Monday, March 31, 2008

John D. Caputo on "the gift"...

"The gift, if there is such a thing, is the event, the impossible, the undeconstructible. The gift is what we love and desire with a desire beyond desire, in which we hope with a hope against hope...

Love is its own 'why'; love is for its own sake. It does not demand a further or external reason...

There is, there ought to be, something that we do in life that is not for a return but just because what we are doing is life itself, something a little mad. That is the gift."

Thursday, March 27, 2008

this got me thinking... (about the Iraq war)

If you're not interested in talking about the Iraq war, just ignore this; otherwise, follow along, please...

Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense of the United States, said before the Senate Armed Services Committee on July 9, 2003:

"The coalition did not act in Iraq because we had discovered dramatic new evidence of Iraq’s pursuit of WMD; we acted because we saw the existing evidence in a new light — through the prism of our experience on 9/11."

This quote tells me a couple of things. First, apparently it wasn't Saddam himself that was ultimately the main reason for the decision to go to war with Iraq, it was the 9/11 attacks. Second, if this is in fact the main reason for the Iraq war, then what should concern us the most (in critiquing the decision to go to war) is not whether Saddam had WMD, or even whether he was an evil dictator, but whether or not he was connected to 9/11.

Since the connection between Saddam and Al Queda has been shown to be all but nonexistent, according to most of the evidence found since the war started (and some from before it began), it seems reasonable to say that the Iraq war was a mistake, because the actual aims of the war were misguided, according to the administrations own claims. Does this make sense?

Now, of course, Saddam had links to terrorists, but then, so do most countries in the world. The question is, did he have substantial links to the people who attacked us? The answer to that seems to be 'no'. So was it just bad intelligence that got us into this war, or something else? I don't want conspiracy theories, I'm just trying to figure out how/why this whole mess got started. Am I missing something?

I am aware that, given our presence in Iraq, it almost doesn't matter how it started, we have to clean up the mess we started, and hopefully that will happen. I just hope people don't think that just because we may end up stabilizing the region, that the war was justified, because if we are going by what the administration had as their "evidence", the war was a mistake from the start.

Ok, that's all... as you were.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Ziya Meral on the "core" of Christianity...

The following is an excerpt from an essay by Ziya Meral, a Turkish theologian and writer. I found this section particularly compelling as we consider, over this weekend, the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of the Jesus we Christians call Lord...

"When we turn our eyes to our God, we see his Son who stands in front of the angry crowd, declaring that he came to set the captives free, to restore the sick, poor and sinful... the outcasts, back to human community. We are told he is the one that leaves all of the flock behind to go after the lost sheep and that rejoices when one of the coins which were lost is found and is returned. At the very core of his gospel lies inclusion, restoration and integration of those who have been dehumanized by the religious saints, pure ones, the civilized, we. Much of his teachings criticise the hypocrisy of those who claim to know and love God when all the while their self-righteousness blinds them from the very core of knowing and loving God.

[This core] produces the Good Samaritan... eats and drinks with the 'unclean', sinful, weak and sick... chooses to forgive, show mercy and love, rather than wage a campaign of retribution and vengeance. In fact it is this core which Nietzsche despised the most about Christian faith. He saw this Christian reaction towards revenge and retribution to be decadence. That is why he didn't find the Christian notion of God 'noble'. He saw such a God who chooses mercy, forgiveness and inclusion, as unworthy of worship.

Jesus not only declares a completely opposite theology of relating to the 'other' who may have offended us, or may have even harmed us or may do so in the future, but also demands the same attitude from his followers. His imperative brings with it an automatic judgment, one will either hear his voice and follow his call or one will continue to develop a pure and godly we. One will either seek his face in the zone in which dehumanization takes place or amongst 'us' , which is in its worst form when we presume to see his face when we look into the water."

Thursday, March 13, 2008

challenging thoughts from historian Walter Russell Mead...

The optimism of the Anglo-American world of faith is basically a positive quality. But one of the temptations we have to constantly guard against is to let our faith turn into a belief that we understand God's providence, we are the instruments of God's providence, and we're about to accomplish His will once and for all.

We Americans look at the last 300 years of history, and we basically see a world that's getting better and better. The rule of freedom expands. The economy develops. We have risen to become the world's greatest power. The American people are extraordinarily comfortable, affluent, and secure. It's easy for us to make the argument that God's purpose is being fulfilled through history and through the rise of American power. And to some degree, it probably is.

But suppose you are a sincere and pious Muslim. What you see in 1700 marks the beginning of the rise of England and America, the beginning of the great decline and collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Ultimately it will be divided into little pieces. The English are beginning to challenge the great Islamic empire of India. The Persians are beginning to lose their greatness. Over the next 300 years, it just gets uglier and uglier. The Muslims are driven out of Europe and in many cases, ethnically cleansed or persecuted. The English stopped the expansion of Islam in Nigeria. The Spanish colonials stopped the expansion of Islam into the Philippines. What you see is a history that's gone wrong, a very different attitude about the modern era and the values that have shaped it.

If you're someone who believes, as I do, that humanity is fallen and warped in various ways, it's not surprising that there's no such thing as a perfect social system that produces perfect human beings. The Anglo-Americans have exploited their power. They have often treated weaker or poorer peoples with great injustice. In the book, God and Gold, I look at the way the British treated the Irish. You also could look at India, Africa, what happened to the Indians in the U.S., or the Aborigines in Australia.

But I look at the results over these hundreds of years, too. What we see is that human beings have longer life spans than they used to. There are many more possibilities for people. The parts of the developing world today that are integrating most quickly into the system—places like China and India—have seen a dramatic rise in living standards and a fall in poverty rates. Increasingly people who study development and work in places like Africa are coming to the conclusion that the greatest problem the poor face is not the existence of a capitalist economic system, but their lack of access to it. The idea is not to abolish capitalism and replace it with something else, but to find ways that capitalism can start working better for the poor.

That's something that all Americans and especially American Christians need to be thinking a good deal about.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

more Ricoeur...

"Who can accept himself without qualification, concretely, daily? It is here that suffering acquires its philosophical significance, as the impossibility of coincidence with oneself; it introduces into the self a specific negativity, in the sense that necessity is now lived not only as affecting, but as wounding: I am not at home in my own nature.

That is why, in return, freedom remains the possibility of not accepting myself, of saying no to what is negating; consequently, the active denial of freedom arouses the diffuse negativity of my condition. And I do not understand by suffering only physical pain and interpersonal sorrows but also, at all levels of the involuntary, the sadness of aging, of being ‘overstretched’ by time, of being misshapen, finished. With suffering, the mode of the failure of unity is the scandal."

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Paul Ricoeur on human freedom...

"... there are choices which tend toward a simple obedience to reasons not questioned at the moment of choice, and other choices which, in confusion of motives, tend toward a risk, even the throw of the dice... these two possibilities always lie before me, and they reveal the tension inherent in a choice. For unity of these two it would be necessary for choice to satisfy at once both lawfulness and inventiveness, value and boldness of existing. A fine cleavage runs through our freedom precisely because it is active and receptive, because it is a human freedom and not a creative 'fiat.'"

any thoughts on this?