On Sending Folks to War

[Last Friday I had the privilege of seeing one of our Texas Air National Guard units off to war.  For their security and that of their families I won’t mention the unit name, deployed locations, dates, etc.]

At once, I have the strangest and most wonderful “job” in the military. I am a chaplain. It’s part of my “job” to talk to people–to be there for them, to get to know them, and just to be with them. They call me ‘padre,’ ‘ preacher,’ or ‘our chaplain,’ which are all titles I am proud to bear because I am proud to serve them and to serve with them. I genuinely enjoy being with my troops.

Today was different.

It was different, because today I sent people that I know and love off to war. I visit with these folks each time we assemble. I see some of the full-timers during the week at Ellington. I joke with them. I cry with them. I drink coffee with them. I talk of serious events and about their favorite ball teams. I lead them in worship. I pray with them and for them. I read them the Word of God. I offer them the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Sacrament.

Today was different.

It was different, because today I met many of their families for the first time–wives and husbands, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters. Today, I played with their kids as Mom and Dad embraced for the last time for a while. Today, I held hands and prayed with husbands and wives who were prepared for this day but not ready for it. Today, I exchanged hearty handshakes and smiles with those who looked forward to the adventure, and I gave tissues and a shoulder to those who were afraid. Today, we all bowed our heads in prayer together–those who are faithful to attend chapel and those whom I’ve never heard utter the Lord’s name without a closely-attached expletive. Today, in the midst of the deployment chaos, we stopped what we were doing and asked God’s protection to be upon those who were leaving and those who were left here at home.

Today was different.

It was different, not because it was the beginning of another deployment, but because it was a new kind of deployment for many of our troops. A deployment “outside the wire” where our folks are almost certain to come under fire. “Outside the wire” is the domain of the Army and the Marines, a place unfamiliar to many Air Force folks. “Outside the wire” is where in the harsh reality of war, people kill and are killed.

After we prayed, there was the call to say goodbye and the hurried shuffle of boots and bags out the door. There on the flightline, in Hemingway-esque fashion, our troops waved a final goodbye in the pouring rain and climbed on board the waiting C-130. As the dull drone of the Herc’s four engines revved to life, the plane gracefully lifted off, where it was soon engulfed in the low-hanging clouds and out of sight.

Some saluted. Some waved. Some sobbed.

There is a part of everyone who wears the uniform that wishes they were going too–and an even bigger part that wishes no one had to go at all.

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Rev. Lowery…My Final Thoughts

Several people have replied to my earlier post on this blog and made statements elsewhere on the web in defense of Rev. Lowery’s benediction during the inauguration.  In short, the response has been that his words should not be interpreted as racist remarks.  The rationale for dismissing his statements as not racist are essentially three:

  1. Whites have never been treated like other races in the United States…so get over it
  2. His statements were thanking God that the day mentioned in his song had arrived
  3. He was merely quoting an old song familiar to many in the civil rights movement

To the first objection, my response is simply this:  You’re right, whites have never suffered the horrible atrocities that other races have been subjected to in United States history, but two wrongs don’t make a right.  This objection is bogus.

To objection number two, if you look at the transcript of his benediction on my first post, Rev. Lowery prays that God will “help us work for that day…”  Clearly this is not thanksgiving for the arrival of said day but a pleading that we will get there in the future.

The most common objection is the last one, that he was merely quoting (or alluding to) a song familiar to those in the civil rights movement.  Wonderful!  If Rev. Lowery wishes to pay homage to those who have labored in the civil rights movement against adversity, persecution, and the horrors that have been a sad part of our nation’s history, I will be the first to stand by his side (as a Caucasian) and say, “Amen!”  I for one am horribly ashamed of the racism that has been and arguably is still part of U.S. history.  To quote or allude to a song that itself is racist (which this lyric clearly is…whites after all are the problem that needs fixing in this verse) as a tribute to Civil Rights leaders is so blatantly wrong and hypocritical, I honestly struggle with the fact that we’re having this discussion in the first place.

If I, as a Caucasian, were to be in the position of Rev. Lowery and quote any kind of racist poem as part of my benediction I would rightly be called to account for my actions.  Why the same standard is not being applied to a Civil Rights leader, who from his own hallowed experiences should know better, is beyond me.  If we are to move beyond racism in this nation, this sort of language must perish from the lips of all.

President Obama’s Glorious Burden

This is, by far, the most stirring thing I’ve read from President Obama’s first day in office:

On this Inauguration Day, we are reminded that we are heirs to over two centuries of American democracy, and that this legacy is not simply a birthright — it is a glorious burden. Now it falls to us to come together as a people to carry it forward once more.  (from A National Day of Reconciliation and Renewal, 2009)

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Rev. Lowery’s Racist Benediction…So Much for Reconciliation…

On a day when many of my conservative and/or libertarian persuasion are deriding President Obama’s inauguration as something nearing the end of the country as we know it, I have been much less pessimistic but still anxiously awaiting what the future will hold for our great nation under a new administration.  Indeed, our new President’s first official act after taking office was to issue a proclamation decreeing a National Day of Renewal and Reconciliation and calling “upon all of our citizens to serve one another and the common purpose of remaking this Nation for our new century.”  I applaud President Obama’s actions here–indeed I am ready to draw fire from many fellow conservatives by recognizing and sorrowing over our nation’s less-than-proud heritage of racism and discrimination.

With those thoughts in mind, I was horrified to hear Rev. Joseph Lowery’s benediction during the inauguration today.  Specifically, I am shocked and offended at his closing paragraph (see below), which is just about as blatantly racist as one can be.  To suggest that whites, to use his words, fail to “embrace what is right” is hardly rhetoric that tends to inspire toward renewal and reconciliation.  Indeed, Rev. Lowery, my brother in Christ, this very language is divisive, caustic, and just plain hateful.

I, for one, am outraged, and would like an apology from Rev. Lowery and President Obama.  My letter will soon be on its way to the White House.

Mr. President, this is hardly the change so many have hoped for for so long.

(Transcript courtesy Federal News Service, foundhere)

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou who has brought us thus far along the way, thou who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path, we pray, lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee, lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee. Shadowed beneath thy hand may we forever stand — true to thee, O God, and true to our native land.

We truly give thanks for the glorious experience we’ve shared this day. We pray now, O Lord, for your blessing upon thy servant, Barack Obama, the 44th president of these United States, his family and his administration. He has come to this high office at a low moment in the national and, indeed, the global fiscal climate. But because we know you got the whole world in your hand, we pray for not only our nation, but for the community of nations. Our faith does not shrink, though pressed by the flood of mortal ills.

For we know that, Lord, you’re able and you’re willing to work through faithful leadership to restore stability, mend our brokenness, heal our wounds and deliver us from the exploitation of the poor or the least of these and from favoritism toward the rich, the elite of these.

We thank you for the empowering of thy servant, our 44th president, to inspire our nation to believe that, yes, we can work together to achieve a more perfect union. And while we have sown the seeds of greed — the wind of greed and corruption, and even as we reap the whirlwind of social and economic disruption, we seek forgiveness and we come in a spirit of unity and solidarity to commit our support to our president by our willingness to make sacrifices, to respect your creation, to turn to each other and not on each other.

And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.

And as we leave this mountaintop, help us to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family. Let us take that power back to our homes, our workplaces, our churches, our temples, our mosques, or wherever we seek your will.

Bless President Barack, First Lady Michelle. Look over our little, angelic Sasha and Malia.

We go now to walk together, children, pledging that we won’t get weary in the difficult days ahead. We know you will not leave us alone, with your hands of power and your heart of love.

Help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid; when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.

Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around — (laughter) — when yellow will be mellow — (laughter) — when the red man can get ahead, man — (laughter) — and when white will embrace what is right. [emphasis mine]

Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.

AUDIENCE: Amen!

REV. LOWERY: Say amen –

AUDIENCE: Amen!

REV. LOWERY: — and amen.

AUDIENCE: Amen! (Cheers, applause.)

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Chrysler’s “Thank You” Note

On their corporate blog, Chrysler sent America a big end-of-year Thank You note for the Christmas present, I mean massive welfare check we recently gave them.  “Thank you for investing in Chrysler – America’s Car Company,” they write…yadda, yadda, yadda.  Fortunately, the post is short, so there’s little time to get completely sick to your stomach.  The fun part comes in the comments, where the American public proceeds to complete FLAME Chrysler and rip them a new hole we can pour money into.

Read the post and comments here…

Since our elected representatives completely failed to speak for the people, at least Chrysler had the decency to let the people’s voice be heard!

BTW, Mr. Nardelli, since I have now invested in Chrysler (your words), as an investor I will expect a sweet divident check soon…and as a shareholder, I expect the opportunity to vote for your termination at the next shareholder’s meeting.

Henry Ford on Government Bailouts

Let them fail; let everybody fail! I made my fortune when I had nothing to start with, by myself and my own ideas. Let other people do the same thing. If I lose everything in the collapse of our financial structure, I will start in at the beginning and build it up again.
— Henry Ford, 11 Feb 1934

HT, The Political Inquirer

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Questions on the Economy and the Bailout

OK, I need help understanding the current state of the economy and how the proposed bailout will help make things better.  Once again I freely admit to being an engineer and a theologian, not a politician nor an economist…with that in mind, I have been mulling over the following thoughts and am looking for an education.  Here goes:

First, my summary of the present economic situation:

  1. Both the original and current bailout plans have been all about jump-starting the economy by jump-starting the credit market in one way or another
  2. A major contributor to the economic mess is Americans living well beyond their means and wracking up huge amounts of credit debt (either via ARMs or credit cards) on which many are finding it impossible to make payments (esp. ARMs)
  3. A consequence of the current mess is that creditors are unable to continue lending money (despite the fact that I’m still getting multiple credit card offers in the mail each week)
  4. Since lendors cannot lend, consumers cannot consume…end result, the economy slows

Now, my understanding of the proposed solution:

  1. Dumping $700 billion + into various areas of our financial system will allow banks, etc. to begin offering credit and lending opportunities again
  2. Increased lending and credit will allow consumers to increase spending, reviving the slowed economy

Assuming my understanding of the problem and proposed solution is correct, I have two questions, that I hope someone can answer:

  1. How will extending additional credit to people who are presently unable to pay off the debt they owe provide a long-term fix to the economy?  Won’t this actually make things worse in the long run when they are then unable to make payments on a larger amount of debt?
  2. Philosophically, isn’t the whole idea of economic growth through the encouragement of our citizens to bear increased levels of debt irresponsible and/or immoral, especially given the fact that this crisis was caused or at least worsened by people defaulting on current debts?

I’m having a really hard time understanding how the proposed bailout plan is anything other than a poorly crafted band-aid fix that will ultimately leave us worse off than we are now.  Please, will someone with some economic and political savvy provide understandable answers to my questions?

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