August 1, 2006

Just one of the reasons why I like reading Sojourners

Actually two. This last issue had Jim Wallis challenging James Dobson on his stance on the environment:
"A 2005 Focus environmental statement rejects that the Genesis mandate "justifies pillaging the earth" but insists that environmental concerns should always be secondary to "basic human welfare." But environmental problems affect people, not just some notion of "the earth" that excludes them. Global warming has potentially cataclysmic consequences, especially for the poor. The distinction between exploiting the earth and merely valuing humans most may sound reasonable, but its neatness relies on the fiction that our lives are not dependent on the health of all creation."

This has always bugged me. Maybe it is my background in environmental history, but I don't understand Dobson (and so many others) artificial distinction between "nature" and humans. We all live in nature--even the man-made versions of it. This is one of the key transitions in 20th century history--moving from the early conservation and preservation concerns of John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt where the arguments focussed on saving distant nature (parks, trees, cute deer) either for asthetic or efficiency efforts. In the late 20th century, after Hiroshima, Strontium 90, Silent Spring and Superfund sites, the focus turned from those external ideas of nature to seeing humans as another occupant in a giant nest--one that is being spoiled to our detriment.

When Dobson says that environmentalists put trees and animals above humans, he repeats the earlier error. It isn't a theological distinction about who has a soul--but simply an broader life issue. And one that he is horribly wrong about. We can argue about best solutions (and probably should), but regardless of our solutions, we cannot separate humans from nature--not with any sense of intellectual honesty or basic hold on reality.


Second, is this critique of the Bush admin's foreign policy where, as Wallis says, the idea of diplomacy seems to connote weakness:
"The best line I heard in the period leading up to the war in Iraq was, "If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." It came from my friend Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, when we were on a panel together in England about the best response to terrorism.
The premise of the panel was that the threat of terrorism is real, that there are real dangers prowling about in our world, and that the problem of evil is a very serious one. The question we were addressing was what the best response to the real threats of terrorism should be."

The Israel/Lebanon issue has really been vexing. Partially, at least for me, because of some sense of false choices posited by conservatives. It is as if we have to choose between supporting Israel or not--and those are our only choices. Since the founding of the modern state of Israel, US policy has been to support them as a country. We have sold them arms, and been a friend. We have defended their right to exist and that all makes sense and is really not being challenged in this country. I know of no actual politician and certainly none who have any power at all who actually suggest that America should not support Israel. To suggest otherwise is misleading.

Yet one of the other major roles that America has played in this area is the role of honest broker. We have cultivated (to some varying degree) a sense of clearly supporting Israel, but not solely Israel. In that sense, we could step into these situations and help find some meaningful ways at peace, or at least, a less violent situation.

The Bush administration--waving hammers at all who move--have abdicated that role, and did so (as Zalm pointed out) from the beginning of his administration. Despite the cautionary words of people like Colin Powell (and Bush's own father, I assume) W decided he knew better.

For those who like to see in him some Christian witness, I still am looking for it. I look for it as I look for a semblance of competence or genuine compassion. I look for it when I am watching him for signs of curiosity or intellectual interest. I still don't see it. And turning the idea of diplomacy into some notion of the unmasculine is not Christian. Is it? Aren't we called to reach out to our enemies?

Anyway. Tired and probably grumpy. Mostly tired.

Peace. Please. Just some peace.


urbanmonk said...

What's with all the post-liberal Christians in Oklahoma City? It must be the place to be. You guys must have a small revolution brewing down there.

Greek Shadow said...

I thought I would never see a summer like the one of 1967. The nightly news was taken up by Vietnam and the fighting in Israel in what is now called the Six Day War. Everyone marveled at how Israel kicked ass, and why couldn't we.
Now we're bogged down in another Asian war with no end in sight, but Israel can't kick ass like they did then. Urban guerilla warfare is much harder and deadlier. Vietnam taught the Arabs how to fight, but not the U.S. or Israel how to fight against them.

u.b.u.b. said...

Algeria is another instructive parallel here. The Algerians share a history of French colonization with the Vietnamese as well as an experience with guerilla tactics and fighting in the streets. These may be among the lessons Hezbollah and others are drawing from. The question is, what have we learned as a de facto colonial power?

Streak said...

Yeah, interesting stuff. I heard some analysis the other day that suggested that the new Israeli PM had been told by the military that this would be a quick and easy fight. Doesn't that sound familiar. He doesn't have a lot of military experience, and that might be some of the problem.

I really think the US is not doing anyone any favors in the Middle East right now--really including Israel in that. They need referees and we can do that--except every arab state sees us as Israel's goon.