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Friday, September 14, 2007

Blessed are the peacemakers

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Matthew 5:9

The unsurprising testimony from the President's general has freshly focused media attention on the question of how long to stay in Iraq. I don't believe Petraeus. When I watched Colin Powell lie to the U.N. to get us into Iraq, I stopped believing in the professional apolitical truth teller. I think we're staying in Iraq so that the President doesn't need to face the full impact of his wicked war.

I didn't write that to convince you; I wrote that because it is important background to discussing the Churh's role in all of this. Almost nothing in the previous paragraph is a manifestation of my Christian values. So, what should the Church say about this war?

Using the pattern from my post on Monday, the Church should promote Christian values. And I started this post with the Christian value we should promote. However, in Iraq, promoting peace may not mean ending the occupation. Making peace may mean staying there for the thirty years President Bush has suggested in his Korea comparisons.

I think if the Church was doing its job, at a minimum Christians everywhere and at best people everywhere, would be evaluating our moves in Iraq against the value I started with. Will this policy make peace?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

September Twelfth

I read several compelling reactions to September Eleventh yesterday. I read about friends who lost friends and loved ones in the Trade Towers and the Pentagon. I read about how other friends now react to the phrase 9/11 will anger based on the frequent use of the phrase to justify assaults on our national values.

Something that really hit me came from my wife who runs a Montessori preschool. She wrote that she began this September 11 just like September 11, 2001. There was no reason to close the school then--although some parents kept their children home. She assembled the kids on that day, and yesterday, and recited the pledge before the American flag. Again, something she does everyday. This year, all but one of the forty children in her school was born after the tragedy.

It says something about time marching on. But it also makes me wonder if we've learned enough. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus commanded us as follows:
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies[i] and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Matthew 5:43-45.

I say learned enough, because the enemies in our current state of unrest are different from us. How can we love them if we don't first try to understand them. I wonder if it would be possible to have conversations with fundamentalist Christians about feeling like they are isolated by their faith, and the frustrations at seeing a world becoming more secular. I wonder if we could talk to American Indians about the pain of having land taken away from you.

I'm not talking about the people that are driven to violence. I don't thinking loving our enemies requires ignoring threats of violence whether we're talking about our homes, our communities or our world. I do think understanding those who hate us, can make it easier for us to follow Christ's command.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Values versus Policies

Last Sunday, our pastor preached on social justice. She focused on the injustices committed against American Indians. She specifically mentioned water rights for the Gila River Indian Community. While clerking for the Arizona Supreme Court we had a couple of water cases. One of them involved GRIC. Here is the opening paragraph of that case:

This is an interlocutory appeal by the San Carlos Apache Tribe (“Apache Tribe” or “Tribe”) from an order issued in the Gila River general stream adjudication. See Ariz. Rev. Stat. (“A.R.S.”) §§ 45-251 to -264 (2003) (authorizing general stream adjudications). The central issue is whether claims advanced by the Tribe (and the United States on the Tribe’s behalf) are precluded by a consent decree entered in 1935 by the United States District Court for the District of Arizona. We conclude that the decree precludes the Tribe’s claims to additional water from the Gila River mainstem, but not to water from tributaries of the Gila.
Full opinion here. Another water case here.

These cases are complex. They also epitomize the real tension in the practice of law between doing what is right and respecting process. Respecting process sounds so inferior in the abstract, but in practice it is paramount. (It's also easier to see when the result is in favor of a sympathetic party. E.g. if honoring a settled decision doesn't seem important to you, than perhaps excluding evidence obtained in violation of a procedural requirement does.)

Listening to the pastor's call to action toward the end of her sermon made me wonder about how do we act on such complex issues. The next time this case comes to the Arizona Supreme Court, should the church submit an amicus brief begging the court to reverse its res judicata holding?

Then it occurred to me that the way we act is by promoting values. Whatever, the right answer is regarding distributing water among the various parties in the West, we will get a better answer if we value others as equals. We'll get a better answer if we remember the importance of things beyond monetary measures. We'll get a better answer if we remember to treat others as we would like to be treated.

I think it is perfectly appropriate for the church to promote these values and suggest that these values should impact our policies.