God's Politics

God's Politics


John Dear: The Narrow Path

posted by gp_intern

Years ago my friend Gerry Straub underwent a spectacular modern-day conversion, from successful Hollywood TV producer and practicing atheist to downwardly mobile disciple of Jesus, following his hero, St. Francis of Assisi. Soon, he founded a Franciscan-based non-profit, the San Damiano Foundation, where he now makes groundbreaking films documenting the poorest of the world’s poor.

This week, his latest film premieres, touching upon a slightly different topic – of all things, me. It’s about my life in the New Mexico desert, my efforts to teach gospel nonviolence, and my tales from 25 years in the Christian peace movement.

Church groups and universities everywhere have shown his films, with titles such as: Endless Exodus, Embracing the Leper, Rescue Me, When Did I See You Hungry?, The Patients of a Saint, and Where Love Is. “I fervently believe film can touch hearts and minds,” Gerry told the Los Angeles Times. To The New York Times, he said, “My message is for Christians who show an utter lack of concern or compassion for people who have nothing.”

Gerry’s new film about gospel nonviolence, The Narrow Path, developed over the course of some years. Gerry and I talk frequently (St. Francis is passion for both of us). During one conversation, when Gerry grew animated over the saint’s voluntary poverty and his great love for the poor and marginalized, I suggested that Francis embodied radical nonviolence, as well.

From there Gerry spun out his idea. “Let’s do a film about you in the New Mexico desert,” he said. “We’ll film you walking through the high desert, talking about the nonviolence of Jesus, and we’ll culminate with the annual Christian gathering at Los Alamos.” That’s where hundreds of us go each Hiroshima Day to sit in sackcloth and ashes to repent of the sin of war and nuclear weapons, just like the people of Nineveh did long ago.

Thus, a movie is born. The Narrow Path, some 90 minutes long on DVD – with cameos from Daniel Berrigan, Martin Sheen, Cindy Sheehan, Kathy Kelly, Ron Kovic and music by Jackson Browne, “Lives in the Balance,” and Joan Baez, “Let it Be” – is a movie set in the austere beauty of the desert where I live, atop a mesa some 7,000 feet in the air, overlooking miles of spectacular scenery, the land teeming with jackrabbits, ravens, horses, coyotes, scorpions, tarantulas, and rattlers (plus my cat) … And in the distance – the nuclear hellhole of Los Alamos.

It’s awkward undertaking such a project, but the risks notwithstanding, I hope it will spur people, especially young people, toward a life of peace work and active nonviolence; to take up the gospel journey and walk forward on that “narrow path” of gospel nonviolence toward a new world without war, poverty, or nuclear weapons.

Watch the trailer:

John Dear is a Jesuit priest, peace activist, and the author of more than 20 books. He has also just released his latest book, Transfiguration (from Doubleday), and writes a weekly column for the National Catholic Reporter, at www.ncrcafe.org. The Narrow Path DVD can be shown in short chapter segments, and is an excellent resource for church groups, classes, or family viewing. Learn more at www.sandamianofoundation.org. For further information about John, or for discount bulk orders, contact: http://www.johndear.org/.



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the fundamentalist

posted May 23, 2007 at 3:49 am


about my life in the New Mexico desert, my efforts to teach gospel nonviolence, and my tales from 25 years in the Christian peace movement. why would you pursue a christian “peace” movement when the Gospel is about Divison?? Jesus said “I didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword” Jesus came to set father against son and mother against daughter. the Gospel does not mulitply, it divides. so if Jesus himself came to bring Division, why do you promote this “peace” as you call it as a message of the Gospel? True Peace will not be reached until the Return of Jesus. Until then, the Gospel will divide Rightousness from Unrightousness, saint from Sinner, truth from Deception. Please explain yourself. (scripture would be nice, and please don’t twist it)



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kevin s.

posted May 23, 2007 at 5:04 am


For awhile, I was confused. I thought this was written in the form of a letter, but with “Dear” and “John” reversed. I was thinking, “what point are they trying to make, here?”But I now realize the fellow’s name is John Dear, and isn’t that just exquisite? I am aware that this is off-topic. I just have a thing for charming names.



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Amazon Creek

posted May 23, 2007 at 6:10 am


King Solomon once summed things up, “To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.” He went on to say, “A time for war, and a time for peace.” Yes, Jesus did say He did not come to bring peace that first time. But…what does that mean? Surely, God intended us to be careful about what Jesus’ statement meant – because…in the epistle to the Romans 12:18, God’s Word ALSO advises “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” Hmmm…..how can we do both? Obviously some serious nuances there… Looks like we’d better be careful and give this some serious thought… Tell you what, if you and I were to sit and brainstorm all the possible interpretations of Jesus’ words “I didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword.” – we could generate several, couldn’t we? And so…the only hope we have of deciding what Jesus truly meant by those words…as opposed to what you or I might mean by such a statement – is to look at Jesus’ example. Did Jesus engage in physical force? He had the opportunity. Peter tried that on one of the Roman soldiers. But Jesus didn’t think that was a hot idea – at all. He responded with, “He who lives by the sword, will die by the sword.” Hmmm…doesn’t sound so good. Not so good at all. Jesus let the soldiers seize Him. He never resisted. And the only time I ever see Jesus engaging in physical force was against the merchants who set up shop in the Temple and used and manipulated God’s people for their own selfish gain. He chased that gang outside. And these merchants had the blessings of all the top religious leaders of that day. How exactly did Jesus threaten peace? As I search the gospels, I see he sparked opposition by telling people how lost they were on their own – without Him. And the people Jesus caused the most un-peace with were the top religious leaders. They wanted to look down on all the sinners out there. The people outside their power. The beaten-down people who had no power. The nobodies. The bottom-feeders. And Jesus offered all those bottom-feeders hope – with open arms. “Come, follow me.” He didn’t tell them to shape up. He told them to follow Him, to stay connected to Him. And the religious leaders couldn’t stomach that. Jesus didn’t give them their “proper respect”. And so…they came after Jesus and anyone who followed Jesus. Crucify Him! Yes, Jesus brought a sword from those people. The gospel shows us our own deep inadequacies. It shows us how desperately dependent we are on Jesus Christ every single day. And proud people hate that. And they fight it. But Jesus didn’t go around fighting or waging war. He merely reduced ALL to the same level – we ALL are helpless and need Jesus Christ. I see no example of Jesus Christ seeking out trouble besides chasing out the Temple merchants. Instead He was incredibly patient in explaining the truth to people.



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squeaky

posted May 23, 2007 at 6:18 am


the fundamentalist–you seem to have based your entire theology on one verse. There is also the possibility that the simple act of attempting to bring peace on Earth results in division. Have you seen any of the discussions concerning what should be done in response to terrorism or in Iraq on this blog? Look at Martin Luther King’s work–did that not bring about strong division for a time? Don’t assume that because Jesus said He came to bring division that He means that division will come about as the result of Christians doing violence. I am sure that it is just exactly the opposite–in fact. Look at Jesus’ life–He did no violence whatsoever, but look at the division He instigated! Christians have been persecuted and are persecuted, but often it isn’t the result of violence perpetrated by Christians, but for attempts at bringing peace to dangerous situations. Any time peace is brought in, it upsets the forces of power that are in control, and they will react, and often will react in violence. You seem to be saying that we should not be trying to promote peace. I suggest you reread the Beatitudes (you’ll need to get past the A-attitudes first–a little joke there (get it?).



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squeaky

posted May 23, 2007 at 6:21 am


Thanks Amazon Creek–I didn’t see your post until after I posted. great examples!



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Jeff

posted May 23, 2007 at 6:35 am


Fundamentalist, I like how you said do not twist scripture. How about do not twist the life of Jesus. I like the story in Matthew when Jesus really took a sword and kill’s 100′s of people. It is sandwiched between Jesus letting the children come hang out with him, and healing the sick. What part of Jesus life and mission was not about peace? His first sermon was from Isaiah 61 Which is not about division, it is about redemption.



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James

posted May 23, 2007 at 6:59 am


Jesus’ sword is the Word of God which comes from His mouth–He wins the battle by offering the Gospel, not with violence.



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HASH(0x11831f3c)

posted May 23, 2007 at 2:40 pm


So Jesus was in favor of dropping atom bombs, even though the war was already won? I guess He’s also in favor of pre-emptive war? Even though it has meant the deaths of 1/2 million innocent Iraqis? I imagine Him at this moment, seated at the Father’s right hand, in the passenger seat of a Ford truck, putting in the new Kenny Chesney cd..



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Wayne

posted May 23, 2007 at 3:30 pm


Timr You said, “The hundreds of millions of people in Southeast Asia that have risen from poverty could care less about the measure of compassion, empathy, or any other emotion we are feeling. They, like every other group of people that has ascended from poverty, are now no longer facing the anguish of extreme poverty because they have created more wealth for themselves. They did not get a larger slice of the economic pie through compassionate benevolence. The pie just got a whole lot bigger. I will be able to take liberals more seriously in their attempts to help the poor when they start emphasizing compassion through results rather than pursuing the end result of simply feeling compassion.” I must ask you just what part of Southeast Asia do you live in? I am no liberal but I do work with the poor and I actually don’t know any liberal working with the poor who doesn’t emphasize results. What I think you may be referring to is their emphasizing the need for a change of heart toward something at least resembling compassion. The irony is that some conservatives who attempt to work with the poor usually do so without emphasizing results. They hand out food, preach, etc, but have little in the way of meeting long term needs and solving the real problems associated with poverty. This has been changing but your critique is misdirected.



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Eric

posted May 23, 2007 at 4:53 pm


Jesus was definitely a man of peace and his way is the way of peace and nonviolence. But it’s much more complicated than that and much more complicated than people like John and Gerry make it out to be. There’s obviously no explicit example from the Bible, but I wonder what Jesus would have done if one of the children who was near him was being beaten by an adult. What would he have done? Stand, watch, and pray for the man’s heart to change and tell him what he was doing was wrong while letting the beating continue, or would he have acted with force to protect the child? I don’t have an answer to this question. From the short description of John’s work it sounds like he opposes the use of force for any reason. Do he and Gerry lump all warfare together? Is there no “just war?” Do they think violence done to protect others from harm is just as evil as a random beating? These are serious questions that I don’t get the impression people like John think about. Nonviolence is a great principle until someone who looks to you for protection is victimized.



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moderatelad

posted May 23, 2007 at 5:20 pm


Watch the video and I am look at getting a full look at it sometime. I sorry – I am not that much of a pacivist. I believe that the world would be a better place with out nuclear weapons but look at how Iran and North Korea are flipping off the world community and they are going to get the weapons that they so desire. Their leadership is nuts enough to use them on anyone that they want. What Fr. John has to say is wonderful – beautiful – I would gladly embrace it with both arms. But as we desire peace – others see nothing but war with US and the world. As we talk about how to ‘disarm’ they are working at a fevor pitch to ‘arm ot rearm’ themselves. As we enter what I see as the 4th world war – we must be able to stand against those that mean to do harm. We must be stronger then they are and as resolved as they aim to be. Peace to all this day – .



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Payshun

posted May 23, 2007 at 5:53 pm


Since we are the only nation in history to use the nuke I don’t put much stock in America to be the world’s leader when it comes to controlling proliferation. It had a great chance to be but it seems to have squandered that under this president. Having said all that I can’t help but think that Tim R is just unaware about the results and works progressives and liberals do. Everyone I know that works in the non-profit sector has specific goals and reading levels (teaching…) they have to meet or they loose funding. Not only that but those goals tend to be lower for what their internal goals are (I am not talking mere numbers but actual successes.) p



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Payshun

posted May 23, 2007 at 5:55 pm


I would ask Tim R if he has ever heard of Micro loans. W/o those the world’s poorest people would still be in extreme poverty if you doubt that google micro loans and Bangledish (sp) and see if what you find, or India or… Micro loans are lifting people out of poverty and that could not be done w/o people committed to results. p



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the fundamentalist

posted May 23, 2007 at 6:29 pm


I am not advocating Physical violence in the name of the Gospel, I am advocating spiritual violence in Defense of the Gospel. the Kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. I am saying that the Gospel is all about division. The Gospel will separate people based on who they bow to. If you bow your knee to philosophy and humanistic ideas, and I bow to the King of the Kingdom of God, Jesus Christ then there is division. If someone chooses to live a lifestyle of sin, and I chose to live Righteously there will be division. If you bow to a democratic, socialistic Gospel and I bow to the true Gospel of the Kingdom, a theocracy then there will be division. So to try and bring peace between Islam and Christians, or Buddhist and Christians or heretics and Christians is stupid. And there is no discussion in that! That is the word of God, or has it lost its authority?? On the Other hand, God has extended his hand into Iraq and the middle east, using the United States. God has ordained that the US deal with Islam, and protect Israel. That is why we are over there right now. Kinda funny how the only thing that Seperates Iran and Israel is US Marines in Bagdad.



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Payshun

posted May 23, 2007 at 7:10 pm


Fundamentalist, There is always peace aka Shalom between the believer and the non believer. It just depends on what we extend. You point out that the kingdom suffers violence but I tell you now that the kingdom no longer needs to suffer violence and it needs no defense from the likes of you. All you must defend is that you believe which you have done.You speak almost in the tradition of the old testament prophets but w/o their wisdom and love. We are to show love to those that disagree or agree w/ us. We are to forgive sin, heal the sick, overcome judgement and love the unlovable. That is the gospel in a nutshell and the way Jesus explained in Luke 10. Remeber Jesus said the way to eternal life was to love the father w/ all your heart, mind and soul and to love your neighbor. Where is your love? p



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God's Politics Moderator

posted May 23, 2007 at 7:59 pm


“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29) This message thread has been visited by a God’s Politics Blog moderator for the purpose of removing inappropriate posts. Click here for a detailed explanation of the Beliefnet Rules of Conduct: http://www.beliefnet.com/about/rules.asp which includes: Courtesy and Respect: You agree that you will be courteous to every Beliefnet member, even those whose beliefs you think are false or objectionable. When debating, express your opinion about a person’s ideas, not about them personally. You agree not to make negative personal remarks about other Beliefnet members. You agree not to engage in derogatory name-calling, including calling anyone evil, a liar, Satanic, demonic, antichrist, a Nazi, or other inflammatory comparisons. Disruptive behavior: You agree not to disrupt or interfere with discussions, forums, or other community functions. Disruptive behavior may include creating a disproportionate number of posts or discussions to disrupt conversation; creating off-topic posts; making statements that are deliberately inflammatory; expanding a disagreement from one discussion to another; or any behavior that interferes with conversations or inhibits the ability of others to use and enjoy this website for its intended purposes. Vulgarity: You agree not to display words, information, or images that are vulgar, obscene, graphically violent, graphically sexual, harm minors in any way, exploit images of children, or are otherwise objectionable. Copying Content: Beliefnet discussions are intended for interactive conversation; members are encouraged to express their own ideas in their own words, not to parrot the words of others. You agree not to create posts that consist substantially of material copied from another source. Help us keep the conversation civil and respectful by reporting inappropriate posts to: community@staff.beliefnet.com



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Payshun

posted May 23, 2007 at 8:16 pm


You are absolutely right. The gospel is about confrontation but our enemies are not the people of this world but the powers of the air, the cultural norms that divide us and the pain, death and destruction rampant in this world.Oh and I would not laud the warped vision of Christ you worship too much. As I recall he judges his own house far more harshly then the outside and that is something that should make you have pause and a deeper sense of awe and respect.Oh and Joshua committing genocide was not for the Kingdom that did not come into existence until Jesus ushered it in. Joshua came to do what he did which was establish an Israelite nation. They are not the same thing. Or did you forget the passages that deal w/ a prophet not being respected w/n his own house? Do you even know what the great harlot is? Or do you even know that Revelation is a book about the ancient church w/ principles that are applicable today? p



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the fundamentalist

posted May 23, 2007 at 8:21 pm


Does anyone remember when Elijah slaughtering the false prophets of Baal?? Light has no fellowship with Darkness, what does righteous have to do with unrighteous. Peace to the believer is spiritual. It s the Holy Spirit that gives us Peace. Christians are called to Love the unbeliever, not be one with them. To be at peace, spiritually, with an unbeliever is to be unequally yoked.



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Payshun

posted May 23, 2007 at 8:27 pm


Does anyone remember that God spoke to Elijah as a small whisper not in whirlwhind or an earthquake or a flame? Do you remember that?Does anyone remember when Elisha blinded an entire army and led them to mercy? Does anyone remember the prophets Ezekiel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel prophecying redemption, love and hope for the Israelite nation and the entire world?p



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the fundamentalist

posted May 23, 2007 at 8:40 pm


Do you not know that the Book of revelations is also a book foretelling MY soon coming king!!! who will come with eyes of fire and feet of bronze to deal with the Antichrist and all of the antichrist, such as those who practice this emerging Heresy!!!



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the fundamentalist

posted May 23, 2007 at 8:56 pm


those same prophets also prophisied judgement on those who stood against the Isrealites and their God. The problem with this emerging stuff is that it forgets that God’s love is a coin with 2 sides-grace and Judgement. Don’t get me wrong, i love people very much, saved and unsaved. But i also Fear God. And the promblem with emerging is they just expect God to live with their sins and junk. they whore around the Grace of God, instead of respecting it. and they just assume that a Merciful God isn’t a jealous god and does not get Angry.



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squeaky

posted May 23, 2007 at 9:19 pm


“I am advocating spiritual violence in Defense of the Gospel. the Kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. ” And how is this spiritual violence brought about but through spiritual means, not via physical force (or political means, for that matter). I am saying that the Gospel is all about division. The Gospel will separate people based on who they bow to. If you bow your knee to philosophy and humanistic ideas, and I bow to the King of the Kingdom of God, Jesus Christ then there is division. If someone chooses to live a lifestyle of sin, and I chose to live Righteously there will be division. If you bow to a democratic, socialistic Gospel and I bow to the true Gospel of the Kingdom, a theocracy then there will be division.What is the difference between the theocracy you advocate for and the democratic “Gospel”? More to the point, do you see a difference between the theocracy you advocate and the republican “gospel?” “So to try and bring peace between Islam and Christians, or Buddhist and Christians or heretics and Christians is stupid. ” So just keep on driving wedges, even though Christ said to “go and make disciples.” That message was attempted to be obeyed through force via “The Crusades” and other such bloody atrocities. I’m pretty sure Jesus would advocate for a peaceful approach far more readily than He would a violent approach. Surely approaching the “heretics” you list with the love and peace of Christ will make far more inroads into their salvation. Hopefully you see them as people Christ died for as well. “And the promblem with emerging is they just expect God to live with their sins and junk.” Can’t say I’ve actually seen this. My take is that Christ acknowledged people’s sin, but He wasn’t judgemental towards sinful people–He just loved them. When did it become our job to judge others? Where did Jesus say “go judge all those who are unrighteous. I have given you authority to see their hearts.” Didn’t he say to forget about trying to remove the mote from your brother’s eye until that big plank is gone from yours? Have you removed it yet? What if Christ’s death to free us from sin is not only to free us from His judgement, but to free us from the judgement we direct at ourselves (via guilt) and the judgement we direct at others (via our own insecurities). What if, when we realize we are free from being judged and judging, we also realize that without that weight on our shoulders, we can now run freely to live and love like Christ and do the work He has comissioned us to do? This is not an argument to sin or encourage sinful behavior. But if we obsess over it, are we truly free or forgiven?



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neuro_nurse

posted May 23, 2007 at 9:43 pm


Yeesh! This is one of those times when I m really glad to be Catholic! why do you promote this “peace” as you call it as a message of the Gospel? Respect for and development of human life require peace. Peace is not merely the absence of war, and it is not limited to maintaining a balance of powers between adversaries. Peace cannot be attained on earth without safeguarding the goods of persons, free communication among men, respect for the dignity of persons and peoples, and the assiduous practice of fraternity. Peace is “the tranquillity of order.” Peace is the work of justice and the effect of charity. Catechism of the Catholic Church 2304, http://www.usccb.org/catechism/text/pt3sect2chpt2art5.htmSo to try and bring peace between Islam and Christians, or Buddhist and Christians or heretics and Christians is stupid. Christians are called to Love the unbeliever, not be one with them.Friends And Not Adversaries: A Catholic-Muslim Spiritual Journey http://www.usccb.org/seia/friends.shtml Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/interelg/index.htm See also Truth and tolerance, Christian belief and world religions Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. PEACE!



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Don

posted May 23, 2007 at 9:55 pm


I’m not sure what this conversation about judgment has to do with Christian peacemaking. Sure seems off topic to me. Father Dear: Any advice on what one member of a congregation can do to help develop and cultivate a desire for learning to be peacemakers among the parishoners? Peace,



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Don

posted May 23, 2007 at 10:05 pm


Neuro_nurse: Truth and Tolerance is a great book. A bit hard for me to follow, though. Some of Pope Benedict’s more recent statements seem to be backing away from the more conciliatory attitudes of his predecessor, especially regarding the lack of religious freedom and reciprocal treatment of minority religions in majority Islamic states. Later,



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TimR

posted May 23, 2007 at 10:41 pm


What happened to my original comment? Poverty rates in East Asia were close to one-third in 1970. By 2000, poverty rates had declined to a little less than 2.4 percent. In other words, poverty rates in East Asia were cut by a factor of 10. The poverty head count was reduced by over 300 million, from 350 million in 1970 to 41 million in 2000. Those are the people I m talking about.



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neuro_nurse

posted May 23, 2007 at 10:42 pm


Don, I ve read more written by this pope than any other not that I like him any better or agree with him more, I ve just found his writings to be very interesting and relevant. Make no mistake, he is very conservative. I suspect that those who criticize the ‘tolerant’ attitude of progressive Christians would not find Benedict’s idea of tolerance offensive in the least. He is very firm on truth. I sometimes cringe at the things he says publicly, but he writes eloquently and in the spirit of love. It s rather long, but I found his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est beautiful and inspiring. http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20051225_deus-caritas-est_en.html Peace!



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neuro_nurse

posted May 23, 2007 at 10:47 pm


“What happened to my original comment?” TimR “This message thread has been visited by a God’s Politics Blog moderator for the purpose of removing inappropriate posts.” You got hit! I didn’t agree with your post, but I didn’t find it offensive. I m sometimes very surprised by what the moderators remove, but even more so by some of the things they let pass. Peace.



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Payshun

posted May 23, 2007 at 11:03 pm


Fundamentalist said: Do you not know that the Book of revelations is also a book foretelling MY soon coming king!!! who will come with eyes of fire and feet of bronze to deal with the Antichrist and all of the antichrist, such as those who practice this emerging Heresy!!! those same prophets also prophisied judgement on those who stood against the Isrealites and their God. The problem with this emerging stuff is that it forgets that God’s love is a coin with 2 sides-grace and Judgement. Don’t get me wrong, i love people very much, saved and unsaved. But i also Fear God. And the promblem with emerging is they just expect God to live with their sins and junk. they whore around the Grace of God, instead of respecting it. and they just assume that a Merciful God isn’t a jealous god and does not get Angry. ME: You know what makes God really angry, religious hypocrites like you that assume that you have a right to judge others. the way you define is not love. Love is more powerful, and harder than that. None of us here fully respect the grace of God. Not you, not me not anyone and so I would personally just be quiet about something that you don’t do. Remember God is far harsher in judgement to hypocrits than not.Oh and those same prophets were far harsher in judging Israel than they were in judging the outside world. Read the first few chapters of Ezekiel. God made Ezekiel eat feces to protest how evil Israel had become. No where in scripture has someone do anything as vile to protest the sins of another city.God is no respector of nations. He cares about the whole world and is one w/ the downtrodden and the afflicted. We should be doing what we see the father doing and that’s showing mercy. That is what we are supposed to be doing. p



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Payshun

posted May 23, 2007 at 11:06 pm


My point is that God hates it when we judge others. If the Gospel is to stand then it will stand on mercy overcoming judgement. You may not like the emergent church which has nothing to do w/ a Jesuit priest or those of that tradition but they are still your brothers and sisters in Christ. p



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canucklehead

posted May 24, 2007 at 12:01 am


Which Kenny Chesney CD?



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squeaky

posted May 24, 2007 at 2:08 am


Don–the relationship of the conversation on judgement to peace is that Fundamentalist is using his/her judgement to advocate against seeking peace. S/he judges that it is not worth seeking peace with Islam, etc as they are enemies of the Gospel, so what’s the point? I may have read him/her wrong, and s/he can tell me otherwise if I have. It’s not really off topic in that sense…but clearly the discussion can easily move in the direction of “off-topic”…



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Phil Woodward

posted May 24, 2007 at 2:27 am


Nonviolence is so noble, so beautiful. What puzzles me is the conviction that it will work. It is driven by high ideals, not by pragmatic concerns. Fr. Dear asks for the complete dismantling of the U.S. defense budget. In order to have a country, one has to have a means of defending it. (What is a law without a consequence for breaking it?) Not having a defense budget means not having a country. Nonviolence won’t ‘work’–America’s enemies will win. That much is clear. The question is whether we as Christians should care whether or not there’s a country. But to advocate the dismantling of the military is to completely withdraw from civil government. No government has ever survived without a military. No political scientist would ever tell you otherwise. The choice is between nonviolence and total withdrawal from government, or supporting the possibility of the government using force. (That’s not a blank check–to say that the state needs to be able to defend itself doesn’t mean that it gets to defend itself whenever and however it wants.) Do we believe that there should be governments? Then we believe that there should be armies. To suggest that a commitment to making peace requires a commitment to avoid all military intervention is absurd, and mocks a great legacy within the Church of defending Just War. Refusing to ever doll out consequences does not equal making peace. This discussion misses distinctions right and left–between idealistic and pragmatic concerns, between lifestyles of citizens and the prerogatives of governments, between instances of immoral uses of force and the use of force as such. Moral grandstanding is always frustrating, but especially when it’s not very well thought through.



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Phil Woodward

posted May 24, 2007 at 2:34 am


Lest my previous comment not be read due its length, let me summarize: No violent intervention ever = no rule of law. Pick one. (Let me add as well: you don’t have to be a fundamentalist to think that making peace is messier than dismantling the U.S. army. To the self-avowed fundamentalist here: your comments are only serving to confirm stereotypes.)



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canucklehead

posted May 24, 2007 at 2:50 am


“God has ordained that the US deal with Islam, and protect Israel. That is why we are over there right now.” fundamentalist Could you give chapter and verse to those of us who missed the press conference where this ordination was announced?



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squeaky

posted May 24, 2007 at 5:55 am


Phil Woodward “Fr. Dear asks for the complete dismantling of the U.S. defense budget.” Where does he ask for this? I don’t see it anywhere in the blog, and I wonder if you could supply a source. Your post seems to lean towards the side of the strawman to me (especially statements like “The choice is between nonviolence and total withdrawal from government, or supporting the possibility of the government using force.”) I don’t think there are too many peace advocates who would also advocate that our military be entirely dismantled. Maybe Dear is one of them, but I don’t know much about him and I haven’t seen the evidence that that is what he is actually pushing for. The only way our military would or could be dismantled is if every military in the entire world were also dismantled. That doesn’t mean, however, that we still can’t advocate for peace, or look for peaceful solutions to problems. Would that our military was bored out of its skulls because our leadership learns how to find effective peaceful solutions to conflict.



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Phil Woodward

posted May 24, 2007 at 8:02 am


Squeaky– It’s in the trailer for the video. Fr. Dear calls for the dissolution of the entire U.S. defense budget. It sounds like you and I are largely on the same page. We can’t dismantle the military until everyone else does; with that said, let’s look for peaceful solutions to things. My observation in all of this is that that’s a pragmatic line of thinking. Nonviolence isn’t pragmatic; it says that it is our duty not do injury, so we never shall. The problem is when this is mistaken as some sort of viable policy–as though it is incoherent to expect peace as an outcome of causing injury. But this is what police officers do all the time, and it’s a big part of what makes for safer cities. I don’t think it’s a straw man at all. My point is that laws are only laws if they’re enforceable, and enforceable always dead-ends (as best I can figure) in the real possibility of physical harm. (If you litter, you’ll be fined; if you don’t pay, you’ll be arrested; if you resist arrest, you’ll be coercively subdued; if you keep struggling, you’ll get billy-clubbed.) The idea of law is just incoherent without the idea of enforcement. So a world where everyone refuses to physically coerce anyone else is a world where there aren’t any laws. So, nonviolence, taken to its logically conclusion (and Fr. Dear is doing just that) is an anarchic world. I think violent intervention has become associated with recklessness. But it certainly doesn’t have to be. It can be used with the utmost care, as one tool among many. It’s both unimaginative and insulting to suggest that all violent intervention is aggressive or malicious or something like that. Sometimes it’s what love demands. (See, for example, the film ‘Tears of the Sun.’)



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Sarasotakid

posted May 24, 2007 at 12:56 pm


Squeaky and Phil, I don’t see your post as a strawman, Phil. I see it as posing the tough questions to pacifists. As I see it, there are basically three stances on war: 1) Pacifist- no war, no violence, etc. Few people are at this end of the spectrum for the very reasons Phil outlined. 2) Some version of the Just War Doctrine; and 3)Total disregard of the Just War doctrine arguing that technology (especially nuclear technology) has rendered the traditional Just War Doctrine obsolete (like George W’s argument that “we can’t wait for the mushroom cloud to decide that we need to do something.”) I see the three positions as being intellectually irreconcilable. But what I do not agree with is that pacifism is often equated with capitulation and non-action. I believe that you can be a non-violent pacifist and at the same time put up a fierce resistance. For example, Pastor Trocme in WWII. The question is, are we willing to do that when in practical terms it would seem easier (and sometimes seemingly more appropriate, especially with the Nazis in WWII) to pick up a rifle and blow ‘em away? Any thoughts?



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Sarasotakid

posted May 24, 2007 at 2:35 pm


P.S. I prefer the Trocme approach myself.



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moderatelad

posted May 24, 2007 at 2:42 pm


Just thinking – if what Fr John talks about is true – why does it not work with gangs here in the US? They are here – they have all the opportunities one could want to have a great life here. Let’s just throw away the guns and knives and tell the police they are not needed because we are just going to love everyone into living together for the betterment of all in the community. We are going to totally disarm so that our cities and towns can live in peace. “All we are saying…is give peace a chance.” If we can’t get the streets in the US to be safe for the young and old alike – what makes you think that by throwing away the weapons all around the world – currently warring fractions are going to be able to live peacefully? Blessings – .



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Payshun

posted May 24, 2007 at 7:43 pm


Phil said: No violent intervention ever = no rule of law. As a student of history you know this is not a constant. There are plenty of instances in recent world history where peaceful transitions of power have taken place ie the fall of the Berlin wall and the end of Soviet Europe. p



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Payshun

posted May 24, 2007 at 7:48 pm


Another thing too violent intervention has not been used w/ the utmost care for most police brutality cases for non-white people and they seldom are. The idea that there will be no law because of the lack of physical enforcement doesn’t add up because people don’t act that way.It’s one thing to hit to protect someone else or even to hit or even kill in self defense it’s completely different when force is used beat someone that is civilly disobedient. Your premise is logical but it lacks the real world concrete reality of what happens day to day and that’s problematic. p



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Phil Woodward

posted May 24, 2007 at 11:10 pm


Payshun– You misunderstand me. Sorry I was not clear. What I’m saying is that the notion of law is incoherent without the notion of consequences for breaking the law. Obviously, you don’t NEED violent coercion to have law–there are lots of peaceful exchanges of power, and lots of citizens who don’t ever go to jail and still obey the law. But you need the possibility of violent coercion to have law, because unenforceable law isn’t law, but recommendation. I assume that it is part of the definition of what a law is that law-breakers will suffer consequences. By “no violent intervention ever” I mean “no possibility of violent intervention ever,” which is what pacifism requires. This point I’m making–that law and the possibiliy of punishment necessarily go hand in hand–seems incontrovertably true to me. It’s not, strictly speaking, an argument against nonviolence. It’s an argument for the incompatability of civil authority and absolute nonviolence. So be a pacifist, I say, but know that you’re calling for the dissolution of government. Of course there’s such a thing as police brutality. Of course there’s such a thing as rash war. There are many Just War theorists out there who don’t believe that we’ve seen a genuinely just war in centuries, but that it’s possible nonetheless. That’s not pertinent to my argument. Again, my original point: talk pragmatics (i.e. what will end violence and bring peace to the world), or talk ideals (avoiding causing physical harm at all costs). Once you start talking pragmatics, you’ve compromised the ideals as such. A further point: nonviolence HAS WORKED, in India and in the US in the civil rights movement. But that’s because it was used against opponents who had consciences that could be pricked. But imagine if folks had tried to use nonviolence to oppose Hitler or Stalin. They would have been steamrolled. This is what I’m talking about. Be a pacifist: just realize that the bad guys could very well win. Maybe that’s the genuinely Christian position. But it just needs to be thought through to its logical conclusion.



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Phil Woodward

posted May 24, 2007 at 11:17 pm


Sarasotakid– I would respond to your question by saying that, gosh, it’s tough. How can we minimize military intervention and also protect the world’s citizens from the aggression of oppressors? It’s going to be a delicate dance, always clear in hindsight. And it is for this reason that I find pacifism simplistic. Pursuing peace is like parenting: no guarantees; what works for one situation won’t work for another.



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Sarasotakid

posted May 25, 2007 at 12:32 pm


Pacifism certainly can be simplistic when it is boiled down to, “I’m not getting involved and that way I’ll save my own skin.” While that attitude may exist among some pacifists, I think that non-violent resistance is much more arguably a Christian position and is in now way simplistic. Non violent resistance would be like Pastor Trocme who organized several French villages to hide Jews during WWII.My question then becomes, do patriotism and and/or nationalism have a legitimate role to play in our walk with Christ? If so, what laws rules or principles circumscribe it? And in a world where we can self-destruct with nuclear weapons does that further circumscribe nationalism and patriotism or does it mean we should be more supportive of our government as it tries to limit the access of other nations to these weapons?



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the fundamentalist

posted May 25, 2007 at 5:26 pm


“God has ordained that the US deal with Islam, and protect Israel. That is why we are over there right now.” fundamentalist Could you give chapter and verse to those of us who missed the press conference where this ordination was announced? canucklehead Look at Much of the Old Testament. Did God not have Isreal stand against the Bastard Nations? Look, God raises up people at different times to deal with issues at hand. How about everytime a Prophet was raised up, they were to deal with an Issue. David dealt with Golith. Joshua was raised up to inherit the promise land, which included killing off the former inhabitors of the Promise land. There have been several protectors of Isreal, and several people raised up to deal with the Enemies of God. Now the US is one of them.



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Payshun

posted May 25, 2007 at 6:01 pm


What happens when the US becomes enemies of God? p



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Carl Copas

posted May 25, 2007 at 6:06 pm


Phil: “nonviolence HAS WORKED, in India and in the US in the civil rights movement. But that’s because it was used against opponents who had consciences that could be pricked.” This is precisely why i’m not a pacifist. When an enemy such as Hitler has lost all sense of humanity, it seems like force is the only answer. I pray that the Holy Spirit will correct me if the truth is otherwise.



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Sarasotakid

posted May 25, 2007 at 6:57 pm


Carl, Check out the story of Andre Trocme in France. Google him. You’ll see on instance of where nonviolent resistance DID work against the Nazis in WWII. I don’t know why this case is not spoken about much more often in Christian circles.I too struggle with that issue b/c somebody like Bonhoeffer abandoned pacifism in WWII. But non violent resistance may have worked if done on large enough scale. Unfortunately, we’ll never know.



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neuro_nurse

posted May 25, 2007 at 7:49 pm


Time to take roll: Among those who post here regularly, who are pacifists? I read so many arguments here about the dangers of pacifism, but as far as I can tell, most of us (liberals/progressives) are not pacifists but advocates of the just war doctrine. It seems to me that the arguments against pacifism are for the most part, irrelevant. Peace (is not equivalent to pacifism)!



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Payshun

posted May 25, 2007 at 7:54 pm


Not a pacifist but favor non-violence as a tactic for political, social and spiritual change. I am into martial arts so again there is a spiritual component to that but that is not my default. If I had to protect someone and needed to kill to do it I might just do it.p



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Payshun

posted May 25, 2007 at 8:02 pm


Oh and Fundie, Did not God have the “Bastard Nations” punk Israel when it suited God’s purposes? Worship Israel much? p



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Don

posted May 25, 2007 at 8:27 pm


Payshun: The book of the prophet Habakkuk discusses how God uses his enemies to punish his people but still holds them responsible for their actions.God as the ultimate Terrorist? Ouch! Those dratted Hebrew prophets keep telling us things we’d rather not hear, don’t they? Not sure I would want to get into a “USA as God’s enemy” discussion here, but your point is well taken. Fundie has piloted this vessel into hazardous conversational waters, hasn’t he? Later,



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Payshun

posted May 25, 2007 at 11:49 pm


Thanks for the reminder. I love that book. it’s a very hard thing to learn and live w/. He is not the only one that does that. But again I love that book. Studying in college in my black small group completely changed my life. p



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HASH(0x118a5578)

posted May 26, 2007 at 2:41 am


Fundie–so now Middle Eastern nations are “Bastard Nations”? I’m not sure how your ideology fits in with Christ’s admonition to “love our enemies”, “turn the other cheek” and “go and make disciples out of ALL nations” (I presume He included the “bastard nations” in that group). Since when is the U.S. the savior and judge of the world, militarily or otherwise? When Israel was a righteous nation, God used it as a tool for justice to other nations. The U.S. is not righteous–not even close. Christ came to fulfill the law, and only He can judge the nations, not any other nation. As for Neuro-Nurses’ question–I’m not a pacifist, although I am one who will always advocate for a diplomatic solution. I understand sometimes you just can’t do anymore and have to resort to some sort of violence. that being said, the last few months, I have wondered if resorting to violence is a failure of imagination. It’s so easy to use it it, without looking at other options that might lead to a peaceful solution.



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canucklehead

posted May 26, 2007 at 5:19 am


Neuro – I always thought I was a pacifist, but today I punched the chairman of our elders board in the head? Do I still qualify?



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canucklehead

posted May 26, 2007 at 5:20 am


P.S. She’s recovering well.



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Sarasotakid

posted May 26, 2007 at 10:53 pm


I guess I’m more along the lines of where Payshun is. I cannot cross over to being pacifist because I think that there are times when the failure to use force might result in greater evil. Having said that, I thing that every possible alternative must be tried (or at least considered) before the use of lethal force.



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Sarasotakid

posted May 26, 2007 at 10:53 pm


P.S. She’s recovering well. canuckleheadThose Canadians are a violent lot!



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neuro_nurse

posted May 28, 2007 at 2:27 am


canucklehead, Did she have it coming to her? I wonder if when push comes to shove(literally), is anyone truly a pacifist at heart? Peace!



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