The Law vs. Justice

law vs justice

What would you say if I told you that being a law abiding citizen can be one of the most despicable and horrible things a person could be.  Would you call me a radical?  Would you call me an insurrectionist?  Revolutionary?  Well, if you and I lived in Germany in the 1940’s it would simply be decent to not be a law abiding citizen.  Law is a peculiar thing.  It is drafted by those in power and may be bended and shaped by the capricious will of those who wield institutional authority.  We say that we believe in “the rule of law”.  But I ask the question, who rules over the law?

Today the world found out that the Obama Administration has sanctioned the assassination of American citizens suspected of terrorist connections and plots by unmanned drones.  Today I listened to the news as one representative of the government said that this was lawful.  And it made me think about something very important.  Something that Howard Zinn does a far better job expounding in his Reader.  I am speaking of the difference between law and justice.  And the choice each of us must make in regards to them.  What will we hold in the ascendency?  When push comes to shove which of these two will influence our actions and course in life?  Sometimes laws are just and it is right to obey.  But other times law and justice clash and we are left to answer the words of the old labor song, “Which side are you on, boys, which side are you on.”

In Germany in the 1940’s it was legal to turn in Jews and murder them.  It was illegal to hide them or protect them.  Hitler came to power legally.  He came to power through popular elections.  But the laws he enacted, and the administration he set up, was nothing less than the archfoe of justice.  To choose justice over the law during such a time was costly.  You very well could be put to death.  To be a law abiding citizen, to take the road of less resistance, would have meant an utter rejection of justice.  Luckily, we do not yet face such dire circumstances in this country.  But when a nation turns its own military on its citizens ominous times very well may be approaching.

Howard Zinn uses the wonderful illustration of the moving train and coins that ingenious phrase, “You can’t be neutral on a moving train.”  We live on a moving train.  Our nation, our communities, our government, are all going in a certain direction.  The overarching goal of the state is to make us obedient, patriotic, law-abiding citizens.  And if it is unable to illicit such strong feelings then it would simply have us remain “neutral”; to take no stand one way or another; to be content with beer and cable tv.  Why?  Because neutrality is an illusion.  In the words of the Canadian Rock band Rush, if you choose not to decide you still have made a choice.  The only right and just course is that of resistance.  You and I must resist the path that is being taken.  We must jump the train of law and take the train of justice which at this time is moving in a totally opposite direction.  law vs justice 2

In all spheres of life we must move against the current.  When faced with unjust laws that may not hurt us, but hurt our sister or brother, we must choose justice.  In the economic realm and on the job we must choose justice.  In the political arena we must choose justice and resist allegiance to the entrenched powers who dictate “law”.  In the spiritual realm we must resist passive obedience to the beast who looks like the Lamb but speaks with the tongue of the Dragon.  The spiritual beast who tempts us to passive obedience to the state and to an exploitative economic system.  We must resist this present evil age and proclaim and live out a new way.

The old prophet Amos told God’s people that he was sick of their worship services.  Tired of their hymns and emotional songs of praise.  Their patiotism and religious observances were vanity.  Instead, God called for justice to roll down like a flood.  God called on his people to resist the popular trends of their day and to return to justice.  Not even strict, legalistic observance of the law was enough.  No.  Only justice would do.  But if we choose justice we put ourselves in danger of having our hearts pierced along with the oppressed and marginalized.  But if we choose such a path we may comfort ourselves with the fact that we are in good company.  The Nazarene said, “Blessed are you when you are persecuted for justice’ sake.  For that’s how the prophets were treated.”  And of course, we will find ouselves in the company of the Master Himself.

Check out Howard Zinn’s page:

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The US Government Okays the Killing of United States Citizens


By now I’m sure you are well aware of the infamous 16 page report that was leaked to NBC news containing the Obama Administration’s policy of targeting US citizens.  This particular policy declares that if a United States citizen is tied to a terrorist organization, is deemed to be an immediate violent threat, and cannot be apprehended, he/she is a legal target for a drone attack.  If this is not another red alert that democracy is a fable in this country then I don’t know what is.  The leader of our country, and its government, has assumed the unilateral right to take the life of a US citizen without due process of law.  This law was not passed by elected representatives, mind you.  It was drafted and enacted in secret without popular knowledge, let alone consent.

Lest we be tempted to point a finger at Obama and the Democrats only, let us remember that all of this is simply the extension and broadening of the Bush foreign policy.  Both Republicans and Democrats should be ashamed,  and their parties abandoned, for this travesty of justice.  The American people need to think and feel beyond sports, popular media, and all the distractions of life, as good as they can be.  We need to give thought to the kind of community we want to live in.  We need to resist the mindless urge to simply shift from one bankrupt party to another.  We must abstain from the easy path of feeling  like we’ve done our community duty simply by casting a vote once every four years.

Whenever I hear of government sanctioned murder I can’t help but think of the Rabbi from Nazareth.  For those who hold to the idea that the government has the welfare of the people at heart in enacting such ludicrous laws remember Jesus.  Never in history was there a more honest, non-violent, and innocent human being.  Yet, the government, blind by an insane allegiance to its own power interests, killed this man.  They came up with good reasons to do it.  He says he’s a king.  He preaches allegiance to another kingdom.  He says that one day his kingdom will replace all the kingdoms of the earth.  You can’t get any more sedititious than that.Obama

Mind you, the governments of this world can’t fathom such a revolution without violence.  Yet, there is such a thing as revolution without violence.  There is such a thing as radical change, a paradigm shift, without coercion and force.  But the government doesn’t understand this since it is protected and propagated by force.  It is a revolution through the word of truth and the power of the Spirit.  Through the proclamation of the good news of the Kingdom and the inner influence of the Spirit the hearts and minds of human beings, and whole communities, can be transformed.  Those of us who care about our communities must be willing to use these non-violent weapons to bring about change.  In addition to the Word of Truth and Power of the Spirit, we need put into practice the things we preach.  No, we don’t need to be perfect, or supermen.  But we must find practical ways to create here and now the kind of world we want to live in.  There must be a practical expression of what we are inviting others into.

There are many ways we can begin to make a difference and resist the totalitarianism and facism that is increasing with the new reach of technology.  Consider looking into, getting involved with, or voting for a third party.  If you don’t like politics, find ways to get involved in your community on a day to day basis.  Get to know your neighbors and your community.  Get involved.  Consider experimenting with alternative models of community and business.  Or maybe simply sit down and figure out what priorities you hold to be important; what values you deem worthy to be lived out.  In a world that seeks to simply medicate and fill up our attention it can be a break through just to figure out what it is you stand for; to simply stand for something.  Cheers brothers and sisters.

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The Word of Truth and the Power of the Spirit

Lately, I’ve been intrigued by the thought of the Word of Truth and the Power of the Spirit.  The world uses many forces to coerce people.  They use laws, threats of punishment, jails, and ultimately violence.  Violence is what holds the world system together.  However, no new world will be created with the tools of coercion used by the old.  The Kingdom cannot be spread by gun point, nor mixed together with the colors of a national flag.

What are the weapons we can use to fight evil and transform the hearts of humans?  Of course, the Word of Truth and the Power of the Spirit.  In fact, that ancient Christian Paul said that the Word of Truth is “the Sword of the Spirit.”  From Christ’s mouth proceeds a sharp two edged sword, and despite the common interpretation, that sword is not a literal weapon (that would hurt like hell pulling one of those out of your mouth).  The sword is the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of Truth.  The Word of Truth can change people when the influence of the Spirit is active in the heart of the speaker, in the words themselves, and in the heart of the hearer.  I’m not talking about merely giving sermons, or hearing sermons.  I’m talking about simply sharing with one another the words of truth that give the Spirit material with which to influence and change us.

Within us all is a spirit.  A center to which we may continually return.  The word of truth is able to cut through all of our culture, sinfulness, and upbringing and pierce reality right into that spirit within us.

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A Message to the Organic Church Movement from One on the Outside

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If you happen to be one of the few who follow my blog you might be wondering, “where in the world is this cat coming from?”  One day I’m writing about anarcho-communism and radicial unionism, the next I’m putting down my thoughts about Jesus Christ and Christianity.  Well, if you’re wondering whether there is a connection between these two subjects check out my article, “The Anarchy of Christianity” .  However, on a personal note I come from a Christian background.  I’ve had experience in Christianity since the age of 15 and about 5 years ago I found myself moving into, “the organic church” stream.

I had become disillusioned with organized religion and the glaring chasm between its practice and the teachings of Jesus.  Personally, I found that I could not live up to the standards that others, and myself, put on me.  Spiritually, I could no longer ignore the contradiction between what was preached and what was practiced.  I realized that Jesus was “outside of the camp” and I was willing to follow him outside of it.  I have always been fond of Jesus of Nazareth.  Even to this day I would say that he has influenced me more than any other person.  So, into the organic church movement I went.  My experience in it was similar to my experience in organized Christianity.  It was a mix of good and bad (as all things will be to one degree or another).  But at the end of the day it did not satisfy the deep longing in my heart for prefigurative, relevant community.

In this article I will quickly share a few critiques of the “organic church” movement that might be of some value to those who are still in it.  I think the biggest hole in the organic church movement is on the political level.  What do I mean by this?  Well, in the book of Revelation there are two Beasts who stand in opposition to the Messianic Community.  The first beast comes out of the sea and represents “the State”.  The second beast comes out of the land and represents “the Religious System.”  The organic church movement made bold strides in rejecting the second beast, the beast of organized religion.  But I soon found that the first beast,the worship of the state,  was either ignored or openly accepted.  Let me explain.

It was a badge of pride to say, “I hate organized Christianity.  I have thrown off the yoke of religion.”  Yet, many in the organic church movement still hold on fiercely to patriotism, militarism, and state sanctioned murder in the form of capital punishment.  That ancient boldness and clarity of vision that caused multitudes of believers to reject the worship of Caesar and Rome has not been recovered in the modern organic church movement.  Some openly support patriotism, while many others simply ignore the issue.  There is a common mantra that says, “Jesus is all that matters.”  Well, obviously there has to be something deeper than mere allegiance to such a statement.  Many in organized churches would subscribe to that statement, but obviously those in the organic church are looking for something other than what can be found in the denominations.  If the organic church movement uses such a statement to remain blind to the destructive presence of the first beast they are more than welcome to.  But the movement will remain in obscurity and irrelevance.  Or, worse it will just be another impotent, popular movement of Christendom.

Secondly, the organic church movement has not rejected the economic system of Babylon.  Many speak of the religious aspect of Babylon as recorded in Revelation 17- the Great Harlot.  But she has a political and economic aspect recorded in Revelation 18.  She buys and sells and becomes rich through the buying and selling of “human beings”.  It is an exploitative market economy.  This aspect is closely tied to the first Beast.  It is no suprise that those who refuse to reject the first Beast, the revered state, also refuse to reject its economic system of human exploitation.  But if the organic church movement is going to regain the pristine power of the first century church they speak so much of, then they must reject the First Beast and the Babylonian system of economics.  The Book of Acts and the writings of Paul clearly contrast the economics of the Kingdom with the economics of Babylon.  In the first Church the believers had “all things in common.”  For those who point out that no other churches practiced that, then let me suggest Paul’s economics, “you should supply their lack, so that when you are in lack they may supply you with their abundance.  As it is written, he that gathered little lacked nothing, and he that gathered much had nothing left over.”

In essence, Christian Community is not simply a few meetings a week consisting of those disgruntled with organized religion.  Nor is it a few meetings a week where believers simply speak high sounding messages to one another about Jesus and who they are in Christ.  Christian Community is a geniune community of people sharing their lives together- United by the Spirit and Message of Jesus Christ.  It should produce all the components of a community- spiritual, economic, political, and social.  When I say political I do not mean entrenchment in a political party or system.  I mean being able to interpret and speak to political issues under the influence of the Spirit of Christ.  To be relevant to the struggles and issues of the outside community.   organic church 3

My final critique of the organic church movement has to do with the leadership.  Personally, most cats I’ve come in contact with are cool.  But for the most part they have not wrought deliverance in the earth.  They have brought forth wind.  Many of them tried, and started out on the right path.  But, hell, who doesn’t want to make a nice living and be recognized for their gifts?  Notwithstanding, those who feel themselves to be leaders in the Messianic Community should be the greatest of servants.

I have found one man (and i’m sure there are more) who is a genuine apostle.  He would probably laugh if he were in the room right now and tell me to delete that statement.  No, I don’t see everything as he does theologically.  But in practice he gives his time, heart, and energy to the churches and to the members who compose it.  He travels hundreds of miles a week in a small car to visit local gatherings of believers.  He puts as much stock in sitting around a dinner table as he does in delivering a message.  He is a true worker.  But you don’t know who he is.  He hasn’t written a book and he doesn’t speak at exciting conferences on the beach.

He doesn’t ask for money or demand a certain amount for his visit.  He doesn’t sweep in for a two day conference to present a “glorious vision of Jesus” only to leave.  He will sleep on a blow up mattress and sip coffee with you into the late hours.  The Organic Church movement needs leaders such as this if they want to be relevant and build genuine healthy groups of believers.  But leaders alone cannot be blamed.  The people themselves must desire this community.  They all must be willing to be leaders in the Ecclesia.  They must long for a life together that transcends one or two weekly meetings, patriotism, and the idol of “the nuclear family.”

Let me hit on the nuclear family quickly.  America has nurtured the ideology of independence and the sacredness of “the nuclear family.”  Now, let me be clear.  Families should have boundaries and people should care for their families.  Don’t misunderstand me.  But the nuclear family should be the training ground for loving others as brothers and sisters.  It should be the source of  a spring that gushes out to others in our community.  It should not be a shut up well that is available only to those who make up or “nuclear family”.  The Christian Community should be our family.  The next phase, or training ground, of practicing love.  And that, in turn, should spill out to the greater community until we are able to truly recognize all people as brothers and sisters and are able to recongize Jesus in the very least in our society.

I will stop there.  My time in the organic church movement ended about a year and a half ago.  It was a good time and opened me up to new ideas and dreams.  But ultimately it turned out to be a lot of talk and very little practice.  And no wonder.  We are busy people who are entrenched in a system highly incompatible and hostile to genuine Christian Community.  But, the need for this community remains.  Perhaps those who talk will be daring enough to practice.  Willing to trust one another instead of some leader above them.  Willing to take the chance of treating one another as family.  And daring enough to take the next step.  Maybe this community is bigger and different than we first considered.  I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

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Martin Luther King Jr.: The Evolution of a Social Vision

Martin Luther King Jr. 1

Today America celebrates “Martin Luther King Jr.” day.  In my opinion his social vision is one not only one to be celebrated, but to be experimented with and practiced.  Indeed, I do believe Martin Luther King Jr. should be honored.  But more often than not when the Empire honors someone it only means that his message has become emasculated and his memory shaped to fit it in with the agenda of the state. In other words, the figure and his message are betrayed by the state that now claims to honor him.  His message has become watered down enough to be heralded by a power that once feared the repurcussion of its practice.

Behold the expensive stained glass window of Jesus in a multi-million dollar Cathedral and what is the message that you hear?  Initially, it seems rather obvious that Jesus is being honored.  However, on closer inspection it seems ludicrous that a community that claims to follow the poor Rabbi has funneled so much money into building a stain glassed window of someone who preferred the company of tramps over attending religious observance inside of sacred buidlings.  No doubt Jesus could be better served by his followers giving time and resources to connect with the poor and marginalized in the community.  No doubt he would rather be recognized in “the least of these” rather than in an artistic representation of himself in a stained glass window.  Hopefully, you see my point.

The social vision of Martin Luther King Jr. continued to grow as he did.  This is a unique and special thing.  He became well known for his leadership and participation in the civil rights movement.  In fact, the bulk of what is celebrated and talked about on “Martin Luther King” day are civil rights issues.  And this is fine.  But Martin Luther King had a wholistic view of man, the community, and the nature of the answer to systemic evil.  The evils of society could not be isolated from each other.  They were all connected.  I would even postulate that the last great evil he began to address and fight is the root cause of the other intial evils of racism and war that he first confronted.

He began by confronting the evil of racism, went on to tackle the immorality and futility of war, and was killed while addressing the issue of poverty, economic disparity, and the struggle of labor against capital.  He was not killed while marching for civil rights.  He was not killed for speaking out against the war in Vietnam.  He was murdered while standing with African American sanitation workers- union workers- who were striking for better wages and working conditions.  Think about that for a moment.  He came to see that much of what undergirds racism and war are the pursuit of profit, the treatment of people as mere machines to produce, and a dog-eat-dog economic system that benefits from working people- poor people- being divided.

Martin Luther King did not abandon civil rights to stand against war.  It was a natural progression.  If we are for equality between the black and white person in America, how can we fight against the yellow person in Vietnam?  Why should young black men go and fight for a country that doesn’t even recognize them to be human beings worthy of dignity and respect?  He saw that war was not for the protection of the people but for the interests of capital and of the state (and that these two interests are severly intertwined).

And from addressing the issue of war he went on to tackle the issue of poverty.  It makes sense to keep poor black and poor whites divided.  Because as long as they fight each other they will be powerless to recongize, let alone fight against, the power of the rich who oppress them and keep them in poverty.  Martin Luther King began to call for a dramatic redistribution of wealth in this country.  He dared to tackle a problem that few were willing to recongize let alone address.  And he dared to offer solutions that butted heads with “orthodox” American ideology, especially in the midst of the cold war.

I would like to point out one final thing about MLK.  He was able to tackle political issues without becoming entrenched in the political system.  This is a rare, and needful, thing.  He refused to become a politician or a legislator.  Instead, he opted for organizing the people and for direct action.  And though he shunned entrance into the political system, he did not shun political issues.  Politics are simply that which pertains to the governing of our community.  Christians of our day seem to gravitate to one of two camps: they either become politicians or become devoted to a political party/ideology, or they bury their heads in the sand and opt out of relevant conversation and struggle.  Martin Luther King Jr. 2

King did something unique.  He entered the conversation and affected it far more than either politician or spiritual guru.  He spoke to power as one with authority.  Most either try to speak to power by becoming part of the power, or they ignore the power and keep quiet.  King did neither.  He spoke as one outside of the system but deeply entrenched in the community of fellow human beings.  This, among other things, reminds me of that ancient Galilean Rabbi who threw money changers out of the temple and vehemently corrected the political, economic and religious powers of his day, while still asserting that his kingdom was not of this world.

Check out his speech:

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On the Death of a Loved One

No one may read this.  That is fine.  I am writing for therapeutic reasons.  Today I was informed that a loved one of mine has passed away.  Doctors were about to put him into emergency surgeory when his body gave out.  He was young, I think in his 50’s.  He leaves behind a wife, children, grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews (one of which, is me).

He is not my blood uncle.  He is the husband of my aunt.  He came into my aunt’s life after she had been through a long and difficult phase of her life.  I will be honest.  We were never super close.  But I often spent the night at their house to play with my cousins.  He was there at all the family events: summer picnics, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, and birthday parties.  His son, my cousin, is only a year or two younger than me and there were periods of time when we would spend a good amount of time together.

I’m not overly sentimental.  Life has done a good job, as it has for many, of kicking the shit out of me.  But after I hung up the phone that brought me the sad message I went to the arms of my wife and cried.  Partly for me, but mostly for my aunt and cousin.  I felt a loss, as a member of the family.  It made me think of how closely tied all of our lives are.  If we are all family- brothers and sisters- then we are all connected by the deep bond of our common humanity, our shared experiences, our commong desires, and ultimately by the frailty and trascience of life on this planet.  Over the years I have been geographically far away from family.  I’ve been absent from most family gathering over the past 11 years.  But I feel a loss.  There is something gone that will never be replaced.  And that makes me sad.

In addition, I recently had a rather painful misunderstanding with my aunt and cousin so i don’t know where I stand with them.  I’m not sure if my presence at this time would be beneficial or harmful.  I’m waiting to see how things unfold from here.  My aunt’s heart is broken.  A significant part of her life is gone.  This all reminds me of how important it is for us to love one another.  It can be such a cliche, and usually can be difficult to do.  But it’s so necessary and so lasting and so bonding.  When we love one another we invite the hope that there is something deeper than our momentary sojourn on planet earth.  When we love we experience a different kind of kingdom; a new world.  One that we need far more often, and, if we could be so lucky, permanently.

If you pray then please pray for my aunt, my cousin, and our family.  But above all love the ones you are close to tonight.  Whether blood family, or not.  We are brothers and sisters.  I’m not asking for utopia.  I’m just asking that we, that I, would give love a shot a little more often.  Right now the nation rages over gun control debates.  I wish both sides would make sure that their cup is full of love before the sun sets tonight.  Well, thanks for listening.

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Trade Unions: Wedded to the Enemy of Labor

The majority of American Trade Unions accept capitalism as a viable, and even desirable, system of production and distribution.  This would be perfectly logical if they were a union of business professionals or CEO’s or the local Chamber of Commerce.  These latter entities are obviously concerned with the growth of business.  However, Unions are supposed to represent the needs and desires of the working class.  And despite the fact that history (especially the recent exodus over the last thirty years of manufacturing from America to third world countries where companies can pay far lower wages to poor workers) constantly affirms that the employing class and the working class have nothing in common trade unionism still holds to a bastardized theory that they do.

Unionism fails from a lack of understanding of the nature of capitalism.  The patriotic ideas of “the American Dream” and “Rags to Riches” is hopelessly tied together with capitalism and to critique capitalism is synonymous with being  “unpatriotic” and “unamerican”.  As a result Unions have managed to operate without no overarching philosophy.  They seek some kind of good hearted capitalism where bosses and corporations share a little more of the wealth they have robbed from the working class with the working class.  This idea is thwarted by both theory and history.  Let me explain.

The nature of capitalism is to expand.  There is an ever present need to seek and accumulate new profits.  This overarching law of capitalism leaves no “sacred” stone unturned.  With the rise of globalization and lower costs of transportation corporations have done exactly what capitalism dictates: they have moved plants to third world countries where they can pay workers far less than they can in the United States.  As a result, corporations can rake in more profit.  No deep knowledge of the intricacies of Marxism is needed to understand this basic fact.  Meanwhile trade unions have been powerless to stop this exodus of industry because they have signed away all worker power in their “management perogative clauses” that give corporations unilateral power to move or shut down plants.  Unions stand bewildered, scratching their heads, unable to understand that this is simply the basic nature of capitalism.  Labor has not been betrayed by the bosses and corporations.  These entities have never been the friends of labor.  Rather, labor has been betrayed by trade unions that don’t understand the basic nature of capitalism.

Unions, to be relevant and regain power, must divorce capitalism.  The fear that this is “unamerican” must be overcome.  There are other things, besides capitalism, that are “american” such as democracy and equality.  Workers must reject top down unionism in favor of democracy.  And, in turn, Unions must bring democracy into the work place.  Nothing is more American than the rank and file standing up against unchecked tyranny.  Well, tyranny is not found only in the thrones of Monarchs.  Tryanny is found in the offices of managers and the penthouses of CEO’s.  The working class and the community has full right to the means of production and the wealth that they create with their labor.  It’s time that the Unions recognized this and make this the basis of their fight against capital.  To Union officials little spats with companies have no great signficance.  But to low payed workers it is a life and death issue.

The Unions must divorce capital.  Workers must gain control of their unions in order to run them democratically according to the needs and desires of the workers.  If the Union bueracracy won’t allow this, then workers must divorce these unions and form their own solidarity Unions.   A New World is possible.  Unfortunatly, the trade unions have not bequethed to us a vision of a new world.  They have only given us the promise of a little better quality of life in this broken world.  And as jobs flee, and nothing is left up low-paying retail and food service jobs, even this promise looks bleak.

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