Generous Orthodoxy  

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Wisdom for Independence Day 2005

All the obvious parallels between Great Britain's 18th-century war in North America and the United States' recent experiences in Vietnam and Iraq may suggest that the history of Britain's quagmire has something to teach us today, but that would probably be wrong. History has no lessons for the future except one: that nothing ever works out as the participants quite intended or expected. In other words, if history teaches anything, it teaches humility.

--Noted American historian Gordon S. Wood, writing about the American Revolution in The New York Review of Books (April 28 issue, emphasis added).

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Thoughts for America on July 4 from Pope John Paul II

This meditation in the form of a letter to America (symbolized by New York Harbor) was written by John Paul II on the occasion of his electrifying first visit to the United States in 1979, a year after his election:

Dear friends in New York, my visit to your city would not have been complete without coming to Battery Park, without seeing Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty in the distance. Every nation has its historical symbols. They may be shrines or statues or documents, but their significance lies in the truths they represent to the citizens of a nation and in the image they convey to other nations.

Such a symbol in the United States is the Statue of Liberty. This is an impressive symbol of what the United States has stood for from the very beginning of its history: this is a symbol of freedom. It reflects the immigrant history of the United States, for it was freedom that millions of human beings were looking for on these shores. And it was freedom that the young Republic offered in compassion...

I wish to pay homage to this noble trait of America and its people, its desire to be free, its determination to preserve freedom and its willingness to share this freedom with others. May the ideal of liberty, of freedom, remain a moving force for your nation and for all the nations in the world today!

It greatly honors your country and its citizens that on this foundation of liberty you have built a nation where the dignity of every human person is to be respected, where a religious sense and a strong family structure are fostered, where duty and honest work are held in high esteem, where generosity and hospitality are not idle words and where the right to religious liberty is deeply rooted in your history.

US exceptionalism carried too far?

This morning on NPR, the UN High Commissioner on Torture said in a BBC interview that he and his commission had first requested an inspecition tour of Guantanamo Bay in January 2004. In preliminary talks with US officials from the State Department and Pentagon in Geneva, he got the impression that they would be invited to make this visit. In June of 2004 they were still being encouraged by their contacts in Geneva. As of June 2005, eighteen months later, no invitation has been forthcoming.

It is difficult not to conclude that this secretive Administration continues to consider itself superior to and exempt from international standards of "cruel and inhumane treatment." What other conclusion can be drawn?

Is this what we want to celebrate about ourselves, this Fourth of July?

Monday, June 20, 2005

Buddhist and Christian views of life after conception

The July/August issue of Foreign Policy includes "The Great Stem Cell Race," by Robert L. Paarlberg, a political scientist teaching at Wellesley. Here is an excerpt (emphasis added):

Asian scientists [do not] face as much cultural resistance to their work as their colleagues in the West. In Confucian and Buddhist societies, there are fewer religious inhibitions to the destruction of microscopic embryos. Throughout Roman Catholic Europe and in much of Christian America, religious authorities teach that a fertilized egg is already a person.

In Confucian tradition, the defining moment of life is birth, not conception, and Buddhists view life not as beginning with conception but as a cycle of reincarnations. The South Korean scientist who led the 2004 cloning team said at the time: "Cloning is a different way of thinking about the recycling of life. It's a Buddhist way of thinking."

Friday, June 17, 2005

An Insider Reports on the Iraq War

An important new book, Squandered Victory, looks like the most informed analysis so far on why the Iraq war is progressing so poorly (can there any longer be any doubt about that?). Leaders of Christian congregations may want to take a look at the reviews, at least. To what degree do the churches continue to be silently complicit in our Administration's policies?

Larry Diamond, a leading American scholar on the subject of democratic movements, was asked by Condoleeza Rice to go to Iraq as an advisor in the autumn of 2003. He went with enthusiasm and came back disillusioned.

Here are the last two paragraphs of Michiko Kakutani's review in today's NYTimes:

When Mr. Diamond returned to the United States in April 2004, he says, he wrote his old friend Ms. Rice a long, confidential memo, recommending that America "disavow any long-term military aspirations in Iraq," establish a target date for the withdrawal of our forces, respond to concerns about Iraqi detainees, proceed vigorously with a plan to disarm and reintegrate Iraqi militias and send "significantly more troops and equipment."

The memo concluded: "If we do not develop soon a coherent counter-insurgency plan combining political and military, Iraqi and international initiatives, we will creep closer and closer to that tipping point, beyond which so many Iraqis sympathize with or join the insurgency that we cannot prevail at any bearable price."

He says he never heard back from Ms. Rice or her principal assistant for Iraq, Robert Blackwill.

Read the rest:

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Link to wonderful interview with Billy Graham (see also comment in my Ruminations):