Monday, December 06, 2004

O come, O come Emmanuel

There is a joy in Advent (which we will get to, promise!), but there is a paradox, as well. Advent is the season of already but not yet. It's a frustration as keen as a child wanting Christmas to come right now!, even as the anticipation of that "right now" pushes Christmas futher and further away. It's the anticipation of what will be that makes us so anxious.

Which is right and proper, given the news for any day, now. The news for today, for example.

Under the plans [the U.S. military has for Fallujah], troops would funnel Fallujans to so-called citizen processing centers on the outskirts of the city to compile a database of their identities through DNA testing and retina scans. Residents would receive badges displaying their home addresses that they must wear at all times. Buses would ferry them into the city, where cars, the deadliest tool of suicide bombers, would be banned.

"You have to say, 'Here are the rules,' and you are firm and fair. That radiates stability," said Lieutenant Colonel Dave Bellon, intelligence officer for the First Regimental Combat Team, the Marine regiment that took the western half of Fallujah during the US assault and expects to be based downtown for some time.

Bellon asserted that previous attempts to win trust from Iraqis suspicious of US intentions had telegraphed weakness by asking, " 'What are your needs? What are your emotional needs?' All this Oprah [stuff]," he said. "They want to figure out who the dominant tribe is and say, 'I'm with you.' We need to be the benevolent, dominant tribe.

"They're never going to like us," he added, echoing other Marine commanders who cautioned against raising hopes that Fallujans would warmly welcome troops when they return to ruined houses and rubble-strewn streets. The goal, Bellon said, is "mutual respect."

Is it even possible to be "the benevolent, dominant tribe?" If your are the dominant tribe, it's easy to think so. But does the subordinate tribe ever agree? Recent history in Iraq alone would seem to say: "No."

We think of ourselves as a just country, a moral country, a fair country. Christianity is supposed to be about justice; about God's justice. Part of the promise of Advent, is that God's justice will be done. Will be done right now, and not yet. Which makes even the best of us tired and anxious:

"Why did you not tear asunder the heavens and come down,
that, when you appeared, the mountains might shake,
that fire might blaze as it blazes in brushwood
when it makes water boil?
Then would your name be known to your adversaries,
and nations would tremble before you."

Isaiah 64:1-2, Revised English Bible

Why doesn't God do that much? Satisfy our need for justice, slake our thirst for what is right, straighten out this grand mess we've made of things, even if it means we get brushed aside as a consequence. Surely justice that catches us, too, is better than no justice at all!

It won't be long now. It's coming closer.


  1. "It won't be long now. It's coming closer."

    For God's sake, don't invite that Yeats poem!! It will slouch right on into your Bethlehem.

  2. That's our Robert.

    Nice pulpit, RMJ.

    You'll have a flock in no time. And a few stray sheep dogs that like to scrap with wolves passing through just to keep the pastures neat. Keep the faith.


  3. I'm glad you're doing this.

    Re justice, I've always imagined that the difference between good people and bad people, from a divine perspective, would be vanishingly small. I'm afraid that a lot of people tend to see the difference between themselves and the "evildoers" as a bit more profound than it usually is.