Charles E. Jefferson: ‘Woe to you military experts, blind guides’

One hundred years ago today, on April 6, 1917, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to go to war against Germany and the U.S. officially entered World War I. This evening the U.S. president launched missile strikes from navy warships in the Mediterranean Sea on the airbases of the Syrian government in retaliation for the Syrian president using chemical weapons, likely using sarin gas, on civilians two days ago. Despite the Hague Declaration of 1899 and the Hague Convention of 1907, which forbade the use of “poison or poisoned weapons” in warfare, more than 124,000 tons of gas were produced by the end of World War I.

Below is an excerpt from What the War is Teaching, a collection of addresses given by Rev. Charles E. Jefferson at Ohio Wesleyan University in 1916:

“This then is the work of the Christian minister in the present world crisis. He must resist with every ounce of his strength the power of the military experts. Jesus met the hierarchy of his day without flinching. His followers must do the same. Let ministers and laymen all say:

‘Woe to you, military experts, blind guides. You bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne upon men’s shoulder’s, and you do not move them with one of your fingers.

‘Woe unto you, military experts, blind guides, you shut up the kingdom of God against nations, and you open up the empire of suspicion and fear and hate; nations are feeling after righteousness and peace and joy, and you block their way.

‘Woe unto you, military experts, blind guides, you devour widows’ houses and other women’s houses and men’s houses, you devour the proceeds of industry, and the resources of nations, you devour the money which might be spent on social uplift and for the fighting of the evils which sap the life of mankind.

‘Blind guides and fools, you work everlastingly on the outside of the cup and the platter and turn men’s attention away from that which lies within. You talk unceasingly about the material defenses, fortifications made of concrete and steel and neglect those interior and spiritual defenses without which a nation is doomed ….’”–Charles Edward Jefferson, What the War is Teaching (1916)

Charles Edward Jefferson was born in Cambridge, Ohio, on August 29, 1860. He attended Ohio Wesleyan University. He was ordained by the Congregational Council in Chelsea, MA, September 29, 1887. He found a home as pastor of the Broadway Tabernacle Church in New York City from 1898 to 1929, then was honorary pastor from 1929 until his death in 1937. His writings are archived at the Congregational Library and Archives in Boston.

Herring: How Should Christians Respond To The Syrian Refugee Crisis?

header_1600s_point2_0038920__HRyan Herring over at The Ghetto Monk has a great post on responding to the refugee crisis in Europe. (See graphic above for our own Thanksgiving story of refugees arriving on these shores fleeing violent persecution.)

In this highly charged atmosphere of desperate refugees, mass murder in Paris, and demagoguery in the U.S. political discourse, it is even more important for people of peace and people of faith and people of hope to stay the course. Here’s an excerpt from Ryan’s piece:

Just days after a series of terrorist attacks in Paris, France left 129 people dead and over 350 others injured, Syrian refugees have once again become a topic for debate. It is believed that some of the terrorists gained access to Europe by using refugee status after a Syrian passport was found near the body of one of the suicide bombers from the attacks. However, Serbian police recently arrested a man carrying a Syrian passport with the exact same details as the documents found on the bomber in Paris and officials are almost certain now that both were forged in Turkey.

While the media both here and abroad have used this information to stoke the flames of Islamophobia, the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has urged political leaders to continue to take in those fleeing from conflict. At the G20 summit in Turkey Juncker said, “Those who organized these attacks and those that perpetrated them are exactly those that the refugees are fleeing and not the opposite.”–Ryan Herring

Read Ryan’s whole post here.

Feast of St. Ephrem & Syria

Ephrem-horz

Fourth-century Christian St. Ephrem (left), aka “the harp of the Holy Ghost,” is the only Syrian recognized as a doctor of the church. He wrote more than 1,000 poems, many of which were put to music or to chant.

Pope Benedict said: “Poetry allowed [St. Ephrem] to deepen his theological reflections through paradoxes and images. His theology became both liturgy and music at the same time: He was indeed a great composer and musician.”

Currently, there are an estimated 9 million Syrians have fled their homes since the outbreak of civil war in March 2011, taking refuge in neighboring countries or within Syria itself. (Right, Syrian refugee.)

With St. Ephrem, take a moment to pray for the people of Syria and the woman in this image.

“O Lord, make the priests and kings peaceful;
That in one Church priests may pray for their kings,
And kings spare those round about them;
And may the peace which is within Thee become ours, Lord,
Thou that art within and without all things!” –St. Ephrem

“Lay me not with sweet spices,
For this honor avails me not,
Nor yet use incense and perfumes,
For the honor befits me not.
Burn yet the incense in the holy place;
As for me, escort me only with your prayers,
Give ye your incense to God,
And over me send up hymns.
Instead of perfumes and spices,
Be mindful of me in your intercessions.”
(From The Testament of St. Ephrem)

 

Pope Francis: Syria! Peace!

syria+peace.fullPope Francis rose up in all his moral grandeur on Sunday to make a global appeal for peace in Syria–calling Sept. 7 as a global day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria and the Middle East. (You can send a note to Congress urging nonviolent action in Syria.)

The Catholic Church has very strong teachings against war. The U.S. bishops have not yet called on Catholic soldiers not to fight – but only because they are afraid of the chaos it would cause, not because it’s inconsistent with Catholic teaching. Catholics are not permitted to participate in pre-emptive war or any war that does not meet just war principles (which attacks on Syria do not).

As Americans, the question we face is not whether we condone chemical weapons use — of course we do not. The question is how should the international community responds when someone commits a war crime (ie uses chemical weapons).

The pope invites all people of good will to set aside a day for prayer, meditation, and fasting — or any discipline that leads one deeper into an experience of personal peace and peace for the world. Below is Pope Francis’ appeal:

“Today, dear brothers and sisters, I wish to make add my voice to the cry which rises up with increasing anguish from every part of the world, from every people, from the heart of each person, from the one great family which is humanity: it is the cry for peace! It is a cry which declares with force: we want a peaceful world, we want to be men and women of peace, and we want in our society, torn apart by divisions and conflict, that peace break out! War never again! Never again war! Peace is a precious gift, which must be promoted and protected.

“There are so many conflicts in this world which cause me great suffering and worry, but in these days my heart is deeply wounded in particular by what is happening in Syria and anguished by the dramatic developments which are looming.

“I appeal strongly for peace, an appeal which arises from the deep within me. How much suffering, how much devastation, how much pain has the use of arms carried in its wake in that martyred country, especially among civilians and the unarmed! I think of many children who will not see the light of the future! With utmost firmness I condemn the use of chemical weapons: I tell you that those terrible images from recent days are burned into my mind and heart. There is a judgement of God and of history upon our actions which is inescapable! Never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake. War begets war, violence begets violence.

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