Friday, September 26, 2014

'Seeing One's Life Whole": A Jungian Reflection on My Life

In my Stillpoint spiritual direction program I was  invited to become more self-aware by considering choices I made in responding to life experiences, using Jungian archetypes. It was one of the assignments in the Stillpoint Spiritual Direction program that I have found especially helpful and intriguing. (For more about spiritual direction and Stillpoint, see http://laquaker.blogspot.com/2014/05/are-you-interested-in-deepening-your_29.html).

You can do this assignment by looking at three or four of the key events on your timeline and determining which Jungian archetypes were most active and which ones could have been used will enlarge your Story.

According to Carl Jung, our lives are influenced by archetypes—images that represent different aspects of our psyche. These archetypes are innumerable but have often been divided into twelve major ones (creator, orphan, magician, innocent, lover, rebel, hero, ruler, jester, caregiver, sage, seeker/explorer.). You can learn more about these types at http://www.soulcraft.co/essays/the_12_common_archetypes.html You can also take an online test to determine which archetypes are currently dominant in your life:
http://helloquizzy.okcupid.com/tests/awakening-the-hero-within-hero-archetype-test-1 (I recommend purchasing this book if you want to go deeper into archetypal analysis.)

Each of these archetypes are present in all of us and became activated during different periods of our lives, depending on our temperament and needs. All archetypes have positive and negative aspects. The part of our psyche that we undervalue or repress is known as our shadow. When we recognize and acknowledge the shadow, the hidden and rejected parts of ourselves, some of the most important spiritual growth occurs. Remember, all archetypes are always available, held in potentiality. Once you identify the active and the untapped archetypes it is up to you to glean as much insight as you are comfortable doing. If there is resistance to the exploration, it might be helpful to investigate that.
Here are some questions for you to consider:

   -do I usually respond with the same archetypal energy?

   -how did the preference for that archetype arise?

   -what other archetypes could have been activated?

   -would using other archetypes have changed the outcome?

   -was the unused archetype shadow?  

   -if it is shadow, what is being denied? 


We are also invited to consider this saying by Jesus:
 
“If your eye is single, your whole body will be filled with light.” (Matt 6:22)


You may find it helpful to reflect on this passage and see what it means to you. I came up with the following response.

Jesus is describing how it feels when we look at the world non-dualistically, letting go of our judging mind (“judge not, lest ye be judged”).  In this non-dual, non-judgmental state of mind, one’s heart opens up, and one can breathe deeply and easily, as if breathing in God’s spirit and breathing out peace. One “sees” with one’s whole body, mind, and spirit—not just with the physical eye and the intellect. There is deep joy, peace, and clarity, even in the midst of painful times. It is as if the clouds part, and one sees the world in color, not simply in shades of gray.

Here's is my Jungian reflection on my life, my attempt to see with a single eye:

The first significant turning point in my spiritual life occurred in 1971 during my final year of college at Boston University. I was studying poetry with Anne Sexton, the Pulitzer-prize winning poet who wrote amazingly imaginative poems about her bouts with mental illness (despite her enormous talent and great success, she eventually committed suicide). I was editing the BU literary magazine and felt elated that my dream of becoming a writer seemed about to come true. Then I plunged into depression during my final semester. This dark night of the soul was exacerbated by drugs, alcohol, casual sex and financial insecurity. I dreamed of becoming a great writer like Robert Lowell or John Berryman or Ezra Pound, but in reality I was a poor struggling student working as a pot washer at Sears who barely had enough money to pay for food and rent. I had no idea what I was going to do with my life when I graduated. When I asked Anne Sexton, she replied: “Why not become a poet?” The idea was very appealing but I had no idea how to make this happen. A friend of mine bought a ticket on the Trans-Canadian Railroad and a light bulb went off in my head. That’s it! I decided to go on the road, like my hero Jack Kerouac, and write about it. Then, my father, who had been suffering from a protracted terminal illness, died in June, just as I was about to graduate. I went home to Princeton, NJ, for the funeral to take part in an event I had dreaded for 10 years. After the funeral, I left my mother and 10-year-old sister and went on my Canadian adventure. Along the way, I had a “road to Damascus” experience in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I went into a church and saw an open bible on the altar. I began to read it and my heart opened up and I began to cry tears of joy. I realized that this was not an ordinary book and Jesus wasn’t an ordinary man. I also realized that if these words were taken seriously, they would transform my life and revolutionize the world. Evangelicals would call this experience “coming to Christ,” but it was more as if Christ had come to me. I was utterly blown away. After this experience, I realized I wasn’t the center of the universe. There was indeed a Higher Power, a God, with whom I could have an inner dialogue. I began to pray and commune with this Higher Power, sometimes in silence, sometimes by seeking Divine guidance. It was the beginning of a vibrant new life.
The archetypes most active in my life during this time were the Creator and the Seeker. What helped me through this spiritual and emotional crisis was my creativity and my yearning to explore the world, including the world of religion. I avidly read books about Christianity, Taoism, Hinduism, Bahai and other faiths. I worked with an artist in Vancouver who was illustrating the I Ching, and did poetry readings and wrote for underground newspaper. It was such an exciting, life-affirming period I felt no need for drugs or alcohol. I was on a spiritual high. I hitchhiked across the country several times and had many adventures. It was the beginning of my spiritual liberation. “My heart leaped for joy,” as George Fox, founder of Quakerism, said when he had a similar experience of the Inward Christ.
My “shadow” was the caregiver and the orphan. Looking back, I realize that I utterly neglected my mother and sister and totally ignored the practical side of life. If I had done my duty as a son and stayed home and gotten a job, my mother would probably have been pleased but I wouldn’t have become the person I am today. This was a time of life when I needed to break free and find my true self. Yet I realize that what I did hurt my mother deeply and she didn’t forgive me until many years later.

The seeker and creator archetypes are still strong with me, but over the years I have learned to respond with other archetypes, as I will explain. How did my preference for creativity and seeking arise? Creativity was something that helped me to cope with a deprived childhood. My parents were both immigrants who were raised in poverty and never graduated from high school, and both suffered deprivation and trauma as children. They did their best to be good parents, but my mother was alternatively abusive and overly affectionate, and my father was often emotionally distant. I grew up relatively poor in the affluent town of Princeton (we had a modest home but no car, and never went on vacations to exotic places like many others in this wealthy community). My “escape” from the boredom of small-town life was my imagination. I wrote poetry and lived a rich imaginative life through voracious reading. I learned Latin and Greek so I could travel in time to the world of the ancients—the world of Homer, Plato, Socrates, Ovid, Virgil, Catullus, Petronius, Apuleius, etc. I also loved to explore history, politics, and the world of ideas. I became what Blake called a “mental traveler.” Influenced by Timothy Leary when he came to Princeton in my junior year of high school, I turned to LSD and “tripping”—another way of inner exploration. I also became a rebel—an archetype that was strong for many of us during the Psychedelic, Radically Rocking Sixties.
The next big turning point occurred when I became a Quaker in 1984. After my spiritual adventures, I returned to Princeton, married the daughter of a Presbyterian minister and settled down to become a teacher. I earned a Masters in education, and PhD in British literature, becoming the first and only one in my family to join the academic world. My dissertation advisor was Paul Fussell, an 18th century scholar who became famous and won the National Book award for his book “The Great War and Modern Memory.” I got a plum teaching job at Carleton, a prestigious liberal arts college in Minnesota, and was on my way to fulfilling another dream—becoming a scholar—when my life fell apart. My marriage broke up and then I learned my mother was dying of emphysema, with the prognosis of only a year to live. I went back to Princeton to care for her and found I was not able to be of much help because of all my personal issues with her. I prayed for God’s help and was led to the Quaker meeting. There I found my spiritual home and a support group that helped me through this emotional and spiritual crisis. I began working for a magazine called “Fellowship in Prayer” and started another period of spiritual exploration, traveling all around the country visiting spiritual communities and leaders, and finally ending up in the Providence, RI, Zen Center, where I lived and practiced Zen for nine months.

This time I did not neglect my mother. I helped her through her crisis in numerous ways, and we had a good relationship during the final seven years of her life. We stopped quarrelling and learned to accept each other.  When I found my spiritual home among the Quakers, I also reconnected with my Inner Voice, my True Self,  which had come to me in Saskatoon. I felt free and fully alive again. I became involved with a fascinating Quaker project—editing a book of writings by Soviet and American writers—that gave me the opportunity to travel to the Soviet Union during the period of glasnost and perestroika. I had the opportunity to live at Pendle Hill, a Quaker center for study and contemplation near Philadelphia, and met my second wife Kathleen, a Methodist pastor.  I felt as if  I were re-born after my dark days as a self-serving academic. After years of inner conflict, I felt a sense of inner peace as a member of a peace church, and married to a peaceful wife who loved and practiced the contemplative life.
The archetypes that emerged during this period were caregiver, sage and seeker.  The caregiver part of me was very important since I had neglected that part of me during my previous spiritual revival. As a caregiver, I was able to heal my broken relationship with my mother and feel as if I were acting the part of a mature man, not simply a boyish adventurer/explorer. My “shadow” was still the orphan, but I was becoming a bit more practical. I helped my mother sell her bankrupt business and dilapidated old house and move into a condo she could afford with my sister. But I was still far from being very practical about money matters. I preferred to be an explorer and creator. I also began to become more of a sage as I deepened my practice of meditation. If I had focused more on my “orphan,” I would have tried to find a job that earned a decent salary but that has never been important to me.  I chose instead to follow my heart, which led me to the Quakers and to Kathleen and to life of spiritual abundance. I don’t regret I took the road less traveled.
The next big turning point in my spiritual life occurred when my wife Kathleen got cancer seven years ago, in 2007. Kathleen was my soul mate. We were married for twenty years, had a wonderful joint ministry, and were looking forward to spending the rest of our lives together. We decided to spend our twentieth wedding anniversary at Pendle Hill, the place where we met and fell in love. I quit my job as editor of a Quaker magazine, Kathleen got a leave of absence from the Methodist church, and we sold our home for a very good price. I had a scholarship to write a book while at Pendle Hill, and Kathleen enrolled in a spiritual direction program. Then we learned she had lymphoma, a form of cancer that killed her mother at the same age. For ten months, we went on a cancer journey together. At first, the prognosis was good and her oncologist was hopeful. “This is an easy form of cancer to cure,” he assured us. But some bits of cancer didn’t respond to chemo so Kathleen decided to have a stem cell transplant at the City of Hope. Unfortunately, she had a severe reaction to the transplant and died in a couple of weeks. This was devastating to me emotionally, but it was also a spiritual high point of my life. During our ten-month cancer journey, I learned how much I needed God and my faith communities to get through this crisis. Because of my work as an interfaith Quaker, we had the support of people of many faiths: Muslims, Jews, Buddhists as well as Methodists and Quakers. My love for Kathleen deepened as I did my best to be her caregiver.  Kathleen showed by her shining, peaceful example how to face life-threatening illness and death as a Christian—a lesson I will never forget. During this period I became “broken and tender” (to use an old Quaker phrase). Even though I didn’t have the opportunity to go to Pendle Hill, I was able to complete a good deal of the book I intended to write there, thanks to Kathleen’s encouragement. Because of my new-found empathy for people going through health crises, I started visiting folks in the hospital and eventually was asked to clerk the Pastoral Care committee of my Quaker meeting.
For two years, I lived my life as a single. After a year and a half, I began to feel the need to remarry and God led me to a wonderful Christian woman named Jill Shook. I met this kindred spirit at  the Palm Sunday Peace Parade in Pasadena and proposed to her three weeks later. I have begun an amazing new life with Jill, but Katheen’s spirit is still with me. One reason I felt led to embark on the Stillpoint program was to continue the work that Kathleen started but was unable to finish. I feel as if God is helping to complete Kathleen’s work through me. That is a great blessing.
The archetypes that emerged during this period were the caregiver, creator, lover and magician. Being a caregiver has now become an important part of my life since my new wife suffers from many illnesses and needs a lot of TLC. But the strongest archetypes are the magician, sage, and lover. Marrying at age 60, I feel as if I am 30 again. I have had to learn a whole new way of relating to a woman who is totally unique (like every woman), and it’s been very challenging. Therapy and counseling has helped us to weather the storms of our first few years of marriage, and our love feels very strong and secure. It feels almost miraculous to be Lover at this late stage of my life. A lover and a sage and a creator, and an elder—what a combo!
The magician part of me animates my work as a writer/peace activist/spiritual director. Through prayer and worship, I seek to cultivate the inner peace I need to do my peace activism. Therapy and spiritual direction have also helped me to work on the inner issues that sometimes block me from experiencing the Light, being honest with myself and others,  and expressing my creative self. The sage part of me is always seeking answers, seeking to figure out what’s genuine, real, and true. Thanks to the sage and the seeker I have come to see much more clearly the hidden parts of myself---the repressed traumas, the selfish habits, the anger and the fears that I have been reluctant to explore or even acknowledge. My shadow is the orphan part of myself. Through self-reflection I have come to realize this vulnerable part of me carries a lot of pain, but is very practical and necessary. I wouldn’t be in the good financial shape I’m in today if I had not been cautious and realistic and practical about financial matters—a  byproduct of my orphan archetype that often worries about the practical issues. My orphan self enables me to see the world as it is, and to appreciate those who are struggling simply to survive--those who are poor, homeless, marginalized. Although I was never as desperately poor as some of those I encounter in my work, there have been times I was so impoverished I had to panhandle and live on the street. Thanks to my orphan self, I have some sense of why St Francis extolled Lady Poverty and why Jesus said “Blessed are the poor in heart. “ Lady poverty and the orphan are great teachers.
I am grateful to God for giving me this opportunity to look at my life, and to see it whole: not only the achievements and high points, but also the failures, the brokenness, and the dark nights of the soul. I began with Jesus’s enigmatic saying: “If your eye is single, your whole body is filled with light.” I believe that at the end of our life, when we transition to the next stage of existence, whatever that might be, Jesus will lead us through our life, moment by moment. This will not be a divine final exam with right and wrong answers. Jesus, our advocate and friend, won’t judge us, but will ask us gently: “So, what did this experience teach you?” I think it’s healing and wise to begin this self-examination with Jesus before one dies, so that one can live more authentically and wholly. This is one of the goals of spiritual direction, as I understand it.

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Shadow Boxing at Home and Abroad: Learning How to Love Our Enemy and Become Whole

Words like “monster” and “pure evil” are being used to describe ISIS (similar words have been used to describe other enemies we have confronted in the Middle East, such as Al Qaida and the Taliban).  Assuming that those using such terms are sincere and simply indulging in political propaganda, we can see at work a  psychological phenomenon that Carl Jung called “the shadow” or “projection.” According to Jung, each of us develops certain parts of ourselves at the expense of other parts, and the parts that we underdevelop or suppress becomes our shadow.  As Robert Johnson explains in Owning Your Own Shadow: Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche:

“We all are born whole and, let us hope, we die whole. But somewhere early on our way, we eat one of the wonderful fruits of the tree of knowledge, things separate into good and evil, and we begin the shadow-making process; we divide our lives. In the cultural process we sort out our God-given characteristics into those that are acceptable to society and those that have to be put away. This is wonderful and necessary, and there would be no civilized behavior without this sorting out of good and evil. But the refused and unacceptable characteristics do not go away; they only collect in the dark corderns of our personality. When they have been hidden long enough, they take on a life of their own—the shadow life.” 

If we are unaware of this process, we are apt to project our shadow onto others we dislike or call our enemies. The result can be very destructive.

As Americans, we tend to see ourselves as heroic and virtuous—fearless defenders of freedom and democracy. Our enemies must therefore be the opposite of ourselves: cowardly, evil, intolerant. But if we look honestly at our behavior, we don’t seem quite as virtuous and heroic as we imagine.  Fearful of being killed, we kill our enemies using high tech weapons such as drones that destroy and mutilate many innocent people, but we call such destruction of life “collateral damage.” On the other hand, if our enemy beheads a reporter or fires a rocket at random, we call such an an act  “pure evil.” When we call our enemies Satanic,  they are apt to respond in kind.

In Christian terms, this is comparable to what Jesus said when he told us we tend to see the splinter in our brother’s eyes but not the beam in our own.  We see clearly and condemn the shadow in others because we ourselves have a deep desire to act in a certain way that our ego self denies and suppresses.

Part of the work of therapy and spiritual direction is to help us to become conscious of our shadow. What parts of ourselves do we consign to darkness? How do we project our shadow self onto others? Where is God at work in the shadow?


Robert Johnson’s book  Owning Your Own Shadow: Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche is a fascinating exploration of this complex psychological phenomenon. He shows how we often find the Divine in the shadow parts of ourselves. In the final chapter of his book, he talks about the image of the mandorla—in which two circles intersect. Where those circles meet—the Light and the Darkness intersecting—is where life-giving energy  brings wholeness to our psyche.

In my own “shadow boxing" (as Richard Rohr calls it),  I have come to realize how my Quaker identity has sometimes blocked me from getting in touch with parts of myself that are life=giving but a little scary.  As a Quaker, I am supposed to be peaceful, friendly, kind, nonviolent. Through therapy I have come to realize that I have within me deep hurt and rage that I was totally unaware of—caused by traumas from my childhood, painful experiences from broken relationships, grief, disappointments.  As I become more aware of these hidden and suppressed parts of myself, I realize they are not something to reject, but to accept as a gift.  I don’t have to be a perfect Quaker all the time. I can be myself—warts and all—just like other people, broken, confused, and at a loss. It’s okay to get angry or to identify  with the manipulative anti-hero of House of Cards.  That’s part of the whole of who I am.

What I have come to realize is the Great Paradox of Christian identity. I am sinner in need of grace, forgiveness, and God’s unconditional love. I am also God’s beloved child, made in God’s image, loved and redeemed and worthy no matter what I do, or don’t do.

How does this apply this paradox to our international affairs? Clearly ISIS does evil things, but so do we. ISIS and the US have both fallen short of what God intends. Both have committed great evil, yet  both  have the potential for redemption. How can this redemption happen? How can we learn to express the Divine nature in ourselves and to see the Divine in others?  Killing our enemy won’t bring about redemption for them, or for us. Jesus teaches that the only way to redemption is through self-sacrifice and love. This may seem impossibly hard on the international stage. But it is possible, and indeed necessary, to treat our enemy as we would wish to be treated—with dignity and respect. This is the way of negotiation and diplomacy.



In our personal lives, we have opportunities to reach out to those who annoy and anger us. When we do this, and it isn’t easy, spiritual and psychological growth typically occurs.

Great spiritual teachers recognize this: “In the practice of tolerance,” says the Dalai Lama, “Your enemy is the best teacher.” Jesus goes even further: “Love your enemy.” Loving your enemy includes loving parts of yourself that your ego would like to reject.

As a Quaker, I’ve had my share of conflicts with other Quakers as well as with non-Quakers. What has helped me to grow spiritually has been a willingness to see conflict as an opportunity to become honest and whole. What is my part in the conflict? What is my opponent’s viewpoint and feelings? How can we both learn from this experience?

When conflicts arise among Quakers, we have the opportunity to ask for a clearness committee.  Those in conflict meet with sympathetic Friends for a time of prayer, sharing and reflection. We usually begin with a time of silent worship, to center down and connect with Spirit and our Inner Wisdom. After this time of centering, each person has a chance to speak without being interrupted. Each is committed to listening to the other, as deeply as possible. Friends who are part of this clearness committee ask questions that help to bring clarity to those who are having a conflict.

I have been part of three or four clearness committees in my 30 years as a Friend and they have all helped me to have a better relationship with those I was having a conflict with.

I wonder if such a process could be applied in the international arena. I know that the Compassionate Listening Project has been successful in bringing together Palestinians and Israelis, teaching them listening skills, and helping them to hear each other at a deep level. What would our world be like if our leaders learned and practiced Compassionate Listening? Would this help us to overcome our projections, our demonization of the other, and see each other as we truly are: broken, hurting people made in God's image, with legitimate grievances and needs.....

This approach may seems  na├»ve, but what have we gained by being “realistic” and engaging in endless wars?  When conventional ways fail us time and time again, perhaps we need to consider new ways that our spiritual teachers have advocated, and which have been proven to work.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Gazans aren't Quakers...yet

 
I was intrigued by what Rob Eshman, editor of the Jewish Journal, wrote in “Young Americans and Israel” (Sept. 5):
 
 “The people in charge of Gaza aren’t exactly Quakers.”
 
When I read this, I thought: "Gazans aren't Quakers, yet. But what if they had the opportunity to study in a Quaker school? What if nonviolence were taught at all the schools in this region?" I responded to this comment with the following letter he published:
 
"This is true, but readers may be surprised to learn that many Palestinian leaders have been trained in a Quaker school in Ramallah that dates back to the 19th century, and they often espouse (and practice) Quaker values. Quakers have been working for nonviolent solutions to the problems in Israel/Palestine since receiving the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1947, working with refugees, teaching nonviolence, and encouraging dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, including Gazans. We call for many of the changes that young people (including Jewish Voice for Peace) advocate — an end to the siege and occupation, a two-state solution, full and equal rights for Palestinians, and meaningful security guarantees for Israeli (such as an embargo on arms and military-use items). My hope is similar to that of many young people in America and around the world: that Israelis and Palestinians will both come to see the futility of violence and learn to live together with justice and dignity for all."
 

If you'd like to learn more about Ramallah Friends School, I recommend reading "Enduring Hope," a book I reviewed for Friends Journal. You can read the review on my blog. Here's an excerpt: 
 

The most common image of Palestinians depicted in the US media is that of terrorist or victim. In her book Enduring Hope Patricia Edwards-Konic, a Quaker minister and journalist, helps to dispel these stereotypes by showing Palestinians deeply concerned about educating their children and making a positive impact on the world. Palestinian voices seldom heard in our media—the voices of teachers, parents, and students—speak movingly about their values, their formative educational experiences, and their hopes and dreams for the future.

Enduring Hope describes a remarkable Quaker educational experiment that began in 1889 in the Arab village of Ramallah, just north of Jerusalem. Deeply committed to gender equality, Quakers opened a school for Palestinian girls in order to provide them with the same education that was being given to boys. The school was so successful that a Quaker school for boys was opened in 1901. Since then, Ramallah Friends School (RFS) has grown to over 1,000 students, K-12, and has become co-educational (highly unusual in the Middle East, where segregation by sexes is the norm). It is also the only school in Palestine to mainstream students with special needs. Furthermore, the school is one-third Christian, and two-thirds Muslim; and everyone gets along, thanks to a carefully developed, values-based curriculum that stresses religious pluralism and toleration.

 
 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

My letter about Christians in Israel/Palestine published in Pasadena Star News: a miracle!

The Pasadena Star News just published a very truncated version of an op ed piece I sent them a week ago. I have mixed feelings about the letter because it leaves out crucial information, such as the fact that Hamas has not persecuted Christians in Gaza the way ISIS has in Iraq. But at least, they published something that will get the attention of our elected officials since I deliberately included the names of Feinstein and Chu (their aides cull any letters mentioning their names and share them with bosses).
It is very very hard to get anyting critical of Israel in the Star News or in any newspaper here in the US (it is easier in Israel). It took a visit to their office with my Presbyterian pastor friend Rev Darrel Myers to get the newspaper's attention.
After my visit to the office, I wrote Larry Wilson, their editorial page editor, the following letter:
We went to your office on Colorado Blvd and were graciously received by Sarah Favot who suggested we contact you. Darrel and I were part of the delegation of twenty five religious leaders and activists who went the offices of Senators Feinstein and Boxer two weeks ago, hoping to meet or talk with them to express our concern about US support for bombing Gaza--a massacre costing over 2000 lives, including over 500 children. I was one of four people arrested for not leaving Feinstein's office when she refused to talk with us. We spent the night in Van Nuys jail. See http://laquaker.blogspot.com/2014/08/i-have-justreturned-home-from-night-in.html

I am a retired college professor, Quaker magazine editor, author and peace activist who cares deeply about the situation in Israel/Palestine. In 2004 I visited the region with the Compassionate Listening project and met and listened to a wide range of people. (I even published a book called "Compassionate Listening.") I feel a heart connection with Israelis as well as Palestinians and want to see this conflict resolved in a just and peaceful way that honors the humanity of all parties. That's why I am very disturbed that your newspaper has published Tim Rutten, a columnist who vilifies Muslims and makes false and misleading statements about what is happening in the Middle East. I don't mind people expressing different opinions, but I feel that they should at least be truthful.

I devoted one of my blogs to addressing some of the false and inflammatory statements that Rutten made in the first op ed piece you published ("Hamas Causes the Tragedy but Israel Gets Blamed"). See http://laquaker.blogspot.com/2014/08/truth-and-reconciliation-in.html

As I point out in the op ed I sent you earlier this week in response to Rutten's second op ed piece ("Do we remains silent about anti-semitism, attacks on Christians"), Rutten's allegation that Muslims are committing ethnic cleansing of Christians in Israel/Palestine is utterly false. It is true that Islamic extremists are persecuting Christians in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East, but not in Israel/Palestine. Rev Darrel Myers has been to Israel/Palestine 25 times, met with hundreds if not thousands of Palestinian Christians, and never once has he witnessed or heard of such alleged ethnic cleansing. He works with Sabeel, an organization of Palestinian Christians committed to nonviolence who see Israeli occupation, not Muslim persecution, as the real problem in this region. The voice of Palestinian Chrisians deserves to be heard by your readers.

I hope you will take seriously my op ed piece and try to present a fair and balanced view of what is happening in Israel/Palestine and the Middle East.





Who Would Jesus Bomb?

Christians in Israel/Palestine and the Middle East


By Anthony Manousos


How do we end the violence in the Middle East? The bombing of Gaza, and the bombing of Muslims in other parts of the Middle East, is not the answer.I, along with eleven other religious leaders and activists (including a rabbi and pastor), went to the office of Senator Feinstein with this message on August 18. We made a simple request to talk with the Senator by phone, and she refused. After we waited four hours in her office, her staff called the police, had us arrested, and we spent the night in jail. (I am pleased that Representative Judy Chu has agreed to meet with us and have a conversation about the Middle East.) Estee Chandler of Jewish Voices for Peace interviewed us in KPFK's "Middle East in Focus," one of the few places where you can hear alternative views about what is happening in this region. The Star News published two op ed pieces by Tim Rutten, who is not only vehemently pro-Israel and anti-Muslim, he also makesmany false and misleading statements, such as the claim that Muslims have engaged in “ethnic cleansing” of Christians in Gaza and throughout the Middle East.

Rutten alleges: “The Palestinians, in whose cause so much of Europe now speaks with such vitriol toward Israel, are as guilty of ethnic cleansing as the rest of their Islamic brethren.” (Star News: 8/7/14)

It is true that ISIS, an extremist group with around 15,000 members, is brutally killing not only Christians, but fellow Muslims they disagree with. Before we invaded Iraq, however, Christians and Muslims got along fairly well under the Baathist regime. Our brutal invasion and "shock and awe" bombing of Iraq unleashed extremist violence that drove tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians into exile. Many fled to Syria, where they received a much warmer welcome by President Assad than the children crossing the border received here in the United States. Millions of Christians are now living in exile in Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon. Their situation is not ideal but it is better than that of many Latin Americans who have come to the US for refuge.

Rutten presents no evidence showing that Muslims in Gaza have engaged in “ethnic cleansing”of Christians and that the decline in the Christian population in Israel/Palestine is the fault of Muslims.

The truth is that most of the 1,500 Christians currently living in Gaza have a close relationship with their Muslim neighbors and most Palestinian Christians see Israeli occupation, not alleged Muslim ethnic cleansing, as the biggest threat to their lives and livelihood.

For example, the Porphyrius Greek Orthodox Church in Gaza has become a haven not just for Christian but also hundreds of Muslim families seeking shelter there as the offensive drags on.“The church has been our hosts for the past two weeks, offering food, clothes and whatever we needed, their loss is our loss, their pain is our pain,” says 45-year-old Abu Khaled. At the memorial service for a Christian mother named Jalila killed by the Israeli attack, Archbishop Alexios said: “Another human being, an innocent one, has lost her life." In something that surprised local journalists, Jalila’s body was carried by both Muslims and Christians to the grave. “The world must realise that Israel’s missiles don’t differentiate between Christians and Muslims,” said Abu.

George Ayyad, a relative of Jalila, rejects the idea that Christians will leave Gaza after this incident. “This is exactly what the Israelis want, but where should we go?” he questions, before he continues “This is my homeland and we are Christians here in Gaza for more than 1,000 years and we will remain.”

The same is true throughout the West Bank and occupied territories. Many Palestinian Christians feel that Israelis are trying to drive them out of their ancestral lands. They cry out to the United States and the international community, asking for justice and an end to the occupation.

Sabeel, an organization of Christians in Israel/Palestine, is committed to nonviolent resistance to Israeli occupation. In his statement on behalf of Sabeel, the Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek, expresses the views of many Palestinian Christians:
1. The international community needs to empower the UN to resolve the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
2. International law unequivocally gives occupied people the right to shake off the yoke of the occupier through various means including the armed struggle. While this is true and needs to be remembered in considering this situation, Sabeel has always stood for the moral right of liberation through nonviolent means.
3. The Palestinian rockets from Gaza have an important message that Israel refuses to understand and the western powers, especially the United States, are unwilling to comprehend. The message of the rockets addresses the core issues and the root causes of the problem – STOP THE ISRAELI OCCUPATION AND FREE PALESTINE.
4. Our plea is to all people of conscience in Israel. You need to become engaged. The present political course is driving Israelis and Palestinians further apart and is leading us to an impending disaster worse than we are witnessing today. We all must stop nurturing extremism. Israelis and Palestinians have to live together in this land. God has put us here, we need to share it. The alternative is untenable.
5. A stable peace can only be realized when justice, in accordance with international law, is achieved for both Israel and Palestine.
If we want to help the Christians of Israel/Palestine, we need to listen to what Palestinian Christians are asking for: an end to the siege of Gaza, an end to Israeli occupation, and equal rights for Israelis and Palestinian. If we want to stop violence against Christians in the Middle East, we must stop bombing Muslims. Every cycle of violence perpetrated by the US--from bombings to drone strikes killing innocent civilians--leads to blow back and retribution against Christians. We would do far better if we acted like Christians in the Middle East and took seriously the question I once saw on a bumper sticker: "Who would Jesus bomb?"

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