Category Archives: Nonviolence

That Which Divides Us

That we are a divided people is not breaking news.

Our divisions are reflected back to us every day. We are consistently presented with the forced-choice of our social, political and religious identities. One belongs to a particular social class and not others. One is either a “conservative” or a “liberal”. One is a “Christian” or a “Jew” or a “Muslim” or a “Hindu” or a “Buddhist” or some other religious label. These are just a few of the ways we identify ourselves. Somehow it became very important to label ourselves and each other. Perhaps this helps us stay with the illusion of “knowing” who we are.

There is another form of division that transcends the “usual suspects” of the various labels already described. This is the division between the opposing agendas of materialism and spirituality. One of the central features of these differing agendas is the question of whether or not violence is deemed acceptable as a means of solving problems. This question also correlates with the contrasting views of separation and connection. Materialism emphasizes the separateness between each of us while realistic spirituality focuses on the connections we share with each other and our world.

The materialistic perspective attributes the highest priority to creating, selling and acquiring Things. This view asserts that the centrality of Things is what life is really all about. In this framework, people are a means to an end. This is sometimes known as “productivity”. If one is “productive” in the proper way then one is recognized as a valuable person. One is considered an “asset”.

The spiritual perspective embraces a very different orientation. It holds to the belief that it is not things that have significant value but rather it is Love and Life itself that is truly valuable. People are to be loved and things are to be used. This perspective is grounded in the belief that all life is inter-connected and inter-related rather than separate and in a state of competition.

This division becomes most apparent in terms of those who are willing to use violence to get what they want and those who refuse to resort to violence to achieve their goals. When a person, when life itself, is seen as a means to an end it becomes acceptable, even laudable, to control, exploit or destroy if that’s what it takes to reach a goal. Domination and destruction are contradictory to the goals of healthy spirituality.
When life is considered sacred it can no longer be objectified as simply a means to an end but instead is known and related to as part of the infinite manifestation of Love.

We can belong to the World of Things or the World of Love. We cannot avoid this choice.

Why focus on the contrast between violence and nonviolence? This framing points to the question of how human problems are to be solved. It is the desire to solve our problems that unites us while it is the methods for achieving those solutions that causes us to diverge into the contrasting problem-solving forms of violence (materialistic power) and nonviolence (spiritual power).

The exercising of Materialistic Power essentially says: “Comply or die.” This “death” may be quite literal or it may be metaphorical in terms of deprivation of needed resources or basic freedoms. It is the straightforward imposing of physical force or intimidation on a person or group to induce their obedience.

The exercising of Spiritual Power, on the other hand, presents a perplexing set of refusals and active responses. When operating from a sense Spiritual Power a person refuses to “fight fire with fire” with the oppressor, refuses to run away from threatened harm, refuses to disengage from the oppressor and refuses to comply with the oppression process. Essentially a person acting from this orientation says: “I won’t fight with you on your level. I won’t run away from you. I won’t end my relationship with you and I won’t obey your unethical manipulations.” The active response is at least as perplexing. While under siege from the oppression of Materialistic Power the active response from one grounded in Spiritual Power is an unwavering “I love you.”

Violence exists as a broad spectrum of attitudes and actions. Its trademark is in its seeking to dominate and diminish the Other who is always regarded as quite separate from the perpetrator of the violence. It seeks victory by destroying or controlling the Other who is defined as a threat of some sort. Its manifestation may take the form of a physical attack with weapons designed to amplify the intended destructive power of the attacker. It may also take the form of a more subtle, non-physical attack (e.g. character assassination) that can nevertheless produce devastating results.

Violence as a process can also be understood as a projection of a person’s pain and/or fear. If one has not dealt constructively with these experiences the temptation to disown them becomes very powerful: “I will hurt you so that you will have to deal with my pain and I won’t. It will become your pain. I will scare you so that you will have to deal with my fear and I won’t. It will become your fear.”

There are those who believe in the use of violence as the method of choice to solve a broad range of human problems. If the end result is sufficiently valued then the means are considered justified. Counted among these believers are women and men, young people and old people, the wealthy and the not-so-wealthy, liberals and conservatives and the full spectrum of religious labels. Those who accept this kind of problem-solving are represented across a wide range of ethnic, social and economic backgrounds. There are law-makers and law-breakers, from the local level to the international stage, who subscribe to the idea that the end justifies the means and that this is how problems get solved.

There are also people from all of the groups just named who completely reject the notion that violence is an acceptable method for solving human problems. They maintain that the means to the desired end cannot be contrary in nature of that end: War cannot create Peace, Oppression cannot create Freedom, Hatred cannot create Love. This group holds that the Means and the End are inseparable.

Nonviolence can be best understood as the active expression and demonstration of love and not as the mere absence of destructive attitudes and actions. When we speak of love it is easy to go off on some wild goose chase as to what this really means. The love conveyed in active nonviolence is a kind of sacrificial love. This is the kind of love that consciously chooses to accept and endure real suffering for the sake of another, specifically for the sake of healing the perpetrator. This kind of love does not define the perpetrator as the “enemy” who must be destroyed or defeated. Instead, Sacrificial Love seeks to help the perpetrator become aware of the truth of his or her real inter-relatedness to the person or people he or she is hurting. In traditional language, it is the deep truth that we are all brothers and sisters to each other.

No less an intellect than Albert Einstein stated: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

If we give credence to Einstein’s claim about the nature of problem-solving it becomes logically impossible to believe that the problem of violence, whether this is a problem between nations, between individuals or within ourselves, can be solved through violent methods. The time has come to free ourselves from the mental prison that holds us in the insane belief that declares: “We have to kill people who kill people to show them that killing people is wrong.”

It becomes necessary to change our way of thinking and understanding in order to solve our problems. It is necessary to shift our awareness and our perspective in order to successfully solve our problems. We cannot solve our problems with the same low-level thinking that got us into trouble in the first place. If our house is burning down we cannot save it with a flame-thrower!

The problem of violence within ourselves is a crucial one. As previously stated, if one does not successfully heal his or her inner violence and the injuries from it then one will be very likely to project this destructiveness onto someone else. It is necessary to establish this internal healing as the foundation to solving human problems on an interpersonal level as well as between various social groups.

No less a wisdom teacher than Jesus of Nazareth explained metaphorically that one must first take the wooden beam out of one’s own eye before attempting to remove the splinter out of another’s eye. (Luke 7:5)

If we are to take him at his word, this means that we need to start healing our own impairment and suffering in order to stop perpetuating violence against ourselves which is often invisible to the rest of the world but the individual (who, in this case, is both perpetrator and victim) is acutely aware of his or her own internal self-torture process (e.g. “I’m such an idiot!”, “I’ll never be good enough!”, “No one would want to be with me if they knew what I was really like.”, etc.). We need to attend to our own healing and make peace within ourselves before we start telling, coercing and demanding that the other person (or group or nation) act a certain way to put their house in order.

What divides us is a faulty perception of how separate we are from each other. This misperception supports the belief in the “win-lose” form of problem-solving in our lives. When all we see is our disconnectedness is becomes easy to assume that competition in the only way to achieve needed solutions.

We move from division to unity when we start to see that the truth of our existence is one of connection and belonging. What were once seen as major differences between one another can now be recognized as largely superficial. We begin to love more and more inclusively as we realize that any injuries we do to others we do to our selves and that the compassion we extend to others is also the compassion that we receive.

American Narcotic

America has a serious addiction problem.

I’m not talking about the usual suspects of alcohol, tobacco, heroin, cocaine or marijuana. I’m not even talking about the epidemic of legal drug addiction to prescription medications. I’m speaking of our addiction to the use of deadly force to, at best, attempt at solving real problems and, at worst, feed our egos with delusions of righteousness, dominance and superiority. As a nation, we have so bought into the idea that using lethal force is good and right and necessary that it has become a kind of secular religion. Indeed, for many this is the foundation of our national “Greatness”. “Greatness” becomes defined as our capacity to be physically overpowering in order to get what we want. Many of us worship at the altar of Military Power and make unholy communion with Police Brutality. As a nation, we “entertain” ourselves by watching countless murders at the movies and on television. We perpetrate countless more in the multitude of video games we play.

Violence is the American Narcotic. Whether we are witnesses or perpetrators, it is our drug of choice.

A narcotic is usually understood as particular type of drug that induces and reinforces repetitive, destructive behavior. In other words, active addiction. The addiction process operates from a very primitive part of the human brain and bypasses the part of the brain that is associated with compassion and rational thinking. This primitive part of the brain is associated with what could be called the “small self” or the ego. This is the “I-Me-Mine” part of each of us. It is the part of my brain that believes that the universe revolves around me. “I am all-important and you don’t matter.” Not surprisingly, that is why people react with such disbelief when they see or hear of an addict acting as if they just don’t care about anyone else. In this case the difference is that the addiction to Narcotic Violence is not based on putting some type of substance in our bodies. It is an addiction to a particular type of experience.

Our national “brain” is impacted by State-sanctioned violence in the same way an individual addict’s brain is effected by their drug of choice. This has major implications for how we “think” and act as a nation. When our National Ego gets hurt we look for a way to self-medicate. So we do what we know best: We lash out. We identify an enemy and we attack them. We hurt them and we do a lot of damage to their world. We give ourselves a “rush” by re-asserting our dominance and our sense of righteous power. Then we feel better. This is our “brain” on drugs.

America is addicted to feeling righteous, powerful and dominant.

There is a memorable scene in the film “Raiders of the Lost Ark” that illustrates this point very clearly. Indiana Jones, the American hero of the story, is confronted in a Middle Eastern marketplace by a man dressed in a dark robe.  The robed man laughs menacingly as he begins twirling a large sword in a threatening manner. Indy pauses briefly, looks mildly annoyed, and calmly pulls out his gun and kills the man with a single shot. There is enthusiastic applause when “our hero”, the character who is supposed to represent us “good-guy” Americans, commits murder without a hint of remorse or regret.

How did it come to this?

As a nation we were born in bloodshed.  Our very existence began with a revolution of violence that should not have succeeded and yet it did. We were Rocky Balboa knocking out Apollo Creed. Our national ancestors were the rebels that somehow defeated the far more powerful empire.

The irony is that America has become a much more powerful version of the very empire it once defeated.

Is God really on our side?

During the course of our nation’s history, we increasingly saw ourselves as the world’s best hope. How could it be otherwise?  How else could we have won our independence unless God was on our side?  Clearly ours must be a divinely-supported destiny.  When we believe that God is on our side we don’t question our authority and use of power. When the power of the State is beyond question the exercising of the power to intimidate, control and destroy is unrestricted.

Here begins our toxic mythology of so-called American Exceptionalism. This is the story we tell ourselves about ourselves. This our narrative of how we are the “chosen ones” to lead the world to a better way of life. Sadly, it is also a mythology that has been built upon the oppression and exploitation of various disadvantaged groups throughout our history. It is a mythology that rests upon the genocide of Native Americans (ask Native Americans if they think “genocide” is too strong a term) at the hands of uninvited European immigrants. It stands upon the indefensible terrorism of kidnapping non-Europeans from other lands and selling them into slavery. It weighs heavily on the violence, both subtle and obvious, against women. This is by no means a complete list.

So begins our addiction to the American Narcotic, the American Way of Violence: “This is America and this is How We Solve Problems and Get Things Done.” When we see something as a Problem we declare “War” on it and quickly get into combat mode. We have declared a War on Poverty, a War on Cancer, a War on Drugs, and, of course, we now have the perpetual-motion machine known as the War on Terror (recently re-branded as the War on Radical Islam). It’s as if we only have one pair of glasses that we see through but instead of rose-colored glasses we keep putting on our War-Colored glasses.

As a nation, America has lived in a delusional bubble in which we think we “know better” and are entitled to more than anyone outside our bubble, anyone who isn’t one of US.

If we are truly to be a Great Nation, our greatness cannot be built on a foundation of oppression and exploitation. No pathological addiction can lead to greatness that is healthy or legitimate. Real Greatness can only be supported by a foundation of compassion and generosity that applies to everyone without exception. We have always had, and we still have, an abundance of the raw materials we need for this kind of foundation.

How do we, as the people who form this nation, recover from our dependency on the American Narcotic?

I believe we need to begin by recognizing and admitting that we have become an Addict Nation. Our denial needs to end. The delusional bubble that keeps us cycling through the lies of our superiority needs to pop. These are lies that we have absorbed and believed for far too long.

As Americans we need to openly admit that we are not smarter or better than anyone else in the world. We need to publicly reject the lie of American Exceptionalism. We need to to come clean and sincerely admit to the mistakes we have made as a nation and the suffering we have caused throughout our history.

We need to ask to be forgiven by all those who we have hurt by our dependency on the American Narcotic. We must be prepared to receive the anger of those we have caused to suffer so much. We need to accept the hatred and rejection of anyone who has been harmed by US.

We must continue to be very honest with ourselves. We need to be honest about our vulnerability to relapsing. There will be a strong temptation to escape back into our delusional bubble of superiority. Resisting this temptation won’t be easy because it means feeling our own pain and being aware of how much suffering we have caused others.

This is genuine humility and it is the price of real greatness.

The Global Failure of the Priesthood Class

I received an email from one Tom Ness recently after publishing my essay “A Sheep Among Wolves” on Desmond Doss, Hacksaw Ridge, and the Catholic Church. It was titled “Desmond Doss and the Global Failure of the Priesthood Class.” It was so good I wanted to share it on the blog. I do so here with permission. The email from Tom seems particularly apt given that CAM started as a protest against the first collection for the Archdiocese of Military Services.

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Ellen — Your review of “Hacksaw Ridge” is one of those essays which my wife and I read out loud, slowly, with lengthy discussion as we go. It brought up a subject that I have considered at length in the past, so many of my thoughts on this have been brewing for a long time.

In one way Desmond Doss was almost certainly the equal of his rifle-carrying comrades: completely ignorant of the banking-financial-industrial complex machinations which had ultimately put him in the middle of the bloody horror of WWII and Hacksaw Ridge. No one ever explained to any of these men how war is stupendously profitable to a very small group of bankers, financiers, and industrialists, and so knowing from whence their greatest profits flow, carefully arrange on the international stage for wars to happen. Technology is shared, investments go to certain industries, propaganda narratives of enmity and national/racial entitlement are constructed in nations being groomed as enemies in war. And most of all, interconnected debt-based fiat currency systems operated through central banks are installed in every country to facilitate and manage the debt on which the wars will be fueled. Desmond Doss and his comrades are mere collateral damage in the accumulation of interest-bearing debt.

Why is this the concern of the global priesthood class (by that I mean professional religious workers of all denominations around the world) when religion is supposed to stick to questions of the spirit? Because the first step in deciding the question of violence versus nonviolence is to explore where the violence comes from. Many people who explore this have said it’s no coincidence that the only act of violence for which Jesus is remembered was his attack on the money changers. The scale and sophistication of the “money changers” in the modern world of war finance might briefly stagger a returned Jesus, but I believe He would quickly recover and begin teaching what needs to be taught: How money works and who controls it.

Globally, no political, media, or academic organization has the attention of more humans than the priesthood class and their lay workers. Nothing would stop the horror of war faster than the priesthood class learning how wars are deviously foisted on trusting populations by those who profit from war, and then teaching their religious adherents in all faiths to recognize when they are being so manipulated and exploited. Religions hold the power to stop war forever.

I read a lot of history, which inevitably leads to being immersed in great horrors like Hacksaw Ridge. My mantra when exposed to this Folly of Man has become, “Stay home, Grow food, Make love.” The natural desires of all good men and women are to live in peace and security while raising a happy family. A capable defense of that peace and security is important for all nations. In the past the profit and motivation for aggressive war was looting and rape, shared (unequally) by all ranks in the enterprise from king to pike men. In today’s wars, looting and rape are (nominally) forbidden, so soldiers only get the horror while the few at the top get the profit. Soldiers, from childhood on, have been whipped into a patriotic fervor to put their lives on the line and kill the enemy, using manufactured fear of the other and/or national/racial entitlement instead of promises of treasure and sex slaves. In effect, soldiers have been cut out of the bargain to be left holding a bag of blood and guts while the bankers and industrialists reap 100% of the profit.

This why I believe it is the duty and obligation of all religious workers to seek knowledge about modern money mechanics, who is behind it, and who profits from war, and then teach that knowledge to everyone in their flock. Saying “no” to violence is good, but knowing why is better.

Tom Ness

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Thank you to Tom for such a well-written, thoughtful email. I will add another post with recommended links from Tom for anyone interested in learning more about “modern money mechanics.”

The Joyful Mysteries

The following meditations on the mysteries of the rosary were written by Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy. 

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The First Joyful Mystery: The Annunciation

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In the Mystery of the Annunciation three “Yes”es are necessary. Each “Yes” has to be spoken in the context of a potentially horrific future.

Mary must say “Yes” to carrying Jesus in her womb for nine months, and in her heart forever. Her “Yes” would bring with it the probability of being set aside by Joseph, to whom she was betrothed, because he would know the child was not his. Being set aside by Joseph would bring with it either death—for she had ostensibly committed adultery, and the just punishment for adultery was stoning—or else a life of shame and of being ostracized by her “spiritual betters.”

Joseph must say “Yes” to that which his reason and nurturing would insist he say, “No.” From his human perspective at the moment, Mary is guilty of adultery. If he does not divorce her or marry her but instead exposes her to the Law, she—and hence the child she is carrying in her womb—will almost inevitably be stoned to death as her just punishment (Dt 22:21-24). This is important because Joseph’s “Yes” is not the “Yes” of justice under the Law; it is the “Yes” of righteousness, the choice of doing out of love—and contrary to his own interests—God’s mysterious and unfathomable will. This “Yes” of Joseph’s is the earthly father of Jesus saying, “Thy will be done, not mine,” thirty-three years before his son, also against His own earthly interests, would say the same thing.

And the third, “Yes,” is God’s. God, “who is love (agapé), must say “Yes” to becoming a human being, a member of a humanity long ravaged by and long subject to every manifestation of evil capable of expressing itself through the choices, including the choices of violence and enmity, of these same human beings. In Jesus, God, “who is love (agapé) must be the human incarnation of that agapé—unconditional, nonviolent, self-sacrificing love for all, friends, strangers, and enemies alike. This Divine choice—to become incarnate as a human being in an environment in which legions upon legions of evil dynamics are operating within human beings and within the institutions they have erected, and to become human with only the power of love (agapé) available to confront and conquer these diabolical forces—is a choice that infinitely surpasses any understandings of justice and of reality. It is a Mystery that is beyond human fathoming because such a choice will inevitably result in a life of having to struggle to love, having to suffer to love, and having to die at the hands of other human beings to love—as God must and will always love on earth He loves in heaven.

In the Mystery of the Annunciation, from the perspective of human beings in their spiritually fallen state, these three “Yes”es defy all notions of what is reasonable, even reason itself. Yet all three “Yes”es were freely given—and of what follows from these three gifts of “Yes,” we are all aware.

The Second Joyful MysteryThe Visitation

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We are told that, when Mary came into the physical presence of Elizabeth, “the babe in my womb [Elizabeth’s] leaped for joy.” (Lk 1: 41). Again, the Visitation is a Mystery that underscores the profundity of the Christ-event from the earliest moments of God’s incarnation as Jesus of Nazareth. How does a child in the womb communicate anything to a child in another womb such that the second child would be moved to respond? And, not simply to respond, but to respond with such a superabundance of joy: “leaped.” The awe and joy of the presence of the glory of God, the Shekinah, experienced by John, a child in the womb of Elizabeth, who comes into the proximate physical presence of Jesus in the womb of Mary, points to a Mystery, not separated from but infinitely more wondrous than even the great mystery of a human life in the womb. It points to the daughter of Abraham, Mary, being The Ark of the Covenant, the complete fulfillment of everything the Ark was and represented in Hebrew Scriptures. Or, more precisely, Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant.

The Ark of the Covenant was the sign of God’s real presence among His people. In Jesus the Christ, born of Mary, God was really present among his people in an even more direct way. The Ark of Hebrew Scriptures held the Word of God written in stone, the Ten Commandments. Mary bore the Word of God “made flesh” in her womb. The Ark of Hebrew Scriptures held the manna from heaven.  Mary’s womb held the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ (Jn 6:48-50).

Mary as the Ark of the Covenant, the New Covenant, in the Visitation is not an interpretation of the Gospel artificially place onto the Gospel. It is a truth presented by the New Testament writers themselves.

How can this be, since I have no relations with a man,” Mary at the Annunciation asks the Angel Gabriel regarding the birth of a son by her. Gabriel replies that it would happen by the power of God: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Lk 1:35). The Greek word translated “overshadow” is used nowhere else in the New Testament. In fact, it occurs only one other place in Scripture, if we refer to the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, which Luke was familiar with. The book of Exodus says Moses had the Ark of the Covenant placed in a great tent that was to serve as the dwelling-place of God among His people. It then reads, “Then the cloud covered the meeting tent, and the glory of the LORD filled the Dwelling. Moses could not enter the meeting tent, because the cloud settled down upon it and the glory of the LORD filled the Dwelling” (see Ex 40:34-35). In the Greek Old Testament, the one Luke knew, the word translated “settled down upon” in English is the same word that is translated into English as “overshadow” Luke is telling us that the presence of the power and glory of God, the Shekinah, will settle down upon, overshadowed, dwell in Mary just as the power of God overshadowed, settled down upon, the Ark of the Covenant and dwelt in the great tent.

There is much more, e.g., when David finally is able to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, it says, “He leaped before it.” That is the same word in Greek as is used to described John’s actions in the womb of Elizabeth when she meets Mary is who now carrying Jesus in her womb. But the basic question that the Mystery of the Visitations and the symbolism of Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant in it present to the Christian, perhaps revolves around this thought. Wherever the ancient Israelites went, they followed the Ark of the Covenant. If Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant, how should we as Christians, people of the New Covenant, be following her? The answer to that questions is found in Mary’s last words and only command in the Gospels: “Do whatever He tells you“?

 

The Third Joyful MysteryThe Birth of Jesus, the Christ
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The Baby Jesus—who is the Bread of Life for all humanity, and who, many years in the future at His Last Supper on earth will take bread into His hands and say to His Apostles and disciples, “Take, eat. This is my body”—is born in the little town of Bethlehem whose name in Hebrew, bet lehem, means “House of Bread.” He is laid in a manger from which animals derive their daily nourishment in order to live. What a Mystery: Born in a town called the House of Bread and dying loving His lethal enemies, so that He could be the Bread that nourishes human beings along the Way of becoming one with the Holy One, along the Way of Eternal Life. People can now freely choose to be and to become what they can now freely choose to consume, namely, the Bread of Life for the spiritual nourishment and sanctification of others and self. People can now receive the Bread from heaven that is offered to them in the Person, Words and Deeds of  the Word of God Incarnate, Jesus, as well as when they receive the consecrated Bread at the re-presentation of the Last Supper, at the Holy Eucharist. What a Mystery! What had been exclusively the Bread of Angels in Eternity is, since the birth of Jesus the Christ in the House of Bread, now also the Bread of human beings in time. But God does not force His gift of the Bread of Eternal Life down any one’s throat. He simply daily offers it: “Take, eat.” And then promises, “Whoever eats of this Bread will live forever” (Jn 6:35-51).

 

The Fourth Joyful Mystery: The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple
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“God, here he is. He is yours.” This is what Mary and Joseph are saying to God by bringing Jesus to the Temple. They, as faithful Jews, are following the Law of Moses: “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord.”The Presentation is about trustfully handing Jesus back to God for God’s purposes. Then something unexpected and mystifying happens. Simeon prophesies to Mary, “You yourself a sword shall pierce.”

In Christian spirituality, it has often been said that on Golgotha there are two altars, where two people freely and nonviolently sacrificed their lives in order to do God’s will. First, there is the Altar of the Cross on which Jesus agonizingly fulfills His Gethsemane commitment: “Father if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done.” Then there is the Altar beneath the Cross, where Mary, Jesus’ mother, agonizingly fulfills her Nazareth commitment from long ago: “Be it done unto me according to your word.”

Can anyone doubt that the anguish that the mother of Jesus suffered as her Son was beaten, brutalized, tortured, tormented, and ultimately killed was anything less than monstrous and nightmarish? Can anyone doubt that, when the lance was thrust into the heart of Jesus, it also pierced the heart of His mother, bringing with it heartbreaking and mind-breaking pain and grief? Can anyone doubt that such is the suffering of every mother and father, regardless of the age of their child, who sees or learns that their child has been torn apart in body, mind, and/or spirit by the violence and enmity, callousness, indifference and mercilessness of other human beings?

What a Mystery that the Mother of Jesus, the Mother of the Christ, the Mother of God, the Mother of the Savior of humanity, has herself—like all other mothers and fathers whose precious children have been treated as worthless pieces of trash by other human beings—had to suffer the ravages of hell brought to earth through men and women in the service of the Satanic spirits of violence and enmity.

As we mediate on Mary as a mother in sorrow, whose heart a “sword has pierced,” our thoughts and prayers and deeds should go toward all mothers who sorrowfully suffer because of what others have done to their precious child, whether he or she be five months oldest or fifty-five years old.

There is an integral relationship between Mary having been a mother in sorrow on earth and Mary being the Mother of Mercy in heaven, whose Son performed His first miracle for a bride and groom at Cana because His mother in her empathy for their distress requested it of Him.

 

The Fifth Joyful Mystery: The Finding of Jesus in the Temple
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 “When His parents saw him, they were astonished, and His mother said to Him, ‘Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been searching for you sorrowfully’” (Lk 2:48). And so would it be with any mother and father who had lost their child in a department store crowd, at a ball game, or in a snowstorm; they would search for him or her sorrowfully. Mary and Joseph’s concern here is not for Jesus the Messiah, but for Jesus their beloved child. They dread that something awful might have happened to him.

When one person loves another and that someone is hurt, the person who loves him or her is also hurt. It is not the same hurt, but it may be a more terrible hurt. Love generates empathy unlike any other experience in the human situation. This universally embedded truism is a piece of the Mysteries of Creation and of Redemption in which we live.

It is therefore a fact of life that it is impossible to harm only one person. When you harm someone, all those who love the harmed person will also be harmed. When, for example, one kills another human being, one inflicts suffering and kills forever something in each and every person who loves that human being. It is only calculatingly nurtured, normalized superficiality that dupes people into thinking that the only person injured when they inflict harm upon another is the one on whom they are directly inflicting the harm. The experience of each and every one of us tells us that this is a lie. The sorrow and suffering that tears one person’s life to pieces, tears to shreds the lives and hearts of all who love him or her. Remembering this, and nurturing the habitus of mind that continually reinforces that remembrance is necessary for putting on the mind and heart needed for Christlike merciful love towards all, friends and enemies, great and small. Especially is this essential for living as Jesus desires His chosen disciples to live in a society where motivating and teaching children from the toddler stage onward how to play and enjoy making believe they are killing other human beings is a mainstream big and profitable business.

-Emmanuel Charles McCarthy

American Catholics should learn about Dorothy Day

Pope Francis speaking to the U.S. Congress:

“In these times when social concerns are so important, I cannot fail to mention the Servant of God Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement. Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.”

Our good friend Tom McDonough is an expert on this subject. Read his book and, if you have the opportunity, go hear him speak at the Jefferson Market Library in NYC.

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Who Owns Our Children?

The United States of America has quietly declared that its citizens’ children are Government Property.

The U.S. Senate recently passed a Bill (2017 NDAA) which seeks to establish, as law, several items pertinent to U.S. military operations. Among those provisions is the elimination of the exemption for women from Selective Service registration (a.k.a. draft registration). Since 1980, young men, upon turning 18, have been required to register with the Selective Service. Failure to do so carries various penalties: no driver’s license, no student loans, and no government employment. As a special bonus: non-compliance brings the possibility of being arrested and incarcerated for up to 5 years as well as possible fines up to $250,000.00.

If this Bill is fully approved, young women will also need to register with Selective Service when they turn 18. They will presumably face the same penalties if they choose not to comply.

“Selective Service” is one of many government-speak euphemisms that is essentially a fresh coat of paint on a condemned building. The old term for this euphemism is conscription. The dictionary definition of conscription is: “compulsory enrollment of persons especially for military service: draft”. The modern qualifier “selective” misleadingly implies that one is making a choice to serve. In truth the individual has no choice. Government does all the selecting.

Selective Service registration is unnecessary, coercive and dehumanizing.

Some have argued that registration is really not a big deal. We have not had an actual draft since 1973 when U.S. involvement in Vietnam ended and draft registration was discontinued for the remainder of that decade. Since then the U.S.military has maintained itself quite adequately with an all-volunteer force. It can be argued that registration is nothing than more than a bureaucratic dance between young Americans and the federal government. Kids fill out the paperwork at the Post Office or online and then forget about it. The sales pitch proclaims: “Men…You can handle this.” The implication here is that this task will not put too much physical or mental strain on them. The other parts of the marketing campaign appeal to the young person’s sense of morality (“It’s the right thing to do.”) and need for obedience to State Authority (“It’s the law.”).

If it is not really such a big deal, if it is really nothing more than filling out a simple form then why make an issue of it? Why not just comply with the law and not worry about it? On the other hand, if the actual draft is really a thing of the past, why not just get rid of it? Why not let it be a thing of the past?

The argument has been put forth that if the United States were ever attacked, the government and military would need a system in place to have efficient access to young Americans to be placed into military service. The premise, theoretically, is that not enough young people would volunteer to fight if our nation was threatened. This makes drafting the non-volunteers a necessity. It’s a matter of National Security.

Please notice how all such discussions are expected to be settled simply by declaring that one’s position is vital to National Security!

This argument in favor of maintaining draft registration is somewhat plausible except for the fact that it is wrong! It is wrong because the United States was attacked (we efficiently remember it as 9-11) and we subsequently went to war (and have stayed at war) in the Middle East. As a nation, we have remained actively engaged in warfare in multiple countries for well over a decade. Under these conditions, there has been no need whatsoever to return to an active military draft to recruit additional young people to wear the uniform and “fight for their country.” In fact, the number of young Americans volunteering for military service increased after 9-11 (just as it did after Pearl Harbor).
The U.S. Armed Services recruitment has come a long way from “Uncle Sam wants you!” to the sophisticated marketing techniques currently used to enlist new volunteers. Today’s military advertising is very slick, very Madison Avenue and very effective.

So with the failure of this rationale for maintaining draft registration, what are we left with to explain not only the requirement for young men to register but now also to include young women in this process? What remains is the subtle assertion (if you don’t look too closely or think about it too much) that our children are Government Property. This claim is the result of a highly coercive arrangement by which young people must “voluntarily” sign a government contract in which they agree to serve in the military should the time ever come when they are told to do so:

“In exchange for the State Privileges of driving a car and getting student loans (that I will have to pay back at an obscenely high interest rate when I get out of school and start working at my entry-level job), I_______________ , agree that, whenever I may be called upon to do so, I will serve as cannon fodder for the American Empire. I agree to go where I’m told, do what I’m told to do, kill whoever I’m told to kill, and willingly die painfully and prematurely as may be required.”

As a parent, I am obviously biased on this issue. I do not want my children risking their lives while they try to kill other parents’ children while those other parents’ kids are trying to kill my kids. The mouthpieces of government policy and their corporate media partners euphemistically refer to soldiers as “boots on the ground” as if they are chess pieces to be strategically manipulated to win “the game.” Those “boots” are filled with the barely-grown-up children of mothers and fathers everywhere. These young people are our children and yet we do not own them. They are not our property.

This system has very little to do with patriotism. It has a great deal to do with government exercising control over what it sees as its property. When the government of any nation treats its citizens as property to be managed and utilized it dehumanizes and commodifies the very people without whom there would be no nation. When people are dehumanized in this way it reduces the nation to the status of a mere machine. Citizens are reduced to consumers.

Any system, any corporate entity, that acts to reduce human beings to objects is wrong and deserves a response of nonviolent, noncooperation. Rather than including young women in the mandatory draft registration process as some expression of phony equality, the entire system should be eliminated for all American citizens.

As a society and as parents we bear the responsibility for our children until they are ready to bear that weight themselves. That is the cost of personal freedom. This freedom is not a privilege that our “adult” society bestows upon each new generation but rather it is the repayment of our debt to the generations that came before us and sacrificed for us. It is not the current generation of young people that owe something to the current generation of adults in this world but rather it is the current generation of adults that owe something to the generations of parents who preceded us. Their grandchildren and great grandchildren are our responsibility and not the property of any person or any government.

No one owns our children.