Saturday, October 3, 2009

If Your Enemy Hunger. . .

One of my favorite Biblical stories is found in II Kings 6:8-23. The king of Syria is warring against Israel. Their well thought out strategic plans keep falling through. Finally, the king holds a meeting and says, "Alright, who is leaking information to the king of Israel? Who is for Israel?"

Someone raises his hand and says, "None, my lord, O King, but there is a prophet, Elisha, in Israel and he tells the king of Israel the words you say in your bedchamber."

To this information the king of Syria responds, "Go and find where he is that I may send and fetch him." So the king of Syria sends many troops with horses and chariots.

Elisha's servant looks out the window and says, "Alas, my master, what shall we do?"

Elisha answers, "Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them." Then Elisha prays, "Lord, open his eyes that he may see." The Lord opens the eyes of the young man and behold! he sees the mountains filled with the heavenly host and chariots of fire all round about Elisha!

Again Elisha prays, "Lord, blind the eyes of this people."

After this prayer, Elisha goes out to them and says, "This is not the way. Follow me and I will bring you to the man whom ye seek." Elisha leads them right into the camp of Israel and then prays that their eyes be opened. No doubt they are very frightened when they realize where they are.

The king of Israel asks Elisha, "My father, shall I kill them? Shall I kill them?"

But Elisha answers, "No, feed them and send them back to their master."So the king of Israel prepares a great provision for them and when they have eaten and drunk, he sends them back to the king of Syria.

Here is something wonderful: "So the bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel." No more war for that generation!

I love this story because it illustrates so much. The power of prayer is graphically demonstrated. I love the vision of the Invisible Host and Chariots of Fire. Individually, or as a nation, when overwhelmed with problems having no seeming solution, what a comfort to remember the reality of the Invisible Host to help with solutions we could not find with natural eyes. Imagine the experience of Elisha's servant. What would you feel to see such a vision? Imagine your wonder! A window behind the scenes revealing that we are not alone. But we need to connect to this Invisible Host. Dr. Paul Smith said in his sermon, "It's rather difficult to speak truth to power if you are unplugged."

We've heard so much about the CIA and failed intelligence. It seems inconceivable that anyone should think that torture is the means of safety and good intelligence. Where did Elisha get intelligence? Where is the Source of real intelligence? It's within, and it's given by God. Is it possible that such intelligence could be given to us today? Our security is in the Secret Place (Psalm 91)--definitely security is not in torture.

Elisha said to the enemy troops, "This is NOT the way. Follow me and I will show you the man who you seek." Would not God's Spirit say to us today-- not just regarding torture, for many of us know that is not the way--but anything else we substitue for the Spirit of God--This is NOT the way. Follow Me. I will bring you to the Man whom you seek--the Prince of Peace.

I love how this story puts in practice, "If your enemy hunger, feed him." Picture the scene and imagine the feelings of the men of Syria, now helplessly in the camp of Israel, their supposed enemy. What is going to happen to them? Expecting death or imprisonment, they are told that food is being prepared for them. Then to their wonderment, not just a little snack, but a great banquet is provided. How was it served? With kind hospitality, or were there some who begrudingly set a bowl down with the thought, I'm not very happy about this but since the prophet said to do this is the only reason I'm doing it. I choose to think it was served with grace and the grateful receiving of the Syrian soldiers. Enemies were made this day into friends

"What better could be done with an enemy than to make him a friend, and especially to make him a friend of God? . . .It enables you to see unlimited possibilities in everyone and even in the most tragic of situations." J. Rufus Moseley

"If your enemy hunger, feed him." This is the kingdom of God.
"The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but are mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds." If we be in the kingdom of God, our weapons are not bombs, knives, guns, torture. Our weapons are love, joy, peace, praise, prayer, food, shelter, water, clothing. "We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, powers of darkness and spiritual wickedness in high places."

The Spirit of God within the prophet Elisha led their feet in the way of peace. Let's follow and our blind eyes will be opened, too, so that we connect to the Invisible Host and those chariots of fire. Thus we are enabled to defeat the principalities and powers of darkness. We are no match for these powers in our own human strength, but through God and the resources available to us "we are more than conquerors."

By the light of this story, what insights can we apply to the circumstances in Guantanamo Bay?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Behind the Walls of Guantanamo

The bay of Guantanamo is said to be beautiful, sheltered by hills and mountains. In my imagination I try to picture it. Kicking off my shoes and letting them rest in the sand, I walk along the shore letting the water make little splashes. A bird circles overhead and there’s one resting standing on one little leg. This scene of peace is a place where the sun rises as though nothing has happened. It sets—sometimes in glorious fire. I love sunsets and used to take pictures of them in Sarasota’s Siesta Key in Florida where my father lived.

Where is the prison? Can it be seen from the shore—perhaps if I walk around the bend? As I stand in this place of beauty hearing only the sound of the lap of the water or the call of a bird, at the same time not far are walls holding hell. A place where prisoners—-fathers, uncles, brothers, sons-- are tortured having been neither charged nor tried. And by America the Beautiful. Can it be? Not My Country Tis of Thee!

Many were sold for bounty given by my government. “The leaflets fell as snowflakes in winter in Chicago,” said Donald Rumfeld. Leaflets? Yes, leaflets promising from $5,000 to $25,000 for members of the Taliban and al-Queda—such money as you could not make in Afghanistan working your whole life. These promised bounties led to black market and abductions in Afganistan and Pakistan. And this is how many detainees found themselves behind the walls of Guantanamo’s prison

I didn’t expect to be writing so much about this subject. Having seen both Torturing Democracy http://w ww.torturingdemocracy.org/program and Children of the Taliban by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy , (Frontline, PBS)I felt a need to write something linking them. However, as I did so in the course of writing, I felt led to do more and more research. The more I learned the more passionate I became. We must overturn this. As soon as I finished writing the previous blog, What Shall We Do With the Prisoners of Guantanamo Bay? (Please read if you have not.) I found, My Guantanamo Diary by Mahvish Rukhsana Khana. I know I was meant to find it—a diary to make you cry. It tells the stories of individual prisoners making them real with names and not just detainee numbers.

The author is an American lawyer born to Afghan immigrants. When she heard of the illegal detainment of the detainees, she felt she had to do something and applied to be a translator. She visited Guantanamo nearly 30 times, and also made trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan to substantiate the stories of the prisoners--sometimes visiting the families of some of the prisoners.

In her Author’s Note she writes:



The U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay stands as a challenge to our
nation. It challenges our readiness to do the right thing in times of
crisis, the times when it’s most difficult, to adhere to our
founding principles and to follow the rule of law. What lies at the heart
of the Gitmo debate are the beliefs upon which the United States of America was
founded and for which it has long been celebrated: the conviction that no one
should be imprisoned without charge and that everyone has a right to defend him
or herself in a fair and impartial trial. . .




While I believe that Gitmo may hold evil men as well as innocent
ones, I also believe that only a fair and full hearing can separate the good
from bad. .I can honestly say that I don’t believe any of the
Afghans I met were guilty of crimes against the United States. Certainly some of
the Guantanamo detainees were, just not the men I met. . .


She further writes:



Most of the prisoners I met spoke of harsh beatings, being stripped naked in
front of females, sleep deprivation, extremes of cold and heat, stress
positions. 80-year old Haji Nusrat, who is a paraplegic, spoke about
injuries to his arm during one particular beating. . .Some of the men I’ve
profiled in my book speak of sexual humiliation, multiple full cavity searches,
disrespect toward their holy book, restrictions on religious
performance.


(Her testimony agrees with that of ex-guards. (See my previous blog and Guantanmo Testimonials.)

One prisoner asked in his journal, “Is America really in a position to be establishing democracies?”

Colonel Stuart Couch said after visiting the prison, “God means what he says. And we were created in his image, and we owe each other a certain level of dignity—a certain level of respect. And that’s just a line we can’t cross. If we compromise our own ideals as a nation, then these guys have accomplished much more than driving airplanes into the World Trade Center and into the Pentagon.” (See Torturing Democracy.)


From The New York Times, August 25, 2009:
Investigation Is Ordered Into C.I.A. Abuse Charges:
By Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane


Washington—Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. named a veteran federal
prosecutor on Monday to examine abuse of prisoners. . .Mr. Holder chose John H.
Durham, a prosecutor from Connecticut who has been investigating the
C.I.A.’s destruciton of interrogation videotapes. . .

He said that he agreed with President Obama's oft expressed desire not to
get mired in disputes over the policies of former President George W. Bush but
that his review of the reports of the C.I.A interrogation program left him no
choice.

“As Attorney General, my duty is to examine the facts and to follow the
law,” Mr. Holder said in a statement. “Given all the information currently
available, it is clear to me that this review is the only responsible course of
action for me to take.”

. . .Although large portions of the 109-page report are blacked out, it
gives new details about a variety of abuses inside the C.I.A.’s overseas prison,
including suggestions about sexually assaulting members of a detainee’s family,
staging mock executions, andintimidation with a handgun and power drill. .
.



Dick Cheney presents another view. As though on cue, last night as I was late writing this paper and before I turned off the computer for the night, I saw this headline:



Dick Cheney blasts CIA Interrogation Probe-- Lara Jakes.



WASHINGTON (Aug. 30) -- Former Vice President Dick Cheney says politics are
driving the Justice Department's decision to investigate whether CIA
interrogators abused terror suspects detained after the Sept. 11
attacks.
"It's clearly a political move," Cheney said in an interview aired
on "Fox News Sunday." "I mean, there's no other rationale for why they're doing
this."

.
(No other rationale? I mean, compassion, human rights and justice, American values, The Geneva Convention? None of these could be possible motivations?)



Cheney called the techniques "good policy," saying he was comfortable in cases
where interrogators went beyond what they were specifically authorized to do.
The CIA report found they included cases of interrogators threatening a detainee
with a handgun and an electric drill. . .
“I’m very proud of what we did in
terms of defending the nation for the past eight years successfully,” Cheney
said in a recorded interview.
"I just think it's an outrageous
precedent to set, to have this kind of, I think, intensely partisan, politicized
look back at the prior administration."
. . .Attorney General Eric Holder
said in comments last week. "In this case, given all of the information
currently available, it is clear to me that this review is the only responsible
course of action for me to take."


Having just finished reading My Guantanamo Diary on this very day, I found the views of Dick Cheney especially, yes, “outrageous”! The contrast was so extreme, I had to stop and pray very loud in tongues, to relieve my strong emotion. There must be an investigation! In AOL's poll 58% gave Dick Cheney a thumbs up! Clearly people do not know the truth!

Matthew Alexander, a soldier in Iraq, in his letter to the President through Amnesty International wrote:
. . .I witnessed with my own eyes, while supervising over a thousand interrogations, a majority of foreign fighters state that the number one reason they came to Iraq to fight was because of our policy that allowed torture and abuse to occur at
Abu Graib and Guantanamo Bay. These foreign fighters killed hundreds, if not thousands of American soldiers. Torture and abuse did not keep America safe. It cost us lives.


How could Mr. Cheney even suggest that we should be grateful for these polices—that the present administration should copy these policies—have the same policies?

No, not my government! We must stand and denounce that which is not us and purge it from us!

What seeds have been sown these past eight years? The vibrations and energy from these prison policies are even now circling the globe and hurting us as a nation. We must stop the momentum, turn it around, and show the world we are once again Americans and champions of justice and freedom. They must know we are divorced from these policies.



There is One who knows all secrets behind the walls—who is guilty and who is innocent—who did what and why they did it. He also answers prayer.


The ground is full of blood. Events done in a place affect that place until they are cleansed. I am reminded of a prophetic opening from the journal of George Fox, founder of the Quakers. He wrote:



I was commanded of the Lord to pull off my shoes of a sudden; and I stood still,
and the word of the Lord was like a fire in me; and being winter. . .as soon as
I came within the town, the word of the Lord came unto me to cry, “Woe unto the
bloody city of Litchfield!” . . ..As I went through the town, there
ran like a channel of blood down the streets and the market place was like a
pool of blood; this I saw as I went through it crying, “Woe to the bloody city
of Litchfield.’ . . .And so at last I came to a ditch and washed my feet and put
on my shoes, and when I had done, I considered why I should go and cry against
that city and call it a bloody city. . . But after, I came to
see that there were a thousand martyrs in Litchfield in the Emperor Diocletian’s
time and so I must go in my stockings through the channel of their blood in
their market place. So I might raise up the blood of those martyrs that
had been shed and lay cold in their streets, which had been shed above a
thousand years before. So the sense of this blood was upon me, for which I
obeyed the word of the Lord. And the ancient record will testify. . .


What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto Me from the ground.” (Genesis 4:9) God asked this of Cain after he murdered his brother Abel.

So God hears the cries and sees the blood of the prisoners. He sees the wives and the children, the brothers, the grandparents who agonize at home wondering if they will ever see their loved ones again.

So what must we do? We need redemption and before redemption is repentance. Thank God, there is a time from the sowing of seed to the reaping of it—thus space for repentance. And so, Dick Cheney, just because we have not yet seen the reaping of the whirlwind on our soil, it does not mean that the seeds of such violence have not been sown. Who would be so foolish as to trust in your way of safety? What you have advocated has put the people of our nation in grave danger and given us a sense of shame about our government. Now Gauntanamo Bay is an international symbol of injustice and torture.

We must be co-creators with the Creator—hands and feet and mouth through which the love of God reaches out to a suffering world. We must not linger for the cup of iniquity to be full and spill out over our land. The prophetic eye sees what is in the spirit world and will manifest in the physical if the everything remains the same. We cannot leave this situation as it is. All around is the crescendo of gathering storm waiting to erupt. Through our media, the Internet, talk shows, on our streets, people carelessly spewing out judgments demonizing people without investigation. I walked into the corner diner. The TV was on. That was when I first learned of what was happening in the town meetings. People yelling and screaming not allowing any discussion or debate. I later learned that talk shows and websites had urged, “Become a part of the mob! . . .Pack the hall. . .Yell out and challenge the Rep’s statements early. . .Get him off his prepared script and agenda. . .Stand up and shout. . .” A mob no longer thinks and is certainly not what we need. Prayer is what we need. "In quietness and confidence shall be your strength." (Isaiah)

So this is our democracy? We know more about the protests than we do about the contents of the health bill. It doesn’t take much of a prophetic eye to see that this is not only the sowing of bad seed but the manifestation of it.



He that answers a matter before he hears it, to him it is folly and shame. Proverbs

If you would convince me of error, you must
first demonstrate you heard what I said.
Charles Finney


One night coming home on the subway, the car was filled with the impassioned voices of young people speaking of REVOLUTION! They had these papers (15 pages) entitled, REVOLUTION. With great fervor they were speaking of wrongs done by our government (many of them true) and the coming revolution. I got one of the papers. I told the girl, “I’m going to pray about this.” She said, “Pray to who?”.

I looked at the paper. It was chilling. As I turned the pages, I could see it is no small organization represented. Everywhere they have headquarters and branches and they intend to spread their message to every corner. Bookstores and events listed—New York, Boston/Cambridge, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Berkeley, Seattle, and Houston. The advertisements reviewed many books.and websites. I read:


It is a system of capitalism—imperialism. . .a system in which U.S. imperialism
is the most monstrous, most oppressive superpower. . .a system driven by a
relentless chase after profit, which brings horror upon horror, a nightmare
seemingly without end. . .torture and rape . .wars, invasions and occupations .
.assassinations and massacres. . planes, missiles, tanks and troops of the USA
bombarding people in faraway lands while they sleep, blasting their little
children to pieces. . .


I noted that many of the things they said were true, but I wanted to object, ”Think of the good things of America—not just the bad. Think of. . .” There was no time to say anything. “Come to our bookstore,” she called as she ran with the others to the next car.

Maybe I will. I will listen and maybe I will be able to give Another Plan and redirect this zeal—maybe even for one person.. They are working so hard, giving their time and their youth for a plan that will never work. It’s sad that they haven’t seen anything else that attracts them.

We cannot neglect Guantanamo Bay—we cannot forget the prisoners in our nation’s care. Even if we are selfish—we cannot forget--not just for their sakes, but also for our own and the sake of our children. Needed is the power of strong words:

Thus saith the Lord; Execute ye judgment and righteousness, and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor, and do no wrong, do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow, neither shed innocent blood in this place. . .But if ye will not hear these words, I swear by myself, saith the Lord, that this house shall become a desolation. Jeremiah 22:3-5


For if ye thoroughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor; If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, . . Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, . . .behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit. . .Jeremiah 7:5-8


The people of the land have used oppression, and exercised robbery, and have vexed the poor and needy: yea, they have oppressed the stranger wrongfully and I sought for a man among them that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none. Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord God. Ezekiel 29-31


And I will come near to you to judgment, and I will be a swift witness against those that oppress . . .the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts. For I am the Lord, I change not. . .Return to me and I will return to you. . .Malachi 3:5-7


They slay the widow and the stranger, and murder the fatherless. Yet they say, The Lord shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it. Understand, ye brutish among the people: and ye fools, when will ye be wise? He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? He that formed the eye, shall he not see? Psalm 94:6-9


I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. I was a father to the poor; and the cause which I knew not I searched out. Job 29:15, 16


(I know this is a lot of verses, but each one has something unique that makes it hard for me to eliminate it.)

Job said that if he didn’t understand a cause, he searched it out—he investigated it to find the truth. Contrary to what Dick Cheney says, the CIA investigation. is just, proper and necessary. There is so much confusion and we must know the truth. Though important as other matters are—health care, etc—we cannot just push Gauntanamo Bay (and the other prisons involved) in a corner and expect to go forward. As God said to the prophet Jeremiah, “Then the Lord put forth his hand, and touched my mouth, And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.” Jeremiah 1:9,10

Before we can build and plant, sometimes we must first uproot, pull down and destroy. What needs to be uprooted and destroyed? Whatever in us that has allowed this great tragedy to be done with American hands. Lies, not listening, false accusation, greed, not caring about the poor and the one who has no helper. Truth and justice must come forth so that we can build and plant with integrity and compassion.

Just a few weeks ago while I was staying with my daughter, Rebecca, my son-in-law, Matt, came out in the morning and told us of a dream he had just had. A meteor hit the earth. A blind was pulled down between him and the meteor. But what kind of protection was the blind, he thought. Just because you can not see something, does not mean it is not there. Let’s pull up the blind and see what we face as a first step for finding wisdom to know what to do. Please, President Obama, investigate. Truth can bear examination. To get things right in the future, we must know what went wrong in the past.

My one year old grandson, Noah, looks up with such a trusting face. “Of such is the kingdom of God. . . “ All the little trusting faces. With God’s help, we must do our best redeeming the time.. “Follow me,” Jesus said..

The Prince of Peace shine upon us and our children and grandchildren—and the children and grandchildren of the world. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace . . “

Guantanmo Bay—the very words now evoke injustice and torture indicative of a shameful part of our present history. However, it is not the place, but the treatment received in this place that is at fault. The longer we wait to acknowledge the truth and do something about it, the greater will be the price we as a nation have to pay. May we uproot the wrong that was done in this place and turn it around to plant and build and multiply it as seed for good—that the suffering of those who suffered here be not in vain.. Is redemption possible? This symbol of torture be transformed—this bay be a haven of understanding, justice and hope--an example of what we really are and want to be as Americans.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices;
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn;
Stand on your feet,
O hear the angel voices!

The bay—do you hear the sound of children playing? Let’s run down to the shore and join them!.

Friday, August 21, 2009

What Shall We Do With the Prisoners of Guantanamo Bay?

“When I initially learnt of my deployment to Guantanamo and the purpose we were going for, I was ready to go and face the world’s most dangerous men; these terrorists who had plotted and killed thousands of people in my country on 11 September 2001. I was ready to seek my own personal revenge on these people in whatever manner I could.

“Then the day came when these ‘world’s most dangerous men’ arrived, and they were not what I expected to see. Most of them were small, underweight, very scared, and injured. I was expecting these people to come off that bus looking like vicious monsters. . .”—(The above is from an interview by Brandon Neely as part of the Guantanamo Testimonials Project, run by the Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas at the University of California. To read the full transcript visit humanrights.ucdavis.edu )

For the future of our country it is important to address what happened at Guantanamo Bay. In responding to the injustice of what was done there, cries of protest demanded that the camp be closed. President Obama in his campaign pledged to do just that. In fact, it was one of the first orders he signed after taking office. But closing Guantanamo Bay is proving difficult. What should be done with the prisoners?

Members of Congress are voicing their objection to any prisoners coming to their states. "Not Fort Leavenworth," said Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas along with 50 community leaders. "We don't want them around the United States," said Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid.

The New York Times, May 23, 2009, quoted a resident, Tom Baron of Canon City, Colorado, “An Area Packed With Prisons” .He said, "People here are good Christian conservatives." He thought that large numbers of Muslims--the family members and friends of inmates--would move into town if the transfer occurred. Property values would fall, he said, and some family members of terrorists might be terrorists, too.
"That would destroy this community," Mr. Baron concluded.

This impasse strikes me as being wrongly addressed. First of all, is it the place that is wrong or what has happened in this place—this prison that has become a worldwide symbol of injustice and torture? Conceivably, the prisoners could be moved, but the same thing could happen in a different place with a different name. And to move detainees to prisons within the United States would not necessarily guarantee better treatment. Our prison system is notorious—as investigations have proven. . (“We seem to have a gap between our cherished ideals about justice and the realities of the prison environment," said Nicolas Katzenbach, who served under presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. "Despite these numbers and some compelling evidence of abuse and safety failures... there is little public knowledge about the nature and extent of the problems in our prisons and how to solve them.").

Secondly, to know what to do with the prisoners, shouldn't we know who they are and under what circumstances they came to be at this now infamous Bay of Guantanamo?

In 2002, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld referred to Guantanamo prisoners as "the worst of the worst." Senator Pat Roberts who doesn’t want the prisoners in his state said, "These are people who are sociopaths and terrorists and killers and would stop at nothing to do harm to the United States." Are these correct evaluations of the prisoners—many of whom have not been charged or tried?

Among Rumsfeld’s “worst of the worst” are an estimated 60 children, 13-18 years old at the time they were brought to Guantanamo. Then there’s the British detainees who were released to the UK. They are now suing the US, saying they were stripped, shackled, beaten, tortured and intimidated with military dogs. They were made to give false confessions saying they appeared in a video with al Qaeda chief Osama ben Laden and Mohammad Atta when it could be proven that they were in Britain at the time. These men were tried in Britain and were totally exonerated. http://www.truthout.org/article/william-fisher-the-worst-worst

A former Guantanamo guard, Chris Arendt from Michigan, united with them to expose the torture at the camp. He had joined the army shortly after September 11 when he was 17. Two years later he was sent to Guantanamo as a guard. Being disillusioned with what he saw there, he left the army and joined Iraq Veterans Against the War. “It was like sitting down with a bunch of brothers,” he said. Now, he feels compelled to speak about what he experienced at Guantanamo. Moazzam Begg, a former detainee speaking with Arendt, said the experience of being reunited with a former guard is “truly unique. We embraced as brothers.”

Michael Scheuer, of the CIA from 1999 to when he resigned in 2004, said,” By the fall of 2002, it was common knowledge around CIA circles that fewer than 10 percent of Guantanamo's prisoners were high-value terrorist operatives”...

Torturing Democracy is an invaluable, accurate and thorough documentary of what happened at Guantanamo--it should be distributed widely. (I first saw it on PBS.) You can go directly to the web site, http://torturingdemocracy.org/, and listen to it in its entirety. The transcript is backed up with specific citations, footnotes and links for researchers to build on.

How many Americans know that many of the prisoners came to the US through bounty hunters? To offer such payments in poor areas makes almost anyone fair game.

From Torturing Democracy:

NARRATOR: Tens of thousands of leaflets promising “enough money to take care of your family (and) your village for the rest of your life” 9 were dropped by psychological ops teams.

Javed Ibrahim Paracha: “Where is Arab? Where is Arab? Where is Arab? You get thousand dollar for one Arab. Thirty thousand, forty thousand, sixty thousand. And helicopter loud speaker announcing these things.”

NARRATOR: Any Arab in the region was at risk of being turned in as a terrorist.

. . .

SHAFIQ RASUL – Detainee #086: As soon as we were handed over to the U.S. military, they tied our hands behind our back and put sacks over our heads.

NARRATOR: Twenty-four-year old Shafiq Rasul10 was among hundreds of men who had been rounded up by a warlord in northern Afghanistan.

SHAFIQ RASUL – Detainee #086: We couldn't see what was going on. We couldn't see anything around. We didn't know where they were taking us. We didn't know what was happening. They kept shouting things like we were the ones responsible for 9/11. We killed members of their family, and they were going to take their revenge out on us. And they had rifles in their hands and they could have shot us at any time.

Words of Mohamed Mazouz – Detainee #294:11 “We were hauled like animals, one drawing the other in its walk.” 12
Words of Jumah al-Dossari – Detainee #261:13 “They started making us run towards the unknown. The prisoners started shouting and crying because of their severe pain. There were many young people with us, and the soldiers increased their insults and beatings.” 14
...
At Guantanamo Bay:

Colonel STUART COUCH: And so I walked down the hallway and the door was open. And I saw a detainee sitting on the floor. He was shackled. And the room was blacked out with exception of the strobe light. And he was just, he was rocking back and forth... There wan an Air Force attorney that was accompanying me, giving me the tour. And I just said, "Did you see that?" And he goes,” Well, yeah." And I said, "You know, I got a problem with that." And he goes, "Well, that's approved."

Narrator: Colonel Couch was not the only one troubled by the tactics Secretary Rumsfeld approved. FBI agents at the prison camp were keeping what they called a "war crimes" file--noting what they witnessed.
"I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food, or water. Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more."
. . .

VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY (November 14, 2001): “We think it’s the appropriate way to go. We think it guarantees that we’ll have the kind of treatment of these individuals that we believe they deserve.”
RICHARD SHIFFRIN: That, of course, was premised on the idea that everyone we captured and detained really was a bad person. As it turns out, a large percentage of them were merely shepherds.
. . .

NARRATOR: In other words, the President has the power to suspend - or simply ignore - the fundamental laws of war. That includes Geneva and its guarantees of basic human rights to prisoners and civilians alike.

RICHARD ARMITAGE – Deputy Secretary of State (2001-05): Our views were well known in this matter. We were not on board.

NARRATOR: Richard Armitage served three combat tours in Vietnam.

RICHARD ARMITAGE: For the most part, the Department of State was left out of this discussion, I think precisely because we'd have no part of it.

NARRATOR: The State Department’s top lawyer called John Yoo’s legal reasoning “seriously flawed” 39 - and warned that if heading to the dark side meant violating Geneva:
“This raises a risk of future criminal prosecution for US civilian and military leadership and their advisers, by other parties to the Geneva Conventions.” 40

NARRATOR: The photographs of shackled and blindfolded prisoners provoked alarm – and an urgent letter from Amnesty International reminding Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld that:
“The term ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment’ should be interpreted…to extend the widest possible protection against abuses…including the holding of a detained or imprisoned person in conditions which deprive him…of the use of any of his natural senses.” 46
(Press Conference, Department of Defense - January 11, 2002):
Q: How do you respond to charges – hooding, shaving, chaining, perhaps even…”
Secretary Rumsfeld: “What are the words?”
Q: “Hooding, shaving, chaining, perhaps even tranquilizing some of these people – violating their civil rights.”
Secretary Rumsfeld: “Uh, that –uh– that’s not correct.”
Q: “That you’ve done it?”
Secretary Rumsfeld: “That it’s a violation of their rights. It simply isn’t.”

. . .

MOAZZAM BEGG – Detainee #558: It goes beyond being scared now. You just want to sleep. They produced pictures of my wife, my children, and waved these pictures in front of me, asking me if I knew what had happened to my wife and kids that night. If I thought they were safe, if I thought I’d ever see them again. If I really cared about them so much, I would tell them everything.

NARRATOR: A woman began to scream in a nearby cell. Threats against a prisoner’s family were called “second degree torture” 62 during the Spanish Inquisition – and were commonly used by the Soviet KGB. 63
For two days and two nights, he heard the woman he thought might be his wife being tortured. . .

NARRATOR: During the eleven months Moazzam Begg was imprisoned in Bagram, at least two men in U.S. custody there died. 64
In Guantanamo, he was locked into a 6-by-8 foot cage where he would spend the next two years, in isolation. His nightmares were filled with the screams of a woman.

NARRATOR: Now, his interrogations would intensify. An hourly log – leaked from Guantanamo - narrates the harsh details.
He is forced to wear a woman’s bra. A thong is draped over his head – sexually taunting and humiliating – a Muslim man.
A leash is tied around his neck.
1115: Began teaching the detainee lessons such as stay, come, and bark to elevate his social status up to that of a dog. Detainee became very agitated.
1300: Dog tricks continued and detainee stated he should be treated like a man. 106

NARRATOR: Nine hours later, while women are in the interrogation booth, he is stripped naked.
2200: After approximately five minutes of nudity the detainee ceased to resist…. He stated that he did not like the females viewing his naked body. 107

NARRATOR: Besides the physical coercion, an interrogator posing as a Navy captain sent by the White House told Slahi that his family was “in danger” if he didn’t cooperate, 150 that his mother had been imprisoned – and implied she might be raped in custody.151

Colonel STUART COUCH: If you tell me that Slahi gave up information because you told him, and showed him in a letter, that you’re bringing his mother to Guantanamo and that she could be abused by men, is anything that he tells you from that point, you know, is that credible?
...
Colonel STUART COUCH: God means what he says. And we were created in his image, and we owe each other a certain level of dignity – a certain level of respect. And that’s just a line we can’t cross. If we compromise our own ideals as a nation, then these guys have accomplished much more than driving airplanes into the World Trade Center and into the Pentagon.
Please go to the website and listen to the whole documentary. http://torturingdemocracy.org/

Remembering what I learned in Torturing Democracy, I watched another powerful documentary, Children of the Taliban, shown on PBS Frontline
Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy undertook a dangerous journey to her native Pakistan to document how the Taliban are repressing young girls and recruiting children to carry out suicide attacks. Poor parents who cannot feed their children, let alone educate them, often allow the Taliban to do so.

From Children of the Taliban (transcript):

In one video, 25 children appear wearing the traditional Pakistani shalwar kameez. Sitting cross-legged on the ground, they rock back and forth reciting the Koran...
Housed in a bare compound, three young boys watch over the group holding automatic guns. Their teacher, dressed in brown military fatigues, paces the room reading from a book called, "Justifications for Suicide Bombing." Moving to a white board, he writes, "Reasons for killing a spy."

…In another video, three teenage boys talk about their desire to become suicide bombers. We meet Zainullah, who later blows himself up killing six; then Sadique, who blows himself up killing 22; and Masood who kills 28. We're shown footage glorifying their attacks...
"Suicide" schools run by the Taliban are preparing a generation of boys to commit atrocities against civilians. Last year, suicide attacks struck right across Pakistan, killing more than 800 people. Pakistan's war is no longer confined to the lawless Tribal areas along the Afghan border, it has moved to the cities. Children are being killed, but they are also being turned into killers...
(Please go to PBS and watch the entire documentary.)

As I watched Children of the Taliban, I thought of my grandchildren--a little boy like my four year old grandson, Philip, or Patrick or Jonathan or Robert--a little boy like my son, Jack, used to be. A little boy taken in his formative years and trained. He is told about being a suicide bomber, and how it pleases God, and that America is the Big Satan. All of these little boys are some mother's child. So the little boy grows up and becomes what we think of as a terrorist and now is a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay. How shall we combat this? I'm sure those who were tortured felt that what they had been taught was certainly affirmed. They had fallen into the Big Satan.

Before we know what to do with the prisoners, we must know who they are and how they got there. However, to get to know the prisoners is not part of the military agenda. Charge and trial being absent, many were just judged as terrorists. Chris Arendt, the Guantanamo guard, who joined the British detainees, said that he would talk to the inmates to learn about their lives. However, this was thought to be "fraternizing with the enemy". So he was given other responsibilities. If you don’t know them, how do you know they are enemies?


Brandon Neely said almost the same thing:
“I know that being in the position I was in, as an active duty Military Police officer guarding the most dangerous men in the world, that I was not supposed to really interact with the detainees. But it’s hard. Especially when you realize that some of these guys are no different than yourself. The military trains you not to think and just to react and not feel any compassion for anyone or anybody. And do what you are told. No questions asked.”

So what shall we do with these prisoners for whom we are responsible? These prisoners whom Congress as a whole does not want to touch our righteous soil? These prisoners for which our prisons are too fine? There are around 250 left at Guantanamo—50 of which have been cleared now by US authorities. But no one wants them. Where shall they go? Who will take them?

I advocate

ENHANCED INTERROGATION
Which includes:

First, "If your enemy hunger, feed him." Make sure every prisoner has adequate food and if their religion has certain dietary rules, comply. Make sure he has clean water to drink, a clean bed to sleep on, a place to wash, and can use the restroom in privacy. If he wishes, supply him with reading material, paper and pen, music. Make him comfortable. Make him feel he is among people who love God, who love freedom and democracy. In this way he may question his false training.
Pray for him--he doesn't need to know you pray for him. By the Spirit of God, watch for opportunities of conversation. He should know why he is there--tell him about 9/11. Get to know him. What is his background, his childhood--did he grow up in a school of the Taliban?

Some may think this is crazy naïve interrogation. Contrast it with what is described in Torturing Democracy.

Some having compassion, making a difference. . .” Jude

The man in Colorado said they were "good conservative Christians." Are they? What would Jesus do?

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you. That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven. . . Matthew 5: 43,44

Wouldn't "a good Christian" look at this as an opportunity to show the love of Christ and win such a person to the Kingdom of God?

Closing Guantanamo Bay is not the first step–it is not the place that must be changed, but the treatment. The first step is enhanced interrogation, as I have described–which can begin immediately. The second step is that our consciousness as a nation needs to change. Yes, there are people of compassion. There are people who understand what has happened at Guantanamo Bay. But it is hidden from the majority of Americans if what is expressed by some of our legislators and some of our newscasters is any indication.

"I was in prison and you visited me..." Matthew 25

Here is our job description:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings to the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound... Isaiah 61

Because that he remembered not to shew mercy, but persecuted the poor and needy man, that he might even slay the broken in heart. Psalm 109:16

Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy. . . Matthew 5:7

Who is a God like unto thee that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. Micah 7:18

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? Micah 6:8

He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth; but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he. . .He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor. Proverbs
14:21,31

For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. James 2:13

These prisoners have been judged “the worst of the worst” without knowing them.

Judge not, lest ye be judged. Matthew 7:1

Judge not according to appearance but judge righteous judgment. John 7:24

He shall not judge after the hearing of the ear or the seeing of the eye but with equity shall he judge the poor. . . Isaiah 11
Brandon Neeley:
"After speaking with the detainees and realizing they had families who loved them, just as I had, I started to realize that these people are no different than me. Hell! I was older than some of the ones there.
"I think everyone can agree that, at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, there are some really bad people. And there are a lot of good people there as well. But – innocent, guilty, black, white, Muslim, or Jew, no matter what you are – there is no excuse to treat people in the manner that I and other people did. It’s wrong and just downright criminal, and it goes against everything the United States of America stands for.
"Since we started this interview President Barack Obama has said the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay will be closed within a year. That's great, but what are WE as the United States of America, the people who kidnapped and tortured these people going to do for them? Just send them home like nothing happened? In the USA if you are sentenced to prison and later on you are found not to be guilty through DNA or what not you are given compensation. Are we going to give compensation to these individuals that were so wrongfully held for so many years? We should. We started this mess and it's time we attempt to help this people move on with their lives. The sad part of this all is the people who are responsible. Former President George Bush and Former Vice President Dick Cheney will never be held accountable for the decisions they made. It's the detainees and the guards like myself that will have to live every day with what they went through, saw, and did while there. "
What better could be done with an enemy that to make him a friend, and especially to make him a friend of God...It enables you to see unlimited possibilities in everyone and even in the most tragic of situations—J. Rufus Moseley

A holy person is concerned about the suffering of other people.
***
July 24, 2009
McClatchy

U.S. admits it has no case against teen held at Guantanamo
Washington–The Justice Department conceded Friday that it lacks the evidence to hold a teenage Guantanamo detainee as an enemy combatant after a federal judge last week ruled that his confession was inadmissible.

In a hearing last week, U.S. District Jude Ellen Segal Huvelle ruled that Mohammed Jawad's confession to Afghan officials was inadmissible because it had been extracted through torture. She also questioned whether the Justice Department had any evidence to proceed with a trial to determine whether he
can be held as an enemy combatant.

Huvelle called the case an "outrage," and told Justice Department lawyers that their case against Jawad had been "gutted".

"Without his statements, I don't understand your case," she told Justice Department lawyers. "Sir, the facts can only get smaller, not bigger... Face it, this case is in trouble... Seven years and this case is riddled with holes."...

Comment written about the above article, August 2, 2009:
What do you call German SS officers who wrecked havoc on US troops? My grandfather was an SS officer who spent six years in a US POW camp. He always talked about how humanely he was treated. And he was personally decorated by Adolf Hitler for something he never wanted to elaborate upon. Same goes for the Japanese – even the Japanese commander who ordered the attack on Pearl Harbor was treated as a VIP in custody with his private interpreter present at all times. So why are Afghan kids held in custody for many years and maltreated like that. It seems that the US is creating its own enemies.
President Barack Obama ordered the closure of Guantanamo by January, but the administration has struggled to come up with a way to either release or try detainees.
New York Times, May 22, 2009:
Obama Would Move Some Terror Detainees to U.S.—backs detentions without trials if needed. By Sheryl Gay Stolberg—Washington—Despite stiff resistance from Congress, President Obama said Thursday that he intended to transfer some detainees from Guantanamo Bay Cuba, to highly secure facilities inside the United States. He also proposed “prolonged detention” for terrorism suspects who cannot be tried, a problem, he called, the toughest issue we face... (He speaks of detainees who pose a national security threat but cannot be prosecuted, either for lack of evidence or evidence is tainted.)
"In my long experience in Washington, few matters have inspired so much contrived indignation and phony moralizing as the interrogation methods applied to a few captured terrorists," -- Dick Cheney
“We think it’s the appropriate way to go. We think it guarantees that we’ll have the kind of treatment of these individuals that we believe they deserve.”—Dick Cheney
In a comment to Chris Arendt’s testimony, Mark Read Pickens wrote:
Let me see if I've grasped the theory. Someone in Afghanistan has a personal enemy. He captures that guy and sells him to the U.S. The U.S. imprisons the guy indefinitely. And this makes us safer.


Guantanamo Bay—the very words now evoke injustice and torture indicative of a shameful part of our present history—why not transform this bay into a haven of redemption, justice and hope—an example of what we really are and want to be as Americans?

A Secular President?

Bill O'Riley said on Fox News. "There is no question that President Obama is a secular president and that message is well received in Washington." (July 10, 2009)

However, I heard the President say something different on Religion and Ethics --PBS:
October 10th, 2008
2008 Campaign: What the Candidates Believe

Bob Abernethy, anchor: Religion's role in the campaign is at the center of our program today, beginning with a special report from Kim Lawton on the religioius beliefs of the presidentail and vice-presidential candidates.

Kim Lawton: All four candidates decribe themselves as Christians, but they talk about their faith--and apply it to their politics --in very different ways.

Barack Obama has been the most outspoken about matters of faith, even though a survey last month found that 46 percent of Americans were still unable to correctly identify him as a Christian.

Obama says he was not raised in a religious household. But when he arrived in Chicago as a young community organizer he says he realized somethings was missing fom his life. He visited Trinity United Church of Christ and went forward during an altar call. . .

Senator Barack Obama: The skeptical bent of my mind didn't suddenly vanish, but kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side, I felt I heard God's spirit bechoning me. I submitted myself to His will and dedicated myself to discovering His truths and carrying out His works.

Lawton: Obama easily offers testimony about what that means to him.

Sen. Obama (at Saddleback Church): I believe in--that Jesus Christ died for my sins and that I am redeemed through him. That is a source of strength and sustenance on a daily basis. I know that I don't walk alone.

Lawton: Obama believes that his personal spiritual journey has public consequences, and he often talks about the importance of putting faith into action.

Sen. Obama: That I could sit in church and pray all I want, I wouldn't be fulfilling God's will unless I went out and did the Lord's work.

. . .
Lawton: Obama often cites Scripture in outlining his agenda.

Sen. Obama. We need to heed the biblical call to care for "the least of these" and lift the poor out of despair. . .Faith may cause divisions, but Obama says it can also play a key role in bringing Americans together.

Sen. Obama: What is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world's great religions demand: that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother's keeper. Scripture tells us, Let us be our sister's keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Pray the Devil Back to Hell

I first heard of this documentary through Bob Herbert’s column in the New York Times—January 31, 2009. It was entitled: A Crazy Dream

A woman in Liberia tells about a dream she had. In the dream she was told to organize the women in her church to pray. This spread to other churches and eventually Muslim women joined. They not only prayed for peace but they were led in other peace initiatives and demonstrations. Prayer gave them courage, strength and guidance. These women were determined and very brave in this country of such violent civil war—little boy soldiers, rape and unspeakable horror.

As a result of the efforts of these women the tyrannical president, Charles Taylor had to go into exile and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was sworn in as the first woman ever elected president of an African country. Charles Taylor is now being tried for war crimes—he gave money to Serre Leone rebels with their little boy soldiers in exchange for diamonds.

This documentary has received many awards including The Profiles of Courage Award. It is inspirational and encourages us in the power of prayer. The documentary is being shown in many places around the world--people can arrange to show it. http://www.praythedevilbacktohell.com/v3/

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

President Obama is NOT pro-abortion (nd controversy)

I am saddened by so much misunderstanding and judgment as illustrated in the controversy regarding President Obama's speaking at Notre Dame. (Just google Notre Dame Obama to see how much there is.) The Master said, "Judge not according to appearance but judge righteous judgment." (John 7:24) Two kinds of judgment: (1) appearance--the seeing of the eye and the hearing of the ear (Isaiah 11) (2) righteous judgment. What is righteous judgment? the discernment God gives as apposed to jumping to judgment by what appears. "Judge not, lest ye be judged." It is a serious matter to rush to judgment, as much of our media and population do. How many go into their prayer closet and meditate to get the true answer before writing or speaking?


Now we have big groups protesting President Obama's speaking at Notre Dame because they believe he is pro-abortion and therefore immoral. (Please read their statements.)


President Obama is NOT pro-abortion. He just believes that the reversal of
Roe vs. Wade is not the way to solve the problem, but will actually multiply the problem. He has repeatedly said statements similar to this: ". . .we can certainly agree on the fact that we should be doing everything we can to avoid unwanted pregnancies that might even lead somebody to consider having an abortion. " (Source: 2008 Democratic Compassion Forum at Messiah College Apr 13, 2008) He has described himself as a person of faith recognizing the moral aspect of abortion.


If we would be followers of Jesus, then we must certainly realize that the laws that will change the world are not those written on paper, but those written on the heart. "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statues and ye shall keep My judgments and do them." Ezekiel 36:26. Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God: not in tables of stone. but in fleshly tables of the heart." II Corinthians 3:3 It has been said "The greatest progress needs to be made in the human heart." How can we help the world? How can we help the problem of abortion? One heart at a time--your heart and mine. and that is where our work must begin. History shows this. There were those against drinking and thought that if only they could get a law passed against it--they worked so hard. However, as we all know, Prohibition did not stop the drinking of alcohol. We have laws against drugs, but drugs continue to flourish because the emptiness in hearts remains.

Now much energy is being consumed about whether or not President Obama should speak at Notre Dame, because of the unsolved abortion issue. He is wrongly judged to be pro-abortion. I have been listening to this problem and writing about it for decades. The plight of the world's children is sad--many have a choice of drugs, prostitution or war. Many don't even have clean water to drink. I care about the children of the world and want the world to be safe for them, and my own three children and seven grandchildren. If all the energy to reverse Roe vs.Wade had been directed to root causes--as Jesus taught--what would our world be today? It is wrong to assume that those who oppose the reversal of Roe vs. Wade are pro-abortion. I am not pro-abortion. But at the same time, I am not for the reversal of Roe vs. Wade. Can you see that possibility? When hearts are changed, problems take care of themselves. Listen with your heart.



Look at the post below: Wisdom for the Abortion War: A Peaceable Solution for Everyone Without Compromise.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wisdom for the abortion war: a peacable solution making everyone a winner without compromise

If our thinking could be so changed as to end the abortion war, it would be like dominoes affecting other seemingly unsolvable problems.

If you would convince me of error, you must first demonstrate you heard what I said.
--Charles Finney

It is said to be the issue that won’t go away -- as divisive as slavery before the Civil War. Is there a peaceable answer to this conflict? I believe there’s a win/win solution without compromise and that we are closer to agreement in our hearts than we comprehend. I propose this as an answer all can accept:

(1) Can we agree that outlawing abortion will not solve the problem or stop abortion. The reversal of Roe vs. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision legalizing abortion, would be extremely detrimental for our country no matter which view one currently takes, as it would further fragment our society and actually distract energy from the goal of fewer abortions.
Romania had the most stringent anti-abortion laws—abortion was punishable by death. Yet when freedom came, records showed that Romania had one of the highest abortion rates in the world under that law. With the fall of Romania’s oppressive Ceaucescu regime the world discovered the horror of more than 150,000 malnourished, neglected children held prisoners in antiquated systems of hospitals and orphanages. Latin American countries also have strong anti-abortion laws and yet multiple dangerous illegal abortions are still performed.

So if efforts to reverse Roe vs. Wade should succeed, then what? We’re back to the beginning. What shall we do about abortion, and what shall be done for the suffering children?

(2) However, if we focus on the conditions leading to abortion, instead of giving our attention to legislation, think of all the peace we can sow. Let those against abortion redirect their energies to the root of the problem where it will do permanent good. What circumstances surround women resorting to abortion? Individual and collective efforts to improve society and alleviate suffering will surely result in more wanted conceptions and fewer abortions.

It is time to realize what we have been taught: the laws that will change the world are not those written on paper, but those written on the heart (Jeremiah 31:33,34). The answer, of course, is love-- “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I have become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13:1, NKJV). We need to work with the people who need help: single mothers, unwed mothers, Habitat for Humanity, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Mothers in Prison, Children in Crisis, the homeless, alternative mental health facilities -- or wherever else the Spirit of Love leads us.

II.
If our energy is consumed with the reversal of Roe vs. Wade (which is fruitless effort to stop abortion), then it will not be sufficient to attend to the audible screams of children in our own country and all over the world.

From U.N. Prepares for a Debate on Dire Needs of Children:
Ten million children die yearly from preventable diseases. 300,000 children are fighting in wars. Countless children have three fates: war, drugs, and prostitution. 100 million children are unable to attend school. In many countries a large percentage of newborns do not live to the age of five. Sub-Saharan Africa has 10 percent of the world’s population but 90 percent of its AIDS orphans. There are more than 100 million street children around the world who live in fear every day of their lives. According to Amnesty international many of these children “disappear,” are beaten, illegally detained and confined, sexually exploited, tortured and systematically killed by agents of the state. For innumerable children water is costly, dirty and scarce.
This is just a short list of needs to be addressed.

III.
Charles Finney said, “If you would convince me of error, you must first demonstrate you heard what I said.” We must look out the window of those who oppose us to see how they are thinking and what their needs and goals are. These polarizing words need to be changed, “A woman’s right to choose.”
When people say, “A woman’s right to choose”, immediately Roe vs. Wade opponents say, “A woman’s right to choose murder? Her body ends where the child’s begins.” We hear such words as, “Baby killers.”
Instead FOCUS on (1) the fact that outlawing abortion will not solve the problem and (2) attending to the needs of the people and root causes is the quickest way to fewer abortions and more wanted conceptions. That’s all we have to agree upon to end this abortion war. We don’t have to get into such questions as to when the soul enters the body, etc. Don’t distract by saying, “A woman’s right to choose.” If people are against abortion, let them be—only focus on the above two points. Then everyone’s goals and needs are better met.
If our thinking could be so changed as to end the abortion war, it would be like dominoes affecting everything else. Imagine a world where people on both sides feed the hungry, help the widow and fatherless and visit the prisoners..
It is vital to end this war, which is tearing our country apart, wasting so much time, money, and energy without result or solution and fomenting hate. Causing havoc in our political process and draining our resources this internal impasse touches us all. In our mistaken focus we are weakening our whole society in neglecting the problems and suffering that need to be addressed as we allow that which is at the root of the problem to drift away from our consciousness. The faulty thinking, surfaced by this issue, graphically illustrates the erroneous way we go about solving the issues that face us – all elements of our discord are represented. The Abortion War—there is a peaceable solution.


IV.


Recently the author, Shelby Foote, died. He wrote a three volume history of the Civil War. This was used for the PBS documentary by Ken Burns. Some years ago when I saw the documentary, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I kept thinking about how important it is to learn from this war for present-day problems.

George Washington had a dream at Valley Forge in which he saw a vision of three times of trouble for America—the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and the worst to come. However, prophesy and prophetic dreams do not have to come to pass. They are a warning of what the prophetic eye sees if present circumstances do not change.

What is in the world? It is a picture of what is in each of our hearts. Inasmuch as we listen to our hearts and do our part—inasmuch as we go by The Golden Rule (or don’t go by The Golden Rule), we are responsible for the violence or the peace in this world.

Did we have to have the Civil War? Some may think we did—to free the slaves, to preserve the union. After the Civil War was supposedly over, however, the terrible conflict continued so much so that it was called the Second Civil War. Hearts were not changed—in fact, for many, hatred had multiplied and for many ex-slaves conditions were even worse. There was the so called Jim Crow legislation passed by the southern states as soon as they rejoined the union which made racial inequality laws. Lynching was common place and the outlawing of it couldn’t even get through the Senate. Dr. Martin Luther King and the freedom marches haven’t been so far in the distant past. Mississippi just recently had the trial and conviction of the man who orchestrated the death of three Civil Rights leaders.


I wish there could be a documentary about John Woolman of the Quakers. We hear much of John Brown and his bloody methods, but what about John Woolman? I talk of him often—most of the time people have never heard of him. John Woolman (1720-1772) was an example of the right way to change wrong. (Notice his dates-- over a hundred years before the Civil War.)
John Woolman was convinced that slavery was wrong and so he went from Quaker meeting to Quaker meeting preaching this message. He actually traveled on foot from New England to North Carolina. In 1758 he convinced the Philadelphia Quakers at their yearly meeting to give up slavery—imagine that! We should have a national holiday about this! Hearts were changed. These were permanent results. Would that John Woolman’s message had been taken up by others and the Civil War averted. (Later the Quakers were at the forefront of the Underground Railroad.)

We have laws against drugs. Have these paper laws solved the drug problem? We had the experiment of Prohibition. Why didn’t it work? Are the answers in war or in the changing of laws? No, the answer is in the changing of hearts. Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is within you.” Can we learn from the Civil War that there is another way and can we use this wisdom to resolve the abortion war? It is time for us to transcend war and violence. The Abortion War can be that challenge, giving us the opportunity to show how the key that heretofore has locked now can unlock.

In the ancient Garden of Eden story Adam and Eve were told not to eat from Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil because it was a tree of death. It is still a tree of death. What does this mean? To eat from it means to make judgments solely with the mind in human understanding—to judge something as “good” or “evil” apart from The Voice within giving you the real picture. Jesus said, “Judge not according to appearance but judge righteous judgment.” Eating from this Tree is judging by appearances—which can appear exactly the opposite of the true situation. We are told also by the Master, “Except you become as little children, you cannot see the kingdom of God.” Until we discern intuitively—until we hear The Voice—about a matter, it is all right for us to say, “I don’t know. I am as a child—I cannot tell.” We cannot tell until we hear. Jesus said that he did nothing except what he saw the Father do. “As the Father sent me, so send I you.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had judges like this? The wealthy person with the lawyer making it look like he were innocent when he wasn’t would have no advantage. An innocent poor man with circumstantial evidence making him appear guilty would not be disadvantaged.
Jeremiah 31:31-34 speaks of God writing His laws on our hearts. In another place (Ezekiel 36:24-27) God says that He will “sprinkle clean water on us and give us a new heart and take the stones out and give us a heart of flesh.” There will be peace on earth when we transcend to the spiritual realm for answers of the Spirit.


After President Clinton’s Second Inaugural Address, a reporter, when asked if he thought he heard anything really quotable said, “No, I don’t think so.” However, I did:


“The greatest progress needs to be made in the human heart.”
--President William Jefferson Clinton




War has always had an adversary who hardly ever comes forward as such but does
his work in the stillness. This adversary is speech, the speech of genuine
conversation in which people understand one another and come to mutual
understanding. . .the abysses between man and man threatens ever more pitilessly
to become unbridgeable. – Martin Buber

The abortion issue is a symptom and arguing about it is rather like arguing about whether to clip a hedge or let it go free when there’s a bulldozer down the road apace that is going to mow the whole thing down. In the spirit of John Woolman let's focus on the bulldozer.

V.


From Henry Drummond (1851-1897) beautiful book, The Greatest Thing in the World

To love abundantly is to live abundantly, and to love for ever is to live forever. Hence, eternal life is inextricably bound up with love. . .
. . .Be not deceived. The words which all of us shall one day hear sound not of theology, but of life, not of churches and saints, but of the hungry and the poor, not of creeds and doctrines but of shelter and clothing, not of Bibles and prayer books but of cups of cold water. . .
Christ did not come into the world to give man religion. . .The tendency of the religions of all time has been to care more for religion than for humanity. . .
The world in which we live is an unfinished world. It is not wise, it is not happy, it is not pure, it is not good. . Humanity is little more than raw material. Almost everything has yet to be done to it. . .The work of Creation is going on. . And this teeming universe of people in which we live has almost all its finer color and beauty yet to take. . .The fires of its passion were not yet cool; their heat had to be transformed into finer energies. . .the forces to realize them were not yet born. . .God’s way of making worlds is to make them make themselves. . .God does not grudge souls their comfort . . .Be sure that wherever religion appears small, or forbidding, or narrow, or inhuman, you are dealing not with the whole. . .not even with an arch or column—every detail is perfect—but with some cold stone removed from its place and suggesting nothing of the glorious structure from which it came. . .
This programme deals with a real world. Think of it as you read—not of the surface-world, but of the world as it is, as it sins and weeps, and curses and suffers and send up its long cry to God. Limit it, if you like, to the world around your door, but think of it—of the city and the hospital and the dungeon and the graveyard, of the sweating shops and the pawn shop and the drink shop; think of the cold, the cruelty, the fever, the famine, the ugliness, the loneliness, the pain. And then try to keep down the lump in your throat as your take up His Programme and read—


To bind up the Broken Hearted:
To proclaim Liberty to the Captives:
To comfort all that Mourn:
To Give unto them—
Beauty for Ashes,
The Oil of Joy for Mourning,
The Garment of Praise for the Spirit of Heaviness.


What an exchange—beauty for ashes, joy for mourning, liberty for chains. . .
And that is the work of the Day of Vengeance. When is that day? It is now. . .Wherever the poor are trodden upon. . .wherever the air is poison and the water foul; wherever want stares, and vice reigns, and rags rot—there the Avenger takes his stand. Whatever makes it more difficult for the drunkard to reform, for the children to be pure, for the widow to earn a wage, for any of these wheels of progress to revolve. . .with these he deals. Delay him not. He is the messenger of God. . . Though evil stalks the world, it is on the way to execution; though wrong reigns, it must end in self-combustion. . .
People repudiate religion because they think it a small and limited thing, a scheme with no large human interest to command it to this great social age. I ask you to note that there is not one burning interest of the human race which is not represented here. What are the great words according to this Programme: Take as specimens these: Liberty, Comfort, Beauty, Joy. These are the greatest words of life. . .in these enlightened days they must raise the masses by giving them noble sculptures and beautiful paintings and music and public parks. . .
It is impossible to doubt that the Decorator of the World shall not continue to serve to His later children, and in ever finer forms, the inspirations of beautiful things. Most fearlessly than he has ever done, the follower of God will use the noble spiritual leverages of Art. . .Christ might have done all this work Himself, with His own hands. But He did not. The crowning wonder of His scheme is that he entrusted to people. . .
There are versions of Christianity, it is true, which no self-respecting mind can do other than disown—versions so hard, so narrow, so unreal, so super-theological, that practical men can find in them neither outlets for their lives nor resting place for their thoughts. With these we have nothing to do. With these Christ had nothing to do—except to oppose them with every word and act of His life. It too seldom occurs to those who repudiate Christianity because of its narrowness or its unpracticalness, its sanctimoniousness or its dullness, that these were the very things which Christ strove against and unweariedly condemned. . .









Obama's choice of Rick Warren for Inaugural Invocation


The Brooklyn Bridge at Christmas time, with two of my eight grandchildren
(Anabelle, seven and Patrick, eight).


My son, Jack, is a structural engineer—designing bridges—so naturally he is interested in bridges, and especially the famous Brooklyn Bridge. He wanted his children to have the experience of walking across it. Through the years I have sent bridge postcards to him, and in so doing have thought of a different kind of bridge—bridges of understanding between people.

We can't build big bridges if we can't build small ones;
we can't have peace between nations if we can't have peace between individuals.

I'm happy about Obama's choice of Rick Warren for the inaugural invocation. I believe both to be men who wish to build bridges of understanding—they are willing to listen and consider opposing views in the path to finding solutions.
For decades our country has been caught up in the log jam issues of abortion and gay rights. Two years ago, when Rick Warren invited Barak Obama to speak at his church, some people said, "Oh, no, how could he invite Barak Obama?" Now there are those on the opposite side saying, "Oh, no, how could Barak Obama invite Rick Warren?" Because these two men are supposedly on opposite sides of these two issues—but are they?
In the process of writing this, as so often happens, the universe has brought relevant material to my attention that seems to go together like pieces of a puzzle.
Just a few days ago I heard Immaculee Ilibagiza, a survivor of the Rwandan Genocide, give her testimony at the West End Collegiate Church here in New York City. Her books, Left Behind, and Led by Faith, are on the New York Times best seller list.
From Publisher's Weekly:
"This searing firsthand account cuts two ways: her description of the evil that was perpetrated, including the brutal murders of her family members is soul-numbingly devastating, yet the story of her unquenchable faith and connection to God throughout the ordeal uplifts and inspires. This book is a precious addition to the literature that tries to make sense of humankind' seemingly bottomless depravity and counterbalancing hope in an all-powerful, loving God."
Coming from babysitting my six month old grandson, Noah, I walked in late and took a seat on the back row. At once the speaker's voice arrested me—I felt God's presence. And later, as I saw her up close, I noticed how beautiful she was—her face had the quiet radiance of someone who has spent much time in prayer. Her communion with God enabled her to have victory over unforgiveness and grief.
Being reminded of the Rwandan Genocide, I realized all the more the importance of resolving our conflicts in such a way as to not tear our country apart. Could we not release unnecessary pressure for our elected leaders by praying for them and looking for the things they do that are good instead of being so quick to criticize and revel at every seeming misstatement?. In our elections, isn’t there much digging into the past rejoicing to find something against an opponent? Do we know what happened between that person and God even yesterday? Consider our prison system—are there not many wrong judgments and a lack of belief in redemption?
At the church I saw these two quotations and thought they belonged in my paper:

With malice toward none and charity toward all. . .
--Abraham Lincoln

Our diversity unites us.

In realizing our nation, our world, individually and collectively, faces challenges and perils too vast for human strength, what can we do? We must enlist the heavenly host—going beyond what we see and hear. (I love the story found in II Kings 6: 8-23 which illustrates angelic help and also gives an example of, "If your enemy hunger, feed him.") We must stop eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (which is still a tree of death), jumping to judgment, but must be quiet in our spirits waiting for the discernment and wisdom from The One Who Inhabits Eternity.

Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment.
(John 7:24)

Situations can be so different from what they appear to be. Judging "according to appearance" is judging with human understanding alone; judging "righteous judgment" is judging with the discernment that God gives which is available to everyone if they will listen. Our Father/Mother "delights in mercy" and is "plenteous in redemption"; if we would be representatives of the divine, we must let mercy, love and redemption flow through us.
As we begin this New Year with a new administration may we deal with our differences as assets to enlarge our perceptions and not as liabilities to divide us.

God bless the friendship of President-elect Barak Obama and Pastor Rick Warren. May they, with us, help to lead our country with wisdom.

In the background, at the same time I’ve been writing this, I have been listening to PBS--Wayne Dyer:

Change Your Thoughts; Change Your Life.
These are sayings he gleaned from the Chinese classic Tao Te Ching and seem to go along with what I'm writing:
Learn to die while you are alive.
Have a sacred place in your home to pray.
Shift from fear to curiosity.
Less rigidity; more openness. Move from stiffness to flexibility. Flexibility is the companion of life.
Stop chasing life—let it come to you.
Don't be afraid to say, "I don't know. I'll look it up."
Heaven's way is to conquer without striving.
Hidden in all misfortunes is good fortune.
Nobility is rooted in humility.
Think small; accomplish great things. A seed becomes a tree.
A journey of a 1000 miles begins with one step.
No tree has branches so foolish as to fight among themselves.
The absurdity of having an enemy. . .
You accomplish more by trying less.
There is no way to happiness; happiness is the way.
(I can think of Biblical verses that say the same thing. For example:"If you save your life, you will lose it. . . except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die. . .if you have faith as a mustard seed , ye shall say to this mountain. . .love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you. . ..enter into thy closet and pray and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. . ."

The PBS program ended with a woman’s lovely voice singing, Amazing Grace. How many people have been blessed by this hymn written by John Newton who had been in the slave trade before he was converted and became a strong opponent of slavery?
All these thread are weaving together. Wayne Dyer was instrumental in getting Immaculee's book into print and on the front cover of her book is an endorsement by Rick Warren. ( I did not know this when I began the paper. ) I discovered that Nightline (July 31, 2008) had a program entitled, "Rick Warren's Long-Term Relationship with Rwanda." He has made numerous trips there, he says, "to help alleviate the suffering in a deeply wounded nation, a place where 200,000 people have HIV and 800,000 children are orphaned." Right now Charlie Rose is interviewing actors from the Holocaust movie, Defiance. I heard one of them say, "Just because horrible things have been done to you, you can't do them back."
No, as Immaculee so strongly demonstrates in her book, we must break the hatred cycle and let the Spirit of God cleanse our hearts and give us love, joy and peace.
After President Clinton's second inaugural address, I remember a news commentator saying, "There were no quotable quotes." (I suppose he meant nothing like, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.") I disagreed! I heard one wonderful, marvelous, earth transforming quote and with this I close:

The greatest progress needs to be made in the human heart.
----------------------------------------------
I've attached my writing: (actually it is in the next post)
Wisdom for the Abortion War:A Peaceable Solution for Everyone Without Compromise

Notes:
Time, December 6, 2006
Some time ago, Rick Warren, megapastor of the Saddleback Church in Orange County and author of the mega-seller The Purpose-Driven Life, along with his wife Kay, invited Democratic Sen. Barack Obama to speak today at the second annual AIDS conference at Warren's church. Other politicians were to participate, notably Sen. Sam Brownback, a born-again Christian turned conservative Catholic who, like Obama, may have presidential ambitions. But while Brownback was to speak to his natural constituency, Obama's participation is a divisive issue for one overriding reason: he is pro-choice. . .
CNN
Obama told the Rev. Rick Warren that "we still don't abide by that basic precept of Matthew: that whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me.
Obama said that although he's pro-choice and supports Roe v. Wade, his goal is to reduce the number of abortions in America."On this particular issue, if you believe that life begins at conception ... and you are consistent, then I can't argue with you on that," he said. "What I can do is say, are there ways we can work together to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies?"
He also touched on same-sex marriage. When asked to define marriage, he told Warren, "It's a union between a man and a woman.""For me as a Christian, it is a sacred union. God's in the mix," he said. Obama added that he does support same-sex civil unions, saying, "I can afford those civil rights to others even if I don't have ... that view."
And Warren, responding to the controversy, said "I've got two friends here, a Republican and a Democrat, why?" Warren asked. "Because you've got to have two wings to fly."
My note: Though Rick Warren is not for gay marriage, he is for Civil Unions. My sister and her friend have been partners in a stained glass business and have lived together for 30 years raising my sister's two children. They definitely are a family—though not lesbians. Rights that married people have could be realized with Civil Unions.