Readings for Third Sunday of Easter: Acts 3: 15, 17-18; PS 4: 2, 4, 7-9; I JN 2: 1-5A; LK 34: 24-32; LK 24: 35-48
On April 4th, 1967, Martin Luther King famously called the United States "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world." That was in his "Beyond Vietnam: a Time to Break Silence." Delivered at New York's Riverside Church, it was perhaps his greatest, most courageous speech. King's words are worth reading again.
Time Magazine denounced him for it.
Despite the fact that U.S. soldiers had killed more than two million Vietnamese, (and would kill another million before the war's end), King was excoriated as a traitor. Even the African-American community quickly distanced itself from their champion because of his strong words.
To this day, King's speech is largely ignored as the daring truth-teller has been successfully transformed into a harmless dreamer - an achievement beyond the wildest dreams of the prophet's arch-enemy, the FBI's J. Edgar Hoover who considered King a communist.
One wonders what Rev. King would say about the U.S. today. For despite what the mainstream media tells us about ISIS, the U.S. remains exactly what Dr. King called it. It's still the greatest purveyor of violence in the world - even more so. By comparison, ISIS is a pacifist organization.
Face it: absent the United States, the world would surely be a much better place. Even President Obama identified the rise of ISIS(our contemporary bete noire) as the direct result of the unlawful and mendacious invasion of Iraq in 2003. That act of supreme aggression(in the U.N.'s terms) is alone responsible for the deaths of well more than one million people.
And this is not even to mention the fact that our country is fighting poor people throughout the world - in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Syria, and who knows where else? "Americans" claim the right to assassinate without trial anyone anywhere - even U.S. citizens - simply on suspicion of falling into the amorphous category of "terrorist."
Can you imagine the terror any of us would experience if enemy drones constantly hovered overhead poised to strike family members or friends because some "pilot" six thousand miles away might judge one of our weddings to be a terrorist gathering? Can you imagine picking up the severed heads and scorched bodies of little children and their mothers for purposes of identification following such terrorist attacks? This is the reality of our day. Again by comparison ISIS beheadings are completely overshadowed.
I bring all of this up because of the Risen Lord's insistence on peace in today's gospel reading. As in last week's episode about Doubting Thomas, the Risen Christ's first words to his disciples breathless from their meeting with him on the Road to Emmaus are "Peace be with you."
Last week in their own homilies about that greeting, I'm sure that pastors everywhere throughout our Great Country were quick to point out that the peace of Christ is not merely absence of war; it is about the interior peace that passes understanding.
Their observation was, of course, correct. However, reality in the belly of the beast - the world's greatest purveyor of violence - suggests that such comfort is out-of-place. We need to be reminded that inner tranquility is impossible for citizens of a terrorist nation. Rather than giving us comfort, pastors should be telling us that the peace of the risen Christ is not merely about peace of mind and spirit; IT IS ABOUT ABSENCE OF WAR.
So instead of comforting us, Jesus' words of greeting should cut us to the heart. They should remind us of our obligation in faith to own our identity as the Peace Church Jesus' words suggest. More specifically, as Christian tax payers (having performed the annual IRS ritual last week) we should be organizing a nation-wide tax resistance effort that refuses to pay the 40% of IRS levies that go to the military. While it is absolutely heroic for individuals to refuse, there is safety and strength in numbers.
So an ecumenical movement to transform Christian churches into a unified peace movement of tax resistance should start today. All of us need to write letters to Pope Francis begging him to call his constituency to tax resistance - to call the UN and the U.S. Congress to stop the aggression.
Once again: there can be no interior peace for terrorists. And Dr. King was right: Americans remain the world's greatest terrorists. We are traitors to the Risen Christ!
Focusing on a utopian interior peace while butchering children across the globe is simply obscene.