Wednesday, July 09, 2008


A date some say will live in infamy. And others say the death of habeas corpus was worse. Some hearken back to the AUMF vote; others say this is as bad as it gets, that this is the end, beautiful friend, the end.

Funny how a crisis of confidence turns me back to my Christianity. I'm not bragging; I just started re-reading Bonhoeffer's Christ the Center, how the Gemeinde is in Christ, and the individual is in the Gemeinde, or neither exists at all:

It is the mystery of the community that Christ is in her and, only through her, reaches to men [sic]. Christ exists among us as community, as Church in the hiddenness of history. [And I pause to note this is one of those times when history is has hidden as it can be; the true history we want to believe in, in this country; not the one we actually live] The church is the hidden Christ among us. Now therefore many is never alone, he exists only through the community which brings him Christ, which incorporates him in itself, takes him into its life. Man in Christ is man in community; where he exists is community. But because at the same time as individual he is fully a member of the community, therefore here alone is the continuity of his existence preserved in Christ. Therefore man can no longer understand himself from himself, but only from Christ.
I think this explains why I am neither disappointed nor surprised. Even habeas corpus didn't mean a great deal to people before the Warren Court decisions on the rights of criminal defendants. The 4th Amendment had no real meaning for African Americans in the face of Dred Scott, and neither meant a great deal to the children who joined Mother Jones in the Children's Crusade. It didn't even mean a great deal to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whom J. Edgar Hoover spied on, and very little from the Church committee really effected much change in 4th amendment jurisprudence, at least as far as domestic intelligence gathering was concerned. The difference is, this time it affects us: people who can afford telephones and computers and e-mail and internet connections, people who can use this vast telecommunications network we've made for ourselves. We thought it was a joke when the President's analyst learned the greatest conspirator was Ma Bell. Suddenly it's not so funny, but that's only because it's not a joke anymore. Now, instead of the blacks, the immigrants, the natives, the poor, women, children, the labor unions and workers, the powerless of any stripe, it hurts us. Now our ox is being gored.

So welcome to their world, says I. Speaking as a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth, I find it's where I am expected to be. I don't find it distressing: I find it to be the status quo. African Americans had to march in the streets, and bear attacks by dogs and water cannons and fear lynch mobs and assassins. All I have to do is make a phone call, complain about a Senate vote, and be annoyed that the Senate doesn't live up to the image I was given of it in high school government classes many decades ago.

Jeremiah Wright was right: Barack Obama is a politician. And much as I rant and rail about politics, on days like this I realize I stopped putting my trust in politics when Richard Nixon won re-election. What I think about on a day like this, is what I am putting my trust in now, and why. I cannot understand myself from myself, but only from Christ. The center of my community is not in what the U.S. Senate does, or fails to do.

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