It Is Harder to End a War Than Begin One

By Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler, Senior Minister, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ & Director & Chief Visionary, Faith Strategies, LLC

Twenty years ago, planes crashed into the World Trade Centers, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. There was disbelief, weeping, and shock as people in the affected areas looked for their loved ones. There was a deep eeriness in the air, and grief and disbelief set in, and then the tone began to shift to revenge and retribution. Chants began to arise like “USA! USA! USA!”  Politicians and preachers began to use the phrase “God bless America,” as if America was somehow more deserving of God’s blessings than anywhere else.

Three days later I was speaking on the phone with an insurance company representative about a personal matter, and the insurance representative paused the call so that the entire office could sing “God Bless America.” The news sources were all rattling their proverbial sabers, and it would only be a short amount of time before all the pistons would be firing in the war engine. It was a time 20 years ago, a moment, and a setting that the American public could be cajoled and sold anything seemingly patriotic and retaliatory, and it was. The military went into Afghanistan to dislodge Al Qaeda, and it stayed to create a new government and country. Something that the Soviets had tried to do previously. But that was not a history that the US learned from because the neo-cons and the defense contractors with the military industrialists decided that it was an opportunity to reconstruct a region in its own image, control the natural resources of the region, and to create governments loyal to the interest of the west and particularly the US.

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Zionism, Christian Zionism and White Supremacy

By Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler, Senior Minister, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, Washington, DC

People who are interested in the bible are tempted to read it literally and seek to follow its every word. This has been the conditioning of fundamentalism.  Fundamentalists have taught that every word in the scripture is true and the bible is inerrant. This point of view has permeated believing constituencies and have generally not been challenged as preachers and teachers choose to leave well enough alone; not want to rock the theological boat, or to roil up their followers. 

This means that scriptures are not questioned, and blanks are filled in where there seems to be glaring inconsistencies in the text or where the prophecy is yet unfulfilled. This has resulted in Christians believing that Jews are God’s chosen people, gentiles are grafted into the promise of God, and the land of Israel belongs to the Jews as promised to them by God. Furthermore, it is argued that not only does the land belong to the Jews, but Jews must be repatriated for Jesus to return, and then Jesus will judge the righteous and unrighteous, and Jews must recognize Jesus as the Christ so that the promise of the reign of God can be fulfilled.  In general, this is known as Christian Zionism, and Christian Zionism is a distortion of scripture used for advancing a colonial Zionist state in Palestine.

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Enabling America’s Racial Violence

By Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler, Senior Minister, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ and Director and Chief Visionary, Faith Strategies, LLC

In my ministry in the 1980s in Roxbury, Massachusetts with the recovering community from drug addiction, I encountered one of our struggling addicts and his spouse.  He had been using though he was supposed to be in recovery.  I shall never forget his explanation of his struggle to remain clean.  He said when questioned by me, that I did not understand, his “relapses were getting shorter and his recoveries were getting longer!”  His spouse agreed with that reasoned explanation, though I realized his con, but unfortunately his spouse enabled his addictive behavior until he died of an overdose.  This was a poignant lesson for me. I see in this lesson how we may enable destructive behavior seeking and hoping that the reasoning and rationalization is true.  The rationalization deters us from confronting the real issues where the so-called recovering addict was not recovering, but the avoidance of the issue and the realities would offer some comfort even while eventually leading to death. 

As I see it, the United States is in the same boat as the recovering addict. The nation claims to be dealing with its problem of racism, white supremacy, and white idolatry, or claims at times that it has dealt with its problem, rationalizing the progress, when the progress is strained if at all existent. Our behavior as a nation has not changed, and we rationalize our race problems, and pretend that what exists does not exist, and that before long we will be cured.  This is how racism and white supremacy remain a persistent disease in the country, and after more than 400 years have not been dealt with, and we continue to claim that our “recoveries are getting longer” and our “relapses are getting shorter,” but the problems of racism and white supremacy remain a fixed reality as most of America delude itself believing that we as a nation is getting better. 

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