Tag Archives: United States

Forgetting September 11th

Taking the U.S. American Existentialist Tradition To Task

Perhaps it was not until my freshman year in undergrad, on a path to self-discovery that began to consider the narcissistic kool-aid the corporate driven media was giving us the U.S. American audience. This was prior to September of that year, where the limits of my budding critique began and ended at Music Television, which I still watched, and still do sometimes, but only for Lupe Fiasco.

After the tragedy of 9/11, my sense of what was critical and of the critical was heightened. I had to learned what made Christianity unique all over again. I had to learn the Christian tradition I wanted to be a part of. My response, like the Stanley Hauerwases and Brian McLarens of the world, was to hope that every Christian accept my radical form of pacifism, and in that way, the world would begin to look more peaceful. In the words of Brother Dan, sometimes words are not enough. It means we need action, but what type of action? And yes, dependence on a higher power is needed, but, Trevin Wax, what type of divinity are we talking about? Contra Mr. Wax, the theodicy question has been a driving force in theology since the aftermath of the Holocaust; unfortunately, he is about four decades behind. Before Jurgen Moltmann’s The Crucified God, there was Kazoh Kitmori’s The Pain of God in the 1950s, which was I think, banned by the Barthian and ever silent on racial segregation National Council of Churches at that time.

There was some hope in the struggle against consumerism in the months after September 11th, with U.S. Americans refusing to buy objects for the sake of buying, for it was not the things that we have that make us happy. But that all changed in late October, with the return of credit card commercials and politicians begging the American consumer to get the economy back on track; purchasing was patriotic. Pretty soon, the next year, politicians lost their jobs, not simply because of their performance, but because they were labelled as “not patriotic enough; even the patriotism of a Congressman who was a war veteran did not withstand this form of nationalistic worship. Love of country is not the fundamental problem; the problem is nationalism turns love of neighbor into the affirmation of the self over everything and anything at all costs. Christian communities began to reflect this trend, in the name of more heretic head-hunting, attacking the best of biblical scholars and making them the scape goat in order affirm the tradition, whether it be inerrancy, plenary inspiration, or women’s subordination.

As I have made disagreement with Paul Tillich known, faith for him was overcoming that which got in the way that would seek to prevent self-affirmation. This dialectical/oppositional form of thinking was in no way revolutionary; in fact, this way of understanding religion has been with American civil religion since the beginning. There had to be others by-passed in the self-actualization and creation of the U.S. American nation-state, for this is the very way of every nation-state. Whether is it Palestine seeking to overcome its Israeli enemies through the performance of liberal democratic values such as self-determination, or any other country.

I guess what I am saying is this: being self-affirming is not enough. We need to be constantly self-critical, turning our judgments on ourselves inwardly so that we may be also open to fellowship with others. The trend in politics and religion after October 2001 is to shut ourselves from any critique in the desperate attempt for normalcy, for the status quo, for the stable world-order as it is. In the Christian tradition, it is Yeshua the Messiah who begins the ultimate call for self-reflection and criticism, in his sermons on repentance. He sermons are not just for the sake of being “anti-Pharisee” or “anti-Roman.” In the end, Christ Jesus calls all of us into dialogue with YHWH, the One True God of Israel, the Creator of the world. The Messianic protest against idolatry, first practiced by Hebrew prophets such as Gideon and Moses, is not merely iconoclasm; the destruction of these objects which were outside of us are calls to look at search inwardly for the wrongs that we are all complicitly participating in.

But this notion of penance is not a one-and-done deal, that happens after the greatest tragedy our country has ever experienced. This means that the changing of our hearts and souls and minds are ever geared towards lament and humility even in times of prosperity.

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”–Jesus the Messiah, Mark 1:15 NRSV

Does Abortion Lead to Sex Trafficking and Crime in General?

This, from a piece that ran on Freakanomics radio, Via NPR today:

Hvistendahl: In some countries where sex selection has taken off, people see this machine as really a way to ensure them a boy.

Since the introduction of the ultrasound in Asia, in the early 1980s, it’s often been used to determine the gender of a fetus — and, if it’s female — have an abortion. In a part of the world with big populations, these sex selection abortions have had a big, unintended consequence.

Hvistendahl: I mean there are over 160 million females missing from the population in Asia, and to put that in perspective, it’s more than the entire female population of the United States.

So, what happens in a world with too many men? For starters, there’s more sex-trafficking, more AIDS, and a higher crime rate. In fact, if you want to know the crime rate in a given part of India, one surefire indicator is the gender ratio. The more men, the more crime.

So if I am understanding this correctly, for those countries that take abortion to the next logical conclusion, in which potential parents choose which traits they want, and abort the fetuses with traits they don’t, crime goes way up because men are more desirable than women for most in this situation. This poses an interesting line of questioning for me. It is no secret that by-and-large (still a gross oversimplification), women’s groups and LGBTQ groups support abortion (or in nicer terms “a woman’s right to choose”. So if the entire world has access to ever-increasing technology that allows potential parents to easily and accurately identify which children will be genetically gay or lesbian or women, it stands to reason, given the data thus far, that most of the world will choose to have more straight boys. Will these groups continue to support a woman’s right to choose when it endangers the very survival of their type?

Also, the piece seems to indicate that when there are too many men and not enough women, things go bad. So there it is. From a feminist and humanist perspective, I have no choice but to condemn abortions for the greater good of women and LGBTQ persons who may not have been born yet.

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Veterans Day, Gene Shalit, and Christ

I must get something off of my chest. Veterans day bothers me. i suppose that it doesn’t bother me so much that the United States wants to honor its heroes, but it does bother me that American citizens, especially Christian ones, celebrate this day so uncritically. In other parts of the world, November 11 is celebrated as Armistice day. Armistice day remembers the end of World War I. Unfortunately, it seems as if Veterans Day has been co-opted by our Military as propaganda to uncritically support war and how our country uses violence to achieve its ends.

Make no mistake, the brave women and men who have given their lives while taking up arms against others deserve respect. Knowing that you may lose your life at any moment and still choosing to fight for what you believe in takes a courage that most don’t posses. Even Gandhi said it was preferable that someone is brave and violent than a coward.

Having said that, every country, even the ones we fight against, have military personnel too. Are we to believe that our military, and our veterans are somehow better than theirs? Is God more on our side than theirs? Are the ones we kill less important to their families than our veterans are to us? Clearly the answer is no. It is this fact that is missed when we uncritically praise our military, our country, or even our soldiers.

I will say it. Uncritically remembering “our veterans” means that we give validity, not only to the soldiers who share our values, but also the ones who have committed atrocities while in the service of our country.

There are better ways to make an impact and to keep others safe than carrying weapons. Can a soldier effectively do their job without weapons? No. That is, in some sense, what makes a soldier a soldier. It is ironic that while other countries celebrate Armistice day, ending a war, we celebrate our armed forces. Is it not, even a little, ironic that we also celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day? MLK is remembered for using non-violence to bring about change. How can our country prop them up both as holidays, as if they were going about the same mission, both agreeing to the American dream?

Today also marks the stepping down of Gene Shalit from his post at the “Today” show, after 40 years of film critique. This guy represents the other side of our culture. I like Gene. I like his mustache. I think he is funny. But in my mind, he represents the force in our culture opposite of the military, that keeps us pacified with media (movies, TV, novels, internet, games, sports) in order that we never get too excited about anything that is actually important. Consider how much time is spent commenting on media, consuming media, purchasing things that link us to media. When would we ever have time to think critically about our military and its engagements? Oh and by the way, there are more searches for Gene Shalit today than Veterans day on Google, if you doubt what I am saying.

Christ might have grown a silly mustache, especially for a good cause. But he would not have spent his life critiquing movies, or encouraging such reckless consumption of media. He would not have gone to war. Nor, as the leader of a country, would he have sent others to war. Christ, during his time on Earth protested violent uprising. He subverted the culture of Rome that used its military to bring “peace”. Christ would have been all about Armistice day. I doubt very much Christ would celebrate Veterans day. I also doubt very much that he would have given his support to a church founded on his name waving an American flag during his worship, and certainly he would not uncritically give support to all veterans everywhere, knowing that his people were violently oppressed by the same sort of military that America wields today.

“Sorry for my lack of faith, I’m not the greatest Patriot. If this is, all there is to freedom, I don’t want it.” – FIF

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