Tuesday, January 06, 2009

I've just got to use my imagination

in the beginning was the Word
and the Word was with God
and the Word was God . . .

and the Word became flesh
and dwelt among us
Those familiar words from John, along with the rest of the first seventeen verses of Chapter One, were the text for Ginger’s sermon. As she talked about the Word – the Logos – she offered a twist on the translation, looking at word roots:
in the beginning was the Logic of God
and the Logic was with God
and the Logic was God . . .

and the Logic became flesh
and dwelt among us
John was saying what happened in the Incarnation gave us a look into the mind of God, into the way God thinks. The God of Creation and Incarnation is one who thinks relationally enough to become human and say things like, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” As she talked, another translation ran through my mind
in the beginning was the Imagination
and the Imaginaton was with God
and the Imagination was God . . .

and that Imagination became flesh
and dwelt among us
I thought about it again tonight reading a piece on the Israeli attacks in Gaza by Gene Stoltzfus, Director Emeritus of Christian Peacemaker Teams. Before I quote him, I have to set it up a bit. Last night, Jon Stewart did his own bit on situation, called “Strip Maul,” in which he showed clips of various American leaders – George W. Bush, Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, Mitt Romney, Jon Corzine, Mark Sanford, George Will, and Michael Bloomberg -- giving unabashed support to Israel’s response to violence with overwhelming violence. Bloomberg “brought it home” by saying:
If you’re in your apartment and some emotionally disturbed person is banging on the door screaming, “I’m going to come through this door and kill you,” do you want us to respond with one police officer, which is proportional, or with all the resources at our command?
A couple of things. One, the Palestinians are not emotionally disturbed or crazy. The people who are being killed in the Israeli attacks are mostly civilians – now over 500 of them – who have nowhere to hide. Two, if all the imagination our leaders can muster to respond to what is happening is to validate the violence, we are in serious trouble. What they describe is not what is happening. Here is a video clip from CBS News.



With all of that on my mind and heart, I was glad to come across Gene Stoltzfus’ statement because I could see some of God’s imagination seeping through his very thoughtful and faithful words. And I quote:
Today I grieve over what is happening in the region of Gaza. Is there anything I can do? Am I limited to government statements, last minute diplomacy, or immobilizing personal outrage? How do I respond from this place of despair? What do I tell the children? Is this the time when the posture of prayer may provide the oppenness toward a solution waiting for recognition?

When people are pressed to the limit of their flesh, they find a way to struggle. The people of Gaza -- whose democratically elected government more powerful nations rejected and who have been suffering under Israel's crippling blockade -- are not the first people to do so. Suicidal missions happen in most wars. Soldiers serving a cause in which they believe -- freedom, empire, democracy, or religion -- know they may die for the cause. They believe, sometimes with positive outcomes, that their sacrifice might reach beyond the limits of today's reason into tomorrow's solutions.

Where do those of us outside of Palestine and Israel, those of us who reject violence, turn for a resolution? Thousands of boardrooms, staff meetings, and grand peace councils set up to deal with crises like this have not produced solutions. As diplomats desperately grope for chimeral ceasefires, those involved in the conflict feel despair and guilt over lost opportunities. Will solutions ever come from diplomacy or councils? Will the sixty-eyar stalemate continue for another forty years -- a full century of explaining the conflict to Christian, Jewish, and Muslim children?

Or can the Gaza crisis of 2008-2009 ignite our imaginations? Can we believe that our collective imaginations might help? Have we received one more opportunity to sharpen our senses for what divine mystery wants to reveal to us?

Religious and secular people committed to social justice and peacemaking are suspicious that meditation belongs only to the pious and those who hide behind spiritual exercises to avoid engagement. This split between people of action and people of prayer is a false dichotomy that appears in every tradition. If political analysis or raw activism could have provided the basis for peace in this region of God's earth, it would have happened long ago. What has been lacking is the acknowledgment of unknown forces at work among and through patterns of violent conflict in Israel and Palestine.

The war in Gaza today invites me to prayer. I share our common desperation for a breakthrough. I don't promise that prayer will enlighten my imagination in a fresh way. I will try because I know that liberation from false myths of security is born in times of violence. When a sign or a nudge to action comes, I hope I have the courage to follow it. And if it comes to you or me, we can share it with the people in the peace councils, in diplomatic corps, or organizations -- share it with all the people on this journey with us. We may be here for just such a time as this.
Surely we are in this world to do more than justify the violence we see around us. This particular sentence challenges me:
I will try because I know that liberation from false mythis of sercurity is born in times of violence.
To see possibility in such an intractable conflict is Imagination become flesh. Perhaps it was what John had in mind when he said, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot put it out.”

May we be infected by the inextinguishable imagination of our God.

Peace,
Milton

9 comments:

Ary said...

When will we ever learn that brute "force" is not a solution? Given the timing of the current escalation of conflict, one has to wonder how much of a role the upcoming elections in Israel play. It is not beyond politicians to do "whatever it takes" to sway votes their way. My heart goes out to all the innocent people who are the victims of this horrific conflict.

From one human being to another -
I wish you Peace, Love, and Joy.

Ary

Beth said...

What a powerful post, Milton. I've been struggling to make sense of this conflict with the various news sources I've sought out. Here, you've condensed the deepest part of the issue that confounds me into something I can wrap my mind - and heart - around.

Thanks for enlightening me, once again.

I am driven to my knees...

Towanda said...

My NT prof told us that "word" was about the least imaginative choice for translating "logos." I like your translation better.

And boy, do we need some imagination these days...

Heidi Renee said...

this is so moving milton - thank you. my adopted little brother is serving his 3rd term, this time in afganistan - and he's being forced to participate in horrible slaughter. it's killing him and crushing his soul.

i am so weary of 'just war theology' and ugly left behind theology that has distorted the very imagination of the body of christ.

imagination is a beautiful answer to the john 1 story. it is the most mysterious part of scripture - even the calvinists can strip it of its glory. eugene peterson says 'the word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood' - i love that - imagination has moved into the neighborhood.

the horror that is happening on that parcel of land truly needs the body of christ to understand the heart of god. to use their god-given creativity and imagination to step away from that gross (anti-christ) theology that thinks that the kingdom come will be filled with bloodshed and terror. what have we done?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post and providing the links, especially the Palestinian mother's.

fishrock

Elisa said...

That the Israeli attack victims are mostly civilians is entirely false! The total casualty count as of January 4 was 507, and of that 25% were civilians! That is FAR better than the United States has ever done. It clearly shows that Israel carefully planned their attack to avoid civilians. Of the Hamas attacks 75% of the Israelis killed were civilians! And if you want to look at it another way, that means 25% of the people killed were around my age: "young people" 18-21. I have a friend in Israel right now who is 20 and serving duty. It could have been her.

I'm getting a little sick of all the anti-Israel policies I see everywhere. They have been bashed continually without ceasing, especially since Christ's death, and while I know as Christians we always want to help the underdog and from an economic standpoint that would appear to be Palestinians, can you all not see it's the Israelis?!

I am utterly shocked by the way Christians have been spitting the words of Jesus "Turn the other cheek" because most would still agree to World War II where we went in and saved the Jews from extermination. SOMEHOW our selfless act of "killing the evil Germans" (one of my best friends is my exchange partner from Germany by the way) to save the Jews is okay, because it's not about saving ourselves, but the Israelis are not allowed to save their parents and children.

When will you people understand this is not a case of turning the other cheek! When you decide to keep your doors unlocked at night and let men come on in to murder and rape your wives and children while you "turn the other cheek" give me a call!!

Furthermore, you say Israel is using excessive force? They are using 2% of their forces in their war against Gaza! They have enough firepower to carpet bomb Gaza AND the West Bank AND all the other immediate Arab nations and wipe them off the face of the earth. Explain to me how that is not responsibility! Or how it is abuse for that matter!

Also, for your information I got my statistics from Al-Jazeera on a video posted by the blogger in Durham (whose parents living in Gaza own a computer with internet and a scanner?).

Milton, I usually enjoy your blogs, and you write really well, but I'm going to be praying for your judgement on this. I like the song you posted, but notice that the second last line says "all the children of Abraham". That includes Isaac AND Ishmael. In the case of a dispute the aggressor needs to lay down their weapons, and as much as you try to sugar coat it, the aggressor is in Palestine.

don't eat alone said...

Elisa

I understand there are two sides to this story and that there is enough violence to go around. I also agree that both sides have to stop for peace to come. But I disagree that the Palestinians are the agressors, as you put it. For years Israel has controlled the power and water in Palestine, turning it off at will. The checkpoints have kept the Palestinians trapped in their territories and unable to work. Now, the Israelis are not allowing much if any humanitarian aid to get into Gaza when several hundred civilians are in need of food and medical care. Hamas does need to stop the rocket attacks into the settlements around Gaza and Israel needs to stop their attacks.

Peace,
Milton

Elisa said...

Thank you for responding Milton.

There are still some things though that bother me. Yes, I definitely realize that Israel has problems. For example, the best friend of my Israeli friend's younger brother was shrapnel bombed by ultra Orthodox Jews for being a Messianic Jew. He was almost killed from that, but by God's grace the shrapnel missed all his vital organs. It's crazy.

But still, first of all I don't like the way that what Israel is doing to Palestine is being WAY blown out of proportion. What Canada did to the Japanese during World War II, and the Canadian Aboriginals in the 50's and 60's and long before then as well (Australia also did the same thing) was worse than what Israel is doing to Palestine, but because propogada says "Canada is omg sooo peaceful and loving!" and "Israel does not deserve to exist, and they're full of hate because of what happened to them in the Holocaust (which is terrible logic because the Germans did that to them, not the Arabs? I don't know why Palestinians keep saying this.)" makes ALL the difference in who knows about which event. NO ONE knows, or knew about Canada's faults, but the whole world is ready to strangle Israel. A good example of this would be you saying most of the victims from the Israeli attacks are civilians. You seem like a good guy and so I would never suspect you of lying, and so you obviously got that from some source that twisted the facts, and there are SO MANY OF THEM. (My source was Al-Jazeera, and they're biased in favour of Palestinians anyways.)

This whole conflict is just ridiculous. The main problem is everyone is looking at this like Israel hates Palestine, and that is simply not true. They could easily be a lot worse to the Palestinians. Heck, they could cut off their power all together, and no one in Palestine would be able to publish any propoganda, and that would save them a whole lot of trouble. But they're not, and I don't know why everyone does not wonder why.

don't eat alone said...

Elisa

I hear the emotion in your comments, which I take seriously; obviously this conflict means a great deal to you. I do feel like I need to respond to a couple of things you said.

History is full of examples of powerful governments or people who have taken aggressive action against less powerful folks for any number of reasons; none of them is justified. Just because Israel's overwhelming force is not unique doesn't make it reasonable.

I read back through my posts and I have not given any statistics about how many Palestinian civilians have been killed. I worked hard for my links, which did give some of those numbers, to come from a variety of reputable news sources. One from my last post even talked about Hamas being guilty of violence as well.

The news I heard today said both the Israeli government and Hamas refuse to negotiate and so the violence will continue, which saddens me deeply.

Peace,
Milton