Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Wow!  That "capitalism" series had me buried for a while.  Revising now, but the pressure is off.

Anyway... I find myself back at this keyboard, thinking about what I just wrote means; because - understood - capitalism demands that Christians make some determinations about what they ought and oughtn't do... given the moral implications of capitalism variously understood.

The other thing that is preoccupying me now is a public story, about a young National Security Agency contractor, Edward Snowden, who is a political refugee from the United States of America.  He tried to join Special Forces once, "to free people from oppression."  (I know something about this delusion.)

He's a libertarian fella, but he doesn't come off as the male archetype for young white guys who are libertarians.  He seems to have taken the focus off of the fighting parts of being libertarian (favored by many young, white, American, libertarian males).  He hasn't come off like a gun nut.  He's not a conspiracy theorist who tramples logic to support his preconceptions.  He seems very thoughtful, and he has chosen in the end the moral course that does not involve violence of any kind; he has become a witness.

As a Christian, I am called to believe the promises Jesus made, to do what is right, and to leave the future in the hands of God.  That last part is hard for people... we are really, really afraid; and so we really, really want to be in control of outcomes (another delusion with which I am quite familiar).

Secular folks never quite get the "witness" thing for that reason (and apparently it's hard for Christians, too).  They understand "protest" and "advocacy," and so forth.  The concept of witness is why I am not the least bit conflicted about whether this young man supported Ron Paul (Whatever!).

Edward Snowden is doing something in practice that is now re-forming him: he is a witness.  There is something redemptive - and he has said as much - in how this will continue to re-form him.

I hope we are not about ideological litmus tests and that we are about witnessing to the truth - as a practice.  We reflect too little, I think, in a world of competing ideas, about how ideas are changed by practices, and how important that makes practice.  Like truth-telling.

Dallas Willard, in a lecture not long before he died, said that skepticism is good for two things:   undermining illegitimate authority and initiating inquiry.  There can be no real discernment beyond the superficial without that type of targeted skepticism, without questioning authority about its legitimacy (and not by the lights of authority, for Christians, but by the light of Christian truth), and initiating inquiries.

There is a real issue involved with these National Security Agency revelations, and it is not how did these secrets get out (OMG, our government is not secure!), or did Edward Snowden endanger people with his whistleblowing action (this one is inevitably brought out of the old playbook).  Snowden's actions bring to mind Daniel Ellsberg's release of the Pentagon Papers and the ongoing secret trial of Bradley Manning, who released documents to the press that showed intentional war crimes and official failure to take any action about them.

It is about the truth.  About things that were and are actually happening, and that we didn't know because someone(s) in power was concealing, evading, or lying.  It is about the (moral) legitimacy of authority; and it appears to have been necessary to initiate inquiries into the way the US national executive authority is systematically increasing and consolidating its own power - on the sly.

In the same Dallas Willard lecture, he says that "truth has become an ominous topic."

Lying is second nature to human beings, he said, because human desire and human will find reality too hard (on inconvenient) to deal with the truth.  Willard makes note that you don't have to teach children to lie.

We are slaves to sin, said Jesus (in John 8).  But there is a way to be redeemed.

Jesus also says, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free."

I don't take those words to mean that you or I - if we achieve a certain level of gnostic illumination - will suddenly see the truth in a vision.  I take these words as a directive and a promise together.  You are directed to seek truth.  The more of it you have, the more free you will be.

Jesus is Lord.

If this is true, what does it say about political power in a world where lying is part and parcel of statecraft, where deception is seen as necessary for "security," where the police are allowed by law to lie to "suspects," where national advantage requires dishonesty - in summary, a society based on the logic of war!?

Deception is the logic of war because it is a logic that makes of some an enemy, and of all a potential enemy.

Whether or not Edward Snowden questions this logic now, he has headed down a path that will confront him with some difficult questions along this line.  Right now, he recognizes hypocrisy - playacting - a national executive pretending to be the advocate of representative democracy, and at the same time treat all its citizens as enemies to be deceived (perhaps even subjugated).

So he is telling the truth to the best of his ability.

Are we telling the truth to the best of ours?  I'd be interested to know how many people in church are talking about this.


  1. --- By avoiding the stark reality of our moment in history we don’t make ourselves safe. All we do is undermine the potential of struggles for justice and sustainability and guarantee the end of the human evolutionary experiment will be ugly beyond our imagination. We must remember, as Baldwin said, “that life is the only touchstone and that life is dangerous, and that without the joyful acceptance of this danger, there can never be any safety for anyone, ever, anywhere.” ---

    From Bob Jensen's recent essay/address. The whole piece is essentially about the importance of attentiveness, truth-telling, bearing witness. As always, he writes a graceful essay. The Snowden case is a classic example of the truth-telling witness facing hostility and punishment...

    1. Who said (A.L. methinks) that "Your silence cannot protect you."

  2. "Jesus is Lord"

    Just came back from the Kanuga church camp in NC. I listened to "new monastic" Shane Clairborne speak about "Holy Mischief." You might be interested in reading his book "Jesus for President." He's living a life of integrity and actually trying to live his life as a witness and a disciple of Jesus.

  3. I had the book until my great book giveaway three years ago when we went expat for a while. Hope you enjoyed Kanuga. I'm fortunate here to be surrounded by retired (sometimes sort of retired) Dominican Sisters, who inspire me a great deal.