An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
Frankly, news of the Chechen terrorist hostage taking at a Russian school do not in any way earn sympathy from me for their cause. Such is the case for ALL terrorists in my mind...I do not care what your cause is, or how righteous you may think it to be, you don't purposefully target innocents. The brutality and hatred that is expressed (e.g. in the beheading of some of the hostages in Iraq) is just unfathomable to me. What hatred, what anger can cause you to saw slowly through a persons neck? Or to kill yourself with explosives with the hope of taking out a few indiscriminant bystanders with you? Or how can you even threaten to kill 50 children?
I am sympathetic to the injuries (real or perceived) that our powerful nation has visited (whether directly or indirectly, and whether intentionally or unintentionally) to some peoples and some countries. I have tried to understand and I have tried to rationalize their desperation. I have looked at the terrorism and said "Yeah, but, look at what we have done..." or "Yeah, but look at what Israel has done..." But, frankly, it just doesn't answer anymore.
I have long been able to sympathize with the grieving family whose child was the unfortunate victim of a stray american rocket...but I have two children heading off to school today - what if they were now hostages? What if I had to go and collect their little severed heads? Would I then support Bush's "war on terrorism"? Damn right I would.
A Christian attitude? Nope. But, why was it that I was always so quick to justify and excuse what is supposed and certainly propagated to us as Muslim violations of their peaceful tenents and not do the same for "christian" america? It's all crap and I am sick of it.
Okay, enough of my rambling. We must pray for those poor kids, teachers, and parents who are in a most dire circumstance in Belsan. I pray all those kids come home to their parents...I really do not care what becomes of the terrorists, God forgive me.
there are many who would support "bush's war on terror" because they feel that republicans are the ones most likely to unambiguously go kick some terrorist ass. it makes people feel all righteous and strong and "american" to trot out the flags thump the chest yell a few marine ho-aahs and quote bush on evil, dead or alive, we're winning (oh, but then he says we can't win, but we can, oh wait)...
righteous anger is a dangerous thing when it causes an over-simplification of root causes. we can wholeheartedly condemn the methods of terrorists while still seeking to address root causes. particularly when root causes are NOT MERELY about any inherent american goodness (puh-lease), (ie, the repub b.s. about moslems hating us because we are such lovers of freedom and goodness, ignoring decades of real world *policy* in the middle east).
that said i entirely 100% agree, cheer, and am with you that there should be no sympathy, amgiguity, ambivalence, or nuace about those who intentionally killing innocents... but where does that leave us as a nation? (not a rhetorical question... i think its the question of the election... how does the US use her power for good?).
quoting a former cia chief:
" It's PEOPLE who do inhuman things to other people. And we are responsible for doing these things on a massive basis, to people of the world today. We do it in a way that gives us plausible denial to our own consciences. We create a CIA, a secret police, with a vast budget, and let them go and run these programs in our name. We pretend like we don't know what's going on, though the information is there for us to know. And we pretend like it's okay because we're fighting some vague communist (or terrorist) threat. We're just as responsible for these ONE TO THREE MILLION PEOPLE we've slaughtered, and for all the people we've tortured and made miserable, as the Gestapo was for the people that they slaughtered and killed."
and he's talking about south/central america, not the middle east. the estimates are that direct and covert US involvement in toppling gov'ts, changing regimes, and misc covert activities, have directly and indirectly led to the death of 6 million people.
and we probably shouldn't even get into the millions of native american children, women, and men killed and displaced not that long ago... or, too, the millions of africans shipped over to our shores and used to increase our economic wealth.
all to say, when talking about killing innocent people... there is much historical evidence that can be used to damn and judge america. and does that make us a 'terrorist' nation? an 'evil' people?
i shudder to use any human standard to answer those questions. particularly when Christ tells us that if we have hatred in our hearts for our brother, we are in danger of judgement...
what does it mean, politically AND personally, to view these issues with our hearts united with God?
"For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies..." Mt 15:19
Everyone is evil is what I come away with from your comment Seraphim - which is no doubt Patristic as far as that goes. Trust me I have heard of many of the evils our country is supposed to have done and I cringe. I'm no hand clapping, flag waver, but I'll tell you what: I do have some faith in the checks and balances of this country that I think tends to curb extremism. And frankly the insinuation that we are clearly responsible for the deaths of 6 million people is abit extreme if true. Meaning I have my doubts about the legitimacy of that claim. Let us be fair and also acknowledge that we are far and away the largest distributer of foreign aid to the world.
All the evils we are alleged to commit, can we ever know for sure if they are true or accurate? Your quote makes it seem that it is common knowledge, but you know what: I don't buy it. Minor in comparison to these allegations was the prison scandal in Iraq and just look at the publicity that got. Fact is, if this info is "there for us to know" that we are responsible for 1-3 million deaths then I'd think even an ignoramous like me would have read it somewhere. From your words you'd think we were almost an overt sort of Nazi Germany. Maybe we are and I am just ignorant.
I wonder...how much of the hatred aimed at america is from DIRECT personal experience and how much is indoctrinated EXACTLY how an American bigot might indoctrinate their children to hate jews for all their evils. I mean, many of my eastern european family members hated Jews for economically running and dominating their village (which they apparently truly did), but in retrospect do we ever wonder if the Jews ough to have asked WHY they were so hated - soemtimes to the point of violence? Of course not.
What I see is the inability to judge evil on both sides. If I mention that the palestinian terrorists are wrong to blow up busses I frequently am treated to a diatribe about all the evil Israeli acts we american's support. Or if I mention some injustice commited by Israel I hear of the horrors of palestinian suicide bombers. It's almost funny (but sad), almost as if we are paralyzed to REALLY criticize.
What is the proper Christian response to all of this? Prayer I guess.
You will forgive me if I admit an inability to forgive or turn the other cheek if a terrorist slaughters one of my children for their "cause." I have too often given that understanding to the victims of american "tyranny" and such, but not the other way around - and this is my overall point.
Jamesofthenorthwest wrote: What is the proper Christian response to all of this? Prayer I guess.Certainly, for the specifics of this -- for the safety and release unharmed of the children, parents and teachers taken hostage -- let us pray to the Lord. But also for the terrorists, that God may soften their hearts, and lead them to repentance -- let us pray to the Lord.
On the larger stage, for the protection of all innocents from acts of terror and threats thereof -- let us pray to the Lord; and for the policies of this nation, and the things we have done, knowingly or unknowingly, that have contributed to the hatred of others for us, especially as our words and deeds have violated our Christian faith -- let us pray to the Lord. And that we may not waver in our opposition to evil, without surrendering ourselves to hating or judging others, let us pray to the Lord.
Now, on one level, we can take comfort in knowing that no one involved in acts of terrorism shall escape divine justice on the great and terrible Day of the Lord. But if one of the children held hostage is yours, this is small comfort in a moment of fear...
And how is it that those who claim to believe in Allah, "the just, the merciful" can mercilessly commit such an act of injustice? Lord, have mercy!
(not a rhetorical question... i think its the question of the election... how does the US use her power for good?)I am not sure that either of the two major political parties offer much assurance on this question. Afterall, it was Clinton who bombed Serbia, no?
Overall I think I am just seeking a bit more balance (which is not to say that this has any relevance to truth...there seems to be an inherent sense that to be TRUTHFULL one must admit that no one side REALLY has truth with them....geez, how can that be true?)
Look at some of my older posts and you will see that I was quite quick to blame America for all her terrorist woes...I don't think that is a completely fair or wholly true conclusion anymore.
When praying protection for people from terror, I think we should include the terror we bring on innocent people in our wars. Amen...and I fully heard this in Fr. John's prayer, for which I am VERY grateful. Somehow the words so tempered and formed through intimacy with the prayers of the Church calms my heart.
Thank you also for your words Laura. We pray also for your brothers safe return.
Fr. John, I should like very much to hear from you about your intentions on election day...I am desperate for respected opinions on the matter. Would you mind emailing me?
i dont think "blame" is really quite the issue... rather, "understanding" is what i am wanting to pursue. it doesn't make sense to flagellate ourselves and say america is to 'blame' for something as horrific as 911. however, it is inaccurate and misleading to suggest that the increasing amount of frustration and hatred towards america (NOT just from 'terrorists') is simply because we love democractic freedoms. and it will also be profoundly unwise to address 911 without understanding our history, role, and policy objectives in the middle east.
re: the CIA claim: "The list of CIA activities and agents around the world is virtually endless. In 1977 it was publicly disclosed that King Hussein of Jordan had been a paid CIA agent for 20 years. President Hissen Habre of Chad came to power after receiving covert CIA paramilitary assistance. Other CIA agents include Philippine President Marcos, Sudan President Nimeri, Lebanese President Amin Gemayel, Pakistani President Mohammed Zia and President Duarte of El Salvador. In Cambodia, Reagan authorised $5 million in aid to the non-communist alliance; this group was dominated by the Khmer Rouge who killed three million Cambodians during its four year rule of genocidal terror from 1975 to 1979. Another $12 million was donated to them by Washington the following year. And the list goes on. Facts cleared by a CIA review panel in the late 1980s stated the following: "The 3,000 major operations and 10,000 minor operations in the CIA's history has helped bring about some six million deaths world-wide. The CIA has overthrown functioning constitutional democracies in over 20 countries and has manipulated elections in dozens of other countries."
this is only to highlight the fact that in our history we too have been perpetrators. we use(d) different methods, but from smallpox blankets to smart bombs, children have been unjustly and tragically killed.
re: an american political/military respose... i am conflicted... i supported the action in afghanistan (tho the post-war reconstruction process has been abysmal), but the iraq war is just unbelievable to me. in the end, i cannot understand how it makes our children safer. perhaps the majority of children in iraq will be one day be safer... but if we went to war merely to rescue iraqis from a tyrant, then why are we so stupidly slow to repond to dafur? zimbabwe? etc etc...? from no weapons to abu ghraib to the deep alienation of key allies in the war against terror to the depletion of our military to the unjustifiably inept reconstruction process to the perfect recruiting tool for extremists... i am in a state of awe and shock over the iraq war.
re: root causes of terrorism... i think it is a complex issue. however, to address the issue one MUST look at the last 5+ decades of american policy in the region. along with, of course, factors such as poverty and religious structures of resistance and war.
Fr. John, I should like very much to hear from you about your intentions on election day...I am desperate for respected opinions on the matter. Would you mind emailing me?Dear jamesofthenorthwest, I'll be glad to email you; but please forgive me, I don't know where to do so. Perhaps you might email me, and then I can reply. My address is: frjohnmcc[at]cox[dot]net. (Formatted so as to deter, I hope, spiders and bots...)
Laura, you are correct; and it was (and is) certainly my intention that *all* innocent persons be protected from *all* sources of terror by the grace and mercy of the God Who loves us *all*; and gave Himself for *all* of us. I think it is possible to be a citizen in good standing of a nation, and at the same time not be so naive as to assume that "we never do anything wrong." Thus, there are those at risk from our actions -- the victims (and potential victims) of so-called "collateral damage" -- whom I pray will be protected. We should also never forget that we are to pray for our enemies, and those who hate us -- and that our prayer should not be along the lines of "Smite them, O Lord"; but rather to ask for mercy for them, and for their salvation, and whatever changes are needed in their lives so that they may be saved. If we would pray as fervently for others as we do for ourselves...
Laura said: I don't think the Muslim element should be such a strong focus. We are not killing people in Iraq and Afghanistan because we are Christians, are we?Honest question: why is it okay today to focus on the Christian element in the Crusades but not the Muslim element in modern terrorism? (Or, for that matter, the Muslim element in the collapse of the Byzantine empire?) Leaving the 4th crusade aside of course :)
I think we are being niave to think that the religious element is not fueling much of the hatred against america. And this is NOT an attack against Islam...but let's face it: that religion is being used as a rallying cry. And in regards to that hatred, Seraphim, if *I* as a reasonably well read and internet savvy american is for the most part unaware of the specifics of modern day american atrocities I really have my doubts that the CIA has failed to hide these facts from some 15 year old suicide bomber or his radical orginization.
At the same time I do not wish to dissuade us from being critical of our foreign policies. As I said...I am just not going to be so quick to turn my a blind eye to terrorism and START with asking: gee what did we do to deserve that?
I am beginning to think seriously about a policy of isolation - at least to a reasonable extent.
James wrote: "if *I* as a reasonably well read and internet savvy american is for the most part unaware of the specifics of modern day american atrocities I really have my doubts that the CIA has failed to hide these facts from some 15 year old suicide bomber or his radical orginization."
the truth is i do not think that the average american would be able to say what our economic and foreign policy goals have been in central america, south america, or the middle east... past or present. certainly not your average 15 yr old. and if americans do not know that, they will certainly not know how the CIA has worked to covertly bring about those goals. if you do any international travelling, you will find that by and large, americans are the most ignorant group in the world in terms of knowing about world events. its quite amazing actually, the level of sophistication and understanding of world events/news that i've encountered in my travels, from the bush of northern uganda to remote villages in north india to the streets of khatmandu to shacks in guatemala. simply compare our major press outlets with the outlets in a majority of other countries and you'll see what i mean.
and re: 15 year olds, it would be interesting to test the awareness and understanding of teenagers in palestine OR israel VS teenagers in america on the specifics of american middle east policy.
re: religion. yes, i DO think that islam plays a part in this. minimally, the islamic teaching of the UMMA. i wonder how similiar the issues are in comparison with 'christian' abortion clinic bombers. mostly, i agree with those who say that this conflict must be understood on multiple levels at once: religious/cultural AND economic/political.
you may not agree with its overall thesis, but the recent book by a current acting senior CIA officer, "Imperial Hubris", sketches out the specific policies that many in the muslim world hate (google search it for summaries). ie, i dont think it is merely that moslems hate americans, rather it is american policy that they hate, and oppose. and while we agree that their methods (terror) of opposition are to be condemned and opposed unambiguously, i still think that we've GOT to understand and revisit our policy past, present, and future.
and speaking of capitalism, there are a few great passages in schmemann's journals that i think eerily and aptly apply... even re: james' ambivalence re: who to vote for. he wrote this in 1974-5:
"Freedom? Capitalism is reducing it to the freedom of profit. The essential sin of democracy is its bond with capitalism. Capitalism needs the freedom guaranteed by democracy, but that freedom is there and then betrayed and distorted by capitalists. The vicious circle of the Western world is democracy without morality - at least so it seems to me. The choice is frightening: a terrible "Right" or an even more terrible "Left" - they both have the same disdain for man and for life. There does not seem to be any third choice, which obviously should be the Christian one. But Christians themselves are divided into right and left, without any other idea." - The Journals of Alexander Schmemann, Monday, October 7, 1974.
"Essentially the West is frightful - frightful because of its Pharisaism, identifying freedom with profit. Once a rightist senator said: "We must remember that the basic principles of a free market - profit and freedom - are indivisible" - all that with a heroic tone of voice... The West is frightful because of its baseness in everything. When did that fall begin? Where did the West renounce itself, renounce the flame that "lighted up the whole creation, then went out into the night a cried...?" All the lofty phrases about "freedom," "fairness," "equality," etc... (and their Christian rhetoric) sound unbearable, demonic, false. The devil is on the faces of the defenders of law and order and on the faces of the revolutionaries." - The Journals of Alexander Schmemann, Monday, March 24, 1975.
Fr. John: "What is the proper Christian response to all of this? Prayer I guess."
I think the Holy Innocents are particularly astute intercessors about this sort of thing.
"As acceptable victims and freshly plucked flowers, as divine firstfruits and newborn lambs, you were offered to Christ who was born as a Child, O most pure children. You mocked Herod's wickedness: now we beseech you, unceasingly pray for our souls."
O, Holy Innocents, pray to God for the suffering innocents of Russian!