Sidelines and Sessions

2008/09/30

T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E. and Terror in Dayton

Filed under: UCLA University Religious Conference articles — spsukaton @ 5:42 am

WARNING: Some profanity.

Tupac Shakur coined an acronym: THUG LIFE. It stands for “The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everyone”. I apologize for the language, and I apologize for darkening the beginning of Rosh Hashanah for all of you, but a perfect (and awful) example of this happened on Friday in Dayton, Ohio. And the worst part of all is that nobody heard about it.

Last week, Ohioans recieved thousands of copies of Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against The West, a documentary film that parallels the rise of anti-Semitic Nazism in Germany and the rise of radical Islamic violence, also touching on the relationships between anti-Semitic Muslim leaders like the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, and Nazi Party officials, up to and including Adolf Hitler. The film was produced by the Clarion Fund, a controversial New York nonprofit dedicated “to educat (ing) Americans about issues of national security,” with a focus on radical Islam. This Ohio effort was part of a mailing campaign in swing states which sent DVDs of Obsession via newspapers and mail. Allegations on DailyKos and the Huffington Post link these efforts to the McCain campaign; however, no hard evidence has been found.

On Friday, September 26th, about 300 people were gathered at the Islamic Society of Greater Dayton for dinner and prayers celebrating the coming end of Ramadan, a month in the Islamic calendar where Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset in commemoration of the revelation of the Qur’an to the Prophet Muhammad.

A child reported “two men with a white can spraying something into a window.” Suddenly, people started coughing and fled the building. Dayton authorities suspect somone sprayed a “chemical irritant” into the mosque, which forced the members of the Society to get treatment for those affected. Further information from DailyKos , Huffington Post, and AfterDowningStreet claims that the irritant was sprayed into a room full of women and children.

Whether this had anything to do with the McCain campaign or not, or with the Clarion Fund or not…this kind of cowardice is disgusting. I will not make any accusations concerning outside players; however, the idea that such terrorism could happen in the United States grieves me to my heart.

Yes, I used the word terrorism. Let me explain. This is nowhere near the horrible morning we faced seven years ago, when we watched as innocent people died in New York, Arlington, and Shanksville. Nor is this close to the horrible suffering that our troops and the people of Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered by the perfidy of cowards abroad. But the goal of these people was the same–to inspire fear, to break resolve, to turn innocent people in a house of prayer into trembling victims in a dangerous place.

And the worst part of all? No major news outlet reported this. I had to go through two major politically liberal blogs (DailyKos and Huffington Post), as well as DemocraticUnderground (AfterDowningStreet’s post was from DemocraticUnderground) to get to the Dayton Daily News site. This is domestic terrorism–why aren’t CNN, NBC, and CBS covering this? Why are the two men jockeying for the nation’s highest office silent?

I close with a passage from Matthew’s Gospel:

“And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

-Matt. 18:5-6

For more information on this incident, please see:

DailyKos
Huffington Post
Dayton Daily News
AfterDowningStreet
StreetProphets

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2008/09/18

A Prophetic, Peacekeeping Witness

Filed under: UCLA University Religious Conference articles — spsukaton @ 9:35 am

While the URC is home to a number of faith communities, and this blog will be pulling perspectives from every religious tradition, I thought it’d be fun to begin with my own–the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.

Most people associate Adventism with vegetarian living, health care, and going to church on Saturday (rather than Sunday, like most other Christian denominations). However, in recent years, Adventists have been rediscovering pacifism in their history and theology–something usually associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses, Quakers, and Anabaptists.

The Adventist’s church’s original stance on violence came in the midst of the Civil War. When the Church was founded in 1863, its members were torn over what to do–joining the Union Army would betray their understanding of the Gospel as a message preaching the refusal of violence as a tool for government, life, law, or conversion. However, becoming conscientious objectors would put them under suspicion as “Copperheads”–Northerners who backed the Confederacy and slavery. Adventists were uniformly anti-slavery and anti-rebellion, but equally anti-violence.

Some heated Unionists proposed that Adventists form brigades to support the Union, while hardline pacifists were willing to be branded as traitors and imprisoned for their faith. In the end, the Church evaded the question in a number of ways–in Iowa, Adventist petitioned for recognition as a “peace church”, while the national church raised money to pay to release Adventists from the draft, or encouraged laypersons to work as medics, helping freed blacks, or providing other services.

This same aversion to violence brought Adventists to attack William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt during the Spanish-American War in 1898. Adventist writers damned other churches for supporting imperialism, bullying of a worn-out Spain and tired colonists, and what they saw as dangerous expansionism.

In the early 20th century, the Adventist Church published pamphlets to guide young men through the draft, and even made field medic courses a graduation requirement at Adventist colleges. As a result, an entire generation of Adventists–pastors and parishoners alike–recall military medical training.

The most visible example of Adventist pacifism is Desmond Doss (1919-2006), the field medic who saved dozens of lives–crawling under Japanese grenades to administer plasma and treat wounds–when serving on Okinawa in World War II. Doss, an Adventist from Virginia, was the first conscientious objector to win the Medal of Honor.

However, by the time of the Vietnam War, many Adventists submitted to the draft as combatants, not medics. On the other side of the issue, many Adventists sided with the peace movement that mobilized the churches, choosing to side with the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr. and William Sloane Coffin in demanding an end to the war. The division continued, and the church’s leadership currently allows each parishoner to make up his or her own mind–while peace is encouraged, joining the military is not grounds for disfellowship. In fact, the Chaplain of the Senate, Rear Admiral Barry Black, is an Adventist.

Douglas Morgan, an Adventist historian, began discussing Adventism’s nonviolent heritage with other Adventists. Those discussions grew into the Adventist Peace Fellowship, which seeks to present the historical and theological underpinnings for nonviolence in Seventh-Day Adventist doctrine. This work has led to Adventist Peace Fellowship joining the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (more on that in a forthcoming post!), and staging protests in Washington and Los Angeles concerning the Iraq War.

While people continue to accuse religion of separating people, fostering violence, and promoting human misery, Adventist Peace Fellowship and other organizations like it in other faith traditions prove that religions promote peace, goodwill, and friendship–and this isn’t an innovation, but something integral.

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