which the international community is slowly waking up. …Whether the Iraqi people could have been liberated without foreign military intervention is doubtful, but now we’ll never know. International military activity must not, however, cause more injustice than it aims to redress… must consider all the costs.”
What are the implications of this? Again, the implications indicate the knowledge of how the actions will effect and be received by the culture in which the people reside. However, “we can’t ourselves eliminate war from our fallen world.” Some issues require political intervention and military action when considering a corrupt and harmful government. The importance is war as a means to shalom—the peace and prosperity of the people who reside in the affected land.
Frustrating to me is the lack of action by those who would still debate the war in Iraq. To sit around and play with ideas may be entertaining, but what are they achieving in their consistent opposition to something that has already happened. At this point, perhaps they themselves should think less of making an “I told you so” point and peace loving, and think more about peacekeeping both in Iraq and on the home front. Would they have everybody pull out and leave a country in chaos and inevitable self-destruction, thus being inconsiderate to the lives of Iraqis they so often claim to “defend?” What will these people say to troops returning home from Iraq who are dealing with emotional issues of war, of missing family, of losing friends? Perhaps supporting the troops but not the war is an interesting concept, but it is a theory without practice along with the rest of the debate.
Let’s move past the nationalist views and idealist thinking. Move past the days of debates that go nowhere and produce nothing, and show the world justice in action. Look just once into the face of the Brazilian boy running barefoot through the third biggest city in the world. See his bony frame and his outstretched hands and do something about it. Embrace his heart, fill his stomach, and show him the road to true dignity that leads to a peace that the world can never provide. Show them a peace that is not brought by a government, a fulfillment to both physical hunger and their hunger for a constant state of being. While policies are rightfully debated in the houses of politics by those who are hopefully thus called to change the large scale picture, those who are so called should follow the footsteps of Christ to reach to the immediate—bringing a hope and immediacy to an issue that has seemed, for so long, lost and unheard of. Who are you? What is your call? Can we show this nation what they agree to as citizens living under “freedom and justice for all?”

“He did what was right and just, so all went well with him. He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?” –Jeremiah 22:15-16

Changing the World: One at a Time

Jonathan Chaplin, in his article “Letting Justice and Peace Embrace,” says, “Issues of justice transcend what individual citizens or organizations can deal with.” So when it comes to justice in times of conflict or adversity, who does take responsibility? Is a resolution going to come as a result of state government action, of world government action, of organization or from the average individual? Who is responsible for change and how does change happen? The time for change in the world is now and “work for peace is accomplished not by contemplators but by people of action, builders and workers willing to get their hands dirty. (Elias Chacour)” The time for change is now, but who are the people of action?
The first statement made in times of change is that of planning. There are several aspects to planned change, but all include the “conscious utilization and application of knowledge as an instrument or tool for modifying patterns and institutions of practice. (Bennis 33)” Education is key in combatting injustice. One must know how to process the issues and then how to act upon them. For change to occur, the parties involved must know and take an effort to familiarize themselves with the situation and the opposite party. It takes an active education and then an active response. “Peace needs no contemplators,” says a character in Hotel Rwanda, “it needs actors, people who are willing to get their hands dirty, to get up and do something. The same is true for justice.”
The fortold aspects of change are arranged in three different categories. The first is a very Western approach and some call it the “empirical-rational strategies.” This plan assumes that men are rational and wil “follow their rational self-interest once this is revealed to them.” (Bennis 34) Examples of this can be shown in the general view of the United Nations. While this may not be the exact definition of its function, the UN does theoretically have an element of appeal beyond political means that it often attempts to utilize. In its existence, it does indeed allow the movement of many bodies of aid to the hungry and needy, appealing and supporting the stand of Non-Governental Organizations (NGOs) and allowing them times of speech. The key, I believe, in allowing NGOs their place in the UN is that their information “receives grater acceptance by the public and the media, and wider use within the UN system. (Tessitore 201)” These aspects are an asset to global cooperation and understanding on a humanitarian level as opposed (at some points) to the political level which sometimes attempts a greater power. “It is instructive to realize that time and again it was the nongovernmental sector that provided the key strategic, technical, and organizational leadership for developing human rights norms and procedures. (Tessitore 201)”
In a review of the past fifty years, I believe it is important for Christians to not and take to heart the participation of the church in the creation of the Commision on Human Rights, which was initiated by a partnership of the American Jewish Committee and the Federal Council of the Church of Christ. This charter has since branched into several humanitarian committees within the UN, which have also supported several NGOs which have continued to provide relief for desperate times and people. (Tessitore 200-203) There have, however, been failures within the UN which perhaps come from a variety of levels. These are, perhaps speculations to situations which are in the past, however, they point to some other responsibility beyond the control of even a world council. The first failure was, in fact, that which provoked the necessity and movement towards an official stance from the UN on humanitarian issues. There has indeed been a failure of treaties which have been geared towards protection of minorities, but have failed in this “world stoked by hatred and dehumanization. (Tessitore 201)” The other issues have much to deal with the participation of the participants of the UN, those being the governments which make up the majority of the council, which leads to the second aspect of change.
The second aspect is the “application of power in some form, political or otherwise.” This is primarily dealing with law and administrative power and their abilities and attempts to evoke change through the leadership roles enforced. (Bennis 34) Some of the difficulties in applying this method towards change is that “the use of political institutions to effect changes arises from an overestimation by change agents of the capability of political action to effect change in practice.” Adding to that is the idea that whatever may be passed by the government to change some things that have become norms within the culture must also be accepted into practice by the people who carry it out. The effectiveness of the government is based solely of the effectiveness of the next aspect of change—the re-education of those who are in relation and take responsibility and acceptance of the said policy or law. (Bennis 54)
This also, however, heavily relates to the role of government in the humanitarian issues of the UN. States in its membership have not worked to benefit the system, which is evidenced in “an increasing reluctance to grant asylum…” and “failure to negotiate safe passage. (Tessitore 204)” For the interests of the government, the humanitarian aspects of the UN have been downplayed and NGOs are found to be occassionally fighting for their speaking opportunities within the General Assembly.(Tessitore 200)
One of the most rigid and obvious stains facing this failure towards action has been the conflict in Rwanda and the conflict which now continues in Darfur in Sudan. During this period of 100 days, mass genocide occurred in a form that the world had vowed never again to allow when the Hutus murdered almost one million Tutsis until they were stopped by a Tutsi rebel force. As seen in the move Hotel Rwanda, the UN pulled out, found to be unsupported and unheeded by the governments worldwide, and Tutsis were left to die while the Western world turned their heads aside. In an article released by the Telegraph Group, Hotel Rwanda writer Terri George was quoted in saying that the lack of UN intervention in Rwanda was “one of the greatest collective shames of the rest of the world. …It comes down to racism. An African life is not worth what a European or American life is worth. (These were neighbors)”
Critics look to the words and actions of the government and its officials and see non-action and unwillingness to act. These states, und the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms. …Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of this personality is possible.”
Current situations in Africa point to corrupt governments who continue to hoard supposed relief money and efforts, which stunt the growth of the individuals, but which also makes the growth in Africa appear rapid and continuous. According to News Statesman, “If Africa could take 1 per cent more in world trade, it would earn roughly $70bn more annually: that’s three times what it now receives in aid. … In other words, te best intentions will not be enough if western politicians won’t make enemies on Africa’s behalf and persuade their electorates to make sacrifices.”
The individual of the Western world is also criticized for his ignorance. The last aspect, and the one that will be most focused on in this paper, is referred to as “normative-re-educative.” This includes the rationality of men, but is primarily focused on sociocultural norms, which come from the attitudes and values of individuals. The goal of change in this area requires a change in the social norms of a culture and the commitment of individuals to form new ones. (Bennis 34) This aspect of change does not diminish man’s rational capabilities except to say that this intelligence is not as much individual as it is social, which is apparent when one looks at the taboos of a culture. Meanings and accepted traits are communicated through culture and there is a social aspect to individual intelligence. However, there is also a personal level that is internalized and that exhibits evidence of personal habits and values and feelings. The idea behind normative-re-educative change is that the idea must appeal to both the social and personal levels of both the society and the individuals within it. (Bennis 43)
In recognizing groups, there must also be a recognization of the individual within these groups seeing “the person as the basic unit of social organization. …Persons,” Chin and Benne say, “are capable of creative, life-affirming, self- and other-regarding and respecting responses, choices, and actions, if conditions which thwart these kinds of responses are removed and other supporting conditions developed.” The key to the movement of a community is an interaction between the organization (whether it be political, religious or otherwise) and the individual motivating each other into actition and functioning together. (Bennis 48)
America, for example, has the power, the potential, and the constitution which allows and challenges many to move throughout the world in aid. In the formation of the humanitarian branch of the UN, it was said that Americans put the pressure on—each individual to persuade the movement of humans to better humanity. “I said that the voice of America was speaking in theis room as it had never spoken before in any international gathering,” said Fredrick Nolde of the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ; “that that voice was saying to the American delegation: ‘If you make a fight for these human rights proposals and win, there will be glory for all. If you make a fight for it and lose, we will back you up to the limit. If you fail to make a fight for it, you will have lost the support of American opinion—and justly lost it. In that event, you will never get the Charter ratified. (Tessitore 202)”
What has happened to that America that the country now relies on domestic matters disregarding international relations altogether? If change is initiated by knowledge, then I would go as far to say that the American public is ignorant of the international field. In a country that pledges to fight for humanity and diversity, why do her occupants forget Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states, “ Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in the Declaration. No distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of te country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.”
“The U.S. government,” Chaplin says, “urged on by its citizens—will need to think less in terms of protecting its own national interests, still less of guaranteeing security against any possible future threat, and more of humbly accepting leadership in the challenge to promote multifaceted, global public justice.” Is this practical—something that can be asked of a government run by so many individuals? Perhaps not. Perhaps the whole idea of government relies on a sense of selfishness for one’s own.
However, there is yet an institution not mentioned is the church. This is an institution without excuse, with a background supporting selflessness and service. Films throughout the years have portrayed missionaries who, when governments pulled out or attacked, have stayed with their people to the end. Illustrations such as The Mission, Tears of the Sun, and modern-day examples of the two women imprisoned in Afghanistan for their faith demonstrates the potential of Christianity were it to do its mission full-force. The church has the man-power and motivating force to move people throughout the world. However, again, “Man must participate in his own re-education if he is to be re-educated at all. (Bennis 43)” How does this happen? How can a single individual make an impact? Look at Gandhi, Elias Chacour, and Martin Luther King. These are people from all different stages of emergency, conflict and problem solving and they took a stand against it—the individuals are the mobilizing force on issues.
An article summarizing some of the teachings of Elias Chacour is a terrific demonstration of the role of a Christian and that role is one of responsibility saying, “What happens to my brother is my own responsibility,” and that every man was made in the image of God. This responsibility can be seen evidenced in the students of Chacour when they donated blood to Israelis who were victims of suicide bombings and encouragement was found in the ideas that “Palestinaian blood is flowing in Jewish veins,” exclaims Chacour. Chacour reminds Christians that thought their voices will not be loud, they must be true and must plant peace in the next generation. He was told by a high ranking Israeli official after some of his work that, “we need Christians to be a bridge between Jewish and Muslim worlds.” It’s a dangerous role, but one that perhaps only Christians can fill in showing Christ’s teachings and exemplifying the “most basic premise—that peace cannot be achieved without justice, and justice is impossible without compassion.” is a site emphasizing taking action to prevent the situations such as those which occurred in Rwanda—situations which are occurring currently around the world. Actions can take form in collecting signatures pressuring representatives to respond to the situation, demonstrations, donating money to relief efforts, fasting as a fundraiser (saving the money that would be spent on meals and donating it to the cause),holding a fundraiser or benefit, inviting experts to group sessions (such as some that have already been on ONU’s campus), meeting as a delegation with members of Congress, organize a video presentation with brochures to spread the word, post flyers, push local councils and communities to call upon UN and US action, and educate, educate, educate.
Keep in mind that ignorance is, indeed, bliss. Some of the best breeding grounds for injustice are those to which the world turns a blind eye. And some of the most effective motivators to action include educating one’s self and others about the events happening or that have happened in the world. Can an individual live in true peace once he or she has experienced the injustices around the world and recognized and owned a part in responsibility for it? “The real problem,” Chacour says, “is that Western theology starts with man as the center of all things and tries to force God into some scheme that we can understand.” If Western theology is going to accept such responsibility upon man, then it is evident there should be more responsibility taken for change.
“God demand[s] that [we] demonstrate His own character to the whole world,” says Chacour, “that [we] show forth the face of God in every action from the way [we] conduct [our] government down to the use of fair weights and measures in the marketplace. (Chacour)” If America’s goal is diversity, if true Christianity is our goal, if God’s will is what we seek, and if humanity is whom the UN serves, then it’s about time that each would demonstrate that which they are so fond of saying. Let’s put words behind actions, governments behind policies, action behind memberships and in uniting something can truly happen. Change can indeed occur, but until the world begins to truly care, nothing will change. And the world cannot begin to care if the people in it do not begin to care. In the words of Elias Chacour, the change begins because of “chang[ed] hearts, not simply institutions.”
However, change does not occur when individuals close their eyes and their hearts. In te movie Beyond Borders, Nick (the main male character) talks about the dynamics of change and what happens when one takes upon himself the responsibility for change. “That’s us right,” he asks? “We drown [the cold]. Kill it. Numb it, anything not to feel. You know, when I was a doctor in London, no one ever said ‘medahani.’ They don’t thank you like they thank you here. ‘Cause here they feel everything, straight from God. There’s no drugs, no painkillers. It’s the weirdest, purest thing—suffering. And when you’ve seen that kind of courage in a life… in a child… How could you ever want to do anything but just hold him in your arms.”

segunda-feira, janeiro 23, 2006

Bonds of Brother-(Sister)hood

Image hosting by Photobucket
Have you ever had somebody you called Aunt who wasn’t really related to you at all? Have there been people in your life that you would say were second or even stand-in family members for you? I know it’s a joke within my physical family that I could have and find family anywhere. I went to Brazil this summer and immediately felt the bonds of family there. When I don’t have family around college, it’s not strange for me to feel these bonds with others instead. These bonds of family are what makes adjusting easier, and what makes life so full of excitement even in the down times.
I was listening to a teaching a few weeks back when Psalms 68:5-6 was mentioned. To be honest, the verses prior were mentioned, but I continued reading and felt an attachment to verses 5-6, which say “A father of the fatherless and a judge and protector of the widows is God in His holy habitation. God places the solitary in families and gives the desolate a home in which to dwell; He leads the prisoners out to prosperity; but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.”
How amazing to know that even when we have a dysfunctional family, when we are all alone, God has a family in mind for us. God is on our side, he is merciful, He is caring, and is saving. Who, however, is this family in which He places the lonely? Could it not be the body of the church through whom He works? Is it not others whom He has placed together who have encountered similar situations? How many times have you felt alone and God has brought you to a comforting friend?
I was then later reading Hebrews, which is on of my favorite books, and saw something that’d I’d read often, but never investigated until I saw that it referenced right back to Psalm 68. It says “Let love for you fellow believers continue and be a fixed practice with you [never let it fail]. Do not forget or neglect or refuse to extend hospitality to strangers [in the brotherhood—being friendly, cordial, and gracious, sharing the comforts of your home and doing your part generously], for through it some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison as if you were their fellow prisoner and those who are ill-treated, since you also are liable t bodily sufferings.” –Hebrews 13:1-3
How easily we forget our brotherly bonds in daily life and interaction. When was the last time you looked at the person next to you and fully realized and acted towards them in a way that you would your own family? God doesn’t really stress the importance of the family bond in he Bible in the sense of physical family, but will often more fully stress the brotherhood and family that we have in each other, and the importance of living in that family that is headed by God and that, many times thankfully, does not represent or reflect the dysfunction of our own families.

En Serio

Okay, I'm going to write this one blog that is really.... perhaps a bit intense and will follow it with poetry from the deep past. I'm not depressed, believe me. But sometimes this is how it runs through....

So I suppose my question is "Is everyone around here so spiritual that they can turn the whole 'feel' and 'need for flesh and blood' buttons off? Because I just can't seem to do it. I've heard all the answers and thought all the things for which the answers are supposed to work. Oh, so you just strive harder to be closer to God? Is that all? Because I've been praying and striving with my entire being and there seems to be nothing! I can't even let myself blame or doubt God so I know it must be an inadequacy in me, but I don't know what it is and this just makes me even more frustrated because then God appears to mirror every other "love" that never worked out. The realization and similarity hit me tonight and I almost lost it. Rationally and reactionally I'm not that desperate and, God, I would love to stand here and say that you're more than enough and that I don't care about that special someone. Are the two synonymous? Am I saying you're not enough if I feel this need for a man in my life? Do I ask too much? Indulge too much? Do I need to get myself to some point? Because my striving, working, praying does not seem to make the difference. I still long for that which I cannot have. I'm stil vulnerable (yet unaccepting) to those who would take me. And I still can't hear you. I'm feeling a calm in some sense. I do know you're there and doing things for me in so many other areas. I know you're there somewhere. And perhaps it's even my own problem, but that's your specialty, right? Entering into our problems and taking us up in your arms and strength?

Quero te ver