Saturday, October 20, 2012

Is God Urging Us to "Risk It"?

(See previous reflection: Drones vs. Up-Close-and-Personal Reality)

by Joe Scarry

To read what's buried there, he bends to pore
Over the Latin blossom. I am four,
I spill my pins and needles on the floor

Trying to stitch "Beloved" X by X.
My dangerous, bright needle's point connects
Myself illiterate to this perfect text


- from "Supernatural Love" by Gjertrud Schnackenberg

Before she left for Pakistan to participate in the Code Pink delegation, my friend JoAnne Lingle, from Indianapolis, told me, "We want to reach out to the people there to show that we care about their lives; we want to show the American public how civilians are being targeted by drones; we want to come back to the US and tell the stories of drone victims. Our larger goal is to stop the drone strikes." (Read more at My visits to Pakistan and Kurdistan.)

Map of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan
I find this in stark contrast to the attitude implicit in the official U.S. approach to much of the Mideast and South Asia: "We're going to go over there and get them before they come here and get us."

And, in fact, in the last week the newspaper has seemed to be especially filled with stories about people "getting" each other - "getting" people who were too liberal, "getting" people who were suppressing liberation, "getting" people who were acting suspicious . . . and on and on . . . .

Each of these accounts or characterizations is steeped in violence, and corresponding to each of these accounts or characterizations, there is a worldview that explains the utility, justification, and/or desirability -- indeed, the extreme praiseworthiness -- of that violence.

I believe the significant feature of the faith that Christians confess when they recite the Apostle's Creed is that it forces us to confront the question: why doesn't God deal with us violently? If ever there was a utility or justification for destroying someone or something, it is the implacable, stubborn imperfection present in people. Why doesn't God just get rid of the lot of us? Why, instead, does God choose to get "up close and personal" with us, meeting us where we are, in our own sinful, mortal bodies?

In other words, I believe that God sees another way forward for us, even when all we can imagine is "going over there and getting them before they come here and get us." Even when, in our desperation, all we can imagine is throwing our own life away in order to offer a glint of hope to comrades combating a brutal regime. Even when all we can imagine is venting our rage on people who threaten us with painful social change: them, their families, and anyone who helps them. Even when we build a towering military establishment dedicated to destroying entire other cultures, as long as it keeps "them" over "there" where they can't possibly ever bring harm "here" to "us."

God shows us that other way, and it involves trying to walk together, and eschewing violence.

During the Code Pink peace delegation to Pakistan:
A sunset march through Jinnah Market with the student
group of PTI in Islamabad followed by a candlelight vigil.
What God is strangely silent about, by the way, is death! Often, we make an idol of life itself. We become trapped in the worship of our own guaranteed well-being. Think about it: extreme aversion to being harmed inherently translates into measures to pre-empt harm, at any cost, and no matter if they are marginally effective (or even counterproductive!).

Conversely, if you believe in a God who accepts the reality of the human experience, even death, then it suddenly seems ridiculous to hold as a value the prevention of harm at any cost. It's immediately apparent that God wants us to take the risk to get near our fellow humans and interact with them, hear them, negotiate with them, engage in diplomacy with them .... even if we're not 100% guaranteed of success!

Next installment: Ending Drone Killing: The Spirit Is Moving

* * * * *

For more photos from Pakistan, see the Code Pink delegation photo site. And be sure to read JoAnne Lingle's full account of her trip!

Read more about the questions that I think we need to be asking ourselves about drones.

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