Saturday, April 30, 2005

Scotch Tasting Party 

Scotch Tasting - The Complement
Scotch Tasting - The Complement,
originally uploaded by whitleyrr.
The Scotch Whisky Tasting Party tonight was a high and snooty success. We tasted a number of different Scotches, some wonderful, some less than desirable. I think my favorite description of the night had to have been of the Ardbeg 10 yr., the crowd's least favorite - "Like a group of Irish monks being beaten by Vikings!" Now, this was the first one we tasted, so we were not yet silly, and the description was fairly accurate. It was a West Islay Scotch, which does have its own distinctive peaty flavor usually only enjoyed by a select group of grizzled old men. But, I could see how it might be able to grow on me. For the rest of us, it tasted like "new car smell."

I believe the Glenmorangie 10 yr. was the favorite of the evening, with the Aberlour 10 yr. being a close second. The Glenmorangie does have its distinctive, unusual notes of sea-salt air at the same time it has a hint of cinnamon, making it an exquisite and fine malt from the Highlands. The Aberlour 10, from the lowlands, began with a sweetness that disappeared into a punch that was quite pleasant. Its later spiciness made it a crowd favorite. I brought the Talisker 10, a peppery, spicy, "volcanic" malt - the only malt from the Isle of Skye. Poeple enjoyed it, but not as much as the aforementioned. It had more in common, if more explosive, with the Ardbeg than any of the others. All that said, we all agreed we need to do this again sometime - it was a heck of a lot of fun and I got to taste a bunch of malts I've never tasted before! And, best of all, I maintained my goal of not becoming drunk! Well, I am a little tipsy, I've been drinking Scotch all night after all, but I am not drunk, which makes me and nine o' clock tomorrow morning very happy indeed.


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Friday, April 29, 2005

From Wisdom 

This week has been very hard on me. After Phil's funeral I came back to a week of Biblical Theology class which has been all about death and our response to death. I didn't think it was bothering me until I realized I was on the verge of tears today. I know my grieving is not done. I prayed in chapel everyday for four people in my family who are sick, and now one has died. Three remain and this death has put into my mind the reality that those three will die too. That is where my tears are coming from. I'm not ready for that. And that unreadiness is what has made class hard this week. So, the only Biblical Theology I can live into right now comes from one of the books of Wisdom. It is where I am right now.

Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;
While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:
In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened, and the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low;
Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:
Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.
Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

~Qohelet 12:1-17 (KJV)


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Thursday, April 28, 2005

Sizzle, Sizzle, Fry, Fry, Pop, Pop 

Remember those commercials from the 80's that said, "This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs," and then showed a picture of two eggs frying?

I propose changing the add thusly: Instead of just frying eggs, have the yolks all busted apart and sizzling with the whites. Cut the "on drugs" reference and add in its place, "on 6 consecutive years of higher education with the knowledge that there is one more to go".


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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Preachers Be Ye Warned & Take Solace 

As I prepare for preaching class tomorrow night, I am reminded of a quote from last night's reading from the Saints:

"Our Christian faith is one and the same, and no matter how much you preach, you will never add to it; and no matter how little you say, the tradition will always be bigger than you."
~Irenaeus, Against the Heresies

There is a warning and a comfort in this. It is not our job to add to the faith, only to help build up the faith of the saints. To borrow from St. Francis, we might have to use words under dire circumstances. This story is way, way, way bigger than us. The trick is figuring out how we fit into it. One way as I've imagined it is below. I submit to you my "Imaginative Sermon" exercise from class (from Acts 17:1-15):

Nobody likes a street preacher. Stop them before they get started! They’re not armed are they? What if they’re armed? They’ll bring the soldiers down on us all! I don’t want my world turned upside down. This is only something you see on the news. Not here. Not yet. We don’t need this. This is something from a headline. Not for our little town.
Gotta go. Gotta get outta here before this gets bad. They’ve got them now. This is gonna get bad. Gotta go…now!
“Hey, Ryan.” “Yeah?” “Don’t go yet.” “Why?” “I was there. In Jason’s house. I heard what they were saying.” “What did they say?” “Why don’t you listen? Come on, let’s go…I’ll tell you, but we’ve gotta hurry.”
So, what did they say? Can you see it? The dust of the street kicked up by the mob. Things starting to get a little crazy. A little scary. The heat of the sun intensifying the emotions and people beginning to swim in the current of fear, being pulled this way and that. Everyone is yelling and this guy is tugging on my sleeve. He wants me to go with him, but I’m not sure. I don’t even know what they are talking about! They said something about turning the world upside down – turning my world upside down! My world is upside down enough! I don’t need any more! Come on, he says! This way! I follow him. And as we hurry off, down a side alley, one name is on everyone’s lips…they’re calling him the Savior, the Messiah actually come! Can you believe it? Can I? One name…I hear it fade away as I turn a corner, but I have a feeling I’ll be hearing it again. For some reason, it that’s ok. One name. Jesus.


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Boring by Comparison 

There is nothing particularly wrong with today. In fact, it is quite a nice day. A friend who had some fears about lectoring in Chapel lectored this moring and did a superb job - articulate, well-paced, clear, and well-projected. There was a nice service of unity with our brethern from across the street at Garrett, even if it was odd that half the liturgical party was vested and the other half was not. Hebrew class went well this morning and we got our mid-terms back - once again I think Prof. was being generous with grades, but I'll never complain over a good one. (Small side note: I was goofing with someone yesterday in music class when we were discussing singing the psalms. The translation of Psalm 1 we were using began, "Happy are they..." and I pointed out to my friend that the actual Hebrew word used is 'ha'ish', meaning 'the man'. This was done primarily to frustrate her; I am in full favor of most uses of inclusive language - I draw the line at "goddess" and "our true Mother, Jesus".)

All that squared away, today is still boring compared to yesterday. The excitment I felt all day yesterday leading up to going to Wrigley that was fulfilled 2x over again once there just doesn't match up to the excitement I feel about Biblical Theology class. Sorry. Not to mention the first class company. So, yeah, today is boring by comparison.

All in all, I am ready to be done with school for this year. I've noticed that in my study habits, with Hebrew being the only class I'm still going at with full force. It's been a long academic year, and though emotionally easier than the last, I'm still ready to be done. I'm ready for summer and warmth. I'm ready for sandals and grass getting stuck between my toes. I'm ready for grilling and the sound of ice grinding in a blender, for the taste of Everglades seasoned meat and lime daquiris. I'm ready for lazy Saturday afternoons spent on the lakeshore and being able to spend time with friends during the week without feeling guilty. I'm ready for more trips to ballparks and random visits to the ice cream stand. Lord, I'm ready for the summer - bring it on.


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Sunday, April 24, 2005

Even at the Grave... 

...we make our song: Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Phil's funeral, though it did not include that line as it was a Methodist service, was very nice. I don't really want to say too much about it here so that I do not diminish it with my words. Suffice it to say these two things - We are a family who laughs and it was good for us to be together in this time of pain and be able to share laughter. Nonetheless, watching my twelve year old cousin deal with death for the first time in her life was more than enough to make a river of my face. It was a quick but good and needed trip home, but now I am back.

What is the perfect remedy for coming back from a funeral to reinvigorate me with cheerful life? 2 tix to tomorrow night's Cubs game, that's what! I haven't been to a Cubs game yet this season and I will bo proud to go tomorrow night with someone who has never been before. I am thinking it will make both of our days.


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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Benedict XVI - 265th Bishop of Rome 

Important note: The following reflections are from my Anglican (not Roman Catholic) perspective admitting I don't know very much about the papacy. Nor was I a "pope-watcher" and so don't know very much about the various persons "up for election".

I give thanks to God with my Roman Catholic brothers and sisters for the election of a new Pope of the Roman Catholic church, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI. We have been praying in our seminary for the wisdom and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in this election and now only time will tell how the Holy Spirit will work through Benedict XVI. But, it is appropriate to give thanks that this election has been made. I want to write about a couple of things here having to do with this pope and some of the events surrounding his election, some of which were brought out in today's preaching class.

First, I have heard a significant amount of comments already that many of my classmates are surprised and disappointed with this election because of Benedict XVI's conservatism. As someone else has already said, though I forget who, I don't know where this surprise is coming from - the Vatican isn't exactly "the hotbed of liberalism". Moreover, Benedict XVI's role as Pope will be different than his role as Cardinal in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (And contrary to what some may think, just because you've read Angels and Demons doesn't make you an expert in any of these matters.) In one of his speeches before his election, Benedict made some comments about absolute truths and how we need to get back to them. He said there was a danger in people who say there are no absolute truths. A lot of folks, it seems to me, have reacted negatively against that, but I want to challenge them.

Are we afraid of absolute truth? We shouldn't be. And we should be among the first ones to agree that there is a danger in those who say there is no absolute truth. There is absolute truth and we as Episcopalians proclaim it in worship every Sunday in the words of the Creed, and in the Memorial Acclamation when we say, "Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. (Prayer A)" If we can't say that is absolute truth, then I'd say we've got a problem. Those of us studying to become Episcopal priests had better not be afraid to proclaim it either. As a wise classmate said in preaching today, "God has given us each a unique voice to proclaim the Gospel and commissioned us to use it!"

Furthermore, Benedict said something about how we are in a "dictatorship of relativism". Well, folks, we are (though dictatorship might be too strong a word). If that is not what the whole "unpleasantness" in the Anglican Communion right now is about, then I don't know what it is. And because we are living in said relativism, we want answers and moral clarity. Living in tension is hard work! But, there is nothing wrong with wanting answers or moral clarity either. Benedict XVI's answers are not the answers the ECUSA wants particularly, but that is no reason to throw out what he said about relativism wholesale. It seems the answers we want differ from the answers he's giving, but that doesn't mean we don't want an answer. And we want an answer because we don't have them, at least officially, which suggests living with relativism.

Just because we don't have all the answers doesn't mean we don't want them, nor should it. If the first Christians had thrown up their hands and said, "Who knows?! We don't want an answer though!" then the hard work of theology represented by all the years between then and now would be lost. Our understanding of discernment would be for naught. Seeking is good. Asking is good. Absolute truth is scary stuff. But, count on this: there is absolute Truth and his name is Jesus Christ. If that scares you a little bit, you're probably doing something right.


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A Remembrance 

I'm heading home tomorrow night for Phil's funeral on Friday. As I was thinking about that I remembered a conversation I had with Phil this past Christmas. His hair was starting to grow back in from the surgery, his voice a bit softer, his manner a bit more subdued, but it was still the same ole Phil. A Miller Lite can in his hand and his attention glued most of the time to the football game. I sort of cringed (thanks CPE) each time a member of the family went up to him and said something like, "Thank God you're ok." The point of the fact was he wasn't ok - he knew that, we all knew that, but most of us avoided the subject. When I was talking with him I told him how glad I was to see him and how glad I was that he was there. He responded by saying he was too, cause he didn't think he was going to make it to Christmas. I told him I was praying for him and that if he needed anything I could do in Chicago, just ask. He smiled and said thanks. The we talked about the football game and the basketball (high school) tournament the rest of the night.

Phil, I'll miss the games of "65", "penny racers" and watching the occasional Nascar race with you. I'll miss seeing you at Sanibel and at Christmas. Smile on us now, Phil, as we commemorate your life and pray for us for the strength we'll need to get through the next few days, wekks, years - some more than others. Go with God.


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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

I Will Raise Him Up... 

Please pray with me today for the repose of the soul of my uncle Phil, who succumbed this morning to a brain tumor. Thank you all for your prior prayers for him and for these. PLease pray with me also for the comfort of his children, Glenn and Molly, his parents, Joe and Donna, and his sister Patty, and all who will miss him dearly through the mercies of the Holy Spirit.

May Phil's soul and the souls of all the departed rest this day in peace and rise in glory.


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Monday, April 18, 2005

It's Baseball Season Again 

With a paper due in Biblical Theology class tomorrow afternoon and a Hebrew midterm tomorrow morning I did the only thing I could do tonight: I watched my first Braves game of the season. The match-up was against the Astros and it was a helluva pitcher's duel. Roger Clemens vs. Tim Hudson (I like this guy!) - right now, it is heading to the 11th tied at nothing each. I took some time out from the seventh to the ninth to polish up some Hebrew and then I looked over my paper while the tenth was going on. Really, with language, you either know it or you don't come test time, so cramming doesn't really do anything but waste your time. The difference between me now and me several years ago is now I care about Hebrew and I know it come test time rather than not caring about Spanish then and not being prepared before my exams.

All of this going on after quite the wonderful weekend too.

One of the highlights (perhaps not the highlight, but one of them) from the weekend was the opportunity to serve as crucifer at St. Luke's. The crucifer's there, much like the torchbearers, have additional responsibilities from what I am used to from my acolyte rearing at St. Hilary's. I was responsible for getting the Gospel book and then holding it while this man proclaimed the Gospel in such a volume that I had a slight ringing in my ears after the event. I truly enjoy serving in this capacity - serving at the Altar, not receiving deaf-making proclamations - and look forward to the next time I will get to do so.


P.S. Thanks for all of you bearing with me while I posted my editorials from a few years back. I have no expectation that anyone will wade through them, but I did want to get them out there. I was able to find the link to the original web publication on the paper's site for most of them, and linked to such.

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Saturday, April 16, 2005

Apology and Reconciliation 

Originally published in the Old Gold and Black, Wake Forest University, December 5, 2002.

While attending a conference in Switzerland this summer I had the opportunity to hear a talk on the subject of apology. I did not intend on listening to that lecture, but I went anyway prepared for a boring afternoon that would likely include a brief nap. What I heard, though, was remarkable enough to keep me both awake and interested.

The context of the conference was global, and so the talk was given from an international perspective. I will discuss that aspect later. The talk I heard was called “The Power of Apology”. Now when I think of apology, ‘power’ is not the first word that comes to mind. I normally think of humility, admittance of guilt, and shame.

In spite of that, the lecturer spoke about the power inherent in an apology, if the apology is given in a sincere and truthful manner. Listen carefully, because this is good advice for the rest of our lives. An apology must never be conditional. Therefore, you should never say, “I’m sorry if I offended you…” or “I apologize, but…”. It must always include the reason for the grievance and be followed by an offering for peace and reconciliation. That way, the past is addressed, the present is before you, and there is a clear path for a hopeful future.

There really is power in apology. It has the power to prevent little annoyances from piling up on one another until the weight of all combined is too much to bear and the situation explodes. Apology contains the power to mend broken friendships far quicker than anything else. It also possesses the power to bring hope to a seemingly hopeless situation. Finally, apology has the amazing ability to strengthen each of us every time we make use of it.

Now, there is plenty there to set you thinking, I hope, about a relationship you have that could possibly be in need of apology, but I want to provide a larger, global demonstration of the power of apology. As I mentioned earlier, I learned this all at a conference this summer entitled “Agenda for Reconciliation”. Now, unlike most conferences I have attended in the past, this was not merely a collection of intellectuals or social activists, but rather a mixture of those folks with people who were in dire need of reconciliation.

Before the conference began, our leaders explained to us that in the following week, individuals would arrive who would be unlike anyone that we have met. Their identities would be secret and their discussion closed but we would be allowed to engage them in conversation. The people that came were from Sierra Leone, the poorest country on our planet, and one embroiled in brutal conflict. Those that arrived were not merely citizens, but rather high-level government officials and upper echelon rebel leaders.

These were men and women who the previous week had been shooting at one another, but had agreed to lay down their arms to come to Switzerland and talk. I expected to see a group walking around who reminded me of Rambo, but they looked, spoke, and acted just like you and me. I do not know the content of what was discussed in their room, but I can give a brief update on the conflict ravaging Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone is a tiny country, but about half its land is fully in control of the rebel forces, Revolutionary United Front. Most of us have probably never seen Sierra Leone, or maybe even heard of it, but I guarantee you have seen a product of Sierra Leone, which is a source of their conflict – diamonds. The rebel forces control many of the diamond mines and run them as slave operations. There is a strong connection between the illicit diamond trade and the black market arms trade there. So, there is constant fighting between the rebel forces and the government that is trying to maintain control over a virtually uncontrollable situation.

These were the men and women who sat down at a table in Switzerland to discuss their differences. I know that there were many apologies made and reconciliation was begun. At the close of the conference, we all attended a final plenary session where the Defense Minister for Sierra Leone rose to make a speech. He said there was a man in the room who, had he seen him last week, he would have shot him and vice-versa. He asked that man, one of the top rebel leaders to stand. Then he called him to the stage, and I will close with his final remark, which left the room in awe and filled with hope. He said, as the rebel leader approached the stage, “Observe the power of reconciliation.” They embraced.

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How to Make a Suicide Bomber 

Originally published in the Old Gold and Black, Wake Forest University, November 21, 2002.

Twelve Palestinians lie dead in the streets of Gaza and Ariel Sharon claims success. Twelve Israeli lives in Hebron, cut short in retaliation. A mother has lost her son, a young man is rendered fatherless, and a sister becomes an only child. Israelis in Hebron are calling for more violence and making blunt allusions to a previous massacre of Palestinians as a way of saying, “be prepared”. Palestinians are worried, but promise that should any massacre come, it will be revisited upon those who deliver it. The cycle of violence continues; Arafat sits snug in Ramallah while Sharon and Netanyahu bicker in Jerusalem. Nothing gets done and the status quo of suffering and violence, on both sides, is preserved.

Imagine for a moment that this is your life. Envision for a minute that if you leave your dorm room past six o’ clock in the evening to visit a friend, or to pick up some small thing at Sundry, that you will be shot on sight. Hear the low grumbling outside your window? That’s a tank rolling by, escorting bulldozers to knock down Davis dorm. You breathe a sigh of relief; they did not come for you, this time. It is quiet. You used to have a roommate, but they were killed in a missile attack while shopping. You go to bed that night sweating and wondering if you will see the next day. Before drifting off to sleep, the last refuge left to you by a world turned to a cesspool, you look at the rifle in the corner and know it would only take a second to be set free. Anger floods in once again, and you sleep, tormented by your dreams of a reality far worse.

Speaking with Professor Ken Hoglund, who has spent much time in Israeli and Arab communities as well as talked face to face with leaders of Hamas, I asked the question why there are so many suicide bombers. Is it because in their religion, martyrdom guarantees them the highest order of paradise in the afterlife? He responded, “No. In the end, no one kills themselves for a belief. They kill themselves because death has become preferable to life.” If they can drag a few enemy souls with them when they go, then its all the better. At least they will be remembered as a patriot.

Israeli journalist Uri Avnery agrees, as he writes, “The reason for this can be summed up in one word: rage. Terrible rage, that fills the soul of a human being, leaving no space for anything else.” This rage that clouds the mind red and haunts the sleep of children is blind to reason. Try being born into a situation where this rage is all you know. Live twenty years with this fury constantly in your soul. Eventually someone holds out a gun to you and asks you if you’d like to fight. There is only one possible answer. Soon, even that will not satisfy as the rage builds and your life becomes so terrible, that only death will cure you. Yet, even in your death, you can strike a blow against the people who have made your life worth nothing. You strap on dynamite and take your last bus ride to the city.

That is how you make a suicide bomber. The formula is simple. Combine equal parts occupation, inequality, and violence. Stir. Bake twenty years. That’s it. Repeat as necessary. It is horrifically easy and it is being done as we speak. The suicide bombers of tomorrow are today’s children. They see what is happening around them and they do not understand. It will not be long though, before understanding does not matter.

With this dichotomy in place, it seems peace does not stand a chance. Every time a gun goes off, every time a bomb explodes, it pushes peace back a step farther. Marwan Barghouti, General Secretary of Fatah on the West Bank and an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council has said, “Want peace? End the occupation.” I could not agree more. If a separate Palestinian state will bring peace, I’m for it. If bi-nationalism is the eventual, peaceful resolution, I’m for it. More importantly though, the world community needs to come together and take steps to eliminate situations where death has become preferable to life.

No one wants more suicide bombers, especially Israelis and Palestinians. I suppose it is dangerous giving out the formula to make a suicide bomber. However, by doing so, you also how not to make one and to stop the situations that are creating them. It is time to stop everything that is causing the rage to build and fester. Peace will only occur when the cycle of violence is broken. What life would you rather have? Look out your window at this campus. Would you rather have that life, or the one described above? Does not everyone deserve that same chance?

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Sons of Abraham 

Originally published in the Old Gold and Black, Wake Forest University, November 7, 2002.

It is difficult to talk for long about the problems associated with the Middle East without mention of the role of religion. The world’s three great monotheistic faiths were all born out of this war torn region; all three claim Jerusalem as a holy city. Yet Jerusalem is not the only thing all three religion’s claim in common. Followers of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all look to Abraham as the grandfather of their faith.

In the book of Genesis, common to both Jews and Christians, is found the story of Abraham. His first son, Ishmael, was illegitimate, born of the maidservant Hagar. His second son, Isaac, born of his wife Sarah, was to be Abraham’s heir. God spoke to Abraham and told him that the Promised Land would be given over to his children. This is the major source of religious contention in the Arab/Israeli conflict in the Holy Land today. Jewish Israelis and Muslim Palestinians both claim the same land as theirs, given to them by God.

It is of the utmost importance when analyzing conflict to maintain a sharp and long reaching historical memory. One can not look at the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and only remember the last nine years, nor can one only recall events occurring since 1967, or 1948, and hope to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. It is terribly important to remember history and to look to the foundations of problems if one hopes to understand more fully events happening today.

There has been much talk lately, as the Israeli/Palestinian conflict continues to rage, about Abraham and the joint heritage these people claim. In the Torah, it is clear that God has given the Promised Land to Abraham’s legitimate son, Isaac (Gen.17:20). Yet Abraham pleaded with God so that God might bestow his favor on Abraham’s other, firstborn son, Ishmael. God responded in kind and blessed Ishmael, making him the father of twelve tribes and a great nation – the Arab nation (Gen. 17:20). This is the point of fissure where Isaac and Ishmael part ways. Abraham divided them, and they remain so today, but if we hope for peace, we must look again to history and see not only the divide, but the peaceful reunion.

Not much else is said of Ishmael in the Torah after this point. However, in the Holy Qur’an, there is a lengthy narrative about him, along with Abraham, founding the religion of Islam. The Qur’an posits that Abraham was a Muslim and not a Jew, and that together with Ishmael they built the Ka’ba, the House of God (Surah II, Sec 15). It is clear, in both traditional narratives, that Abraham loved his son Ishmael as much as he did Isaac, and that he wanted the best for both of his sons. Yet, Abraham was the source of their split; Isaac went to Judaism and Ishmael went to Islam.

With regard to the ongoing conflict in the Holy Land, it is difficult to find a solution by referring to either of these narratives. One will only find the source of the differences. Jews and Muslims alike claim Abraham as the grandfather of their faith, and that cannot be easily reconciled. If the story stopped there, we would only be left with two peoples, claiming the same land and the blessings of the same God. Thankfully, it does not and there is a source of hope in the end.

Just as Abraham divided his two sons, he also brought them back together. When he died, the Torah tells us that both Isaac and Ishmael returned to bury their father (Gen. 25:9-10). When they came together again, there is no mention of hatred, no mention of violence, no mention of disagreement. For his burial, Abraham’s sons were reunited and it was a reunion of peace. After they buried their father, it is written that they both went their separate ways. There was no war. There was no anger. There was only peaceful silence.

It is here that we must turn if we seek a historical, peaceful solution. Israelis and Palestinians alike should acknowledge their common ancestry and their different heritages. If one were to read the story allegorically, Abraham was the cause of his sons’ dispute, and when he died, they came together again in peace to bury not only their father, but also their differences. They departed from one another in peace. Some say that the solution to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict is two separate states, whereas others postulate that the ideal would be one state with two peoples living together in peace. I do not know which is the better answer, but I will hope for the solution that brings peace to the Holy Land, once and for all.

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Originally published in the Old Gold and Black, Wake Forest University, October 31, 2002.

A few weeks ago I used a word in my column that not many people are familiar with, which is understandable as it is a relatively new term. The term was “justpeace”. It recognizes that there can be no true peace without justice and that pursuing justice without peace leads to more injustice. Traits of justpeace include a nonviolent approach to conflict, building relationships that recognize interdependence, and equal partnership in the peace process. Justpeace is but one tool available for addressing conflict and violence in our world, but I believe it is one of the best tools we have, and one that should be implemented far more often.

Conflict transformation through the use of justpeace can be used to affect positive change on all levels, from the family through the community to the global. Its focus is on healing and bringing understanding and cooperative commitment to both parties involved. Justpeace is characterized by four main categorical approaches that include a wide range of activities. These are waging conflict nonviolently, reducing violence if it exists, addressing the causes and effects of violence, and increasing the capacity for building justpeace. Justpeace builders seek to implement these approaches while following ethical guidelines of partnership with the parties involved, protecting all involved from further harm, and moving towards peaceful interdependence. Let us look at the four approaches to justpeace in an effort to understand its functions.

Waging conflict nonviolently has the same goals as secondary (retaliatory) violence, which are to expose injustice, increase the balance of power, gain sympathy, and achieve justice. To many, nonviolent approaches seem counterproductive, dangerous, and even stupid. It is no secret that people die while participating in nonviolent means of addressing conflict, but far fewer people lose their lives. By confronting the opposing side without armaments, the nonviolent protestors strip them of their justification for killing. Does this always work? No, but it has been proven by history to be far more successful than not.

If violence already exists, then a goal in the process of justpeace-building is to reduce and eventually cease that violence. The best ways to accomplish this are ceasefires monitored by international bodies (not international armies occupying the land), increasing the size of community safe zones, and increasing the presence of international relief and aid. Cessation of violence is the first and most important step towards a justpeace if the conflict is already raging. The use of more violence (or the threat thereof) to meet this end is not acceptable, as it does not fit with the principles of justpeace and is counterproductive to the goal of equal partnership. Reducing violence can and should be an immediate strategy utilized on both the macro and grassroots levels of society.

In order to prevent violence breaking out again or to preclude it before it even begins, it is necessary to be able to see and interpret warning signs. Such signs might include negative ethnic rhetoric, occupation, or perceived injustices by a group of people. Once those have been identified, diplomacy is the best tool to put to use, bringing all parties involved to the discussion table rather than the battlefield. If mediation is necessary, a third party should be introduced whose interests do not lie on either side of the conflict, but rather on achieving a justpeace. Community dialogues and community building programs should be employed to foster discussion and seek a win/win situation.

This leads into the final category, capacity building. Whereas the previous three categories have all been immediate strategies, this one is focused on the long term. The foundation of capacity building for justpeace is education. Begin educational programs on all levels from elementary to adult. A great example of this is found in the ethnic conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Several years ago at Azeri schools a food collection was taken for victims of an earthquake in Armenia. This type of program fosters understanding that “the other” is a person too, and moves towards healing and justpeace. Other means to accomplishing capacity building include fostering economic development, alternative criminal justice programs, and community and individual empowerment to affect positive change. Build the capacity for justpeace to be maintained; where once only violence existed, understanding and healing will then be evident.
As great of a nation as the United States is, I believe we should take a more proactive role in bringing justpeace to afflicted nations. A cartoon published during the Gulf War showed an aircraft carrier with the caption “90,000 tons of diplomacy”. In my opinion, this is the wrong answer. Violence only begets violence. Often the U.S. has been on the right track by instituting and presiding over ceasefires, but we have stopped there. By not addressing the causes of violence, the pleas of the afflicted, and the destroyed infrastructures, we have only committed halfway to a justpeace. Despite what the current and past administration have said, I believe the U.S. does need to be a nation building power. We have the ability, we have the means, but do we have the will? Justpeace is both the means and the end towards a better future for the entire global community. Let us use it and all can reap the rewards.

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Why Do "They" Hate Us? 

Originally published in the Old Gold and Black, Wake Forest University, October 24, 2002.

On the evening of September 11, 2001, President Bush addressed a shocked nation. In a speech designed to give hope to the American people, as well as to instill fear in our attackers, Bush posed the question, “Why do they hate us?” He told the nation “they” hate us because of our democracy, because of our freedom, and because we are wealthy. Apparently, we now knew why “they” hated us, whoever “they” were.

Since then I have had many opportunities to talk with people from around the globe and I have learned that what President Bush said was not entirely accurate. This summer I spent time with people that would qualify as the “they” in Bush’s address. I gained from them much wisdom and hope. When my new friends discovered that I was an American willing to listen and eager to learn, I was not hated, but admired. As I spent time with them, I realized that Bush had missed the point in his address. He was not wrong that many people throughout the world hate the U.S., but the reasons he listed were erroneous.

As I spent more time in conversation, I learned that people who “hate” the U.S. do not often hate American citizens. It is not our people that earn their loathing. It is not our democracy that they have come to despise. It is certainly not our freedom or any of the other ideals from which our nation was founded. I do not presume to speak for entire peoples or nations; the ideas presented here are representative of those individuals I spent time with this past summer. However, I believe that their opinions are indicative of a significant portion of their respective nations.

In many places, the ideal of democracy is held on high. Freedom is something for which many of these people long, not unlike you or I. Why then do we in this country often get the impression from our leaders, or from other nations themselves, that we are hated as a country? Why then are we referred to as “the great Satan” in some Middle Eastern nations?

Our sisters and brothers in other nations, especially in the Middle East, hate us because of our country’s foreign policies, which are killing them. Oil and money are the mediums through which we exercise our control over whole peoples. Our foreign policy extends beyond the realms of oil as well, but it is no less destructive. Let us look at a different example, so we can understand the long arm of U.S. foreign policy.

Following the conclusion of the Gulf War in 1991, the U.S. and the U.N. levied heavy sanctions against Iraq. These were designed to undermine Saddam Hussein’s regime and punish Iraq economically. Internally displaced persons do not qualify under the Geneva Convention for refugee status and therefore do not qualify for aid. Red Cross/Red Crescent is not allowed into the country due to U.S. sanctions and 500,000 children have died as a result from starvation and easily curable diseases. Saddam remained in power while his people suffered. Our foreign policy towards Iraq caused hatred from the common Iraqi towards us, and yet we wonder why.

One other primary reason the U.S. is hated is because of our communal ignorance of what happens on our Earth. The general American public has no idea what goes on in other countries, nor do they care. Therein lies the real rub. Friends, we are truly blessed in this country to be afforded the freedom to read what we please and to learn what we will. This is not the case in many places. So, when people who are not allowed to learn look at us and see that we choose not to learn, they cannot stand it. It is the irony of ironies and it cuts deep.

I had the opportunity to talk at length with a lady from Kosovo this summer. She told me her story – about how she was forced to leave her home with nowhere to go. She related how she and her family lived in a cave for a week and survived on one loaf of bread. I listened as she told me that before that horror, she was not permitted to go to school because of her ethnicity. If she were caught reading, she would have been shot. This is not a fear we know in this nation. It is almost incomprehensible to her and others like her that we in this nation choose not to learn about the world! Now, it pains me as well.

President Bush had it wrong when he listed reasons why “they” hate us. It is amazing - the “they” he talks about are no different from you and I. They have feelings as we do and they have fears as we do. However, they do not often have freedom as we do. Frequently we are envied, not hated, for our freedom. We are hated because we do not use it. I urge you, learn about what is happening in the world. Read! It is only from learning and understanding that we can begin to build up this world of ours together. I have faith it can be done, but it must begin with each of us. Let us not take for granted that with which we have been blessed. Let us not forget our sisters and brothers in other countries who suffer as we cannot fathom. Use what has been given to you – read, learn, understand, if for no other reason than because you can.

This editorial was answered with another editorial by David Dolgin, found here.

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The Price of War, the Cost of Peace; 3 

Originally published in the Old Gold and Black, Wake Forest University, October 10, 2002.

Last week I discussed further the victim/aggressor cycle, as well as the path to peace model and conceptualized its strengths and weaknesses. Then I looked at how it was being implemented in the Great Britain and Northern Ireland conflict and discussed the measures of its success. This week, for the final installment, I would like to write about how this all affects the United States of America. What is our nation’s role when conflict breaks out in the world? How can our nation stop perpetuating the cycle?

With regard to the conflict in Israel and Palestine, there is no stopping U.S. involvement. Regardless of whether anyone believes we have a right to be involved in that conflict, we are now inexorably intertwined in the conflict itself, and hopefully the solution. The first step the U.S. can take towards stopping violence, if that indeed is our goal, is to behave equally and equitably towards both parties involved. Dialogue needs to occur between Sharon, Arafat, and leaders of Hamas and al-Aqsa. Before any lasting peace can be accomplished, these groups are going to have to be satisfied. If the U.S. has taken upon itself to be involved in the peace process, then its actions need to reflect that desire.

Unabashed favoritism towards Israel by the U.S. estranges Palestinian leaders from the peace talks. It was, however, a step in the right direction when President Bush condemned Sharon’s tank presence surrounding Arafat’s Ramallah compound. I was very pleased to see that President Bush could identify that as being counterproductive. It is my sincere hope that the Bush administration will continue in this vein, bring Sharon and Arafat back to the table, and successfully mediate a lasting peace involving the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state. If peace is our goal, then that is what is required.

To move this concept even closer to home, let us look at the situation between the U.S. and Iraq. What can the U.S. do to prevent violence and bring about a peaceful conclusion? Warning: I am about to suggest something radical. The U.S. should get out of the Middle East and stop controlling Middle East oil. The U.S. is on the top of the world food chain now and Middle Eastern states are weak and not unified. This, I am afraid, will not always be the case. Bush and his administration should be mindful of the future consequences of the current proposed actions.
As the days go on it is becoming increasingly clear that the U.S. is not thinking far enough into the future and is planning on invading Iraq. Before I continue with my comments on this issue, I want to make it perfectly clear that I believe Saddam Hussein to be very bad person, capable of horrible acts. I firmly believe that he must be relieved of his position as political leader of Iraq. However, I see neither invasion nor economic sanctions as being the best route to that end.
If we engage in war with Iraq, it is necessary for everyone in this country to understand what that will mean, both for us and for the Iraqi people. It will not be a repeat of the Gulf War. Tanks will not square off against one another across the desert. SCUD missile sites and radar installations in the desert will not be the primary targets of our bombs. Saddam did have one sane thing to say in regard to this proposition - it will be “a fierce war”. Our planes will bomb cities in an effort to hit Saddam, and civilians will die by the multitude. Our soldiers will march on towns and cities in a search for Saddam, and the blood of civilians with stain the streets. I have no doubt that our military is far superior to the military might of Iraq, but I do not see us using it in this way as being the best possible course of action.

Since the end of the Gulf War 500,000 Iraqi children under the age of ten have died of starvation and easily curable diseases. This is the result of our economic sanctions, but Saddam still rules. When presented with this fact and asked if she thought it was worth the price, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright said, “It is a difficult choice, but I think it is worth the price.” Half a million children! To quote Will Campbell from last week’s University Chapel service, “Dare we talk of terrorism?” It is therefore clear to me that economic sanctions are worthless in this case, only hurting the innocent while the guilty feast.

This type of attack will only perpetuate the victim/aggressor cycle the U.S. has created in Iraq. I am afraid of what will happen if we attack. If it is true that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction, be they nuclear, biological, or chemical, then what better excuse does he need to use them than an invasion? Even if he has no delivery system capable of sending one across the Atlantic, he can deploy them against our Middle East bases and troops. If that happens I fear the U.S. will only retaliate in kind, trading blow for blow. That must be prevented at all costs! I believe that once one nuclear weapon is let fly, the sky will be darkened with them.

The truth of the matter is that the U.S. is a great nation, but a young nation by the world’s standards. To some, the U.S. right now is going through the mood swings typical of a teenage child. We cannot stay a teenage nation for much longer; we must mature and we must start behaving in a socially, politically, and economically responsible manner. There is no better time to begin than now. No one should ever have to believe that the death of half a million children is worth any price, any cause. No one should have to believe that life is so bad that death is preferable. No one should be convicted enough that they are worthless human beings to perform a suicide bombing. These are all indications on the world’s social barometer that something is grievously wrong. Instead of ignoring those signs and perpetuating their cause, the U.S. should behave like the great nation it is and seek peace, not war. The price of war has been too terrible. It is now time to invest in peace.

This editorial was answered with an editorial by David Dolgin, found here.

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The Price of War, The Cost of Peace; 2 

Originally published in the Old Gold and Black, Wake Forest University, October 3, 2002.

Last week I wrote briefly about the victim/aggressor cycle and how two different groups engaged in conflict move between the two systems in an unending, figure eight fashion. I used the conflict raging in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian territories as an example of the cycle and of how difficult it can be to move out of it. This week I want to talk about the other part of the victim/aggressor cycle, the path to peace, and identify its strengths and weaknesses followed by an example of where it has been implemented and is succeeding.

If the victim/aggressor cycle can be visualized as two circles backed up against one another, like a figure eight, one begins to understand how the two different systems work together to perpetuate conflict. Now, with that figure eight in mind, visualize a spiral leading out of the point where the two circles meet and rising above both of them. That is the conceptualized path to peace. From the middle of the victim/aggressor cycle rises hope; peace must begin with those individuals or groups most heavily involved.

The peace spiral that rises up has as its ultimate goal true healing and “justpeace”. This is a new word being used in the field of conflict transformation to describe a final stage in the process, where justice has been delivered to all concerned and peace finally reigns. However, along that spiral, at every level, there are slides back down into the victim/aggressor cycle, because a breakdown in the peace process is always possible. This is one of the drawbacks to this model.

If the initial effort is made by both parties to break out of violence and move towards peace, then both parties must be committed to the idea, in order to avoid falling back down into the cycle. Other models, such as total occupation, subjugation, or annihilation, do not have this to worry about because there is no cooperation - only domination, which leads to death. In the Palestinian and Israeli conflict, the world observed the path to peace being approached, if tentatively, in 1993. The Oslo Peace Accords were a significant first step in approaching justpeace. However, continued violence by both hard-line Palestinian groups and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) destroyed the opportunity given and slid both sides back down into the cycle of violence.

The idea to cease violence and approach the path to peace must come from within either of the groups involved in the conflict, then must be approached by both sides equally. Both groups must have a commitment to peace in order for it to work and a method for reigning in hard-line organizations, like the Zionists or the al-Aqsa Martyr Brigade. Let us now look at a conflict where the path to peace model was not only used, but succeeded and is now approaching completion.

It has been four years since the last instance of sanctioned violence occurred in the brutal conflict between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Since 1972, the Provisional IRA has carried out political violence attacks causing and in retaliation to attacks of the same nature by Great Britain. For twenty-six years, bombs have exploded in British and Northern Irish cities claiming the lives of thousands. Although on a smaller scale than the Palestinian and Israeli conflict (no occupation exists), this conflict followed the same pattern of victim/aggressor, but has since ceased to use violence and is moving forward on the path to peace.

The British government, the Northern Irish government, and Sinn Féin (the non-paramilitary element of the IRA) began to seriously consider peace in the early 90’s. In 1993 the Provisional IRA officially called off all military action in response to the Downing Street Declaration, but broke their agreement in early 1996 with the Canary Wharf bomb. In 1998 the Belfast Agreement was signed on Good Friday, and both parties seriously committed themselves to peace. However, only four months later a dissident, hard-line republican group known as the Real IRA exploded a bomb in the streets of Omagh, Northern Ireland. When the British government, the Northern Irish government, and Sinn Féin all condemned the attack, the Real IRA promised to immediately suspend all violence. Despite the violence, the key players in this conflict stood for peace at a crucial moment, when a breakdown was not only expected, but imminent.

The next phase in the peace process, the decommissioning of arms, was initiated after the Omagh bombing. In May 2000, the Provisional IRA began sealing away much of its weaponry in arms dumps “beyond use”. However, when it became known they were not decommissioning all their arms, David Trimble, North Ireland’s First Minister and a key player in the peace process, shocked everyone by resigning. He claimed it was clear peace was not a goal if there was not a commitment to decommission. When the Provisional IRA responded positively with more decommission, he stepped back into office.

The attacks on America of September 11, 2001, brought about a sense of urgency in North Ireland, and decommission of arms was stepped up due to international pressure. Both governments, as well as Sinn Féin and the Provisional IRA, are committed to peace now. However, the problem of dissident groups remains. There were several, small outbreaks of violence this past summer, all of which received serious condemnation by all key players. This conflict is truly using the path to peace model and it is working. Opportunities to backtrack and begin violence anew have abounded, but all parties have responded, “No, we have had enough.” With time, even the dissident groups will be brought into check (because all major players rebuke them) and justpeace will flourish.

It is clear that the path to peace model does take time, and there is always the threat of backsliding down into the cycle of violence. However, when all major players (governments and large paramilitaries) come into accord with one another and agree to walk the path of peace, a hopeful future is in sight. Yet, that first step must be made and the commitment to peace must be present. Then and only then can bloody conflict cease. Then and only then does justpeace have a chance. Next week, I will attempt to answer that all-important question: So what? Or rather, what does it mean for the U.S.?

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The Price of War, The Cost of Peace; 1 

Originally published in the Old Gold and Black, Wake Forest University, September 26, 2002.

Part I: Overview. For a nation that claims to be one which loves and embraces peace, we have managed to be at war for the majority of our existence. The Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Cold War, Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War, War against Terrorism. (And coming soon, to a theatre near you, Gulf War: The Sequel.) This is what some would call the cost of peace, or, as author Robert Heinlein put it, “If you would have peace, then prepare for war.” Many argue that peace must be paid for in the blood, sweat, and tears of soldiers, but there are other courses available. The price of war is paid in blood, sweat, and tears, but these are not the denominations of peace. Peace can be purchased on credit.

The traditional war formula of nation-state versus nation-state has been going out of style. This is why many people today think that there is relative peace around the globe. However, that is not the case. There are very few, if any, traditional “declared” wars occurring right now, but there are thirty-six countries on this earth that are currently embroiled in armed conflict. These regions and nations are paying the price of war in lives by the millions. It has gotten so bad in most regions that the individuals living there are no longer living in a culture of life, but a culture of death. These people do not wake up in the morning and wonder if their loved ones are alive and well, they wonder how many have died in the passing of the night. That is the dreadful price of war.

The models provided to us by such great leaders as Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are not being given enough credence. Most argue their ideas of peace are worthless and that they will accomplish nothing. I ask, what is this world accomplishing now by violence but the death of millions? What is this world accomplishing by making the streets run red with blood? That is not hyperbole; there are really streets today that are covered in blood, often the blood of innocents. Violence has begotten violence in a vicious, unending cycle of victim/aggressor. That has been the price of war. The cost of peace is not meted out in blood, but in hope and in faith.

Gandhi was committed to non-violence and his followers stepped out on a limb to believe him. His accomplishments in India were vast, and his hand fired not one bullet. He was able to do this because he believed in peace and in a culture of life. He was filled with hope. The hearts of many today have not felt hope in years; it has been blocked out by the shadows of doubt and fear.

When I say that peace can be purchased on credit, I am referring to the breaking of a cycle. When one group of people is victimized by another, they identify themselves as the victim. Naturally, the other group becomes the aggressor. Yet when the victimized people retaliate, they become the aggressor and the former aggressor, the victim. These two cycles of victim and aggressor become inevitably linked as the two groups move between them.
Now that I have spoken about theory for a time, I would like to use a present day example. This is what is going in most regions of the world beset by war today. But I want to focus now on Palestine and Israel. It seems peace is far away, if it can be envisioned at all. Neither group will accomplish their goals by means of violence. Someone must have the courage and the faith to purchase peace on credit. Someone must be brave enough to say, “We’ve both had enough. Let it end here.” This breaks the victim/aggressor cycle and it is from that point that both sides can move forward towards a lasting peace. The danger of falling back is always present, but as long as hope remains, peace can be purchased on credit.

The difficulty in Palestine and Israel is that there are too many separate groups with different interests involved. I fully believe that the only solution to that problem is the creation of two separate states with clearly defined boundaries. Two people, two states. Within Palestine, Arafat is losing power everyday and the hard liners are gaining it. Those groups willing to talk with Israel to move towards the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state are being hamstrung. Groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad declare they will never accept a Palestinian leader who acknowledges the state of Israel.

Sharon and his IDF are no better. They do not desire the creation of a Palestinian state. What they want is for all Palestinians to be either dead or gone. This is not a culture of life, nor is it a culture where peace can easily be sought. The people are living in fear and until that fear is relieved peace has little chance. From the Gaza Strip, the words of a friend of mine: “I was in the middle of Gaza Strip while the IDF invaded the place, they started shelling and shooting. People here are awake all the night afraid of the planes and the shelling, and afraid of the invasion that may occur at any moment.” Living with that kind of fear is not conducive to moving towards peace.

Once the violence is stopped and peace is purchased on credit, it will take a generation to come and go before peace is secured. There are people living in Israel and Palestine right now who are not old enough to remember a peaceful time, and so they believe violence to be normal. Once that equation is reversed, and there is a generation not old enough to remember war, they will believe peace to be the norm. Then, and only then, will peace have a chance. But, it will take courage to make that first step. It will take faith to ask for peace on credit. It will take bravery to put down a gun. It can be done. Peace can succeed. All it needs is an opportunity. The price of war has been far too high. Isn’t it time peace was offered a true chance? Part II: Details – next week.

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Responding to Terrorism 

Originally published in the Old Gold and Black, Wake Forest University, September 19, 2002. This article was the work of a committee of Caux Scholars, for which Macani Toungara was the principal author.

With the anniversary of the attacks of September 11 come and gone I want to reflect for a moment about the future. It is my belief that our response to that attack was not wholly appropriate, but the question then arises: what would have been appropriate? I believe that our response was short sighted, that it did not take into account the long run. We failed to look at the history behind us, and in so doing we were blind in our approach to the future. So, where do we go from here? It will one day be our responsibility to shape the globe. Following are my suggestions of how to deal with the problem of terrorism in the future. What we have done now is simply sliced the weed of terrorism off at the ground, but the root still thrives beneath. We need, in the future, to target the root and not just the weed.

I have envisioned a world where leaders will address mass grievances before they manifest themselves as acts of terror. When thousands of voices rise up at once against oppression or a perceived injustice, it is evidence that something is wrong. Our responsibility as leaders will be to handle those grievances in such a way as to be beneficial to both parties, before violence is ever considered. Violence is the last resort of desperate individuals and if we do our job correctly, people will not reach the point of desperation.

In this type of world, voices of dissent will not only have to be tolerated, but also heeded, and collaboration will have to be emphasized over domination. Listen to those who disagree with you, it may strengthen your argument, or it might even change your mind. However, neither of those is possible if voices of dissent are silenced. I hope that by focusing on the following root problems of today, future leaders can focus on preventing terror, rather than forcing societies to bear the burden of violence.

Future leaders must make conflict prevention in foreign and national policy a top priority. The war in Afghanistan has cost billions of dollars, including the cost of financing the reconstruction of communities destroyed. The earlier intervention of governments to promote and finance the development of good governance and democracy in Afghanistan may have resulted in a change similar to the impact of the Marshall Plan on Europe. Several organizations, such as Medecins sans Frontiers and the West African Network for Peace, already study areas of conflict and provide analysis of potential problems in conflict areas. The reallocation of resources towards understanding early warning signs and prevention of violent conflict saves lives, economies and societies from destruction.

When we are surrounded by the sounds of bombings and guns, both from and as a response to terror attacks, it is difficult to hear the actual “why” behind the trigger finger. Economic desperation leads to extremist behavior. The stability of the world thus rests upon the development of its poorest countries. Bretton Woods institutions are reviewing their traditional neo-liberal economic development models; however, this review should include greater efforts to curb the exploitation of developing economies and to provide creative opportunities for developing nations to acclimate to the international economy.

For the past year, we have tossed around terms that we do not fully understand. The term “terrorist” has been applied too broadly to denigrate a cross-section of dissident minority groups and organizations. Recently, governments around the world have begun to label internal dissidents as terrorists in order to gain greater support for military action against them. Governments are only addressing the immediate threat of violence by isolating and destroying dissident groups. In the long term, the failure to open the lines of communication will only lead to increased and prolonged violence.

State-sponsored political violence is a source of conflict that may plague future generations’ leaders and motivate violent reprisal and social unrest. Many leaders fail to acknowledge their governments’ state-sponsored political violence towards other nations and their own citizens, especially as it relates to limitations on civil liberties and institutionalized ethnocentrism and racism. The United States, as one example, has failed to take responsibility for the impact of US-backed “proxy-war” - the arming of rebel groups to destroy elected governments (particularly in Central and South America). Future leaders must acknowledge the existence of state sponsored political violence and actively work towards its elimination. In doing so, we target the sources of frustration and anger that fuel the violence of dissident groups and can therefore move towards a peaceful solution.

In order to decrease the threat of violence on a global scale, future leaders should consider strengthening international bodies. These bodies should have the capability to impose effective checks and balances to hold even the most powerful nations accountable for the global spillovers of their actions. Furthermore, a critical element also involves the UN Security Council’s reform, which should reflect the current regional, demographic, and economic state of the globe and should not consist purely of unilateral veto power play. The institutions in place now need not be eliminated, just reformed so that they can more effectively do the job for which they were created.

Moreover, nations must adopt accountable and representative institutions that abide by international tenets on democracy. Accommodation of and dialogue with dissenting parties is critical to the democratic process. We should view dissenting opinion as an opportunity to reevaluate the effectiveness of public policy. Additionally, we must work hard to avoid xenophobia, in part by encouraging the media to identify violations of civil rights within our societies. The media plays a critical role as it is often the first and only source of information the populace receives, and therefore bias present in the media is particularly damaging.
Though our current leaders have tried to eliminate the visible traces of the weed of terrorism, they have left us a garden full of menacing roots. I call on all young leaders, who may soon arrive in positions of political power, to think forward and push themselves to extract the root of terrorism. Young leaders need not be bound by the choices of their predecessors. If they nurture the seeds of change and uproot the seeds of destruction, they have the potential to build a vibrant and flourishing world free of terror. As the Chinese proverb says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”. Let us not be afraid to take that one, small step now and to keep moving in a forward direction.

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Remembering Afghanistan 

Originally published in the Old Gold and Black, Wake Forest University, on September 6, 2002.

For many Americans next Thursday, September 12, 2002, will be New Year’s Day. It will be the start of year one following the attack on America. Yet, for the rest of the world, and indeed for many other Americans, it will be yet another day in September. Citizens of the United States will certainly mourn, and moments of silence will most likely be observed. Meanwhile, others around the globe will nod their heads in our direction and then resume their business. Before we come to this day, let us take a moment to reflect on the past year, what has happened, and how we as a nation and as a member of the world community have responded.

A note on my perspective: I write to you as one who recently learned much about the world’s opinion of the United States and as one who was shocked by what he discovered. I do not hate America, by any stretch of the imagination. I love America for what it is supposed to stand for and for all it has given me. Yet, due to my recent experiences abroad, I can no longer be complacent about my nation’s foreign policies. Criticism is necessary and good. Onward.

On September 11, 2001, a foreign enemy breached continental American soil for the first time since the War of 1812, and it was breached thoroughly. A well-planned and well-executed attack was carried out destroying Americans’ sense of security and invincibility as well as buildings and lives. Over three thousand American lives were lost; it was undeniably a tragedy. Children were left orphaned, wives and husbands lost their beloved, and brothers and sisters were left alone in the world.

Yet, the knee-jerk reaction with which we responded did not endear us to the global community and was indicative of our nation’s destructive foreign policies. Frankly, I was surprised that we waited as long as we did before we attacked someone. The amazing fact remains that almost one year and billions of dollars later, we still do not know who committed this act! President Bush’s “War on Terrorism” has accomplished almost nothing but the slow loss of international support, especially from the Arab world. The “War on Terrorism” is what I have termed the Great National Excuse. It is our excuse to do anything that we want, to any other country (even to any other individual in our own country) and call it “fighting terrorism”.

This summer I spoke with an Afghani woman while on a study program in Switzerland. Not only is she Afghani, but a citizen of the United States of America. Indeed, she is a college professor, supposedly a well respected profession. Yet when she flew back to the U.S. from her annual visit to Afghani refugee camps, she was forced to remain in the airport for fourteen hours while officials carried out the directives of the Patriot Act (reading every paper she had on her, every file on her laptop, and even listening to every last second of her musical CD collection). With this Patriot Act we are “fighting terrorism”, but if you read it closely what you find is a part of the Great National Excuse that strips citizens of their constitutional rights! Under this atrocity, amendments 1, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 14 no longer apply. Look it up for yourself if you do not believe me.

This is only one example of the Great National Excuse, but there are many others. The U.S. bombardment of Afghanistan delivered myriad results. One: it has removed the oppressive Taliban government from power. Two: it has hindered the activities of the al’Qaeda group and executed or imprisoned many of its members. Three: It has claimed the lives of over three thousand, nine hundred Afghani civilians who had nothing to do with either al’Qaeda or the Taliban. This is because, according to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, “some of our ordnance ended up where it should not have.” How astute.

Someone I met this summer asked me if we held a moment of silence after the September 11 attacks, and I responded affirmatively. They then asked me if we held a moment of silence for the Afghani people who died as a result of U.S. bombing. Have we? How many more will have to die violently before we hold that moment of silence?

How many of us Wake students actually know the first thing about Afghanistan? I willingly admit that before this summer, I knew nothing, even including its location. Some mediocre knowledge about the nation may help us to understand what has transpired and what is continuing to unfold. In 1979, with government and power structures crumbling, Afghanistan was invaded by the Soviet Union. The U.S. decided to involve itself on behalf of Afghanistan over the next nine years by supplying the Afghani people with funds, weapons, and training. One student in our Afghani school of war paid particular attention and soon distinguished himself from the rest. Saudi national Osama bin Laden was our champion in Afghanistan.

After the war ended, the U.S. disappeared with all its aid, money, and support. Afghanistan was left weak and unstable. Afghan citizens could not understand why the U.S. quit their presence there, nor what was to become of their future. It has often been said since September 11, 2001, that the attacks were a wake-up call to the U.S. Yet, how many of us knew to what we were supposed to wake up? If indeed Osama bin Laden was behind the attacks, then perhaps he, in a twisted, evil, and horrible way, was trying to say, “Hey! Remember us?” This is inflammatory, I know, but please, just try and think about it in that way for one moment. Don’t get me wrong, the attacks on our nation can in no way ever be justified, but they can be understood. To me, understanding the attacks in this way seems to answer President Bush’s question of “why do they hate us” so much better (and more truthful) than he did himself.

After any tragedy, an important step towards healing is grieving. Part of grieving is taking time for self-reflection, for really delving deep within ourselves (and our nation) and for figuring out who we are. We did not allow ourselves time to grieve - American flags tacked onto bumpers do not count - and therefore, we eliminated self-reflection. Can we, after one year, go back to that grieving stage and think inwardly? I pray that we can at least try, for it is there that true healing can begin and pave the road to peace.

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I Suppose There Are Stranger Places 

While walking to the brown line Diversey "el" stop tonight I passed a bank. It was, of course, closed but it had a couple of ATM's in the vestibule area. As I passed it, I noticed a man, sitting atop a garbage can in this ATM vestibule reading Pablo Neruda. I figure he's waiting in line. But no. There was no one using the ATM. He was just in a bank, late on a Friday night, sitting on a trash can reading him some Neruda. I love this city...


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Friday, April 15, 2005

Bill's Dead 

I watched Kill Bill, vol. 1 last weekend. I watched Kill Bill, vol. 2 tonight. They were pretty strange films. Well, really, they are more like one film, and it was a strange one. Pretty standard revenge type plot line with a twist towards the end. Lots of over the top gore, but in such a way that it is comical rather than gross. Lots of over the top acting, in a classic melodrama style. No comedic interludes. It leaves me feeling...unfulfilled. I liked the second volume more than the first, and I'd probably watch them again, but not for a long time. It's now past my bedtime.


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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

What They Say 

When you meet someone outside your place of work, and you're not wearing an obvious uniform, do they seem to know how to react when you tell them what you do? Do they treat you differently after you tell them?

One of the weirdest, most fun, but often quickly annoying responses I find in the spectrum of human reactions in social situations is when the words, "I'm studying to become a priest," come out of my mouth. One of two reactions is almost immediate. They are either sorry for you, or, more common, they are sorry for something they did or said in your presence. Sometimes a litany of past perceived grievances surfaces and sometimes they just look like you've punched them in the gut. Rarely, you get an appreciative glance or a knowing smile.

There's a couple of guys who work out at the gym around the same time I do, and over the past year or so, we've become friends. I knew that one of them had a long running, distinguished career as a postman, so I was not surprised when I saw him at Seabury, picking up some mail. It was during the last station of the Good Friday service, so we did not get a chance to chat as I was occupied. When I mentioned it to him the next time I saw him in the gym, he said he thought it was me but couldn't tell for sure. Then he asked me what I did there. See previous paragraph.

Now, it seems, our relationship is changed. And I don't like it. Every day now a religious joke of some sort is made. Like when I struggle to do my final rep on the bench, he or one of his friends will call out, "You gotta say a 'Hail Mary' if you don't pump that one out!" Then comes the barrages of questions, "Can you get married?" "Can you drink," "Why are you in here all the time? Shouldn't you be praying," I didn't know priests worked out," and so forth. It'll calm down after a while and things will settle back down to normal, but in the meantime, it is frustrating. I want a bumper sticker that reads, "Priests are normal people too!"


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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

I'm Sorry... 

I now remember that when I was at Caux, I had the opportunity to hear a talk given by Aaron Lazare, a psychologist and professor whose area of expertise is shame and humiliation. His talk was all about apology, how to make one, what a good one sounds like and accomplishes, what a bad one sounds like and accomplishes, and the power that lies in both. It really was an eye-opening lecture for me, and I've tried to employ his methods (or what I've remembered of them) whenever I've needed to make an apology. In one case, a broken relationship of mine experienced reconciliation when I took initiative to make a heartfelt apology, which was one of the hardest things I have ever done.

When I was home for Spring Break, my father was telling me about the Bonita Springs Speakers Assembly, of which he is now the President, and how Dr. Lazare was an upcoming speaker who would talk about apology. Well, that jogged my memory and I said, "I think I've heard him before. I think he spoke to us at Caux, but I can't be sure." I knew we had a talk about apology that I liked, but I couldn't remember the guy's name, though Lazare sounded right.

So, today, in the mail, Dad sent me a copy of Dr. Lazare's book, On Apology. I quickly turned to the acknowledgments section, where he sure enough writes, "Bryan Hamlin was responsible for inviting me to present my ideas to an international audience at Caux, Switzerland..." I had remembere correctly - it was him! Then I flip to the title page and see that Dr. Lazare had autographed the book for me and addressed the autograph to "Ryan Whitley, Caux Scholar 2002". Very nice! I feel privileged that I got to hear some of his ideas before they came out in this book and excited that now I get to read them and have them in my library.

On a side note, my Switzerland trip prompted me to write a series of editorials for Wake Forest's Paper, The Old Gold and Black, one of which was about apology, taking its ideas from Dr. Lazare's talk. Sometime this weekend, I will post all those editorials and then link to them in my sidebar, so that they are available. I used to have them on my old website, but never got around to putting them here. So, when you see about 10 long posts all for one day, you'll know what has happened.


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Monday, April 11, 2005

A Good Mood 

This evening I am in a good mood. There was a lovely service today (minus one small fainting incident - not me), I met some prospectives students at lunch, lifted well at the gym, enjoyed a good dinner served on time, had a phone conversation that put a smile on my face, talked with an old friend online to whom I haven't spoken in too long of a while, and have relatively little work to do tonight. I've got to translate some Hebrew, but once I get into that, I truly have fun with it. (I also volunteered to read the Acts 2 passage on Pentecost in Hebrew for Canterbury, so I need to get to work practicing on that.) I'm also getting excited for a vacation I'm helping to plan for June; it's sort of a mini-reunion for some fraternity brothers of whom we all see far too little these days. And now my tea is done brewing, so I'm off to drink it, read hebrew, and then take some time to myself. What a concept...


[Later (11:27pm): Turns out my free time vanished in the site of the lengthy Hebrew passage I had to translate. But, that was ok because it was an exceptionally good one - Exodus 3:1-13, the burning bush sequence in which God reveals His name to Moses and commission him to go to Egypt to bring out the Israelites (sons of Israel). We didn't get to my favorite part of this conversation, which is when Moses complains a bit too much and God retorts, in a booming James Earl Jonesy voice (it says that in the original Hebrew text too, "in a booming James Earl Jonesy voice"), "Who gave man his mouth...was it not I!!" Also, continuing the good mood streak, my Wednesday morning class was cancelled! Mmmm...sleep...]

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Sunday, April 10, 2005

A Visit from a Friend; A Sobering Moment 

An old friend of mine was in town this weekend being wined and dined by U of C's cultural anthropology doctoral program. She has been accepted into the program and received a full scholarship, so she is quite pleased by it all. This is something she really, really wants to do; when I asked how everything went, her eyes welled up with tears of joy as she expressed to me just how overwhelmed by it all she is. I felt very excited and happy for her - this is her time, her shot. Go get 'em Kate! We went out Saturday night to watch Second City, which was hilarious as per usual. She really enjoyed that and she liked getting to see a little bit of the city too. It was great to see her and great to see her so happy.

Tonight in talking with my mother I learned that my Uncle Phil is not doing so hot. His brain tumor is causing him problems again. Last year they operated and took out what they could, but made no pretenses of getting it all. He is having a lot of negative side effects now and is going to have to enter a medical assisted living facility, something no one wants to have to do. The strain on his family is enormous; his son drives cross state every weekend to be with him, his daughter who is still in school comes when she can as well, his parents are leaving Florida this week to go back to their Indiana home (why, I do not know - time appears to be short), and his ex-wife is, well, his ex-wife. I ask your prayers for Phil and for his family. Please pray with me for God's will to be done and for a dignified death without pain, suffering, or fear; please pray with me for the comfort and consolation of the Holy Spirit upon his family and all who care for him through the intercessions of blessed St. Luke the physician and the Ever-Blessed Virgin Mary. Please pray with me also for my Grandmother, my Uncle Al, and my Uncle Jack, all whose health has seen far better days. Please pray.


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Friday, April 08, 2005


I've had nothing to say on here for the past few days.

I just spent over two hours completing my preaching assignment: write a dynamic opening sentence to a sermon and a challenging closing sentence.

This is not like me.


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Wednesday, April 06, 2005


My blogging tonight was done over at the Biblical Theology class blog.


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Tuesday, April 05, 2005


The last 24 hours have been kinda exciting, some in a good way, some in a bad.

So, yesterday at about this time, I was doing some reading and I heard a loud noise from outside. As in, a loud noise like someone hitting my car with something. So I get up and go out. Sure enough, someone had tried to smash the driver side window of my car, but failed. Hah! Wuss! It's all scratched up now, which is frustrating, but at least it didn't break. That could have led to a whole host of other irritations.

This morning was the Student Government meeting followed by the Middler Class meeting. At the latter I was nominated and elected to be co-Class Convener with Shana Banana, so that was quite the honor. This means I am in charge of all the important doings for our class next year and for calling us together as a class for meetings to discuss them. It's a decent sized job, but the honor of being nominated and elected is the real treat. Thanks y'all.

The Annunciation service went fairly smoothly and was glorious. So far, I've received good feedback from those of my classmates with whom I have spoken. No one even complained about the use of incense, though I felt poorly for one classmate who has a terrible cold/respiratory infection thing but showed up anyway to hear her fiancé chant the Gospel. Now that's dedication. The sermon, found here, was very good, and well worth a gander. My favorite part of the service, by far, was the wonderful cantoring of the Psalm in Anglican Chant (no mean feat) by a marvelous quartet of voices! It was truly a beautiful sound.

At the gym after class, I goofed up when adding weight to the bar for the bench and added 10 lbs more than I have been doing. But, when I figured it out, I had already done it, so I kept going, adding more weight each set. By the third set I did four repetitions of a weight that at one point in the not so distant past used to be my max. That's awesome! Softball season, here I come!

After that, I came home, showered, put acid on my foot, translated some Hebrew very quickly, ate dinner, and headed out to watch the Big Dance at a bar with some friends. Surrounded by a sea of orange, I had to be quiet in my rooting for UNC. Now why the hell would I root for UNC you're asking yourself. Well, I weighed my options carefully. Which team do I hate less? Illinois beat us, so if they won, we would have nothing to say. But, we beat UNC in the only game we played with them, so if they won, we could say we beat the National Champs. So I picked blue, grudgingly. It paid off in the end, with a 75-70 UNC victory. Since I picked them in my bracket to go all the way as well, it got me massive points and rescued me from the depths of last place all the way up to second place, because most others selected Illinois. So, that was cool. And now, I'm gonna do the most exciting thing ever......and go to bed. Goodnight y'all.


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Monday, April 04, 2005

Ready for Annunciation 

I'm very excited about today's service commemorating the Annunciation of our Lord Jesus Christ to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was a lot of fun to plan and to rehearse, so I can't wait to see all that hard work pay off in the Mass today.

I've never been big into Mary, really. But lately, I've been exploring the more Anglo-catholic side of things, as some of you well know, and as that's a big part of it, I figured what better way to learn than to MC the service.

Also, this service kicks off a month of Monday high church, Anglo-Catholic MC'ed services at Seabury. Glory be to the Lord on high!


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Sunday, April 03, 2005

The Archer of the Forest 

I was just browsing through some of the blogs in the "Bloggin' Episcopalians" blogring and came across The Archer of the Forest. Much to my surprise, the Archer is a classmate of mine! Welcome to the world of blogging my friend!! Everyone go take a peek at what he's got to say.


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Come, Holy Spirit 

Serving as a torchbearer this morning at St. Luke's was an excellent experience. It felt so good to be back serving at an altar in a parish, processing in and recessing out, vesting, the whole bit. Though torchbearers do a bit more at St. Luke's than we did at St. Hilary's, it was still manageable. Basically I processed in, did the Gospel procession, was prepared with the Lavabo, helped set out the patens and chalices, and recessed out. The other torchbearer was the Acolyte instructor who taught me yesterday, so when I was unsure about something he was ready to tell me where to go or what to do. But all in all it went very smoothly and God was worshipped. I look forward to two weeks from now when I will be the crucifer!

This evening over dinner at Canterbury, a wonderfully strange moment came upon us. There we were eating dinner, having a discussion, and generally not doing anything out of the ordinary for this group when quite suddenly and not altogether in context, one of the seniors turned to one of the freshmen and asked, "Do you want to be a priest?" Conversation paused. Everyone looked and the young man as he stammered through an answer that was filled with yes' and no's, maybes, I'm not sures, and why do you asks. I grinned because for a moment I felt like I was looking into a mirror. Turning to the senior who had posed the question I said, "That's a very interesting question ______, why do you ask?" They replied that they were not real sure, but that they could see it. I agreed and suggested to the somewhat befuddled and honored freshman, "Pay attention to questions like that."

It was a definite God moment. Come, Holy Spirit, come.


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Saturday, April 02, 2005

A Full Weekend 

Last night a classmate and I ventured downtown to join Jeff and his girlfriend at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art for their First Friday's event. It was a lot of fun; we saw some weird art and made some creative postcards; a cadre of women whom Jeff and I know showed up and I, at least, enjoyed catching up with some of them who I have not seen in a long time; my classmate ran into an 8th grade schoolmate of hers in line and they recognized each other - surreal.

This morning was the first softball practice of the season (and a more gorgeous day we could not have wanted) and I must say the Saints are leagues ahead of where we were this time last year. Batting looks decent, fielding can always use some work even among the more experienced and athletic players, and the new additions to the team will quickly find their niche. Following that I veged out for a while and watched a couple of Six Feet Under episodes over lunch. Then I headed to St. Luke's to be trained for acolyting (I make my acolyte debut at Mass tomorrow as a torchbearer). I was told to be there at 4 for the meeting, which was to be after the new priest's installation service. So I arrived ready for a casual meeting, dressed in a t-shirt, shorts, and sandals (given the warm weather). I walk in in the middle of the service. The first thing I notice is the two Bishops. Nervously I settle in to the back pew and glance around seeing no less than three of my professors. Embarrassment doesn't cover how I felt. They were just beginning the Eucharistic prayer, so I joined in during the appropriate parts. I could not, however, bring myself to walk up that aisle to receive communion. Not only did I feel physically unprepared, but somewhat spiritually as well, seeing as how I missed the Liturgy of the Word. After the service, I got my training, which was fun and I am looking forward to tomorrow's service. This is gonna be fun!


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Friday, April 01, 2005

Holding Resurrection Accountable 

On Easter morning, the Rev. Ellen Wondra preached an excellent sermon challenging us to hold resurrection accountable. With two dear friends of the family recently deceased, you better be darn sure I'm holding resurrection accountable. After their deaths, I learned so much neat stuff about them that now I have tons of questions I want to ask. It seems they both had lives of faith, which I didn't really know about, that could teach me innumerable things about what it means to be a Christian.

It is sad to me, though, that holding resurrection accountable does seem to be a big problem in this world. Though I could discuss Terri Schiavo, God rest her soul, I feel that she deserves her peace. She's been disgracefully and shamefully made into an issue more than any person should. No, what I want to ask is about Pope John Paul II.

It seems to me that the Roman Catholic world is in denial over this man's imminent death and I don't understand that. The Roman Catholic faith is not going to end after John Paul II dies. The Church is not going to collapse. There will be another Pope and the faith of Jesus Christ as expressed in the Roman Catholic way will live on. No, this should indeed be a time of graduation, as my old friend Jim Newton would have said. Graduations are both happy and sad, because you're going on to something better, but you are leaving something else behind. In this case, John Paul II is going home to be in the full presence of the God he has served so faithfully all his life and bless him for it. So, John Paul II, Godspeed my brother. May your crossing over be painless and your reception be to the sound of the angels gathered around the throne with the white-robed army of martyrs and all the saints crying as if in one voice, "Hallelujah!" To my Roman Catholic brothers and sisters - the church will roll on. The faith will continue. God is still on the throne.


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