Archive for May 2011 – Page 2


One of the pillars of Christian monasticism is the vow of stability. In the monastic context, vowed stability means making a commitment to remain in a particular, geographically rooted monastic community until death. The purpose of such stability is to remove any escape route from the process of inward conversion that the monastics have committed themselves to in community. These women and men know that they will live the rest of their lives and die within the context of the vowed community to which they first committed themselves.

As a Quaker, formal, vowed monasticism has never been a live option for me. Even if it were, the fact that I am married and feel that God calls me to an energetic engagement with the surrounding culture would present stumbling blocks to embracing that path. Nevertheless, while I see that my calling in the Lord is distinct Eastern Market - Washington, DCfrom that of my vowed brothers and sisters, I also perceive some similarities.

My natural state is one of flight. I like new ideas and projects, new locales and experiences. I like to start projects, but finishing them is harder. All things being equal, I am likely to seek the sweetness of beginning. I tend to flee the struggle of enduring to the finish.
For someone like me who is a “starter,” the great temptation is not to finish. There is always another intriguing possibility on the horizon (or, more likely, dozens!); there is plenty of good work to do that does not involve the painful endurance of years.

But growth takes more than a decision to begin. This is the reason that the early Quaker movement taught that justification (getting “saved,” being at peace with God) must go hand in hand with sanctification (being remade in Christ’s image, the conversion of all areas of ones life). The decision to start is not enough. There must be an ongoing decision to be faithful, to submit to Christ, to take up the cross and walk with it. Even when it is difficult. Even when it is painful. Even when it is boring.

In my life, “stability” is about remaining where God has placed me and being willing to stay there until my death, if God wills it. In my present situation, it means Plants at Eastern Market - District of Colombiacommitting to be faithful in the work that God has given me here in the DC area. As long as it takes, unless and until God releases me for a different kind of service.

I make my vow of stability to Jesus Christ, to remain in him and in his Way, all the days of my life. This is my spiritual vow of stability: not to any particular place or community, but to God’s call on my life. And it may amount to the same thing, in the end. If God wills it, I will remain here in Washington, laboring for the Kingdom in this particular place and community until I die. I will not seek to escape my Holy Orders, instead living by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

The False Atonement of Osama Bin Laden

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:28

[In Bin Laden’s death there are] …no red states or blue states, just United States; no MoveOn progressives or Tea Party conservatives, just Americans. – Eugene Robinson, The Washington Post

After months of preparations, a small detachment of US commandos entered Osama Bin Laden’s high-security compound in Pakistan and put a bullet in his head. Bin Laden’s body was quickly evacuated from the scene, to be buried at sea. President Barak Obama soon appeared on television to announce to the nation and the world that the mastermind of the September 11thYouth Celebrate Bin Laden's Death attacks and spiritual leader of Al Qaeda had been killed. “Justice has been done.”

I first got word of Bin Laden’s assassination just before going to sleep on Sunday evening. I also learned that crowds had gathered in front of the White House (and, I would later learn, in New York City). Hundreds of people – mostly the very young – took to the streets to celebrate the death of the perpetrator of the most devastating foreign attack on the United States in living memory. For many of those celebrating Bin Laden’s death on Sunday night, the 9/11 terror attacks took place before they were in high school.

While the youngest generations were the most visible celebrants late Sunday evening, jubilation seems to have swept through all generations. Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post crowed the following morning, “Triumphalism and unapologetic patriotism are in order. We got him.”(1) In perhaps the most extreme example of said triumphalism, the New York Daily News trumpetedCelebration Outside the White House the news, saying, “the message of the Bin Laden killing is this: We are still here. And he rots in hell.”

It is clear that the youth gathered outside the White House and on the streets of New York on the evening of Bin Laden’s death were not merely isolated demonstrations of adolescent bluster. Much of the nation, led by our news media, has found a delirious national unity in the death of our chief enemy.

From everything I understand about the man, Osama Bin Laden was devoted to murder and fomented hatred and death throughout the world. He worshipped a false God of violence and coercion, taking pleasure in the deaths of his enemies. And for almost a decade he served as the arch-enemy of the United States and the Western world in general. Now, through his assassination by the United States government, the process of scapegoating is Rot in Hellcomplete. The United States has spent ten years piling the sins of the nation on top of this man, and his death promises an opportunity for redemption. A ragged, divided nation looks to Osama Bin Laden for atonement.

Thanks to the death of Bin Laden explains Robinson, there are now, “…no red states or blue states, just United States; no MoveOn progressives or Tea Party conservatives, just Americans.”(1) A new national myth is being forged: Through his death, Bin Laden has united us. We are all one in his death. This is the blood atonement of Osama Bin Laden.

Clearly, this is a monstrous falsehood.

Where is the Church of Jesus Christ in all of this? Where is the Body of Christ in the United States? How did Osama Bin Laden become our savior, cleansing us with his blood? How did we come to substitute our own violence for the saving power of God? How is it that we now find ourselves standing in the place of Pilate, nailing Bin Laden to a cross of our own devising and engineering a manmade atonement?

Bin Laden was no Jesus, but we are acting like Romans.

Far from being a day of national celebration, this should be day for repentance. Like the people of Nineveh long ago(2), far from gloating and cheering the death of our enemy, we should put on sackcloth and ashes. We should mourn the horror and destruction that comes from human greed, fear and lust for domination. This is a time for us, the Church, to repent of our involvement in Empire and to call our fellow citizens out of it as well. We must not swallow the lies of nationalism and militarism that have replaced the cross with an American flag. Lord Jesus, have mercy on us – we know not what we do.