Plain in the city

A plain Quaker folk singer with a Juris Doctorate in his back pocket, salt in his blood, and a set of currach oars in the closet, Ulleann Pipes under his arm, guitar on his back, Anglo Irish baggage, wandering through New York City ... in constant amaze. Statement of Faithfulness. As a member of the Quaker Bloggers Ad Hoc Committee I affirm that I will be faithful to the Book of Discipline of my Meeting 15th Street Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Do all who go to war live by the sword? The Politics of God part 2

In the middle or at the root of the problemPhoto Lorcan Otway 1977 Belfast Ireland

This is part two of a conversation started, which I post in the post before this, it becomes, part two of The Politics of God.

In answer to my reply on Obama and unity, Bruce's response cuts right to the key of Quaker faith in my opinion, and is a really insightful place to be...

He writes:

Fine words my friend. I know God does not hate homosexuals nor do I have any hate. But I believe He does not condone it nor do I believe He would put someone in office that would not fight for life that he had created. As for war.... I'm a little torn on that. We are suppose to help those in need ( Iraq). Although that should be the intention, Whether that was the case or not I can't say. Now there's the problem that we are there. We can't just leave them unprotected. I believe that would be wrong even if the beginning was of wrong intentions.God has allowed many wars and protected His people fighting them. But then there is Jesus " He who lives by the sword dies by the sword." But maybe some who have taken to war don't really live by the sword but have just taken it up to defend themselves or the weak.

Thanks Lor.

I always find I start with "Well...." If we were in the same room, this would be drawing in a breath and out again... I will put aside the question of does God condone homosexual practice or not. I think the second part of the question raises a question with which I have wrestled from the time I was convinced of the faith in which I was raised.

I have found, as a history student, that I cannot point to a single war which was fought for the reasons given to the soldiers, or won the result promised to them. Most wars, if not all wars, including wars of aggression, are described by both sides as being fought to protect the right of the a people who need defending. The civil war did not bring freedom to African Americans - rather it was a struggle, not unlike that continuing today, over how much power the federal government has and how much power the individual states have. It was a war to determine if we are a confederacy, or a republic. The answer was not very clear. The limitations on the rights of Americans of African ancestry for the hundred years after the war shows that the rhetoric of liberty was simply a banner to make a crusade of a bloody and terrible war.

In the same light, not a single nazi death camp was liberated as a goal of the Second World War. Rather, our allies and our own nation took no steps to stop the trains going to those camps, and they were only freed when our troops happened upon them. Further the genocide against Romany people continued and continues as I write this. I could name war after war, from Ireland to Africa where soldiers fight or fought for truths and have been led to war for power that will never be shared with them.

I am not very persuaded that we went to war in Iraq for the sake of the people of Iraq. And I agree with thee, that now we are there, it is hard to leave. However, I am also not convinced that to continue a violent struggle is the best way to leave.

It takes courage and brilliance to find a way out of great darkness. Lyndon Johnson seems to have understood this. His strategies for pulling us away from the violence of the struggle over apartheid in the United States was brilliantly done. At the same time as he brought force to bear to enforce federal law, he injected huge amounts of economic opportunity into the American south, creating the "New South." If I were to go on for pages about this, I would write of a new third common market as part of the way out of Iraq and Afghanistan ... another post perhaps.

The point is that war does not solve problems. People fight until the cost of fighting brings one side or the other, or both to that point of exhaustion or loss that both decide speaking and bargaining is a better way. I believe a loving God would prefer we simply start with that negotiation.

The argument some make that the other side started any war is often historically hard to prove. This nation has been involved in destabilizing North Africa and Persia, and they have been involved in fighting us, oh ... hundreds of years. We can begin more recently with the American involvement in the overthrow of the democratic government of Iran to place the Shaw in power, or Jefferson's secret mission to over throw the Bey of Tripoli, or the piracy of that Bey... there simply is not a start to most wars.

So, I am rather convinced that as a political problem solving device, war simply does not work. As a mater of faith, war has not been about truth, and so I disavow war.

To paraphrase thy question, would God put someone in power who is "pro choice?" Well, that is also a complex question. In terms of a God who protects us from pain, does God cause earthquakes, or is there a force of evil which does everything which is painful to us? I think not.

Rather, this question is core to the Greco Roman view of morality, as opposed to the Hebraic view of morality. In the Jewish tradition sin is more a matter of separation, destruction of a relationship between the individual and others and God, than in the Greco Roman tradition, which might enter Christianity, not through Yeshua called Jesus, but through Paul. The way one approaches the question of sin frames the question.

In the Hebrew scriptures, in Numbers 5, one can find support for a belief that in the Hebraic tradition, for thousands of years, leaders came to power who believed that abortion was a sacrament in the face of a wife's unfaithfulness. Several modern English language bibles translate this now, in a way to defeat this interpretation, but to me, it seems to be one of the few unambiguous references to abortion in either the Christian scriptures or the Hebraic scriptures.

The interpretation that this is, in fact a reference to abortion, fits with the concept in the Hebraic tradition that the avoidance of sin is found in repentance, atonement and forgiveness. One cannot live a life in a world fraught with dilemmas, without harming another, so one mitigates the harm by looking within, acting to heal and forgiving.

The Greco Roman world was about order and simply following the state. It is impossible for me to imagine a moment such as Yeshua or Jesus' interaction with the woman at the well in the context of the state religions of Greece or Rome. Rather, the setting aside of the rule to make a new relationship is the core of a major theme in Hebraic tradition as defined by Hillel, "do nothing to another that is abhorrent to thyself, that is the Torah and the rest is commentary - now go and study."

For me this does not answer the question of which side a present and guiding God prefers. Rather, I think it leads to a degree of humility when I sit at a table with others who believe one way or the other. I think the best way to walk with righteousness before God, rather than to cloak ourselves in self-righteousness, is to follow our own light and teach by our actions, rather than pointing fingers and denying that God backs the actions of others. I try not to cast the first stone... or the next.

Thine in the light and thank'ee Bruce


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