Wednesday, July 23, 2008

September 11, 2001

Tuesday, September 11, 2001. Four civilian airplanes were hijacked with the intent of destroying major American landmarks. Three hit their target. Another crashed in a field. Thousands of people died. The World Trade Center's Twin Towers were knocked to the ground. American was slapped in the face, and given a black eye. That morning Americans woke up feeling secure. That night everybody went to bed afraid.

In the morning of September 11, 2001 America was powerful, at night America was weak.

Did America lose any of it's strength as a result? Actually, it did not. It was when the terrorists refused to be afraid or intimidated by American power, that American lost power. 9-11 was simply the moment when the American people realized this to be true. The War on Terror is simply America trying to regain it's sense of control, its power.

America's loss of power was more a realization that the rest of the world did not buy into the power of the US.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Walter Wink's Structure of the myth

"In a typical segment, Bluto abducts a screaming and kicking Olive Oyl, Popeye's girlfriend. When Popeye attempts to rescue her, the massive Bluto beats his diminutive opponent to a pulp, while Olive Oyl helplessly wrings her hands. At the last moment, as our hero oozes to the floor, and Bluto in trying, in effect, to rape Olive Oyl, a can of spinach pops from Popeye's pocket and spills into his mouth. Transformed by this gracious infusion of power, he easily demolishes the villain and rescues his beloved. The format never varies. Neither party gains any insight or learns from these encounters. Violence does not teach Bluto to honor Olive Oyl's humanity, and repeated pummelings do not teach Popeye to swallow his spinach before the fight.

"The structure of the combat myth is thus faithfully repeated on television week after week: a superior force representing chaos attacks aggressively; the champion fights back, defensively, only to be humiliated in apparent defeat; the evil power satisfies its lusts while the hero is incapacitated; the hero escape, defeats the evil power decisively, and reaffirms order over chaos.

"The psychodynamics of the television cartoon or comic book are marvelously simple: children identify with the good guy so they can think of themselves as good. This enables them to project onto the bad guy their own repressed anger, violence, rebelliousness, or lust, and then vicariously to enjoy their own evil by watching the bad guy initially prevail. (This segment of the show actually consumes all but the closing minutes, and thus allows ample time for indulging the dark side of the self.) When the good guy finally wins, viewers are then able to reassert control over their own inner tendencies, repress them, and reestablish a sense of goodness. Salvation is guaranteed through identification with the hero.

"This structure cannot be altered. Bluto does not simply lose more often - he must always lose. Otherwise the entire view of reality would collapse. The good guys must always in. In order to suppress the fear of erupting chaos the same mythic pattern must be endlessly repeated in a myraid of variation that never in any way ulter the basic structure."

(From Walter Wink's Engaging the Powers. Fortress Press. Minneapolis, MN. 1992. p. 18-19)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Czech non-violent example

It was said that Gandhi succeeded with nonviolent tactics because he was dealing with the sophisticated and moral British Empire, but nonviolence would never work against a brute force such as the Soviet Union. Sadly this is a lie. A great example of nonviolence working is in Czechoslovakia in 1968.

In 1956, a dozen years prior to the crisis in Czech, in Hungary had attempted to violently revolt. The Soviets came down hard upon the smaller nation and beat it back into submission. Thus other members of the Warsaw Pact knew the result of violently resisting.

In 1968, a new leader came to power named Alexander Dubcek. Dubcek was the child of Marxists who had protested WWI in the US. After the war his parents had moved back to Czechoslovakia and had become active in the Czech Communist party. When Dubcek took over, he listened to the people. They wanted freedom of speech, a free press, and freedom to travel; he granted these requests. As the Czech government reformed, their change threatened the Soviets, who saw this as rebelling. Dubcek insisted that his country was not looking to leave the Warsaw Pact, but instead were only reforming their country.

Still, the Soviets did not appreciate the changes and just like 1956 they dispatched tanks to quell the “rebellion.” Learning from Hungary’s mistake, Dubcek demanded that the entire country resist the temptation to fight back. The tanks were not met with bullets or bombs, but with glares and silence. The rebellion was quelled and Czechoslovakia was brought back into control-but the USSR had lost.

My friend Brian noted that when a boss yells at an employee he is not yelling because he is in a position of power, instead he is yelling because he is trying to regain power. This is true for this situation: the Soviets were afraid that they were losing control over the Czechs and felt they needed to flex their muscles in order to re-establish the pecking order. Gandhi said, “No government cannot exist for a singly moment with out the cooperation of the people, willing or forced, and if the people withdraw their cooperation in every detail, the government will come to a standstill.

The Czechs realized this truth. They realized that the USSR, who was thought to be one of the strongest nations in the world, was really weak. It relied on brute-force to make people comply with their policies. This is not a powerful nation, but a bully. Once the people realized this, they stop participating with the abuses of the government. Mikhail Gorbachev, years later agreed that nothing was the same after that invasion.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Jesus responses to an Evil Man pt. 2&3

Stephen Cady requested Jesus’ final two responses when interacting with an evil man (Matthew 5). We discussed the nature of “resist” – the word in Greek has military connotations – and how to respond when somebody strikes you with the intent of shaming and humiliating you and what it would mean to the first century listener. Here are Wink’s explanations of Jesus’ other two responses. (I apologize for this being a really long post)

Jesus’ second response is when somebody sues you for your coat to give him your shirt as well. First of all, we must first say that it was legal to sue somebody for their coat. If somebody had no other possessions and all they had left in their possession was the clothes on their back, Deuteronomy gives the right to sue for the clothing, which has to be humiliating and shaming. (We should note that the coat must be returned at the end of the day, making this a law against excessive debt collecting)

In Jesus day a person normally wore two articles of clothing. This means that when Jesus tells the person to not only hand over the required shirt but also the coat, it would mean the person would be standing stark naked! We live in a time of the Naked Cowboy playing guitar in Times Square – which is a time completely foreign to the ancient Jewish mindset. Nakedness was something to be ashamed of. (Also note the fact that the Romans crucified people naked, as a way of further humiliating a person slowly dying a very public death.)

If we take a quick look at the story of Noah you will learn that in the Jewish psyche that nakedness did not mean shame for the naked person, but the person who observes the naked person. This means that as the man hands over his two articles of clothing, it is the one demanding the first article of clothing that is not shamed. Jesus is giving this person literally being sued out of his clothes a way to turn the tables on his oppressor. An absolutely brilliant move!

Wink notes a few things.
First – power depends on dignity. He says that when the debtor takes off his clothing he refuses to be humiliated by this situation. He also gives a great quote from the Talmud: “If someone calls you an ass, put a saddle on your back."
Second – The creditor is revealed not as an honest businessman, but is revealed as part of an evil system guilty of stripping away an entire social class of all their land. Who would take everything, from a person, even the clothes from their back?!?

The third response given by Jesus is to walk a second mile when somebody asks you to walk one. This comes from the practice the Romans had for limiting the amount of forced labor levied on subjected people by their soldiers. A soldier could only force a person to carry their pack (65-85lbs) for one mile. While a move to restrain cruelty, it also continued to have the bitter reminder that the person was still subjugated.

What happens when the one forced to carry the back continues to walk on into the second mile? Now the soldier has to worry, because he is now breaking the rules! What can he do? How do you force somebody to stop doing something nice for you? But what if it gets out that his pack was carried for two miles? Could he get in trouble? What are the consequences he would have to face?

By walking the 2nd mile the pack guy is throwing the situation around. He is not rebelling, but he is taking the power back from the soldier. Wink notes that a soldier would have no idea how to handle this situation. That the situation would most likely deteriorate into the soldier following this peasant around begging him to stop carrying his pack around.

A point that would have been hilarious to Jesus subjugated listeners.

All three of these situations turn the tables on the power brokers of the situation, as the balance of power is thrown off. No longer is the person on the bottom in a position of helplessness, but nobody was hurt, harmed, or attacked. Instead all parties are given a chance to take a second look at the situation, and realize just what is going on. No longer is the creditor able to sue a person for his cloak without thinking about. Now the soldier must think about the possibility of another pack guy going the second mile. The person trying to keep a slave in line will no longer look to slap his slave again without remembering when the slave turned the other cheek…

Wink ends this chapter with a very strong point. These nonviolent solutions give three possibilities of how we can follow Jesus thesis statement: Don’t react violently to an evil man. But like I said in my previous post, these are suggestions and are models to follow, not rules to inscribe into stone!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Questions to think about?

  • If I shoot your brother what will you want to do back to me?
  • Does the execution of a murder really help the family of the victim heal?
  • When I get angry and attack a person who has offended me will I feel closure?
  • If I take attack a person in revenge, how can I not expect the same to come back to me?
  • If I lead a rebellion because I believe that my leaders are wrong, what grounds will I have to stop my followers from doing the same to me?
  • Do my enemies have families who will mourn their deaths?
  • What makes me so right and those who I disagree with so wrong?
  • How many innocent people have died as a result of America trying to apprehend the masterminds behind 9-11? Are their lives less important than the 5,000 or so who died in New York?
  • If I do not forgive people when they do wrong to me, should I expect people forgive me when I wrong them?
  • Is national violence any different than personal violence?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Saul Alinsky's principles for a nonviolent community.

I found this list of principles for practicing nonviolence in Walter Wink's book Jesus & Nonviolence: a third way. He is quoting Saul Alinsky's list found in his book "Rules for Radicals" (Random House, 1971)

  1. Power is not only what you have but what your enemy thinks you have
  2. Never go outside the experience of your people
  3. Whenever possible go outside the experience of your enemy
  4. Make your enemies live up to their own book of rules
  5. Ridicule is your most potent weapon
  6. A good tactic is one that your people enjoy
  7. A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag
  8. Keep the pressure on
  9. The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself
  10. The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition
  11. If you push a negative hard and deep enough, it will break through to its counterside
  12. The price of a suffessful attack is a constructive alternative
  13. Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it

  14. (Wink's Additional Rule)
  15. Never adopt a strategy that you would not wnat your opponents to use against you

What do you think?