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I’ve been writing on Restorative Justice since 1974. Back then, only a handful even knew of the term “Restorative Justice”… Most links here are to eclectic sources of personal interest. Some are to publications, such as the Mennonite Central Committee’s “Occasional Papers” series, some of the earliest writings on Restorative Justice.
Most reviews were composed by me. I try to put “clickables” to much of the resource material I mention, both on the website page and within the Review. There is also a story-telling introduction to each Book Review on the website page, besides the Review itself, which is downloadable in pdf format. There is a drop-down menu that lists all Book Reviews in alphabetical order.
is the title of a novel I wrote after having spent two years in West Berlin between 1972 and 1974 doing evangelism there under a Plymouth Brethren organization, “Literature Crusades”. The writing was for me coming to terms with something terribly wrong about that entire enterprise, and much of my fundamentalist faith upbringing. Though largely a piece of fiction, the coming-of-age novel is based nonetheless on wrestling with that experience, one that in fact was watershed life-changing for me. Issues of war and peace, the doctrine of hell, sex, and other themes arise in the course of the story.
The experience in West Berlin eventually dramatically shifted my understanding of Christian faith towards embracing the Judeo-Christian story as not solely spiritual/otherworldly about the journey of a soul towards God and heaven. It became rather supremely about a “new creation” (see below II Corinthians 5:17 – 21) of profound spirituality in relation to Christ without doubt, but “new creation” also of radical subversion of social and geopolitical norms throughout history — something I came to identify in theologian Wes Howard-Brook’s words as a “religion of Empire” destined to be entirely displaced by a “religion of Creation”.
Hope you have somewhat as much fun browsing as I have had reminiscing and uploading!
The Gospels indicate that the test case for love of God is love of neighbour. The test case for love of neighbour is love of enemy. Therefore, to the extent we love neighbour and enemy, to that extent we love God. And to the extent we fail to love neighbour and enemy, we fail to love God. “Love” (agapao) is a New Testament action verb that constantly reaches out to embrace as friends, draw a circle of inclusion around, neighbour and enemy (agape is the noun form, almost invariably referencing God’s unconditional love in the New Testament). Therefore, the ultimate theological bottom line is: GOD IS ALL-INCLUSIVE LOVE. PERIOD.
In light of the mantra, I love this quote:
Without the moral command to non-violence, the teaching on prayer would become merely a pietistic escape from life’s troubles. Without the teaching on going into the inner room and shutting the door, setting our mind on God’s kingdom before everything else, and leaving self behind, the moral command to turn the other cheek would be empty idealism. We cannot love our enemies without doing so from a profound contemplative source of energy. We cannot meditate without becoming more loving and less violent.
(A Letter from Laurence Freeman March 2013, Laurence Freeman Blog)
The website is dedicated to countering Empire¹ in all its avaricious, brutal and horribly destructive ways.
In this historical moment that supreme manifestation of Empire is the United States – to which the entire Western world is tied in various supportive ways; under which domination the rest of the world suffers: in the Greater Middle East as only one example, which endures brutal will to domination and oppression at the hands of American Empire. I reflect on this in an introduction to a posting here. An expanding list of postings on American Empire may be accessed here².
Here is a classic expression of America’s will to worldwide domination to extract maximum wealth from all peoples and the planet, the central motif of (American) Empire:
In 1948, George Keennan, State Department Director of policy planning, noted that the United States then possessed “about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3% of its population.” The challenge facing U.S. policy makers, he believed, was “to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security.” [1. PPS 23, “Review of Current Trends, U.S. Foreign Policy” (February 24, 1948).] The overarching aim of American statecraft in other words, was to sustain the uniquely favorable situation to which the United States had ascended by the end of World War II. It’s hard to imagine a statement of purpose more succinct, cogent, and to the point.
Judged by this standard, the stewards of U.S. foreign policy down to the present day have done more than passably well… (America’s War For the Greater Middle East: A Military History, Andrew J. Bacevich, New York: Random House, 2016, p. 358) (See my commentary on this and more with reference to Michelle Obama here.)
General (George) Lee Butler, a “nuclear warrior” in the early years of the Cold War (that many claim began with the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan, August 1945), spent 27 years in nuclear policy-making. He eventually in an overt mea culpa became a passionate proponent for outright nuclear abolition. He self-published Uncommon Cause: A Life at Odds With Convention (volumes I & II). He catalogued a long list of disturbing experiences:
• investigating “a distressing array of accidents and incidents involving strategic weapons and forces”;
• seeing “an army of experts confounded”;
• confronting “the mind-numbing compression of decision-making under threat of nuclear attack”;
• “staggering costs”;
• “the relentless pressure of advancing technology”;
• “grotesquely destructive war plans”;
• and “the terror-induced anesthesia which suspended rational thought, made nuclear war thinkable, and grossly excessive arsenals possible during the Cold War.” (The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, John W. Dower, Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2017; p. 37. See also my post on this here.)
In retrospect, he decried the “wantonness,” “savagery,” “reckless proliferation,” “treacherous axioms,” and voracious “appetite” of deterrence — for which he himself had helped create many systems and technologies, including “war plans with over 12,000 targets.”…
“Elegant theories of deterrence,” he exclaimed in one speech, “wilt in the crucible of impending nuclear war.” In later recollection of the folly of deterrence, Butler pointed out that at its peak the United States “had 36,000 weapons in our active inventory,” including nuclear landmines and sea mines and “warheads on artillery shells that could be launched from jeeps.” He concluded that mankind escaped the Cold War without a nuclear holocaust by some combination of diplomatic skill, blind luck and divine intervention, probably the latter in greatest proportion. (ibid, pp. 36 & 37).
Nuclear strategist Albert Wohlstetter described this longstanding policy as a “delicate balance of terror (ibid, p. 27).” In short, any number of nuclear war planners in Washington contemplated striking 295 Soviet cities, with an estimated death toll total of 115 million, and another 107 million dead in Red China, besides millions more in Soviet satellite countries (ibid, pp. 28 & 29). In some circles, as a kind of sick dark humour, the two bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki due to “only” 200,000 dead, came to be called “firecracker nukes (ibid, p. 29).” (This is not to mention the millions killed since World War II with related devastation in at least 37 countries around the world, or the millions murdered through US proxy wars, CIA covert operations the world over, surrogate terror exported to countries throughout Central and South America for more than a century, and other parts of the world, etc., etc., etc… (See ibid, throughout the book.)³)
And these “noble” American nuclear strategists holding up of course America as bastion of freedom and democracy throughout the world, blithely contemplated over many decades mass murder on a scale that arguably all previous mass murderers combined in the history of the world could only dream of! And serious contemplation of first-strike deployment was given repeated consideration:
Public as well as confidential proposals to launch a “preventive” or “pre-emptive” strike against the Soviet Union were not uncommon before the Soviets developed a serious retaliatory capability
— including for instance General Douglas MacArthur. The American public likewise supported this in general (ibid, p.41). This is America — Leader of the Free World?! Vocabulary for such gargantuan evil mindsets utterly fails! Yet every US Administration since Truman authorized the first atomic bombs dropped (which phenomenon he, a Baptist Sunday School teacher, declared to be “the greatest event in human history” — and not the Resurrection?! — one massively death-dealing, the other universally life-giving), along with thousands of strategists, day-in, day-out, went off to work with this kind of obscene potential horror, like “visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads”. How delightfully American (Empire)!5
And Hitler, and Stalin are considered “mad” in their mass murders?! By the above dark humour standard, they were only “firecracker despots” compared to a long line of US Presidents. What then are all these upstanding Americans — right up to the present, with possibly a genuinely deranged current President seemingly itching to “nuke” some nation such as North Korea — if not mad monsters? And the overwhelming monstrosity of America the Ultimate Evil Empire only increases exponentially when one reads noted historian Alfred McCoy’s description of America’s “wonder weapons” being dreamed up and developed as we live and breathe.
A paper that I wrote years ago, Christianity and the Subversion of Just About Everything!, in relation to this, with an introduction and excerpt, may be accessed here. I explain in introducing it that today were I writing the paper, the overall positing of “Just About Everything!” would mean Empire.
The Judeo-Christian Story is nothing if not one long Counter-Narrative to Empire! A sermon preached on this theme by Pastor Rob Brown of Eden Mennonite Church may be found here. There is an expanding scholarship that underscores this, links to several instances of which are below, also mentioned on the page introducing the paper above. Amen! Thy Kingdom Come! Maranatha! (Come, O Lord).
“Come Out My People!”: God’s Call Out of Empire in the Bible and Beyond
Unveiling Empire: Reading Revelation Then and Now
Empire Baptized: How the Church Embraced What Jesus Rejected (Second-Fifth Centuries)
Jesus and the Empire: The Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder
Religion and Empire: People, Power, and the Life of the Spirit
In the Shadow of Empire: Reclaiming the Bible as a History of Faithful Resistance
Paul and the Roman Imperial Order
Christ & Empire: From Paul to Postcolonial Times
Christ and the Emperor: The Gospel Evidence
God, Neighbor, Empire: The Excess of Divine Fidelity and the Command of Common Good
Faith in the Face of Empire
Empire and the Christian Tradition: New Readings of Classical Theologians
Paul and Empire (website on The Paul Page)
I also draw attention to a trilogy of Empire Justice issues that have dogged the Church since its inception: Just War, Just Deserts4, and in significant ways undergirding the first two, Just Hell (of eternal conscious torment). Each doctrine subscribed to by the Church has led to the Church’s wreaking (or blessing the wreaking of) untold violence and misery on vast swaths of humanity – all in the name of Christ! These three Justice doctrines constitute a massive travesty that arguably has turned away (and/or occasioned the slaughter of) more would-be Christ followers or otherwise than the Church has ever gained in its collective evangelistic efforts across the centuries. The trilogy of Justice Doctrines represents direct inversion of the Good News – which invariably calls us out of Empire ways to liberation in Christ on every level of relationship brokenness:
• towards God (theological);
• towards ourselves (psychological);
• towards others (sociological);
• towards Creation (ecological and cosmological).
This is what is at play in II Corinthians 5:17 – 21:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness [“justice” – see Chris Marshall’s paper on “justice” in Paul] of God.
You may wish to peruse my Just War, Just Deserts, and Just Hell, and also a much longer essay, War and Hell; including with this web page, notice and commentary of/on Kevin Miller’s just published (November 2017) book, Hellrazed?, to which I contributed Chapter 20 – a variation, but much shorter, on the essay. Twenty-five in all, from all the major Christian Traditions, wrote a piece.
¹ Some brief considerations about Empire, also posted here, are:
Augustine recounts this story:
“The king asked the fellow, “What is your idea, in infesting the sea?” And the pirate answered, with uninhibited insolence, ‘”the same as yours, in infesting the earth! But because I do it with a tiny craft, I’m called a pirate: because you have a mighty navy, you’re called an emperor[/President].” (St. Augustine, Concerning the City of God Against the Pagans, trans. Henry Bettenson, New York: Penguin Books, 1984, IV, 4, p. 139).”
Roman historian Tacitus wrote so long ago:
To plunder, butcher, steal, these things they misname empire; they make a desolation and call it peace[/democracy].
Novelist J.M. Coetzee writes in Waiting for the Barbarians (1980):
One thought alone preoccupies the submerged mind of Empire: how not to end, how not to die, how to prolong its era. By day it pursues its enemies. It is cunning and ruthless, it sends its bloodhounds everywhere. By night it feeds on images of disaster: the sack of cities, the rape of populations, pyramids of bones, acres of desolation (p. 133).
Every single empire in its official discourse has said that it is not like all the others, that its circumstances are special, that it has a mission to enlighten, civilize, bring order and democracy, and that it uses force only as a last resort. And, sadder still, there always is a chorus of willing intellectuals to say calming words about benign or altruistic empires, as if one shouldn’t trust the evidence of one’s eyes watching the destruction and the misery and death brought by the latest ‘mission civilisatrice.’
American Empire has always and supremely been about “plundering, butchering, and stealing”, “the sack of cities, the rape of populations, pyramids of bones, acres of desolation”, leaving “desolation”, “destruction and misery and death” in its wake (while calling it “peace and freedom”), and long since has been in voracious bid for worldwide domination, in order to extract maximum wealth from all peoples and the Planet.
² Please look at several articles as well on American/Western will to world domination by clicking on “Selected Articles: Western Aggression Backed by Western Media”.
The series of articles is introduced thus:
The Western allies never run dry of resources to support their global war of terror and aggression, ostensibly an integral part of their foreign policy. They dynamically legislate laws lest the people awaken. They have the unbending support of the corporate media, which skilfully distorts reality. When will they ever back down from their destructive quest for colonies? Read our selection below.
³ Historian John Coatsworth in The Cambridge History of the Cold War noted:
Between 1960, by which time the Soviets had dismantled Stalin’s gulags, and the Soviet collapse in 1990, the numbers of political prisoners, torture victims, and executions of nonviolent political dissenters in Latin America vastly exceeded those of the Soviet Union and its East European satellites. In other words, from 1960 to 1990, the Soviet bloc as a whole was less repressive, measured in terms of human victims, than many individual Latin American countries [under direct sway of US Empire] (“The Cold War in Central America”, pp. 216 – 221).
What was true for Latin America was true for around the world: massive human rights abuses, assassinations, regime changes of democratically elected governments, etc., etc., etc. orchestrated by US Empire. Yet Americans invariably have wanted it both ways: to be seen as the exemplary “City on A Hill” that upholds universal human rights and democracy, while operating a brutal Empire directly contrary to all such elevated values, and a concomitant rapacious Empire market economy that takes no prisoners. This began of course even before the founding of the United States of America and continued apace, in its mass slaughter and dispossession of indigenous peoples, in its brutal system of slavery on which its obscene wealth in the textile industry in the first place was built. “The Land of the Free” conceit was a sustained con job on the part of America’s leaders. It was also apotheosis of hypocrisy. American exceptionalism was/is true in one respect only: it was brutal like no other Empire in its eventual global reach.
4 A classic instance of this aligning with “just war” is the United States’ “war on drugs” as subset of “war on crime”, while at the same time the CIA was a major worldwide drug dealer in league with other drug cartels — all done to enhance American Empire during the Cold War — and continues to the present. The four-part series mentioned below connects American Empire drug dealing to the current War on Terror, in particular in Afghanistan.
This of course is colossal hypocrisy as well. Worse: the series posits American federal government administrations over many decades as the Ultimate Drug Cartel, with Blacks, Latinos, and generally the poor directly being knowingly poisoned en masse. Then they have been primary targets of the Drug Enforcement Agency, and thereby become victims of America’s too often savage prison system that oppresses and brutalizes them all over again… See: “The War on Drugs Is a Failure, So [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions Is All for It”. A citation from the article reads:
In June , the History Channel aired a four-part documentary series called “America’s War on Drugs.” The series asserts that the war on drugs was actually a war of drugs—and that the CIA was essentially a partner in spreading drugs and drug use. The series follows how the U.S. intelligence agency, in an obsession with fighting communism, allied itself with U.S. organized crime and foreign drug traffickers and includes firsthand accounts from many involved. In an interview with Truthdig columnist Sonali Kolhatkar on her radio program “Rising Up With Sonali,” the series’ executive producer, Anthony Lappé, explains why the CIA got involved:
It’s actually a pretty mind-blowing story when you look at the extent to which the CIA was involved with drug traffickers and drug trafficking throughout the Cold War. … If you look at Cold War policy against the Soviet Union, we were locked in a global battle for supremacy, where we have lots of proxy wars going on. … We needed to team up with local allies, and often the local allies we were teaming up with were people who had access to guns, who had access to underground networks, to help us fight the perceived threat of communism. There are actually a lot of similarities between what drug traffickers do and what the CIA does.
Lappé elaborates by saying the hypocrisy of the war on drugs has been evident from the start: Secret CIA experiments with LSD helped fuel the counterculture movement, leading to President Richard Nixon’s crackdown and declaration of the war on drugs.
The series also explores the CIA’s role in the rise of crack cocaine in poor black communities and a secret island “cocaine base.” In addition the documentary makes the connection between the war on drugs, the war on terror and the transformation of Afghanistan into a narco state and contends that American intervention in Mexico helped give clout to Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán and the super cartels, making it easier to send drugs across American borders.
Watch Kolhatkar’s full interview with Lappé below.
[To be noted as well is Johann Hari’s Chasing The Scream, which tells the tragic tale of America’s long-standing offensive against drugs, and the way to end such a war worldwide — that several nations are successfully embracing.]
5 I just came across this article (December 7. 2017) by renowned whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg, which title points to again what is utterly chilling, horror-filled, exponentially beyond immoral, American (hence the world’s) reality: “Daniel Ellsberg: U.S. Military Planned First Strike On Every City In Russia and China … and Gave Many Low-Level Field Commanders the Power to Push the Button“
As blogs go, there are some miscellaneous whimsy and musings by me. There are also, beginning in 2016, many articles that I pick and choose from many sources, on many themes; many turning on the worldwide phenomenon of American Empire. I try to put “clickables” to much of the resource material I mention, again, both on the website page, and within the article. (If any clickables do not work, and you are willing, please inform me through Contact Me.) There is often an introduction to the Blogs by me (if I remember, beginning with WN) on the website page, besides the entry itself, which is downloadable in pdf format, or accessible online. There is also a list in Sitemap of all items.
Robbie Burns presents something below in the two excerpted verses about a “muse”, and hence “musings”… He seems to capture how I mostly feel drawn to write.
Epistle To J. Lapraik
– Robbie Burns
I am nae poet, in a sense;
But just a rhymer like by chance,
An’ hae to learning nae pretence;
Yet, what the matter?
Whene’er my muse does on me glance,
I jingle at her.
Gie me ae spark o’ nature’s fire,
That’s a’ the learning I desire;
Then tho’ I drudge thro’ dub an’ mire
At pleugh or cart,
My muse, tho’ hamely in attire,
May touch the heart.
Another great piece by Robbie Burns with too-true wisdom is To a Mouse with its bitter lesson:
The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain
For promis’d joy..
To these twists of Fate, Saint Paul said in Romans: “And hope does not disappoint…” Hope in Ancient Greece was a Trickster. Not so this hope… But never straightforward either.
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Finally, you may wish to tune into this, Meditatio Radio (not always on air), operated by The World Community of Christian Meditation (WCCM). They have many great resources for meditation.