Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Article: Between Sojourners and the Simple Way

Highly recommend this long but very impressive article, take the time to read it if you can. He's basically arguing for a Christian way of living that finds a path between the pragmatism of Sojourners and the idealism of Simple Way...can't say I agree with absolutely everything he's said here, particularly with regard to Yoder (who doesn't speak with one voice any more than the next person), but it outlines the tensions really well and proposes some excellent ways forward.
There will always be tensions between the local practices of the faith community and wider movements for social change, prophetic actions and pragmatic policy-pushing, the primacy of faith language and the necessity of public language. The challenge is to avoid setting up false alternatives for ourselves, to avoid thinking that our particular piece of the puzzle is the only one that matters. Instead of dismissing either prophetic signs and alternative experiments or advocacy and civic participation, we need to find ways to deepen the connections between them, because the possibilities for authentic cultural transformation just might lie at their intersection.
(thanks to AAANZ for the heads up)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A couple of articles in the Age today reveal once again what many of us already knew: that police have been routinely posing as activists to covertly infiltrate campaigns to gather intelligence. Even the Palm Sunday peace march for crying out loud. Maybe that means the government finally gets the seditious nature of Palm Sunday?

Police spying on activists revealed

* Richard Baker and Nick McKenzie
* October 16, 2008

VICTORIA Police's secret intelligence unit has infiltrated Melbourne's activist and community groups for two years to gather information on protests against the Iraq War, Japanese whaling and a weapons exhibition.

Reigniting civil liberties concerns about police spying, an officer from the police Security Intelligence Group has infiltrated groups such as Animal Liberation Victoria, Stop the War Coalition, Unity for Peace and Socialist Alternative.

The officer, who posed as a vegan, left-wing activist, has also had close contact with representatives of church and student groups involved in anti-war demonstrations. So successful was his operation that the organising committee for this year's Palm Sunday peace march in Melbourne appointed him its minute-taker at meetings.

And this:

The spying game

* RIchard Baker and Nick McKenzie
* October 16, 2008

IT WAS a simple mistake. The quiet, polite young activist who had been working every Tuesday as a volunteer in Animal Liberation Victoria's Melbourne office did not shut down his computer properly before leaving.

Andrew* had left his personal email account open. For those in the group who had nagging doubts about the bona fides of the eager young man who had turned up out of nowhere in February 2007, it was an opportunity too good to resist.

But the scan of Andrew's email account raised more questions than answers. He had very few email contacts; no friends, family or work colleagues. It appeared the only email addresses he had belonged to the people sneaking a look at his email account - the animal rights folk - plus maybe a few others in Melbourne's activist community.

Who was this guy who wanted the crappy job of taking notes at meetings? Why was he always so keen to know when the next animal rescue or protest was on? How come this vegan appeared to have no knowledge of Melbourne's vegetarian restaurants?

The empire is alive and well.

People sometimes think I'm paranoid, but I always assume there's at least one member of the police force at any meeting or phone hookup or email network...rarely is there any need for secrecy anyway. But this shows the immoral lengths government is willing to go to to minimise dissent under the pretense of 'public safety'. If you're a concerned police officer, go to the meetings in uniform and explain why you're there. Who knows, we might even get along.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

More John Dear gold

John's been on a roll lately in his NCR column as he does his book tour around the's just a couple of the links for the whole article.
I've encountered many activists over the years, and a good many seething with anger. And who would blame them? But I've learned that in the end, anger consumes our heart's energies and can lead us to abandon our work for justice and peace. We saw this in the 1960s when many young people railed against the Vietnam War and their anger erupted in violent protests. Because they did not go beyond their anger into the spiritual roots of peacemaking, I think many gave up the journey to peace.

My own experience seems to bear that out. The more you learn about injustice, war and poverty, the more overwhelmed you can get. Things are far worse, you discover, than you first realized. Anger is often the first emotion on the scene. But anger doesn't sustain you for the long haul work of lifelong peacemaking and nonviolent resistance.
And this:
Everywhere I go, someone asks, "Are you saying we cannot use violence any more?" Yes, I answer. "How then do we defend ourselves from someone who intends to do us harm? How do we defend ourselves from terrorists who want to hurt us? How do we defend ourselves from other nations?" "Nonviolently!" I answer.

It sounds foolish, of course, but I point folks back to the nonviolent Jesus and suggest that he teaches a whole new way of life..

We're so used to violence. We easily believe the myth of redemptive violence, the lie of war, the false spirituality of violence, the misguided notion that might makes right, that war is justified, that our weapons protect us, that violence works. I suspect we don't trust God, don't think God can protect us, don't take Jesus seriously. In the end, such questions reveal our lack of faith. Do we believe in the God of peace or not?

the temptation of the Sadducees

"There has been a degree of success in avoiding the temptations of the Pharisees… But one cannot be so sure that there has been equal success in discerning and avoiding the temptation of the Sadducees, which is also a form of servitude to the Powers. By this we mean the assumption that the forces which really determine the march of history are in the hands of the leaders of the armies and the markets, in such measure that if Christians are to contribute to the renewal of society they will need to seek, like everyone else – in fact in competition with everyone else – to become in their turn the lords of the state and the economy, so as to use that power toward the ends they consider desirable." -- John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, p. 156.