modern nation-state

My Response To ‘The Year of the Bible’

Paul Broun has called for making 2010 The National Year of the Bible:

Encouraging the President to designate 2010 as ‘The National Year of the Bible’.

Whereas the Bible has had a profound impact in shaping America into a great Nation;

Whereas deep religious beliefs stemming from the Old and New Testament of the Bible have inspired Americans from all walks of life, especially the early settlers, whose faith, spiritual courage, and moral strength enabled them to endure intense hardships in this new land;

Whereas many of our Presidents have recognized the importance of God and the Bible, including George Washington; Franklin D. Roosevelt; Harry Truman; John F. Kennedy; Ronald Reagan, who declared 1983 as ‘The National Year of the Bible’; and especially Abraham Lincoln, whose 200th Birthday Celebration in 2009 highlighted freedom for the slaves;

Whereas shared Biblical beliefs unified the colonists and gave our early leaders the wisdom to write the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, both of which recognized the inherent worth, dignity, and inalienable rights of each individual, thus unifying a diverse people with the right to vote, and the freedoms of speech and vast religious freedoms, which inspired courageous men like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to lead the Civil Rights Movement;

Whereas the Bible has been the world’s best selling book since it was first published in English in 1526, and has influenced more people than any other book;

Whereas the Bible has been a cornerstone in the development of Western civilization, influencing the nations in the areas of history, law, politics, culture, music, literature, art, drama, and especially moral philosophy;

Whereas the Bible, used as a moral guide, has inspired compassion, love for our neighbor, and the preciousness of life and marriage, and has stimulated many benevolent, faith-based community initiatives and neighborhood partnerships that have healed and blessed our families, communities, and our entire Nation, especially in times of war, tragedy, and economic and social crisis;

Whereas the Bible has inspired acts of patriotism that have unified Americans, commemorated through shared celebrations such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas; and

Whereas 2010 is an appropriate year to designate as ‘The National Year of the Bible’: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That the President is encouraged–

(1) to designate an appropriate year as ‘The National Year of the Bible’; and
(2) to issue a proclamation calling upon citizens of all faiths to rediscover and apply the priceless, timeless message of the Holy Scripture which has profoundly influenced and shaped the United States and its great democratic form of Government, as well as its rich spiritual heritage, and which has unified, healed, and strengthened its people for over 200 years.

Apparently Reagan had a year of the Bible as well, back in 1983. Does that make my sign a Bible?

What is the proper theological response to both the reading of the Bible by the resolution and the resolution itself?

I contend the right answer is as follows: Buwahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Are you serious?! Ahahahahahahhahahahahahahhahahahahhahahahahahahahha. *gasp* ahahahahahahhahahahhahah. ahhahaha. ahah. ah. sigh.

Johann Metz, memory, modern nation-state

Memorial Day and the Life of Remembrance

Today is memorial day. On this day, this national holiday, we citizens of the United States of America are called to remember our dead, specifically the dead warriors of this country. The narrative goes: that we are indebted to the sacrifices of many for the ideals of this country — freedom, justice, etc. It is a fine narrative and one that evokes national pride because it is rooted in ‘rightness’ or in another word, righteousness. However, even when true, it is problematic. It neglects the reality of life, the power-plays, the greed, simulacrum, etc.

There is another way to remember life so that it is no longer meaningless. Essential to Johann Metz is the concept of remembrance. This remembrance is no simple thing; rather, it is an identity forming memory. When rightly understood within Christianity, remembrance is nearly synonymous with discipleship. This discipleship forms one through memory so closely to the action of Jesus that one is identified with Jesus. Thus, to remember Jesus rightly is to become like Jesus, even in his pain and suffering. This is how the Christian life is a life universal for all humanity, rather than simply one nation-state. And so we remember the dead on both sides, even the dead that have not been reconciled with their murderers.

This Christian remembrance transfigures citizens into the fullness of their humanity. Thus memorial day is for us is not a national holiday, but a day that transcends our wars and where we seek partisan remembrance in the context of the entire globe. On memorial day, we remember the hurt ones and the promises of God.

modern nation-state, power

Democrats, We have a Problem. Where is the change?

From Democracy Now:

Jeremy Scahill reports the Obama administration is continuing to use a notorious military police unit at Guantanamo that regularly brutalizes unarmed prisoners, including gang-beating them, breaking their bones, gouging their eyes and dousing them with chemicals. This force, officially known as the Immediate Reaction Force, has been labeled the “Extreme Repression Force” by Guantanamo prisoners, and human rights lawyers call their actions illegal.

Now, I believe I’ve had plenty of criticisms of the Republicans in the past on this blog. Yet, this post here isn’t in the interest of fairness, it is to show that when it really matters on a host of issues, there isn’t much fundamental difference between Dems and Reps: the colonizing function of the empire still abounds, the yoking with capitalism and the economic neo-liberal theories still strongly exist, etc. Now, you were going to change from what?

If you’re going to do real change, quit carrying water for a nation that tortures. Quit bringing this nation into using torture. If you are criticizing torture but still moralizing a limited use of it, proclaiming the inherent goodness of a nation despite that it still tortures, or simply stopping the truth of torture from coming out (i.e. blocking pictures from surfacing, despite the court order) you’re at best acting as an antibody for the broken system. This self-serving power cannot be redeemed — it is the wrong economy. Stop the torture. Be different. Change.

But Dems, you don’t believe me that you’re rather similar to the Republicans? Go take the political compass test. While obviously a rather crude test, it still serves its function: it lays bare the false notion that the American empire and those in office are politically dynamic:

By the way, for those who are curious, I am at Economic Left/Right: -7.62, Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.00. Think Mandela/Dalai Lama area. I admit that the test is not the most sound endeavor, I am very far from Libertarianism and never mind that they conflate anarchism with libertarianism. However, I’ve taken this test multiple times over the past few years and I’ve pretty much achieved similar results each time. Therefore I don’t take the numbered precision as exact, but instead see it as a way of depicting a distance. I’d also like to mention that my results are not from an explicitly political system, rather it is the theopolitical that drives such an odd combination.

Hermeneutics, modern nation-state, violence, war

Now this is Syncretism. Let Rumsfeld be Harshly Judged.

From GQ of all places (who knew?):

ON THE MORNING OF Thursday, April 10, 2003, Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon prepared a top-secret briefing for George W. Bush. This document, known as the Worldwide Intelligence Update, was a daily digest of critical military intelligence so classified that it circulated among only a handful of Pentagon leaders and the president; Rumsfeld himself often delivered it, by hand, to the White House. The briefing’s cover sheet generally featured triumphant, color images from the previous days’ war efforts: On this particular morning, it showed the statue of Saddam Hussein being pulled down in Firdos Square, a grateful Iraqi child kissing an American soldier, and jubilant crowds thronging the streets of newly liberated Baghdad. And above these images, and just below the headline SECRETARY OF DEFENSE, was a quote that may have raised some eyebrows. It came from the Bible, from the book of Psalms: “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him…To deliver their soul from death.”

This mixing of Crusades-like messaging with war imagery, which until now has not been revealed, had become routine. On March 31, a U.S. tank roared through the desert beneath a quote from Ephesians: “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” On April 7, Saddam Hussein struck a dictatorial pose, under this passage from the First Epistle of Peter: “It is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.”

Rumsfeld and your Constantinian underlings, I loathe you. And I pray for your true repentance from this evil.

modern nation-state, power

An Atheist at Prayer

From Cynicism and Hope, page 5:

I call Sr. Maria every now and then. Back in November some old friends in Oregon who were trying to find a way to connect to Iraq recalled the sister I had written about and wanted to send them some money. I called Sr. Maria to get her banking information so we could make a transfer. She was almost entirely uninterested. But what she said, at least a dozen times in the ten-minute phone call, was “Pray for us. Pray for Iraq. Pray for me.”

I realize that that might not seem like much of an answer to the question, What can we do about Iraq? But it moves us toward one of the most important things I want to say this morning. I don’t think I am alone when I say that when I come to Washington, or write a letter to a congressperson, or march in a protest, I feel like an atheist at prayer. I have no more hope that those actions are heard or seen than an atheist does that her prayer gets past the ceiling.

An atheist at prayer. I stopped reading and thought, “This is the perfect analogy.” This is language I have been searching for to describe what it is like to encounter and engage self-serving power. They simply are not home.

grace, modern nation-state, peace, violence

The Strong No: Pax Christi v. Pax Americana

I firmly believe that at times, the Christian vocation is to say a very strong no. This can be seen as an “either/or” that so many theologians seek to avoid. Indeed it is often anathema: “You just did an either/or, not a both/and. You have ignored a truth that should be included!”

It should be recognized that whenever no is proclaimed, it is located in two spheres. It is first located within the grand yes to creation: creation is indeed good. In fact, it is very good. As Christians, we are in point of fact, incredibly strong materialists. The second sphere is that because the no to sin is located in the larger yes to creation, the no is an act of love. The no is inherently a call to justice and redemption — an act of the economy of grace first instituted by divine action. Thus the prophetic call, even those who carefully emphasize a radical discontinuity, is not committing an either/or. We should at the same time, however, be careful not to blunt the prophetic call. Instead the call must be sharp when it must, exactly because it does rest within the yes.

Thus we can recognize that the “peace” promised by the state, rooted in a flawed understanding of power — a self-serving, oppressive power, is over and against the peace of Christ. This is where we can call the state a simulacra of the ikon of God. We say no to such an understanding of power and therefore say no to the actions rooted in such power.

He is risen and the Roman soldiers, who represented the attempt by imperial power to keep Jesus in the tomb, were tossed about.

And so we join with Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton and Pax Christi:

And then as often, John Paul was especially aware of young people. He’s at the World Youth Day right now in Toronto where he really seems to be energized when he’s with young people — his concerns about them, what they will become. And so he asks the question, ‘Which voice will the young people of the 21st century choose to follow?’

A very important question. We come out of a century which was the most violent in all of human history. A new century, a new millennium is upon us; and which voice will the young people follow during this century? To put your faith in Jesus means choosing to believe what Jesus says, no matter how strange it may seem — and choosing to reject the claims of evil, no matter how sensible and attractive they may seem. Choosing to reject the claims of evil no matter how sensible and attractive — and often they can seem to be sensible, reasonable, attractive — for the way of Jesus, which might seem foolish, utopian, idealistic, all the words that people use about the Gospel. Which choice will I make? Which choice will you make? And to identify those choices clearly in the world in which we live — the reality of the world where we are right now.

I have a conviction that it’s a choice between what we’d like to call pax Americana, or the other choice, pax Christi.
On October 7, when President Bush announced the war strikes on the Taliban in al-Qaeda targets in Afghanistan, he said, “We are a peaceful nation!” Then a few days later while speaking at the FBI headquarters, he declared, “This is the calling of United States — the most free nation in the world, a nation built on fundamental values that reject hate, reject violence, reject murderers, and rejects evil. He says we are a peaceful nation, and that’s what we stand for. He would call it, I’m sure, “peace America, or pax Americana.”

But to show you how wrong it is to think of this peaceful nation as following the way of pax Christi, I call to your attention to an article that appeared on the website by Arundhati Roy. And she pointed out that since World War II, since 1945, this peaceful nation has in fact been at war and bombed China, 1945 to ‘46, 1950 to 1953; Korea, 1950, 1953; Guatemala, 1954 — and for four decades we supported a cruel, low-intensity warfare there, killing 200,000 people; Indonesia, 1958; Cuba, 1959 and ‘60; Zaire, 1964; Peru, 1965; Laos, 1964 up to 1973; Vietnam, 1961 to 1973; Cambodia, 1969 to 1970; Granada, 1983; Libya, 1986; El Salvador, during all of the 1980s, again low intensity warfare killing tens-of-thousands of people; Nicaragua, the 1980s; Panama, 1989; Iraq, 1991, and still going on; Bosnia, 1995; Sudan, 1998; Yugoslavia, 1999. And now she says, we can add Afghanistan to that list.

Pax Americana: bombing, killing, wherever we decide. As Madeline Albright put it, “We are America. We are the indispensable nation. If we have to use force, it’s because we see further than anybody else.”

But pax Americana gets even worse when we begin to look at what is happening in the reality of the world in which we live; when we look at it even more closely. Many of us probably think that our present foreign policy — the war in Afghanistan, the war against the al-Qaeda, and the unending war that the President says we’re involved in — that this foreign policy is a result of September 11.

… The aim, simply put, was to establish unilateral control of the world. Such an aim would involve — and these are the kinds of words they use in the report — smashing all possible enemy threats — even before those threats become real. You may have heard we now have a pre-emptive military policy. We will attack another country whenever we decide that they are about to attack us, whether we have any proof or not, but we have a pre-emptive defense policy.

… [but] we could be the ones that would lead our Church and our nation away from pax Americana and to pax Christi, the only peace that really is peace. (15 seconds of applause).

I thank you for that response, and I leave you now with some very sober words, that will perhaps linger in our consciousness and help to continue to motivate us. The words were written, again by that Indian novelist Arundhati Roy, who is leading the way of India protesting against their nuclear weapons development. And at the end of the article which she writes deploring and protesting these weapons, she says this:

“The nuclear bomb is the most anti-democratic, anti-national, anti-human, outright evil thing that human kind has ever made.” and then she says, “If you are religious, believe in God, then remember, this is our challenge to God.” It is worded quite simply: “We, we, God’s creatures, have the power to destroy everything You have created.”

A very evil challenge that a religious person would make to God. It’s blasphemy:

“We can destroy everything You, God, have made — the God who made everything out of love, we can destroy out of our hate.”

But then she goes on to say, “If you’re not religious, then look at it this way: This world of ours is 4,600 million years old. It could end in an afternoon.”

Let that thought: if you are religious, that we do not want to offend God with that blasphemy. Or, if your faith doesn’t move you, the thought that we can destroy our world in an afternoon, let that move us to try with all that we can bring to it to reject pax Americana and to embrace pax Christi. Thank you.

capitalism, modern nation-state, Terry Eagleton

Terry Eagleton on Multiculturalism, Capitalism, and the State

An excerpt from an excellent article by Terry Eagleton from the latest Commonweal issue:

Economic liberalism has generated great tides of global migration, which within the West has given birth to so-called multiculturalism. At its least impressive, multiculturalism blandly embraces difference as such, without looking too closely into what one is differing over. It imagines that there is something inherently positive about having a host of different views on the same subject. Such facile pluralism tends to numb the habit of vigorously contesting other people’s beliefs-of calling them arrant nonsense or unmitigated garbage, for example. This is not the best training ground for taking on people whose beliefs can cave in skulls. One of the more agreeable aspects of Christopher Hitchens’s polemic against religion, God Is Not Great, is its author’s ready willingness to declare that he thinks religion poisonous and disgusting. Perhaps he finds it mildly embarrassing in his new, post-Marxist persona that “Religion is poison” was the slogan under which Mao launched his assault on the people and culture of Tibet. But he is right to stick to his guns even so. Beliefs are not to be respected just because they are beliefs. Societies in which any kind of abrasive criticism constitutes “abuse” clearly have a problem.

That problem encompasses a contradictory fact: the more capitalism flourishes on a global scale, the more multiculturalism threatens to loosen the hold of the nation-state over its subjects. Culture, after all, is what helps power grow roots, interweaving it with our lived experience and thus tightening its grip on us. A power which has to sink roots in many diverse cultures simultaneously is at a signal disadvantage. A British defense think tank recently published a report arguing that a “misplaced deference to multiculturalism” that fails “to lay down the line to immigrant communities” was weakening the fight against political extremists. The problem, the report warned, was one of social fragmentation in a multicultural nation increasingly divided over its history, identity, aims, and values. When it came to the fight against terrorism, the nation’s liberal values, in short, were undermining themselves.

Multiculturalism threatens the existing order not only because it can create a breeding ground for terrorists, but because the political state depends on a reasonably tight cultural consensus. British prime ministers believe in a common culture-but what they mean is that everyone should share their own beliefs so that they won’t end up bombing London Underground stations. The truth, however, is that no cultural belief is ever extended to sizable groups of newcomers without being transformed in the process. This is what a simpleminded philosophy of “integration” fails to recognize. There is no assumption in the White House, Downing Street, or the Elysée Palace that one’s own beliefs might be challenged or changed in the act of being extended to others. A common culture in this view incorporates outsiders into an already established, unquestionable framework of values, leaving them free to practice whichever of their quaint customs pose no threat. Such a policy appropriates newcomers in one sense, while ignoring them in another. It is at once too possessive and too hands-off. A common culture in a more radical sense of the term is not one in which everyone believes the same thing, but one in which everyone has equal status in cooperatively determining a way of life in common.