Saturday, October 14, 2006

National Religious Campaign Against Torture

Questions for Candidates on U.S. Torture Policy and Practices

We want to know where you stand on U.S. torture policy and practices. We would appreciate your answers to the following questions:

1. The U.S. Congress approved Senator John McCain’s amendment last year to ban torture by all U.S. government agencies. This move recognized that a ban on torture is not only a moral necessity but also essential to ensure the same protections for U.S. soldiers. Recent legislative action, however, allows harsh interrogation techniques to be used by non-military interrogators. Will you support future legislation that bans all U.S.-sponsored torture, with no exceptions and directs all U.S. agents to abide by the Geneva Conventions?

2. The federal War Crimes Act of 1996 defines a war crime as any “grave breach” of the Geneva Conventions’ Common Article 3. This standard ensures that those who commit such abuses, including against our own troops, do not go unpunished. Do you believe the United States should maintain an unwavering commitment to Common Article 3?

3. The president acknowledged the existence of a CIA program that indefinitely detains “enemy combatants” in secret sites outside the rule of law and without access to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Individuals detained in such locations are afforded no safeguards of due process and may be subject to unchecked abuses. Will you call upon the United States to cease all secret detentions and provide the ICRC access to all U.S. prisoners, as required by our international treaty obligations?

4. Under the practice of “extraordinary rendition,” the United States transports individuals from one country to another without judicial oversight to face criminal charges in the receiving country. Diplomatic assurances from the receiving government are designed to protect the human rights of the detainee, but many officials have confirmed that the U.S. has no capacity to ensure humane treatment under these circumstances. Do you support a prohibition on transfers of individuals in U.S. custody to other countries where they are likely to be tortured regardless of assurances otherwise?

5. Recent legislation will permit—for the first time in the history of the United States— individuals to be convicted based on evidence obtained through abuse or torture (admitted through hearsay evidence). Will you oppose this practice, even for trials involving terrorism suspects?

6. By making War Crimes Act changes that are retroactive to Sept. 11, 2001, Congress has immunized all top government officials and CIA agents against prosecution for interrogation policies that resulted in the abuses at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and in secret government torture cells around the globe. Should top government officials, private contractors, and CIA officials be given blanket immunity for their past conduct?

7. More than two years after the Abu Ghraib photos were published — and nearly four years after the first abuse-related deaths in U.S. custody as part of the “war on terror” — we are still not in a position to say that we know how this situation came about so that we can ensure that such abuses never happen again. Do you support the establishment of an independent commission to investigate U.S. detention and interrogation policies and practices since Sept. 11, 2001, and to hold those who authorized and carried out abuses accountable?

8. Under recent legislation, the president will be permitted to authorize acts that are prohibited by Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and the Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogations, without the possibility of court review of this authority. This strips the courts of their historical and constitutional role as a check on the executive branch. Do you oppose this broad expansion of executive powers, allowing the president to choose to follow or not follow international treaties, and that will side-step the authority of our courts system?

Friday, October 13, 2006


Saturday, October 07, 2006

Now that you could be labeled an enemy combatant…

Excellent article, if this doesn't get someone outraged, I don't want to know what would.

What the Military Commissions Act of 2006 means for you

Monday, September 18, 2006

I've Been Published!

I have begun submitting articles to Associated Content and my first article was published today. Whoohoo! At least three more will be on-line soon. This one is a short piece about home schooling but the others coming are on a variety of things from worm farming to depression.

Check out my first one at:
10 Reasons to Homeschool Your Kids

My payment for future articles depends on how much traffic my articles draw, so please read and then pass the word! :-)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

raspberry pink makes me smile

My entryway shelf/mail organizer/skateboard holder is done! Yay!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Sabbath Economics

I came across this website that I thought you'd like, which is an attempt to theologically ground our political economy.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Blogs From Baghdad

The Daily Absurdity Report
This is a very interesting blog, it does contain some graphic content, be warned.

Iraqi Screen
Don't read this blog if you want to maintain some level of sanity! The content is quite disturbing but very informative. Iraqi Screen seems to be much more graphic than Absurdity Report.

Baghdad Burning
A blog by Riverbend, you'll see some repeat content from 'Absurdity' and 'Screen,' but it's always nice to have multiple sources and a second opinion.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Stephen Colbert is fearless!

This has to be one of the most important comic acts of our time.
Go to to watch Stephen Colbert perform at the Press Association's Dinner.


Sunday, May 07, 2006

From Generous Orthodoxy

Who Is Jesus Christ For Us Today?

George Hunsinger recently delivered a pointed sermon in response to Dietrich Bonhoeffer's question, "Who is Jesus Christ for us today?" I found it quite upsetting. You probably will, too.

If you're interested in contributing to Hunsinger's campaign against torture, go to Church Folks for a Better America.

Hunsinger's Sermon:

Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me (Matt. 25:40).

The question that Dietrich Bonhoeffer asked himself, his students, and his readers remains as urgent now as when he first raised it: Who is Jesus Christ for us today? Bonhoeffer by no means intended to challenge the authoritative biblical answer. What he confessed with the prophets and the apostles, he attested at the cost of his life. He affirmed that Jesus Christ is the Risen Lord who had become incarnate for our sakes in order to die for our sins and liberate us from the power of death. That was the answer presupposed in every other possible answer to his question. It was the one answer that contained all others within itself.

But Bonhoeffer knew that other answers were indeed included within that one answer. He knew that in dying for our sins, Jesus Christ had made the sufferings of the world his own. He knew that discipleship to Christ meant participating in Christ's sufferings in the present time. "The hungry need bread," he once wrote, "and the homeless need a roof; the oppressed need justice and the lonely need fellowship; the undisciplined need order and the slave needs freedom." Because Jesus had entered into our world of sorrows, and because he had taken up the cause of those in need, making their cause to be his own, Bonhoeffer could continue: "To allow the hungry to remain hungry would be blasphemy against God and one's neighbor, for what is nearest to God is precisely the need of one's neighbor" (Ethics, p. 137).

That was Bonhoeffer's great insight. "What is nearest to God is precisely the need of one's neighbor." On this profound basis he saw that it made no sense to choose between evangelism and social action. He saw that evangelism without social action was empty, and that social action without evangelism was blind. Both were key to the church's mission, since both were ways of bearing witness in the world to God's love for the world in Jesus Christ. Social action against crying injustice was an indirect form of evangelism, while evangelism that led unbelievers to know and love Jesus remained an indirect goal of social action. In different ways they both proclaimed that God's love extends to the whole person at every level of human need. Feeding the hungry, as Bonhoeffer once said, prepared the way for the coming of grace.

"What is nearest to God is precisely the need of one's neighbor." This statement provides a real clue to how Bonhoeffer answered his own question. The Risen Lord, he believed, confronts us here and now precisely as the neighbor in need. That is who Jesus Christ is for us today: he comes to us in the form of the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the prisoner locked away. The neighbor in need is revealed as an incognito form of Christ's presence. This epiphany does not mean that Christ and the needy are simply identical, but it does mean that by divine grace they are inseparably one. It is impossible to serve Christ here and now without serving one's neighbor in need. As you did it to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me (Matt. 25:40).

Since what is nearest to God is the need of one's neighbor, and since Christ has made himself to be one with those in dire need, Bonhoeffer drew the right conclusion. He recognized that Christians have a special obligation to those in any society who are being persecuted, humiliated and abused. "Only those who cry out for the Jews," he wrote, "have the right to sing Gregorian chants." For the church in the Third Reich, Bonhoeffer perceived, the presence of Jesus Christ could not be separated from the plight of persecuted Jews. Whoever would serve Christ had to enter into solidarity with that despised and mistreated group, crying out by word and deed.

But that was then, and this is now. Who is Jesus Christ for us today? Who are those who are being persecuted, humiliated and abused in our particular society? Sadly there are many contenders, and too many to be mentioned here, yet chief among them, I would suggest, are the victims around the world today of U.S. sponsored torture.

April 2006 marks the second anniversary since shocking photos were released from Abu Ghraib. These photos are difficult to look at yet impossible to forget. How can we view them without thinking of Christ? How can we view the wrenching scenes of nude male bodies stacked in postures of sexual humiliation without remembering the saying: I was naked and you clothed me? How can we gaze on the shackled man kneeling in an orange jumpsuit with terror in his eyes as a ferocious German shepherd strains at the leash only inches from his face without recalling: I was in prison and you visited me. Where is the outcry? Why the silence of the churches? Can we learn what Dietrich Bonhoeffer has to teach us? Or will we be "good Germans" all over again? Who is Jesus Christ for us today?

"The thought of Jesus being stripped, beaten and derided until his final agony on the cross," wrote Pope John Paul II, "should always prompt a Christian to protest against similar treatment of their fellow beings. Of their own accord, disciples of Christ will reject torture, which nothing can justify, which causes humiliation and suffering to the victim and degrades the tormentor."

The torture-abuse scandal, as first revealed by the photos from Abu Ghraib, has by no means gone away. According to recent human rights reports:

· Detainee deaths at the hands of U.S. soldiers continue around the world.

· Aggressive, painful force-feeding has been instituted at Guantanamo where prisoners are so desperate that many would prefer to commit suicide.

· Secret CIA prisons, rife with torture situations, remain scattered across the globe.

· Thousands of persons have been subjected to what is called "extraordinary rendition," whereby suspects are essentially kidnapped and sent to countries that use torture as a means of interrogation. Yet who can deny that outsourcing torture to other regimes is the moral equivalent of practicing it ourselves?

· Finally, the department of defense has admitted to the Red Cross that "70-90 percent" of the Abu Ghraib prisoners were entirely innocent. Similar if somewhat lower figures have been estimated for other U.S. detention centers, including Guantanamo.

Not a single major human rights organization in the world believes that these abuses can be explained merely as the actions of a few bad apples at the bottom of the barrel. Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell, has stated that top officials -- up to and including the president -- have given a green light to soldiers to abuse detainees. "You don't have this kind of pervasive attitude out there," he observed, "unless you've condoned it." Yet no officials at the higher levels have seriously been been brought to account.

The photos from Abu Ghraib make one thing clear. Working against torture as sponsored by our government must begin at the local and congregational level. As dismaying as it may seem, polls show that at least 73 percent of the American people believe that torture may be used at least rarely, and 15 percent say it is "often" permissible. The figures for Christians in particular are, sadly, no exception.

The terrible stain of torture -- which is not only morally wrong but has many harmful consequences even from the standpoint of self-interest -- will not be removed from our nation until we learn to act from higher motivations than blinding fear, narrow self-regard, and ugly resentment -- to say nothing of cultural racism. If torture is not evil, then nothing is evil, for torture is the very essence of evil. Only those who cry out today for the detained Muslims and Arabs have a right to sing Gregorian chants.

Let me close with these words from Holy Scripture.

Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured (Heb. 13:3).

Those who say, "I love God," and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen (I John 4:20).

This verse might be glossed to read: Those who say, "I love God," and torture their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who torture a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen -- and the same holds true for those who turn a blind eye to torture or otherwise condone it.

Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me (Matt. 25:40).

Bonhoeffer's searching question thereby remains: Who is Jesus Christ for us today?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Evening Prayer

I've been checking out the Episcopal Daily Office over at the Mission St. Clare website. I came upon this reading for today, May 3rd, which I thought I'd share with you. May God bless the reading of His Word:

Psalm 119:25-48
Daleth Adhaesit pavimento
25 My soul cleaves to the dust; *
give me life according to your word.
26 I have confessed my ways, and you answered me; *
instruct me in your statutes.
27 Make me understand the way of your commandments, *
that I may meditate on your marvelous works.
28 My soul melts away for sorrow; *
strengthen me according to your word.
29 Take from me the way of lying; *
let me find grace through your law.
30 I have chosen the way of faithfulness; *
I have set your judgments before me.
31 I hold fast to your decrees; *
O LORD, let me not be put to shame.
32 I will run the way of your commandments, *
for you have set my heart at liberty.
He Legem pone
33 Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes, *
and I shall keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, and I shall keep your law; *
I shall keep it with all my heart.
35 Make me go in the path of your commandments, *
for that is my desire.
36 Incline my heart to your decrees *
and not to unjust gain.
37 Turn my eyes from watching what is worthless; *
give me life in your ways.
38 Fulfill your promise to your servant, *
which you make to those who fear you.
39 Turn away the reproach which I dread, *
because your judgments are good.
40 Behold, I long for your commandments; *
in your righteousness preserve my life.
Waw Et veniat super me
41 Let your loving-kindness come to me, O LORD, *
and your salvation, according to your promise.
42 Then shall I have a word for those who taunt me, *
because I trust in your words.
43 Do not take the word of truth out of my mouth, *
for my hope is in your judgments.
44 I shall continue to keep your law; *
I shall keep it for ever and ever.
45 I will walk at liberty, *
because I study your commandments.
46 I will tell of your decrees before kings *
and will not be ashamed.
47 I delight in your commandments, *
which I have always loved.
48 I will lift up my hands to your commandments, *
and I will meditate on your statutes.