Posts Tagged ‘justice’

Time for Jihad?

September 7, 2014

Jihad is not one of the five pillars upon which the faith of Islam is founded.

If we, the Christians of this world, are to morally oppose Muslim terrorists, we should not do it on a platform of condemning Islam as a whole. Such a judgment upon Mohammed’s people would be downright impracticable and unworkable. We may classify them as heretics; some of us may identify Mohammed as a false prophet.

But hey, the Muslims of the world are not going to go away on the basis of our opposing their extremist elements. In the last fourteen centuries millions of the Islamic faithful have followed the teachings of Mohammed, and millions of them still are following him through the Quran and hadith traditions.

And that is worth something, because it is reality. Islam represents a long-lived institutional presence in our world. Such longevity has earned the people of the Quran an historical legitimacy.

Mohammed founded his worldwide religion based on five religious disciplines, or “pillars,” as the Muslims call them: belief in one God, prayer five times a day, giving to the poor, fasting and spiritual discipline during Ramadan, and the hajj journey to Mecca.

Jihad is not one of the five pillars of Islamic faith.

World history proves that Islam is no fly-by-night cult; the opinions of mankind render it a legitimate force to be reckoned with.

On one hand, the “force” characteristic of Islamic expansion is the problem, and we need to deal with it. If Islam is a religion of the sword, which depends on forced conversion of people with whom it crosses paths , we do have a large fundamental problem with it.

On the other hand, if the coercion we presently see from ISIS and other murderous groups is not rooted in authentic Islam itself but rather in extremists’ distortion of that faith, we cannot reasonably classify all Muslims as jihadists.

So which is it? Which “hand” is it? I believe we need to give mainstream Muslims the benefit of the doubt, because we inhabit the same world they do. Blessed are the peacemakers. But the ISIS murderers–they are a different animal. They are the Nazis of our age.

We will soon have to deal with them in the same way our grandparents had to deal with the Nazis three quarters of a century ago. Because the world did not effectively oppose the rise of Hitler and his Nazi criminals in a timely way, their Third Reich thuggery corrupted the entire machinery of Germany’s government and military. Then it took the greatest generation of our Western civilization to put a stop to their fiercely organized bloodletting. But it was not easy. Millions gave their lives in the process of ridding the world of the Nazi pestilence.

This cannot be allowed to happen to the Islamic countries in our day and time. We must make peace with Islam, if that is possible. Blessed are the peacemakers.

Accordingly, we must insist that Muslim leaders clean house, and rid their ranks of those murderers who execute innocent men/women without rule of law and without justice.

This dire situation is nothing new. About ninety years ago, Adolf Hitler named his contention with the world “Mein Kamph,” which means “my struggle.” He spent the rest of his destructively misguided life trying to convince the German people that “his” struggle was the same as their struggle to become a great people. It wasn’t. As it later turned out, the German people had better things to do than fight the feuhrer’s maniacal battles for him. What a price the Germans and the world at large had to pay in time and precious lives, to learn that hard lesson.

Likewise, the Muslim faithful of our present world have better things to do–like governing their own people–than fighting the bloody battles laid out for them by ISIS, Al Nusra, Hamas, Hezbollah and others of their ilk.

Fourteen hundred years ago, Mohammed established his legacy among the Arabs by accepting the role of spiritual prophet. But he went further than that. He also took on political and military roles. Perhaps his taking on such forceful responsibilities, and their subsequent precedents after his death, is why the coercive power of the sword has become an oft-used weapon of Muslim hegemony.

This swordish attribute of Islamic power is not a religious tactic to which Christians readily acknowledge legitimacy. Except that: our own history of violence, forced persecution and war are, like it or not, an undeniable stain on the Christian heritage.

Even so, that was not Jesus’ precedent. All the subsequent killing, maiming, forced converting in the name of God under Christendom was what we did, not Jesus. Jesus’ ultimate purpose was to atone for those sins that infect every one of us, and to affirm his salvatory work through resurrection after crucifixion. There is no historical evidence that Jesus took up the sword.

As for Mohammed, he affirmed his work through writing the Quran, but also by taking up the sword in the interests of redistributing wealth and establishing justice among his Arab people. He did take up the lethal weapon of military power in order to accomplish that. The principles of Islam governance are human principles.

The principles of Christian resurrection, however, are advocated by a people who hope to transcend this world, and possibly transform it in the process. Because this world is at war with itself, always will be . . . until Christ returns.

You think me naive to write such a thing? Two thousand years of Christianity attest that I am not alone in this belief. As for you followers of Mohammed, may Allah be with you. We’ll see how far that gets you on judgment day.

Smoke

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Don’t go ballistic like Cain did

March 10, 2014

I’m a meat-eater, but that’s neither here nor there. Some people are not, and that’s just fine. You do your thing and I’ll do mine. People are different; each person has his/her own preferences. This diversity makes human life much more interesting and dramatic than it would be if we were all the same.

In that  ancient great Book–the one  that is holy and cherished by millions while it is disdained by others–a story is told about two brothers of long ago, Cain and Abel. Cain was growing crops in the ground; Abel was raising flocks of sheep.

Back in those days, men had not yet figured out how cool they were, so they looked to the supernatural realm for inspiration and faith. Many men and women of antiquity  believed in offering a portion of their increase to God. It wasn’t like today, when folks don’t pay attention to such things because they are, you know, on their own.

One day,  these two brothers were offering their sacrifices to God, but, as it turned out, with differing results.The book of Genesis reports that God had regard for Abel’s sacrifice, but not for Cain’s, whatever that means. The common interpretation of this is that God rejected Cain’s offering, but received Abel’s. If God did indeed reject Cain’s sacrifice, the Bible provides no explanation of God’s preference in this incident.

In Christian tradition, writ large and writ small, this event has been for a long time a matter of some study and speculation.  Some have inferred that God was indicating a preference for meat instead of veggie or grain produce, or simply an acknowledgement that meat has more protein value as food for us humans. Or maybe God’s apparent distinction was based not on the foods being offered, but on some difference between the two brothers themselves. Perhaps Cain had offered low quality goods, while Abel had reserved his best for God. Or it could be that Cain just had a bad attitude. We don’t know.

What we can see in this story is that God’s acknowledgement of one brother’s offering was not the same as his regard for  the other. That’s about it.

Those of us who believe in God, and in the Mosaic revelation about God’s attributes, can derive with surety only one lesson from this demonstrative story about God’s preference: whatever God does, he does. Or, to put it the other way, whatever he doesn’t do, he doesn’t do. There is no need for him to justify his acceptances to us. Who are we to question the One who created all things?

And we have to live with that.

Christians and others who value the Genesis revelation have this awareness of the Almighty’s sovereignty, which is absolute because God is the Creator who set all things in motion. Our conception if God is fundamentally different from our view of humans, whom we know to be fickle, inconsistent, generally unpredictable, contentious, and sometimes murderous.

The reality of God’s sovereign will was not a lesson that Cain was ready to accept. He got upset about God’s apparent rejection of his offering. So Cain killed his brother.

Is God guilty of some injustice here? Is God unjust because he did not receive both sacrifices as equal?

No.

Equality, as venerable as it is, is a human notion.  According to our Declaration of American Independence, the God who created Nature also created men and women, and created them all equal. This means that we, as men and women who need to govern ourselves, must form institutions that regard all persons as equal if we want to work together toward societal justice.

Let’s accept the human idea that all persons should be equal in the eyes of human law.

But we are individuals; that is important. Furthermore, equality of individual persons is a valuable truth for prioritizing our behaviors and institutions.

Once a baby is born, the wonderful dynamic of that person’s unique circumstances–nature and nurture and all that–determines what that person is, who they become, and how the work of their hands and mind is received by others, or for that matter,  by God.

But this does not mean everyone’s input and output will be equal. In that sense, we are not equals. This inequality affords us a thoroughly fascinating human race, with a beneficial diversity of inputs and outputs, and hence a vast range of incomes and outcomes.

Let us make judicial provisions for equality of opportunity for each person. But equality of income and outcome is ultimately a matter that is determined by each person’s use of the resources available to him/her.

If you have something to offer to God, or to the world, do not go ballistic if it is ignored or overlooked. Just find the lesson in that rejection; then go back and try again. You will have better results than if you, like Cain, get mad and kill someone.

As for Cain’s fate after his crime, God spared him the death sentence, and allowed him to wander away to the land of Nod, east of Eden, where he took a wife. Perhaps her feminine influence, coupled with the Lord’s chastisement, mellowed him out a bit.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, soon to be published

What about Drones?

February 7, 2013

President Obama’s nomination of John Brennan for Secretary of Defense has prompted nationwide discussion on the use of unmanned aircraft, or “drones” for limited warfare, intelligence gathering, and surveillance.

The issues surrounding use of these machine should be examined by the American people. We need to deal with the moral and human rights questions that are now being brought forth from many concerned citizens and Congress. We should make ourselves aware of how these drones are used presently, and how further applications in law enforcement and defense will change the administration of justice both at home and abroad.

My impression as a citizen of the United States is that these devices are being used mostly in military strategies under the auspices of the Defense department, but that the CIA is refining their use for surveillance and intelligence gathering. It is plausible and (knowing how technology spreads) possible that domestic agencies such as FBI, Homeland Security, ATF, FEMA, etc are seeking legal authority for law enforcement intelligence gathering and surveillance on the home front.

Here are a few questions in my mind so far that need to be dealt with:

~ Can precise use of drones really minimize and reduce collateral damage and loss of innocent civilian life in warfare?

~ Are drone assassinations a more humane way to eliminate terrorists and criminals than traditional means?

~ Who makes the decision, and on what information basis, about who is to be targeted?

~ Will target selection by military personnel and law enforcement officials amount to elimination of due process of law for the person(s) targeted?

~ What are the long-range implications for constitutional rights, such as trial by jury, and the old principle of “innocent until proven guilty”?

These questions are what stuck in my mind after listening, this morning, to a very informative panel discussion on the Diane Rehm Show, National Public Radio. If you have an hour to explore this important topic, I recommend you listen to this analysis as presented by guest-host Tom Gjelten and other informed participants.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress

The Two-edged Sword

September 15, 2012

In the annals of human history, the invention of the sword is surely a turning point; it’s importance ranks right up at the top of the list, along with the first use of that most laudable invention of all, the wheel.

I suppose the first application of a sharpened implement was  used by prehistoric humans for gathering and preparing food. But I’m sure it wasn’t long before some irate or jealous neanderthal discovered its advantageous wielding for more nefarious purposes, such as murder or maiming.

If you’re not into the neanderthal explanation, think of this bipolar principle of homo sapiensbehavior in terms of Cain and Abel.

Love it or hate it, this sharp implement has been used for many millennia to advance the various purposes of our species, and its power has much to do with our ascendancy over the lesser species of the animal kingdom.

In human relations, the damned thing has been swung forever, by men, to inflict injury, pain, destruction, and death, on other men. On the other hand, the same weapon has long been applied by the nobler ones among us to defend the weak and the innocent against such atrocities, thus administering a thing that we call justice.

In the ascent of human ethics and society, “the sword” became, over time, something more than an implement or a weapon. It became an idea, a two-edged concept. On one edge of the sword is crime cruel atrocity; on the other is justice and defense.

Looking at history, we see undeniable evidence for the frequent use of both edges of “the sword”, the good side and the bad.

It reflects the dual nature of Man. On one side we are rotten to the core; on the other we are redeemed, and noble.

The sword has been used for thousand of years to enforce and extend various religious movements and agendas.

Very controversial in the ancient history of the Middle East is the use of the sword by Joshua and his Israeli tribes to subdue the Canaanites, on behalf of J’…h. Several thousand years later, Mohammed swept across the middle east crescent with his band of conquering Muslims, asserting righteousness with the sword in the name of Allah.

That little skirmish is still at center of all our international politics here on planet earth.

Jewish tradition proclaims that Moses gave us Law, so that men could live with each other having at least some semblance of societal order; since that strategy wasn’t exactly working out as planned, Mohammed came along thousands of years later, to enforce the correction needed to establish righteousness upon the earth.

Neither of these has worked as effectively, to quell the belligerent manipulations of mankind, as their founders might have intended.

In the midst of these two sword-swinging religious traditions, and between them historically, there came Jesus, who grew up in a town called Nazareth, which is somewhere between Damascus and Jerusalem. This Jesus, whom I regard as Messiah, and deliverer of mankind from its evil nature, did not wield the sword, as Joshua and Mohammed had done. Instead, he laid the weapon thing down and preached peace and forgiveness, which is considered foolish and naive in this present arrangement of the world. But in the kingdom of God, which is our fortunate destiny as earth-dwellers, his good news receives more favorable reception.

When his right-hand-man, Peter, drew the sword in retaliation against the oppressive, arrestive Roman sword, Jesus instructed Peter to put the thing away. Their were higher principles at work in those events than the  impetuous power of the sword could impose.

This Jesus is the one about whom I wrote a song in 1979, when the Iranian revolutionaries took our embassy and hostages in Teheran. About ten years ago, some friends of mine gathered in our hometown, Boone, North Carolina, USA, to help me in recording it. I hope you have a few minutes to give it a listen and consider the message therein.

http://www.micahrowland.com/carey/wevegotasong.mp3

Glass half-Full

What Mr. Lincoln said

May 28, 2012

. . .at Gettysburg battlefield in Pennsylvania:

. . .we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate–we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have, thus far, so nobly carried on. 

It is better for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us–that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion–that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom, and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

President Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863

The Conspiracy thing

February 28, 2012

Ok so I met this guy who’s convinced that this whole big mess is a conspiracy, most especially the 911 thing. And he had me convinced for a few milliseconds that maybe he’s onto something, what with mysterious fluctuations in airline stock prices the day before the towers went down, and that its all oil but I knew that anyway and that cheney knew what was going on and it was all a big plan because you know the govment is out to get us and to get us all constricted into a police state, and now we are in a police state and that explains a lot and theres plenty of proof on the internet that it wasn’t passenger planes that did the damage on 911, that it was missiles that hit the pentagon and that there were some asbestos problems in the towers that nobody wanted to fix because it would be too expensive and so the conspiracy arranged to have the towers destroyed and that there is no record in history of a steel structure going down without being calculatedly imploded and that the #7 building was imploded because of incriminating evidence that needed to be disposed of so as not to implicate the mayor and there was a puff of smoke at the grassy knoll and so forth and none of this is really new but you know what? it doesn’t worry me because Jesus said:

“You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end.” Mt 24.

So in a way I already knew about this because we can see and sort of feel that there’s something rotten in danmark or somewhere or maybe everywhere you go on earth and we know this because Paul said:

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Eph 6.

So it is not new and this conspiracy thing is really very old and there’s nothing new under the sun because its pretty obvious that humans are fairly well messed up maybe even rotten to the core and actually ridden through like bullet holes with depravity which is the old term for the sin nature before sin became in the popular way of thinking just an old freudian repression instead of the undeniable reality that it really is which is plain to see if you look around among the rubble and detritus of our civilization’s underpinnings and yes I have discovered this sin nature in my very own damn self but Jesus saved me, back in 1978. That doesn’t release me from any responsibility to try and do right in this life, but it does release me from the burdens of trying to correct everybody else’s messes, or even try to figure it all out and protest, a la quintessential existential dilemma.

And so maybe you’re a marxist and you think that I’m imbibing the opiate of the people by accepting religion and Jesus and so forth but hey its a free country or at least it used to be but I’m free no matter how you slice the rumor mill because Jesus has set me free now put that in your pipe and smoke it. Or maybe you’re a fascist and you think my religion is irrelevant and based on old mythologies and legends and is therefore no defense against your will to power. We shall see, you damned bully.

Well there is no denying there is some bad shit going down in this world and maybe there’s very little we can do about it because we’re all tied down to just makin a livin’, doin’ the 9 to 5 if were lucky enough to still have a job, and we know they’re cooking the unemployment numbers so as to manipulate us and its probably closer to 20% if you include all the people who would still like to be employed but the statisticians think they’ve given up. (Don’t ever give up.) and like I said before what else is new?, and so forth, cuz we don’t any of us have time to correct all the bad stuff. But its not your fault anyway. Just take care of your own bad self and do what you need to do. Remember Jesus said:

“…but whoever causes one of these little ones to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes.”

So if you are a conspiracy buff you would do better just to put your faith in Jesus instead of trying to figure out all the bad stuff in this world. And if you are one of the Conspirators, then you better get right with God before its too late, and end your wicked ways.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress.

Dr. King and me

January 16, 2012

In my sixty years, I remember no fellow-American whose courage and true patriotism surpasses that of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I grew up in Mississippi and Louisiana, two states of the deep south, where the legacy of Dr. King’s work–his love of mankind, his tireless work for freedom, and his ultimate sacrifice–made its most enduring impact.

In the constant struggle for human justice in this nation and in our world, he was a vigilant prophet and laborer. As a fallen soldier in that cause, Dr. King was one of those whom Lincoln had presciently memorialized at Gettysburg a hundred years prior, with this assessment: he paid the “last full measure of devotion,” by giving his life so that others could live free from slavery and oppression.

I will never forget the effect of his prophetic life on me and the generation I grew up with. The people of our United States should not forget.

In 1978, the year that I joined the ranks of Christian faith, a faith that Dr. King openly proclaimed and by which he was forever inspired, I wrote this song about him and Moses, after climbing Mt. Pisgah near my home in North Carolina. Perhaps you will be inspired by this great legacy, as I was:

Mountaintop

a little Czech wisdom

January 8, 2012

“The real test of a man is not how well he plays the role he has invented for himself, but how well he plays the role that destiny assigned to him.”

Jan Patocka, spoken to Vaclav Havel, both of whom were spokesmen for

Charter ’77, in Czechoslovakia

Glass half-Full

a little Vaclav Havel family history

January 5, 2012

Almost 23 years ago, Vaclav Havel led the people of Czechoslovakia in a revolution that ousted four decades of Soviet communist rule. Early in his life, Vaclav had been a dissident playwright; When the Soviet was rejected in 1989, he became, despite persecution and imprisonment,  President of liberated Czechoslovakia, and in 1993 President of the Czech Republic.

Vaclav Havel died a few weeks ago, on Dec. 18.

Vaclev had come from a good family. His grandfather, Vacslav Havel, had held a venerable role as a civic leader in Prague during the the first decade of the 20th century.  A notable component of Vacslav’s (with an “s” in the middle) legacy, and the legacy of his family, was a grandiose Prague landmark, called the Lucerna Palace, the construction of which was begun in 1907.

Consider this historical account of what happened to the Havel family’s creatively constructed heritage,  before and after a communist government nationalized it in 1949.

From page 37 of Eda Kriseova’s biography of Vaclav Havel:

http://www.amazon.com/Vaclav-Havel-Authorized-Eda-Kriseova/dp/0312103174

“Vacslav Havel, Vaclav’s grandfather, built Prague’s Lucerna Palace, an arts and entertainment center that was on a par with that of any great European city. It was his life’s work. He loved Prague and wanted to do something that would promote Prague from an Austro-Hungarian provincial town to a great city…

“…and from time to time, he consulted his wife, Emilie. In his memoirs, Vaclav’s father writes: ‘When his (Vacslav’s) project was finished, he showed my mother his suggestion for the facade on Vodickova Street. As soon as she saw it, she exclaimed that it was like a great big lucerna, or lantern. May father jumped at her remark, saying: That’s a good name for the whole building, Lucerna, It is a Czech word that even a foreigner could pronounce well.’ ”

“During the first stage of development from 1907 to 1908, they built the building on Vodickova Street and its courtyard wing. Grandfather Havel built Lucerna in three stages at his own expense with the help of bonds and mortgages. He and his wife, Emilie, guaranteed the repayment of the loans with all their property as collateral.”

Continuing, from page 38 of Eda Kriseova’s biography of Vaclav Havel:

“The ambitious concept of a single enterprise for entertainment, haute cuisine, and culture was crowned by the construction and inauguration of the Great Hall in 1920. The hall was submerged three stories below ground; above it stood a seven-story building. It was the largest underground concert hall in Prague. For the construction of the hall, Vacslav Havel innovated the use of steel-reinforced concrete for the pillars and ceilings, designed and engineered by Stanislav Bechyne, later a member of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences. The construction was a worldwide rarity.

“…after the war (World War II), the Communists nationalized the Lucerna Palace.”

But 18 years before World War II, When Vacslav had died in 1921, ownership of the Lucerna had passed to his son Vaclav (senior, father of the late President Vaclav), from whose possession it was later taken when the communists took over in 1949. From page 84 of Kriseova’s biography of Vaclav Havel:

“According to Vaclav’s father’s memoirs, 1952 was the family’s most difficult year. Mr Havel had to leave the Lucerna. It had not belonged to him for three years, but they had allowed him to work there. He worked well and his employers liked him. The final parting was hard for him, because he was attached to the business by countless emotional ties, by his family tradition, by his whole life.”

Something tells me that this is not the way things should happen. A family was robbed of its legacy by a communist government. The government later allowed the former owner to work as an employee.

If you care to know more about this Lucerna Palace of Prague and the Havel family who built and managed it until it was taken from them, then look it up, or google it. My point here is that there have been times in human history when the hard-earned legacy of an enterprising family was absconded by a redistributive totalitarian government. Among the many forms of injustice in history, this misappropriation is one of them. It happens  when a meddlesome State steals property from the so-called bourgoisie (merchant class), or when a statist government, for purposes of leveling income inequality, occupies the assets of “the rich.”

Here in America, we value and constitutionally protect the rights of individual citizens and families to own private property and manage it as they deem necessary. Let’s keep it that way.

Glass half-Full

Equality, divinely inspired

December 18, 2011

About 27 centuries ago, a prophet named Isaiah lived in the Jewish home-city, Jerusalem. He spoke presciently to his  countrymen about the dire condition and future direction of their waning theocracy. Among the many figurative utterances that Isaiah spoke to his people during those turbulent times was this cataclysmic declaration:

“Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low, the crooked straight, and the rough places plain.”

Two and a half millenia later, the composer George Frideric Handel appropriated this mountainous prophecy for the the introductory elements of his classic musical oratorio, The Messiah.

In any venue where the piece is performed, Handel’s masterpiece of Messianic fervor begins with a dynamic, stringed baroque overture. Then, in clear, declarative recitative, the bold tenor voice announces that Jerusalem’s warfare is done, divine absolution is on the way, and now is the time to “make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”

Since a highway requires some earth-moving preparatory work, the tenor’s exposition continues with Isaiah’s earth-shaking analogy that I mentioned above:

“Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low, the crooked straight, and the rough places plain.”

But there is much more going on here in the scriptural proclamation than a proposal for highway construction. Isaiah was enunciating a foundational principle of Jewish identity, and later Christian hope: Justice. And not just any old legal notion of justice, but a divinely-appointed equality among God’s people that is achieved when their societal field is providentially leveled and everyone has opportunity to live bountifully.

Now, what I’m wondering is: Will this God-sanctioned hope for justice on earth be accomplished through the Almighty’s soverign mandate upon his people,  or do we, as God’s people (if you count yourself among that group as I do) need to get busy and make the righteous vision happen?

If Isaiah’s echoing, metaphorical call to level the playing field resonates in your soul– if you can glean from his prophetic vision a possibility that someday the lowly will be raised up, and the high and mighty humbled–if you can catch a glimpse of a coming kingdom in which  mercy and grace obliterates oppression and injustice–then you may someday be singing that Hallelujah chorus with Isaiah and Handel in the Messiah’s  grand finale.

I Hope to see you there.