Sunday, December 29, 2013

Instead of wishing for change, be the change you dream about in 2014

Instead of Making Often Unkept New Year's Resolutions,
Become the Change You Desire and Live It

As we celebrate the beginning of 2014 while letting go of 2013, the thought occurred to me that we all need to look for ways to improve our lives and change our world. It's nice to make and keep new year's resolutions, but many more people have woke up to the fact that it's smarter to improve our surroundings and make the kind of contributions that build legacies than it is to merely break a bad habit. Breaking bad habits is good, but helping to build a better world is far better. To begin with, we can’t create a better world if we haven’t yet imagined it. How much better then, if we are able to touch such a world, experience it directly, we can enact in the here and now the world we actually want to live in. These kinds of organized grassroots efforts come in all shapes and sizes. At the bottom end of the scale we see Utopian flavored mass movements like “the 99%” and Occupy Wall Street movements with their stand against inequality, and for free libraries, communitarian ethic, and experiments in direct democracy. At the other extreme we see the ongoing civil war in Syria and its predecessor, the Arab Spring of 2011 which continues to this day.

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality,” Buckminster Fuller once advised. “To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” A brilliant insight, but he was only half right, because the best direct actions – and social movements – actually do both. Consider the lunch counter sit-ins of the 1960s. They were not only brave acts of resistance against the racism of the Jim Crow South, but they also beautifully and dramatically prefigured the kind of world the civil rights movement was trying to bring into being: blacks and whites sitting together as equals in public spaces. The young students didn’t ask anyone’s permission; they didn’t wait for society to evolve or for bad laws to change. In the best spirit of direct action, they walked in there and simply changed the world. At least for a few moments, in one place, they were living in an integrated South. They painted a picture of how the world could be, and the vicious response from white bystanders and police only proved how important it was to make it so.

Many people at the forefront of the nonviolent civil rights movement were moved to action by their spiritual commitments. Be it the “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” of the Golden Rule, or Gandhi’s call to “Be the change you want to see in the world,” the ethical traditions of many religions have powerful roots in dogma that is largely the teachings of men. It is only when people of faith try to live out their deep principles and actually walk their talk in the Spirit that they they tend to come up against the power of tradition. Jesus himself (who promised that anyone who followed his teaching would always be in trouble) was one of history’s more brilliant invaders of the human conscience. He didn’t merely argue that true greatness comes from humbly serving others, he illustrated it by washing his disciples’ dirty feet. By socializing with outcasts and the poor, visiting lepers, and always raising up “the least of these,” Jesus didn’t simply prophesy a future beloved community of believers, He made it manifest. And if Jesus did it, so should we.

With the dominance of market capitalism and its apologists proclaiming an “end of ideology,” provocations that stretch our political imaginations are more vital than ever. I would go a step further, arguing that we need to bring back Utopian thinking. Utopian thinking is necessary, because it provides a compass point to determine what direction to move toward and a measuring stick to determine how far one has come. However, in an era of media saturation and distrust of the utopia-inspired disasters of the 20th century, this is increasingly hard to do via criticism alone. Using dystopia-like visions to sound the alarm – a more and more popular strategy – is just another form of criticism that leaves the status quo standing. What is needed instead are direct interventions that both embody and point toward Utopian possibilities. Contemporary social movements, it turns out, are chock full of them.

Of course, we all know that this has about as much chance of occurring as the WTO has of abolishing itself, that GE is actually going to give back the taxes it dodged, or that DuPont is finally going to do the right thing and compensate the 100,000 victims of the Bhopal chemical spill for decades of suffering. Could we possibly ever live in such a world? “Yeah”, people are saying, “why don’t we live in such a world?” And we’re more motivated to go out there to make it happen.

In 2006 members from a coalition of environmental groups posed as a government agency – the Oil Enforcement Agency – that should have existed, but didn’t. Complete with SWAT-team-like caps and badges, agents ticketed SUVs, impounded fuel-inefficient vehicles at auto shows, and generally modeled a future in which government takes climate change seriously. Clever protest campaigns can bring little shards of utopia not just into the streets but also into our elections and even legislatures. When Jello Biafra ran for mayor of San Francisco in 1979, one of the planks in his platform called for beat cops to be voted on by the neighborhoods they patrolled. Once out in the open, this and other seemingly radical ideas were revealed as the reasonable proposals they were, and thousands of San Franciscans pulled the lever for Jello.

Even legislation can be Utopian. A legislative bill called, “What Would Finland Do?” aims to introduce a bill in the New York legislature to prorate traffic fines according to the net wealth of the driver. It wouldn’t pass, but a lot of New Yorkers might think: “Why not?” and the long fight for greater economic equality might inch a tiny bit forward. (Finland, by the way, has such a law, and in 2004 the 27-year-old heir to a sausage fortune was fined $204,000 for driving 50 miles per hour in a 25 mph zone.) Whether religious or artistic, a playful thought experiment, or a serious attempt to be true to one’s values in the face of state violence, Utopian engagement allows us to experience for ourselves (and demonstrate to others), that another world is necessary, possible—and maybe even beautiful.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Taking back what the grinch stole

The Devolving of Christmas: An American Tragedy

By now everyone has been inundated by it on the news, streamed it on the Internet either voluntarily or not, or read about it somewhere in some advertisement of one kind or another. It's that time of year again, the closing days of the holiday shopping season when people by the millions will finish spending an average of $700.00 each between now and December 31st on a bunch of cheap imported Chinese crap that nobody really needs. The worst part for American consumers is that all these inexpensive imported products from the sweat shops of the 3rd world are designed and manufactured in such a way as to make sure the items wear out sooner rather than later in the hopes that the American consumer will go out and buy a replacement, hopefully sooner rather than later. The giant US multinational corporations have figured out that if you make a product just good enough to hold out for a little while, you can still get people to buy it even though it is made as cheaply as possible. Unfortunately for these same monster corporations, the American consumer has begun to wake up and realize they have been had and that things have been this way for a long time, and they're furious about it. Their fury and rage first manifested itself in the Arab Spring of 2011, followed by rioting in Spain and England that summer, followed by the rioting in Greece that has yet to completely simmer down. This was followed here in the US in the form of the Occupy Wall Street and “the 99%” Movements of which I am proud to be a part, and both of which are still very much ongoing.

All I'm saying is that people everywhere have become more questioning, more critical or have even become opposed to capitalism due to what is increasingly being viewed as its predatory nature and its emphasis of profits over people. Many of us, including myself, are completely up in arms over the state of our country. The Christmas shopping season is just one symptom of capitalism gone overboard, with a mad dash to acquire more and more material things just for their own sake at a time when we are supposed to be quietly celebrating the birthday of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is indicative of a society that has lost its sense of direction and lost touch with its purpose for being. I was one of millions of people who boycotted Black Friday last month as a way to peacefully protest being forced to live in a world where the main thing that matters most seems to be how much money one can make. I've been there and done all that. I owned a computer store all through the 1990's and made a 6-figure income. I know what it's like to have all that, and do you know what I found out about wealth and riches? It's just a big trap, a never-ending treadmill of the pursuit of profits until it consumes your whole life, until in the end you realize that it was all just an illusion. Like a game of Monopoly, when the profit machine comes to an end (and sooner or later they all do) and the game is over, everything goes back in the box only to start all over again. That's all capitalism and the taking of profits is – one big Monopoly game where the person with the most money wins, and always at the expense of everybody else. Is it any wonder that capitalism and the taking of profits has ruined the spirit of Christmas, let alone the whole country?

What have we become? Like cattle and sheep headed to slaughter, we roll out at this time of the year at the bidding of shop-till-you-drop gimmicks. Meanwhile, we fight and claw for the raw deal at the various suburban box stores offering low wages and no benefits to staff. So, how much can we save? Wally World is offering 25% off, while Sneers is offering 30%. Let's run to Sneers! It's only 30 more miles down the road and we've got the gas! What about the Chinese girls slaving in non union factories at pennies a day? What do they make off the deal? Who is actually winning? Is it really the mesmerized consumers teary and googly-eyed while giggling gleefully at 30, 40, and 50% off deals? Our politicians say it's the American workers. Yes, it is our right to slave part time at minimum wages and no health benefits while we shop till we drop looking for that fantastic deal. We make this statement as employees of corporations are lining the pockets of senators, congressmen and supreme-court justices in Washington D.C. while sitting on presidential cabinets making decisions regarding our planet's future, our future, and our children's future. Meanwhile our consumerism is devouring the planet into what might soon become more lifeless than the moon or, God forbid, a Wall Street Tycoon. Yet, mesmerized by commercials with intelligence levels less than a jackass after having a lobotomy, we roll blindly into the gates of the shopping centers, the strip malls and humongous big box stores. For example, consider the following release from the Associated Press.

"A shopper in Los Angeles pepper-sprayed her competition for an Xbox and scuffles broke out elsewhere around the United States as bargain-hunters crowded malls and big-box stores in an earlier-than-usual start to the madness known as Black Friday. Toys R Us opened for the second straight year on Thanksgiving itself. And some shoppers arrived with sharp elbows. On Thanksgiving night, a Walmart in Los Angeles brought out a crate of discounted Xboxes, and as a crowd waited for the video game players to be unwrapped, a woman fired pepper spray at the other shoppers "in order to get an advantage," police said. Ten people suffered cuts and bruises in the chaos, and 10 others had minor injuries from the spray, authorities said. The woman got away in the confusion, and it was not immediately clear whether she got an Xbox. On Friday morning, police said, two women were injured and a man was charged after a fight broke out at an upstate New York Walmart. And a man was arrested in a scuffle at a jewelry counter at a Walmart in Kissimmee, Fla. In the U.S., Wal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer, has taken steps in recent years to control its Black Friday crowds following the 2008 death of one of its workers in a stampede of shoppers. This year, it staggered its door-buster deals instead of offering them all at once." (Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press)

Lennon and McCartney of the Beatles wrote in the song "Revolution", "you say you want a revolution, well you know, we'd all love to change your head." Yes, it is more than changing Wall Street. It is, ultimately, about changing ourselves. This Christmas, change how you celebrate. Speak from your heart to your kids about consumerism and how it is affecting the planet as well as our behavior. Instead of buying your wife a new nightgown, give her your heart through sweet words of affection. Make her something really nice, like a fancy meal or a piece of furniture. Ladies, instead of buying your husband a new bag of golf clubs, give him a night he will never forget. Be creative, be loving, be tender and compassionate. Enjoy each other. To enjoy is to enjoin, to enjoin is to unite. Consumerism keeps us isolated by gimmicks of sensationalist advertising of unrealistically beautiful women, “perfect” children and gorgeous hunks of men that are created off the corporate mold. And who is being molded by all these advertising gimmicks? You! For what purpose? To make others rich. Don't go there this year. Find richness in your heart and share that this Christmas. And keep more of your money.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

God Still Reigns Supreme, and He Doesn't Need Drones to Enforce His Rule

Send In The Drones

Today I feel compelled to speak out against the drone attack in Yemen earlier this week that killed at least 13 people and probably more – all of whom were, by all accounts, part of a wedding party. The erroneous targeting of innocent civilians by the CIA and the US military causes me to wonder whether the letters CIA stand for Complete Idiots Agency. But all joking aside, I want to write truthfully today about God and what he might do under similar circumstances. After all, I am a Progressive Christian and an antiwar crusader because my conscience compels me to be such – it's in my nature. I cannot hope to transcend that identity, nor do I think that attempting to do so is a worthy goal, especially for the sake of "objectivity". Indeed, being a Christian inevitably means many things — it means being baptized, partaking of the Lord's supper, and belonging to a community marked by the confession that Jesus Christ is Lord. Likewise, being a Christian means lamenting the violence carried out by those powers and principalities that coercively seek their own lordship over God's good creation – powers and principalities like America – and to stand for social and economic justice and against inequality as Jesus did.

I recently found out, much to my dismay, that Liberty University has been training Christians to pilot armed U.S. drones since 2011 in its School of Aeronautics (SOA). My dismay is over the idea that Liberty graduates can somehow "serve the Lord" by targeting and killing their global neighbors. Here, I would like to outline some of my concerns in detail with the hope that Liberty University might reconsider, or at least restate theologically, its position regarding U.S. drone warfare:

[1.] Drone strikes are imprecise, counterproductive and of questionable legality.

According to a recent study carried out by researchers at NYU School of Law and Stanford University Law School, some experts suggested drone strikes hit just 2 percent of "high priority" targets, often killing civilians instead. Indeed, America is responsible for killing more than 3,000 people with drone technology – several hundred of which are children. America also uses egregious strike techniques in order to kill individuals suspected of terrorism. All of this has led to significant opposition from citizens, especially in Pakistan, in what some have called a kind of "recruitment program" for terrorism. And though legality is unclear, terrorism and human rights officials at the United Nations have said that U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan violate international law. Has Liberty University considered how these factors might undermine America's interests? More importantly, have you considered how these factors might compromise the integrity of the greater Church?

[2.] Drone strikes necessitate complicity with untruthful media systems.

Reports suggest that the Obama Administration stretches the definition of "militant" to reduce reported civilian death tolls. Just follow the articles – as soon as you get beyond the realm of mainstream American media, “militants” suddenly become “suspects” or even “civilians.” How can the church – any church presenting itself as a truth-telling institution – accept at face value and propagate misleading half-truths or outright lies from the mainstream media, especially when innocent lives are at stake?

[3.] Liberty University assumes drone warfare as an ethical norm for Christians.

Don't get me wrong – I dislike just-war theory just as much as the next Progressive Christian, but don't you think that drone warfare demands some sort of philosophical and theological backing? Short of ambiguous and unhelpful appeals to "justice," how has Liberty managed to reconcile drone strikes with the ethical teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ? How can the church support drone warfare while loving our neighbors and our enemies at the same time? Before Yemen there is or was Afghanistan, and before that there was Iraq, where at least 100,000 Iraqi civilians died, and not all were accidental.

Still another aspect of drone warfare is the insane misdirection and misappropriation of funds for war instead of for peaceful purposes. As I wrote in my 2011 book, “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto”, if America took all the money it spends in just one day for the ongoing occupation of Afghanistan and put it into an interest-bearing account, there would be enough money in that account to send every American school kid to 4 years of college so they could earn their professional degrees and diplomas without cost. This is the way this is already being done in most of the other developed countries in the world. America is the only exception, and it is undoubtedly a dubious distinction. It is also a fact that America spends more money incarcerating people than it does educating them. For me, this is proof positive that our country has its priorities completely out of whack. This in turn is a reflection on America's leadership, or more accurately the lack thereof. As things are right now, America's voters will have to wait until the 2014 elections to be able to do anything about it. But, if after the 2014 elections are over with and numerous new senators and congressional representatives are elected to replace the old – which is likely – and the state of our country remains unchanged, and especially if it gets worse, there will be serious trouble and much civil unrest, and things could get ugly in a hurry.

Ultimately, I oppose drones because Christ – through his obedience unto death – defeated the principalities and powers of this world. In so doing, he brought his Kingdom, with all its alternative politics, to earth. With expectant hope, the church is called to an ever-patient and Christ-like peace in accordance to Christ's faithfulness that is made possible through the power of the Holy Spirit. As such, the church cannot participate in the violence of empire without undermining its calling — we are, as it were, to put faithfulness to Jesus before our attachment to the world. No doubt, many at Liberty University will reject my argument. Nevertheless, I can see no theological reasons for doing so. After all, as the largest evangelical school in the world, I would presume that they know how to talk about God. So the next time you pray, why not ask God, “Heavenly Father, who would Jesus drone?”

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Making do with less during a season of conspicuous consumption

Making Do With Less

As we move forward through the Christmas and New Year's holiday season, it has been my observation that we live in a society that is focused on the accumulation or acquisition of material wealth, while intangible enrichment such as peace of mind and contentment are overlooked or ignored. Everywhere we go we find ourselves surrounded by a bombardment of mass media, mass marketing and corporate sponsorship. The average American gets knocked over with endless commercials from the time they get up until they lay back down at night, and that includes our children. To illustrate how bad this commercial barrage has become, watching TV or listening to commercial radio is the equivalent of having a door-to-door salesperson ringing your doorbell once every five minutes continuously. Just when you think the sales pitch is finally over, here comes another one immediately behind it. All the while, the average house costs $180,000.00 even in the currently depressed real estate market, and the average car costs $35,000.00. In contrast, I grew up in a 1,200 square feet house that cost $18,000.00 when it was built in 1954. We are surrounded – hemmed in is more like it – by opulence and wealth on a magnitude never before seen in the history of human civilization, even to the point that many of us have begun to take it all for granted.

Maybe we should begin to ask ourselves some basic questions about our lives and how we are living them. For example, why would any of us want a newer car when there is probably nothing mechanically wrong with the one we drive now? And why would any of us want a bigger house when the one we are currently living in is fine? The answer in both cases is that American society is, for lack of a better word, programmed to be upwardly mobile. This happens partly due to social pressure on the part of our peers as well as economic pressure from corporate America, with the accompanying least common denominator being pure greed. Our society here in the US, from our current and terrible medical care system to the dangerously overextended banking system, to the well-established debt-based capitalist economic system that keeps us all enslaved, is based on greed for the accumulation of material goods and the hoarding of cash and assets for “investment” or “retirement” purposes, two euphemisms for “I've got more than you have”.

Owing to the fact that there are 2 billion people, or roughly a third of the earth's population, who live on less than $2.00 per day, it has been getting clearer to watchful eyes from everywhere that the hoarding of wealth by the developed and established countries is increasingly happening at the expense of other less fortunate third-world countries. The unending influx of economic refugees from Mexico and Central America to the US is only one example of dozens globally. Increasingly larger amounts of money are being hoarded by an ever smaller minority of elitists worldwide. Some people in this group are for the most part engaged in legitimate enterprises, while others are either drug cartels or just flat-out organized criminals. Capitalism's holy grail, the quest for never-ending profit, has devolved into a monster – composed of endless debt and infinite compounded interest – that is consuming itself, that is unsustainable, and that is therefore ultimately self-destructive. Its impending self-destruction also means that it is harmful to the rest of us when it implodes or otherwise collapses, constituting a real and present threat to us all.

As a result of growing hunger on the part of many of us who are disillusioned with the old school, debt-driven, for-profit business and government (yes, the government sure does), people are beginning to explore other ways of living and to develop new values for a less growth-oriented community. I myself am a part of this movement, having moved from the suburbs to the inner city here in Atlanta where I live, and relying mostly on public transit to get around. Although I'm disabled and don't own a car any more, the lifestyle changes I have made over the last few years has accidentally transformed my life. First of all, I'm no longer stuck in Atlanta traffic, and so I seldom get stressed out over much of anything. The buses and trains go at a gentler pace, and I find this rejuvenating. I leave whenever I feel like it, and come back home the same way. But the most practical part of using public transit is that not owning a vehicle saves me at least $10,000 dollars annually by the time I include insurance and maintenance, and that's for an entry-level car. It also gives me a very small “carbon footprint”, which proves that you don't have to protest on street corners to be an environmentalist. Besides, in Genesis chapter one it says that God created man to “subdue the earth”, which includes caring for it. In that regard, mankind has done an atrocious job of taking care of the planet that God gave us to live on, a planet that God created specifically for us. Mankind has the collective responsibility to care for and nurture this planet we live on. One of the best ways to begin to repair the earth's damaged environment would be to move to the city and rent, sell or park our cars, and take public transit, ride bikes, or walk. In other words, doing this would be a way that we can all honor God. Add to this the fact that walking or bike riding is very good for our health, and we have sufficient motivation to begin working toward this goal.

Others are exploring additional ways to simplify their lifestyles and to get by on less stuff than they were formerly accustomed and still be contented. The Bible tells us “to be content whatever the circumstances” (Phil. 4:11). The apostle Paul wrote that he “has learned the secret to be contented” (Phil. 4:12), and that “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6). Many people are opting for smaller, more practical living quarters. One acquaintance of mine from the church I attend and serve as a musician has done something similar to that. When the family car reached the end of its life and they didn't have enough money to replace it with a newer model, they moved out of their suburban apartment into a dwelling where the bus stop is 100 feet away. It's a slightly smaller house than where they had been living, but it gave them the added benefit of becoming a closer family — both literally and figuratively. By moving to a smaller house, this family of four was forced to be around each other more often, which they discovered they actually enjoyed. They essentially traded excess space that they really didn't need for togetherness and connectedness. I can’t figure out why everybody wouldn’t want that deal.

At the heart of this story lies a deeper critique of the American obsession with consumption and the “bigger is better” mantra. We Americans shun the word “sacrifice,” but studies find that trading stuff for time with people quite often makes us happier, healthier, and more sustainable. I can cite one of my favorite scientific findings: When we act altruistically (volunteer, donate to charity, etc.), we get the same neurological high in our brains that food and sex impart. Being good really does feel good. Welcome to conscious consumption: It’s not just about what we buy (even if it is fair-trade, organic, local), it’s also about being intentional with what we already own and cutting out the excess. On a related note, because of the recent recession, Americans are buying less, but doing more. The Department of Labor, keeping tabs on how people spend their time, found that Americans were cooking at home or participating in “organizational, civic and religious activities” more in 2012 than in 2008. So what can we do immediately to begin a cooperative movement to begin to rejuvenate the earth? Cook at home more and eat out less? Check. Getting involved in politics (for all the right reasons, unlike the crop of losers America is currently stuck with)? Check. Going green in every possible way, up to and including doing without a car? Definitely, check! Engaging with communities more? Check. Those are some hopeful and meaningful signs of progress toward sustainable, climate-friendly cities in a totally green future. Can my crusade for unconditional equality, and for social and economic equity encourage a bigger shift toward conscious consumption and green living? I certainly hope so.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Swapping endless wars for perpetual peace is the only thing that will save America

Taking a Stand Against Perpetual War

Many people are urging the Obama administration to exert more leadership in the struggle to reduce gun violence in the United States. President Obama has spoken to the nation in the past about the need to undertake war while dodging the domestic gun violence issue – first in the surprise drone strikes around the globe, next concerning Libya, more recently in Syria until overwhelming public opinion against another war forced Obama to change his mind, and most recently when he informed Congress and the American people that US troops will be in Afghanistan until as late as 2024. I recently viewed a CNN video where the terrible problem of rape in U.S. prisons was lifted up. Violence surrounds us. It is ingrained into and embraced by U.S. Society. This needs to change.

More than 50 years ago, President Dwight Eisenhower warned of the growth of the military-industrial complex. He cautioned us about the need to guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, "whether sought or unsought," by the military industrial complex. "The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist," he said. More than 60 years ago, George Orwell wrote of "perpetual war," a situation in which war operates as a means of controlling the population by constantly rallying them against a common enemy. It matters not whether a Republican or a Democrat is in the White House; wars go on and on and on, perpetually it seems. World War Two lasted 4 years for the US and six years for Europe, yet US troops have been in Afghanistan since October of 2001.

Libyan dictator Col. Muammar Gaddafi was the longest-serving ruler in Africa, having taken power in 1969. He was a strange character, noted for many eccentricities. He also has supported horrible terrorist incidents over the decades. The United States wasn't really sure who to side with against Gaddafi. Libya is a complicated stew. As the winds of change blew across the Middle East, many in Libya seized the moment to revolt. At first, it appeared the momentum of their rebellion would carry the day. Sadly, Gaddafi unleashed his military forces against the rebels, and the rest is history. Obama administration officials maintained that United States decided to wage war on Libya because of the threat the horrible Gaddafi was to his own people. Then why not attack Bahrain or Yemen or Somalia? Tyrants in those countries are committing similarly repugnant acts against their citizens, maybe even worse.

It's a good thing that America decided not to attack Syria. It could easily have started World War Three. Had America bombed Syria from the air, Syria would have called in reinforcements from its ally Russia, and it would have been only a matter of time before the nuclear weapons started flying. For this reason and more, I am excited that ordinary people are rising up, first across the Middle East to cast off autocrats, tyrants, kings and dictators, not to mention the secret police who harass the citizenry daily, and also in America with the formation of the Occupy and “the 99%” Movements. The most damning thing about our federal government is the recent disclosure of an out-of-control foreign and domestic spy network, which proves to me that Obama is morphing from a US president into a tyrant. People want peace and justice, not war and violence. We're all sick and tired of all the fighting, all we want is some peace and quiet for a change.

In the United States, including right here in Atlanta, many leaders and members of churches constantly, loudly lament about a shortage of money. There is a reason for that – vast sums of the incomes of their members are being drained off for war, death and destruction. These are people who become enraged over an aborted fetus, but who have no problem going overseas to kill oftentimes innocent strangers. To call this a glaring contradiction would be an understatement. At any rate, and given the near silence of America's pulpits in the face of the violence and war that surrounds us, the exertions of our theologians in justifying war, the devotion of denominational members to the myth of redemptive violence, it is certain that future historians will view the church as a slave to the vast war machine that engulfs us. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. prophesied, "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death." It looks to me like the USA is already there due to the fact that America spends more money locking people up than is spent on educating them. Will we rise up against this madness of violence and backwards priorities, or are we dead already?