The story of the deliverance of Daniel’s three friends from persecution for their faith takes an unpleasant turn as a new form of religious oppression is set up as its immediate effect. Apparent victories are all too often co-opted by the vicious dynamics of the political systems that they appeared to have overcome. In Advent, however, we see a political rupture that can never be dissolved back into the prevailing power structures.
In his When War Is Unjust: Being Honest in Just-War Thinking, theologian John Howard Yoder asks, “Can the criteria function in such a way that in a particular case a specified cause, or a specified means, or a specified strategy or tactical move could be excluded? Can the response ever be ‘no’?” (Orbis 1996, p. 3) In my judgment, the present crisis in Syria is indeed a particular case where a just war response is “no.”
In our last post, we noted that Barack Obama was the willing victim of a particularly delicious moment of irony. The very framework that has given sophistication and moral purpose to his governing – a Niebuhrian Christian realism – could cost him the 2012 election. While Christian realism allows a statesmanlike distance between the goals that can actually be achieved and the pretensions to virtue and excellence that may be desired, very few in the American electorate wish to hear about that. In other words, to win American elections, one must be a cheerleader, or a political evangelist.
My post, “Two American Dreams and One Economic Reality,” looked at the debate about American values initiated by President Obama’s now famous quote: “You didn’t build that.” I argued that the radical individualism embodied by the Republican outrage against this phrase is consistent with neither Christian faith nor economic reality. I am proud of that essay. I think it provided a clear sense of why my Christian faith leads me to support the Democratic Party. But, some of my friends and colleagues pushed back against it pretty hard. They were concerned that my rhetoric of grace and gratitude, my vision of God’s economy, did not quite fit their experience of President Obama or the Democratic Party over the past four years. The disillusionment of these faithful Christians and good Americans is understandable, but my fear is that the fact that Barack Obama is not the Messiah may threaten his very limited but very real accomplishments in both international and domestic affairs….
Ideological State Apparatuses, a phrase made famous by Louis Althusser, function in society to keep the bourgeoisie culture dominate. This is done through institutional establishments, such as the church, family, etc. In the US, the American Dream has been a dominant ideology that gives hope to the unprivileged that they too have a chance to thrive in a higher economic status. Unfortunately, this myth rarely comes to fruition for the lower class or the immigrant because achieving upward social mobility is nearly impossible. The American Dream thus represents a master-signifier. Something present in our culture that one must believe to be a welcomed person in society. This week’s lectionary readings could be related to the ISA that penetrate societies. From the Hebrew Scriptures passage it speaks of the beginning of David’s career as King surrounded by a religious ISA. In the Christian Scripture, Jesus speaks a parable of how everything shall eventually become God’s Kingdom. These Scriptures are both politically driven, one speaking of an earthly kingdom ruled by a king chosen by God, and the other concerning the Kingdom of God.
Emma Goldman once said “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.” Goldman was speaking of the bourgeoisie democracy that upholds the status quo of US society. Her words have rung true for many of us progressives who voted for President Obama. We have and grown increasingly frustrated as his administration has leaned toward the status quo rather than the oppressed and poor. This week’s lectionary reading tells of a man who was part of the status quo in his society, high in power and authority in Ethiopia, yet God’s Spirit had something else in mind for him, an apostle named Philip….