Leading Ethically Only is an educational outreach of Leadership Ethics Online (LEO). Essays range widely--from ethical analysis of the news, to ethical challenges to leaders in society, to personal reflections of an ethical nature. We welcome your thoughts and criticisms to make us better.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Immorality of Abortion

This blog is prompted by news yesterday that a Pennsylvania doctor used scissors to kill babies.  The details apparently are gruesome.  Aside from his usual abortion procedures, some babies were born alive, then he inserted scissors to cut their spinal cords to kill them.  One headline today says he had "no regard for women seeking abortions," which seems more than odd, given what happened to their children.

I am familiar with the arguments for abortion, usually summarized under the concept of American freedom, a "woman's right to have control over her own body."  Despite the biological facts of viability--when a fetus can live on its own, if taken from the womb with care--the advocates for abortion never have admitted that this is murder of a human being, even when viability exists.

An Incident with Senator Arlen Specter

During the 1990s, the abortion debate was continuing on the U.S. Congress.  U.S. Senator Arlen Specter was a crucial vote on the issue, and he was leaning towards the "woman's right to control her own body" position.  Living in Maryland at the time, I made a trip to the building in Washington where the Senators' offices were found.  I tracked down Senator Specter and rode with him in an elevator to say what I had to say.  I asked him about what I called, "The Magical Wall of a Pound of Flesh," which I posed to him this way.

"If a baby is on one side of the vaginal wall one minute, then that mother theoretically legally can have an abortion; that is, can have the baby killed under the law.  Yet if that baby passes through the vaginal wall--which may weigh perhaps a pound--to be born alive, and then is killed, then the one taking the life can be charged with murder."  Senator Specter said, "I get your point, but that does not change the issues we are discussing."  That was the end of the exchange, and we parted ways.

The Nature of Abortion

What are the issues we are discussing, if we suspend for now the religious objections to the question of whether abortion is "right or wrong?"

Abortion is bloody work, to begin with.  It may not take very long--if the procedure is done by an expert, and if the baby still is very small.  The medical procedures vary, depending on how large the baby is.  Larger babies sometimes have to be cut up inside the womb, then the pieces vacuumed out.

How Abortion Is Argued By Its Defenders

Abortion in the United States was made legal after many arguments listing the horrible things that happened to women seeking illegal abortions:  infections, sterilization, and deaths.  Abortion has been presented as a public good to protect the health of women.  Pro-Choice defenders usually refer to abortions as "health care" and "medical procedures," as if abortion is something merely beneficial for women needing "help."

Advocates for abortion on demand stay away from referring to unborn babies as babies, at least in public.  They often use the term, "tissue," to describe what is removed in abortions.  They may use  medical terms, such as fertilized ovum, zygote, embryo, and fetus, which are morally neutral and accurate.

At six weeks--often the time when a woman learns she is pregnant--the embryo within her has a head and the beginning of eyes, arms, and legs.  Readers will be amazed at how quickly what Pro-Choice advocates call "tissue" begins to develop organs and neural functions, in Prenatal Development.  Women seeking abortions often ask, "Will it feel pain?," and are told by pro-abortion counselors, No, which is untrue.  The movie, Silent Scream, shows the responses of a fetus at a mere eleven weeks.

Advocates for abortion are not interested in the facts of what happens to the little person subjected to death in this way.  They seek to use emotional rhetoric concerning "the horrors of denying needed abortions to good women needing medical care," rather than the details of what we know.  They are interested in removing any grounds for moral reservations, so they use indoctrination to create the idea that the "thing growing" is not really a baby, but "tissue" or something "not yet human."

There are millions of dollars at stake for abortion providers, who use advertising to create the illusion that this procedure is merely a medical procedure some women need.  Beautiful women with gentle voices look into the cameras and speak convincingly how this "private decision was good" and how women ought to fear having others "interfere with personal choice and the control over your own body."  Abortion is presented as no more a moral choice than liposuction or a tummy tuck.

Abortion as Against Nature

No other species kills its young as we do.  Dogs and cats will abandon or kill weak and sickly newborns.  We know that the principle, survival of the fittest, often is at work in many species.  Many fish, amphibians, and insects, produce many fertilized eggs because the newborns will be eaten as prey, or otherwise not survive.  Elephants and whales grieve when one of their little ones becomes sick, or dies.

Human beings are, by nature, different.  In nearly all civilizations, normal human parents do all they can to keep alive, care, and sacrifice for any baby born sick, malformed, or with some physical or mental handicap.  Even the poorest mothers give up their own food, if they believe giving it to their little baby will keep it alive.  And if that little baby dies, all normal mothers grieve, and some even have grieved so their own health fails as a result.

Readers really should read on the subject of biologically-driven attachment.  There is the deepest biological bond between a mother and child.  No man can understand this.  The best fathers also will care for and sacrifice to keep their young alive, and they also grieve with their wives.  Yet the worst men are uninterested in understanding or supporting the women in their lives who love their children in a way that is species specific, and deeper and more meaningful than passion in bed.  We need more education for such men.

Care and nurture, bonding between mother and child, even father and child, are built into our very nature.  In the case of human beings, depending on the health and normal development of a child, many years are required for a dependent child to grow into independent capacities for self-preservation and survival.  Just as the baby growing inside the womb needs protection, the baby outside the womb requires protection for many years for survival.

If Pro-Choice forces initially had argued for abortions solely in cases where the physical life of the mother was threatened, a normal person could understand the moral dilemma.  Nevertheless, we also know many normal women whose biological instincts to give life are stronger than the instinct for self-preservation.  Many, when faced the choice of either killing their baby or risking death for themselves, have preferred to give life to the unborn child within them.

Those defending abortion as "choice" or a "woman having control over her own body" are uninterested in showing the remains after this "innocuous procedure":  the little arms and legs, hands and feet, heads and torsos, of babies chopped and ground up in the name of personal freedom.

Legality is Not Morality

The legal right to an abortion always has been cast as merely a personal choice to "terminate a pregnancy," which is a euphemism for "killing a baby."  The results we know.  Millions of babies with no health issues in utero are killed, chopped up, and sucked out of wombs.  After Roe V Wade, millions of women have been indoctrinated with the idea that, since abortion is legal, it is moral.

That idea is completely false.  Because something becomes law does not mean it is moral,  American and world histories are full of laws that have been judged immoral by later generations.

In America, the extermination of Native Americans as sub-human savages was legal, as was slavery, and indentured servitude.  Abuses of both child and adult labor, and suppression of organized labor, was legal.  It was legal to deny voting rights to women, certain immigrant groups, and to African Americans in our own time.  We know Nazi Germany's eugenics program, and its Final Solution for Lebensraum so the Third Reich's peoples could expand and grow.  In our own time, we have many examples of genocide, where one people judges another as subhuman, and worthy of death.

In ancient Greece and Rome, abortion was reserved for affluent women.  Sometimes, if a girl baby was born and unwanted--as in China in our times--she was killed and discarded.  That also has occurred in many other cultures, where male babies have been valued more.

We know some women have been subjected to cruel husbands who, unwilling to use condoms or uncaring of the burden of more children, impregnate their wives and girlfriends.   Such women may hold such men in complete contempt, and with them, the babies made by them.  We understand such horrible pressures, and such motives for abortions.  We know some couples seek abortions to prevent public knowledge of their sexual liaisons, to keep infidelity and reputations intact.  We know some abortions occur to keep careers intact, or to keep the fun happening.

Nevertheless, in all these cases, sexual self-control or the moral determination to seek solutions--without either conceiving or killing a baby--are not considered.  I personally believe that the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s has empowered Pro-Choice people.  "Do your own thing...love the one you're with...live for today" have elevated the Individual and denigrated individual responsibility for moral and social consequences of behavior.

The unborn baby is hidden from view.  He or she has not developed the capacity for speech, or accumulated money to hire an attorney.  The unborn baby is a flutter in the stomach, or a growing bump on the stomach, not a person but a "symptom of a condition." that can be "taken care of."  There is no biological or moral necessary connection that the unborn child is part of the human continuum, a living representative of our species.

The Christian Opposition to Abortion

I do not know the actual percentages of the divisions between Pro-Choice and Pro-Life advocates within my own community of faith, which is Christianity.  It is safe to say that the liberal Protestant churches have sided with the Pro-Choice faction.  The Roman Catholic Church, and the theologically conservative Protestant churches have sided with the Pro-Life faction.  There are many Christians within every denomination who are completely unsure about where they stand on abortion, in particular, if they or family members have had life experiences clouding any clear decision.

I want to focus on a very famous Roman Catholic, the late Mother Teresa, who was the strongest advocate for protection and care of the unborn.  Indeed, she advocated for the loving care and intervention of all human beings at any stage of life, or in any condition of life.  She labored for decades in anonymity in India, taking care of the sick, poor, dying, and dispossessed (such as the Untouchables).  Eventually her heroic virtue and sacrifice for others was recognized by the entire world in 1979 when she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

I would recommend to readers that you read Mother Teresa's Nobel Prize Lecture.  Right from the beginning, she reminded her international audience of the unborn Jesus in Mary's womb, God's gift of love to the world.  Abortion was on her mind.  She touched on many themes of love, human care for each other, and the dark progression of our times to destroy life, ignore the poor and powerless, and to assert wealth and power.  As she closed her speech, she spoke of Norway and said, "...from here the joy of life of the unborn child comes out."  Abortion was on her mind.

On February 5, 1994, she was invited to the American White House, as the honored speaker for the annual Prayer Breakfast.  President and Mrs. Clinton were horrified to hear what their honored guest had to say, which I quote in part from Mother Teresa's speech:
But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love and we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts. Jesus gave even His life to love us. So, the mother who is thinking of abortion, should be helped to love, that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or her free time, to respect the life of her child. The father of that child, whoever he is, must also give until it hurts.

By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems. And, by abortion, that father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. The father is likely to put other women into the same trouble. So abortion just leads to more abortion. Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.

Many people are very, very concerned with the children of India, with the children of Africa where quite a few die of hunger, and so on. Many people are also concerned about all the violence in this great country of the United States. These concerns are very good. But often these same people are not concerned with the millions who are being killed by the deliberate decision of their own mothers. And this is what is the greatest destroyer of peace today--abortion which brings people to such blindness.

And for this I appeal in India and I appeal everywhere--"Let us bring the child back." The child is God's gift to the family. Each child is created in the special image and likeness of God for greater things--to love and to be loved. In this year of the family we must bring the child back to the center of our care and concern. This is the only way that our world can survive because our children are the only hope for the future. As older people are called to God, only their children can take their places.

But what does God say to us? He says: "Even if a mother could forget her child, I will not forget you. I have carved you in the palm of my hand." We are carved in the palm of His hand; that unborn child has been carved in the hand of God from conception and is called by God to love and to be loved, not only now in this life, but forever. God can never forget us.

I will tell you something beautiful. We are fighting abortion by adoption -- by care of the mother and adoption for her baby. We have saved thousands of lives. We have sent word to the clinics, to the hospitals and police stations: "Please don't destroy the child; we will take the child." So we always have someone tell the mothers in trouble: "Come, we will take care of you, we will get a home for your child." And we have a tremendous demand from couples who cannot have a child -- but I never give a child to a couple who have done something not to have a child. Jesus said, "Anyone who receives a child in my name, receives me." By adopting a child, these couples receive Jesus but, by aborting a child, a couple refuses to receive Jesus.

Please don't kill the child. I want the child. Please give me the child. I am willing to accept any child who would be aborted and to give that child to a married couple who will love the child and be loved by the child. From our children's home in Calcutta alone, we have saved over 3000 children from abortion. These children have brought such love and joy to their adopting parents and have grown up so full of love and joy.

I know that couples have to plan their family and for that there is natural family planning. The way to plan the family is natural family planning, not contraception. In destroying the power of giving life, through contraception, a husband or wife is doing something to self. This turns the attention to self and so it destroys the gifts of love in him or her. In loving, the husband and wife must turn the attention to each other as happens in natural family planning, and not to self, as happens in contraception. Once that living love is destroyed by contraception, abortion follows very easily.
Mother Teresa was not a theologian educated in a great Catholic university with the highest academic honors.  She was a theologian educated in the school of Jesus Christ, and her honors came from the same kind of sacrificial love he had for all people.  It was ironic that two champions of abortion rights, Bill and Hilary Clinton, had given this Catholic saint an international platform from which to preach against the killing of babies, which they defended.

Christian Religious Hypocrisy

It is equally ironic that the Roman Catholic hierarchy, which has put Mother Teresa on the fast-track to canonization as a saint, has now been thrust into international infamy concerning its clergy's sexual abuses of children in their care.  Regarding abortion, there is a long documented history of nuns killing children fathered by priests.

The skeletal remains of dead babies have been found in wells and other places where nuns discarded the evidence of their sins.  In fact, I had a priest confess to me once that he had impregnated a woman in his congregation, taken her to have an abortion, then gone through the Sacrament of Reconciliation with her for forgiveness.

Protestants cannot cast stones against the Roman Catholics.  We have occasional scandals in Protestant denominations concerning both clergy sexual child abuse and the use of abortions to hide sexual sins.  Male (and also female) youth ministers and adult youth workers have abused children in their care.  Clergy and lay leaders have impregnated women, then secretly "helped" them find an abortionist to kill the children and keep both reputations and employments intact.

The priest who confessed to me said it also was well-known some women have reputations as  "priest collectors," who enjoy the sexual conquest of the most powerful religious men in their church.   This same phenomenon also is true in politics and business.  Yet, once a conception occurs, how tragic it is that little babies must be slain to cover over the sins of those who would have become their parents.

Abortion Rejected as a Moral or Religious Option

This picture I took of my daughter, Charissa, with her newborn son, Micah Steven.  Micah now is three years old.  Over three years ago, Charissa called me while I was on my way to speak in Washington DC.  She had waited until I was the last on the list to tell me she was pregnant.  Charissa was not married and did not want to tell her father, an ordained minister, the proof of her sexual activity was growing within her.  She asked me, "Are you mad?"

I paused a few seconds, then said without hesitation, "Honey, I am not mad.  I love you and nothing you can do ever will do can change that.  I am disappointed.  This will bring a premature end to what would have been a more carefree youth.  What are you going to do?  Are you going to raise the baby?  Are you going to give up the baby for adoption?  Are you going to carry this baby to term?"  The last question was not approval of abortion.  I knew that, just as she had chosen not to prevent the pregnancy, it was in her power to end it, since she was eighteen.

Charissa did not hesitate.  She said, "I'm going to have the baby, and I'm not going to give it up for adoption.  This is my problem and I'm going to deal with it."  So she did, and so she has. 

When she was trying to decide what to name the baby, she called me, and we talked about the name, Micah.  I told her the biblical prophet Micah was a powerful man of faith.  Steven, I told her, also was a great man of faith, the first martyr.  She chose that name to honor the young man she really loved, but who had been tragically killed in an auto accident a few years before the pregnancy, and some promiscuity on her part I attribute to her grief for him.

The choice to keep and raise Micah has created great difficulties for her as a single mother.  She wants to become a nurse, but has been delayed from completing that goal.  Charissa's mother and her older sister, Alethea, have been great helps to her with childcare, support, and counsel.  Micah's young mother wants to become a nurse, partly because she knows that income will provide some security for him while he grows up.

My daughter illustrates the normal response in the human species when an emotionally healthy, and morally strong woman is faced with an unexpected, inconvenient pregnancy.  She never considered allowing her personal desires to live a carefree youth, or her personal goals to become a nurse, to interfere with the right of her baby to live, and have its own mother.

Charissa is like the rest of us in our family.  She has been taught we must accept the moral consequences of our actions.  She knows she is a sinner.  She knows God's grace and forgiveness are available to her, if she will only extend her hand to take God's hand for healing and help.  From the day Micah was born, and forever, she holds her head up high, not in arrogance, but determined that her son will know he is loved; that his mother is proud of him; and, that he too always will be loved, no matter what he does, or the sins he himself later will commit.

The Abortionist in Pennsylvania

The news today of the doctor who used scissors to kill babies has been charged with eight counts of murder.  The details of his operation, and what he did in his "medical practice," are a ghoulish nightmare more reminiscent of the days before Roe v Wade.  As noted at the beginning of this essay, today's news expresses concerns for the women who came to him, how he treated them and the conditions to which they were subjected while seeking legal abortions.

He has been charged with murder because he killed living babies outside the womb.  This is what reminded me of my conversation with Senator Arlen Specter over a decade ago.  Had he inserted a curette into the spine of a baby inside the womb, his actions would have been legal.  Yet as soon as the baby passed through what I called the Magical Wall of the Pound of Flesh, the same action performed with scissors was called murder.

If we disregard what I consider to be a completely specious legal distinction, I believe this abortionist could be said to be completely moral in his actions.  He was complying with the wishes of the paying customers who came to him.  The pregnant women had living babies in them, at one stage of growth or other.  They came to him to have those babies killed.  However he did it, they were uninterested.  We know this because his "practice" went on for many, many years without being shut down, despite what we know now.

The abortionist was not an attorney or legal expert.  Yet as an abortionist, his conscience was hardened to and accepted his task.  His job was to kill babies for women who wanted them dead, and to see he did his job so they would pay him.  He long ago understood there was no difference between a baby on one side of the vaginal wall, and a baby on the other side of the vaginal wall, if that baby was a candidate for death.

From a practical point of view, there surely are many abortionists who have cut up and sucked out babies from their mothers' wombs with them still alive, outside the Magical Wall of the Pound of Flesh.  The "medical procedure" has to be completed, even if the little victim is struggling for life and choking on its own blood.  Surely, abortionists have finished the job by inserting a sharp instrument into the babies' brains to end, yes, their suffering.

So as I consider this abortionist, now charged with multiple counts of murder, I find his behaviors more in the spirit of the law of abortion on demand, than against the letter of the law.

Over the decades as I have heard the Pro-Choice advocates make their case in the media, I have found these women and men to be morally offensive, as well as religiously offensive.  We cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, not if we stay with the facts of what a sow's ear is.

The poisoning with saline, the cutting up of body parts, and the evacuation of a little baby, is killing.  When that little victim comes forth from the womb in a decimated, bloody, but still living, perhaps even healable condition, then no abortionist can allow the failed intention to kill within the womb to be ended by refusal to kill outside the womb.

The Pennsylvania abortionist is not alone, and all abortionists with any experience know that.  The only difference between his "scissors in the spine" practices and those of others is in lack of discretion.


On biological grounds, abortion is against the very nature and requirements of our species' survival.  On the grounds of the nearly universal evidence of normal human parents all over the world, abortion runs directly against the maternal and paternal instincts to love, feed, nurture, protect, and care for their babies and children.  On the grounds of how murder always has been defined--the forcible, violent killing of another human being, without his or her consent or agreement--abortion is murder.

Those who deny "personhood" to the helpless fetus inside the womb, but who assign it to the helpless fetus who has crossed the Magical Wall of the Pound of Flesh, are delusional or deluding.  There are two classes:  those so out of touch with their own instinctual natures they are delusional, and those who are engaged in the deception of others--for money, power, or a self-delusion of their own.

Babies are made of tissue, but their nature is not tissue but human beings at a particular stage of growth.  Abortion is the killing of babies in various stages of growth.  The killing of babies is infanticide, murder, and no act of human ingenuity can change that.

Mother Teresa said so well what the Christian position is.  Charissa, my daughter, made the Right Choice to accept the consequences of her actions; to carry Micah to term; and, to allow him to live and grow, being loved by his mother.  He will learn that God is love; that God loves the world; and, that God loves every person in the world, in utero and on past death, into eternity.

PS: (17 Feb 11) This development is interesting, reported by Mother Jones online, concerning a South Dakota law being proposed:  protecting the life of an unborn fetus.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sac Chief Black Hawk: A Native American Warrior Addresses His Captors

       Muckete (black) Meshekiahkiah (sparrow hawk), or Black Hawk, was born in 1767, and died in 1838. He succeeded his father as Chief of the Sac Nation in 1788. He acted against the Americans in the War of 1812. Because of the occupation by the whites of certain vacated lands, he began the Black Hawk War in 1831, and was defeated in two battles in 1832. He surrendered, was taken East and confined in Fortress Monroe until June, 1833.
       This speech was delivered in the late summer of 1832 to a General Street, who appears to have been a militia officer. Black Hawk, having been defeated in July and August by General Dodge and General Atkinson in battles on the Wisconsin and Bad Axe Rivers, made his surrender to Street at Prairie du Chien, August 27.
       He was placed in the charge of a young lieutenant, Jefferson Davis, afterward president of the Southern Confederacy. Robert Anderson, who commanded at Fort Sumter, and Abraham Lincoln, served in the war defending against Black Hawk. It also is of interest that Black Hawk, on being taken to the East a captive, was confined in Fortress Monroe, where, thirty-three years afterward, Jefferson Davis was confined.
       Before going to Fortress Monroe, Black Hawk was taken to Washington and presented to Andrew Jackson in the White House, where he saluted him in words which then could not have raised the smile which they raise now: “I am a man and you are another.”

You have taken me prisoner, with all my warriors. I am much grieved.  For I expected, if I did not defeat you, to hold out much longer, to give you more trouble, before I surrendered.  I tried hard to bring you into an ambush, but your last general understood Indian fighting. I determined to rush on you, and fight you face to face. I fought hard.

But your guns were well aimed. The bullets flew like birds in the air, and whizzed by our ears like the wind through the trees in winter. My warriors fell around me. It began to look dismal. I saw my evil day at hand. The sun rose dim on us in the morning, and at night it sank in a dark cloud, and looked like a ball of fire.

That was the last sun that shone on Black Hawk. His heart is dead, and no longer beats quick in his bosom. He is now a prisoner of the white men. They will do with him as they wish.

But he can stand torture, and is not afraid of death. He is no coward. Black Hawk is an Indian. He has done nothing for which an Indian ought to be ashamed. He has fought for his countrymen, against white men who came, year after year, to cheat them and take away their lands.

You know the cause of our making war. It is known to all white men. They ought to be ashamed of it. The white men despise the Indians, and drive them from their homes. They smile in the face of the poor Indian, to cheat him; they shake him by the hand, to gain his confidence, to make him drunk, and to deceive him.

We told them to let us alone, and keep away from us; but they followed on and beset our paths, and they coiled themselves among us like the snake. They poisoned us by their touch. We were not safe. We lived in danger.

We looked up to the Great Spirit. We went to our father [i.e., the President of the U.S.]. We were encouraged. His great council gave us fair words and big promises.  But we got no satisfaction.  Things were growing worse. There were no deer in the forest. The opossum and beaver were fled. The springs were drying up, and our squaws and papooses were without food to keep them from starving.

We called a great council and built a large fire. The spirit of our fathers arose, and spoke to us to avenge our wrongs, or die. We set up the war-whoop, and dug up the tomahawk. Our knives were ready. The heart of Black Hawk swelled high in his bosom, when he led his warriors to battle. He is satisfied. He will go to the world of spirits contented. He has done his duty. His father will meet him there, and commend him.

Black Hawk is a true Indian, and disdains to cry like a woman. He feels for his wife, his children, and his friends. But he does not care for himself. He cares for the Nation and the Indians. They will suffer. He laments their fate.

Farewell, my Nation! Black Hawk tried to save you, and avenge your wrongs. He drank the blood of some of the whites. He has been taken prisoner, and his plans are crushed. He can do no more. He is near his end. His sun is setting, and he will rise no more. Farewell to Black Hawk!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Seneca Chief Sogoyewapha: A Native American Comparison of Religions

On the Religion of the White Man and the Red

["Red Jacket"]

He was born around 1752, and he died in 1830.  He was a member of the Seneca Nation.  He was given the name “Red Jacket” due to his embroidered scarlet jacket presented to him by a British officer during the Revolution.  He served on the American side in the War of 1812. This speech was delivered at a council of chiefs of the Six Nations in the summer of 1805 after a Mr. Cram, a missionary, had spoken of the work he proposed to do among the Indian Nations.  This and other famous orations with human rights content can be found at this LINK.


It was the will of the Great Spirit that we should meet together this day. He orders all things and has given us a fine day for our council. He has taken His garment from before the sun and caused it to shine with brightness upon us. Our eyes are opened that we see clearly; our ears are unstopped that we have been able to hear distinctly the words you have spoken. For all these favors we thank the Great Spirit, and Him only.

Brother, this council fire was kindled by you. It was at your request that we came together at this time. We have listened with attention to what you have said. You requested us to speak our minds freely. This gives us great joy; for we now consider that we stand upright before you and can speak what we think. All have heard your voice and all speak to you now as one man. Our minds are agreed.

Brother, you say you want an answer to your talk before you leave this place. It is right you should have one, as you are a great distance from home and we do not wish to detain you. But first we will look back a little and tell you what our fathers have told us and what we have heard from the white people.

Brother, listen to what we say. There was a time when our forefathers owned this great island. Their seats extended from the rising to the setting sun. The Great Spirit had made it for the use of Indians. He had created the buffalo, the deer, and other animals for food. He had made the bear and the beaver. Their skins served us for clothing. He had scattered them over the country and taught us how to take them. He had caused the earth to produce corn for bread. All this He had done for His red children because He loved them. If we had some disputes about our hunting-ground they were generally settled without the shedding of much blood.

But an evil day came upon us. Your forefathers crossed the great water and landed on this island. Their numbers were small. They found friends and not enemies. They told us they had fled from their own country for fear of wicked men and had come here to enjoy their religion. They asked for a small seat. We took pity on them, granted their request, and they sat down among us. We gave them corn and meat; they gave us poison in return.

The white people, brother, had now found our country. Tidings were carried back and more came among us. Yet we did not fear them. We took them to be friends. They called us brothers. We believed them and gave them a larger seat. At length their numbers had greatly increased. They wanted more land; they wanted our country. Our eyes were opened and our minds became uneasy. War took place. Indians were hired to fight against Indians, and many of our people were destroyed. They also brought strong liquor among us. It was strong and powerful, and has slain thousands.

Brother, our seats were once large and yours were small. You have now become a great people, and we have scarcely a place left to spread our blankets. You have got our country, but are not satisfied. You want to force your religion upon us.

Brother, continue to listen. You say that you are sent to instruct us how to worship the Great Spirit agreeably to His mind; and, if we do not take hold of the religion which you white people teach we shall be unhappy hereafter. You say that you are right and we are lost. How do we know this to be true? We understand that your religion is written in a Book. If it was intended for us, as well as you, why has not the Great Spirit given to us, and not only to us, but why did He not give to our forefathers the knowledge of that Book, with the means of understanding it rightly. We only know what you tell us about it. How shall we know when to believe, being so often deceived by the white people?

Brother, you say there is but one way to worship and serve the Great Spirit. If there is but one religion, why do you white people differ so much about it? Why not all agreed, as you can all read the Book?

Brother, we do not understand these things. We are told that your religion was given to your forefathers and has been handed down from father to son. We also have a religion which was given to our forefathers and has been handed down to us, their children. We worship in that way. It teaches us to be thankful for all the favors we receive, to love each other, and to be united. We never quarrel about religion.

Brother, the Great Spirit has made us all, but He has made a great difference between His white and His red children. He has given us different complexions and different customs. To you He has given the arts. To these He has not opened our eyes. We know these things to be true. Since He has made so great a difference between us in other things, why may we not conclude that He has given us a different religion according to our understanding? The Great Spirit does right. He knows what is best for His children; we are satisfied.

Brother, we do not wish to destroy your religion or take it from you. We only want to enjoy our own.

Brother, you say you have not come to get our land or our money, but to enlighten our minds. I will now tell you that I have been at your meetings and saw you collect money from the meeting. I can not tell what this money was intended for, but suppose that it was for your minister; and, if we should conform to your way of thinking, perhaps you may want some from us.

Brother, we are told that you have been preaching to the white people in this place. These people are our neighbors. We are acquainted with them. We will wait a little while and see what effect your preaching has upon them. If we find it does them good, makes them honest, and less disposed to cheat Indians, we will then consider again of what you have said.

Brother, you have now heard our answer to your talk, and this is all we have to say at present. As we are going to part, we will come and take you by the hand, and hope the Great Spirit will protect you on your journey and return you safe to your friends.

Friday, August 20, 2010


Samuel Ichiye Hayakawa:
A Man To Be Remembered

In Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 2, Shakespeare wrote, the good men do "is often interred with their bones."  Once we are gone, only a very small few remember us.  Many readers will not know the name of this long-forgotten American academic and U.S. Senator.  Let us resurrect only a small bit of his esteemed memory and benefit from it.  Readers are encouraged to read the Wikipedia entry on S. I. Hayakawa, though it scratches only the surface of his rich life.

Why dig up the memory of a PhD who was both master and defender of the English language, a semanticist who understood the power of language in itself--in a time where so many Americans are more concerned out our financial crises and their own futures?  True to my own nature, I will connect history past with current ethical concerns.

Our Feelings of Fear,
The Power of Words

We live in an era of fear and, in such a time, our human emotions and mental functions spill out into words. Many feel helpless, powerless, and lash out at family, coworkers, neighbors, and others. For those who have been driven into bankruptcy, with everything they once had stripped away, or for those who fear that future condition, words seem to be all they have left, and many are negative and destructive.

There is an old, false saying: "Sticks and stones may break my bones but your words never will hurt me." Physical harms usually can be healed. Verbal harms often never are healed. There is more moral power in your words than you ever have or had in your bank account.

Hayakawa himself became interested in language because of a man who used the mere power of words--written by his hand, expelled into microphones from the air in his lungs and up through his vocal cords--Adolf Hitler. Hayakawa wrote about a republished edition of one of his great works:
The original version of this book, Language in Action, published in 1941, was in many respects a response to the dangers of propaganda, especially as exemplified in Adolf Hitler's success in persuading millions to share his maniacal and destructive views. It was the writer's conviction then, as it remains now, that everyone needs to have a habitually critical attitude towards language — his own as well as that of others — both for the sake of his personal well being and for his adequate functioning as a citizen. Hitler is gone, but if the majority of our fellow citizens are more susceptible to the slogans of fear and race hatred than to those of peaceful accommodation and mutual respect among human beings, our political liberties remain at the mercy of any eloquent and unscrupulous demagogue.
If you have economic fears today, as many of us do, fear even more the misused power of your words, written or spoken. Though everything else may be taken from you, you always remain the complete ruler and autocrat of your own speech. Please, I beg you, do not take for granted this great power you have.

With your words you have the power to build up, or tear down; to speak truth, or lies; to nourish love, or fuel hate; to deepen trust, or sow doubt; to inspire, or depress. Your words have more power than any money you ever had, have, or will have.

If one person writes a gift check for ten thousand dollars to a stranger, that stranger will remember the gift, at least for a while. Yet if a person speaks only a few phrases or sentences to a stranger, at a particular moment when the stranger's psyche is uniquely open and sensitive to what is said, those words can have the power to change a life forever. Some have changed from bums to billionaires. Others have changed from stable to suicides.

The Moral Content of Language Today

Hayakawa died before the spread of such phenomena as "Gangsta Rap," but he already knew well the escalating degeneracy of the English language. I myself am part of the Baby Boomer generation of the 1950s, and my generation contributed greatly to the intentional disregard of educated, standard uses of the best English.

Our Age of the Individual taught us that the individual person's values and forms of communication and behaviors were "just as good" as any other individual's. By right of simply being alive, the breathe in our lungs "validated" whatever we said as "true for us."

I remember one day, as a freshman in college, "hearing myself" speak a stream of curse words that were "hip."  I thought to myself, "I came to college with more respect for my self than this, and used better grammar and vocabulary.  Is this what I came to college to become?"  From that day, I determined I would become educated, and use that education.  I decided to avoid the use of gutter-language for its "shock value" in polite society.

To intentionally butcher the English language, or to intentionally avoid learning not to is an excuse for the intellectually and morally degenerate.  Why would I say such a thing?
  • Animals have language.  They make their vocalizations to each other, and strangers, to communicate.  Some have very complex, others have very primitive language.  No other creature has the capacity for language we do.
  • Yet millions of people use language based on emotional reaction, not thinking or higher level communication.  It is often not many steps away from animalistic grunts or growls.  "F*** You!" is faster, easier than thinking and being human.  It can mean anything, mostly contemptuous, selfish, and harmful, but it can be intended for humor.  Now, to save time, many abbreviate the previous epithet to "FU."
  • Degeneration of language abuse continues to spiral downward with "texting."  Everyone is learning immediate, reactive, un-thought, ambiguous abbreviations to "communicate."  Ignorance is our norm, and many misunderstandings, arguments, fights, and break-ups, have happened due to this "great technological tool."
  • Adults and youth show this decline in their abilities to use language.  Even leaders send emails riddled with signs of ignorance or disregard for careful communication.
Hayakawa as Defender of Democracy,
Or Racist-Elitist? 

During the 1960s and 1970s, there were several major movements to displace (1) English as our national language and (2) standard English usage as normative and expected for all Americans in employment and government.  These movements were intellectual expressions of the privatization and subjectivization of language use alluded to above (whether one cites it as beginning with the Beat Generation, or not.

Large immigrant groups, such as Spanish language speakers, lobbied they needed linguistic, social, and political affirmation and accommodation.  Many said they neither wanted to learn English, nor should.  Other, indigenous large English dialect groups, such as the Ebonics Movement, lobbied for the same.  I remember watching a program on television, when I lived in Chicago, where Black intellectuals debated--50% for, 50% against--whether or not language developed after slavery, or in the ghettos, was or was not to be affirmed and accommodated.  I thought how many other groups might petition for the same.  We might have Redneck-English, or something else.

On leaving the U.S. Senate in 1976, Hayakawa formed an organization, U.S. English, Inc, dedicated to "preserving the unifying role of the English language in the United States."  Some declared him to be a racist for this action.  Hayakawa was Japanese origin, yet he founded this group.  Why?  As a PhD in English and an expert in semantics and linguistics; as a former president of a university; and, then, as a U.S. Senator, he famously said, "I never could have done any of these things without learning and mastering the English language."

Hayakawa was no racist.  He was an American committed to democracy.  He knew that if these lobbying groups were allowed to have their way, their constituencies would be cutting themselves off from every opportunity dependent on mastery of the best English.  He was loving well-intentioned people trying to defend things ultimately harmful to their own peoples.  I note, according to the website of his organization, that only 30 states have English as their official language, which amazes me.

Words as Tools for Morality

Now while I am a parent of four adult children, I cannot say that all of them have chosen to master the English language as they could or should--at least not to date.  The oldest has an undergraduate degree in English literature, but the rest still are making their own decisions as to the levels of English mastery they believe are required for them.  And all are "texters," though their father is not.

What most people fail to realize is that mastering the English language has an impact on both their intellectual and moral development.  Indeed, the greater their mastery of English, the greater is their potential to think clearly, and to become--potentially--better moral agents towards others.

Note, however, that Hayakawa became interested in language because of Adolf Hitler, his ideology written and verbal.  In our time, we have many genocides, or criminals like Bernard Madoff, who use language persuasively for harmful purposes.  I understand this.  Yet let me discuss briefly why we can become better people intellectually and morally through our mastery of language (any language).
  • Like animals, we can, if we wish, grunt and curse, use chopped-off, elliptical, ambiguous, privatistic bits of words and phrases.  Those who love us most will try to figure out what we are saying, unless we learned from them.  Then we are fine, so long as we do not communicate out of that circle.
  • Human language separates us from the animals.  To learn language--if our parents do not know, or will not teach it to us--we must work.  We must learn grammar, syntax, vocabulary, style, rhetoric.  Excellent language is not emotional grunting and texting.  It is a dynamic, creative, highly complex, intelligent, social human act.
  • Language, at its best, enables us to be better moral people.  Nearly all in our use of language has moral components, when used according to accepted standards.  We listen carefully.  We pause before communicating.  Why?  We must think of the "sender's" content sent to our ears or eyes.  we must consider context, vocabulary, tone, educational level, emotions involved, or "subtexts" of things unstated but implied or potential.  When we have done all this, THEN we respond.  All this is a moral process, an interaction between people where so many things are possible as outcomes to it..
 You Have Power In Your Words

Regardless of your current financial condition, regardless of whether you (to date--the future is open) have mastered the English language, or another if that is your native form, you have real power in your words.

You may feel powerless.  Yet know that within your mind, coupled with your powers of speech and writing, you have real power, at all times and in all places.  Remember the person who encouraged you when you were a child.  Remember the person who hurt you deeply with words.  You have an unlimited amount of potential power either to help or hurt others with your communications.

Until the day or night comes when your powers of communication are taken away, temporarily or forever, I beg you to cherish this wonderful human gift; to cultivate it as a sign of your self-worth and dignity; and, to use it for good.  You have that power.

Perhaps too you will remember S.I. Hayakawa, for his life's work and its worth to us in our troubled times, where some use words for good and others for evil.  Join with me in our alliance for the former!  JDW

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Working With Briars in Your Life

Life Makes Messes
The other day I decided to take my chain saw and clear away a large branch that had fallen in my side yard some time ago.  A strong wind blew that limb down.  I just let it lay where it fell for a while, still attached to the trunk at the top, hanging down at a forty-five degree angle.  No sap ran through it any more and week by week, its once-green leaves turned brown and wrinkled in death.  I drove in and out of my house for some time and decided it was time to clean up the mess.

I own an inexpensive Poulan saw, but it serves its purpose for a homeowner.  I started cutting off the small limbs, in lengths large enough to fit neatly into my truck bed.  As I cut three or four, I put down the saw, running still, and quickly picked up the cut branches and placed them in the truck.  Progress was fast.  I cut the limbs as I came to them and before long, I was cutting the large center limb in five foot lengths.

When there was only another ten feet or so, dangling in the air and still attached to the tree, I attached one end of it to a pulling chain, and the other end to a towing bar on my truck.  It pulled right off and fell to the ground.  I cut that into two pieces, both heavy, but manageable.  I then looked at a number of trash limbs growing all around the trunk, green and wild-looking.  I decided to clean around the trunk to trim the tree up better than I had cared for it in some time.

So I began to move quickly, cutting this one and that one.  I reached into a particularly messy bunch of greenery on the right side of the trunk, and then felt scratches on my hand.  Looking more closely, I saw that a thick briar, one that had been growing for a while, was somewhat hidden among the scattered little branches.  I realized I had to slow down, look with care, and cut both the small green branches around that briar, which were entangled with it.

I cut away the branches and that briar, loaded all carefully into the truck, then hauled it to the back of my thirty acres.  I knew a wet-weather drain where I would dump the results of my work.  I backed up carefully to the little drop-off, put on the emergency brake, then carefully remembered the thorny briar enmeshed amid the dead and live branches I had cut.  I slowed down, took my time, determined that the briar would not get me again.  The load came off with little trouble, and I drove back to the house.

But on the way back, I thought about what I had done during the two hours this work took.  I decided there was a little moral lesson to be found in this little incident, so I share it with you now.

There Are Messes in Our Lives

Life is like that tree.  One day, everything is fine, green and growing, beautiful and blowing in the wind.  Then, due to no fault of ours, troubles comes, strong forces break up what was fine and beautiful.  And we have a mess in our life.  There it sits, a reminder of what was, but no longer is.

We have several choices and, in the messes that have blown into my life, I have made them all.  We can get up every day, ignore the mess, and let one day follow after another.  We know it's there.  We may look the other way and see it out of the corner of our eye.  We may be aggravated it's there.  We may think back to when there was no mess, but are too preoccupied with memories of the past to deal with the present.  We may even be too bull-headed to change our routine and remove it.  A mess unattended to will stay there as long as it's allowed to remain.

But if we are wise, one day we decide to deal with it.  We have to set aside time.  We have to assess what tools we need.  And then we start.  We have to take the parts of the mess that appear closest at hand.  We take charge of them, one at a time.  We do not rush to the central, bigger parts of the mess.  We must remove the smaller parts, master them, and put them away, one by one.  After all, our messes often have larger issues attached to the smaller ones, and we never will get to the really tough ones until we have mastered what we should first.

Yet after we finally clean up the mess, we still must be careful.  The original destruction may be cleaned up.  But if we look closely, there are still little things left, very real and alive, that are waiting to grow into bigger problems later.  If we are presumptuous, we may jump right in and think we can remove them without much trouble.  But just like the big messes in our lives, they still can inflict pain and damage their own way.  So it is best to be warned by what they are, and to be just as careful with them as if they were as big as they someday will be, if we do not remove them now.  JDW

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Thoughts Mourning a Murdered Medical Team in Afghanistan

I just read an NPR story of a medical team killed in Afghanistan.  Most of them were members of the International Assistance Mission, a Christian organization with the following values:  "dependency on God, love for all, teamwork, accountability, learning, quality work."  They had just completed two weeks of traveling in villages doing eye surgeries, other medical care, and assistance to the poor.  I enclose a quotation from that NPR article:
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press that they killed the foreigners because they were "spying for the Americans" and "preaching Christianity."
Frans said the International Assistance Mission, the longest serving nongovernmental organization operating in Afghanistan, is registered as a nonprofit Christian organization but does not proselytize....

Among the dead was team leader Tom Little, an optometrist from Delmar, New York, who has been working in Afghanistan for more than 30 years.... Another relief organization, Bridge Afghanistan, said on its website that the group included one of its members, Dr. Karen Woo of London.

Little, who was overseeing eye hospitals in Kabul and two other major cities as well as small clinics in three smaller towns, was expelled by the Taliban government in August 2001 after the arrest of eight Christian aid workers — two Americans and six Germans — for allegedly trying to convert Afghans to Christianity. He returned to Afghanistan after the Taliban government was toppled in November 2001 by U.S.-backed forces.

According to Frans, two members of the team worked for IAM, two were former IAM workers and four others were affiliated with other organizations, which he did not disclose. He said five of the Americans were men and one was a woman. The Briton and German also were women.

Gen. Agha Noor Kemtuz, police chief in Badakhshan province, said the victims, who had been shot, were found Friday next to three bullet-riddled four-wheel drive vehicles in Kuran Wa Munjan district. He said villagers had warned the team that the area was dangerous, but the foreigners said they were doctors and weren't afraid. He said local police said about 10 gunmen robbed them and killed them one by one.

"We are a humanitarian organization. We had no security people. We had no armed guards. We had no weapons," he said.
I have three responses to this tragedy:  one, from the Muslim point of view; the second, from a humanitarian point of view; and the third, from Christian point of view.

The Muslim Point of View

First, Islam forbids any proselytizing as a capital crime.  These clearly were brave and committed Christian medical personnel.  Who knows what they said, or if they prayed in the name of Jesus Christ, for their patients.  One website I found had a photo of a Muslim holding a child's picture book, "A Children's Guide to the Bible," though I was unable to learn if that material was captured as "contraband" from the possessions of these people.  If these good people were proselytizing, they knew they were risking their lives in these dangerous territories.

It is entirely possible the Muslim killers took medical compassion alone and in itself as proselytizing.  Normally, we think of proselytizing as "actively discussing conversion."  But if you were a Muslim father or mother whose child had an eye deformity and disease, and a group of strangers came in asking for nothing else than permission to help heal your child, then left after doing it, would you not be grateful?  And if your own religion offered no medical help to you, would you not perhaps, perhaps, ask yourself in curiosity, "What kind of God would put so much love in people's hearts?"  So there is some potential proselytizing force and power in medical assistance, without prayers, active "conversion talk," or literature.

What disappoints me, as an outside observer, is that I hear nothing from Muslims who disagree with such murders.  Oh there are some "condemnations" in various quarters.  But these are isolated, weak, then disappear.  There is no mass Muslim movement to find and punish the Muslims who do such horrible deeds.  Why?  I have a simple theory.  I would like Muslim readers to respond whether or not I am accurate.

Muslims are united by the Shahadah, their confession of faith--"There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger"--and the Qur'an forbids killing another Muslim.  So I think Muslims will condemn bad Muslim deeds, but are constitutionally and theologically chained not to harm another Muslim acting on his or her own faith.  If I am correct, this is a problem for us all.  Would Muslims please respond? 

The Humanitarian Point of View

There are many humanitarian organizations, religious and secular.  To desire to do nothing else but good for others, regardless of motive, is a beautiful and wonderful thing.  But when you are trying to serve Muslim peoples who have a theological doctrine to kill, there is no way to control how any Muslims will apply that doctrine.  To serve such peoples requires the deepest commitment to humanitarian mission, and to embrace the risk of being killed wrongly, due to religious conviction, if not hatred.

Now I know not all Muslims apply the Qur'an the same way, just as Jews and Christians do not apply their holy books the same way.  But in Afghanistan and some other Muslim nations, there are many--either a majority, or fighting and killing to become a ruling elite--who are dedicated to force and violence to ensure their form of Islam is the rule of law.  The Qur'an includes force and violence, so they have divine sanctions from their holy book, when they see applications.

So in these nations and regions, humanitarian aid is extremely high-risk, when services provided for some willing and accepting Muslims is taken by unwilling and rejecting Muslim observers as transgressing the Qur'an's commands requiring death.  There are humanitarian assistance agencies serving many Muslim nations for decades, so they have known these things for a long time.  Yet they still believe strongly enough in their missions to love Muslims they serve, despite the risk of suffering and death.  One only can be impressed by the strength and durability of their love.

The Christian Point of View

Christians who intentionally go into Muslim lands know there are many there who consider Christians, Jews, and others, as religious enemies to be killed.  They know there are Muslims who enter lands where they live in order to kill, but those who are members of organizations like the International Assistance Mission go to give life.  Such Christians as those in IAM go in faith, hope, and love, despite the dangers to themselves.

When they go into Muslim lands, they know they will meet Muslims who believe, because the Qur'an teaches them this, that Christians, Jews, and non-Muslims are their divinely revealed enemies.  These Christians also know there are many Muslims who have heard or know millions of others, who call themselves Christians, are ready, willing, and able to kill as many Muslims as possible.  The theological and relational cards are stacked against them.

So why do they take such risks?  The answer is simple really and it can be found in the person and teachings of Jesus Christ.  Setting aside the behaviors of the many Christians who do not obey these, let us see why such people as those murdered in the past several days do what they do.
I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either.  Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back.  And just as you want men to treat you, treat them in the same way.  And if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  For even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you?  For even sinners do the same thing.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners lend to sinners, in order to receive back the same.  But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for God is kind to the ungrateful and evil.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.  [Gospel of Luke, 6:27-36]
These teachings are clear enough, but they are insufficient on their own to send Christians who believe them into dangerous lands.  Christians like those in International Assistance Mission believe them because Jesus himself obeyed them, even unto death.  As he was dying on the cross, he said regarding his killers, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."  The Romans, and any Jews who approved, thought they were killing a troublesome man.

The Christians in IAM believe Jesus was the living embodiment of God's love revealed to the world.  Jesus was not merely a man but the son of God.  And he expected and commanded those who believed his message to do what he did:  to love and do good to and for all people, regardless of whether they accepted or rejected it, or whether they appreciated or hated it for their own reasons  Jesus was not merely a moral teacher, but God speaking and demonstrating divine love in him.

The Religious Ironies of These Killings

So here we are today.  The Christian men and women of IAM went to Afghanistan, serving people with medical assistance, Muslims who consider themselves the enemies of Christians, Jews, and others. The Muslim men, and I will presume no women were there, followed them to track, stop, strip naked, then kill one by one some they considered their enemies, the enemies of their faith, and they succeeded.  Those who brought God's divine love through medical service are dead.  They who brought their God's divine judgment through bullets are alive.

Two religions brought these people face to face.  Faith in two different Gods, love for two different prophets, and hope that full and complete obedience to divine commands given in two different religious books, brought the physicians and executioners together.

Based on what we might guess about the Christians there, it is very likely they prayed for divine mercy for their killers, as they saw them slay their brothers and sisters in Christ, one by one, before they themselves died.  Based on what we might guess about the Muslims there, it is very likely they felt satisfaction in obeying Allah, who saw themselves meting out divine justice for their victims, as they lined them up, one by one, to shoot them wherever they fell.

In the event that created this blog, we have these ironies.  These Christians healed strangers, even enemies, because they saw their duties towards them from their God's point of view.  These Muslims killed strangers, their enemies, because they their duties towards them from their God's point of view.

Yet I must point out, to be fair to both religions, at other times and in other places, there have been Christians who killed Muslims and Muslims who have been merciful to Christians.  In neither religion is there complete unanimity or uniformity in the theological views, or behaviors, towards persons not members of those faiths.  This is not ironic, only a fact not to be changed ever in the history of the world.

Theism and Atheism

As a Christian myself, who has spent many decades studying why, first, my religion, and then, later, why other religions have killed strangers based on theological views, I want to plant my feet firmly with the Christians like those in IAM.  Yet the history of my faith too often has been filled with rivers of blood--that of heretics, Jews, Muslims, and even other Christians lined up in national armies all over Europe and the United States, during our Civil War. There have been too few like the good believers murdered the other day. Jesus said, "Blessed are the makers of shalom (spiritual peace with God), for they shall be called, 'children of God.'"

I understand why atheism seems to be growing in God's world.  Anyone who reads certain portions of the Hebrew scriptures, the New Testament, and the Qur'an, surely must not wish to believe in a deity who wills the death of strangers.  John Wesley, I think, once told someone their god was his devil.  The context was different, but I long have felt spiritual resonance with his statement, as I have tried to cope with what has been done in the name of God for millenniums.

Because I believe--sometimes very tenuously, because I know too much Christian history, which weakens my faith--in the New Testament statement that "God is spirit...God is love," for many years I have wondered what the God I believe in thinks about all the little babies, boys and girls, men and women, who have died at the hands of people, of various faiths, who thought they were doing God's will.

There have been many millions whose last mental operations and emotions were filled with the question, "Why?," as they felt their bodies tortured by feeling steel and lead, fire and water, to begin the process, short or long, that would kill them, and take them into the presence of the True God--not the false god of their killers.

I think of the millions of Jews during the Holocaust who asked that question as they heard and smelled the gas come into those false baths, slain by many Nazis who somewhere had their names on some Christian church's roll books.  I think of all the millions of African slaves whose lives would have remained better, except for the collaboration of Christians, Muslims, and even some Jews, who all profited from slavery.  I think of the millions of Native Americans exterminated and displaced by the collaborations of every European immigrant who came to America and had a share in their demise, and most had a faith in a god who, in their minds, approved, permitted, or tolerated their crimes.

I close this blog by saying how troubled I am by these murders; by what I know led to them; and, by the facts that there are two separate groups in two divided religions--one which grieves, one which rejoices--by these events.

I confess that I need more faith, hope, and love, to continue, as long as I live, in promoting the same kind of loving God served by those in IAM.  Though millions of other Christians all over the world seem ready, if not eager, to do the bidding of their separation national leaders and generals, to kill strangers, not to bring love and healing.

In the face of such brutality and bloodshed, are wars sometimes not necessary?  It used to be that World War II, and the Nazi ovens and death-camps, were the classic apologies for war and its necessity.  However, now more millions know the details of all the menus and operations of an I-Phone than recognize precisely who Adolf Hitler was.  Yet, without any major exception, wars have been started mainly due to mass suffering and injustice (when people support them), or due to calculating greed.  Today's wars in the Middle East are not "necessary" in the sense "justice requires them."

Whatever the Taliban would have become, had there been no Westerners in their lands, one thing we know.  Jesus Christ himself is not to be blamed for the history of Western exploitation around the world.  The main "Christianity" the Taliban knows is that of the same American "Christians" who reveled and celebrated the accuracy of the "smart-bombs" during the seige of Baghdad, the celebrated Shock-And-Awe of American military destruction.  Few so-called "Christian" Americans cared to think about the horror and terror being inflicted on thousands of innocent Iraqi children, women, men, of all ages and conditions.  No, the flash and boom was of greater interest than human beings created in God's image.  So how is the history of American "Christian" behavior towards so many of any connection with the tradition of Jesus?  No, the members of the Taliban probably saw themselves as killing "Westerners who were sent by Washington," not disciples of Jesus.

When I think about the good Christians who were executed only a few hours ago, I still grieve for them.  For their kind of religion was and is good.  And I pray to my God that I will have enough faith, hope, and love to pray not for the destruction of those who killed them, but for the illumination of God to show them--in the best places in the Qur'an--that only God knows the hearts of strangers unknown and, as Jesus said, "By their fruits you will know them."

God, give me the strength not to hate, or desire the vicious cycle of retaliation, but to leave all in the hands of a just God who will render on the Last Day a just judgment, and wipe away every tear from the eyes of the just who suffered and died during their time on the earth.  I live for this work and pray for more time to do loving work, for the just and the unjust, the righteous and the sinner.  I, as the latter, know I need divine help for that work in times like these.  JDW

PS:  Here is the story of the team's burial in Kabul, covered by the NY Times.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Military PTSD: Veterans Jim Gourley and Thomas Ricks Assault Ignorance

A friend of mine, who works directly in a military hospital with combat veterans returned home from Iraq and Afghanistan, sent me this.  I can not help but pass this on to my readers, who can see it and related links at Thomas Ricks's site.  These are combat veterans who understand PTSD, as warriors, as brothers, as patriots who need to be understood.

Do not stare too hard when you go to that link and see Northrup-Grumman's advertisement banner at the top for global security.  And do not ask whether or not any of our many military contractors EVER would lobby Congress for peaceful negotiations on any war, if peace would lead to the cancellation of defense contracts.  JDW