We meet the 1st and 3rd Thursdays at St. Gertrude's Ministry Center
(6214 N. Glenwood), beginning at 8:00 p.m. Folks are welcome to join us at anytime.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Crucifixion--Resurrection of NATO-G8

Just supposing two stations of the cross, the crucifixion and the resurrection, this is what I came up with regarding NATO-G8.

Crucifixion… We see how the US foreign policy relies not on moral authority but on nuclear deterrence in order to bolster its position as the head of NATO. We are privileged bystanders of the violence imposed by NATO currently in Libya besides Afghanistan where the US soldiers burn a pile of the precious Koran.

Meanwhile the Group of Eight hinges on NATO security measures for discussions of oil prices. The G8 worries over oil futures given political instability in the Middle East, the unrest in Syria, and tensions over a supposed nuclear program in Iran, but cannot count the human cost. Obama will reassure other heads of state, financial ministers, and bank presidents that he will make no drastic changes. Even if he makes a reduction in troops of 28,000 they can count on the 100,000 troops that will still occupy Afghanistan. He will promise not take advantage of the expected mild recession of the Eurozone to devaluate the dollar as President Bush did in his 2004 campaign, and he will insist that the Federal Reserve will keep the federal funds rate close to zero. Thus the G8 will set its 2012-13 agenda for global capitalism.

Resurrection…Afghan Peace Volunteers emerge with the moral authority to mediate the conflict between NATO and Taliban forces. They refuse a compromise that would subject Afghans to the perpetual occupation of foreign troops. They insist on their right to sovereign control over natural resources and garner pledges from the international community for debt relief, reserve control of funds, and reclaim authority over nation-building programming. Their use of nonviolent means inspires the majority of the 28 member countries of NATO to assert inward pressure until an agreement is signed.

This signatory act hails an emergent grassroot community of nonviolent means to reclaim their sovereignty in defiance of the Alliance Treaty. They assert that a true community has a nonviolent economics that does not depend on means which can only lead to bloodshed. At a future assembly of the United Nations a new set of conditions is devised to control oversight of military alliances, forcing accountability of future disarmament pledges and giving harsh scrutiny of all military budgets. The US budget that historically allotted 60% to its military and 6% to education is reversed, and the US allows its nuclear weapons program to go defunct.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

In View of History

Historical perception must never be arbitrary and ill-informed; instead it must be loving suggest the political philosophers Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri in Multitude (2004). What is lacking for social change, they argue, is a socio-political concept of love relevant to history: "People today seem unable to understand love as a political concept, but a concept of love is just what we need to grasp the constituent power of the multitude..." (351)It is a given that how we act in the present will depend on how we perceive history. A fire that lights other fires will look to Peter Maurin who has said that our view of history must come from biblical history and church history. We cannot render our sense of history unto Caesar, at least if we are true to the ashes on our forehead. Four segments of history follow, ultimately pointing back to the need for a political concept of love when regarding history. The first two glimpses compare individuals, the martyr and the accommodator, while the latter two focus on the catholic community by considering the cases of Nicaragua and Northern Ireland. The survey begs the question how we situate our view of history today considering the threat of police violence to bulwark the NATO-G8.

The Martyr

1) One of many second century martyrs facing an imperial proconsul arrested for the crime of Atheism, since Rome correctly viewed the Christian as a dissenter of the pantheon of Roman gods. “But Polycarp said: ‘The fire you threaten burns but an hour and is quenched after a little; for you do not know the fire of the coming judgment and everlasting punishment that is laid up for the impious. But why do you delay? Come, do what you will.’”

The Accommodator

2) The martyrdom of Polycarp is retold by Eusebius in his forth century History of the Church. Contrary to his own subjects of historical study, the accommodating bishop was instrumental in normalizing Christianity which thenceforth was defanged of its pacifism. “[T]he most important and reliable historian of the ancient church” according to Guy Schonfield, Eusebius was hardly a prophet for his contemporaries of the fourth century. Emperor Constantine once heralded him fit to be bishop of the whole world and in 325 at the Council of Nicea, over which the emperor himself presided, they sat side by side. It was to Eusebius that Constantine told the story of a heavenly vision prompting his conversion and it was from Eusebius that the earthly emperor received his baptism. History of the Church Introduction (13, 29)

The Case of Nicaragua: A Divided Church

3) The Sandanista revolution in Nicaragua surfaced a schism within Catholicism. Like Eusebius, bishops could apparently tolerate oppressive regimes which it viewed as more compatible to church interests. Meanwhile, a few priests held positions in the newly formed Sandanista government; this reflected the catholic culture of the revolutionaries. But it was anathema to the hierarchy which ordered the priests to desist from such political involvement. “Edgard Parrales, one of the targeted priests, recalled a conversation with the nuncio in 1981. The nuncio told Parrales that the Vatican was going to back the bishops ‘even if the bishops were wrong,’ according to Parrales. ‘Even if they go against the gospel and the truth?’ asked the priest. ‘In whatever circumstances,’ answered the nuncio.” From an interview with Joseph Mulligan, S.J. in July 1989 The Nicaraguan Church and the Revolution (171)

Northern Ireland: Religious War

4) As would be case in Nicaragua where the poor suffered oppression, the oppression of catholics in Northern Ireland was viewed as a political concern and wholly secular affair, not a religious matter. In 1972 over sixty catholics were killed by the Shankill butchers, a gang led by Lenny Murphy whose purpose was to terrify the catholic community in Belfast. Oliver Rafferty S.J. interprets the history as ‘a religious war’ explaining in Catholicism in Ulster: 1603-1983 : “To many ordinary catholics it seemed that the forces of the ‘protestant’ state and the British government were directed against them. Since internment was such a devastating weapon the opposition to it was equally vehement. After the initial violence, the protests continued and catholics took to the streets of Northern Ireland in unprecedented numbers calling for an end to this most draconian measure. The shooting dead of thirteen people at an anti-internment rally in Derry on 30 January 1972 (‘Bloody Sunday’) united the whole catholic population—bishops, clergy and laity—as never before since the start of the troubles. The sense of outrage over the deaths undoubtedly led to the fall of the Stormont parliament as the British government engaged in a damage limitation exercise to sustain its flagging international image.” (270)

In this brief survey we have seen two portraits of individuals, one a martyr for the faith and one an accommodator, and additionally looked at the case of both Nicaragua and Northern Ireland. Today each of us will wonder if we can defend our faith in the face of adversarial pressure. We will also have to find the skill to communicate that belief. I have referenced three church historians. The first was an accommodator. The second is a former prisoner of conscience for crossing the line at the School of the Americas. The third taught me a course of church history at Loyola University. Joe Mulligan reminds me of Polycarp for his witness of direct action and to me his example seems most authentic to the values he communicated as historian, principle among them saying yes to the poor in love, means a defiant no to their oppressors. Such integrity offers a point of aspiration for us. For example, we have begun to call this May a kairos moment for good reason; we observe God acting in history calling us out into the world for direct action and we believe that we exist to love and in loving we make our faith known. Hardt and Negri affirm the proportions of martyrdom that this love can take in necessity: "We need to recover today this material and political sense of love, a love as strong as death. This does not mean you cannot love your spouse, your mother, and your child. It only means that your love does not end there, that love serves as the basis for our political projects in common and the construction of a new society." (352) Finally, the answer to our quest for a historical perspective can be stated unequivocally as an act of liberation.

Ash Wednesday

Though not always, today I am happily religious. It is Ash Wednesday and I have carried about the ashes on my forehead all day. I saw others marked similarly on the L train and in the Washington library. The public act means that catholics have left behind the ordinary times and entered the Lenten season, a perverse and ghoulish time for some when self-denying stoicism rears its ugly head. It is not my intention here to pretend the opposite.

Instead I am stuck on the publicity of the act. The full significance of a cross of ashes on my forehead is still out of my reach. If anything, such a display would contradict church readings that appear to discourage ostentatious signs of piety. “Rend your hearts, not your garments,” declares the prophet Joel (2:12) possibly correcting disingenuous mourners. And Jesus teaches us, “do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them.” Mt (6:5-6) The Jewish Jesus and Joel both appear to want to hush up the more rowdy publicans with warnings not to be carried away with exterior performances of piety at the expense of neglecting interior conversion.

Oddly, wearing this article of my faith has a self-reflexive effect, causing me to ask if I am worthy of the mark and if I living up to the message that the mark bears. But as I experienced on the L train and in the public library the mark of ashes made familiar the one who wore them. A stranger became familiar! And my sense of connection with them through a shared faith brings me to the point. Faith is an integrative act. Even if it is expressed privately then it is not alone. The psalmist does not sing to himself “A clean heart create for me, God; renew in me a steadfast spirit.” Ps 51 Similarly, the prophet Joel urged interior conversion “rend your heart…and return to the LORD, your God.” Moreover, this unity finds expression in the customs of common worship. And all of you apart of Kairos reflect the knowledge of this when we come together. Sometimes we take our public stances of mourning, taking a symbol other than ashes, the black hood and orange jumpsuit. We foreshadow too, on Ash Wednesday, the mystery of Good Friday…when our walk for justice will make known the crucified people of today.

I close wondering how all of you bear this cross of ashes. If you are proud, if you are grateful, it would do me good to hear. Strengthen my unbelief. I would like to be as bold as Old Polycarp not to deny my faith but it seems that daily I do so, and without even the threat of death by wild animals or by burning. I am tempted to cover the cross of ashes with my hat. And if I can barely resist this I wonder what good I’ll be proclaiming my faith in the face of denizens of police protecting NATO-G8. Yes, I would compare the persecution of the early Christians to the persecution faced by protesters this May. A dogmatic Christian proponent of NATO-G8 is not a real Christian. Only the hypocrite could make war and call it peace, support “protection” on the premise of nuclear deterrence and suppose a free-market first depends on bringing stability.

Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr

“…those condemned to the wild beasts endured fearful punishments, being made to lie on sharp shells and punished with other forms of various torments, in order that [the devil] might bring them, if possible, by means of the prolonged punishment, to a denial of their faith.”

From “The Martyrdom of Saint Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, as Told in the Letter of the Church of Smyrna to the Church of Philomelium” in Early Christina Fathers ed. Cyril C. Richardson. 150-51.

It continues: “The most admirable Polycarp, when he first heard of it, was not perturbed, but desired to remain in the city. But the majority induced him to withdraw, so he retired to a farm not far from the city and there stayed with a few friends, doing nothing else night and day but pray for all men and for the churches throughout the world, as was his constant habit. And while he was praying, it so happened, three days before his arrest, that he had a vision and saw his pillow blazing with fire, and turning to those who were with him he said, “I must be burned alive.”

“And while those who were searching for him continued their quest, he moved to another farm, and forthwith those searching for him arrived. And when they did not find him, they seized two young slaves, one of whom confessed under torture. For it was really impossible to conceal him, since the very ones who betrayed him were of his own household. And the chief of the police, who chanced to have the same name as Herod, was zealous to bring him into the arena….”

The narrative tells of the final exchange in the arena where the proconsul urges Polycarp to recant his faith: “…the proconsul was insistent and said: ‘Take the oath, and I shall release you. Curse Christ.’

Polycarp said: ‘Eighty-six years I have served him, and he never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?’

And upon his persisting still and saying, ‘Swear by the fortune of Caesar,’ he answered, ‘If you vainly suppose that I shall swear by the fortune of Caesar, as you say, and pretend that you do not know who I am, listen plainly: I am a Christian. But if you desire to learn the teaching of Christianity, appoint a day and give me a hearing.’

…the proconsul said: ‘I have wild beasts. I shall throw you to them, if you do not change your mind.

But he said: ‘Call them. For repentance from the better to the worse is not permitted us; but it is noble to change from what is evil to what is righteous.’

And again [the proconsul said] to him, ‘I shall have you consumed with fire, if you despise the wild beasts, unless you change your mind.’

But Polycarp said: ‘The fire you threaten burns but an hour and is quenched after a little; for you do not know the fire of the coming judgment and everlasting punishment that is laid up for the impious. But why do you delay? Come, do what you will.’”

Lenten Love

People today seem unable to understand love as a political concept, but a concept of love is just what we need to grasp the constituent power of the multitude. The modern concept of love is almost exclusively limited to the bourgeois couple and the claustrophobic confines of the nuclear family. Love has become a strictly private affair. We need a more generous and more unrestrained conception of love. We need to recuperate the public and political conception of love common to premodern traditions. Christianity and Judaism, for example, both conceive love as a political act that constructs the multitude. Love means precisely that our expansive encounters and continuous collaborations bring us joy. There is really nothing necessarily metaphysical about the Christian and Judaic love of God: both God’s love of humanity and humanity’s love of God are expressed and incarnated in the common material political project of the multitude. We need to recover today this material and political sense of love, a love as strong as death. This does not mean you cannot love your spouse, your mother, and your child. It only means that your love does not end there, that love serves as the basis for our political projects in common and the construction of a new society. Without this love, we are nothing. ~Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri in Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire The Penguin Press: New York (2004) 351-52.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Essay On Belonging

The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord raises a question of belonging. For when Jesus was brought to the temple in accord with the law and custom of his times, he became united culturally with the Jewish people. “Since the children share in blood and flesh,
Jesus likewise shared in them,” Heb 2:14

Kairos is a community of people who like those who awaited the Messiah, long for Shalom. As the song says, we are a people who look east. We will never surrender to the answer of war, but have said reluctantly the metaphor that we will be one with God’s soldiers. We want peace so like Simeon and Anna we speak the words we have in public spaces. We take ourselves into places of wide belonging, crossroads, entrances, spaces of celebration, prayer, worship, honest labor. And in step with a people with whom we share these times we display the consolation of our faith. And how do we do so, if without a sense of the truth? Perceived in faith, we recognize that privileged place is ours in which to stand and make known the bounty of God’s love.

Sentiments of recognition and consolation were spoken by the prophetess Anna: “she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Lk 2:38). The vision of Jerusalem that Anna beheld was one held in Kairos. It existed for her to belong there. And the redemption of Jerusalem meant the reification of all things to their intended purpose in Providence. But I suppose the prophetess thinks as I do. She spoke the words of a nationalistic cause, after all, exploiting an ambiguity now divisible into paradigms of church and state. Today America the Beautiful might be sung.

We glance at the question of faithful citizenship. In Latin we can see the significance of faith and belonging fused together in the Latin word fide. It means faithful and is used by U.S. marines in their slogan Semper Fi, forever faithful. In contrast, the film High Fidelity staring John Cusack humored commitment. Professionalism is mocked by some anarchists, and it is this attitude that was formulated by the philosopher Marcuse in The One Dimensional Man which expresses aversion of the technocratic class. Closer to home, when I would profess to dismantle the myopic self-interest of nationalism, still I cry wolf. Why have I made appeal to the Constitution of the United States in my activism? The problem of radical commitment was first posed to me in a class with Sr. Peggy, a liberation theologian of El Salvador, who once spoke of ecofeminism and began from the beginning to raise our consciousness with the question: to whom do you belong? The ploy was disorienting but ancient: the philosopher Diogenes of Athens said, “I am a citizen of the world.” And to this day, if I am less impartial then Diogenes, at least by faith the borders of my political identity expand far beyond the narrow confines of the U.S. The community I belong to is Christian. And we are many. We live through out the world yet I belong to more than these.

My bond with the living includes my neighbor—of whatever faith. The commandment to love one’s neighbor means that a Christian must love every human being. In the ‘New World’ where inhabitants were said by society to be barbarians, the Good Samaritan argument had been applied by Francisco de Vitoria, Bartolom√© de las Casas, Luis de Molina and Domingo De Soto. It would offend this teaching of Christ to have nothing to do with non-Christians. A protestant reformer, Hugo Grotius, inherited the wisdom of Catholic critics of the Spanish conquest saying: ‘the protection of infidels from injury (even from injury by Christians) is never unjust.” Today humanitarian intervention in Kosovo, as it would have been in the Darfur, finds a source of moral authority in Maimonides in Mishneh Torah XI, a glossing of Leviticus 19:16 “It one person is able to save another and does not save him, he transgresses the commandment, Neither shalt thou stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor.”

It is common for scholarship to speak of belonging in terms of rights. The theory of rights one applies will mean belonging to a particular group, for instance by rights of citizenship, or more broadly based on the idea of a totality, rights will refer back to ones own humanity. So argues Mervyn Frost, a professor of international relations at King’s College London: “Having these rights does not depend on the largesse of the state within which one finds oneself.” The significance is telling: it means that belonging to a group is not necessary for the defense of human rights. Hillel Steiner is a theorist who argues in An Essay on Rights (1994) that human beings possess human rights and that they support claims against others beyond the boundaries of the state:

“Should a historical theory of distributive justice recognize state (or any other political) boundaries as having basic significance? It seems not. If the initial rights belong to all human beings and apply to all natural resources, it is hard to see why political boundaries should affect the validity or strength of a person’s claims.”

According to Steiner, the defense of human rights does not require belonging to a nation-state. In theory, belonging to a state is superfluous to the actual possession of rights and therefore unnecessary for one to make appeal to a state’s own contract to uphold said rights.

In this brief sketch of belonging, the notion of place has so far been central. Even more crucial a dimension than space is time. As the great Rabbi Abraham Heschel said, “Technical civilization is man’s [sic] conquest of space…. But time is the heart of existence.” And Martin Luther King referred American’s to the place they had known in a common past, the “Land where my father’s died, land of the pilgrim’s pride.” Thus I belong not only to the land of the living but of the dead and gone. Perhaps in part this is the significance of the Catholic credo; it states a shared belief held among Catholics in all provinces, territories, nations and states. “I believe in one God, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is visible and invisible.” The faithful perspective of time does not stop short of a static present. With the metaphor of a wave rising and just as surely will crash on the shore, so a duty on present peoples is imposed by peoples of the past writes Pope Paul VI in his papal encyclical Popularum Progressio, On the Development of Peoples:

“Civilizations are born, develop and die. But humanity is advancing along the path of history like the waves of a rising tide encroaching gradually on the shore. We have inherited from past generations, and we have benefited from the work of our contemporaries: for this reason we have obligations toward all, and we cannot refuse to interest ourselves in those who will come after us to enlarge the human family. The reality of human solidarity, which is a benefit for us, also imposes a duty.” §17.

Thus, in Catholic Social Teaching one way a sense of immediacy is found is through the sense of community with those who have born out advances for human good. My faith is dynamic not only in belonging to a people of this present moment, but in belonging to “the reality of human solidarity.”

Because the complexity of one’s character as a being in time is frowned upon by many today, a faithful individual will likely confront a contradictory message. One frequently espoused is that of a realist who supposes we are all aspirants of wealth. It was this assumption that as “profit-maximizing individualism” that was condemned by Martin Luther King Jr. in his famous sermon February 4, 1968 titled The Drum Major Instinct. His virulent critique suggested that to distinguish oneself in such a consumerist way was the opposite path taken by those who forge their human personality; it meant belonging to a herd. We do not belong to a people by way of assumption; we are not consumption animals. The antidote proposed by King to remedy the drum major instinct meant that in the facts of faith, Christ alone could forge one’s dignity as a person. Similarly, our readings for the Presentation of the Lord recall the Malachi prophesy of the coming Messiah:

Yes, he is coming…
But who will endure the day of his coming?

He will sit refining and purifying silver,
and he will purify the sons of Levi,
Refining them like gold or like silver

Thus a person of faith holds a vision not only of a past but of a present transformed one day to come. It is this future of possible worlds that Pope Paul VI said has gathered us in “history like the waves of a rising tide.” It is his allusion of a powerful surge among people for the common good.

Berenice A. Carroll has added to peace research a complement to the realist literature of international relations (IR). Her study of kinds of power left out by mainstream IR includes most obvious “innovative power” or the power to adopt new foundations for social arrangements. This is the faculty of imagining crucial to gaining the shores of collective human dignity. Three further powers cited by IR structuralists Roger Tooze and Craig Murphy suggest the ways in which every individual belongs to that commonly valued history:

1) Disintegrative power…the power that large masses of people always have, by undirected but convergent individual action, to break down social organizations, economic institutions, and political structures.

2) Inertial power…the power of resistance that takes no organized or politically conscious form, but which confronts topdogs in all their efforts to organize societies according to their will and design…

3) Explosive power: the power of the ‘powerless’ to express their discontent or even rage by behavior and demands which exceed…the moral norms which ordinary bind most members of society.

Tooze and Murphy argue that it is precisely the invisibility of such powers that is constructed by prevailing powerholders. Much noise is made so as to tune-out modes of collective power that would displace them. Much like King’s critique of the Drum Major, Tooze and Murphy argue that we have further ways of knowing, realizing, constructing the future we want. Their project primarily is one of epistemology citing Steve Smith “Epistemology matters because it determines of what we can have knowledge.” Included in their analysis of international relations is also the knowledge of subjects commonly ignored, i.e. the oppressed. Thus, the question becomes, am I knowledgeable of ‘the poor’ and do I realize that in my belonging “to the least of these” I am powerful?

To sum up, belonging involves both place and time dimensions. Belonging may ultimately be about ending up somewhere. This end, we could call our purpose. Life without purpose is described in Margaret Atwood’s disutopia The Handmaid’s tale when the apparent achievement of a women’s culture comes with the peril of ignorance for what life once was. The narrator remembers that ‘the Commander’ had said that women can’t count: “What the Commander said is true. One and one and one and one doesn’t equal four. Each one remains unique, there is no way of joining them together. They cannot be exchanged, one for another. They cannot replace each other. Nick for Luke or Luke for Nick. Should does not apply.” Her past and current loves stand apart from her and out of reach; she cannot have them, she can not call them “hers.” Without a sense of belonging she feels utterly isolate. And in the patriotic religiosity of her society, it was called a sacrifice. “That’s one of the things they do. They force you to kill, within yourself.”

One failing of this essay is the unremarked upon necessity to forgive ourselves for what we have done and also failed to do. To speak as a Catholic, for instance, is also to have responsibility for the slaughters of innocent during the crusades. To speak as an American citizen is also to be guilty for the trail of tears, and of the many My Lai’s and Fallouja’s. As a friend who advocated for women priests once pointed out, I have no excuse. It was something of an apology that Rawls made in his essay Two Concepts of Rules. It “necessarily involves the abdication of full liberty to act on utilitarian or prudential grounds.” Does this mean that every act of religious conviction is hopelessly tainted? Indeed, the participation in any practice may be flawed. The sociologist and political scientist Max Weber wrote that ‘all knowledge of cultural reality…is always knowledge from particular points of view.” More simply, Fr. Daniel Berrigan has said that faith is where your ass is at. Confession: I chose not to attend Mass today at the Chapel of La Strada but have instead written—from the viewpoint along Devon where the White Rose currently resides (although members were today considering the move to a new home). But tonight I will say Deo Gratias in the vernacular of Kairos.

It is our common purpose to recognize hope and then spread it, to be a fire that lights other fires. We will agree that we need to ask about where we have been, as well as to ask about where we are going, (including among the ‘we’ all who are most needy).So once more I suggest that we remember from the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus blessed the poor, the meek, the merciful and from among other frail humans he also vaulted the peacemakers “for they shall be children of God”. In marking the presentation of the Lord, the Church emphasizes a common innocence: “Since the children share in blood and flesh, Jesus likewise shared in them,” (Heb 2:14) What is indicative of the Church’s identification of Jesus, the child, is that in his exposed human innocence the Lord was made to belong. Our celebration of the Presentation of the Lord can mean nothing short of this vindication of the human person in relation to the public. On the one hand this public persona can be said to be “profit-maximizing” in the sense of a renewal of human worth. On the other this public identity means for us a duty to likewise incarnate ourselves more fully in relationship with ‘the poor’. More expansive, George Washington Carver, African-American scientist (1864-1943) said, “How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong.” Dorothy Day called such belonging “the duty of delight.” Finally, in the lesson of the Christ figured as a child the Church shows us how God’s reality—true belonging—is both burden and gift.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Gandhi, Jesus, and Fr. Martin Newell

John Dear tells us in Transfiguration: A Meditation on Transforming Ourselves and our World … that Gandhi read the Sermon on the Mount every day. I don’t. I rarely do. Hearing that Gandhi read the Sermon daily influences me to believe it had influence on Gandhi’s activity in the world. I wonder if he interiorized the Sermon in such a way that without consciously referring to it at all times, Gandhi’s activity became a referent back to the Sermon. Dear writes: “Gandhi knew it better than anyone.” Then, for his times, the activity of Gandhi must have been the best reference to the Sermon available.

We admit some limitations of looking at Gandhi’s activity as a reference for understanding the Sermon on the Mount. How could a Hindu, a man, someone long deceased, still speak to us today? The blessings of time raise doubt whether some of the Sermon’s meaning might be lost in translation. Little has been gained in the province of interrelgious dialogue; even now Christians doubt the authority of Hindus to interpret biblical meaning. Much has advanced in understanding of sex and gender roles; his particular viewpoint of a Gospel will be bound to reflect less of the understanding. Thus, will his activity be limited to a place and context inhibited by ignorance of advances? Long since dead, what can Gandhi know of the present day? Practically the whole of international relations has sprung up since Gandhi’s death. Astronauts walk on the moon; we survive cancer, heart transplants, AIDS. Gandhi knew a world before the Korean, the Vietnam, the Rwanda, the Congo; he knew of war in a pre-nuclear world but had no notion of fundamental difference between the cold war and the War on Terror. Arguably, his meaning of the Sermon on the Mount is a relic of the past. But following this logic leads to the implication that would rule out the wisdom of history and confine the message of Jesus himself to the dustbin of time.

Critics will try to marginalize the import of Gandhian activity for our times. Will we declare the Gandhian way relevant, even at the expense of popularity? Below we read of someone who brings to life the Sermon on the Mount the Gandhian way.


Jesus said to them,
"A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and among his own kin and in his own house."
So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there,
apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.
He was amazed at their lack of faith. Mk 6:5-6


Ripped from LCW :

Father Martin Newell of the London Catholic Worker community was sentenced to 24 days imprisonment Friday Dec 9th 2011 at Highbury Magistrates Court. Martin was brought before the court for refusing to pay a fine arising from cutting into the Northwood Headquarters, London in December 2008. The anti-war direct action was timed for the "Feast of the Holy Innocents" on the Catholic liturgical calendar. The feast day follows Christmas and commemorates the massacre of children in a search and destroy mission by King Herod who saw the birth of Christ as a threat to his power.

From the dock Fr. Newell stated

I work with refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan at the Catholic Worker. I am opposed to the wars we have been waging on these countries. I have nonviolently resisted these wars since they began. I'm refusing to pay this fine as a form of further non-cooperation with these wars.

Northwood Headquarters is the command centre for British forces deployed overseas. The base has been the location of a number of nonviolent direct actions by the pacifist Catholic Worker community over the past decade of war on Iraq and Afghanistan.

Martin is in HMP Pentonville. Solidarity messages can be sent to

Martin Newell, c/- Giuseppe Conlon House, 49 Mattison Rd, Harringay, London, N4 1BG.