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Monday, June 29, 2015

TRUE INDEPENDENCE DAY, FROM WAR—NO MORE DEAD AND HOMELESS

5-28-15 NYT-Iraqi civilians fleeing fighting in Ramadi crossed the Bzebiz Bridge, which offers passage into Baghdad from Anbar Province—photo by Karim Kadim-AP

  NYT 6-18-15 Thousands Flee Syria as Kurds Gain on ISIS -   photo by Bulent Kilic/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

 “Nearly 60 million people have been driven from their homes by war and persecution, an unprecedented global exodus that has burdened fragile countries with waves of newcomers and littered deserts and seas with the bodies of those who died trying to reach safety.”
“Half of the displaced are children.”
“That included 11 million people who scattered within the borders of their own countries, the highest figure ever recorded in the agency’s 50-year history.”

The total dead and casualties of our recent worldwide warfares have not been counted, probably never will be totaled.  The world does not want to know.

This current wave of war’s disaster has crested 14 years after the onslaught of our War on Terrorism, and do we feel any more secure having erected a massive Department of Homeland Security?  The middle class is bowed down under the weight of military + security war-chests.  Terrorism is on the increase worldwide.  We help create the monster we fight, using variants of the lethal tools they employ.


            
            We live inside the belly of a war machine,
            Like Jonah in the cavernous whale,
            We don’t see the bloodshed in which Our Leviathan swims,
Slowly we dissolve within its digestive juices.
By the repentance spirit of Nineveh,
O God save us! 

Jonah in the belly of the whale {expelled on borders of Nineveh}. Russian icon, Tobolsk, 18th century

There is no hope in these presumptive wars, displays of false power that mimic the distortions made of an Old Testament god.   But in this present moment we have Good News—Jesus puts us on the way to be the sons and daughters of God—blessed are the peacemakers.

Lord, grant us the grace to put away the sword of war so that we can begin to truly follow your new commandment, “Love one another as I have loved you.”  And thus—feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, comfort the afflicted, shelter the homeless.
As it is, our warfare state overwhelms and compounds the problems of our welfare state.
May we throw off the bonds of the warfare state, and create a truly conservative, industrious, common sense and common good, welfare state.








Monday, June 22, 2015

RACISM, WHITE SUPREMACY-- SINS AGAINST FAITH IN GOD, EVERYONE'S CREATOR

Clockwise from top L; Susie Jackson--Sharonda Coleman-Singleton-DePayne Doctor--Ethel Lance--Daniel Simmons Sr--Clementa Pinckney--Cynthia Hurd--Tywanza Sanders

What happened in at the AME Church in Charleston, S.C. contains a message for all of us.  Racism and hatred can be mortal sins.  Our country must renounce them, and the violence tools that inflict their pain, if we wish redemption.  May the Lord bless and comfort the people of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and their whole community.

Jesus Calms the Storm -- From yesterday's Gospel, Mk 4:35-41
"Who is this whom both the wind and the sea obey?"

The terrible mystery of this young white man, assassin for an idea.  Who can attend a prayer and scripture meeting for one hour and then shoot to kill?  But isn’t that what we are training our young people across the globe to do—the troops or insurgents with their chaplain or imam, almost every day of war, pray and then pass the ammunition?  {And multiple movies, websites and video games celebrate mass violence.}
Racism and War are co-conspirators



h, but they shoot enemies.  Yes, with every enemy some mother’s son, or father’s daughter.  God sent His Son to tell us this is not the way—is never the way.  Some Christians say that though we are individually to be filled with His nonviolent love and mercy, we must be able to bodily defend ourselves collectively, kill for the good of family and society.  We can take up sword if necessary to protect God’s worldly kingdoms, until Christ comes to reclaim us in the rapture of end times.

My Catholic church also has taught that one has the right and duty of self-defense with lethal force if need dictates.  Kill rather than be killed.  This dictum dates from the time of St. Ambrose, St Augustine, and Emperor Constantine some 300 years after Jesus.  It is not the same as His Good News—He lives dies and is resurrected in the Gospels—which was bad news for the nations of the world, as they required subjects to fight, to preserve a Holy Roman Empire, and every empire since.

Survival, by any means necessary, is the prime directive of every nation state and faction—in contrast, each and every one of us individuals is destined to die.



t is true we must courageously confront evil with every moral fiber of our being, dependent on the inspired grace of God.  Yet we are promised salvation and eternal life if only we follow Jesus’ example and directive, “Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you.”  We are all sinners but redeemed, as we join with Him in his mercy, even at point of death by execution, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”

There are supremacist ideologies that must be combated with all our heart and soul.  For hatred is weak love, as Thomas Merton said, and reserves for itself privatized idolatries.  God’s love welcomes all.  The beloved community of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is showing us the way—forgiveness, and putting away the swords of weapons and hatred. 

“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”  --  Dr. Martin Luther King

Lorraine Hotel, Memphis, TN, on day Martin Luther King was assassinated, April 4, 1968


And in the NYT 6-20-15
“The occasion was a bond hearing, the first court appearance of the suspect, Dylann Roof, for the murders, thought to be racially motivated, of nine black men and women during Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Wednesday night.
It was as if the Bible study had never ended as one after another, victims’ family members offered lessons in forgiveness, testaments to a faith that is not compromised by violence or grief. They urged him to repent, confess his sins and turn to God.”  Full story of forgiveness at this site --
 Be Not Afraid


Pope Francis has just released his encyclical on the need for justice and truth, as we respect our environment, our planet earth, and the rights of the world's poor.   Please take time, and begin to read and pray, here -- http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html

Illuminations by Kathy Brahney

Monday, June 15, 2015

IRAQ RETREAD--NO MILEAGE NOR SAVING GRACE IN GUNS

 President Obama follows the lead of Military advisers, and in footsteps of President Bush, back into Iraq -- photo in 6-10-15 NYT

The headline in the 6-10-15 NYTs puts it this way.
This is supposedly “signaling a major shift of focus in the fight against the Sunni militant group.”  But there is no shift.  We constantly repeat our mistakes, escalating our lethal force, in Iraq, and any place in the world we try to impose our will on other peoples we do not understand nor care for, beyond the resources they make available to us.  Our local paper says it better 6-9-15, Analysis: Obama sees Iraq’s military isn’t up to fight.   They’re not fighting hard enough, to attain our goals.   One of the major recurrent battles with ISIS is at the major oil depot, Beigi, in northern Iraq.

President George W. Bush announces are troubles in Iraq are over, May 2, 2003

Now we have mission creep back into Iraq.  Wasn’t “Mission Accomplished” there over 10 years ago?  These are current events:
 One of the worst refugee crises in history about to occur in Iraq by the end of June.
The Iraq government worried that the U.S. might send weapons directly to Kurds fighting ISIS in north Iraq instead of under Bagdad’s control.
Worried also that the U.S. is reluctant to let them buy weapons from Iran [our enemy] to help fight ISIS [our enemy]
ISIS now controls one third of all Iraq. It didn’t exist until we first invaded Iraq, disbanded Saddam’s Sunni army many going to Syria, then through the CIA enlisted these disaffected Sunnis, and those of Syria, to fight against Assad of Syria [also our Shiite enemy].    ISIS = Islamic State in Iraq & Syria, their new caliphate.

Our answer to all these problems is a rude [we tried this back in 2006-2007]  “Awakening.”  We will again train more Sunni Iraqis {then it was to fight Al Qaeda}, in this case tribes not yet thoroughly disgusted with us, to fight those other Sunnis in ISIS.  And this all on behalf of the Shiite dominated government {like that of Shia Iran & Syria—our enemies} we helped install in Iraq in which very few Sunnis, whatever their faction, have any faith in.  We return 450 U.S. troops into the fray, not to fight but to train more Iraqis to fight other Iraqis.   And of course we’ll send lots more weapons—not really knowing in whose hands they’ll end up.

This is futility and madness.  Repeated mistakes until they bring us all down.

The Last Judgement by Hieronymus Bosch



We’ve become a nation of in guns, not God, we trust.

Most recently we’re poised to send armaments to Ukraine to face down Russia in its own backyard, and increase arms sales to Israel, and Saudi Arabia. Come one come all to the biggest weapons exporter the world has ever known.   We've created a 10 billion pound gorilla military that keeps looking for a new or old place to sit down.  Its appetite leaves the rest of us monkeys having to constantly scavenge for the scant leftovers.  Seek ye first the kingdom of God, not the sword, share with your brothers and sisters, and all else you need will be given unto you--by the God of justice and mercy, the only One really in charge.



Illuminations by Kathy Brahney

Wall Art by Ande Gaines McCarthy


Monday, June 8, 2015

RESTITUTION - WHERE ARE THE BIG CRASH BANKERS?


It is regrettable that a former Kimball township official, and others mentioned in the “Restitution payments no guarantee” 5-21-15 local Times Herald article, have repaid so little [6% over 6 years in her case] of what they stole.  But it is devastatingly tragic that none of the wealthy bank CEO’s and financial speculators that drove our country into bankruptcy in 2008 have even been arrested or convicted for their huge rip-off of billions of our tax and investment dollars, no repayment necessary.   Our locals with hands in the till, are petty criminals compared to the officially sanctioned high-finance robbers we coddle by non-enforcement because they are so rich and clever.  The Times Herald titles a companion editorial this same day, "Embezzlers' sentences should fit crimes."  Amen. Therefore, we must try and sentence Wall Street, if we're to have an impact on Main Street.



What an example we set as a country by allowing those with the most money and connections to get away with it!  In our county, hammered more than most by the depressed national economy caused by financiers who robbed with impunity, it’s a miracle that many more don’t follow their lead, lining their pockets with ill-gotten gains.  The name of that national game is get-away-with-it, the natural order of a business model that idolizes survival of the fittest.

Before we can expect to squeeze blood from the tiny local stones that have bilked in the ten thousands from county institutions, we must demand repayment from our country’s financial leaders who’ve sequestered billions for themselves in the midst of the financial crash they created.   What do we do with local citizens who did wrong, and still have little means to repay?  Send them to debtors’ prison?   And yet our national level wheeler-dealers still pilot their yachts to wherever their excess dollars are welcome.



et’s put an end to this idolatry of dollars, by honoring responsible business people, and making those who’ve committed world-class financial scandal come to court—in a true and fully restorative justice system.   One way of removing some of the temptations from these too-big-to-fail banks and Wall Street speculators, with their huge cash flows, is to transfer our accounts to local banks, credit unions and foundations who may have our local needs closer to heart.


We must work and pray that those who’ve mistakenly put their trust in the dollar instead of God {that includes each and every one of us to differing degrees} repent, turning towards God’s way of mercy and service.

 


Illumination by Kathy Brahney

Monday, June 1, 2015

LOCK & RE-LOAD IN IRAQ & MIDDLE EAST--- DOOMED HISTORY

           
CAMP DAVID, Md. — “President Barack Obama announced Thursday [5-14-15] that he would streamline weapon sales and increase joint military exercises with Persian Gulf allies…”
and
Camp David was once the site of an attempted peace process, now it hosts a council of protracted war in the Middle East.  Israel was not present at this Arab gathering, but it has special status also, as customer of our military wares.
Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
Matthew 7:16

And in Iraq the war cauldron boils over. 
Scant days after the U.S. supported a prolonged Iraqi troops battle [bolstered by Iranian
Shiite militias] to win back the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit from ISIS control, ISIS overruns the major city of Ramadi, thousands of Iraqi troops we’ve  trained flee, and the whole of Anbar province is lost to our newest enemy.

5-28-15 NYT--Iraqi civilians fleeing fighting in Ramadi crossed the Bzebiz Bridge, which offers passage into Baghdad from Anbar Province-- photo by Karim Kadim--AP

From the 5-21-15 NYT, U.S. to Send Rockets to Iraq for ISIS Fight
"The immediate American objective over the past four days, the official said, has been to work with Iraqi political leaders and commanders to consolidate the retreating Iraqi forces [from Ramadi] — many of whom were physically and psychologically traumatized by car bombs roughly the magnitude [and construction] of those used in the Oklahoma City attack in 1995 — and prevent any further retreat [shades of Timothy McVeigh, executed by electrocution for that bomb attack, who learned his bomb-making with the U.S. military, and served in Iraq's Gulf War] .    …  A major flaw in the Iraqi security forces remains the lack of credible Sunni ground forces.   …  When Islamic State militants stormed an operations center in Anbar on Sunday, they captured a large cache of weapons, including arms supplied by both the United States and Russia, according to a security official who had been stationed there. … On Sunday, Iraqi reinforcements sent into the city center came under immediate fire and quickly started to retreat, the official said. That set in motion a chain reaction, with other Iraqi forces who had been holding in place also fleeing the city.  …  As American advisers in Iraq sought to help Iraqi forces regroup, administration officials voiced new concerns about 3,000 Shiite militia fighters, many supported by Iran [a major reason we recently “won” in Tikrit], who have arrived at a military base near Ramadi as part of the effort to reclaim the city."   http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/21/world/middleeast/us-to-send-rockets-to-iraq-for-isis-fight.html?ref=world&_r=1


raq, a country we’ve worked so hard to train, our way, sinks deeper and deeper in to chaos.
From the 5-28-15 NYT, Sunnis Fleeing ISIS Find Few Doors Open Elsewhere in Iraq
"Officials are preparing for the crisis to get only worse as the Iraqi government, allied militias and the international coalition led by the United States prepare for offensives against the Islamic State in Anbar and then Mosul, in the north. United Nations officials believe that more than one million more civilians could be displaced from operations in Anbar and elsewhere, before a campaign for Mosul even begins." [with just now neighbor city Tikrit tenuously re-taken from ISIS].  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/28/world/middleeast/sunnis-fleeing-islamic-state-fight-turned-away-in-iraq.html?ref=world&_r=1 

Our response to ISIS gains, and increased Iranian influence fighting on our side against ISIS yet against us in other ways, is to send newer and more weapons to the side in the Iraqi conflict we most favor at this moment.  And we hope to bolster almost all states in the Middle East [except Iran, though we paradoxically need them too] with the best armaments that money can buy, most made in the USA, much purchased on credit.
  

Iraq and ISIS, the whole Middle East.  Our interventions now testify against us.  A textbook case in that our military industrial strategists have reached the predictable critical mass of simultaneous implosion-explosion.  Wars of convenience/preemptive wars are doomed to be abysmal failures, and they are morally grave occasions of sin—directly connected to the original sin of pride/disobedience to an all-loving all-knowing God.

Celtic wall art by Ande McCarthy



Illumination by Kathy Brahney


The Most Holy Trinity -- our parish namesake --Choose life, not death  

Monday, May 25, 2015

REMEMBERING THE FUTILITY OF ALL WAR, AND THE INFINITE PROMISE OF GOD’S NONVIOLENT LOVE


REMEMBERING THE FUTILITY OF ALL WAR, AND THE INFINITE PROMISE OF GOD’S NONVIOLENT LOVE

 

Memorial Day Prayer

In the quiet sanctuaries of our own hearts,

let us call on the name of the One whose power over us
is great and gentle, firm and forgiving, holy and healing…

You who created us,
who sustain us,
who call us to live in peace,
hear our prayer this day.

Hear our prayer for all who have died,
whose hearts and hopes are known to you alone…

Hear our prayer for those who put the welfare of others
ahead of their own:

give us hearts as generous as theirs…

Hear our prayer for those who gave their lives
in the service of others,

and accept the gift of their sacrifice…

Help us to shape and make a world
where we will put down the arms of war
and live in the harvest of justice and peace…

Comfort those who grieve the loss of their loved ones:
in our hearts let your healing be our hope.

Hear our prayer this day
and in your mercy answer us
in the name of all that is holy.

Amen.


By Fr. Austin Fleming, Concord, MA

 

Monday, May 18, 2015

IT’S WAR THAT PERSECUTES CHRISTIANS, AND EVERYBODY ELSE


A couple of weekdays ago at mass I heard a sermon that concentrated on the great pain and suffering being visited on Christians in many places around the world recently, particularly in the Middle East.  The emphasis was not on the evil of the perpetrators, but on the need for courage in the faith, and to become more conscious of the real threats of evil around us.   The need to inform ourselves, and to pray.  Yes, amen.
The reclusive leader of the militant Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, during his first public appearance at a mosque in the center of Mosul, Iraq, on July 5, 2014, in this still image taken from video - Reuters

I looked into the source for much of the information, mentioned as Open Doors.  Visiting the website and it's map is revealing.  They are sounding an alarm that Christianity is facing lethal challenge in many countries.  This is certainly so, but the numbers are small when compared to the total carnage and misery being inflicted.  There is no analysis of the fact, that in most all of these worst countries, the worst wars since World War II have been fought on their soil, and the deepest poverty continues to reside.  War and persecution are deadly partners.  You can be persecuted for your faith, you can be persecuted for just being in the way.


Taking the terrible example of Iraq [one of the red zone nations], the total new number of all refugees displaced in 2014, alone was reported 2.2 million in the current conflict with ISIS.  And no one knows the total casualties in Iraq since our first Gulf War there to the present, but it is certainly in the millions, with more than 6 million displaced.   Back at the end of that first war there, in a Mar. 311991 National Catholic Register article, “Chaldeans See Cost of Gulf War,” Christians and experts expressed grave concern as to what would be the fate of Christianity in their country if Saddam Hussein was removed.  He was, by our Iraq War, and the 1.2 million Christians who lived in Iraq at the start of that war, were down to 600,000 by estimate of their Catholic Chaldean Bishop Audo in the 12-7-2007 Michigan Catholic report, “Bishop: War may have caused end of Christianity in Iraq.”  His prediction becomes daily more true, as estimates of Christians still in Iraq now are some to 300,000 to 200,000.
Muslim scholar, "the man behind the hood" Ali Shalal - tortured at Abu Ghraib, Iraq - 2004

The casualties of protracted war in Iraq are in the millions for all, and in the hundreds of thousands for Christians.  War is no respecter of person, war is no respecter of faith.   It is the same in all of these nations that are high on the persecution of religions list.  They are ravaged by war and poverty.  And those countries not on the list, like many in Europe, Russia, the USA and Israel, they are major exporters of weaponry and military expeditions to the theaters of war, persecution, and misery.



hose of us who are Christians, irrespective of our countries, are persecuted brothers and sisters far and wide—persecuted by our own reliance on war and violence.   Let us pray for healing of our blindness to the parts we all play in persecuting each other, in persecuting our enemies, in persecuting the all-encompassing body of Christ.   Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful—enkindle in us the fire of your love and mercy.