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God's Politics


Janna Hunter-Bowman: Colombia’s ‘Fragile Unreality’

posted by gp_intern

The 50-year Colombian armed conflict pits government armed forces and right-wing paramilitary groups against leftist guerrillas. Church people, part of the unarmed civilian population struggling to stay outside the conflict, are caught in the cross-fire. Since 2000, the United States has provided nearly $5 billion in aid to the Colombian government, roughly 80% of it military, alternately under the auspices of the “War on Drugs,” or the “War on Terror.” United States policies have failed to meet their stated aim, and instead enflame the conflict and contribute to the resulting humanitarian crisis.

Now the political waters in Colombia are growing from unsettled to turbulent; conditions are likely to get worse before they get better. I feel like the power players are more boldly and unselfconsciously asserting a dimension of “fragile unreality,” as Russian fiction author Nabokov described his context of totalitarian regime.

A hunted Colombian Baptist pastor tells me his drama. The cast of characters is outrageous; hit men are taxied by those who should be their target’s protectors. It would be easier to convey through a one-act play in which executioner and savior are played by the same actor.

Dozens of government members are currently under investigation for their ties with the right-wing death squads. Some are very close to Colombian President Uribe. All the members of Congress from one department are behind bars. The witnesses are being killed.

To cast attention from the “parapolitica” closing in, President Uribe accuses his political opponents (including at least one person I know well) of being terrorists dressed as civilians. They are at risk. Aren’t voices of dissent permitted, if not necessary, in a democracy?

A man from church is attacked cattycorner from where I work, at Justapaz. Presumed paramilitary agents said they didn’t hunt him down in the Mennonite church beside our office because the entrance was surrounded by “strong men.” He laughed at them because the only human there was a disabled person who watches the cars. They beat him up, but somehow he escaped death for a third time.

As Nabokov writes in Invitation to a Beheading, there is a “mistrust of what we call everyday reality, an acute sense of that reality’s fickleness and frailty.”

What can you do? Colombian church leaders entreat you: “Sisters and brothers, join us in fervent prayer and faithful witness for a sustainable peace in Colombia.” Respond to the invitation of Colombia Protestants and Catholics by participating in the Days of Prayer and Action for Peace in Colombia, May 20 and 21. Share their stories of suffering and hope. Will you join with hundreds of other North American and Colombian congregations in joint worship, and public actions and advocacy? Learn more about how you can take action.

Janna Hunter-Bowman is the Coordinator the Documentation and Advocacy Program of Justapaz, the peace and justice ministry of the Colombian Mennonite Church. She works with regional teams to register the impact of the armed conflict on Colombia’s Protestant churches. Learn more about their work in their recent report: A Prophetic Call: Colombian Protestant Churches Document Their Suffering and Their Hope.



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moderatelad

posted April 10, 2007 at 8:20 pm


JannaThank you for bringing in the South American issue to join Zimbabwe and Darfur. Now we just need South East Asia and we will have the world covered.In all seriousness – I will join you in prayer on May 21 – 22. I know the power of prayer but I still believe that great evil in the world needs to be dealt with a little stronger. Blessings on our brothers and sisters in Colombia. Later – .



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mark

posted April 10, 2007 at 8:55 pm


“moderatelad” says: In all seriousness – I will join you in prayer on May 21 – 22. I know the power of prayer but I still believe that great evil in the world needs to be dealt with a little stronger. So what do you think is stronger than prayer? Mark



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moderatelad

posted April 10, 2007 at 9:10 pm


mark | 04.10.07 – 3:00 pm | #Spiritually and personally – prayer is a force not to be played with. Like the widow demanding justice from the judge – prayer can move the heart of the only One True God. But when people are dying and we stand by and do nothing to protect them – that is wrong. Even Jesus told us in the bible to sell our clothes and buy a sword if we did not have one. (I believe it is in Luke) I don’t think he was talking about a dress sword.later – .



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Payshun

posted April 10, 2007 at 9:11 pm


Great question Mark. p



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Payshun

posted April 10, 2007 at 9:13 pm


Yah but it was a sword that was never to be used, like when Peter used it to defend Jesus (I think Peter was right btw) Jesus said those who use it die by it. I agree we should defend and protect the weak but going around and bombing the strong into submission is not an option. p



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moderatelad

posted April 10, 2007 at 9:25 pm


Payshun | Homepage | 04.10.07 – 3:18 pm | #SO – protect the weak but don’t hurt the strong people that are causing the problem – is that correct? So – protect the people in the bank when the robbers come in but do not hurt the robbers.Protect the people in the city market but do not hurt the terrorists that are planting the IED’s.Protect the children in school but do not harm the boys with the AK47’s and pipe bombs. I think that when my child is being threatened in school in MN – I would perfer that I would be there to do something to keep the children safe…you can stay at home. Weak logic – later – .



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Walter of Wikipedia

posted April 10, 2007 at 10:10 pm


After a period of relative stability in Colombia through the 50’s, in the 60’s the elected liberal president was the victim of a right wing death squad assassination giving rise to several rebel groups. It gets even more complicated: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/colombia.htm Colombia is in the midst of a decades-long conflict, pitting the government against two leftist insurgencies and a right-wing paramilitary organization. Colombia’s 38-year civil war claims more than three-thousand lives a year. The country’s largest guerrilla group, the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and the rightist United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia are involved in the drug trade to raise money for their fight. A smaller leftist rebel group, the National Liberation Army, relies on kidnapping and extortion for its funding. The United States has labeled all three groups as terrorist organizations. An alliance of convenience between guerillas and traffickers is nothing new. Since the 1970s, drug traffickers based in Colombia have made temporary alliances of convenience with leftist guerillas, or with right wing groups. In each case, this has been done to secure protection for the drug interests. At other times, the drug traffickers have financed their own private armies to provide security services. Some insurgent and paramilitary groups have, in fact, become little more than bands of well-armed thugs selling their services to drug traffickers. The presence of the insurgents in Colombia’s eastern lowlands and southern rainforest–the country’s primary coca cultivation and cocaine processing regions–hinders the Colombian Government’s ability to conduct counterdrug operations. The frequent ground fire sustained by Colombian National Police eradication aircraft operating in insurgent occupied areas shows the extent to which some insurgent units will go to protect the economic interests of their “local constituents” (i.e., coca farmers and drug traffickers). Likewise, insurgent attacks continue to pose a threat to CNP personnel, supported by the DEA conducting operations, against clandestine labs. Several guerilla groups emerged during the 1960s, the first being the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC). Other groups include the now demobilised M-19, the EPL and the Indian-based group Quintin Lame. The FARC, along with the Ej rcito Nacional de Liberaci n (ELN), are the major active groups today and each is thought to have between 10,000 – 15,000 guerillas. Their struggle has largely lost its ideological flavour and in the 1980s and 1990s the two groups became heavily involved in the lucrative narcotics and kidnapping industries. They continue to be powerful, controlling large areas of the Colombian countryside and posing a serious threat to the Colombian security forces, especially in the oil rich south-east and the lucrative coal basins in the north-east. Kidnapping has become a serious security risk and the industry is estimated to be worth US$500 million per year. In recent years, the situation has been complicated by the emergence of right-wing paramilitary groups who have taken up arms against the guerillas. If it weren’t for the drug trade it might be a lot easier to end the Colombian tragedy. .



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moderatelad

posted April 11, 2007 at 1:20 am


Payshun | Homepage | 04.10.07 – 3:18 pm | #Yah but it was a sword that was never to be used, SO then why would the Son of God tell us to sell something and purchase one if it was not to be used? Does not make sence. Later – .



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phil

posted April 11, 2007 at 1:40 am


you might be interested in checking out this discussion about that verse. http://forums.jesusradicals.com/viewtopic.php?t=2874



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Jeremy

posted April 11, 2007 at 3:15 pm


About the Luke 22 passage: This is from the New Interpreters Commentary and this section was written by R. ALAN CULPEPPER. I think we might do well to consider the whole of scripture before proof texting a single verse and using it to advocate violence. I mean really, if Jesus wanted to start an armed revolt would he really say that two swords was enough? This is hardly a call to arms. “The instruction to buy a sword has prompted a great deal of discussion among commentators. As a basic principle, interpreters should take care not to pile up assumptions or take an obscure reference as evidence for something that is not supported by other references in the Gospel. The immediate context is a change in instructions for the disciples as they carry out their mission. Just as they will need a purse, bag, or sandals, so also they will need a sword. Jesus is not preparing to launch an armed revolt, however; there is no evidence of Zealot sentiment in his teachings. Neither is Jesus instructing the disciples to take arms to prevent his arrest. The sword carried by a traveler was for self-defense. Readers have often made the same mistake that the disciples make in the story. They have thought that Jesus was condoning their instinct to fight, to advance the cause of the kingdom by taking up arms. Jesus explains his instructions by appealing not to the holy war commands of the OT but instead to a phrase from the suffering servant texts in Isaiah: “because he poured out himself to death,/ and was numbered with the transgressors” (Isa 53:12 NRSV, italics added). Jesus is talking about the persecution that comes upon those who choose the way of self-sacrifice, not the provisions of those who plot to take the lives of others. Throughout the Gospel, Luke has returned to the theme of the fulfillment of Scripture in the events of Jesus’ life (see 2:23; 7:27; 18:31; 19:46; 20:17; 21:22; 24:44, 46). Isaiah 53:12 will be graphically fulfilled when Jesus is crucified between two criminals (23:32). The principle underlying Jesus’ point is stated elsewhere: The disciple will be like the teacher (6:40), so “you will be hated by all because of my name” (21:17). Jesus warns the disciples to be ready for persecution, not revolution.”



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Deryll

posted April 11, 2007 at 4:50 pm


In John 10 Jesus said, “I am the door.” Yet we don’t go rushing into a debate about whether Jesus was made of walnut or fiberglass. In Luke 22 Jesus told his followers that one would betray him. They were first apalled and wondered which it could be. They then though let the discussion take the turn to which was actually the greatest. Jesus, of course, then repeated his upside down version of greatness. Jesus continued in what we could call his “Get Your Act Together” speech. For starting tomorrow things will be different. The process of his physical departure and their dependence upon his Spirit was at hand. He responded to the, “Here are two swords.” with, “Enough of that.” or, “That’s enough.” He wasn’t speaking of “literal swords.” As far as being identified with transgressors; still today pacifists are called traitors.



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HASH(0x120c3eb8)

posted April 11, 2007 at 5:15 pm


“As far as being identified with transgressors; still today pacifists are called traitors.” Well, as Christian pacifists we are traitors because we serve a King whose kingdom transcends the nation in which we currently find ourselves; we have different loyalties and different commitments than the temporal governments want us to have. To steal from Hauwas and Willimon we are “Resident Aliens”. I think it is also telling that Jesus was not crucified for blasphemy or any other religious “crime”, he was instead crucified for treason. “Jesus of Nazareth; King of the Jews” that doesn’t fit to well when “there is no king but Caesar.” Neither does it fit in what we know today as bloated nationalism.



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Jeremy

posted April 11, 2007 at 5:16 pm


oops, that last comment was mine.



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moderatelad

posted April 11, 2007 at 5:45 pm


Jeremy | Homepage | 04.11.07 – 9:20 am | #The sword carried by a traveler was for self-defense. But not for the defense of others? So as long as we can walk the trails of life and be safe – we will not raise our weapons in defense of others around us? I just need to be clear about the paradigm that we are operating under. Example -I cruising down the path of life and got my sword ‘just in case’ and life is fine! BUT – if I see someone kicking the daylights out of some poor soul, as long as they do not attack me, I just cruse on by and life is fine. Now – just a thought, if I had an additional sword, could I provide it to the one that does not have one so that they now can defend themselves? Or would that count as my getting too involved and therefore be out of what is correct to do in this matter. I guess if I hide in the woods and wait till the one beating the crap out of the other leaves – I now can be the Good Samaritan and bring them someplace where they can be take care of at my expense. Then of course – we are betting that the person will live and most likely the other person does not want any witnesses so I will just need to pay for them to be buried.That much of a pacifist I do not read anywhere in the bible. Like the pastor in the movie The Patriot sometimes you have to go out and hunt the wolves. All that needs to be done for evil to succeed is for a few people to do nothing. News flash – evil is succeeding. Later – .



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Deryll

posted April 11, 2007 at 9:16 pm


[The sword carried by a traveler was for self-defense.] lad I believe Jeremy was quoting a commentary with that statement. I doubt he is advocating hiding in the woods. Jesus in Matthew 5 instructs us to not retaliate at all. That, I believe, has to do with when we are attacked. Putting ourselves in the way of the oppressor is more the way of Jesus than hiding in the woods. Jesus, our Lord, himself bore the stripes which we deserve. Jesus went to the cross for others. To follow him would lead us down the same path. His instructions for us even included “take up the cross.’



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moderatelad

posted April 11, 2007 at 9:31 pm


Deryll | 04.11.07 – 3:21 pm | #His instructions for us even included “take up the cross.’ He said ‘take up the cross’ but never told us to be nailed and die on that cross. I believe to take up the cross is more of being willing to bear the burdens of the day just like Christ bore ours.But one thing that is missing in this discussion is what God told the children of Israel to do. He sent them into war against a great evil. I think that we have an example of what God will tolerate and what He will not.But if we follow the greater thinking of Sojo’s writers. All great evil has to do is go out and cause terror all around the world but do not formally declare war on any one country and they can have their cake and eat it too. As long as there is no formal war decree from the other person / country, we are not allowed to defend ourselves. It does not meet the ‘just war’ idea talk about so much on this site. By doing it that way in a matter of a few years – they can systematically decrease the Christian population of the world to the point it has no effect on anything. Farfetched – yes, but totally possible and fits the Sojo mode so that we as believers in Christ can do nothing according to Sojo. If this happens and it could the only thing ‘red’ about Christians will be the blood in the streets. Sojo – Pacifists R Us. Later – .



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Deryll

posted April 11, 2007 at 9:55 pm


[He said ‘take up the cross’ but never told us to be nailed and die on that cross.] And when He said ‘love your enemies,’ he meant ‘kill them’????



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Deryll

posted April 11, 2007 at 10:02 pm


And when He said ‘Don’t store up for yourselves earthly treasure’ He meant ‘Get rich, for the rich are first to enter the Kingdom of God.’



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moderatelad

posted April 11, 2007 at 10:25 pm


Deryll | 04.11.07 – 4:00 pm | #Please… And when He said ‘love your enemies,’ he meant ‘kill them’???? No – but he did not say let them kill you. One can show love and still protect yourself and others if need be. If that means that one of them is now assuming room temp. – so be it. ‘Get rich, for the rich are first to enter the Kingdom of God.’ Oh – I think that is the Kerry – Edwards creed. Its right up there is the Kennedy-Pelosi-Feinstein Golden Rule, ‘they who have the gold make the rules.’ He also said ‘to whom much is given, much is required’. So we who have the ability to protect ourselves need to also protect others. little loose on the logic and scripture. Later – .



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Payshun

posted April 11, 2007 at 11:37 pm


Umm,Don’t you think that Pelosi golden rule goes well w/ the Bush administration’s poor fiscal habits? p



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Payshun

posted April 11, 2007 at 11:39 pm


SO then why would the Son of God tell us to sell something and purchase one if it was not to be used? Does not make sence. Later – . moderateladYah it makes total sense if one wants to see the test that jesus was giving his disciples. THe test was to see if they would trust God or the power of the sword. I don’t disagree w/ Peter’s decision to try to protect Christ w/ it. But that goes against what the father wanted.The father wanted Christ to die and for Peter to rely on the sword to for protection when Christ had repeatedly told them not to then… p



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Shawna R. B. Atteberry

posted April 12, 2007 at 12:08 am


Janna, thank you for your post on what is going on in Colombia. I will be praying.



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Payshun

posted April 12, 2007 at 2:24 am


Correction: I was in a hurry and did not read what I wrote before I posted but so let me try that again. Mod, The Father wanted Christ to die. Peter rightly belonging to the Father’s kingdom leapt to defend him. But he overstepped his bounds and did the same thing that Jesus called him Satan for. He tried to detract from the father’s way and Jesus rebuked him for it. Those who live by the sword die by it. If Christ had wanted them to use swords to protect themselves why did not the rest use them while in the garden or after his death? There were enough zealots there to probably take the city so again why not fight? Oh wait becuase Jesus wanted them to wait on the holy spirit and pray.So much for the use of the sword for Christ’s disciples in that instance. p



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moderatelad

posted April 12, 2007 at 3:40 am


Payshun | Homepage | 04.11.07 – 5:42 pm | #I think that Nancy Honey is looking for her run at the White House. Like I said before, it Newt had done this during the Clinton years – Nancy would be calling for his stoning and Ms. Halfbright would be crying on Bill’s shoulder.You got to love a liberal – Bill abused several women in the Oval Office and Pat Ireland call him the modern womens best friend. Doesn’t get much better than that. Later – .



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Payshun

posted April 12, 2007 at 6:31 am


Newt, During his years shut down congress because he did not get ride where he wanted to on Air Force one. Don’t give me that. Talk about partisan, dishonest and corrupt congressional times. That man was (is) vindictive, powerhungry and downright terrifying in his policy efforts. Pelosi is not that bad in comparison. p



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moderatelad

posted April 12, 2007 at 5:32 pm


Payshun | Homepage | 04.12.07 – 12:36 am | #Congress chut down because Clinton refused to sign the budget – wow, no one lost any money…all gov’t employees got paid all their money when they went back to work. Air Force One – Clinton was making a statement by not having the current speaker ride along when in the past the speaker was with the pres regardless of the party they were from -whatever. Pelosi is not that bad in comparison. Everyone is entitled to there opinion. I would rather spend a year on a deserted island in the middle of the sea with Mugabe than one week with Nancy P. at a cabin in the woods. I believe I would be treated better by Mugabe. I believe when the dust settles on the Vice president of vice Psloci she will go down and the 1st woman speaker and the worst speaker of the house. I hope she proves me wrong – but I don’t think she will. vindictive, powerhungry and downright terrifying Most of the people in politics – that surprises you? It was been politics of destruction since the mid 70’s – you think it is going to be different? Please… later – .



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Payshun

posted April 12, 2007 at 6:09 pm


Mod said: Congress chut down because Clinton refused to sign the budget – wow, no one lost any money…all gov’t employees got paid all their money when they went back to work. Air Force One – Clinton was making a statement by not having the current speaker ride along when in the past the speaker was with the pres regardless of the party they were from -whatever.” Then Newt thru a temper tantrum and shut down congress. Clinton did not do that. No cordial until Newt it was cordial he took to the gutter on a whole nother level and you know that. p



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Carl Copas

posted April 12, 2007 at 7:01 pm


Incredible. A post on Colombia has somehow evolved into an argument over Clinton and Newt Gingrich. No wonder much of the rest of the world hates us.



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Payshun

posted April 13, 2007 at 7:04 pm


Carl,You got a point and for that I will pull out of this immature and childish debate. p



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