Faith in Protest

I was born into a Protestant family. I draw on that heritage to protest — as Martin Luther and Martin Luther King did —power corrupt in its appropriation and its use, sin dressed up in the name of God and religion, wealth run amok, sophistry, hypocrisy, lies, violence, murder, war.

I protest this Chrislamicist war. Though I am a practicing Buddhist, Jesus Christ remains a powerful force and inspiration in my life. Christian saints, teachings, and friends still help me. The Christ and the Way based in him still has meaning in this world, and not only for Christians. This is not his war. To fight such a war in his name is to crucify him again, with the Bush posse acting as the Sanhedrin.

This is a war of fundamentalisms. Hateful, vengeful religious conservatism more concerned about fantasies of the next world than following the golden rule in this one. Petty, dominating nationalism that cannot understand what the word “neighbor” means. Indulgent spoiled capitalism sucking on the smelly teat of petrochemicals. Hi-tech militarism drunk on its own power. All these neurotic currents merge in this administration.

Not all religious conservatism is evil, only that which feeds on hatred and fear to expand itself at the expense of other living beings. Not all nationalism is evil, only that which seeks to conquer and rule others. Not all economics and commerce is evil, only that which fuels insatiable greed and licentiousness, and is more free for the trader with the bigger guns.

I protest an unjust war fought in the name of religion, when only corrupt and cowardly religion supports it. I protest a neurotic nationalism that appropriates patriotism — love of home and country — to endanger us all. I protest an economics that has no future and cynically consumes the future of our children and grandchildren on to the seventh generation.

This is not a war, merely, of facts and cold calculation, whatever reasoning we may employ. It is also full of disinformation and sophistry. It is jumbled up with motivations like greed, fear, hatred, lust, pride, and delusion. It is a war of reactive emotions and bad faith.

So, in faith, I must protest. I believe we have a democratic tradition in the USA deserving of protection and preservation. It deserves democratic, honestly elected, and transparent leadership and process. Neither this government or its feeble “opposition” are doing us right. I believe our constitution enshrines values worthy of healthy self-confidence in ourselves. I believe our religious heritage serves love and compassion. I believe our scientific brilliance, technological creativity, and commercial acumen can serve what is best and honorable in humanity. But none of these are running the show today.

I believe this war is wrong. It is not about protecting our freedom. I believe it is fought out of anger and in vengeance against a tyrant the USA helped to create. We supported him, supplied him with weapons, advice, and bio-toxins until he stopped obeying our orders. That disobedience and his tweaking of our leaders’ noses are his crimes in the eyes of the Posse, rather than his despicable actions against Kurds, Iranians, and many of his own people. I believe we invade out of power-lust and hegemonic fantasies. I believe we seek control of major oil supplies so that we can lord it over others — allies in Europe, East Asia, and elsewhere; clients and puppets; and enemies. I suspect we want to be an empire. And we are obviously willing to kill those on the way of our power and profits.

It is all unnecessary. More the opposite. We have the capacity to live without Middle Eastern oil. We have the capacity to live within our great boundaries and substantial national means. And we have the capacity to rule ourselves justly, democratically, and compassionately, caring for everyone at home, especially the poor, needy, and unhealthy. If we cannot do this, how can we care for the rest of the world? Those who notice what we do with our poor will never believe that we mean anyone in the world well. If our way of life is wonderful, honorable, and true, we need not force it upon others at gunpoint.

I believe this is a war against the American people, too, now and in the future. It will not end with the conquest of Baghdad. As we kill helpless, innocent Iraqi children, women, and men who are Muslims, Christians, and Jews; as we bomb ancient cities; we needlessly sacrifice our own youth and social health. This war comes at great cost: under-funded schools with drastically slashed programs, unreformed and unaffordable health care, fewer and fewer services to ordinary folks (unlike the strange persons called “corporations” and their owners), and increased stress and paranoia. Our civil liberties are eroding under the perversely named “Patriot Act,” and with Act II on the way the police state spreads its tentacles. More of our people fall between the cracks. 2 million languish in prison, where they are exploited economically and sexually, often because of indifference, scapegoating, racism, and simplistic vengeance more than “crimes.” (Why isn’t it a crime for the Bush Posse to wage war outside the constitution and international law?) The gap between the plutocrats and the poor is huge and still growing. We are increasingly polarized, unable to talk civilly across the divides that separate us. We are afraid of each other and the world. We are ailing, at war with ourselves.

I do not hate Mr. Bush and his Posse. That would be an act of spiteful childishness, no better than what the conservative partisans and ideologues showered on Mr. Clinton and Co. I have no faith in a “we” that can only exist against some “them.” My faith is in a larger “we,” a sacred inclusiveness that cares for all beings.

This is a declaration of faith in protest against bad-faith. Not because my faith needs something to protest, but because this faith cares about others. The beliefs professed above are well-grounded in facts responsibly published in reliable sources, that is, in public knowledge (rather than the propaganda of bad-faith government). Bad-faith hides behind claims but shows no evidence. It tells the truth only when convenient, preferring half-truths when the whole truth is awkward. Nor is it above flat-out lies and flagrant deceit when their purposes are suited.

I also belief there is truth — real, honest to goodness truth — and protest the deceptions and lies of this administration and their cronies in media, board rooms, think tanks, and intimidating goon-squads.

Wars are fought with heads and hearts and bodies. We must oppose them with facts and faith and action.

We, the American people, are at war with the Iraqi people, not just their tyrant. They are not welcoming us with open arms. We have been lied to about that as well. Those scenes on TV are bigger because we control the roads and food and water. Because we have the bigger guns and the indecency to use them.

We are at war with ourselves and the future, thus with our children.

We are at war with religion and humanism and decency.

Why are we so fond of war? Or are we just bloody stupid?

I believe in peace and that compassion will prevail, if we offer our heads and hearts and bodies.

We have the capacity to be happy within our hearts, if our faith is genuine, and to bring happiness into the world for others.

Santikaro Bhikkhu
Buddhist monk, American patriot, &
Human resident of Earth
April 2003