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  • karen horst cobb: November 2006

    Friday, November 17, 2006

    Meditiaton: Plowing Under Weeds of Violence

    …they shall beat their swords into plowshares,... Isaiah 2:4

    Let me tell you about a school which teaches torture, execution, extortion, counterinsurgency, sniper training, psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. The school first opened in 1946 in Panama but in 1984 the former Panamanian President, Jorge Illueca, stated “…(it) was the “biggest base for destabilization in Latin America..” It was dubbed the “School of Assassins.” (http://www.soaw.org/new/type.php?type=8) Since its inception nearly 60,000 people have graduated and they have left a trail of blood and suffering where ever they operate.

    What kind of “terrorist training camp” is this and where is it located? Perhaps this is one of those that the US military is seeking to destroy in Iraq or Iran. No, the school I am speaking of is at Ft. Benning Georgia. It is the School of the Americas. The school was closed briefly and then reopened in 2001 after its name was changed to “Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation” (WHISC). Brutal Latin American dictators, assassins and death squad leaders trained in the United States continue to commit crimes against humanity. Among their victims have been human rights workers, Priests, Nuns, farmers, teachers and children.

    In June of this year an amendment was voted on to stop funding the school. The bill did not pass but 20 of those who opposed it have recently lost their seats in this last election. There is renewed hope that a similar bill in the near future will be successful. The desire to increase rather than decrease the activities of the SOA/WHISC was reported in an article by Barbara Slavin (USA Today, 11/15/06), “…. concern about leftist victories in Latin America has prompted President Bush to quietly grant a waiver that allows the United States to resume training militaries from 11 Latin American and Caribbean countries…”

    As followers of Christ we desire that swords are beaten into plowshares. Some understand this verse in Isaiah to refer to a world beyond earth but others believe we can act “on earth as it is in heaven.” Walter Burgmann wrote about the vision of Isaiah in his book Peace: Understanding Biblical Themes: “That is not simply a vision of a political arrangement nor a disarmament program, but the emergence of a new world, a new situation in which people are able to trust and to communicate enough so that they no longer need to be armed. God wills for the world – for our world – a center of justice and righteousness that will get our minds off our petty agenda and our penchant to protect our little investments. I find that vision overwhelming – and not very welcome, because the things I value most I am reluctant to lose or risk, and even more reluctant to share.

    Prayer: Oh Lord who has the power to transform swords into plowshares and soften the human heart, we ask for courage to live on earth as we will live in heaven. We pray that our nation will cease to train foreign dictators and assassins who target the innocent.

    This weekend 20,000 people are expected to be present for the annual SOA/ WHISC protest . The date coincides with the anniversary of the 1989 murder in El Salvador of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter by graduates of the school.

    On Sunday, there will be a solemn vigil and procession outside the gates of Fort Benning, Ga. There will be simultaneous, peaceful protests in Ecuador, Peru, El Salvador, Paraguay, Colombia, Bolivia, Chile and Fort Huachuca, Arizona. (http://www.soaw.org/new/pressrelease.php?id=121)

    Learn about ongoing efforts to close the SOA?WHISC (http://www.soaw.org/new/article.php?id=100 ) and how you can join in turning swords into plowshares. Contact your newly elected officials to vote on upcoming legislation to stop funding The School of the Americas. (WHISC)
    If you are within driving distance consider joining the public witness today and tomorrow.


    Friday, November 10, 2006

    Meditation: Who Can you Hate?

    There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

    She found a seat in the front of the buss and refused to give it up. Rosa Parks changed the world. It will be fifty years ago on Nov.13 that the supreme court ruled that segregation on busses in Montgomery Alabama is unconstitutional. In Galatians we are told that those who have found freedom in Christ will no longer discriminate against others because of their race, national origin, religion, economic status, or because of their sex.

    The country has changed drastically since the early days of the civil rights but in the most fearful places in the human heart discrimination still finds a home. In recent articles found on http://ecapcw.org we have come to see that Jesus did away with the need for a scapegoat. However, there is evidence all around us that specific groups are targeted as the cause of our nation’s problems.
    Even many Christians identify our economic problems as being the fault of people who live here without proper citizenship. The term “illegal alien” is culturally defined as people who are Hispanic. Hatred and distrust of those who appear to be Hispanic is growing. The individuals are the scapegoat for failed laws and economic fears. Many Hispanic -Americans whose ancestors arrived here before the mayflower are now being treated with suspicion when they cash a check or conduct business. As the economic climate gets worse the discrimination gets worse resulting in violence and race wars.

    Our current invasion of Iraq was fueled by religious discrimination. All Muslims were judged by what we were told about those involved in the destruction of the World Trade Center buildings and the resulting loss of life. Again many gave fear a place in their hearts and used it to justify the “shock and awe” on innocent Iraqi citizens. A “Christian” movement in the US seeks to “bring nations to Christ” believing that there is such a thing as a “Christian Nation.“ Jesus taught that only individual hearts can be changed. Jesus would say for the Christian there is neither “Christian” nor “Muslim” but people who are loving to one another. Jesus even befriended Simon the “Zealot” ( the terrorists of Jesus’ day ) . As the cost of war takes its toll on our economy we see the widening gulf between rich and poor and here too we find the fear of discrimination.

    Our President demonstrated these subconscious fears when he said, "First, let me make it very clear, poor people aren't necessarily killers. Just because you happen to be not rich doesn't mean you're willing to kill." (Washington DC May 19, 2003) Many see the poor as dangerous, desperate, immoral, lazy and unwise. “They” are the “other” we never want to become. Our values of acquisition of things, money and power over shadow our common human bond. Upon seeing thousands of people crowded into a sports arena after hurricane Katrina Barbara Bush said, “… many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this is working very well for them." (Editor and Publisher, Sept. 5, 2005.) Like her, many forget that the poor are just like us and feel sorrow, humiliation and helplessness when they lose their homes and are separated from their families.

    Some who profess Christ forget that they are free and let fear remain in their hearts. We have seen a Pastor, who feared being found out, preach passionately against homosexuals (and drug addicts.) National referendums were voted on this past week to limit the civil rights of non-heterosexuals. Some even want to change the constitution to restrict their rights. Again fear is segregating and separating us from one another. In some states it is still legal to fire someone for being gay. Consequently, Some feel forced to pretend. The pretending fuels the fear and separation.

    Jesus said that when we are living in the freedom of Christ we no longer relate to people along the lines of race, religion, money or sex. We relate to people as humans and accept them all.

    Who can a Christian discriminate against ? - No one.

    Prayer: Thank you for your grace which has been poured out upon us. Help us never forget that we are a part of humanity and share the indignities and injustices of all. Then, let us go out and demonstrate the light of your grace which shines in our hearts for others. Amen.

    Action: Reflect on your thoughts….deeds……actions……regarding those of other nationalities, religions, economic status, and sex.

    Speak up and take action when you encounter people scapegoating others and remind them that Jesus loves us all.

    Monday, November 06, 2006

    article: What Do You Tell Your Children

    Published on Saturday, November 4, 2006 by CommonDreams.org

    Timmy is old, Lassie is dead and parental wisdom is challenged. Many wondered aloud “What do you tell your children when stains on a blue dress and visits to the oval office were the topic of the nightly news. At the time it never occurred to me that these might be the easy topics. Now the reports are of government sanctioned torture, unprovoked war, pedophilia, oppressive work situations and an emerging police state? What do you tell your children?

    Our nation’s leaders have sanctioned the use of anal probes, simulated drowning, and the techniques of Tourqamada to maintain the American way of life? Countries with dictators used to be the ones who did horrendous things like this. I am at a loss to explain that hundreds of thousands of people in a far away country needed to die because Americans were afraid. My children were taught about the dynamics of the playground bully and the natural consequences of violence. But now bullying is national policy.

    What do you tell your children?

    Perhaps we could look toward a minister for direction or to a church group where we might find others challenged by this new America. Maybe here we can refocus and find sanctuary. Sadly, many pastors are silent on torture and war as they continue to preach a lucrative nationalized version of Christianity. The names of church leaders too are added to the growing list of sexual predators and the resulting cover-ups.

    What do you tell your children?

    The traditional right of passage is announced with, “mom I got a job!” and then the details start to unfold. He will be paid 5.50 an hour but he needs to buy two 14 dollar company tee shirts and a 9 dollar cap with the store’s logo on it. The cost will be deducted from his first paycheck. If he works hard and excels there is a good chance one of his co-workers will be fired and he will be doing the work of two employees for one wage.

    What do you tell your children?

    Several months from now he may announcement that he made “manager.” only to discover that he is now the “manager “of his mop. The title assures that legally his employer does not have to pay him overtime. What wisdom will I give if my children are offered contracts with pension plans? How should they handle fraud or dishonesty in light of the new whistleblower laws. How long will it be before my last son discovers that no matter how hard he works or how good his monthly evaluations are “corporate” sees him as something easier to replace then a damaged floor tile.

    What do you tell your children?

    I try to explain that we elect people to speak up for us in Washington who can introduce legislation and vote for change. This hopefulness is tempered when we talk about the power of K street, industry executives appointed to regulations positions, corporate financing of political campaigns, bribery, kickbacks, earmarks and international corporations which benefit form war.

    What do you tell your children?

    We talk about the free press and the freedom to peaceably assemble. The free speech zones with police in riot gear, men in dark glasses and ear pieces reading tee shirts and bumper stickers suggest this is not really the case. A six year old in his superman pj’s is patted down by TSA officers and his grandma is taken aside for questioning. When my oldest children were this age I told them that they did not need to be afraid of the police if they didn’t do anything wrong. I don’t think I can say that now.

    What do you tell your children?

    There were many social inequities in the “good old days” of Timmy and Lassie but there was a common dream of a better world. There was a dream of a future without war. Patriotism was a consequence our aspirations to higher ethical standards. We were a community and we cared about each other. Timmy was never strip searched and Lassie was not ordered by the dog catcher to be kept on a leash. No one in his town was “disappeared.” There were no armed guards in fatigues at the Founders Day Parade.

    What do I tell my children?
    I tell them it is morally wrong to support, order or carry out orders to torture and it is wrong to stand by in silence while others do. I tell them it is wrong to kill or solve problems with violence. I tell them that Jesus came to demonstrate a better way than money and power. I encourage them to seek a spiritual community. I tell them to work hard but set limits so they are not taken advantage of. I teach them to be thoughtful of their co-workers and work as a team. I teach them to make their voice heard and speak truth.

    I tell them. “Timmy is old, Lassie is dead and Superman can’t find a phone booth” so you have to do what you can.

    Go Vote!

    Friday, November 03, 2006

    Mediation: Culture wars, Taxation, and Nation Building

    Jesus began to preach and to say, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Matthew 4:17

    Kingdoms always have culture wars, taxation and goals of nation building. In Jesus’ day religious Jewish culture was resisting the encroachment of secular Greco-Roman influence. Herod Antipas came to rule Galilee when Jesus was about 3 and stayed in power for 17 years. Caiphas, the high priest, governed Jerusalem and Pilate ,the Roman Prefect, had oversight over the territories.

    Herod maintained secure borders utilizing Jewish rather than Roman troops. The laws, the courts, and the education was Jewish but the government protected the rights of the gentile groups living in the area. . Herod Antipas capitalized on the increasing unemployment problems by engaging in elaborate building schemes in the gentile areas. He built theaters and elaborate buildings dedicated to secular education.

    Jesus lived in a diverse community at a critical time in history. There were secular cities springing up close by in Samaria and a new port of Caesarea. The tension between the secular and religious factions in the life of Jesus was inescapable and influenced the focus of his teachings and parables.

    Jerusalem was a city in transition. The modern development of the theater and the debate over the display of graven images was an example of the clashing cultures. Modernization and diversity was a fact that all people were beginning to accept. . During Jesus’ adult life Caiphas was appointed by Rome as the commander and Jewish high priests policed the city.

    Jesus did not live apart from politics. Galilee and Samaria were at war. Religious disputes and acquisition of territory were at the core of the conflicts. When he went to Jerusalem he was surrounded by Gentiles, Rich powerful Jewish priests, urban dwelling peasants and all the variations found in large cities.

    Speaking out against animal sacrifice was a political act. The Jewish law was politics. John the Baptist took a political stand when he publicly condemned Herod for marrying his half-niece Herodias. The question of rendering taxes to Caesar was a political debate. Under Jewish law it was not permissible to have the face of a ruler on a coin. Jesus, well versed in the politics of Jewish law, exposed the hearts of the politicians. In essence he was asserting that if their politics has allowed them to accept the image of Caesar on the face of the coin then they are in violation of Jewish law. If they do not accept the authority of Caesar than they are in danger of execution. It was a conflict of interest they did not want explored and further.

    Jesus’ politics were revealed with the focus of his ministry; Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand. The politics of his kingdom addresses the spiritual and physical needs of the sick, the orphaned, widows, strangers and those suffering under oppression. He took the rich, the powerful and the hypocritical religious leaders all to task.

    So how does his example apply to us today. We live in a representational government and we can impact the laws which protect the least among us and reign in the power of oppressors. We are, all of us together, the rulers of our national kingdom. The kingdom of God is the embodiment of the highest ethical standards. We are to pray (and act) that his will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus went about doing good in every demographic of his time. He showed mercy to those with little power and commands us to , “go and do likewise.”

    Prayer: We honor your wisdom and your teachings. Help us to stand strong in mercy on behalf of the oppressed. Give us wisdom to chose representatives who will protect the powerless and hold to account those motivated by power and greed. As upi went about doing good help us to do likewise.

    Action: Find out what your candidates stand for (by their fruits not their words) and then go vote.