That’s my boy!

jimmy carter

I don’t know if you had caught this developing story today or not, but Jimmy Carter (a man I look up to very very much) is working hard for progress in the Palestinian/Israeli peace process.  Today, he met with senior Hamas officials in Cairo in the hopes that some common bond could be built.  What made me say, “Attaboy Jimmy!” was the first couple lines from the article,

Former President Carter met with senior Hamas officials in the Egyptian capital today, rankling the Israeli and US governments, which say it runs counter to their policies of not negotiating with terrorists.

Later in the article, the same thing stuck out to me.

During his stop in Israel, most officials- including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert- refused to meet with Carter, angry over his insistence that Israel should talk to Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States, and the European Union.

I hope you don’t misinterpret my “Attaboy!” for a blank check endorsement of Hamas as a legitimate governing authority, because that’s not my intent at all. In fact, Hamas has done a tremendous amount of violence and evil on its part over the years that have burned bridges with Israeli people and deeply set back the Israel/Palestine peace process.

My attaboy really has two main dimensions;
1) Jimmy Carter’s got some serious stones to do what he’s doing now

Bigger ones than Ehud Olmert, Khalid Meshaal, or George Bush, at least. Either these “leaders” are so completely blinded to the complex issues that surround seeking peace in this area or are continuing to willfully play off others’ fears, because there’s been plenty of black/white simplistic answers coming from these parties.Jimmy’s in pursuit of solutions and healing, and he’s willing to ask hard questions and meet with the unmeetable because he knows peoples’ lives (both Palestinian and Israeli) hang in the balance. And peoples’ lives are always, ALWAYS more important than the wounded pride and ego of choosing to embrace those you have hated so long you almost don’t remember why.

2) Jimmy Carter’s smart enough to know “terrorist” is just a label that all kinds of organizations throw around, usually to demonize the opposing party in the hopes that your folks will come off smelling like roses, all righteous and stuff. Terrorism is in the eyes of the beholder.

I wrote a few posts awhile back highlighting this fact.

1) One post focused on the reports early in March of a Tomahawk cruise missile attack on an al-Qaeda operative in Somalia.

The Pentagon confirmed that the U.S. military struck a target against a known al-Qaeda terrorist, and I’m sure this was the point at which your average story-reader (especially American) stopped reading. But buried at the bottom of the article, we’re told that the strike destroyed two houses, killed three women, three children, and wounded another twenty people. Now in the bigger scheme of things (beyond the Pentagon thinking they rode in on their white horse, accomplished justice, and rode back out again), how much do you think that missile strike affected that town of Dhoobley? The families of the killed? The injured? The memories that will remain for generations in that small town? The (justified) hatred that Tomahawk will inspire in them? Who comes off as a terrorist organization for the people in Dhoobley? I’ll let you handle that one yourself.

2) Another post focused on a story that emerged April 1 also related to the American government. The story, reporting on a Justice Department memo to Bush, stated

The president’s wartime power as commander in chief would not be limited by the U.N. treaties against torture. Legal counsel John Yoo wrote, “Our previous opinions make clear that customary international law is not federal law and that the president is free to override it at his discretion.”

What would be the definition of a terrorist organization? Maybe one that openly flaunts international law and does what it decides is right, with the good of all over-ridden by their own interests? The U.S. fits the description in this case.

3) And the third post had to do with the very Israeli/Palestinian relationship Carter is addressing right now.

It seems Hamas got a sweet whiff of what might bring lasting positive change in the shattered relationship by choosing not to suicide bomb a marketplace, but instead mobilize the people of Palestine in non-violent protest against the unjust security wall Israel has been building. Israel caught a whiff of this plan, and here was their response;

The army intends to prevent the marchers from advancing on the fence when they are still inside the Strip, using various means for crowd dispersal according to a ring system: The closer the marchers get to the fence, the harsher the response.The army plans to fire at open areas near the demonstrators with artillery that the Artillery Corps has been moving to the area over the past couple of days. If the marchers continue and cross into the next ring, they will face tear gas. If they persist, snipers could be ordered to aim for the marchers’ legs as they approach the fence.

It’s not an un-related point that Israel has been building the security walls inside the borders of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, while acquiring land for settlements by driving Palestinian farmers off the land, refusing to let them back on, and squatting on the land until they declare it “unoccupied” and thus free for illegal settlers to move on.

It is Israel’s handling of this situation that led to Desmond Tutu calling the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians “apartheid.” I think Desmond Tutu would know. It also led to Jimmy Carter writing a book entitled “Peace not Apartheid.” Both men have been charged with anti-Semitism, a challenge that carries baggage since the Holocaust happened only 70 years ago. In this situation though (with both men being followers of Jesus) Jimmy and Desmond weren’t spitting hatred but speaking truth to power, and thinking of the long-term good of both Israelis and Palestinians.

A good example of what not to do, of simplistic and close-minded thinking came from Condolezza Rice (who could’ve been working on this relationship for three and a half years already), who said she found it “hard to understand what is going to be gained by having discussions with Hamas about peace when Hamas is in fact the impediment to peace.” Well, Condi, Hamas plays a role in the problem, yes. But so does Israel in their state terror on the Palestinian people. And so does the United States in giving a blank check to Israel of support. You’re the Secretary of State of the United States of America, and that’s all you can come up with?

*UPDATE TO ADD* Carter made a speech today (4/21/08 ) as a result of his talks in the region that (surprise surprise) includes concessions Hamas would be willing to make as a result of direct talks. Here’s a quote

Carter urged Israel to engage in direct negotiations with Hamas, saying failure to do so was hampering peace efforts.

“We do not believe that peace is likely and certainly that peace is not sustainable unless a way is found to bring Hamas into the discussions in some way,” he said. “The present strategy of excluding Hamas and excluding Syria is just not working.”


What’s the definition of a rogue nation?

I’m interested.  I really, really am.  And I guess it depends on who’s defining the term as to who’s defined as one. I’ve got an idea for a definition.

How about:  a nation that consistently and egregiously defies international law to do what it wants, caring only about its interests and neglecting the good of the whole.

We, the United States, certainly have used that against that loony Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, against North Korea, and it was one of the main substantiations for the war in Iraq.  We said things like “That Saddam Hussein is a rogue leader of a rogue nation, constantly thumbing his nose at international law.”

Try these links on for size.

“Memo, Bush’s power trumps laws on torture”

In an excerpt from the article,

The president’s wartime power as commander in chief would not be limited by the U.N. treaties against torture. ‘Our previous opinions make clear that customary international law is not federal law and that the president is free to override it at his discretion,’ said the memo written by John Yoo, who was then deputy assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel.

The memo also offered a defense in case any interrogator was charged with violating U.S. or international laws.  ‘Finally, even if the criminal prohibitions outline above applied, and an interrogation method might violate those prohibitions, necessity or self-defense could provide justifications for any criminal liability,’ the memo concluded.”

Here’s another fun link. “Chertoff; Laws to be waived for Border Defense”


The Department of Homeland Security will bypass environmental and land-management laws to build hundreds of miles of border fence between the United States and Mexico, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Tuesday.  “Criminal activity at the border does not stop for endless debate or protracted litigation,” Chertoff said. “These waivers will enable important security projects to keep moving forward.”

Chertoff cited a congressional requirement that 361 miles of fence be completed by the end of the year. He also pointed out that Congress had given him the authority to bypass laws.

And the international image of the United States slips further…what’s the definition of a rogue state again? Oh,  a nation that consistently and egregiously defies international law to do what it wants, caring only about its interests and neglecting the good of the whole. And a couple of the quotes again; “customary international law is not federal law and that the president is free to override it at his discretion,” and “Congress had given him the authority to bypass laws.” I smell hypocrisy.

Another title for this post could be “When nationalism is idolatry.”

You mean, like Kyoto?


Here’s a fun link with a fun title; U.S. prepared to cut greenhouse emissions, Bush says

Bush called on “all the world’s largest producers of greenhouse gas emissions, including developed and developing nations,” to come together and “set a long-term goal for reducing” greenhouse emissions.

It seems I’m having a deja vu moment here…what happened in 1997 that you’ve refused to push to ratify, Mr. President?

Peter King words of wisdom…

Leave it to a sportswriter to provide one of the most insightful political comments I’ve seen in a while…

“There’s a fairly significant decision coming in this country in 2008. We in New Jersey and New Mexico and New London and New Wherever have one simple request as you mull over the candidacies of a black man, a white woman and many white men in the coming presidential debate: Treat them as candidates, not black candidates or female candidates or white candidates.”

I agree in principle with King’s comments, because it’s almost suffocating to live in this politically correct society sometimes.

I think it’s downright lazy to vote for Hillary solely because she’s a woman, and downright lazy to vote for Obama solely because he’s black. With that being said, I don’t think that flavor of downright lazy is any worse than voting for a candidate as a Christian solely because they’re “pro-life” or “anti-gay marriage,” as if those are the only moral issues on the table to figure out if a candidate is “really” Christian or not. I hate abortion (because I believe I’m called to value all life from conception to death), but I just may vote for a candidate who’s pro-choice but much more consistent with my beliefs across the board: how the gospel’s deep respect for life touches on the environment, the poor, war, marriage, etc.

As a result of that thinking, I’m a pretty big fan of Sen. Brownback from Kansas, who’s a social conservative (with significant reasons to back up his positions; most Republicans use abortion, etc as election ploys and pay no attention to the issue in their job), is committed to reformation of the twisted aspects of government, and is opposed to the war in Iraq (though this is more likely a one-time thing). I think the guy’s got his ducks in a row in a way that George W. couldn’t even sniff at. I like Obama, even though I’m not a big fan of his social liberalism; I think he’s a breath of fresh air.

p.s. Let’s not forget Michael Jesus Archangel and Rev. Edward Allen Buck…legitimate candidates in my book. *cough cough*

With the warning of single-issue laziness being said, I certainly would LIKE to see a woman in the presidential office some time in America, and I would especially like to see a black person in office…given the social struggle they’ve had to undergo for equality in America (which is supposedly the land of the free but only granted equality under the law for blacks and other full-citizen minorities in 1964). So, while their gender or ethnicity might be a contributing factor among a host of other contributing factors for why I vote for them, I won’t vote for them solely b/c they’re a woman or a minority. You could apply this thinking to suggest to me that abortion is a more important issue among a host of important issues for you, and I’d be ok with that, but I’d want a conversation on why you think so. There are philosophical reasons behind being pro-life that apply equally to the death penalty, poverty, the environment, and war, but people don’t often consider those because their churches aren’t equipping them to be more educated voters, they’re telling them how to vote. And that’s dead wrong, both on the parts of church leadership and those who sit there and do exactly what they tell them without stopping to consider why in the world a responsible Christian should only care about two issues.

So I may vote for Obama, I may vote for Brownback, I may vote for McCain, and I may vote for Al Gore (if he runs). I know I won’t vote for Hillary (well, I should qualify that; if it ended up being Hillary vs. Giuliani or Gingrich, I’ll have to reconsider a bit), because she’s just as flip-floppy as John Kerry was in ’04, though I voted for him because the alternative was George Bush (who I’m not sure has ever allowed himself to try to connect the dots between his views on social conservatism [which I like] and how that intersects with big business, the environment, and the demand placed on his life by Christ to love his enemies).

In addition to all this, I need to revisit the discomfort I felt after voting for John Kerry; precisely because I felt the choice in 2004 was between bleh and double bleh. There are very legitimate third (or fourth or fifth) party candidates out there who I think more completely reflect my beliefs than the two political machines we call Democrat and Republican that often churn out candidates that I really don’t care for (but feel compelled to choose between because any other vote is a “wasted” vote in our winner-take-all presidential elections). Is it socially irresponsible for me to vote for a candidate I know doesn’t have a chance in hell of being elected, or is it the most socially responsible thing I can do to vote for that candidate, because I’m being true to the big picture of what I believe and subverting the system that demands I choose between two “legitimate” candidates? Is that a wasted vote or a maximized vote?

If all of this sounds like gobbledy-gook to you when you’re reading it, it may be because it IS gobbledy-gook (I certainly allow for that ever-present possibility), or it may be because you haven’t had enough time to grasp the big-picture reasons that drive me to think about politics, the state, and social issues in a certain way. It really boils down to two words for me as to my central concerns: primarily, Jesus. secondarily, church…somewhere way down the priority list, society. This commitment plays out in my thoughts often, and I’ll leave it at that for now.

Just for the hey of it…

I’ve thrown a widget a little further down the right side of my page that’s recording the total and rising cost of the conflict in Iraq.

I’ve inserted it not because I think the economics of the situation provides a compelling argument why the United States should never have invaded Iraq (though in many ways it DOES underscore a raw, quantifiable cost of war), but as one thing among a host of others that George Bush is accountable for.

I mean, you tell me…what’s better spent? 350 billion dollars to destroy a country and build it back up to be your lapdog (I guess the U.S. didn’t learn from the Iran experiment in the 1970s). Or 350 billion dollars in invest in the infrastructure of your own country, to dedicate towards alternative fuels, to dedicate towards welfare reform, to dedicate toward educational reform, or to dedicate towards health care reform within your own borders.

I pray for George Bush, I do. I’m trying to respect him by not slandering him. So I’m not going to attack his character. But it’s clear to me that his time as president will go down in history for an almost complete neglect of domestic issues for the sake of an ill-fated vengeance campaign against another sovereign nation that turns the clock back 70 years on international perception of the United States.

Domestic policy: failure (though there’s a little more to discuss here)
Foreign policy : failure (not much wiggle room here)

And even worse, I hope and pray that George Bush really wasn’t planning the attack in Iraq before he was even elected and, if so, repents publicly and comprehensively at some point in the future; as a confessing Christian, he is accountable to the church at large and centrally to God. I certainly would not want to stand before the judgment seat as GDub for his actions up to this point in history.

Let’s raise a glass to ’08 and the hope that Obama and McCain win their party nominations so I have to finally (for once!!!!!) decide between two qualified, principled, candidates of integrity who aren’t so dagblasted deaf-in-the-ears when people express alternative approaches and opinions!

Like everything else, this is clearly my subjective opinion…I’d love to talk if you wanna; in person, or here

Truth. Speaking. Is. Unpopular.

Excerpt from video below in this post, “One of the things that ‘s always perturbed me…as we come to celebrate the life and living of Martin Luther King Jr, one of the things we can say with alarm since the legalization of the holiday is that Dr King has been reduced to the syrupy sweet Hallmark Card where he is no longer prophetic and he no longer speaks to the nation and he no longer causes us to speak to the nation in ways that shake the foundation of this nation’s immorality…”

All my friends who are not Christfollowers do not need to listen to the following flash video. Feel free, but this message is mainly a convicting reminder that those of us who dare to claim that we are disciples of Jesus are expected to be peacemakers.


And that’s not peacemaking as defined by Nathan Myers, or Jane Doe, or whoever else. It’s peacemaking as defined by Jesus.

What was his example? What did his life scream to us about how to confront evil as a faithful disciple? How did his disciples live this out?

If you are a Christfollower, you and I don’t have a choice with whether we “want” to be a peacemakers or not. We don’t. Oh, we justify it…we say this and that….define peacemaking like this or that…in short, interpret peacemaking the way we do much of the Bible…seize onto the “For I know the plans I have for you” and “fearfully and wonderfully made” and “I call you my friends” passages while ignoring the “love your enemies” and “those who seek to protect their life will lose it” and “he was faithful to the point of the death, even death on a cross” and “for our battle is NOT against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities” passages because they challenge us too much.

As I watched this simple little flash from a simple speech, I was deeply convicted and tears welled up in my eyes as I thought about how often I shrink back from clear statements on truth when I’m around my fellow Christfollowers in church because I’m afraid they’ll leave or reject me or hate me for that position. My friends that don’t know Christ are begging to see me live like I love them and will give my life, my finances, my energy, and my prayers for them no matter what…they’re CRYING out! And I’m often a shuddering, emasculated Christian who’s ok with false unity in church in the name of comfort and “family” and all the easy Scripture; and I say I don’t, but I really DO want you to look like me, dress like me, like the same things I like, hate the same things I hate…or at least PRETEND you do so our relationship doesn’t challenge me. I’d rather not be called to take most of what I’ve learned in my life and unlearn it through pain and struggle and cyclical addictions to various things. I’d rather be comfortably numb in my self-centeredness, thank you very much.

But, MLK, for all his struggles, was a man who spoke truth…he would not let us sit in our seats and just nod along and afterwards say, “Good speech. Good delivery. Your voice intonation was tremendous.” *pat on the back* “See you next week, Marty.” Wouldn’t let us do it. He chose to say what he said and live like he did and give himself like he did. He knew his life was in danger, and he wasn’t afraid to confront the status quo and whoever stood to continue reaping the rewards from it. And for that, I am grateful. Because the status quo was and is continuing to rip us apart as humanity.

“Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies – or else? The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation…He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it. ” -MLK Jr.

I’m tired of cooperating. I’m tired of my smarmy proof-text-quoting-Scripture-life that exists because I’m not disciplined enough to grow beyond it and don’t have the stones to challenge my friends and church family and neighbors to take that step with me. But still I settle for recycling the same verses, saying the same prayers, and talking about the same issues I did a week ago…all the while, I’m spinning my tires and going nowhere! I’m TIRED of that life. I want MORE. There has to be MORE than where I am now. And we are now. And I don’t really care that the beginning of this video has a strong message about Bush. Watch it all the way through. Give it a fair shake. Sit back and think a little about what it means to follow Jesus the way he told us to…no matter what.

And challenge me. Forgive me. Let me rant like this from time to time. Help me to love more, give more, forgive more, expect more, pursue more.

And if I’m going to hold the leaders of the United States to a high standard of truth-telling as I am by endorsing this flash video, I sure as heck better be pursuing it myself, or I’m a flat hypocrite.

Click on play, lower left corner.

ht on video: Ariah

In the interest of balance…

Here’s the interview of George W. Bush by Matt Lauer earlier this month, where Matt asks him about the CIA secret prisons and techniques used to extract information. Watch and listen carefully to Bush’s responses, and gauge if he handles the issues as upfront and as indepth as Clinton did.

Suggestion. I don’t think he does. Snippets. “So what” “We’re at war” “I’m protecting your family” “I won’t discuss techniques because i don’t want the enemy to adjust.”

I’m trying (and have tried) to give this guy the benefit of the doubt. I’m just really struggling here.

Here’s the link to the video for you to watch. I would urge you to take the same approach I asked of the Clinton/Wallace interview. Both Bush and Clinton responded with intensity. Did both respond with substance and integrity? Honestly now…consider what you heard.