First Sunday of Advent

“There is great virtue in practicing patience in small things until the habit of Advent returns to us.” Caryll Houselander, woodcarver and mystic

“Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers.”—Romans 13:11

Gathered around the Advent wreath, the youngest child asks: Why do we light this candle? The elder answers: We light the first Advent candle to remind us of the promise of the prophets that a Messiah would come, bringing peace with justice and love to the world.

Advent is about knowing what time it is. Though we try to stay spiritually awake, we are human. We fall asleep. We are lulled into the addictive habits and patterns of the world. We begin to act and think and live like unbelievers—like those whose vision is not shaped by God.

There are basic question that every human will eventually ask. Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? These are the essential questions of the human spirit. They are the questions that launch the quest into the nature of our mystery. Advent is a time specifically set aside in the liturgical year to accompany those questions.

It will require us to walk in dark places, sometimes without even a flicker of light. We will listen to prophets railing about the end of time—exploding our known and familiar world, our moral and cognitive self-understanding—until we are blown back to our essential elements. Advent will reduce us to atoms, bits of stardust. “We are only syllables of the Perfect Word,” says Caryll Houselander. We will be uncreated. We will be made feminine, until our nothingness becomes a nest.

On the first Sunday of Advent we must get ready to get ready. The alarm clock is about to go off. We are about to be roughly roused. We will be shaken to the very depths, so that we may wake up to the truth of ourselves. For this, we must prepare. God invites us on a journey. We are only lacking one piece of information. We have no idea where we are going.

What do you need to do to prepare?

Ad……vent. A d v e n t (slowly breathe in on the “Ad” part and out on the “vent” part)…There! You prayed today. Keep it up!

With gratitude to Pax Christi USA where some of these reflections first appeared in print..

Ched Myers: What Prophetic Tradition Will You Apprentice To?

1024px-River_baptism_in_New_Bern
“Wade in the Water.” Postcard of a river baptism in New Bern, N.C., around 1900.

“Mark’s prologue portrays the world of Roman-occupied Palestine in political, social, economic and religious crisis. Historically we know that in this context, tensions stemming from imperial forces of domination and “globalization” gave rise to prophets who called their people to radical change. John took his cue from the wilderness tradition, and Jesus from John. If we are to be followers of that Jesus, we must also make choices in the conflicted terrain of our world about what prophetic traditions we apprentice to and what social movements of liberation we help build as individuals and as church. However controversial or consequential such choices may be, such is what it means to be a disciple of the Great Disciple of God’s Kingdom.”–Ched Myers

Flamenco Flatlines Big Bank of Spain

Guerilla theater prophets at Rev. Billy’s Church of Stop Shopping have turned their sites to the thievery of Big Banks saying, “We return to the shiny, silent interior of big banks, the lobbies where we hope to establish a visual wedge, an opening of possibility in the rogue empires of Chase, Citi and B of A. Why do Americans continue to reverence these criminal organizations called big banks. Trillions in assets – with the money spent around the world as if from a detached dirigibles, untethered to any democratic controls.” Below are the flamenco artists who brought their message to the Bank of Spain.

They are, as Rev. Billy puts it, “artists who brave the high church environment of the big banks’ insides.” You can watch more at Fearofbanking.com. And read Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann on Rev. Billy in What Would Jesus Buy?

Jeffrey Sachs to Wall Street: A Case of Criminal Stupidity?

"Golden Calf" returns to Wall Street, October 2011.

Economist Jeffrey Sachs explains the Occupy Wall Street protesters and the anti-Keystone XL pipeline movement to the Wall Street Journal editorial board and hedge-fund managers. Sachs is also Special Adviser to United Nations Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals.

I love to see the prophetic imagination played out in the headlines of our times!

“Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?”–James 2:6

“For wicked men live among My people. They watch like fowlers lying in wait. They set a trap; they catch men. Like a cage full of birds, so their houses are full of deceit. Therefore they have grown powerful and rich.”–Jeremiah 5:26-27

Sachs writes in Message to Wall Street:

“The [Occupy Wall Street] protesters are not envious of wealth, but sick of corporate lies, cheating, and unethical behavior. They are sick of corporate lobbying that led to the reckless deregulation of financial markets; they are sick of Wall Street and the Wall Street Journal asking for trillions of dollars of near-zero-interest loans and bailout money for the banks, but then fighting against unemployment insurance and health coverage for those drowning in the wake of the financial crisis; they are sick of absurdly low tax rates for hedge-fund managers; they are sick of Rupert Murdoch and his henchman David Koch trying to peddle the Canada-to-Gulf Keystone oil pipeline as an honest and environmentally sound business deal, when in fact it would unleash one of the world’s dirtiest and most destructive energy sources, Canada’s oil sands, so that Koch can profit while the world suffers. And they are sick of learning how many Republican politicians – the most recent news is about Herman Cain – are doing the bidding of the Koch brothers.

Here, then, Wall Street and Big Oil, is what it comes down to. The protesters are no longer giving you a free ride, in which you can set the regulations, set your mega-pay, hide your money in tax havens, enjoy sweet tax rates at the hands of ever-willing politicians, and await your bailouts as needed. The days of lawlessness and greed are coming to an end. Just as the Gilded Age turned into the Progressive Era, just as the Roaring Twenties and its excesses turned into the New Deal, be sure that the era of mega-greed is going to turn into an era of renewed accountability, lawfulness, modest compensation, honest taxation, and government by the people rather than by the banks. …”

Read Sachs’ whole commentary.

Is Homophobia a Proxy for Fear of Social Change? Walter Brueggeman Explains.

In May, Krista Tippett interviewed Protestant Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann. He explains why he thinks gay and lesbian sexuality “has such adrenaline” in and beyond church communities. He explores the idea that homophobia is a proxy for people’s ill-defined fears about an old world order that’s rapidly disappearing.

“It is an amorphous anxiety that we’re in a free fall as a society. And I think we kind of are in free fall as a society, but I don’t think it has anything to do with gays and lesbians particularly.”

Listen to Walter Brueggemann, author of Prophetic Imagination, read Jeremiah 4 and Isaiah 43 — passages of judgement and hope. He discusses the anxiety of our current age in the context of the prophets and the call of the contemporary church to minister WITHIN the anxiety.

“[The prophets] were rooted in the covenantal traditions of whatever it was from Moses and Sinai and all that. And the other thing is that they are completely uncredeintialed and without pedigree, so they just rise up in the landscape. And the way I put it now, they imagine their contemporary world differently according to that old tradtion. So it’s tradition and imagination.

There’s no way to explain that, so we explain it by the work of the Spirit but I don’t think you have to say that … They are moved, like every good poet is moved, to have to describe the world differently according to the gifts of their insight. Of course in their own time, and every time since, the people who control the power structure do not know what to make of them so they characteristically try to silence them.

What power people always discover is that you can not finally silence poets. They just keep coming at you in threatening and transformative ways.” —Walter Brueggemann, interview with Krista Tippett (May 18, 2011)

Lenten Reflections on Marina Abramovic, Todd Bentley, and Performance Healing


Tip of the Hat to Vintage Jeannie‘s eclectic tastes that led me to performance artist Marina Abramovic and “Our America with Lisa Ling,” a new TV series on OWN. Both have prompted some esoteric reflections on Lent, Lenten disciplines, prophetic witness, and social healing.

From the Lenten prayer of St. Augustine: “O Lord, the house of my soul is narrow; enlarge it that you may enter in.”

First, the strange world of Marina Abramovic. Abramovic, born in Belgrade, is one of the leading artists from the “live act” performance art movements from the 1960s and ’70s in Eastern Europe. The performance art and body art movements in Europe can be traced back to the Dadists in 1915 who created “anti-art” to shock and critique the values of a society that preferenced the pretensions of high culture while countenancing the brutality of World War I.

In Abramovic’s performance pieces, her body is the primary medium–taking her and her audience to the limits of emotion. She creates dangerous spaces. She says, “I’m interested in art that disturbs and pushes that moment of danger.” After the terrorist attacks in New York city on Sept. 11, Abramovic performed “House With an Ocean View” at a gallery in Manhattan in which she publicly mourned for 12 days, including fasting, weeping, sometimes tearing her clothes.

“For those twelve days, in perfect silence, she ate nothing and drank only water,” wrote art critic John Haber. “She had nothing with which to read or write. Nothing stood in the way of thought or sleep but lightheadedness and danger. She sought to ‘change my energy field.’ By the end, her flesh fed on muscle, just as in an earlier work, of incisions into her skin, muscle fed on flesh.” And hundreds came to the gallery to participate with her in the public ritual, her prophetic witness. So like Jeremiah weeping for an unrepentant people.

Last year, in preparation for a retrospective of performance art pieces at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Abramovic led a workshop at her farm in upstate New York called “Cleaning the House.” Participants slept outside and did not eat nor speak for four days. They engaged in a regimen of individual and group exercises, such as walking backwards in slow motion, counting grains of rice, and observing a single object for hours. The goal of these exercises was to enable them to become aware of their limits and to find their own “charismatic space.” They pushed their bodies and minds to learn something about their souls.

The trailer to the movie Marina (see above) tracks one of those workshops. Individuals are led through a series of exercises meant to sharpen their minds and shock their bodies. They go through a 4-day process of “cleansing.” Abramovic walks through the group with an “offertory basket” collecting everyone’s cell phones, IPAs, Iphones, etc.  They are asked to temporarily sacrifice communication in order to be present to themselves and their surroundings. They take a vow of silence. They sleep in the open, in the cold. They bathe in the river. They find a spiritual space where they can identify their own limits, the spiritual boundaries of another, and the impenetrable mystery that lies in the gap between the two. Participants come away completely transformed–shocked at how much more “human” they have become in just 4 days of intense study and training.

In “Our America with Lisa Ling,” the premier episode is devoted to exploring faith healing through Todd Bentley at Morning Star Ministries in Ft. Mill, South Carolina. Ling describes Bentley as a “rock star among faith healers,” and also points out he is a former drug addict whose adultery nearly derailed his ministry.

Bentley runs a school for would-be faith healers. Those who come are the addicted, the abused, the formerly incarcerated, the poor, the needy. With the praise band wailing in the background, Bentley – who looks like a biker in his black t-shirt, full-sleeve tattoos, and body piercings – mows down the line of the desperate, slaying them in the Spirit. It is powerful and pitiful, prayerful and spiritually pornographic.

It is also performance art: Bodies in space; the interacting of charismatic energies. Also with painful, though less dangerous, social commentary.

Ling visits two middle-aged sisters who have paid $600 each to attend Bentley’s workshops, hoping that when they bring their mother to one of Todd Bentley’s worship services she will be cured of her untreatable cancer. “Faith healing is,” Ling points out, “a multibillion dollar industry, and the sisters say these sessions are cheaper than medical treatments their mother’s insurance does not entirely cover.”

One commenter on the episode said, “Many turn to faith healing because they cannot afford treatment from conventional medicine (like the woman in the show with cancer who had to stop her chemo). There are many who want to go the route of conventional medicine, but when that is no longer an option for them, where do they turn? I hope that this show, and those like it, help others to see that we need to find ways of helping everyone have access to medical treatment (no matter what their financial situation may be).”

When the faithful are not cured of cancer or paralysis, Ling reframes (as people of faith have done for centuries in these situations trying to understand the mysterious ways of God). She looks at how the individuals have transformed their own lives with God’s help–turning away from drugs, leaving abusive relationships, gaining emotional and psychological strength–rather than emphasizing the somewhat suspicious snake oil of Todd Bentley.

At the end of the episode Steve, a man paralyzed for years who is convinced that the Lord will heal him through Todd Bentley, is not able to walk again. But when Ling kneels before him in his wheelchair asking how he understands what has happened, he instead pours out his prayers on her. He is compelled to release the spiritual energy built up inside him. He lays his hands on Ling’s head and she receives a peculiar annointing. All of which calls into question who or what was actually being healed.

Liturgy and ritual, stripping away illusions, prayer and healing, surprise and danger, temptations all are part of Lent. We experiment with who we are in our humanness, when masks are ripped away. We expose our wounds. We are vulnerable to Satan/hucksters selling us cheap grace.

Lent is a time to “Clean the House.” St. Augustine’s prayer continues: “My soul is ruinous, O repair it! It displeases Your sight. I confess it, I know. But who shall cleanse it, to whom shall I cry but to you?” We are such peculiar creatures. We choose such strange sins.

Dr. King and the ‘Maladjusted’ Prophets

Protesters picketed the racially segregated Glen Echo Park in 1960, near Washington, D.C..
Pacifica radio is playing speeches from Dr. King all day. It’s the best tribute I can think of. It’s like an all day seminar on the very best of American history and religious nonviolence.

The earliest recorded speech in the Pacifica archives is from June 4, 1957, when Dr. King delivered a speech to students at the University of California at Berkeley at the invitation of the Young Men’s Christian Association and Young Women’s Christian Association. His topic was “The Power of Nonviolence”, and in relatively few words King movingly described the principle of nonviolent resistance and the ideals he sought to uphold by using it in his movement. The speech’s conclusion has a famous section on the biblical prophets and “maladjustment.” He says:

Modern psychology has a word that is probably used more than any other word. It is the word “maladjusted.” Now we all should seek to live a well—adjusted life in order to avoid neurotic and schizophrenic personalities. But there are some things within our social order to which I am proud to be maladjusted and to which I call upon you to be maladjusted. I never intend to adjust myself to segregation and discrimination. I never intend to adjust myself to mob rule. I never intend to adjust myself to the tragic effects of the methods of physical violence and to tragic militarism. I call upon you to be maladjusted to such things. I call upon you to be as maladjusted to such things. I call upon you to be as maladjusted as Amos who in the midst of the injustices of his day cried out in words that echo across the generation, “Let judgment run down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

My community e-list today for the Columbia Heights neighborhood has a reflection by one of our local heroes, Kenneth Barnes, founder of ROOT Inc,dedicated to ending gun violence, recalling segregated D.C. He writes:

I was born and raised in northeast Washington, DC, in a section known as Trinidad.   I grew up on Owen Place, a street between Montello Ave and Trinidad Ave, NE.  My family moved to Owen Place in 1945, and, ironically, was the first African American family to move onto the block.

I attended Wilson elementary school on the corner of 6th and K St, NE.  Wheatley Elementary is on the corner of Neal St. and Montello Ave, NE, within two blocks walking distance of my family home.  Yet I had to catch a bus to go to Wilson Elementary over a mile from home and by pass Wheatley every morning.

As a child, I would wonder why but it was one of those mysteries not clearly defined by my family to me and it seemed as a child to be no big deal.  My family was from the south and shielded the inequities of segregation and the evils of racism from my brother, my sister, and me.  Racism and segregation was a part of everyday life accepted by families like mine from the south as part of their existence.

I remember being in the first integrated class of Wheatley when I entered the 5th grade and still was not totally aware of the segregated society that I had been a part of.   I remember studying history and not really seeing or being able to identify with Black people, because all history at that time being taught consisted of the history of western civilization and culture or American (White) history.  We learned about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln,   Davey Crockett and Wyatt Earp were big frontier heroes.  Even God was a white man with a flowing white beard and hair to match, and Jesus Christ was a younger white man with a darker beard and long hair down to his shoulders.

I succinctly remember one black person being taught as being a hero during the American Revolution, and his name was Crispus Attacks.  I remember wondering at the time what made him a hero and why was he singled out.  He happened to be in a crowd of people that were shot by English soldiers and he happened to be black.  I never could figure out what was heroic about that nor, at the time, did I understand the significance of why he, of all the heroic Black people throughout history, was singled out and given to us (Black children) as being a hero.

This naivete of thinking remained with me up until my high school years.  I remember about a black lady refusing to give up her seat on a bus.  I remember about sit-ins and protests, about Medgar Evars being murdered, about a bombing of a church, and civil rights workers being killed.  Even with all that atrocity my most vivid memory is of a remarkable man, a preacher, who began to become prominent as a spokesperson against all of the evils entwined with bigotry, segregation, and racism.  He spoke eloquently yet forcefully and firmly.  He spoke with a gentleness of conviction, and his powerful message of non violent confrontation as a means of battling racism began to resonate throughout America.

He stood up for us as African Americans perhaps as no other before him.  He was, to me, our savior, our Christ.  He led marches and protests against racist and segregation against some of the vilest and most ruthless people in this county.  He was beaten, stabbed, locked up, attacked by dogs, and water hosed.  Yet he seemed to rise, larger than life, above it all.

And he became my first hero.  He opened my eyes like no one before me had.  I began to listen to his speeches, enthralled by his every word.

I remember this great man being able to call a march on Washington and give perhaps the most magnificent speech ever delivered in the history of mankind, with the entire nation as well as the entire world enthralled. …

I encourage you to spend some time today being discipled by the essays and speeches of Dr. King. Listen to just one today and let the words take root in your mind and heart.

On the Outskirts of the Enlightenment: Prophets, Power, and Post-Modernism

Why is this issue of the end of modernism and the beginning of post-modernism of interest to Christians?  I’m working my way through an academic paper by Jesuit priest Hugues Deletraz on Post-Modernism Opens New Perspectives for Evangelization (see earlier post ‘Modernism has reached its limits‘) to understand what are the marks of this shift and how it helps us understand changes in institutional Christianity today.

While reading Deletraz’ paper, I also picked up Hopeful Imagination by Walter Brueggemann. I love Walter’s deep Bible study and contemporary wisdom drawn from the ancient sources. (I have the honor and pleasure of working right now as his editor at Sojourners while he’s writing Living the Word, our monthly lectionary reflections, for us.)

by Banksy

In Hopeful Imagination, Walter compares and contrasts the eras of the biblical prophets around the time of the destruction of the Temple in 587 BCE with our current shift from  modernism to post-modernism. His premise is that the loss of the authority of the priestly dynasty and the temple in Jerusalem is analogous to the loss of certainty, centralized authority, legitimacy, and dominance in our own times. Here’s what he says:

“A variety of scholars are calling attention to the prospect that Enlightenment modes of power and Enlightenment modes of knowledge are at the end of their effective rule among us.  All of us are children of the Enlightenment. That cultural reality of the last 250 years has brought us enormous gifts of human reason, human freedom, and human possibility. None of us would want to undo those gifts, but they are gifts not without cost. The reality of the Enlightenment has also resulted in the concentration of power in monopolistic ways which have been uncriticized. Moreover, it has generated dominating models of knowledge which have been thought to be objective rather than dominating.

The evidence grows that the long-standing concentration of power and knowledge which constitutes our human world is under heavy assault and in great jeopardy. God’s work at transforming our world is apparent in the rise of Third World nations, the emergence of Islam as a vigorous political force, and the visibility of a variety of liberation movements. In the midst of such realities, we discover the ineffectiveness of old modes of power. American military and economic power is of course considerable, but it is not everywhere decisive. The limit of such power is matched by the limit of Enlightenment modes of knowledge, for we are coming to see that such “scientific” knowledge no longer carries authority everywhere. There is increasing suspicion of such knowledge because it has long been in the service of domination. Such knowledge arranges reality in ways that are not disinterested. Technique becomes a mode of control, and that mode is no longer easily or universally addressed.

Trust in these conventional modes of power and knowledge is matched by a growing uneasiness when those modes are critiqued or rejected.”–Walter Brueggemann (Hopeful Imagination, p. 5-6)

The question that runs through the communities addressed by the biblical prophets — particularly Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and second Isaiah — during the paradigm shift brought on by the destruction of the Temple and the forced emigration of the Hebrews is this: Are the promises of God strong enough to deal with the current collapse of our “known world”?

It’s a question we are still asking.

Elizabeth Wilmshurst’s Testimony at the UK’s Iraq War Investigation Reads Like an Old Testament Prophet Battle

Elizabeth-Wilmshurst-001The UK is currently holding public hearings on the legality of their invasion of Iraq with the U.S. coalition. Was it legal to invade a sovereign nation without a resolution from the United Nations Security Council? Since I doubt we will ever have such an opportunity in the United States, I find it important to see what the Brits learn and what’s revealed as documents about the decision-making process are declassified.

Recently, Elizabeth Wilmshurst testified before the Chilcot Inquiry. She was the deputy legal adviser at the Foreign Office in the run up to the Iraq invasion in 2003. She was the only U.K. public official to publicly resign in protest after both she and Sir Michael Wood, the senior legal advisor at the Foreign Office, told the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, that invading Iraq without UN support would be a breach of international law and Goldsmith advised Defense Minister Jack Straw and Prime Minister Tony Blair that it would not.

Her resignation letter was simple, but clear: “I cannot in conscience go along with advice – within the Office or to the public or Parliament – which asserts the legitimacy of military action without such a resolution, particularly since an unlawful use of force on such a scale amounts to the crime of aggression; nor can I agree with such action in circumstances which are so detrimental to the international order and the rule of law.

Goldsmith had flip-flopped on the issue. At first he agreed with Wilmshurst and Wood, but then changed his mind. In Wilmhurst’s testimony to the Chilcot Inquiry this week she explains his decision-making process. Here’s an excerpt:

SIR RODERIC LYNE: But then, on 7 March, [former UK attorney general Lord Goldsmith] came out with a different view [on whether the UK could invade Iraq without the permission of the UN Security Council], in which he stated that — he accepted that there was a reasonable case that could be made in favour of the revival argument. How did you see that position that he had adopted?

MS ELIZABETH WILMSHURST: Well, of course, I was sorry because I then had to consider my own position. But there were — there were two things that struck me about it. First, that he had relied, and he said he had relied, on the views of the negotiators of the resolution to change the provisional view that he had previously had, and the issue really is: how do you interpret a resolution or a treaty in international law and is it sufficient to go to individual negotiators, but not all negotiators, and ask them for their perceptions of private conversations, or does an international resolution or treaty have to be accessible to everyone so that you can take an objective view from the wording itself and from published records of the preparatory work? I mean, it must be the second. The means of interpretation has to be accessible to all. But the Attorney had relied on private conversations of what the UK negotiators or the US had said that the French had said. Of course, he hadn’t asked the French of their perception of those conversations. That was one point that I thought actually was unfortunate in the way that he had reached his decision, and the other point that struck me was that he did say that the safest route was to ask for a second resolution. We were talking about the massive invasion of another country, changing the government and the occupation of that country, and, in those circumstances, it did seem to me that we ought to follow the safest route. But it was clear that the Attorney General was not going to stand in the way of the government going into conflict.

In Wilmhurst’s written statement before the Chilcot Inquiry, she wrote:

I regarded the invasion of Iraq as illegal, and I therefore did not feel able to continue in my post. I would have been required to support and maintain the Government’s position in international fora. The rules of international law on the use of force by States are at the heart of international law. Collective security, as opposed to unilateral military action, is a central purpose of the Charter of the United Nations. Acting contrary to the Charter, as I perceived the Government to be doing, would have the consequence of damaging the United Kingdom’s reputation as a State committed to the rule of law in international relations and to the United Nations.

These testimonies read like the best of the battles between the biblical prophets. I’d liken Elizabeth Wilmshurst to Micaiah in 1 Kings 22:

Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said unto them, Shall I go against Ramothgilead to battle, or shall I forbear? And they said, Go up; for the LORD shall deliver it into the hand of the king. And Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the LORD besides, that we might enquire of him? And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may enquire of the LORD: but I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. … So he came to the king. And the king said unto him, Micaiah, shall we go against Ramothgilead to battle, or shall we forbear? And he answered him, Go, and prosper: for the LORD shall deliver it into the hand of the king. And the king said unto him, How many times shall I adjure thee that thou tell me nothing but that which is true in the name of the LORD? And Macaiah said, I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd: and the LORD said, These have no master: let them return every man to his house in peace. And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, Did I not tell thee that he would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil?

But read the whole story for yourself, it’s breathtakingly current.




























Al-Zaidi’s Shoe Protest and “Weapons of the Weak”

There is something of the biblical prophets in Iraqi journalist Mutadar al-Zaidi’s protest against President Bush at yesterday’s news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki.

Bush was in Baghdad to sign a “security agreement” with Prime Minister Maliki, which calls for U.S. troops to leave Iraq in 2011 – eight years, and thousands of lives, after the America’s 2003 unwarranted invasion.

Al-Zaidi, a cameraman for Cairo-based al-Baghdadiya TV, who had been kidnapped last year by Shia militants, apparently just snapped when President Bush said that the Iraq invasion had been “necessary for US security, Iraqi stability, and world peace” and that the “war is not over.” Al-Zaidi hurled his shoes – a devastating cultural insult – at President Bush’s head from a distance of about 12 feet, before he was thrown to the ground and hauled away. (Video.)

While most news reports have turned the incident into a joke and focused on President Bush’s quick evasive action and his quip about the shoes being size 10, it’s worth looking at what al-Zaidi actually said.

President Bush: “The war is not over.”

Mutadar al-Zaidi: “This is a farewell kiss, you dog!”

When the first shoe missed its target, al-Zaidi grabbed a second shoe and heaved it too, causing the president to duck a second time.

Mutadar al-Zaidi: “This is from the widows, the orphans, and those who were killed in Iraq!”

There is something of the biblical prophetic curse in al-Zaidi’s actions and words.

In Deuteronomy 27, Moses says: ‘Cursed be he who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’ (Deuteronomy 27:19)

Proverbs 26 is disgustingly clear about fools: “As a dog returneth to his vomit, [so] a fool returneth to his folly.” (Proverbs 26:11)

Lamentations 5 reflects the desperation of a conquered people: “Remember, O LORD, what is come upon us: consider, and behold our reproach. Our inheritance is turned to strangers, our houses to aliens. We are orphans and fatherless, our mothers [are] as widows. We have drunken our water for money; our wood is sold unto us. Our necks [are] under persecution: we labor, [and] have no rest.” (Lamentations 5:1-5)

Al-Zaidi is currently being “questioned” (God help him and us!) by security forces to determine whether he acted alone. The streets of Baghdad are filled with people in support of al-Zaidi’s prophetic protest.

This “shoe protest” against President Bush is an example to me of a particularly effective symbolic  protest against the oppressor by the oppressed. It’s an example of using “the weapons of the weak“, everyday acts of cultural and political resistance by those who would otherwise be viewed as powerless, against the the powerful.