(Sunday Homily) U.S. Doublespeak Is More Threatening to the World than ISIS or Khorasan

uncle-sams-lies

Readings for 26th Sunday in ordinary time: EZ 18:25-28; PS 25: 4-5, 8-10, 14; PHIL 2: 1-11; MT 21: 28-32 http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/092414.cfm

If I were you, I’d be careful about air travel. That’s because, as the President reminded us last week, the enemies we’ve so fiercely created over the last 13 years are plotting to blow U.S. commercial aircraft out of the skies. So one of these days Khorasan’s heat-seeking missiles will find the rear end of your plane, and that will be the end of you.

And, when you think about it, those firing the rockets will be justified in doing so. That is, if we allow them to apply the insane logic behind Mr. Obama’s latest justification for bombing his seventh Muslim country in six years.

In doing so the Nobel Peace Prize laureate said last week, “Once again, it must be clear to anyone who would plot against America and try to do Americans harm that we will not tolerate safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people.”

Wait a minute!

Our “leader’s” logic (if we universalize his pronouncement) has just endorsed an endless cycle of violence that should be completely unacceptable to any human being — not to say any Christian. His words mean that anyone who plots against another country trying to do their citizens harm can claim no safe haven. They will be subject to reprisal.

Tell that to drone victims and to Syrians who lost their children in last week’s bombings – or to similar casualties at weddings and funerals in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. The President’s doublespeak logic allows them to say, “Once again it must be clear to the Americans plotting against us and trying to do our citizens harm that we will not tolerate safe havens for such terrorists who threaten our people. There will be reprisals.”

That means that the militants in the countries just mentioned can legitimately respond to the terrorism of drone and outright bombing attacks with similar assaults on American citizens in our own “homeland.”

So as I say, hold your breath on your next airline trip to Miami or New York. The blowback is coming – and the blowback to that blowback too.

Such are the realities of Eternal War.

It’s that sort of damned logic (I’m choosing my words) that is addressed in today’s liturgy of the word. It’s not at all comforting.

The first reading from the prophet Ezekiel sets the tone. It underlines what Easterners call the Law of Karma. Ezekiel says that people die because of their wicked deeds. He says, “When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies, it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die.” That’s karma. It’s an inescapable law of the universe.

St. Paul put it this way, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” (GAL 6:7-9). Relative to war, Jesus was even more pointed. He said all those who live by the sword will die by that same instrument (MT 26:52). It’s all karma.

As citizens of a nation that lives by the sword more than any other in world history, what then are we to do? Here, once again, today’s readings supply an answer. We must abandon the destructive path we’re on. That’s what Ezekiel says. Speaking of the potential recipient of negative karma, Ezekiel promises, “But if he turns from the wickedness he has committed, he does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life; since he has turned away from all the sins that he has committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.” That too is karma.

In other words, to avoid the negative consequences of our actions, we must change course radically. More specifically today’s gospel selection addresses that imperative to political leaders. It calls them to make their actions correspond to their words.

Yes, today’s gospel is addressed to leaders like our president and congresspersons. There Jesus addresses those in power and tells the local rulers of his day (“the chief priests and elders”) a parable about lip service and the required change of direction. (Remember, in Jesus’ context there was no sharp distinction between religious and civil government.)

“A man had two sons,” the Great Teacher tells these government officials. “He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ He said in reply, ‘I will not, ‘ but afterwards changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,‘ but did not go. Which of the two,” Jesus asks, “did his father’s will?”

The chief priests and elders answer,”The first.”

Jesus said to them,”Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.”

I’m sure you see that Jesus’ parable is about governmental lip service and deception. The parable calls them to radical change in policy. Jesus implies that the leaders of his day were like the first son. They said the right things, but their actions belied their words. As a result, their deeds excluded them from the New Order (God’s Kingdom) which was always the focus of Jesus’ revolutionary discourse.

And that brings us back to our own leaders and the differences between what they say and do. Think of the events of recent weeks – even last week. During that time our leaders have:

• Paid lip service to national boundaries in the case of Russia and Ukraine, but then have claimed that national boundaries are irrelevant in their own “war on terrorism.”
• Paid lip service to international law – again in the case of Russia and Ukraine, but then ignored that law by going to war with ISIS without the required U.N. resolution.
• Paid lip service to civilization and decency in decrying ISIS’ brutal beheadings (by knife) of innocent civilians, but then beheaded literally untold others via drones and direct bombings. (Yes, drones and bombs inevitably blow heads off bodies.)
• Paid lip service to the human rights of civilians brutalized by ISIS, while ignoring the million and a half civilians their own armed forces have just as brutally killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
• Paid lip service to nuclear non-proliferation in their demands upon Iran, but then have pledged billions to modernize their own overwhelming nuclear arsenal.
• Paid lip service to environmental protection (following last Sunday’s “People’s Climate March”), but the very next day implicitly embraced the possibility of “nuclear winter” through that same weapons modernization program.

Of course, there are many more examples of our leaders’ saying one thing and doing the opposite. In fact, their lies come so thick and fast that confusion and weariness results on the part of listeners. Our leaders’ honeyed words accompanied by unspeakably cruel acts paralyze us from taking action against or even recognizing in our own country a world force that is far more destructive than ISIS, Khorasan, or al-Qaeda. In the words of Noam Chomsky, the latter represent “retail terrorism,” while the U.S. “network of death” (with bases all over the world) embodies “wholesale terrorism” that is far more evil and destructive.

I believe that danger of confusion and consequent inaction is why Jesus shocked his opponents by saying simply, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.”

That would be as scandalous to Jesus’ audience as if he said to President Obama and John McCain, “Amen, I say to you, ISIS, Khorasan and al-Qaeda will enter God’s kingdom before you.”

What does that mean for us who are attempting to follow the Way of Jesus and are trying to be part of his Kingdom revolution? It means that we must realize that:

• Perpetual war contravenes the teachings of Jesus who taught us to love our enemies.
• Our “leaders” (just like the priests and elders of Jesus’ day) are liars to the core.
• The United States is (in the words of Dr. King) the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world.”
• That the retail terror and brutality of ISIS pales in comparison with the wholesale terror the United States inflicts on the world’s poor.
• That we must work and pray every day for the defeat of the United States in its endless, genocidal wars.

Believe me: that defeat is coming. Better yet, believe Ezekiel. It’s the law of karma.

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Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog

Emeritus professor of Peace & Social Justice Studies. Liberation theologian. Activist. Former R.C. priest. Married for 40 years. Three grown children. Four grandchildren.

7 thoughts on “(Sunday Homily) U.S. Doublespeak Is More Threatening to the World than ISIS or Khorasan”

  1. Mike, it’s a pleasure to hear you speak the truth about our government so clearly, even though the truth you tell leaves such a bitter, ugly taste in one longing for a world based on justice and love. Keep putting your word out there – there may be some who hear you that are inspired to examine the constant stream of lies put out by the media servants of our evil rulers. And yes, evil is the appropriate word when it comes to these folks who are destroying everything in their mad lust for world domination, and covering it with lies pretending they are on a mission of mercy.

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  2. Great stuff Mike. but for us non-american the US is still the only hope for un-shackeling. The church is also partly to blame in the “company” it keeps!…your reader might like this link: I feel sometimes more specifics like this are also effective.
    jim

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    1. Moyers is correct, money does tend to centralize in “families” … he doesn’t mention five major families, and they shouldn’t be left out. They profit from laws that are on the books, but not internalized and lived by enough people in the culture (like drugs and human trafficking)
      http://fortune.com/2014/09/14/biggest-organized-crime-groups-in-the-world/?xid=ob_rss

      1. Yakuza Yamaguchi Gumi—Revenue: $80 billion
      2. Russian Solntsevskaya Bratva—Revenue: $8.5 billion
      3. Traditional Italian Camorra—Revenue: $4.9 billion
      4. Sicilian ‘Ndrangheta—Revenue: $4.5 billion
      5. Mexican Sinaloa Cartel—Revenue $3 billion

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    2. Additionally, in places where public schooling is ineffective, only a tiny percentage of children from poor families will learn to read, write, and do basic arithmetic. Odds of social mobility for a new generation with inadequate education are miniscule, and money spent on their education is not the only problem. Ineffective curricula and distracting threats of violence are huge impediments. Please work on changing this, Moyers!

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  3. Thankyou and bless you for going straight to the nub of the issue without fear. It seems like terrorism is just as Hollywoodised now (I’m thinking of THOSE videos from Iraq) as everything else, the product, I suppose, of our total saturation in advertising and the politics of image. Interesting to compare also that the Arabic term for the Antichrist is Dajjal, meaning ‘the Deceiver’, and there are plenty of Islamic scholars who contend that it is not actually a person at all but a zeitgeist. May we all see through the smokescreen to the Truth!

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  4. There are real cultural differences between peoples, and young people who don’t know about those differences can suffer terrible consequences.

    How do you feel about women watching men play volleyball? That isn’t allowed in Iran, apparently the theocracy forbids this.

    The young teacher Ghavami apparently didn’t know that fact when she went from Britain to Iran to help teach English to street children, and went to a sports event, not knowing that she was transgressing. She is now in Evin prison: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29356807

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