To See The Enemy’s Point of View

Wesley MorrisDay 19 of our Lenten Journey through Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech.  

Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.

So, too, with Hanoi. In the North, where our bombs now pummel the land, and our mines endanger the waterways, we are met by a deep but understandable mistrust. To speak for them is to explain this lack of confidence in Western worlds, and especially their distrust of American intentions now. In Hanoi are the men who led this nation to independence against the Japanese and the French, the men who sought membership in the French Commonwealth and were betrayed by the weakness of Paris and the willfulness of the colonial armies. It was they who led a second struggle against French domination at tremendous costs, and then were persuaded to give up the land they controlled between the thirteenth and seventeenth parallel as a temporary measure at Geneva. After 1954 they watched us conspire with Diem to prevent elections which could have surely brought Ho Chi Minh to power over a unified Vietnam, and they realized they had been betrayed again. When we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must be considered.

By Wesley Morris (photo above), Union Theological Seminary

Dr. King, with compassionate and nonviolent reasoning, addresses his home country in this passage from “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence”. In his gathering, Dr. King goes beyond the self-interest of his nation and proclaims God’s love and justice to be inclusive of people the United States labeled enemies.

In the body of his renowned speech, Dr. King contends with a world divided, east and west, oppressed and oppressor, colonized and colonizer. He speaks from the position of a moral witness of people scattered time and time again, because they sought to be free. The history of resistance to domination by the people of Vietnam was endured, felt and embodied through the lived experience of gunfire, blood and sacrifice. Continue reading

Frighteningly Relevant

Will ODay 18 of our Lenten Journey through Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech.

How do they judge us when our officials know that their membership is less than twenty-five percent communist, and yet insist on giving them the blanket name? What must they be thinking when they know that we are aware of their control of major sections of Vietnam, and yet we appear ready to allow national elections in which this highly organized political parallel government will not have a part? They ask how we can speak of free elections when the Saigon press is censored and controlled by the military junta. And they are surely right to wonder what kind of new government we plan to help form without them, the only real party in real touch with the peasants. They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again, and then shore it up upon the power of a new violence?
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By Will O’Brien, of Project H.O.M.E. and the Alternative Seminary in Philadelphia

The Scriptural tradition, particularly in the scrolls of the prophets, communicates the deep wisdom that human history is marked by the persistent instinct toward power, particularly in governmental systems rooted in oppression and militarism. The late Walter Wink gave powerful articulation to this Scriptural wisdom: he termed it “the Domination System,” which recurs in sundry forms at different epochs throughout history. Continue reading

Surely We Must See

LydiaDay 17 of our Lenten Journey through Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech.

Perhaps a more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those who have been designated as our enemies. What of the National Liberation front, that strangely anonymous group we call “VC” or “communists”? What must they think of the United States of America when they realize that we permitted the repression and cruelty of Diem, which helped to bring them into being as a resistance group in the South? What do they think of our condoning the violence which led to their own taking up of arms? How can they believe in our integrity when now we speak of “aggression from the North” as if there was nothing more essential to the war? How can they trust us when now we charge them with violence after the murderous reign of Diem and charge them with violence while we pour every new weapon of death into their land? Surely we must understand their feelings, even if we do not condone their actions. Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed them to their violence. Surely we must see that our own computerized plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts.
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By Lydia Wylie-Kellermann (photo above with son Isaac), co-editor of RadicalDiscipleship.Net

It was one of those first warm spring days on campus. We began pulling up the orange jump suits and covering our faces with black hoods. It was, for me, the first of many years that this physical embodiment would be part of protests. News of the US’s use of torture had been spreading. Images flooded the internet. Suddenly, the sidewalks were packed. Within minutes, it was clear that this protest struck a nerve. We were met with hostile anger and a consistent response- “You are wrong! The US does not torture. We would NEVER do that!” Continue reading

Wild Lectionary: There is No New Water. Living Water is Life-Giving Water.

rainonland

Water after a rain on the New Life Church land

Third Sunday in Lent
John 4:5-42

By Rev. Carmen Retzlaff

In Central Texas, we think a lot about water. The Texas climate is famously described by meteorologists as, historically, “drought with periods of flooding.” And so it seems. After seven years of droughts in which water wells dried up in our area, the nearby Blanco River flooded the small town of Wimberley and towns downstream in 2015. With this view of water in mind, I read the story of Jesus’s conversation with the woman at the well as a story about water. Continue reading

Raise the Questions They Cannot Raise

WesSueDay 11 in our Lenten Journey through Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech.

We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation’s only noncommunist revolutionary political force, the unified Buddhist Church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men.

Now there is little left to build on, save bitterness. Soon the only solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call “fortified hamlets.” The peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these. Could we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise. These, too, are our brothers.

By Sue Ferguson Johnson and Wes Howard-Brook

When King turned his prophetic voice to the war in Vietnam, he joined a long tradition of those who saw and named the connections between what he called the “evil triplets” of racism, capitalism and militarism. A century earlier, former slave Frederick Douglas, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, and women’s suffragette Susan B. Anthony combined in a campaign that similarly linked such evils in their own time (see H. Meyer, All on Fire). Now, fifty years after King, we, too, are called to speak and to act in solidarity for justice in all its interconnected manifestations. Continue reading

Wild Lectionary: Love Flows Like a River

The Third Sunday in Lent
John 4

By Sue Ferguson Johnson and Wes Howard-Brook

John 4 is like a kaleidoscope. From one angle, it is a story about Jesus’ gender-inclusive invitation to dis-cipleship. Turn it slightly and you can see Jesus seeking to heal a hostile history between Samaritans and Judeans. From yet another angle, it speaks to the question of authentic worship. Continue reading

These Voiceless Ones

JuliusDay 15 of our Lenten Journey through Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech.

So they go, primarily women and children and the aged. They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one Vietcong-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them, mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.

What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test out our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?
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A Lenten liturgy from Exodus 17:3-7 and John 4:5-42 from Atlanta-based UCC pastor Julius Jessup Peterson (photo above):

Call to Worship:

Leader: We are called in this time to remember and to anticipate.

People: We can’t see through the fog around us, we are without water, and the fruit of our land is filled with disease.

Leader: We are called to remember that salvation is liberation from the fear of death, and sin is separation from you.

People: Violence has divided us, neighbor against neighbor, loved one against kin, we have lost our way. Continue reading