Lent being a time of penitence, and penitence having so much to do with reconciliation, I can't help but find myself continually thinking about non-violence, and what we can or should do to oppose the new totalitarianism in which we find ourselves post 9/11.
Both in this country, and in the USA, the traditional bastions of freedom and democracy, dawn police raids, the deportation of families whose children have been born and raised in our countries, wire-tapping, secret renditions, detention without trial, the manipulation and gagging of the free press, are becoming commonplace. At what point do we decide that we can no longer say, "It's not our business?" At what point do we decide that following our Lord involves more than saying, "Oh, what a shame?"
Like many who will be reading this, and like many Germans in the 1930s, I was raised to respect military honour, and the principle of fighting for what is right. My own father, a much-decorated RAF WWII veteran, who played his own part in the deployment of the cold-war nuclear deterrent, resigned from his post-service job with a major military contractor on moral grounds. We spent long hours, after his retirement, debating the morality of war, and I had, and still have, the highest respect for his integrity and his Christian witness.
Have we now reached the point, or are we approaching the point, where the old values don't apply? Like the many Germans from military backgrounds who finally, and at times at the highest cost, refused to support Hitler, are we being faced with asking the question, "Is this something completely different?" Does a new, and different, set of rules apply?
If it does, then everything is different, and the approach of Martin Luther King, or Mahatma Ghandi, or even of Sophie Scholl, may be the way to go. Armed opposition to injustice only makes matters worse, as thousands of Palestinians accidentally testify. There is a fascinating article on Sophie Scholl, and an equally fascinating debate in the comments section, at the National Catholic Reporter's NCR Café. Go read - prayerfully!
Perhaps some of you out there would like to comment on all this? I could do with some honest and prayerful debate. I have no intention here of thumping any tubs, but I can't just sit still and say nowt!