Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Small Sips: A Christian Response to Torture, More Rev. Wright, The "Real" U-M

"An Act of Blasphemy:" Aaron at Street Prophets posts an excellent response to torture from Tom Perriello, a Democrat running for Congress in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District:

Q: In 2004 as co-director of Faithful America you aired commercials on al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya featuring prominent religious leaders apologizing for the treatment of prisoners in Abu-Gharib. Why did you feel that was necessary to come from religious leaders and should they be apologizing for actions taken by military officials?

A: Torture is immoral and, in my reading, an act of blasphemy against the image of God in another human being. When our leaders make the decision to condone torture, something powerful in the soul of our country is suffocated.

Torture also undermines our national security, produces bad intelligence, and puts our troops at risk. The images from Abu Ghraib became powerful propaganda weapons for Osama Bin Laden to use in recruiting a new generation of terrorists to threaten our great nation. Terrorism is fundamentally immoral and a grave threat to our country, and one purpose of our ad was to blunt the recruiting bonanza that Bush handed to Al Qaeda in the wake of those images. One of the many things this Administration has never understood about the threats we face is how to fight back successfully against their propaganda battle. I am proud that we were able to produce an ad that spoke to America’s highest principles and helped make us safer at the same time.

As for whether one can ethically apologize for someone else’s actions, the theologians and faith leaders involved in this ad were careful to make it an expression of regret, and not an apology in order to clarify the lines of culpability. Our great nation could use a boost of people taking personal responsibility seriously, so it is distressing to see this Administration refuse to step up to the plate. In the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal, it has repeatedly had our men and women in uniform take the blame without taking its own responsibility for this disaster. The religious leaders in our ad exemplified what moral leadership looks like.

Perriello nails both the theological and political pieces of this quite well. It's hard to claim the moral high ground and that God has our backs while at the same time refusing, for instance, to call waterboarding torture. It also gives the terrorists fodder for recruiting, and it's human nature to say whatever people want to hear to make the pain stop.

The counterpoint to this, I suppose, has to do with "being tough on our enemies" and "protecting American lives," and "do what it takes to defend ourselves." But I've yet to hear a counterpoint that convincingly justifies it as morally A-OK in God's eyes, or that directly answers the question of bad intelligence.

The Wheels Under the Bus Go 'Round and 'Round: Here's one more from Street Prophets about Obama's complete separation from Jeremiah Wright...

My much-beloved blog friend Pam Spaulding recently asked what it would take to start a sane dialogue on race in this nation. She thinks white folks need to develop the emotional strength to deal with racial conflict. I think it's even more basic than that. I think white folks are going to have to learn to deal with the uncomfortable idea that black folks don't always have the same interests as they do, and that comes out in their political stances.

There's a lot of discomfort that white people need to work through in order to get to a point where we'll be able to speak honestly, but even moreso to hear clearly. While at Eden, I attended a discussion on racial divides that was introduced with a video featuring eight men of different races talking about the problems that each community faces. One of the two white men kept using phrases such as, "I don't understand why blacks just can't get over [this]," or "work through [that]," or "still have an issue with [this]." The two black men kept answering and trying to get him to understand until finally one of them broke out in a loud, passionate rant about what he and his community have had to deal with. He'd run out of patience.

We have too many white people, before and during the Wright fiasco, saying things like, "I don't understand why blacks just can't get over [this]," or "work through [that]," or "still have an issue with [this]." We have to be comfortable and ready enough to hear why not.

Feelin' Blue: Peabody at Michigan Against the World makes me sad:
Memo to "Angry Michael:" You ARE LESS IMPORTANT!! See, when I got the thick packet from the U and you received a thin letter and an application to Dearborn, it basically said that DP's test scores and hard-work through high school earned him a spot at a top 25 school and afforded him the opportunity to participate in student activities. Your thin letter said "here, try getting into the glorified community college we've created, and if there's room, we'll let you drive 25 miles to watch us play football." Hey Angry Michael, I hate to crush your dreams, but if you tried to play football here? You couldn't. BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT A REAL STUDENT.
Regular readers know that I occasionally entertain the notion of enrolling in a U-M program just so eventually I can call myself a U-M alumnus. The minor problem with that is that I live in northeast Ohio, so it'd be a bit of a commute.

The one solution to that problem that I've come up with is enrolling in an online program, and the only U-M campus that offers such a thing is Dearborn.
So I'd have a degree that says "University of Michigan" on it, and I'd give to the University of Michigan Alumni Association, and I'd have an MBA that would be moderately helpful in church work. But the above confirms my one worry: the stigma that it still isn't a "real" U-M degree because I didn't go to Ann Arbor. Obviously, at least some AA students and alumni feel this way. Not surprisingly, Flint and Dearborn students feel differently on the matter.

Maybe at some point I'll wind up closer to Ann Arbor. There are both a UCC and a Congregational church there that are in the search process. Just sayin'.