William A. Walker III

Pastor, Professor, Theologian, Spiritual Director

Category: Ethics (Page 2 of 4)

Learning from the Crowd: A Holy Week Reflection on How We Turn Against Jesus

[This post originally appeared on the Missio Alliance blog two days ago as part of their special Holy Week Series.]

I remember learning as a child in Sunday school about how the Palm Sunday crowd welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem with great enthusiasm and anticipation. It never really made much sense to me how they could turn on him so much in just a week’s time, but I was too young to strongly question this. When I got older, I suppose I just stopped thinking about it. All that mattered is that I had been taught “the gospel,” namely, that even though we are fickle sinners just like the people on Palm Sunday, God sent Jesus to die for our sins on the cross. Well, I’ve since discovered that “how they could turn on him” really matters, and so I think it’s worth revisiting what “the crowd” during Holy Week teaches us about this gospel claim.

First, that God sent Jesus:

It is crucial to remember that before sending Jesus, God sent others. There’s a story behind the story. Most importantly for Jewish memory, God sent Moses, through whom God liberated Israel from slavery and gave to them the Law. This was their primal narrative. Life in Egypt was marked by the politics of oppression, much like in Rome. Pharaoh’s gods were at the head of the religious establishment, which was synonymous with economic affluence. Like the ancient Israelites, first-century Jews were subjected to the emperor’s reign of domination and awaited one who would “command peace to the nations” (Zech. 9:10).

The Israelites began to forget where they came from, that they were once slaves in Egypt. They started looking more and more like the Egyptians themselves. After Moses, God also sent the Prophets. They had to issue a warning. Liberation from slavery is a good thing – the most original meaning of the word “salvation” – but it can so easily develop into a new form of tribalism and violence. Their fear and anxiety led them to desire once more the security of Empire. They wanted their own king and kingdom. Before long, this also meant they needed their own slaves. In other words, the formerly oppressed were becoming the oppressors. Israel was being recreated into the image of Egypt:

“[Jerusalem] that was full of justice, righteousness lodged in her – but now murderers! Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves. Everyone loves as bribe and runs after gifts. They do not defend the orphan, and the widow’s cause does not come before them” (Isaiah 1:21b, 23).

Jerusalem was “the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it” (Matt. 23:37; Luke 13:34). Making his way to Jerusalem, Jesus knew though that the “chief priests, the elders and the scribes” neither wanted nor understood his sort of peace. This is why “[a]s Jesus drew near and saw Jerusalem, he wept over it, saying, ‘If you, even you, had only recognized the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes’” (Luke 19:41). Unlike Pilate’s triumphal entry on the west side of town, Jesus processes on a donkey, with no army behind him, and no news of conquest. While they’re not sure what to make of this, the people still chant, “Hosanna!” Maybe he really could be their deliverer…

Second, To die for our sin:

During Holy Week, we see in Jerusalem the same social system that was condemned by the prophets, the same one that Jesus confronted, and the same one that killed him. Like the prophets before him, Jesus was engaged in the dangerous business of challenging the Jewish high-priestly collaboration with imperial control. His teachings about the Kingdom of God were perceived as, and in a real sense were, a threat to the political and religious establishment. The day after Jesus’s arrival, he harshly and publically criticizes the temple and its complicity with the system of Roman exploitation in yet another street theater-styled demonstration – by driving out the buyers and sellers. This was an extraordinarily adversarial act.

Palm Sunday signals the beginning of the recurring journey of God’s people from Exodus to Exile – in one week. In first-century Jerusalem, the jobs of the high priest Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate were tricky and difficult. They had to both please Rome and quell the frustration of the Jewish people so as to prevent civil unrest at the same time. Was this the same crowd as before? Some scholars doubt it, but this wouldn’t change the lesson. The crowds did not really understand who Jesus was. They had seen him perform signs and wonders, but his teachings were scandalous. Just like the Israelites wandering in the desert, they were still scared because of their insecure material circumstances and easily swayed by the influence of their society’s scheming leaders.

When we figure out that Jesus is not going to give us what we want, and not in the way that we want it, whether we’re in a position like Pilate or the crowd, we easily turn against him. This “turning against” is the opposite of belief and repentance. It’s that tendency in all of us to let the ego take over, to be driven by fear, shame, and anger, and to close off our hearts. It is because of (“for”) the crowd’s sin of “turning against” him that Jesus dies.

Finally, on the cross:

Caesar, called “a son of the gods,” and “lord,” brings peace through conquest and the cross. Jesus, the Son of God, and Lord, brings peace by bankrupting conquest and the cross. Walter Brueggemann says this about the cross in The Prophetic Imagination:

“The cross is the ultimate metaphor of prophetic criticism because it means the end of the old consciousness that brings death on everyone. The crucifixion articulates God’s odd freedom, his strange justice, and his peculiar power. It is this freedom (read religion of God’s freedom), justice (read economics of sharing), and power (read politics of justice), which break the power of the old age and bring it to death” (p. 99).

Thus, the twofold theme of Holy week is this: radical discipleship in an unjust world means following Jesus 1) to a place of non-violent confrontation with the powers of domination and exploitation, and 2) on a path toward personal transformation through death to self (“deny themselves . . . and follow me.” – Mark 8:34). For “death to self” is basically open-heartedness that extends forgiveness even to enemies, just as Jesus extends it to the rulers and fickle crowd that shouts, “Crucify him!” In truth, we are all like the rulers and the fickle crowd.

In our post-Christian culture especially, but in any culture, the appropriate response to Jesus’s week in Jerusalem is not a proud victory cry that rushes to Easter morning for relief from a guilty-conscience and the fear of punishment. Nor is it for bold propositional assertion about the “truth of our belief.” But this is what we’ve frequently made it. Instead, for Holy Week, the charge to churches is bold embodiment of and deep trust in Jesus’s alternative practice of peace – not Caesar’s – one that is both humble and subversive, that liberates us from anxiety about worldly security and false narratives of certainty and instant gratification.

Only then will we be close to loving our neighbor.

Striving for the Good in the Face of Uncertainty: The Paradox of Faith and Politics in Kierkegaard and Niebuhr

Below is a description of the paper I will be presenting for the Kierkegaard and Niebuhr groups’ joint-session at the American Academy of Religion Annual Conference in San Diego this November:

In her book Emergency Politics: Paradox, Law and Democracy, Bonnie Honig has contended contra Carl Schmitt, that both sovereignty and the state of exception need to be de-exceptionalized and dispersed back into the hands of “the demos.” For her, exception and emergency are part of even the most ordinary and everyday political processes, and human agency is always involved in interpreting, augmenting or even suspending the law in its administration. In this paper I propose to discuss and show how the thought of Soren Kierkegaard and Reinhold Niebuhr can aid us along toward the aim of reconceiving the power of democracy and social progress in human history for a political theology that is neither despairing nor presumptuous in striving for the good.

The paradox of politics for Rousseau was the question of which comes first, good people or good laws? That is to say, how can a democracy be legitimate when the legitimacy comes from the democracy itself which is to be founded? Moreover, there is always the problem of delimiting the people and deciding who speaks for them. It is never a fixed entity, and certain groups are always excluded.

But democracy cannot be reduced to merely the rule of law or the extension of rights to new constituencies. Instead, by recognizing the power of the role of the people in mundane political procedure, we can celebrate the potential for the disturbance of existing institutions and practices. In order to do this, however, there must first be an acknowledgement of a place in democracy for the suspension of existing laws and norms, only this place is no longer that of the sovereign, as Honig argues, but in the subjectivity of individual political actors and their orientations toward the possibility of a “miracle.”

For Kierkegaard, without risk, there is no faith. And so it is in society with the emergence of opportunity for change or progress. The Danes of Christendom much like citizens in our time would prefer to proceed by merely “knowing” the truth, not resolutely striving toward it with exceeding interestedness. Socrates put faith in the good and even sacrifices his life for it, but Climacus only saw this as “Religiousness A”, as the highest example of the ethical stage of existence – not because Socrates’ subjectivity lacked passionate inwardness, but because the object of his faith itself was not paradoxical. Everything that Socrates needed to learn, he thought, came from within, and from recollection, rather than from outside or beyond. As Niebuhr would say, for Socrates, a Christ was not expected. But as Kierkegaard has it, the place from which our faith comes is precisely infinite and paradoxical, both in its nature and in what it promises.

The point is that a miracle can only occur if the people are prepared for it.  In other words, it is not solely depend on the infinite but also on finite receptivity. Miracle here does not refer to the norm-exception binary that commands and compels attention, but instead is thought to be one that with subtlety solicits a response. Those who want to receive the signal, to witness it, have to first be open to its possibility. This openness requires preparedness and the cultivation of a certain orientation toward divinity, as well a periodic collective gathering. Democracy is much the same way. When democratic forms of life are interrupted by emergency, well prepared subjects may experience the chance to respond democratically, that is, in faith, to gather and to mobilize for the protection and expansion of the values of the collective.

Socrates’ ethic not only lacked room for a miracle (revelation), but he also could not account for Kierkegaard and Niebuhr’s conception of human sin and guilt. What stands in the way of the potential for this gathering and mobilizing on the part of the demos is the paradoxical combination of human freedom and limitation, analyzed so well by Kierkegaard and later appropriated by Niebuhr into the realm of social ethics. As both finite and free, human beings have natural limitations but infinite expectations and pretensions, which leads them to become self-conscious about their insecurity and hence creates anxiety. Anxiety inclines the people to seek their own certainty and security, which is always insufficient, to the detriment of assuming agency for extending new rights to new constituents.

What Niebuhr does is creatively reimagine the place of finite and free human beings in society in accordance with the dialectical relationship between God’s justice and love. In this respect, he is thoroughly Kierkegaardian, but in a socio-historical fashion. Niebuhr has a more optimistic outlook on so-called natural theology than Kierkegaard, but is equally realistic about the limits placed on political progress as a result of humanity’s sinful condition. In this way, they both hold fast to faith in the face of objective uncertainty — Kierkegaard individually, and Niebuhr politically. The paradox politically speaking for Niebuhr, however, is between striving to realize proximate justice within history on the one hand, by resisting the temptation to unreservedly push forward and expect human fulfillment of a justly representative society without remainder on the other hand.

Niebuhr says it like this in Nature and Destiny: “The final majesty of God is contained not so much in [God’s] power within the structures as in the power of [God’s] freedom over the structures, that is, over the logos aspects of reality. This freedom is the power of mercy beyond judgment. By this freedom God involves himself in the guilt and suffering of free [human beings] who have, in their freedom, come in conflict with the structural character of reality” (p. 71). The agape of God, which is the paradox of God and of politics, is thus at once the expression of both the final majesty of God, as Niebuhr calls it, and of God’s relationship to history. So it is from faith in the tenuous and risky relationship between humanity, God and history, constituted by the paradox of agape, I will argue, that Kierkegaard and Niebuhr illuminate the horizon upon which historical-political subjects can strive for the good.

The Great American Water Crisis, Privatization, and how Faith Communities are Fighting Back

Like many others, I’ve been convinced for a while that the sustainable management of energy and water consumption must become top political priorities for society, and Christian churches should be instigating the conversation.  Unfortunately, this is usually not the case.

Just yesterday I overheard a commentator on K-Love (a national Christian music radio station) announce the “great news” that the U.S. has recently become the world’s number-one producer of oil, and has increased this production three hundred percent in recent years due to advances in technology such as that afforded by hydraulic fracking, which enables us to extract hard-to-access deposits of fossil fuels.  For him — and I guess for Christian radio? — this is good I suppose because energy prices can remain low, people will keep relying on gas-transportation, and the U.S. economy will continue to grow.

Despite the short-term benefits of this boom which mostly go directly into the pockets of the biggest shareholders, the reality of the water crisis, peak oil, climate change and other environmental issues seem to severely call into question how this could finally be interpreted as good news.  While there are indeed significant advantages to increasing domestic energy production, especially that of natural gas, the concern is equally that we seem to be doubling-down on an addiction that is bound to cause more harm than anything else in the long-run.  And it would be one thing if our country was simultaneously taking the necessary preparatory and infrastructural steps to transition into a post-petroleum age… but we simply are not.  Instead, we seem utterly preoccupied with secondary, partisan pettiness.

On the one hand, it’s hard for me not to be cynical about this; but on other hand, who can blame the radio guy?  Have most church leaders and Christian thinkers even tried to understand and communicate the connection between the gospel message and real world problems like this one — a problem that requires out-of-the-box imagination and learning from what experts are telling us about peak oil, globalization and geopolitical constraints?  Sadly, they have not.  Too many cannot even fathom such a connection, as they remain captive to a soterio-centric version of Christianity.

Here’s how the latest issue of Sojourners Magazine characterizes the water problem:

Corporate raider T. Boone Pickens made billions as a Texas oil baron, but he’s betting that the real money will come from mining “blue gold”—water. Pickens owns more water than anyone in the U.S.—he’s already bought up the rights to drain 65 billion gallons a year from the Ogallala Aquifer, which holds the groundwater for much of the Great Plains. Almost all the Ogallala water—95 percent—is used for agriculture, but Pickens plans to pipe it down to Dallas, cashing in on the hotter-and-drier weather from climate change. (The result, according to an Agriculture Department spokesperson: “The Ogallala supply is going to run out and the Plains will become uneconomical to farm.”)

Pickens isn’t alone in his new role as a water baron. Multinationals such as Nestlé are buying up water rights, siphoning lakes, and selling our most precious resource to the highest bidder. Slick advertising has seduced many Americans into the mistaken belief that (expensive) bottled water is “purer” or “healthier” than tap water—and led to the annual consumption of 9.67 billion gallons of bottled water, with underserved Latinos and African Americans having the highest rates of bottled water use. And the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warns that by 2030 nearly half of the world’s population will inhabit areas with severe water stress.

As this article goes on to explain though, “the [actual] good news is that faith-based, consumer, labor, and other community organizations have teamed up to fend off many attempted takeovers to keep their water under local public control, for the health of the poorest and the strength of the whole community.”  To see examples of this, read the full story here: http://sojo.net/magazine/2013/11/great-american-water-crisis.

It also sounds like strides are being made in a manner consistent with peacemaking rather than social justice ideology as discussed in the previous post, so that deserves praise as well.  Let’s hope we can learn from these groups who are putting their faith into practice in creative and forceful, loving ways.

Social Justice Ideology vs. Peacemaking

This distinction between social justice ideology and peacemaking is an interesting one that’s been brought to my attention recently through returning to some of Walter Brueggemann‘s work.  Obviously, social justice is a good thing.  As ideology, however — that is, as an ossified concept or immaterial absolute — its truth and goodness is cheapened.  Usually this happens when we pursue social justice solely by mechanical and rhetorical means. In doing so, we neglect aesthetics and appeal narrowly to a quantifiable distribution of goods, rights, laws, or to universal abstract ideals like freedom an equality — without embodied community, neighborliness or celebration of beauty and creativity.

Social justice ideology is depersonalized and lacks self-awareness.  It also tends to lack hope.  It merely identifies injustice and gets angry.  Basically, it’s pure judgment, which means it’s lazy.  Social justice ideology, much like conservative ideology, says we are right, you are wrong, and never relinquishes that condescending posture.  Richard Niebuhr called this henotheism.

Peacemaking on the other hand goes something like this:

Peacemaking doesn’t mean passivity.  it is the act of interrupting injustice without mirroring injustice, the act of disarming evil without destroying the evildoer, the act of finding a third way that is neither fight nor flight but the careful, arduous pursuit of reconciliation and justice.  It is about a revolution of love that is big enough to set both the oppressed and the oppressors free.  Peacemaking is about being able to recognize in the face of the oppressed our own faces, and in the hands of the oppressors our own hands.

Peacemaking, like most beautiful things, begins small.  Matthew 18 gives us a clear process for making peace with someone who has hurt or offended us; first we are to talk directly with them, not at them or around them . . . Straight talk is counter-cultural in a world that prefers politeness to honesty.  In his Rule, Benedict of Nursia speaks passionately about the deadly poison of “murmuring,” the negativity and dissension that can infect community and rot the fabric of love.

Peacemaking begins with what we can change — ourselves.  But it doesn’t end there.  We are to be peacemakers in a world riddled with violence.  That means interrupting violence with imagination, on our streets and in our world. Peacemaking “that is not like any way the empire brings peace” is rooted in the nonviolence of the cross, where we see a Savior who loves his enemies so much that he died for them.

— From A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals

In sum, peacemaking is neither Fight nor Flight, but something altogether different.

According to Walter Wink, Flight consists of submission, passivity, withdrawal or surrender.  Conversely, Fight looks like armed revolt, violent rebellion, direct retaliation or revenge.  The neither/nor alternative is as follows:

• Seize the moral initiative
• Find a creative alternative to violence
• Assert your own humanity and dignity
as a person
• Meet force with ridicule or humor
• Break the cycle of humiliation
• Refuse to submit or to accept the
inferior position
• Expose the injustice of the system
• Take control of the power dynamic
• Shame the oppressor into repentance
• Stand your ground
• Make the Powers make decisions for which
they are not prepared
• Recognize your own power
• Be willing to suffer rather than retaliate
• Force the oppressor to see you in a new light
• Deprive the oppressor of a situation where a
show of force is effective
• Be willing to undergo the penalty of breaking
unjust laws
• Die to fear of the old order and its rules

A similar lesson seems to have recently been learned by protagonist and lead female actor Emily VanCamp‘s character Emily Thorne in an episode last week of the hit ABC television drama series Revenge.


I’m interested to see how this season plays out and hope to reflect on it some when it’s over.  In short though, she’s dedicated practically her whole life to an elaborate scheme aimed at avenging her father’s unjust death and public shame, which was carried out through a complex cover-up and legal scandal that left a number of pernicious perpetrators off the hook.  It’s too early to tell for sure, but it looks like Emily could be making the difficult but transformative journey from eye-for-an-eye ideology to real peacemaking.

Two Admonitions regarding Christian Responsibility for Nationalism and the Ecological Crisis

American preachers have a task more difficult, perhaps, than those faced by us under South Africa’s apartheid, or Christians under Communism. We had obvious evils to engage; you have to unwrap your culture from years of red, white, and blue myth. You have to expose, and confront, the great disconnection between the kindness, compassion, and caring of most American people, and the ruthless way American power is experienced, directly and indirectly, by the poor of the earth. You have to help good people see how they have let their institutions do their sinning for them. This is not easy among people who really believe that their country does nothing but good, but it is necessary, not only for their future, but for us all.

Peter Storey

Our present ecological crisis, the biggest single practical threat to our human existence in the middle to long term, has, religious people would say, a great deal to do with our failure to think of the world as existing in relation to the mystery of God, not just as a huge warehouse of stuff to be used for our convenience.

Related articles

Global Justice, Christology and Christian Ethics

“Global realities of human inequality, poverty, violence and ecological destruction call for a 21st-century Christian response that can link the power of the gospel to cross-cultural and interreligious cooperation for change.”

“[R]eligious experience of God carries a moral way of life as its equally original counterpart.  This is because inclusive community with other human beings is a constitutive dimension of community with God.  “Love the Lord your God with your whole heart, mind, and soul; and your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:28-34).  Love God and neighbor — not God then neighbor.”

“To experience salvation is to have one’s life completely reoriented In relation to God and simultaneously integrally In relation to other human beings.  Authentic religious experience — salvation — Is inherently transformative and political.  Reconciled human relations are lenses through which we glimpse the goodness and power of God.”

“The term salvation connotes an actual healing of sin as idolatry, selfishness and violence.”

“If God’s full incarnation in human existence is a fact, and resurrection life a present reality, then Christian politics must be, can be, and is transformative of its social world.”

“To proclaim that God is truly present in Jesus Christ, [then,] and that in Christ humans reconciled to God, is to commit oneself to personal and political ways of life coherent with the reign of God that Jesus inaugurates.”

Lisa Sowle Cahill, from chapter one of Global Justice, Christology and Christian Ethics

Kierkegaard's Passionate Individual Inwardness

Uncertainty - more work to do

“An objective uncertainty held fast in an appropriation process of the most passionate inwardness is the truth, the highest truth attainable for an existing individual . . . The truth is precisely the venture which chooses an objective uncertainty with the passion of the infinite.  I contemplate the order of nature in the hope of finding God, and I see omnipotence and wisdom; but I also see much else that disturbs my mind and excites anxiety.  The sum of all this is an objective uncertainty.  But it is for this very reason that the inwardness becomes as intense as it is, for it embraces this objective uncertainty with the entire passion of the infinite . . . Without risk there is no faith.  Faith is precisely the contradiction between the infinite passion of the individual’s inwardness and the objective uncertainty.” p. 182

“Existence is the child that is born of the infinite and the finite, the eternal and the temporal, and is therefore a constant striving.” p. 84

“An existing individual is himself in process of becoming . . . In existence the watchword is always forward.”  p. 368

Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript

True Faith according to H. Richard Niebuhr

“To deny the reality of a supernatural being called God is one thing; to live without confidence in some center of value and without loyalty to a cause is another” (H. Richard Niebuhr, Radical Monotheism and Western Culture, p. 25).

Here Richard Niebuhr begins to explain what I think is the essence of theology and ethics — namely, the study of our 1) orientation toward, 2) trust in and 3) commitment to meaning and purpose.  Most people have this, and it is directed at something.  Niebuhr calls this henotheism, or the faith of a “closed-society” — a “social” faith. God is identified with something bigger than the individual, but this god has a finite horizon.  The most common expressions of this kind of faith takes the shape of nationalism or some sort of conventional individual moralism.  Of course, it can also be seen in other groups besides national ones, such as tribes and factions of many varieties.  Similarly, individual moralism can quickly become collective.  The point is, at some point lines are drawn and insider/outsider distinctions are made.  It is a way to distinctive “us” from “them” and to create insulated mono-cultures of security and certainty of identity.  This is not altogether a bad thing.  It’s actually somewhat necessary.

The second form of faith that society takes is “polytheism,” which, in Niebuhr’s schema, tends to follow henotheism as it dissolves.  It comes from the “revelation that an apparently unified society is without integrity.”  It is “the breakup of the confidence that life as worthwhile as lived from and toward the community center.”  According to Sartre, in its most radical form it has individuals making themselves in order to be God and “losing [oneself] in order that the self-cause may exist” (Being and Nothingness, 1956, p. 626).  Niebuhr says “the more common alternative to communal confidence and loyalty appears to be less radical egoism in which an unintegrated, diffuse self-system depends for its meanings on many centers and gives its partial loyalties to many interests” (RM, p. 29).

The third form of human faith is what Niebuhr refers to in the title of his book as “Radical Monotheism.” This faith can only be achieved socially in fleeting moments and times in history.  Most of the time social faith remains susceptible to triumphalism and exclusion, and therefore violence and falsehood.  In radical monotheism, or what I’ll just call “true faith,”

“the value-center is neither closed society nor the principle of such a society but the principle of being itself. It is the assurance that because I am, I am valued, and because you are, you are beloved, and because whatever is has being, therefore it is worthy of love.  It is the confidence that whatever is, is good, because it exists as one thing among the many which all have their origin and their being in the One — the principle of being which is also the principle of value” (RM, p. 32).

In every church and society there is a mixture of social faith, polytheism and some radical monotheism.  Individually and collectively, people tend toward egoism and the fragmentation or absolutization of finite value.  Only faith in the God who is the source and sustenance of all being and therefore value itself — that is, the good — can give way toward fullness of life and love.

Christians and the Iraq War 10 years later

Recently I heard the country song “I Drive your Truck” by Lee Brice.  The lyrics are very moving, as they tell the story of someone dealing with the death of a brother, presumably in Army deployment overseas in either Iraq or Afghanistan.  Few things are more saddening to reflect on for citizens that are thought to benefit from this tremendous sacrifice.  It kinda makes you wonder.

I was only a senior in high school when the United States invaded Iraq 10 years ago today.  I didn’t know anything then, but I’m not sure this excused my ignorance for the next five years.  And of course I was old enough to be fighting myself any one of those years!  Articles by the Economist yesterday and Sojourners today address the anniversary in a very critical way, but I think necessarily so.  Half the problem it seems, thanks to our mainstream media channels, is that most people have no idea how much this war cost — not just monetarily or even in terms of the lives of U.S. troops lost, but Iraqi lives as well (a much, much larger number in comparison, the tragedy of the 9-11 attacks notwithstanding).  Moreover, the U.S. under Reagan was willing to either look the other way or even aid Saddam Hussein when he was murdering thousands of Kurds two decades earlier.  Why? Because he wasn’t threatening our security at the time, and in one case was actually furthering it.  I’m not even trying to demonizing the U.S. for this.  That kind of foreign policy makes sense when you’re a global superpower.  It’s just amazing that people don’t recognize the logic.  The information is readily available to any remotely thoughtful constituent.

For me at least this is a good reminder not to see our own country through rose-colored glasses, or any country for that matter, especially if it’s rich and powerful with cause to seek its own (often private) interest at the expensive of others (isn’t this the way the world has always worked?).  And it doesn’t matter whether the president is George W. Bush or Barrack Obama.  Right now under the Obama administration, for example, there is much to be concerned about militarily speaking, particularly regarding drone warfare and the extremely suspect National Defense Authorization Act.

The other day I came across this video of Stanley Hauerwas talking about the threat that sentimentality brings to Christianity and the Church.  Whether or not it applies directly to the post-9-11 era politics, it’s at least a sobering message about the costliness of discipleship that is all too often forgotten by privileged and comfortable Christians.  What would it look like if a large group of Christians in the U.S. became as outspoken and concerned about militarized and imperial forms of violence as some of us are about homosexuality, abortion, gun ownership, prayer in schools and the like?  I don’t think culture would know what to do.  People might actually start associating us with Jesus.

MLK Jr. Quotes and Cornell West criticizing the Inauguration

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.

An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.

Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.

History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.

A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.

A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan.

We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.

All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.

A lie cannot live.

Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.

To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.

Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’

Whatever your life’s work is, do it well. A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better.

Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.

Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see.

I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land! I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land.

Page 2 of 4

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén