Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Cynical American Scapegoating of Korea as a Cover for Nuclear Terror

And they began to implore Him to leave their region.

- from Mark 5:17 (the Gerasene demoniac)

Barack Obama is in South Korea, as part of his Asia tour, and probably more than any part of his trip, it is this stop that most Americans understand to be relevant to "national security" and the alleged need for ever greater amounts of U.S. firepower in Asia.

That's because Americans are fed a fairly constant diet of scare news about those "unhinged" North Koreans -- "just crazy enough" to start the next nuclear war.


Several weeks ago I attended a presentation that, for me at least, turned this interpretation of events on its head. Professor Jae-Jung Suh gave a presentation entitled, "War or Peace in Korea? The 20 Years' and the 70 Years' Crisis" during the Ending the Korean War: Prospects for a Just, Durable and Lasting Peace session at the Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2014.

As I watched Prof. Suh's presentation, which documented the uninterrupted string of American interventions and threat of intervention on the Korean peninsula since 1950, the vast majority of which contained a nuclear component, the wheels in my brain slowly started to turn. Finally, I realized, "Korea has been designated by the U.S. as a place to demonstrate the constant threat of nuclear catastrophe. Somehow, the U.S. manages the trick of being the one doing the threatening, but making it seem as if it is somehow some inherent characteristic of Korea itself that calls forth these terrifying threats."

Nuclear threats? Oh, it's a "Korea thing" . . . 

So there are these terrible things called nuclear weapons, and it just turns out that they hover around the Korean peninsula, as if "Korea" and "crazy nuclear terror" belonged together. And I thought to myself, "Where have I heard this before?"

And this being a conference of faith-based organizations, and me being in a Gospel state of mind, it came to me. I remembered the story of the Gerasene demoniac:

5 They came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes. 2 When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him, 3 and he had his dwelling among the tombs. And no one was able to bind him anymore, even with a chain; 4 because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him and the shackles broken in pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and gashing himself with stones. 6 Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him; 7 and shouting with a loud voice, he said, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!” 8 For He had been saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 And He was asking him, “What is your name?” And he said to Him, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” 10 And he began to implore Him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now there was a large herd of swine feeding nearby on the mountain. 12 The demons implored Him, saying, “Send us into the swine so that we may enter them.” 13 Jesus gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drowned in the sea.

14 Their herdsmen ran away and reported it in the city and in the country. And the people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 They came to Jesus and observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the “legion”; and they became frightened. 16 Those who had seen it described to them how it had happened to the demon-possessed man, and all about the swine. 17 And they began to implore Him to leave their region. 18 As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was imploring Him that he might accompany Him. 19 And He did not let him, but He said to him, “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.

(Mark 5:1-20 (New American Standard Bible) on Bible Gateway)

Rev. Erik Christensen explains "[A]s the story comes to its conclusion, the Gerasenes, the people who had chained this demon-possessed man up in their graveyard have asked Jesus to leave them. Jesus, by casting out their demons, has disrupted their social order. They’d had a system for handling their demons, namely by scapegoating a man they kept chained up like a slave. Now that he’d been set free, they were afraid."

In other words, the status quo liked having a scapegoat just fine.  It distracted attention from the culpability of the "upstanding" citizens. The moral of the story: don't expect anyone to thank you for calling out this arrangement, and freeing the scapegoat from that thankless role. (You can read a longer treatment of the scapegoating in the Gerasene demoniac story in the article "Jesus and the Demoniac" by Jim Warren.)

It is in the context of the story of the Gerasene demoniac that I have come to see how cynical and mean the behavior of the U.S. is towards Korea.  Under the guise of "security," it has subjected the Korean peninsula to the role of being the poor, addled, trouble spot for the past 70 years -- all in the name of demonstrating to the rest of the world the real ability of the U.S. to bring nuclear annihilation to anyone who thwarts it.

And it is in this context that I have come to understand the importance of the call for a nuclear-free zone on the Korean Peninsula.  This is a call for nothing less than the U.S. to stop scapegoating others and to accept its own responsibility for fostering nuclear terror.

Related posts



We have had a window of opportunity -- nearly 70 years in which the constitution of Japan has explicitly renounced war, pointing the way for the rest of us. What have we imagined we were supposed to do?

(See Renouncing War: An Opportunity Not To Be Missed )





With the New York Times publishing "analysis" like this, is it any wonder that Americans can say things like . . . "It won't be a war. We're just going to drop a few well placed bombs on them" . . . "the object of fighting a war is to 'cause devastation'" . . . "my finger is on the button. Run back to your mud hut or I am going to press it!" . . . "when war is devastating, then people will do everything possible not to get into it!" . . . as some of my high school classmates wrote on Facebook today?

(See The Bankruptcy of U.S. Nuclear Doctrine )


For several years now, I have been intensively involved in Advocates for human rights in the Philippines, including the Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines, are asking us to speak out publicly on the need for the U.S. government to "own" its responsibility for human rights violations in the Philippines, and to take affirmative action to halt them. As President Obama begins his trip to Asia -- underlining the much-touted "pivot to Asia" -- it is an especially important time to draw attention to what is really happening in the Philippines.

(See Needed: Less Military Force, More Human Rights in the Philippines )

Now HERE'S an "Asia Pivot" I Can Believe In! (Marshall Islands Sues Nuclear "Haves")

Smack dab in the middle of a Barack Obama's suavely jingoistic Asia tour, and on the eve of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Preparatory Conference in New York, there has been in new development:

Breaking News: Nuclear Zero Lawsuits Filed

Today, a small country filed a historic lawsuit against the 9 nuclear weapon states. Join them to demand #NuclearZero.

Big news today out of The Hague and San Francisco. The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) has filed unprecedented lawsuits against all nine nuclear-armed nations for their failure to negotiate in good faith for nuclear disarmament, as required under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The suits were filed against all nine nations at the International Court of Justice, with an additional complaint against the United States filed in U.S. Federal District Court.

The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation applauds the courage of the RMI’s leaders in bringing lawsuits against the nuclear-armed nations. The people of the RMI continue to suffer today from U.S. nuclear weapon tests that took place on their territory in the 1940s and 1950s, and they want to ensure that such devastation – or worse – is never brought on anyone ever again.

NAPF is playing a key role in the Nuclear Zero Lawsuits campaign, which just launched this morning. Please go to www.nuclearzero.org, where you can learn more about the specifics of the lawsuits and show your support by signing a petition supporting the RMI’s bold, non-violent action.

We’ll be bringing you much more news about these lawsuits in the coming days and weeks. But right now, there are two things I’d like for you to do:

1. Go to nuclearzero.org and sign the petition, and then share it with your friends.

2. Share / re-tweet announcements about the lawsuits from our Facebook and Twitter pages.

These lawsuits could be the thing that finally breaks the nuclear weapon states’ shameful decades of inaction on nuclear disarmament. Please take a moment to add your voice to the campaign today.

Sincerely,

Rick Wayman
NAPF Peace Ops Director

I'm headed to New York next week and look forward to participating in these two important public events:

I hope to see many of you there.

As Rick Wayman says - it's time to spread the word!


Related posts

I don't think Alanna and I ever talked about what it must be like to be trying to escape a shower of sparks and hot ash. But she seemed to know that the sparks and hot ash are too important a part of the picture to be left out.

(See The Children Are Waiting )
The problem: the U.S. "pivot to Asia."

The opportunity: asking ourselves, "What would we do differently if we revised our myths of Asia?"

(See U.S. Militarism in Asia: THINK DIFFERENT!)



Sixty-seven years ago tonight, morning in Japan, a single B-29 dropped the first atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima. This incredible blast destroyed most of the city and killed over 60,000 people almost immediately. Another 80,000 more died in subsequent months and years from the deadly radiation.

(See Our Dark Beacon: Prayer Vigil for Hiroshima and Nagasaki (August 5, 2012)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Obama in Japan: How About a Pivot Toward Peacemaking?

Hito ni au: zeitaku
- Japanese liquor ad

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
- Matthew 5:9

H A R V A R D
(William James Hall is the white tower visible in the mid-distance at the right.)

Over the summer of 1982, I studied Introductory Japanese at Harvard.

It was my great good fortune to make the acquaintance of another student there, a man from Japan who was a Ph.D. candidate at Yale, and who was working on his French over the summer.  Kazashi's special interest was William James, and so Cambridge, MA, was full of attractions for him.

Kazashi was very generous in listening to me talk about my progress with Japanese -- and he was tireless in explaining facets of Japanese culture and language to me.  And I would try to reciprocate by drawing his attention to aspects of American culture he might not be aware of.

We had many conversations over dinner at the old Student Union on those summer evenings.  I remember Kazashi pointing out an ad in a Japanese newspaper. "This is a really Japanese kind of sentiment, exactly what we would think of as a sophisticated advertisement," he said. There was a picture of the product -- a bottle of some kind of liquor, I think -- and a handful of words, Hito ni au: zeitaku. "You know this part, right?" he said. "Hito ni au - 'to meet or be together with people.' Followed by this one character -zeitaku - it means 'luxury.' So simple, but it sums up the feeling . . . "

I remember another evening when we were departing the Union, and I said, "Hey, I seem to remember there's a concert tonight -- this cellist I've heard about -- he's supposed to be quite good." So we walked down to Memorial Hall, only to encounter a line snaking up around the law school, perhaps about a quarter of a mile. Apparently some other people had also heard that Yo-yo Ma was supposed to be "quite good."

*   *   *   *   *

After that summer, Kazashi and I stayed in touch as much as we could. But I was in the U.S., and he was in Japan, and before I knew it many years had gone by without either of us hearing from the other.

It wasn't until about 2005 or so, when I was fooling around with Google one day, that I said, "Gee, I bet you could even track down someone like Kazashi with this thing!"

Kazashi and colleague on site in Iraq,
investigating depleted uranium contamination.
What I discovered was that Kazashi was now a philosphy professor -- specializing in William James, naturally -- and that he was also involved in the work of organizations in Japan and elsewhere to stop the spread of weapons made with uranium.

Soon, Kazashi was able to visit the U.S. again, and we had the opportunity to renew our friendship. He told me about his work: "When I obtained a position at a university, it turned out to be in Hiroshima," I remember Kazashi telling me. "So it was very natural that I became connected with the peace movement.  I became a peace worker."

Those words -- "I became a peace worker" -- stuck with me. What might it mean for someone to become "a peace worker"? At the time I was not involved in activism at all. Could it really be that people were called to this work the way Kazashi described? It was quite clear to me that he had devoted himself -- heart, mind, body, and soul -- to this work.

Kazashi and I have done some things together since then -- I've taken him for meetings here in the U.S. and helped with proofreading English; he's helped share information from me in Japan -- but the biggest impact of our renewed friendship has certainly been those five words: "I became a peace worker"

*   *   *   *   *

I often wonder about the words of the Sermon on the Mount -- such as "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God" -- and I wonder how one could be expected to have taken them when they were first uttered. Is it possible for me to hear those words with fresh ears?

Sadao Watanabe, Sermon on the Mount

Do we need to hear those words in a somewhat more idiomatic or contextual way? Is it possible that "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God" sounded to those listeners back then something like ". . . it turns out . . .  very natural . . . one becomes . . . a peace worker" ?


*   *   *   *   *

As Barack Obama meets with Japanese leaders today on the first stop of his Asia tour, and works to advance the American strategic "pivot" to Asia, I wonder if there is a way to turn from what sometimes feels like an irresistible American attraction to military power.

Will the story of the decades ahead be told in terms of the U.S. Pacific fleet and command of the seas?

Will it be all about lining up allies and facing down China?

I am thinking of Kazashi and asking, "How about a pivot toward peacemaking?"




Related posts

Hundreds of thousands of pounds of "depleted uranium" (DU) have been aerosolized and dispersed by being used in armor piercing munitions by U.S. forces in Iraq. DU emits alpha radiation and does not decay for hundreds of thousands of years, and in its aerosolized form is subject to uptake by many parts of the human body. It will be years, decades, or more, before the health consequences can be fully understood.)

(See DU: Will we ever be able to say "We're done here" ? )



We have had a window of opportunity -- nearly 70 years in which the constitution of Japan has explicitly renounced war, pointing the way for the rest of us. What have we imagined we were supposed to do?

(See Renouncing War: An Opportunity Not To Be Missed )



Sixty-seven years ago tonight, morning in Japan, a single B-29 dropped the first atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima. This incredible blast destroyed most of the city and killed over 60,000 people almost immediately. Another 80,000 more died in subsequent months and years from the deadly radiation.

(See Our Dark Beacon: Prayer Vigil for Hiroshima and Nagasaki (August 5, 2012)


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

April 19 in Yemen: Another Day, Another Drone Killing

The press announced a flurry of drone killings in Yemen over the April 19/20 weekend -- that is, while the rest of us were observing Easter -- and just as with U.S. drone killings in Pakistan and Somalia, the U.S. modus operandi was on full display. (See "U.S. Drones and Yemeni Forces Kill Qaeda-Linked Fighters, Officials Say")

Numerous unnamed U.S. officials are alluded to in press coverage, but all official U.S. sources (the CIA, the Pentagon) decline comment. Reports are full of red herrings - references to Al Qaeda leaders in Yemen (who were not the targets of these particular attacks, however); mention of past attacks against the U.S. Embassy in Yemen (which the U.S. does not connect with the events of the weekend, however); Barack Obama's May, 2013, speech on national security (but what relevance could that have to the past weekend's anonymous strikes?); etc.

Nonetheless, the New York Times account can assert that the strikes hit "militants" linked to Al Qaeda -- or rather, "linked to Al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen."

"Ask them!"
The White House referred questions to the government of Yemen, with whom the U.S. has "a strong collaborative relationship" -- which is not to say the U.S. government will openly endorse, affirm, or share responsibility for any of the acts the Yemen government claims to have carried out.

What is new is that one government -- the Yemeni one -- did state affirmatively that they killed people:  "55 militants" -- "militants whowereplanningto attack civilian and military facilities."

The U.S. government's scarecrow act -- pointing the finger at the Yemeni government -- is completely unconvincing, and the Yemeni government's statements are completely unsatisfying.

Luckily, a drumbeat is growing in U.S. courts and in the U.S. Congress to force the U.S. Executive branch to come clean on its drone killings.

Related posts


The U.S. has a modus operandi for conducting military strikes while slipping past any genuine public accountability. It's worth a look at the Tuesday, October 29, 2013, New York Times account of a drone strike in Somalia the previous day: "Pentagon Says Shabab Bomb Specialist Is Killed in Missile Strike in Somalia." It's a case study in what's wrong with the U.S. drone wars.

(See October 28 in Somalia: Another Day, Another Drone Killing)


A September 5, 2013, U.S. drone strike in Pakistan killed six people - including Sangeen Zadran -- a "senior militant commander" who was "implicated in a long-running kidnapping drama involving an American soldier."

(See September 5 in Pakistan: Another Day, Another Drone Killing)



Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Walter Jones (R-NC) have now submitted a bill calling for drone transparency -- the "Targeted Lethal Force Transparency Act" (otherwise known as the "come clean on drone killing" bill). Many groups are calling for its passage, including Amnesty International, Arab American Institute, Center for Civilians in Conflict, Center for Constitutional Rights, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Global Justice Clinic, NYU School of Law, Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch, National Security Network, Open Society Policy Center, Peace Action West, Reprieve, and Win Without War.

(See REAL Progressives Demand that the U.S. Come Clean on Drone Killings )

Needed: Less Military Force, More Human Rights in the Philippines

For several years now, I have been intensively involved in working to end the extrajudicial killings (EJK) carried out by the U.S., specifically those involving drones. My attention has been very focused on what the U.S. is doing in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.

Just a few weeks ago I attended the Ecumenical Advocacy Days in Washington, D.C. One of the things that I learned was the extent of human rights problems in the Philippines -- particularly the way the U.S. enables extrajudicial killings by the Philippine government through its material support for and political backing of the army and the administration.

Here is what other sources are saying about the Philippines:

"The Philippine government failed to match its rhetoric in support of human rights in 2013 with meaningful action to end impunity for extrajudicial killings, torture, and enforced disappearances." (Human Rights Watch, January 21, 2014, "Philippines: Surge of Journalist Killings, Justice Failures")

"The Committee is concerned at the continued perpetration of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in the State party. It is particularly concerned at the proliferation of private armies and vigilante groups that are partly responsible for these crimes as well as at the large number of illegal firearms. The Committee is also concerned at the arming and use of “force multipliers” for counter-insurgency and other purposes pursuant to Presidential Executive Order No. 546 (arts. 6, 7 and 9)."(UN Human Rights Committee, "Concluding observations on the fourth periodic report of the Philippines, adopted by the Committee at its 106th session (15 October - 2 November 2012)")

"The most significant human rights problems continued to be extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances undertaken by security forces; a dysfunctional criminal justice system notable for poor cooperation between police and investigators, few prosecutions, and lengthy procedural delays; and widespread official corruption and abuse of power." (U.S. State Department, "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013: Philippines")

Now, advocates for human rights in the Philippines, including the Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines, are asking us to speak out publicly on the need for the U.S. government to "own" its responsibility for human rights violations in the Philippines, and to take affirmative action to halt them.

As President Obama begins his trip to Asia -- underlining the much-touted "pivot to Asia" -- it is an especially important time to draw attention to what is really happening in the Philippines.

Here is my letter to Senators Durbin and Kirk (Illinois).  (Please contact your senators.)


April 22, 2014

The Honorable Richard Durbin
The Honorable Richard Kirk
Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator Durbin and Senator Kirk,

I am concerned about the State Department Foreign Military Financing (FMF) aid to the Philippines for fiscal year 2014 and FY 2015. On January 17, 2014 the President signed the first appropriations bill since FY2008 that does not have human rights restrictions on FMF for the Philippines specified in the appropriations law. For FY 2014 restrictions are not in the bill language but instead in the conference committee report, stating that the Appropriations Committees will decide on how much to release to the Philippine army after getting a report from the State Department. We are asking for messages from our Senators to Sen. Leahy, Chair of the State Department Foreign Operations Subcommittee, supporting continued human conditions on FMF funding for the Philippines.

Since the human rights conditions were put in place FY2008 the Government of the Philippines (GPH) has expressed concern about being designated as a human rights violator, and although there has been some decrease in the rate of killings and the government has setup a high level interagency committee to investigate the problem, progress has not been sufficient for the State Department to release all of the appropriated FMF in any year since 2008. According to the US State Department 2013 Human Rights Report few of the perpetrators have been arrested and there have been no convictions of high-ranking police or military officials and a culture of impunity persists.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the paramilitary units under their control continue to be involved in extrajudicial killings (EJK), enforced disappearances, and illegal arrests and in the last 12 months killings have increased. According to KARAPATAN, Philippine human rights NGO, in the first 3 months of this year 19 EJKs have been reported, and all can reasonably be attributed to the AFP and Philippine National Police.

The human rights abuses by security forces can generally be linked to the unresolved 45-year insurgency by the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (CPP-NPA). The victims are typically worker, peasant and environmental activists who have been accused of being communists and or members of the NPA and have failed to stop their activism in the face of the threats. A resolution of the conflict could go a long way to improve the human rights situation. The National Council of Churches of the Philippines (NCCP) has called for “...principled negotiations to thresh out the issues, unearth and address the root causes of the conflict. The peace negotiation is a way to just and lasting peace.” A framework for peace talks hosted by Norway is well established, however, in 2013 peace talks broke down.

The recent spate of killings and highly publicized arrests of CPP peace consultants (Benito and Wilma Austria Tiamzon and several others) signals the GPH is essentially closing the door on the peace process and is prefering a military solution to ending the conflict. We think the US could play a role in urging the GPH to re engage in the peace process.

Another impediment to peace is the State Department listing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-National Democratic Front as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. The listing was a very political act negotiated by the former president of the Philippines.

With the “Pivot to Asia” the US military will be soon be sending military personnel to AFP bases in the Philippines. Negotiations with the GPH are ongoing on the “Agreement on Enhanced Defense Cooperation (AEDC)” and there has been speculation that it may be ready by the time President Obama arrives in Manila next week. It is important that members of Congress be aware of the situation in the Philippines with respect to human rights and take action where appropriate.

Please communicate to Senator Leahy’s staff of the State Department Foreign Operations Subcommittee expressing your concern that the subcommittee:

1) Carefully consider the State Department report on the human rights performance of the Philippine army and not release FMF funds for the army unless there is clear evidence of a substantial decrease in killings, vigorous prosecution of perpetrators and an end to impunity

2) To return human rights conditions to FMF in the bill for 2015

Please also communicate with Secretary of State John Kerry your concern about the breakdown in the peace process to end the ongoing insurgency and request that the CPP-NPA be removed from the list of Foreign Terrorist Organization as signal that the US would like to see progress on peace negotiations.

Sincerely,

Joe Scarry
Chicago, IL

Related posts

The problem: the U.S. "pivot to Asia."

The opportunity: asking ourselves, "What would we do differently if we revised our myths of Asia?"

(See U.S. Militarism in Asia: THINK DIFFERENT!)






We have had a window of opportunity -- nearly 70 years in which the constitution of Japan has explicitly renounced war, pointing the way for the rest of us. What have we imagined we were supposed to do?

(See Renouncing War: An Opportunity Not To Be Missed )






The crime of Extrajudicial Execution is described on the website for Mike Haas' book, George W. Bush, War Criminal? The Bush Administration’s Liability for 269 War Crimes. Here, we will look at the specific legal basis for charging perpetrators as war criminals for Extrajudicial Executions, and list sources reporting relevant U.S. actions in Afghanistan.

(See VAU Afgh 101: Extrajudicial Executions )

Monday, April 21, 2014

Holy Week 2014 in Chicago - Making a Spectacle of Ourselves

I'm grateful to Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass for his column yesterday, in which he talked about Easter lamb and the meaning of Lent to him. (For those of you who don't live in Chicago or don't regularly read the Chicago Tribune, it's important to understand that Kass is the very model of a hard-nosed city columnist -- the kind that doesn't pull any punches. Our previous mayor, Richard M. Daley, will forever be remembered by the Kass-conferred sobriquet "Richard Shortshanks.") Kass writes, "I've been wondering whether it's possible to make that [Lenten] journey while doing the work I love. Lent for many Christians involves prayer and fasting and concentrating on the spirit. But a journalist by definition is in the world, and going over a list of my columns of these past 40 days is like studying a road map, leading expressly away from where I'd been hoping to go." (See A roasted lamb celebrates end of a hard journey)

Palm Sunday at St. Luke's Logan Square.
(Tough guys wear crosses from Nicaragua
that have been resurrected from melted-
down aluminum engine blocks!)
What I'm grateful to Kass for is the way this hard-nosed guy is really trying to get the words out.  He doesn't want anyone to think he's gone soft, but lurking just beneath the surface of this column are the words we proclaimed yesterday at the church I attend in Logan Square:

Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Allelulia!

[CORRECTION from John Kass: "Thanks, but the words "Christos Anesti" weren't "lurking beneath the surface" of my column. They were WRITTEN in the column." Oops! So much for my Greek!]

"So, in gratitude to John Kass, and in keeping with what I perceive to be our shared desire to place our faith "in the world" and share the good news (while at the same time not turning people off with too much Jesus talk) -- in short, keeping my tough guy cred intact -- I herewith share some scenes from my Holy Week 2014.


Palm Sunday: "Hey! Save us!"

On Palm Sunday (April 13, 2014) the Logan Square Ecumenical Alliance (LSEA) hosted its 3rd annual public witness at the Logan Square monument from 12pm—1pm. As in previous years, we gathered to celebrate the very public and political nature of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and his call to people of faith to resist the values of empire and seek instead “the kingdom of heaven.” LSEA congregations processed from their respective houses of worship carrying palm branches, for an opportunity to stand together to listen to our neighbors and dream together about God’s preferred future for our community.



Building on the success of our December 2013 “Posada for Public Housing,” we focused on issues of housing in Logan Square as we heard testimony from people experiencing eviction and foreclosure and campaigning for quality, affordable public housing. We considered faithful responses to our neighbors' needs, and provided opportunities to get directly involved. (See What do we want? SALVATION! When do we want it? NOW! )

My favorite is the vignette in the center of the picture above. How about a close-up?



Maundy Thursday at St. Luke's

Services at St. Luke's extended across the three days leading up to Easter, plus Easter itself.

On Maundy Thursday, we remembered Jesus' last supper with his disciples.

Some of us washed feet.  Some of us had our feet washed. (Some of us played the guitar.)

It got us focused on the fact that what we do, we do in community.


Good Friday: "We who believe in freedom cannot rest!"

On Good Friday 2014 (April 18), I joined with members of ELCA congregations from throughout the Chicago area, together with others, to participate in the 34th annual 8th Day Center Good Friday Justice Walk. The theme for the walk was "We who believe in freedom cannot rest!" and this certainly resonated with the work of the Metro Chicago Synod's Working Group on the Middle East. (See Palestine: The Women Weep (34th Annual 8th Day Good Friday Justice Walk)

In preparation for the day, Rev. Carla Powell prepared a special devotion, and worked with a large team to create boards reproducing protest art from the separation wall that surrounds the West Bank.



Check out also the witness of the Chicago Coalition to Shut Down Guantanamo.

Easter Vigil

We held a full Easter Vigil at St. Luke's on Saturday.  The vigil on Saturday is fast becoming the center of our Easter observance, even more important than the Sunday morning Easter service.

This year, my "portion" was the reading of the story of Ezekiel and the Valley of Dry Bones -- complete with sound effects by percussionist (and seminarian) Chris Michaelis, and followed by the full choir (and congregation) singing "Dry Bones."

I wish that I had pictures to capture the feeling of that event -- especially Noel Spain's evocation of the life and trials of Pete Seeger, in connection with the Fiery Furnace story; and the full community gathering around the table for communion.

For background on the Easter vigil tradition, see the Wikipedia article on Easter Vigil.


Easter: "I'm happy! ALLELULIA!"

Check out Pastor Erik Christensen's sermon from Sunday at St. Luke's . . . AND . . .

Coming soon: video footage of the joyful music yesterday at St. Luke's.

(As I heard one person in the pews say, "This is a place where you can really have some fun!")


Easter 2


In light of the fact that there is a community that gathers at St. Luke's on every Wednesday for Community Dinner, and recognizing how much everybody enjoyed our Lenten "Prayers Around the Cross" on Wednesday nights this year, Easter will happen again all over again on Wednesday, April 23, at St. Luke's.  JOIN US!



Related posts


Last year at this time, on Good Friday morning, I was not only getting ready to participate in the annual 8th Day Good Friday Justice Walk -- a venerable Chicago institution -- but also getting ready to put on a play. The playwright Jack Gilroy was in town to make a special appearance together with a small group of us who were staging a reading of his play, The Predator. The Predator is a play that many communities have used to stir conversation about the nature of drone warfare. Jack is much on my mind today, in part because of the anniversary of that performance, but also because of news he recently shared with me about an upcoming court appearance.

(See You're Gonna Put This Guy in Prison? Really??)




Martin Luther said, "In this way we are all priests, as many of us as are Christians. There are indeed priests whom we call ministers. They are chosen from among us, and who do everything in our name. That is a priesthood which is nothing else than the Ministry." See Wikipedia: universal priesthood.) All of us? Really? How about all the many, many, many people pursuing all kinds of walks of life in a big city like Chicago?

(See Get Outside Your Comfort Zone and Have A Conversation Today (Welcome to the Ministry))


 An important part of spreading the good news, I believe, lies in suggesting how it might be possible that this universal, un-grasp-able power that we call "God" may actually find its expression in the midst of our lives through plumb lines, flies, and prophets like Ron and Occupy Chicago.


(See Flies in the Ointment and Plumb Lines for Israel)

Friday, April 18, 2014

You're Gonna Put This Guy in Prison? Really??

Last year at this time, on Good Friday morning, I was not only getting ready to participate in the annual 8th Day Good Friday Justice Walk -- a venerable Chicago institution -- but also getting ready to put on a play.

The playwright Jack Gilroy was in town to make a special appearance together with a small group of us who were staging a reading of his play, The Predator. (See The Predator in Chicago - Good Friday, 2013 - 'A Passion Play for the Drones Era'") The Predator is a play that many communities have used to stir conversation about the nature of drone warfare.

Jack is much on my mind today, in part because of the anniversary of that performance, but also because of news he recently shared with me about an upcoming court appearance. I quote here at length from a letter Jack shared -- it is addressed to participants in a Peace Studies course that he advises, and it begins with encouragement from Jack about their work at their college:

The struggle is not over yet but if won, it will open up student minds to alternatives to violence like no single course ever has at B~ University . You can’t wave a victory flag yet but get it ready. There will be snags and disappointments but don’t get discouraged and give up the struggle. Many issues will be wrapped in the new curriculum and the process will not be to solve specific issues but to find ways to treat conflict issues diplomatically, rationally, intelligently—all with compassion.

That said, I am involved in an issue now that may prevent me from working with you next school year. I go to trial on July 14th in DeWitt Court House near Syracuse for a ‘killer drone die in’ that I was part of a year ago. I was one of 31 who lied on the ground of the entrance way to the 174th Attack Wing of the NY State National Guard. The 174th Attack Wing fires drones (located in Afghanistan and only God and the NSA know where else) electronically by ‘pilots’ located at their consoles inside the Hancock Air Base in Syracuse . [NOTE: die-in pictures here]

Some of our group chose to take a plea bargain (plead guilty and pay a fine) and have charges dropped. I would not do that. I committed no crime by asserting my constitutional rights of free assembly and speech. Every United States citizen has an obligation to call their US Government to honor when the US government is committing crimes. It is illegal to assassinate. Both President Ford and Reagan both issued Executive Orders to forbid assassination. And of course, this is a test of our morality that for me is much greater than legality. I will not be a party to killing any person.

Since the Magna Carta in 1215, Western jurisprudence has given high ground to habeas corpus—a person has the right to hear charges, to a fair trial. There is no hearing for those assassinated by US drones. Thousands of people have been killed by our drones--- many of them women and children.

My trial will be one of the first jury trials for this so called ‘crime’ of speaking out against killer drones. If convicted, I was told by the Judge to expect to be sentenced to the Jamesville Penitentiary for one year.

This is reminding me of how rapidly the resistance to U.S. drone killing is growing, and the many dimensions of this resistance.  And as I reflect on Good Friday, the day we remember Jesus' showdown with imperial power 2,000 years ago, it is also reminding me that there are people today who have come to the conclusion that the preservation of their own bodies may have to be foregone in the interest of saving others.

I'm pretty sure that Jack Gilroy is not a fan of spending time in prison.  I sense that he would be very happy if this cup could pass from him. But I also hear Jack saying, "If this is what it takes to stop the killing . . . thy will be done."

On this day, as you reflect on the meaning of Good Friday, take an opportunity to look around you.  There are Jack Gilroys all around us, and their number is growing.


Related posts

Brian Terrell, prior to beginning his term in federal prison for entering a drones base near Kansas City, MO: "There seems to be in these last weeks a new openness to speaking about the issue of the drones. It is as if with the dreadful distraction of the presidential election over, people are wiping the sleep from their eyes and are shocked to see the evil that had been festering while they were not looking."

(See Brian Terrell: "I go in solidarity with prisoners every place")





Beale, in CA, is home of the Global Hawk Drone, a surveillance drone that demonstrators claim helps in the targeting of Predator and Reaper armed drones. Increasing numbers of demonstrators have been arrested at Beale over the past several months. On March 5, Ash Wednesday, arrests included several members of the clergy. Other actions are scheduled for later this month.

(See Former National President of Veterans For Peace Arrested at Beale)





" . . . the suffering of tens of thousands of people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Gaza who are under drone attack . . . the killing, the wounding and the devastating impact of constant drone surveillance on community life . . . "

 (See End Drone Killing, Drone Surveillance and Global Militarization: Call for Spring Days of Action 2014)