Journalists arrested at RNC include Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman

We all expected the cops to use excessive force and utilize the tactic of questionable mass arrests in St. Paul. That’s no surprise, that has been a tactic for squelching public dissent since time immemorial. What is perhaps even more alarming about the tactics used in St. Paul is the arrest of several journalists who stepped outside “official” bounds to cover not just the staged convention proceedings or to follow the party line on the “violent” demonstrators (the vast majority of whom have been peaceful, and the only “violence” reported so far has been property damage, which is only questionably defined as “violence”).

Among those arrested include Democracy Now! host and producer Amy Goodman, who left the convention floor in the middle of an interview with delegates from Minnesota and Alaska to respond to the news that her producers were being arrested (Goodman grills St. Paul Police Chief about the Arrests). Not only were they arrested, but it is possible that producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar may be charged with felony rioting.

Not only that, but the convention hq for I-Witness Video was apparently raided. The police surrounded the house before a warrant was obtained, informed people they would be detained if they left the house, and then got their warrant (with one problem – it was for the WRONG ADDRESS) and raided the house, taking would-be police watchdogs into custody and confiscating equipment. I-Witness was extremely effective in exposing police violence during the 2004 RNC in New York, and it appears the St. Paul authorities did not want this to happen to them. Glenn Greenwald writes on the arrests, with substantial comment on the I-Witness raid. Eileen Clancy of I-Witness, wrote an emergency press release from inside the house while it was surrounded on the I-Witness blog.

Apparently if reporters aren’t “embedded” within the police corps or only covering subjects the authorities want them to see, they’re subject to arrest. So much for freedom of the press and the neutrality of journalists, and the supposedly basic assumption that journalists should be shielded from harm in conflict zones, or at least that every attempt should be made to do so. The same seems to be the case for other independent observers – in other words, if you’re not with the powers-that-be, you’re subject to arrest, to classification as a “criminal”.

In addition, student journalists from the University of Kentucky were also arrested. The cynical part of me wants to say at least they’re getting a true look at what they will be in for if they seek to pursue their chosen vocations with integrity and the desire to report more than just the “official story”.

Cynicism aside, the sad truth is that if the integrity and independence of journalism is not respected and actively supported, there can be no meaningful public discourse. Officials have said again and again that people are welcome to voice their opinions, that demonstrators have the right to air their griefs publicly, but the actions of those in power mitigate against the possibility of any real public dialogue that could lead to an actual accounting on the part of the leaders who are supposedly the servants of the people. There is no space for the vox populi to be heard, unless, apparently, the voice of the people comes through particular channels, in triplicate, bound and tied in red tape. Amy Goodman wrote an op-ed piece about how government crackdowns on journalists threaten democracy. I suggest you read it.

The voice of the people in colonial America took the form of the Boston Tea Party in 1773, though the lead-up to the Party was of course the Boston Massacre of 1770. Will people realize the things they’ve given up and seek to take back for themselves the power that is rightfully theirs? Or will we meekly accept our position as consumers, passively “choosing” between those products that are shown to us in storefront windows, on television screens, on our computer monitors? Will we take a stand and fight for the ability to truly govern ourselves and manage our own affairs, or will we continue to march to the beat of flags and pledges and patriotic songs, allowing our own identities to be submerged within the totality of the 21st century United Jingoistic Police State of American Empire?

In other news, eight members of the RNC Welcoming Committee have officially been charged under terrorism laws. I have more to say about this, but it will wait until tomorrow when I’ve had more time to reflect and process.

Video of Nicole Salazar’s arrest:

Video of Amy Goodman’s arrest:

Christ-archy and “faithful improvisation”

I do not believe that one has to be anarchist to be a faithful follower of Jesus.

Let me say that again: I do not believe that one has to be anarchist to be a faithful follower of Jesus.

I say that lest I be accused of “theological” divisiveness over my “political” beliefs, as I have been accused in the past. While I do not believe the “theological” can so easily be divided from the “political”, we must nevertheless remember that we do live in a world that not only makes such a distinction quite easily, it does so as a basic tenet of modern social thinking. Regardless of the practical and historical problems with such a distinction, it is part and parcel of the world we inhabit, and a good many people who sincerely desire to follow Jesus make the distinction.

I’m going to take that statement a step further now – I believe one can be a participant in partisan American politics and be a faithful follower of Jesus. The higher one goes up the ladder, from voter to local office to state office to the various levels of national office, the more difficult I believe it becomes, but I do not think it impossible. I do think there is a basic contradiction between the things expected of one as a public official and the expectations Jesus has for his followers, but I am not the one to ultimately judge an official’s state of righteousness before God. The truth is that it’s doubtful there is any one mode of political engagement that is absolutely faithful – every modern way of engagement is likely compromised at some point or another, and that includes the method of not engaging (which I tend to think is practically impossible anyway, but some have tried).

But, and I know you saw the but coming, that does not mean there are not ways of existing politically that are MORE compatible with being a follower of Jesus than are others. For example, being a neoconservative who supports using military force to implement “free trade” policies, using the WTO club to pull the rug out from under local economies, and gutting social programs in favor of corporate welfare is (I would say) much less compatible with being a follower of Jesus than other ways of engagement. While I believe that an anarchic approach to Christianity is the most faithful mode of engagement in the present world, I do not wish to kick my sisters and brothers who favor other political views to the curb. I do pray daily that God would show us all the right path, which should not be confused with praying that God would show THEM the right path (though if I’m honest I’ll say the thought crosses my mind from time to time), but I do not believe in excommunicating someone just because s/he is a Republican/Democrat/Green/Socialist/etc.

The truth is that no one today can claim to have it “all right” with regards to how s/he applies Scripture to today’s world. Are there approaches that are more fruitful than others? Absolutely. But the fact that we are in many ways quite far removed from the worlds in which the Bible was written, with the pervasive codes of honor/shame, limited goods, patron/client, reciprocity, dyadistic personality, and so on written into the worldview just as deeply as unlimited goods and individualism are written into ours.

N.T. Wright takes what I think is a very helpful approach to the Bible in this regard. First, he points out (as does Robert Webber in his excellent Ancient-Future Faith) that the early Christians did not begin their faith with the Bible (they didn’t have it all put together yet!), they began with Jesus. The purpose of Scripture is to witness to Jesus and to provide the church with the paradigm for life in the world as followers of Jesus. He conceives of Scripture as a 5-act drama with an epilogue at the end. The 5 acts are 1) Creation; 2) Fall; 3) The story of Israel from Abraham to Exodus to the conquest to the monarchy to its corruption to the exile to the return and into the intertestamental period; 4) Jesus’s life and ministry to his death on the cross and resurrection; 5) The history of the Church, which includes Acts and the Epistles. The epilogue is Christ’s second advent when he comes to fully establish the Kingdom.

The interesting thing is that we only have the first scene or two in the fifth act… and then a long blank spot until the second coming. We are, in fact, writing the rest of the fifth act, which is quite a long fifth act but considering that even if you’re a young earth creationist there were at least 4000 years from the creation to Jesus’ first coming we may have a ways to go yet, as we anticipate the end of the story in its epilogue. Wright maintains that, in the meantime, we practice what he calls “faithful improvisation”. We know what has come before us in the story; we know how the story ends. With that information, we seek to inhabit the story faithfully, finding our place between what has been and what will be. Wright lays this all out in very easy-to-read-yet-profound terms in The Last Word.

Because we are improvising in performing the next part of the story we inhabit, it is NOT ok to simply do whatever we want and put the “Christian” stamp on it. We must drink deeply from the wellspring of living water and dig in to the words we have to guide us, the story of God’s interaction with the world through Israel, Jesus, and the church. But because we are, fundamentally, improvising, I believe my place is to call others who call themselves Jesus-followers to better understand our place in the story we inhabit even as I am trying to understand it better myself, not to tell them they’ve got it all wrong. I desire to point to the ways Jesus and his earliest followers were radical within their contexts as inspiration for us, that we may likewise be radical within ours. I wish for my story to be a part of this grand story of Scripture, and for my life to be defined by it.

I invite and encourage you to come with me.

Christians: haters of humanity

Michael Cline has written an excellent article over at Jesus Manifesto. An excerpt:

The charge of hatred is enmeshed with the idea of religious piety in ancient Rome. To be a good citizen in the Roman Empire meant to participate in the civic life of the state. The gladiator games, the burning of incense to gods, pledging loyalty to the emperor…all of these things were deeply ingrained in Rome’s vision of religious life. To be religious was not just to worship, but to care for the welfare of the State. When the people were fulfilling their religious obligations, peace abounded and the state prospered. . .

Holding to their belief that there could be no supreme authority other than Christ, Christians simply refused to bow to the Empire’s wishes. They could not admonish Caesar as if he was lord over anything. Furthermore, their opinions on violence and human worth led them away from the coliseums where blood often flowed for sport. In stepping out of public life, they were doing more than just being superstitious (another common claim by the mobs)—they were disrupting the religious piety of the empire. Their lack of commitment to the security of Rome surely meant that they wished harm on the State and its inhabitants. Christians hated Rome, which in their thinking, included all of humanity.

Cline closes with some very thought-provoking questions for the church today, I highly recommend that you read and comment.

A thought about anarchism and Christianity

I’ve been accused before of being “too anarchist, and not Christian enough” by some folks… and “too Christian, and not anarchist enough” by others. I’m not sure there’s much I can say to the latter, other than to reiterate that I believe the most radical act one can commit is that of dedicating one’s self to following Jesus and truly trying to manifest with one’s own life and in one’s community the truth Jesus (who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen) embodied and continues to inspire. It is precisely because I follow Jesus that I believe radical things, things about the world and about human nature, which includes things that force me to abandon certain ideas some (but certainly not all) of my fellow radicals hold, particularly relating to the nature of romantic/sexual relationships – and I actually believe my ideas on the matter are more radical, though that’s a subject for a whole different post.

To the former I often have to say something like this: why do you seek out the speck in my eye, and ignore the plank in your own? I view anarchism substantially the same way as I do most any other political ideology, whether it be Democratic, Republican, Socialist, Green, and so on (probably excluding ideas like fascism and monarchism, though I don’t think too many people seriously entertain such ideas today, not counting the Republican fascisti, who by no means represent all Republicans). That is to say, I seek to understand the foundations for the ideology, its expressions and nuances, and its implications alongside a view of the world that seeks to see things in relation to the Bible, shaped by the history of interpretation within the church and the traditions of the church. It’s the same way I try to view culture, economics, philosophy, history, and every other aspect of my life.

I think there are two major reasons why the “too anarchist; not Christian enough crowd” has a difficult time with my anarchism. The first is that anarchism is pretty much off the table as an option in mainstream society, especially “polite Christian society”. For many reasons, the average person probably uncritically holds to several misconceptions about anarchy. This may be through no fault of her/his own, but the misperceptions tend to reinforce a notion of anarchism as being so “out there” as to be untenable for a “reasonable person”. The anarchist is so radically other as to certainly be dangerous, and quite possible morally deviant. The second is that anarchy is mistakenly believed to go against Biblical principles of obedience to authority, which is perhaps more than anything else due to our mis-reading of the Bible through the lens of over 1500 years of Constantinian Christendom. I have written about this mis-reading before and will continue to do so, hopefully in a more systematic fashion at some point, but suffice it to say for now I believe this understanding is highly mistaken.

So, dear reader, what would you say? Am I not Christian enough? Not anarchist enough? Truth to tell, if you asked me I’d probably say I am enough of neither.

a couple of good articles

School’s keeping me crazy busy and probably will continue doing so until finals are over next week, so until then here are a couple of good, but scary articles to keep you entertained (and, hopefully, at least somewhat outraged):

The Top 10 Signs of the Impending U.S. Police State: http://www.alternet.org/rights/36553

Fascist America, in 10 Easy Steps: http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,,2064157,00.html

a brief musing about FOX media

Absolution Revolution has moved! You can read this article at http://absolutionrevolution.com/blog/2007/02/23/a-brief-musing-about-fox-media/

another thought on Romans 13, the oppressiveness of Christianity

Absolution Revolution has moved! You can view this article here: http://absolutionrevolution.com/blog/2006/10/03/another-thought-on-romans-13-the-oppressiveness-of-christianity/\