(Sunday Homily) The Peace of the Risen Lord is Not Merely Interior; It Is about Absence of War! Refuse to Pay Military Taxes!

War Tax Resistance

Readings for Third Sunday of Easter: Acts 3: 15, 17-18; PS 4: 2, 4, 7-9; I JN 2: 1-5A; LK 34: 24-32; LK 24: 35-48

On April 4th, 1967, Martin Luther King infamously called the United States “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” That was in his “Beyond Vietnam: a Time to Break Silence.” Delivered at New York’s Riverside Church, it was perhaps his greatest, most courageous speech.  King’s words are worth reading again.

Time Magazine denounced him for it.

Despite the fact that U.S. soldiers had killed more than two million Vietnamese, (and would kill another million before the war’s end), King was excoriated as a traitor. Even the African-American community quickly distanced itself from their champion because of his strong words.

To this day, King’s speech is largely ignored as the daring truth-teller has been successfully transformed into a harmless dreamer – an achievement beyond the wildest dreams of the prophet’s arch-enemy, the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover who considered King a communist.

One wonders what Rev. King would say about the U.S. today. For despite what the mainstream media tells us about ISIS, the U.S. remains exactly what Dr. King called it. It’s still the greatest purveyor of violence in the world – even more so. By comparison, ISIS is small potatoes.

Face it: absent the United States, the world would surely be a much better place. Even our sitting President has identified the rise of ISIS (our contemporary bete noire) as the direct result of the unlawful and mendacious invasion of Iraq in 2003. That act of supreme aggression (in the U.N.’s terms) is alone responsible for the deaths of well more than one million people.

And this is not even to mention the fact that our country is fighting poor people throughout the world – in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Bahrain, Somalia, Libya, Syria, and who knows where else?  “Americans” claim the right to assassinate without trial anyone anywhere – even U.S. citizens – simply on suspicion of falling into the amorphous category of “terrorist.”

Can you imagine the terror any of us would experience if enemy drones constantly hovered overhead poised to strike family members or friends because some “pilot” six thousand miles away might judge one of our weddings to be a terrorist gathering? Can you imagine picking up the severed heads and scorched bodies of little children and their mothers for purposes of identification following such terrorist attacks? This is the reality of our day. Again by comparison ISIS beheadings are completely overshadowed.

I bring all of this up because of the Risen Lord’s insistence on peace in today’s gospel reading.  As in last week‘s episode about Doubting Thomas, the Risen Christ’s first words to his disciples breathless from their meeting with him on the Road to Emmaus are “Peace be with you.”

Last week in their own homilies about that greeting, I’m sure that pastors everywhere throughout our Great Country were quick to point out that the peace of Christ is not merely absence of war; it is about the interior peace that passes understanding.

Their observation was, of course, correct. However, reality in the belly of the beast – the world’s greatest purveyor of violence – suggests that such comfort is out-of-place. We need to be reminded that inner tranquility is impossible for citizens of a terrorist nation. Rather than giving us comfort, pastors should be telling us that the peace of the risen Christ is not merely about peace of mind and spirit; IT IS ABOUT ABSENCE OF WAR.

So instead of comforting us, Jesus’ words of greeting should cut us to the heart. They should remind us of our obligation in faith to own our identity as the Peace Church Jesus’ words suggest. More specifically, as Christian tax payers (having performed the annual IRS ritual last week) we should be organizing a nation-wide tax resistance effort that refuses to pay the 40% of IRS levies that go to the military. While it is absolutely heroic for individuals to refuse, there is safety and strength in numbers.

So an ecumenical movement to transform Christian churches into a unified peace movement of tax resistance should start today. All of us need to write letters to Pope Francis begging him on this eve of his visit to the United State (with anticipated speeches to the U.N. and our Congress) to call his constituency to tax resistance – to call the UN and the U.S. Congress to stop the aggression.

Once again: there can be no interior peace for terrorists. And Dr. King was right: Americans remain the world’s greatest terrorists. We are traitors to the Risen Christ!

Focusing on a utopian interior peace while butchering children across the globe is simply obscene.

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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.

4 thoughts on “(Sunday Homily) The Peace of the Risen Lord is Not Merely Interior; It Is about Absence of War! Refuse to Pay Military Taxes!”

  1. Hi Mike,

    I shared a link to this article of yours on Facebook and had a comment from a friend about “the blurring between goodies v baddies.” I commented back along these lines:

    I think, when it comes to the Church, the lines are not just blurred but completely wrong! Pacifism should be a core value for Christians. I suspect that Nationalism has always been the world’s major religion. But Jesus was a pacifist. He taught those who would follow Him to love their enemies and to render good for evil to those who persecute them – and to meet God on that road of Faith & then… Resurrection! These days, the Church supports nationalism, including in the USA. I don’t see Jesus objected to judicious use of violence by nonChristians – and I think this was because, apart from His Kingdom of Love, judicial use of violence is the best option for maintaining law and order. But, in my view, He would have the Church preach, to His flock, and live in the Kingdom of God.

    Thinking further along these lines some more, I imagine that, as the Pacifist Christian voice grows – as it one day must – the argument will rage between Just-War-Christians-and-Nationalists on one side and Pacifist Christians on the other. Given that the Pacifists have Jesus and the Gospels on their side, their arguments will be stronger. Whilst mere philosophical argument won’t make any nation disarm, it could make governments very circumspect about international aggression such that they limit their use of judicial use of violence to defence on home soil. In this way, Christians promoting pacifism may result in Governments eschewing terrorism.

    What do you think about this analysis and strategy, Mike?

    Peace! and thank you again for your blog.

    John Wallace

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    1. John, as always, your comments are spot-on. It’s just amazing to me how a “Christian nation” can be so war-like. We need to hear that insistence on Christian pacifism proclaimed from our pulpits and voiced by our popes and bishops in uncompromising terms. Perhaps just as powerfully, “Americans” have to wake up to the waste of national treasure represented by these unending wars. Imagine how different our world would be if we dropped books on our perceived enemies instead of bombs. Imagine if we built schools in enemy territory instead of destroying them.

      Like

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