The Last Scapegoat (Reflection)

scapegoat-JesusWhen Jesus went voluntarily to the Cross as the Lamb of God, he sacrificed himself as history’s last scapegoat.

True Christians, as followers of The Last Scapegoat, proclaim in word and deed that they will never scapegoat anyone; that they will endeavor to never discriminate against or hate others. For they realize that in doing so, if they marginalize or blame immigrants, Muslims, Blacks, LGBTQI, leftists, or some other people group for their problems or the problems of society, then they crucify their Savior all over again.

© Paul Dordal, 2017

Unwinnable

ddequoteYesterday, as the US president visited Pennsylvania and thousands waved their flags, chanting USA, USA, the sickening reality of endless US militarism and imperialism continues to go unchecked by just about everyone in this country.

I served honorably in the US military as a chaplain for seven years and was in combat for a year in Iraq. Nevertheless, I simply cannot understand why so many US citizens are so supportive of war and not appalled by this country’s increasing militarism and imperialism. US wars have not solved anything or brought about peace. US militarism and imperialism have not made us safer, and certainly, have not made the rest of the world safer.

It also perplexes me that US citizens believe president after president who say that the US military is the “best” in the world. If we would take our heads out of the sand for just one moment, we would see that the US military has failed miserably over the last 50 years at accomplishing sustainable peace in the world.

Why? Because the US government and its military-industrial-complex are not in the business of winning wars or peacemaking, but of maintaining continual wars to steal or control resources, subjugate other nations, and line the pockets of the plutocrats (the 1%) who actually run this country.

The US has invaded or bombed seven different countries since September 11, 2001 and has hundreds of military bases all over the world, with little to nothing to show for any of it. Yet, the call of the current US regime is for even more money to be spent on the military and war.

Below is a list of six of those seven countries, all Muslim majority nations, that the US military is currently bombing or fighting in, with the (estimated) percentage of the land/population that each of these country’s government has control of:[i]

  1. Libya: 90% controlled by terrorists and militias
  2. Syria: 65% controlled by terrorists and militias
  3. Somalia: 50% controlled by terrorists and militias
  4. Afghanistan: 40% controlled by Taliban, terrorists, or militias
  5. Yemen: 30% controlled by terrorists and militias
  6. Iraq: 20% controlled by terrorists

How is it possible that all of these countries are so unstable when we have spent two trillion dollars ($2,000,000,000,000) fighting the so-called war on terror? This is not to mention the millions killed, wounded, or forced to flee from these countries because of war. And what do we US citizens have to show for all our warmongering since 2001: Tens of thousands of U.S. servicemen and women dead or wounded, an astounding twenty trillion dollars in debt, and not more stability or safety, but more chaos, more terrorism, and less safety.  Yet, amazingly, many US citizens keep waving their flags and saying let’s bomb and invade some more.

Bombings and war will not bring peace! They just bring more bombing and war.

It’s time to wake up and wage peace! War does not work! War is not winnable!

Peace is possible.

© Paul Dordal, 2017

[i] Source: Al Jazeera

 

There Is No “War” On _______ [Fill In The Blank With Your Polarized Political Opinion]

War On EverythingI am neither offended nor outraged, but I am saddened by bourgeois liberals who are offended by a non-existent, so-called “war” on science or deluded conservatives who are outraged by a so-called “war” on Christmas, etcetera.

I have been to war, and war is hell. I would hope that we could try not to diminish the reality of the horror of war or the victims of violence in war by using the word “war” to describe someone’s opposition to someone else’s political or religious point of view.

But I am sure that some liberal will be offended or some conservative will be outraged by my suggestion.

© Paul Dordal, 2017

I Don’t Believe The Way You Do: And I’m Still A Catholic!

conformity-2It is clear that Jesus was not a member of any of the sects of Judaism in his time (Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, or Zealots). Jesus was critical of much of these sect’s beliefs and practices, but also praised them when they were in line with the goodness and love of God. Jesus was not beholden to one theological construct over another, and Jesus never identified with any of these sects as his own. He simply was a “believer” and called God his Father. Jesus was a universalist; he was for everyone, and that is why Jesus was a Catholic.

In his book, The Churches the Apostles Left Behind, scholar and Catholic priest Raymond Brown found seven distinct traditions in the various churches that were started by the apostles. Brown said, “There is no reason why there could not have been in the one city house churches of different traditions….”[i] Yet, Brown shows that even though these churches had different traditions and theological emphases, they would have still have been in communion with one another.

So, Jesus was not a member of any sect, and the early Christians did not practice exclusivism even as members of unique traditions. Yet, today Christians, to become members of churches, are obliged to hold to the distinctives of the various denominations and sects of Christianity, which way too often do not have communion with one another. Even within a particular tradition there are those who would criticize and even condemn those who don’t hold perfectly to a certain “party-line” of dogmatic teachings. Rigid religious exclusivism abounds and is often encouraged!

This is why I am advocating well-ordered anarchism as the solution to the exclusivism nightmare from which so many Christians cannot seem to awake. I want us all to be Catholics (universalists), if you will, no matter what group or non-group you identify with. All who even remotely have faith in Jesus are Catholics, no matter if some Grand Poohbah, clergy person, or even the person sitting next to you in a pew tries to say otherwise. You are free in Christ! You are beautiful before God!

Some of the issues of which I have been indoctrinated by an Evangelical or conservative Catholic upbringing are simply man-made constructs based on a narrow and often times erroneous interpretation of Scripture. For instance, Just-War Theory simply does not line up with Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels. Rigid and absolutist teachings about divorce and remarriage, male-only clergy, hierarchical organization, homosexuality, abortion, capitalism, and how we see other religions are simply unhelpful and, worse, they are hurtful and oppressive.

It is time to do away with the denominations, do away with rigid dogmatism, do away with systems of theology which are exclusivist, do away with church institutionalism, and to embrace the diversity of belief which Jesus and the early church proclaimed and embraced.  It is time to see God for who God really is and always has been: Ultimate Love! When we do this, we can be like Jesus, the One and True Catholic.

© Paul Dordal, 2017

Note
[i] Raymond E. Brown, The Churches the Apostles Left Behind. New York, NY: Paulist Press, 1984, 23.

Make America Least Again (Prophetic Reflection)

make-america-great-again-cross-outToday, the greatest danger to the world’s safety and security is the concept and practice of U.S exceptionalism. Making America Great Again by its very statement implies that other nations will necessarily be less. By Making America Great Again the rest of the world will suffer, but ultimately it will be the U.S. that suffers the most because of its arrogance.

I want to be clear: anyone who claims the Name of Christ cannot subscribe to U.S. exceptionalism. Our Scriptures tell story after story of how so-called great leaders and great nations have fallen because of their pride and imperialistic nationalism. The psalmist proclaimed:

“Why the big noise, nations?
Why the mean plots, peoples?
Earth-leaders push for position,
Demagogues and delegates meet for summit talks.

Heaven-throned God breaks out laughing.
At first he’s amused at their presumption;
Then he gets good and angry.
Furiously, he shuts them up” (Ps 2:1-2a; 4-5, MSG).

In contrast, the position of godly people is always as humble and down to earth. St. James proclaimed an oft repeated Scriptural truth when he said, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” (Ja 4:6). This favor—the blessing, prosperity, and peace of God are not for the strong or powerful, they are for the meek and humble. Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Mt 5:5, NIV).

It may be understandable for non-Christians, or those who hold no respect for God, to claim their own greatness or to promote abstractions called “States” as great or powerful, but it is unconscionable for a believer in God to ever make such a claim.

Jesus spoke clearly to his followers and said with no ambiguity, “Those who wish to be great, must be the least; whoever wants to be first, must be the very last” (Mt 20:26; Mk 9:35).

And if that was not clear enough he gave the example of how it should be done: “Jesus got up from the supper table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his loins, poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel he had around him. After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, ‘Do you understand what I was doing? Since I, the Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow: do as I have done to you. You know these things—now do them! That is the path of blessing’” (Jn 13:4-5; 12b-17, TLB).

If you claim to be a Christian and wore the hat or agree with the sentiment of Mr. Trump, or you believe somehow that the U.S. is exceptional among nations, you might want to check your spirit and see what the Lord has to say about it.

© Paul Dordal, 2016

10/07/01 – A Date Which Will Live In Infamy

soldiers-in-afghanistan“We will not tire; we will not falter; and we will not fail.” – President Bush, 2001.

The war in Afghanistan started on this day fifteen years ago. Former president George W. Bush spoke the above words just days before the invasion, and it is abundantly clear that the U.S. has not grown tired of war. It has been waging this war for over 15 years now (despite what Wikipedia says). And though the U.S. has not tired of war, the U.S. has indeed faltered and often failed in this so-called global war on terror.

But becoming tired of war is not the real problem.

Too many of us are sick of war and sick from war. “War is always an evil,” Jimmy Carter, another former president, said recently. And evil is what makes humans sick—sick in our minds and sick in our souls. U.S. combat veterans are not just coming back with physical wounds from fighting, but sick in their constitutions—negatively changed forever in their minds and souls. I should know. I am one.

But it is our whole society that is now sick from war after so many years of senseless and unnecessary national violence.  This U.S.  government’s disposition towards violence has spread to the streets of our communities, with our police increasingly using military tactics and equipment to quell any hint of opposition to the U.S. corporate and government domination systems.  We should not be surprised. The U.S. has been in some sort of war conflict for 222 of its 239 years of existence.

It is obvious that the U.S. is not tired of war; but, its citizens are desperately sick from war.

“This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist …” – President Obama, 2014

Today, President Obama has continued U.S. military warfare in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, and God only knows where else. All this without any Congressional declaration of war against any of these countries. When the U.S. military recently attacked militants in Libya, where were the news headlines: “U.S. Now At War With Libya!” I might understand no outrage, but not even a mention to that effect in the mainstream media?

Imagine if one of Africa’s national leaders said, “We will wage a steady, relentless effort to take out violent racists wherever they exist,” and then began dropping bombs on suspected violent racist’s homes in ten different Western nations. There would be outrage; there would be calls for a war crimes tribunal. Is this a fallacy of false equivalence?  Only if you think that the U.S. is morally exceptional, which, of course, it is not. The U.S. is a nation, which is simply an abstraction, like any other nation. What is real, what is concrete and observable is a nation’s actions.

It is time to call what the U.S. government is doing overseas what it is: gravely immoral and evil. Our militarism is evil and it is making the U.S.’s citizenry and communities sick, both spiritually, materially, and emotionally. Worse yet, U.S. imperialism is not just killing militants but also many tens of thousands of innocent civilians, making the societies of other nations desperately sick as well.

It is time to end all U.S. military interventions overseas, stop all U.S. arms sales to other nations, close Guantanamo, and decrease the size of the U.S. military budget by half.

The only way to heal from this war sickness is to end the wars!

(c) Paul Dordal, 2016

The Gospel of Nonviolence (Prophetic Reflection)

nonviolence

What if the Church, since its founding, had obeyed Jesus’ Gospel of Nonviolence instead of rationalizing the need for so-called just wars? Simply, we would be, today, a world at peace. If the Church of Jesus Christ had consistently preached and practiced peacemaking as Jesus commanded, wars, as we have known them, would have disappeared.

Wars and violence aren’t the world’s fault.  They’re the Church’s fault.

But hope is not lost. If Christians of the world would repent, get rid of their guns, stop supporting war, and, love, instead of fear, their neighbor as Jesus taught, the world can still be transformed.

God’s Kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven.

© Paul Dordal, 2016

Christians Against Empires (Reflection)

B751_ItsAPlanetNotAnEmpireCan you imagine the enslaved ancient Hebrews voluntarily supporting the Egyptian Empire’s desire to conquer large amounts of territory circa 1400 BCE? Of course not. Can you imagine first century Christians being supportive of the Roman Empire in its quest for hegemony? I think not. Then how is that so many twenty-first century American Christians still support the U.S. Empire in its continuing imperialistic activities throughout the world?  Empire is empire and Jesus was opposed to them. So should all Christians.

Christian Nationalism: A Sinful Oxymoron (Reflection)

nationalismNationalism is and always has been a danger to humanity. When politicians talk about American exceptionalism, they are promoting an extreme form of nationalism. Stoking nationalism is most often the way citizens are mobilized to support and make war against other humans; it is the basis of imperialism, xenophobia, racism, ethnic discrimination, and sows the seeds of fascism. The Church and Christians should have no part in it. Yet, everywhere I look I see nationalism in our churches.

This past June I took part in a pastoral care conference at one of the mega churches in the area. A wonderfully radical evangelical minister was the keynote speaker and there were some exciting redemptive discussions on racial reconciliation. Undiscussed or mentioned by anyone at the conference were the two U.S. Army recruiters, in their dress blue uniforms, at a table in the narthex. What were they doing there? They were invited to convince ministers to help them recruit young people for war. I have never come closer in my life to flipping tables in a church.

In some of my sister Roman Catholic Churches, I have recently seen some promoting groups to pray the so-called Patriotic Rosary.[i] When I mentioned this to a priest friend, he became defensive saying that the Bible supports patriotism. That is debatable, but Jesus and the Bible clearly do not support nationalism. The Patriotic Rosary includes singing The Battle Hymn of the Republic and the Star Spangled Banner, which are clearly militaristic and nationalistic songs.

Connected to my own religious tradition is the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East. I recently read that the Secretary of the Holy Synod of the Church of the East wants to develop a formal relationship with the nation of Israel. He wants to forge this relationship, not based on justice or peacemaking, but because of the military strength the Israeli nation has in the Middle East.[ii] Additionally, in the article he calls for yet another nation to be created for the benefit of the Assyrian people. Though this sounds like a good thing to many, creating new nations, borders, and armies cannot bring long-term peace; it is not the peacemaking Jesus has called us to!

The Church which Jesus Christ founded, the Church that was born on the day when Babel-like nationalistic walls were symbolically torn down, is not to be involved in nationalism.  Furthermore, the local church is not to be a flag-bearing microcosm of their nation, but agape bands of love agents, bringing about the nonviolent and egalitarian Kingdom of Heaven to earth.  Christians are, first and foremost, “citizens” born of heaven and come to earth.  Our savior said we cannot serve two masters; either we are citizens of heaven or we become denizens of hell.

For the Church to speak prophetically for peace on earth it has to renounce and remove any hint of nationalism from within its walls and from its speech.  Christian nationalism is a gravely sinful oxymoron.

© Paul Dordal, 2016

[i] http://www.sacredheartmilledgeville.org/Freedom%20Rosary%20and%20Litany.pdf
[ii] http://www.algemeiner.com/2016/06/21/assyrian-bishop-wants-friendship-with-israel/

A New Flat Earth Society? (Reflection)

flat earthFor millennia top-down hierarchy has been thought to be the natural or innate way in which humans organize society. Animal societies seem to indicate that social hierarchies are part of the innate structure of the animal world. To this day most human societies are organized around hierarchies (i.e., Government, Businesses, Religions, etc.).  Yet, is the spiritual and intellectual evolution of the human animal beginning to call into question the innateness of hierarchical social organization? Why is that more and more people are calling for a flatter way to organize human society, a more equal way to facilitate community life? I am meeting many people who have had “aha” moments because they have come to realize how unjust hierarchies inherently can be.

Hierarchies, by their design, simply can’t work to build an equal and peaceful society. Hierarchies, no matter how well intentioned, quickly devolve into relationships of division, mistrust, and injustice. Hierarchies, to be just, will work only when those at to the top, who have most of the power and resources, voluntarily distribute an equalizing amount of power and resources down to those who have less.  But this rarely happens, as can easily be seen from the great disparity of wealth and power throughout history and especially in our current times. Furthermore, inherent to hierarchy is the stratification of relationships, so that those who are on the bottom are often oppressed by those above; those on the bottom often feel left out, left behind, and left alone.

Yet, Jesus says to us today, as he did two thousand years ago, “It mustn’t be this way among you. Those who want to be at the top or who wish to organize life around hierarchies must forsake these ideas and become servants to all” (Mt 20:26).  Jesus is saying that the cycle of oppression and injustice will not end by bringing those on the lower tiers of the hierarchies up a few rungs or even by empowering the strongest of those on the bottom to reach the top.  The cycle only can end when those with power forsake their power and deconstruct the hierarchies so that equality and freedom can be achieved for all (Lk 12:33). Jesus’ prophetic call is the repudiation of oppressive hierarchical power (Mt 23:9-11).

There are some who believe that those on the top of hierarchies cannot be negotiated with, that only violence can be used to bring down corrupt hierarchical powers. Admittedly, many people with exorbitant amounts of money, power, and resources do not seem very eager to voluntarily divest themselves that the poor and the oppressed will be lifted up. But history shows us that when a violent revolution overthrows an unjust hierarchy, they are quickly replaced with a new unjust hierarchy. So, what can those who believe in a Gospel of nonviolence do?  Thankfully, history also shows that nonviolent resistance and action can be used to topple unjust structures of hierarchy, often to more long lasting and positive effect.  Though we could cite myriad examples from local nonviolent resistors, the more well-known examples of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Aung San Suu Kyi are proof that nonviolence is not only the right method but nonviolence also works.

A couple of months ago, while in morning prayer, I read in One Bread, One Body, a Roman Catholic devotional, that Jesus was a militant (June 13, 2016).  I was surprised to read this coming from such a conventional Catholic publication.  But it was Jesus’ militant nonviolent stance which the writer was alluding to. Jesus was militantly nonviolent; he called the world to peaceful conversion, not destruction.  And we are called to follow Jesus, to love our enemies by being militantly nonviolent, to call all to conversion to become peacemakers— to wage peace, not war.

As peacemakers, we vigorously wage peace, where others wage violence; we grow love, where others sow hatred; we seek to build bridges, where others build walls; and, like Jesus we are called to confront the hierarchical powers and sacrifice all so that others may truly live.

To bring down the hierarchies of this world, to bring about a new flat earth society, means using nonviolent means to ensure that all are free and equal.  This is the Gospel of nonviolence—the proclamation of a new way of living— the process of bringing the Commonweal of Love to earth as it is in heaven.

© Paul Dordal, 2016