Can we learn from Bruchko? Please?

We have just celebrated the American holiday of Thanksgiving.  Along with the general attitude of gratitude suggested by the holiday is a the history of least a single point-in-time harmony of Europeans and Native Americans.  The image of the two groups in fellowship, enjoying a share meal is seared into the minds of young American children from early age.  And it’s not that inaccurate:

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But it’s also not complete as a story.  Because the whole story mostly features the two group not getting along well at all.

Native Americans were misnamed “Indians” by the wave of southern European explorers who found themselves landing in the shores of the Americas. “America “ itself was a name bestowed upon the new world, after the explorer Amerigo Vespucci.

By most DNA and historical analysis, the tribal groups inhabiting the Americas at the time of the “discovery” by Europeans had migrated from eastern Asia thousands of years earlier. Their distinction as the earliest inhabitants establishes a context for what would follow, but their real origin makes the moniker “Native American” a bit less sticky.

Whoever or whatever existed in the American continents prior to their arrival would be more “native” than they. This does nothing to soften the horrible tale of brutality later practiced against them. I mention their origin only to note that their discovery and settlement of the same land traveling from the east had at least the same aspect of people movement as that of the discovery and settlement from the west by Europeans. And we’ll never know what else it had in common.

I have thought and hard about how the ensuing conflict between the two cultures could have been avoided or lessened. Aside from the Europeans sailing back and leaving the Americas and their residents alone – maybe establishing trade partnerships, say – there was going to be conflict. Consider:

  • The Europeans who came to the New World were discoverers and settlers. Negatively they could be called conquerors, though the European version of conqueror was quite different than these settlers. They were not diplomats or people sensitive to other cultures. There were traders for sure, and perhaps these were the most likely strike a harmonious balance with the indigenous people.
  • Cultures were going to clash. There were many difference, but the principle one causing conflict concerned land. Owning and permanently settling on land was a foreign concept to Native Americans. And restrictions of where could live, hunt, fish and farm were also foreign.
  • There was a profound technological advantage. There has been much said and written about the forgotten (or repressed) advances of the Native American people. In spite of this, the Europeans held a 800-1500 year advantage in development upon their arrival. I do not say that to say that made them better as a people group, though that’s exactly what they concluded. The racist attitudes created an atmosphere that squelched any move for reconciliation.

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Now, Native Americans were not the only people treated poorly by the westward moving whites. Mexicans, Asians and Africans also received prejudice and brutal abuse.

So, beginning with King Phillip’s War, there would be conflicts between the peoples. The Europeans prevailed, supplanting their culture over the land. It is in the wake of that prevalence after conflict that we live today. It can also be said that the conflict is not over – there have been skirmishes that persist even today.

Native American population is thought to have decreased from 12 million to about 250 thousand by the end of the 19th century. Most of the decrease is attributed to disease, but loss of life due to conflict and relocation was awful.

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Saying that conflict was inevitable is not to say that cruelty or maltreatment was. The war had atrocities like many others, and after a point, neither side cared much about the culture or even survival of the other.

There have long been voices calling for restitution and restoration but I would hold that neither can occur without allowing Native American culture to dominate, at least provincially.  And yes, that means the war for cultural dominance is still with us.

I will assign value to advancement in technology for the benefit of people without it, divorced from its often-linked cultural domination. Some might call this culturally insensitive; I really just want the best for all people. I believe that the advancement of the human race through innovation and invention is a blessing for all humankind. And yes, not all technology is good or used well, of course. Like all people who are exposed to new things, we do well to be suspicious of the motives and practices of those introducing us to new things.

So how can Culture A be brought up to speed with the blessings of Culture B? And how can the differing elements of culture be reconciled?

I thought about this and one story came to mind.

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It was Bruchko – the story of Bruce Olson who sought out a reclusive tribe of Native South Americans in Venezuela – the Motilones – and not only brought them into the 20th century, but made them a political force to be reckoned with in the nations of Venezuela and Colombia. They kept their land and evolved their way of live mostly peaceably.

And please, if you assign him a stereotyped role as “missionary” you will miss a very important story of compassion and cultural sensitivity.

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How can this story help us today with Native Americans in the US? I don’t know, but I want to believe it can be done. Because it has been done.

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Nothing “senseless” about it

I don’t like war. But when it happens, it doesn’t matter what I like. And if I dub an act of violence “senseless” when it makes perfect sense in war, I practice self-deceit.

We’re watching war, like it or not. We’re at war, like it or not. We have a tough time saying that word “war” because a) the events don’t fit our patterns of territorial acquisition – though they really do – and b) our very neighbors can be turned into the enemy without our knowing. And let’s be sure we fully understand the murderous antipathy that happens in b); body counts tell a vivid story of hatred.

The root of Islamic terrorism is a mix of greed, poverty and broken, missing or dysfunctional government. I don’t mean American or European government, but that in the Middle East from where most jihadists hail. They find Quranic verses to justify all manner of depravity and slaughter. But they recruit those who calculate they have little to lose in life and yearn to be heroes of something. And indeed they do not.

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Why then are the targets America and Europe? It’s because those nations are seen – somewhat accurately – as those with interests that prop up corrupt and oppressive regimes while vaunting an un-Islamic culture. Jihad is waged against infidels – those of another belief system. But it’s more than that internally. It’s a tribal-based chauvinism directed against those who have shamed the tribe. And there is no statute of limitations on such feelings of shame – the nations of Europe and America are called Crusaders due to a long, selective memory (indeed there was no America yet).

It is of interest that if America and Europe stopped consuming Mideast oil that China and Russia would continue – propping up those same leaders.

As important as any of those sentiments are, there is one that is greater. It is so strong that bitter Muslim enemies unite behind it. Of course I mean resentment towards the democratic state of Israel. Its Jewish identity offends Muslims. The tragic relations between Arabs and Jews have created a permanent state of war. Of course, who but the Europeans and Americans are those who support Israel? Thus, the lumping. And again, not inaccurate.  Though to emphasize the good sense in supporting Israel – it remains one of the only nations in the Middle East where an Arab (yes Arab!) can vote.

But there’s no getting around it – Western Civilization, for all its flaws and injustices – stands opposed to the caliphates, monarchies and oligarchies of the Middle East. And I have no issue with citing its evolved superiority. I don’t say that proudly because there is no human history without systemic crimes and injustices. But the means in place to address those are further along in the West.

It’s obvious that this war cannot be fought conventionally. George W. Bush said that after 9/11 but no one has gone deeper into strategy beyond better military options. I am no pacifist in this conflict, but if one leads with guns one or uses only guns, then it will only enforce the hatred, ironically because our guns are better than theirs.

So, what to do? There are thousands of lists out there, so here’s number 4903:

  1. Love a Muslim. It is absolutely true that most Muslims are NOT jihadists. They don’t even bite. They need to be heard, understood and loved.
  2. Nix the tribe. Individuals are much more effective to engage with than armies. And I don’t even mean the armies with guns. If I want another to surrender his/her preconceptions, I should surrender mine. Because most of them did not come from me in the first place.
  3. His name is Jesus.  The Crusaders got it wrong.  Very wrong.  This is not at odds with “nix the tribe” because Jesus followers are from every tribe.  He didn’t conquer by force, he did so by dying, loving those who were killing him.  And yes, that’s more powerful than suicide belts.
  4. Work and support justice for the poor. Very few charities get the money to the problem. Find one. Support it. Raise a child.
  5. Become energy independent. Not only in the name of being green, or more natural but because Mideast oil is too valuable to the whole world.
  6. Advocate for better Israeli/Arab relations. It’s a bitter past but not all Arab people are united in the desire to destroy Israel. Nor are all Israelis hateful of Arabs. There has to be middle ground to find here. Support those who seek to find and walk on it.
  7. Pray. Doubtless there are those who are decidedly non- or even anti-spiritual reading this. That’s okay, we’ll pray for you too. These problems are bigger than us all, so I have no problem promoting them to One who can actually help.
  8. Fight and support the fight. Yes this includes supporting the military forces of the West, but it’s also a cultural and moral fight. Learn the truth and tell it – even if it indicts our side and thus pollutes our cause. Truth wins the war.

We have a mess on our hands. Doing nothing is not an option. Jihadis want us dead. It’s a war.

ISIS and the president’s Prayer Breakfast speech

Read this first.
The backdrop of ISIS and radical Islamic groups is key to understanding this.  This week the video of Jordanian pilot Muadh al-Kasasbeh being burned alive in a cage, only the latest of a set of barbaric executions meant to shock and scare people.
But concerning the speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, I find it helpful to read the original because context is vital and no tribe- liberal or conservative – will provide it. Obama’s was a three-point sermon of love, suspicion of faith-hostile government and the law of love. Not bad. And I do think he has Christian faith though it caters to a political platform more than staying true to the foundation of the faith.  That there are those who would even hate me for such a statement shows the spiritual confusion that dogs the church.
 
Now, the uproar is about the president citing the crimes of the Crusades in a way to humble those on their “high horse”.  While there are those who would find the present situation an opportunity to target all Muslims, those of the Christian faith I know really just want to know how to consider this brutality and its perpetrators.  They are murderers that need to be stopped – that is known – but solving the problem of the vacuum from whence they sprung – as well as other groups like Boko Haram – is the only wise course of action.  
From Obama’s speech, the problem with citing 1000-year-old crimes is that it takes the focus on the slaughter that’s happening right in front of us. The people doing the slaughter ALSO cite the 1000-year-old crimes as if they’re happening today. They don’t need Obama’s voice reciting it to them.  And using something that happened 1000 years ago as motivation for present-day violence is to have a very long memory to say the least.  It is only an excuse.
 
What we need to do – as Muslims are doing right now – is to name the problem as an aberrant form of Islam – with an informed approach to how to really work towards a solution within the society of tribes that have warred for longer than the Crusaders launched their heretical rampage. Honestly, THAT – the Shia and Sunni split – is the historical faith problem going on here.
 
And for his part, Obama, so far, has failed to even call the terrorists “Muslim”, probably being afraid of mass anti-Muslim sentiment and violence. And lest you think I believe the GOP got it right, they did and do NOT. The willful ignorance of the indigenous tribal culture of Iraq was arrogant, straight up.  Politics only confuse this discussion because it’s one of faith and tribe.
Singling out Islam as a faith with a modern-day, big problem is the first step towards really helping to fix a broken part of the world.  No hatred, no condescension, just loving some people who are locked in a system of hatred.

9/11, ISIS and the War

I watched President Obama’s address about his administration’s strategy to attack and destroy ISIL (ISIS, those guys). Whatever else was behind the speech and the resulting actions, I believed that the nation will do some of what he said we will do. The US will bomb targets with smart bombs. It will supply and train the opposition to fight on the ground. And it will try to protect the homeland in the meantime.

The effectiveness of those actions remains to be seen. (American) “boots on the ground” is not in the plans, so the ground victory, if it is to be won, will be achieved by non-American forces. That is suspect, because their resolve is untested and unknown while the resolve of ISIS is unquestionable. One good thing about the barbarism of ISIS is that now that it is known, soldiers will not likely be taken alive. They will fight harder to win.

The commentary that followed the speech was very telling of the national polarity. I listened to Fox, then CNN, then MSNBC to get multiple perspectives. I read the comments of friends on Facebook from the left and the right. I really want to process all this with truth and not spin. Who the president is and what party s/he represents is less important to me than the nation. And statements like that get attacked these days. And that is a big problem.

We remember the attacks on 9/11 today. I remember them well. Compared historically across the years, it was this generation’s Pearl Harbor, its “Day of Infamy”. I’ve been to the memorial at Pearl Harbor, looking at the upside down, rusty hull of the Arizona. Someday I’ll visit the 9/11 Museum.

Now, there are differences for sure. Japan was a nation, armed to the teeth and an aggressor everywhere it went. It was a bully to its neighbors and practiced brutality not unlike ISIS. The band of hijackers who pulled off 9/11 were from multiple nations working with stolen weaponry and clandestine tactics. And they achieved what the Japanese never could – a successful attack on the US mainland. So the enemy was not as clearly defined – at least to some – on 9/11/01 as on 12/7/41

Another difference was the response. The nation was outraged in both instances, but the WW2 response spurred my parent’s generation to fight, kill and die in a war. The 2001 response has waned since the day of the attacks. There have been (what most people find to be) silly theories of the whole thing being staged, by then-president Bush’s administration, to fund military/industrial interests. And Osama Bin Laden was killed.

But it still looks many don’t know who he enemy is. I don’t know if there is a brand of radical Islam that doesn’t have as its expression the beheading and destruction of its detractors by blowing oneself up, but certainly the common belief system behind 9/11 and every attack and movement before and since is radical Islam. I view this brand of Islam as a faction, like the factions of any religion. It has attacked and will attack again. That’s an enemy. My enemy. Our enemy.

So I don’t know how successful the current approach will be in the war against this enemy. The most dubious assumption, as I said above, is the dependence on someone else to take ground. Aside from the Kurdish Peshmerga, it certainly looks and sounds like the practice of war is something new to those being relied upon. So is the resolution to fight.

Sadly, that resolution is also lacking in Americans, who either fail to call this the war it is or diminish its importance in their daily lives. It’s “over there” and not here. The way to not lose our heads, figuratively and actually, is to stay and protect “here”.

Among those killed on 9/11 were Republicans, Democrats, Christians, Jews, Muslims, men and women. It was an act of war. And that war continues. Despite the killing of Bin Laden and progressive degradation of Al Qaeda.

In my view, the best way to remember those who perished on 9/11 is to keep up the fight. I do believe that America and Western Civilization in general is both superior and worth fighting for. And I do believe that the enemy we battle is here is by far more evil than us; historical atrocities like Wounded Knee and slavery notwithstanding.

So, whatever the effectiveness the proposed actions by the president, at least there is action, at least there is movement in combating an enemy that is on the attack.

Faith to kill for or die for

The Queen of Hearts “OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!!!”

Disney’s depiction of the Queen of Hearts is accurate to Lewis Carroll’s story.  Wonderland is not a real place though in her dream, Alice is certainly convinced it is.  So the Queen and her army of cards is to be laughed at as a caricature of real power.  Though she may in fact have her capital sentence carried out, it’s make-believe and the reader, along with Alice, will awaken to a more peaceable reality when the story ends.  Or the Queen dies, or something.

Radical Islam in its many apparitions is making similar threats and carrying them out for us all to view on Youtube.  The latest and most savage of the groups with the penchant for separating head from shoulders is ISIS.  Reports are becoming verified that they are in fact doing it against people who don’t share the Muslim faith, showing “what happens” to infidels.  Well, what happens in Mosul to infidels when marauding, ruthless men with guns and knives take the place over.

Beheading, except when done by the guillotine, has never been a particularly efficient way to get the job done.  Even ISIS resorts to mass execution via single-shot-to-head means when time is short.

No, decapitation is to make an example of someone, to humiliate and terrify one’s enemy.  And in the case of radical Islam, it is to keep those in the faith quaking in their boots to stay in the faith.  Such a faith could demand 40-times-a-day prayer instead of the 5 without any resistance.

Except by those who are  pledged to heaven.

I’m going to get quite spiritual here because the whole authority radical Islam claims is purportedly spiritual.  Allah – Arabic for God – is the one whose will they fulfill as they carry out their barbarism.

The God I believe in, in contrast, has exercised authority over death.

1 Corinthians 15:55  “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

And He will exercise that authority for me and all who believe as well.

It is an elementary observation that, as Jim Morrison pointed out “no one gets out of here alive.”

Now, this is no celebration of death like the gory Islamist but a celebration of life.  Eternal life.

Yup, I believe that, as all –  even those presently in ISIS – are invited to believe.

And I’d rather have a faith to die for than one to kill for.

There a lots of beheadings in the Bible.  Goliath, Saul and John the Baptist, to name three.  And songwriter Keith Green wrote a song of dedication when he read of the story of John the Baptist.  Here’s a cover of it (I don’t know the singer, but he does a good job):

Now because people get things wrong, I need to explain this is NOT a death wish – I am not looking for someone to behead me, specifically.  Nor is it in any way a condoning of the butchery going on right now.  Nor am I a pacifist – I think ISIS will be fought on the ground by international forces someday and it will be just.

But should the end come – however it should come – I have it covered.  You should too, really.

This is not an evangelistic meeting.  Nor formulas, ceremonies or magic incantations.  Just pray, okay?  Ask Jesus (Arabic Isa) to show you who He is.  Just you and Him.  Ask Him to save you.  He can and will.

 

Misogyny, misandry and misnaming real demons

The Elliot Rodger video made before the recent Santa Barbara shootings has inflamed the tribes.  It was bound to happen since it was abusive and selfish and articulated a voice that many have seen in themselves and others.  He could not understand why no women wanted him, though all reports are that he was a loner who would not allow himself to be wanted in any case.

In the ministry circles I have walked in is a group of specialists in a ministry called “deliverance”.   Their activities range from finding and removing demons that plague people all kinds of ways (and thus, get named by their activity as in “demon of lust”) to outright exorcism of demons that literally possess people.  Of course if you debunk the importance of that ministry, guess why?  Right .. you have a demon.

I don’t want to discount this activity, because I do believe in a personal devil and have seen demonic activity – stuff that can only be attributed to evil that has an external source.  Not that I believe people are incapable of evil in their own right and volition – they are capable of immense evil and they do it regularly.  But we ALL are, I insist, sinners in need of a Savior.

But let’s get back to Rodger.  It is the song of the #yesallwomen camp that his demons – which they would not necessarily call spiritual at all but rather a set of attitudes – exist in all men.  Or at least that all men are responsible for the atmosphere of entitlement and demand for gratification Rodger articulated in his video.

And of course there commences and there sustains the gender wars.

Hunger –> Loathing

All humans have desires.  They can be towards self or they can be altruistic, toward others.  And all humans have needs.  And the needs people identify and satisfy are almost all towards self – not that there aren’t needs towards others, they just remain unidentified or secondary.

It’s sometimes hard to make the distinction between a desire and a need and I guess I’d say that desires can accumulate and produce, in sum, a need, though it’s scarcely a formula.

When needs or desires go unsatisfied, hunger develops – and please allow me to use the analogy of food here.  If that hunger persists a person becomes malnourished and sick.

What Rodger needed, and didn’t get, wasn’t a girlfriend or sex.  He needed friends.  Good friends.  Friends that loved him for who he was.  Some could be women, but mostly they had to care.  He had none and so he hungered and got sick.  Yes, that’s my autopsy of a dead shooter.

People who hunger that way turn to all kinds of things to fill themselves.  In the worst cases they turn to hatred, deciding since they’ve been deprived of what they needed – that deprivation is permanent and there is nothing to be done about it except something terminal and (sometimes) violent.

Now, the target of that loathing goes two basic ways – out and in.  For every Elliot Rodger who lashed out there are thousands who “lash in” – with sinking depression and a gradual or sudden plan to do self-harm via suicide.

And THAT – the loathing, the conclusion that one’s hungry state is permanent – is the real demon here.

Not misogyny, not misandry (look it up, it’s just as bad a problem as the former, more famous gender loathing).

Truly, one can find men and women who are utterly selfless and loving towards the opposite gender.   That’s how I want to be towards my friends who happen to be women.

And there are the tribes

And one can find examples of the opposite, tribalists who find a fatal flaw in those who are different.   It’s always to promote the tribe into supposed superiority.  And the loathing unifies the tribe, takes it to war, populates death camps, sends nations to war.

Tribes must exist to fill one of the hungers we have – for fellowship and community.

But tribes can get hungry too.  For validation, prominence and power.  None of those is bad, but when they don’t come, the same loathing patterns develop.

Now what/so what?

If I know an Elliot Rodger, I need to let him know I care.  Somehow, at some time.   He needs to know he matters and he has potential.

If I know a Rebecca Sedwick or Megan Taylor Meier or Nigel Hardy or any of a thousand others that are out there for every Elliot Rodger, I need to let them know I care.   I need to use the same social media that the enemy will use and tell them they’re cool and desirable as people.  They’re dying for friends and affection.

It’s not easy; these people are reclusive (very hesitant to open up), scary, angry and/or  just not nice.  But they are are a lot less scary without guns than with them.  Or they have a veneer of smiles and pleasant demeanor but inside be a lonely, loathing wretch.

THAT’s when they need to have their real hunger fulfilled.

Jesus said it

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

And He loves us like no one else.

 

“Saving Mr. Banks” and traumatic echo – hunger for a happier ending

I’m probably going to own Saving Mr. Banks, the story-behind-the-story of Walt Disney’s making of the movie based on her story Mary Poppins.

Using the old but effective present-to-past flashback technique, the story of author P.L. Travers‘ (née Helen Lyndon Goff) childhood is projected into the story of her masterpiece.   Disney had promised his family that he would make the story into a movie and doing so proved an adventure of persuasion to the point of sacrifice.  But the film was made.

The interplay of the songwriting brothers Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman and Travers was very well portrayed, with their liberties with the story and the songs being written presented very tenuously, and withdrawn at the first whim of Travers’ objection.  But by the end, Travers was delighting in the joy of the compositions and the fit into her story.

I don’t know how real the story of Travers’ childhood being superimposed into Mary Poppins is.  I do care, but I care more about the power of redemption afforded by it.

In Saving Mr. Banks Travers’ father, Travers Goff, struggled as a worker at a bank and struggled worse with alcohol, slipping into depression and dying when she was still a girl in Australia.  He was unhappy with seemingly everything except being her father.  And she knew his love, but was tortured by his destruction.  The character of Mr. Banks is seen as an obvious portrayal of her father and his pain in trying to be a professional banker is a key target of the “ministry” of Mary Poppins in the story.

The echo is loud and clear.

I recommend watching the movie; I intend to again and again.

A repeating pattern in my ministry and personal life is the echoes of past trauma that keep getting replayed and replayed.  I believe it’s universal, though clearly some have a worse problem here than others.

I’ve sought for a reason that I (and others) do this.  I believe it’s because I want to “get it right” this time; I want the story to have a happy ending.  Of course it does not, at least in my memory, recalling the trauma or shame or pain of the past.

But Walt Disney pulls off a good ending for Travers.  The scene where she sings along with Lets Go Fly A Kite is a view of real healing.

There is redemption.  There is a different ending.  And we can have it today.

Stories abound with endings like this; we love them because we need them.  One I love is the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis.  The analogous scene of redemption in that story happens after Joseph’s father, Jacob, has died and his brothers now fear for their lives because of the horrible way they treated Joseph, selling him into slavery years ago.  But he says this and their is deep healing:

Genesis 50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

So for me, the challenge is to see good being accomplished in the evil intentions, words and deeds of people and even in circumstances I consider painful.  That”s how to resolve traumatic echo.  And it’s seen in God’s good purpose which is thankfully not thwarted by anything.