Tag Archives: obama

Violence Only Works When We Do It

I’ll be boarding a plane in less than 12 hours in order to go to Pittsburgh. I need to pack, help clean up the house in case we have to show it this weekend, and tidy up two talks for this weekend, so please forgive me if I keep this short and don’t flesh all of the details out.

Driving to work this morning I heard part of Obama’s speech in Egypt. He said many noble things, tried to reconcile some differences, and generally walked a the fine line required by diplomacy that seeks to honor the interests of other nations, while remaining committed to the interests of your own land.

I get it. He doesn’t want anyone to bomb us, but he needs to get elected in four years. Such is the balancing act of every politician.

However, what I find deeply troubling is the double standard inherent to his approach to the Palestinians in this speech.

By comparing their plight to the civil rights struggles of African Americans and the South Africans, he tried to build a case for non-violent resistance. I can’t remember his exact words, but he made a point of saying that violence would not make things any better for them.

And then I thought about our surge in Afghanistan.

While we shoot up this country, gearing up for a lot more, we’re telling others to pursue the path of nonviolence. As if we really believe it could work…

I understand that Palestine/Israel and Afghanistan are different in many ways, however the rationale for violence can be the same. Both Palestinians and Americans claim to be attacked. Both claim the right to fight to protect themselves. It’s easy to sit back in our comfy homes, pontificating about nonviolence to these people who are penned up in refugee camps, staring at the barrels of guns.

I think Obama said some good things in Egypt. He certainly seems to be giving pragmatic diplomacy a go, which seems to be an improvement over preemptive war. However, I wonder how effective this speech will be at the end of the day. The hard truth is that our actions do not match our words.

Unless we’re willing to figure out ways to neutralize extremists without blowing them and the rest of the countryside up, we frankly have no business telling an oppressed people to pursue nonviolence. That shouldn’t be a tough one to figure out in my book.

I’m not anti-military, and I’m not 100% pacifist. However, I very much worry about the message we send to the rest of the world by pouring so many resources into military campaigns, laying aside half of our national budget for defense spending.

We have told the world that killing people doesn’t work unless we’re the ones pulling the trigger.

Getting Our Resident Aliens A-Game On

The recent hullabaloo surrounding certain members of Obama’s cabinet reminds me of a blog post I wrote back in September or so. It was at the peak of Sarah Palin’s popularity, and man, was I freaking out.

In a moment of sanity, I realized that, to a certain extent, it doesn’t matter who becomes president. With Obama, we have a brilliant man with an unmatched sense of humor and what appears to be the best of intentions paired up with terrible tools, limited options, and a culture of corruption.

It’s nearly impossible to change a culture shaped by lobbying and bribery. I think Obama will do some good things, but at the end of the day, the priorities of America do not match the agenda driving the Kingdom of God.

The church needs to get our Resident Aliens A-Game on, taking on the challenge of Hauerwas and Willimon to live as if everything begins and ends with Jesus. Our political parties are not the answer. We shouldn’t be surprised when politicians let us down. What should surprise us is when the Spirit-filled people of God surrender God’s Kingdom vision for the shabby visions shaped by political parties.

Searching for Hope

Back in 1996 and then in 1999 This America Life broadcasted a show about the lack of inspiration and hope in America’s political scene. Here is the intro to the story:

“As we head into another Presidential primary season filled with candidates that few people find very inspiring, This American Life broadcasts stories of political idealists, stories designed to provide some small sense of hope about American politics.”

How times have changed. It’s hard to be certain about anything in politics, but if Barack Obama can keep up the momentum through November and win this election, we may see a new kind of politics and a chance to realize some of the foolish idealism and empty dreams that send us into the voting booths every four years for a Republicrat who will most likely bring us more of the same.

Whether or not you think Obama is the real deal, you have to admit that part of the wave he’s riding is our nation’s frustration with politicians and the attack or be attacked nature of Washington. According to This American Life, we’ve had this coming for a long time–at least since 1996. I think that helps put the election of 2008 into a sharper focus.