Halloween: A Holy Holiday

As far as I am aware, Halloween is an ambivalent subject among Christians. Some dislike it for the ‘demonic’ activity it inspires. While I don’t deny Halloween does bring out devious behavior in some, I believe it also manifests saintly behavior in others – whether the actor be aware or not.

What do I mean?

First of all, we need to explore one of the most explicit themes of Halloween: death. Death is an ever-present moral power in the lives of humanity. All human action is motivated by the fear and/or knowledge of death. For example: why do we go to work? To be given money. Why do we need money? To buy shelter and food. Why do we need those amenities? So we don’t die.

Another example, which is a bit more cryptic: we seek self-esteem so that we can convince ourselves we are worth more than simple mortal beings destined for death. If our self-esteem falters, we feel bad. We sometimes feel worthless. Why are worth and meaning so important to us? Because, with such a fragile existence, we have to convince ourselves there is more to this life than a measly 70 years of life. Self-esteem helps us cope with the immense amount of anxiety that comes with being a mortal.

Almost all, if not all, human activity is spurred on by physical or psychological survival. And these things are motivated by a fear/knowledge of death.

This is why I think Halloween offers such a beautiful way to interact with the thing that subconsciously motivates and scares us. Halloween deals explicitly with death – it brings it out of our subconscious and forces us to face it. Usually, this manifests by wearing costumes and making a fool of it, by watching scaring movies, by going through simulated haunted houses. As a collective society, we poke fun at death, we show that death doesn’t have ultimate power – we can still find joy amidst decay. We realize, for a night, that death, albeit powerful, doesn’t have the final say. It is a mockery of death, similar to Christ’s resurrection. This is why I consider Halloween a “Christian” holiday in the same vein as Christmas or Easter.

You may be thinking: Halloween? A “Christian” holiday? But what about all the criminal activity? My first response is: criminal activity occurs during the Christmas season, too. It is generally known that armed robberies increase around the Christmas and New Years season, although crime rates for all three holidays show no discernible pattern statistically speaking.

That said, don’t participate in the criminal activity. Not all ways to celebrate a holiday are equal. To assume so is like saying one will not go to church because they are all like Westboro Baptist Church. And don’t let the criminal activity dissuade you. The possibility of being robbed while you go visit grandmother’s house generally doesn’t prevent you from traveling for the Christmas holidays – often for days on end. So why let it dissuade you for one night?

I know many Christians who are frustrated that Christmas has become so commercialized and taken captive by the consumer spirit. They loathe it while still celebrating and observing many of its ritualistic and cultural imperatives – many of which don’t even stem from a Christian root. Yet these same people will not partake in the joy of Halloween due to similar reasoning. I suppose commercialized death isn’t as appealing as commercialized salvation.

Regardless, Halloween speaks to our physio-psychological need to know that death holds no ultimate power. While it may be the ruling principality of this day and age, its victory is an illusion – it deserves to be mocked. It is a sign of the coming Eschaton – where the dead are permanently given life. It is a conflagration of the already and the not yet – the time between our Lord’s resurrection and the Second Coming. I mean, it is the night where the dead walk among the living after all – and that is precisely why I like it.

Let Us Remember: Slavery Built America

American slaves are veterans just as much as those who have served in the military.

Today is Memorial Day. A day where we celebrate our ‘victories’ and mourn our losses, while respecting those who have sacrificed their lives. The past two years, I have written pieces regarding my frustrations and moral qualms with Memorial Day. While I could write further on the subject, this year I don’t want to be re-writing the same old thing. What I want to do, instead, is show how if we demand to participate in this day of remembering what our ‘freedom’ costs, we must remember the black slaves and anti-Black culture that dominates America. Without our racist practices, and without the free labor that slavery provided, our capitalist society, our war machine (and therefore military), and the ‘liberties’ we have today would be nonexistent at the level we have them. Our heinous, evil practice of dehumanization is what got us to where we are today. Freedom costs us, yea – it costs us our conscience. Which begs the question – are we really free?

Much ink has been spilled to show that without slavery, colonialism, and imperialism, the economic strength of America would be much less robust. When one wants power, one must take it from someone else. Whether that be nationally, culturally, or individually. America is great at it!

The point: we are not the good guy. Remembering sacrifices today should not look like the sacrifices on a battlefield in Iraq to gain more oil to shine the shoes of the 1%. No, let us remember our heinous, wholly evil acts. We have enslaved. We have pillaged. We have raped. We have destroyed. We have murdered. All for our own desire – no questions asked. How dare we celebrate that? To do so is to spit in the face of Christ – The Suffering. The One who would rather die than kill. Who would rather carry a cross than a gun. It is to spit in the face of the 20 million Africans enslaved in the making of the American Empire. Without their forced free labor, without their lives totally given to the American machine, without any say on their part, the American experiment would not have been nearly as successful as it is, economically speaking. Without the 200-300 years of explicit slavery (slavery still exists in America, it is much more implicit. Look up mass incarceration), we would not have had the resources to ‘win’ the wars we did. The irony of a country that celebrates the “self-made man.” No such thing. If you’ve made it, you’ve made it because we have a history resting on a precedent of human bondage.

May God have mercy on us.

I don’t mean to be disrespectful (okay, maybe I do), but in the broader narrative of American history, these black slaves, so dearly unappreciated, gave at least as much as veterans in the military, if not moreso. They didn’t give a year or two to a morally questionable war effort – they gave the entirety of their fucking existence. Hundreds of years later, to this day, American culture is such that we have to raucously scream over the sea of white: Black Lives Matter! When we don’t make a noise, we forget. Hell, when we do, we’re deaf, dumb, and blind. Black people are the unsung heroes of this nation. They built it. We forced them to. They gave us our ‘victories.’ They are veterans. They deserve to be recognized. So goddamn, celebrate Blackness this Memorial Day, not greed, not war, not murder!

As I always try to do, I want to be clear: I am not trying to de-value American veterans. While I think war is anti-Christ in nature, and to participate in killing is contrary to the message of Jesus Christ, I respect veterans, insofar as I am morally capable. They are truly an underappreciated, disregarded piece of American society. I appreciate that they have sacrificed their time, their energy, their limbs, their minds. They have given a lot. I would just argue, they did so for all the wrong reasons. They did so for America, not for Christ. Christ has absolutely nothing to do with allegiance to a nation, especially an empire as oppressive as America. That does not, however, diminish their importance as human beings. That does not mean Christ does not love them, nor does it mean I do not wish to try to myself, in my own frail way. That does not mean when they come back home injured, bleeding, scared, alone, that we should discard them. We should care for them, help them along – welcome them with open arms. If you have served in the military, whether for this country, for North Korea, or the Nazi regime – you are beloved to Christ. But…so is the person you were sent to fight. Therein lies an issue.

Below are some articles regarding how 300 years of slavery made our capitalist system possible, and therefore, our victories at war (given our economic abilities) possible. I encourage you to research, research, research. Ask questions. Seek to understand the world outside your own experience. And for Christ’s sake – celebrate Blackness today. Not war.

Peace be unto you.











A Perfect Cocktail of Disgusting Lies!: Matthew Distefano’s “Heretic!”

What Distefano shares with us in his new book, out April 1, is not heretical – it is, on the contrary, welcoming. Welcoming to those Evangelical Christianity has often shunned.

Attending a Conservative Christian university while visiting about one hundred urban churches after having grown up in the conservative Midwest, I have been well acquainted with the dominant manifestations of North American Evangelical Christianity.

I have found it wanting.

My relationship with it still exists, largely due to my introvert personality and general lack of verbally sharing what I truly believe with my conservative peers which make up a significant portion of my circle. One must pick their battles.

That said, Matthew Distefano’s newest book, Heretic! An LGBTQ-Affirming, Diving-Violence Denying, Christian Universalist’s Response to Some of Evangelical Christianity’s Most Pressing Concerns, resonates with me, as I believe it does an ever-increasing number of, for lack of better term, Post-Evangelicals. As the mouthful-of-a-title makes clear, it tackles some of the most heated topics among Evangelical Christians in the North American context with some tongue-in-cheek humor and signature Distefano wit to boot. Also, take the Parental Advisory warning seriously – Distefano uses some, ahem, colorful language.

Now, if you’re an Evangelical Christian, you may be thinking, “Universalism?? LGBTQ?? God as totally and wholistically nonviolent? Are you on pot? (A topic which Distefano has covered elsewhere) Of course he’s a heretic!” Except you’d be wrong, at least according to Christian tradition. Distefano still adheres to the Apostolic and Nicene Creeds (which were largely influenced by theologians who believe a variety of things that Distefano proposes in his book). The term heretic, historically, is less referring to what someone believes within the Christian tradition, and more about being divisive – someone who tears a community apart, often intentionally so.

For example, when an Evangelical church shuns a practicing homosexual – that congregation is being heretical, according to historical definition. When churches separate over minute doctrinal differences such as full or partial immersive baptism. Protestantism is about the most heretical manifestation of Christianity in the 2,000 year history of the religion – it just can’t agree on anything.

What Distefano shares with us in his new book, out April 1, is not heretical – it is, on the contrary, welcoming. Welcoming to those Evangelical Christianity has often shunned: those who refuse to believe that God as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ is an abusive father who wants to torment 99% of the human population forever, to those who don’t maintain heterosexual relations or feelings, to those who believe violence is a never-ending self-perpetuating cycle. It seeks to cultivate community, not divide it. As far as I can tell, Distefano is even inviting those whom disagree with him to participate – if they can do so without themselves being divisive.

If you’re interested, Distefano’s book officially releases April 1, 2018. For the entire month of April, the Kindle edition will be 99 cents and all proceeds will go to the Preemptive Love Coalition. Check it out!

Distefano was kind enough to send a signed copy of Heretic! to me himself. Of course, I gave a donation to him in return. Being a shunned theologian certainly does not pay the bills very well!

Visit Matthew Distefano’s website!

We’re Neurotic: Nonviolent Reflections on Memorial Day – Year 2

The solutions are very straightforward. For a fraction of the expense that the U.S. taxpayer put into destroying Laos, you could clear the unexploded ordnance. So the first step would be to do what we claim the Japanese can’t do: take responsibility. Maybe that would be a start. So let’s overcome this strange defect and accept responsibility. That defect is not in the American public. It’s in American educated elites. They [have the ability] to find this out. If they don’t know it already, they can easily find out. It’s not like learning quantum physics. It takes no time to find out. They can use their position to make sure everybody knows about it.

When the editors of the New York Times and the rest take responsibility – which they condemn the Japanese for not taking – that will be step one. Step two will be to put in the resources that are required to overcome this U.S. atrocity and stop killing Laotian children. It’s not a big step. It’s not like bombing somebody. It would cost a lot less than bombing Iraq or Sudan. So there are some easy answers. Very easy answers.

~ Noam Chomsky in an interview with David Barsamian about how to deal with the undetonated ordnance issue in Laos, 1999

Last year I wrote a post called Let Us Remember: Nonviolent Reflections on Memorial Day. In it, I compared Fascist Nazi Germany to the United States. I wrote,

America’s military cause is no more justified than Nazi Germany’s. Both were/are fueled by ideological assumptions, paradigms, and worldviews that seek world domination through whatever means necessary. This is, of course, not to downplay the horrors of the Nazi regime. I am still highlighting those. However, I am also highlighting the horrors of the American empire. Both are Satanic: both treated their own (white male) people well, but the rest of the world as a rag doll.

But let’s stop a moment. Today is Memorial Day. A day off work dedicated to honor those veterans who lived, and possibly died, for our “freedom.” This generally means the “freedom” and “liberties” of the citizens of the United States. As we well know, however, in actuality, it simply means the “liberties” of middle/upper class straight white men (and whomever they choose to share their almighty ‘liberty’ with). (Let’s not get into how a country cannot truly be ‘free’ and ‘liberated’ if other countries live in poverty and bondage. *ahem*) Yet, somehow, we gather the whole country to celebrate (half-heartedly) the mass murder of other nations (in the name of God), viewing it as honorable and as if it were the right thing to do.

People get upset about the commercialization of Christmas as a holiday. They get upset that Jesus has been turned into a commodity by capitalism and consumerism – that the spirit of Christmas goes from one to giving to one of consumption. I feel similarly about Memorial Day – a day about honoring those before us is actually a day gripped tightly by the military industrial complex to inundate U.S. citizens to reality and how the world views us. As I’ve written elsewhere, I am an advocate of nonviolence. I believe any type of killing is murder. So, while I can respect veterans for doing what they think is right, especially when it is a difficult choice, I still think they were wrong.  Especially on a day like Memorial Day.

This ‘holiday’ is used as propaganda to romanticize the horrors men, women, and children experienced (both in the U.S. and other countries) so that the general populace doesn’t really question what the heck was going on. Rather than mourn the deaths of all humans involved in armed conflict, we celebrate and honor those who come from the U.S. Rather than talk about and remember the unjust horrors the U.S. inflicted (and still inflicts) in many countries around the world with its military industrial complex and innumerable coups, we pretend we’re the savior of the world (when in actuality most of the world hates us, even if they obey us out of fear). Whereas Germany mourns what it did in The Good War, we exalt ourselves for any war we’re involved in – or just don’t talk about it if it went terribly. We repress, we forget, we hush hush. As Carl Jung said, “Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.” In this case, neurosis is a substitute for admitting we are wrong, we are not the heroes. We feed ourselves lies of glory and create within our collective psyche a savior-complex.

In other words, we’re neurotic.

So, today, I want to remember some of the terrible things the United States has done. Specifically, two key incidents during the period historians refer to as The Long Sixties (1950-1970s). This is not to say the sacrifice U.S. veterans made is not worthy of remembrance, but to say that the innumerable foreign citizens, soldiers, and societal institutions the United States has destroyed and ruined are worth remembering just as much, if not more so, on a day such as Memorial Day. It is, put concisely, trying to add nuance to a society which likes it’s ‘facts’ in black and white.

1) Cambodian Bombing and Genocide

Between the years 1965 and 1973, the United States dropped, at the very least, 500,000 tons of bombs on the country of Cambodia. Some historians argue far more. Either way, that is equal to the amount the United States used in the entire Pacific theater during World War II – I believe this is counting the atomic bombs.

Why the massive amount of bombing on such a small, neutral country? Viet Cong troops, and eventually Khmer Rouge rebels were stationed there, even if against Cambodia’s wishes. Thus, the US took this as justification for the bombing – even if there was intentional disregard for civilian life.

Intentional. Richard Nixon told Henry Kissenger (who somehow won a Nobel ‘Peace’ Prize…), “They have got to go in there and I mean really go in. I don’t want the gunships, I want the helicopter ships. I want everything that can fly to go in there and crack the hell out of them. There is no limitation on mileage and there is no limitation on budget. Is that clear?” This was all a part of Nixon’s “Madman” Theory of War: be as crazy and violent as possible so that your enemy doesn’t want to mess with you. Basically like deterrence but super violent either way. Kissenger then relayed to Alexander Haig, “He wants a massive bombing campaign in Cambodia. He doesn’t want to hear anything. It’s an order, it’s to be done. Anything that flies on anything that moves.” These bombing raids were kept secret from the general public. The US doesn’t like its evil to be known.

Area of Cambodia bombed by US – almost half the country.

Ben Kiernan, leading Cambodian Genocide scholar, estimates civilian casualties caused by US bombing to be 150,000.

On top of the bombing, the US was involved in a coup in 1970 to remove Sihanouk from power. The coup in conjunction with the bombing obliterated an already destabilized government. The US, China, Vietnam, and various political groups within Cambodia kept pulling the leading government officials (the prominent leader being Sihanouk) in multiple directions. After the removal of Sihanouk with right-wing replacement Lon Nol, Cambodia quickly became polarized.

The bombings created enough turmoil that the Communist Party of Kampuchea, which is what became the infamous Khmer Rouge, with Pol Pot as its primary leader, gained prominence. The Samluat Rebellion, a peasant uprising in Cambodia, helped pave the way to give Pol Pot power. Peasants were basically forced to give their rice to government workers (technically they ‘sold’ it, but it was so cheap they might as well have given it away for free). To make sure this continued, armed soldiers were placed near peasant farms and in villages. Peasants, being pissed off, killed two soldiers in rebellion to show they wouldn’t be treated as less-than-human any longer.

Pol Pot jumped on this opportunity to organize the frustrated peasants and gathered them into the Khmer Rouge movement. The Khmer Rouge began attacking military outposts and taking over Cambodia.

It wasn’t until the coup that Cambodia began associating with Vietnam’s Communist movement. From that point on, the two began collaborating, frustrated that the US played god. The Vietnamese viewed Sihanouk as the true leader of Cambodia, and offered their full support while Sihanouk and Pol Pot/Khmer Rouge joined forces against the US-backed government.

What began as a country which tried desperately to remain neutral (and arguably democratic) ended up as opposing and hating the US and pursuing communism.

The irony of the situation is that Pol Pot probably would not have been able to gain power in Cambodia if it weren’t for the illegal and covert US bombing/coup.

As a 1973 Intelligence Information Cable from the CIA’s Directorate of Operations explained:

Khmer insurgent (KI) [Khmer Rouge] cadre have begun an intensified proselyting campaign among ethnic Cambodian residents . . . in an effort to recruit young men and women for KI military organizations. They are using damage caused by B-52 strikes as the main theme of their propaganda.

The narrative goes on and on with more and more destruction: the US puts its hand in something, screws it up, then has to kill more people to clean up its mess and make sure it still comes out looking like the hero rather than the villain. If you want to read a fuller narrative about the US involvement with Cambodia and how we ended up supporting the people we had, a decade before, tried killing, please refer to the many sources I provided below.

Before I continue, I’d like to share a quote from one of my main sources for this section, in which he parallels the Cambodian coup with the Iraq coup.

Any lessons to be drawn about the consequences of US intervention in Cambodia do not appear to have been learned: as the journalist John Pilger has pointed out, just as the massive destruction of Cambodia by the US bombing campaign helped create the conditions for the KR’s ascension, the US invasion of Iraq similarly destroyed a society and set the stage for the rise of ISIS. And just as the United States supported its former enemies in Cambodia against Vietnam throughout the 1980s, Washington entered into a tacit alliance with jihadist groups in Syria against Bashar al-Assad’s government.

Indeed, if we can expect anything from US foreign policy, it’s atrocities and complicity, cloaked in the language of democracy and human rights.

2) Laos

We’ve briefly discussed Cambodia. We’re going to even more briefly discuss Laos. If you want more in depth information, I will provide plenty of sources, and you can obviously do more research as needed. I’d love to provide fuller narratives, but alas, I don’t get paid to do this, and unfortunately just don’t have the time.

“From 1964 to 1973, the U.S. dropped more than two million tons of ordnance on Laos during 580,000 bombing missions—equal to a planeload of bombs every 8 minutes, 24-hours a day, for 9 years – making Laos the most heavily bombed country per capita in history.”*

Total area of Laos bombed by US.

The US was trying to wipe out the Pathet Lao and pro-communist/socialist Vietnamese forces in Laos. While trying to do so, they murdered countless civilians and displaced hundreds of thousands. Over 270 million cluster bombs were dropped – 80 million did not immediately detonate. They were intentionally manufactured so that all would not detonate upon first impact. To this day, Laotian people are still murdered by hidden bombs dropped many decades ago. The legacy of the US-backed murder of Laotian civilians continues on our day of relaxation/celebration: Memorial Day. For us, we eat hamburgers and potato chips. For the Laotians, they lose a few limbs and a child to bombs, since it happens almost, if not, everyday.

In fact, over 20,000 people have been killed in Laos from the undetonated US-dropped bombs. “Nearly 40 years on, less than 1% of these munitions have been destroyed. More than half of all confirmed cluster munitions casualties in the world have occurred in Laos.”

“The first group to try to do something about this issue was the Mennonites. The Mennonite Central Committee has had volunteers working in Laos since 1977 and has been trying to publicize the problem and get people interested in it…there is a British volunteer mine-detection group – composed of professionals, but not the British government…They have some Laotians working with them. The Americans are notable by their absence, as the British press puts it.” – Chomsky in Propaganda and the Public Mind by David Barsamian, 1999

“Furthermore, according to the right-wing Sunday Telegraph, the British mine-clearance group claims that the Pentagon will not even give them technical information that would allow them to defuse the bombs. There’s some technique you can use to make sure they don’t go off, but they won’t give them that information. So the British mine clearers themselves are at risk because this is secret information. The U.S. is not there clearing the bomblets and won’t give the British who are doing it information about how to do it safely.” – Chomsky

Despite this being our fault, we have generally refused to help clean up the mess. For example, “between 1993 and 2016, the U.S. contributed on average $4.9M per year for UXO clearance in Laos; the U.S. spent $13.3M per day (in 2013 dollars) for nine years bombing Laos.” We spent $13.3 million a day (in 2013 dollars) to bomb Laos for nine years straight. We can’t even manage to spend half that per year to help clean up the mess. We’re too busy making other messes! “In just ten days of bombing Laos, the U.S. spent $130M (in 2013 dollars), or more than it has spent in clean up over the past 24 years ($118M).” So much for being savior of the world.

3) 20-30 Million Murders…and then some: Are we the terrorists?

Cambodia. Laos. East Timor. Syria. Guatemala. Nicaragua. Afghanistan. Iraq. Angola. Bolivia. Argentina. Brazil. Vietnam. Chad. Colombia. Chile. Korea. China. Cuba. Democratic Republic of Congo. Dominican Republic. El Salvador. Grenada. Haiti. Honduras. Hungary. Iran. Indonesia. Palestine. Nepal. Pakistan. Paraguay. Panama. Philippines. Sudan. Uruguay. Yugoslavia.   The list goes on and on. The US has made quite a mess of the world. Don’t get me wrong, its not the only perpetrator. But it is a perpetrator that refuses to take responsibility. Instead, it wears a facade of heroism.

You may still be thinking, “this isn’t as bad as Nazi Germany.” Well, first of all, comparing death tolls and statistics feels so…inhumane. The murder of a single human should affect us, let alone a million or ten. But, it helps to do so…thus, the United States has murdered more than 20 million people in 37 “Victim Nations” since the end of WWII. The linked article begs a very important question: “how many September 11ths has the United States caused in other nations since WWII?” The answer is far too many, and leads me to a state of surprise that the US has only experienced one 9/11 itself – and that its own confrontation with terrorism didn’t lead it to empathy but rather more destruction. Not that it should experience more. As I’ve said, I advocate nonviolence both in the personal and political spectrum. War, murder, terrorism, and the like will get us no where.

Is this what we had in mind? Take down Hitler so we can do what he wanted to do – but a lot more covert and under the radar, stretched over a couple generations so it looked less wrong?

Either way, let that sink in. The beloved savior of the world, the United States, has been responsible for the unjust murder of at least, but probably more, than 20 million people – not counting WWII. Depending on how you look at the numbers, that’s more than Nazi Germany.

God bless America.




I borrowed a lot from this jacobinmag source. It was my primary go-to for the Cambodian part of this article. Credit goes to that writer for the information and chronological order of mine.




Killing Hope by William Blum






Propaganda and the Public Mind: Conversations with Noam Chomsky Interviews by David Barsamian



Death is Dead

For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

1 Corinthians 15:21-22

Death, in other words, is what all men truly have in common with each other and with the whole of creation. Death is what you have essentially in common with me and the only reality, it seems, that we have in common with everyone else and everything else in this world.

~ William Stringfellow

I’m a busy man these days. No busier than others, I suppose. I like to blame my illness and many life transitions for my lack of writing and rigorous intellectual thought as of late. But I am without excuse. Regardless, I want to write something, anything, about this Easter weekend. What better to write about than death? The greater meaning associated with this arbitrary weekend is that death is truly the only lifeless creature in this reality.

Yet death pervades all aspects of our lives. From desiring the next and greatest technological gadget, to watching television, to spending quality time with those we cherish – to live is to live with, avoid, or fight against death. It is the ever-present moral problem, the shadow behind us on a sunny day, the clouds above us on a rainy day – it is, in a sense, as omnipresent as the Greeks like to think of God.

You may be wondering what exactly death has to do with every facet of your life. Take a basic example: work. You go to work to make money. Why do you make money? To pay for housing, food, transportation, and all the other amenities that keep the cycle of your life flowing – work, pay, leisure, work, pay, leisure. Why do you do these? In essence, so you do not die. If you stopped working, there is a good chance you would die in many forms: you might become homeless and lack proper shelter, food, and healthcare. You could physically die. If you don’t physically die, your social life might pass away – it is hard to keep up with the Jones’s if you don’t have a job or a home. Eventually, then, your self-esteem will probably die.

What about all the little things at work? Promotions, getting along with co-workers, enjoying the job. Why are these important and how are they related to death? Well, if you get a promotion, you make more money. Physically, you may be better off and more able to avoid death. Socially, your status may go up and you may acquire more social power, thus feeding the ego and preventing a death of the self-esteem. What of relationships? Faring well with co-workers could lead to a promotion, it could feed the self-esteem/ego, and help one’s life feel meaningful. Rewind. Why is meaning important? And how is it related to death? Well, we are mortal beings. More specifically, we are mortal beings who are aware that we are mortal beings. Unlike most, if not all, other animals, we know we are eventually going to die. Yet, we also have the ability to see beauty, to consciously love, to make moral decisions. With this kind of power, coupled with our mortality, we begin to want to make our lives matter – otherwise it appears all for naught. Why have these abilities if we eventually die? The question is agonizing – it produces in us our anxieties. Thus, we seek to give meaning to our lives, however fragile – regardless of culture we find ourselves in. This does not mean that for our lives to have “meaning” we must continue to live on physically – for example, certain cultures, such as the Japanese, have found a certain kind of meaning and honor in suicide. The search for meaning drives humans to do much of what they do. At its root, then, avoiding or fighting death drives humanity.

This is not necessarily bad. All aspects of culture are not inherently ugly, or disdainful, or terrible. There is much beauty and wonder created in the name of death. That said, much of it, at root, comes out of a spirit of fear.

But there is no fear in love, as we are told by Jesus’ disciple John.

And this is precisely where Jesus and his resurrection becomes intrinsic to us as human beings.

Jesus’ resurrection shows us that there is no more to fear. He has conquered death. He has made it so we no longer have anything to fear – we are free to give up our lives to sacrifice for another, because in reality, we are not really losing our life. We are free to love fearlessly and selflessly, without secretly trying to feed our ego. We are free to be rid of need from another human, from idolizing each other, so that we can more accurately and lovingly care for one another.

This does not mean, of course, we will be successful. Some people who have foolishly believed they have conquered the fear of death may commit themselves to suicide so they can simply skip to the coming eschaton. This however, is not truly freedom from the fear of death – what drives a person to such impatience or theatrical measures? Either feeding the ego (“look at me and how I’ve conquered death!!”) or unconscious fear of not maintaining fearlessness in the face of death (“I must prove I’ve conquered death by physically killing myself!”). Both are illusions of fearlessness – both motivated by the fear of death. In other words, to live in Christ is not intentionally killing oneself for selfish sake (because that is still fearing death), but to lay down one’s life for the betterment of others, without fearing what may come of one’s own well being.

And we can do this, because “[Jesus] himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:14b-15) 

Christus victor.

Grace and peace.




Vandalism for Jesus

We Came To Be Arrested: The Catonsville Nine & William Stringfellow as Incarnational Criminals

Unfortunately, history is written by the victors: culturally, politically, racially, militarily, religiously, and psychologically. In relation to this, George Mische, member of the Catonsville Nine, wrote, “we should write our own movement’s history. Because if we don’t, somebody who was not part of it will come along with preconceived notions and their own agenda — and get it wrong(1).” An arguable case for this statement is the very existence of the Catonsville Nine, which is a lesser known group of nine self-proclaiming Catholics who protested the Vietnam War by burning draft files with homemade napalm – all in the name of Jesus Christ. In fact, the Catonsville Nine, in conjunction with supporters such as William Stringfellow, changed the way antiwar demonstrations would be enacted for generations to come.

1968 was a year when the Vietnam War, under the supervision of president Lyndon B. Johnson, was at its height. In January, the infamous Tet Offensive occurred, which horrified thousands by being displayed on television screens(2). During this event, over 500,000 American troops were in Vietnam(3), quite needlessly, according to many antiwar protesters, especially considering that most of the soldiers were drafted. As many as 35,000 men were being drafted per month as of 1965, all the while the trend continued to rise in the coming years.(4) These monstrous facts outraged many people, which led to frequent manifestations of antiwar protest, generally in the form of nonviolent and nonvandal marches.

It was amidst this growing antiwar movement that in the spring of 1967, a Josephite priest, Philip Berrigan, wrote in a letter to Walt Whitman Rostow, a special assistant to the president, that he and his colleagues “believe[d] the Vietnam war to be an enormous moral, political and economic disaster to both Vietnamese and Americans, and a criminal threat to world peace(5).” Eventually this belief inspired him to, in the fall of 1967, transform his abstract Catholic confessions into creative practical action by seeking new, more emphatic ways of protest. With Jesus Christ as his anchor point, he gathered three other Catholics in Baltimore, Maryland: Tom Lewis, David Eberhardt, and James Mengel. Their goal was to craft a plan to protest the draft in such a way that a peaceful, loving statement would be made, that would, at the same time, force the public to reconsider the war and approach to protests. The four decided to pour blood on draft files to ruin them and symbolically call out the political institutions that they viewed as responsible for the vast amount of pointless murder splattered throughout Vietnam. These four men, and their actions, became known as the Baltimore Four. The action made the front page on local newspapers, which is exactly what the Four wanted.(6) After the initial protest, the Four patiently waited to be arrested and tried for their crimes – they simply wanted their motivations to be properly understood. After the trial, the Four were eventually sentenced to prison for terms lasting from 2 to 6 years(7).

Eventually, Philip Berrigan was released on bail, and he, along with his friends George Mische and Tom Lewis(8), decided to continue the protest, while searching for more people to join them. Philip’s goal was to find people that “[were] privileged, middle class [and]  that are viewed favorably by society…that is the type of person…that should act on civil disobedience(9).”  Part of his reasoning for this was that he became convinced of “the uselessness of legitimate dissent,”(10) and therefore sought more drastic forms of protest that would effect lasting change. Eventually, Phil, Tom, and George gathered five more people: David Darst, John Hogan, Marjorie Melville, Thomas Melville, Mary Moylan(11). The eight conspired together the most loving and dramatic action they could throughout the course of the Spring. Their main goal: get arrested and burn draft files(12). The reasoning: an overly dramatic and theatrical trial would be a powerful platform to be heard and inspire others, and burning draft files would prevent the persons each file represented from being drafted(13). A few days before the act, Phil traveled to Cornell University in an attempt to recruit his brother, Daniel, for the action. He succeeded, and the group grew to its final number: nine(14).

May 17, 1968 was the fateful day of the protest. The nine members traveled to the Selective Service office in Catonsville Maryland. Upon making it to the second floor of the building, the group shocked a few employees and darted for the draft files stored along the wall. Forcing open the filing cabinets, each member loaded  wire baskets full of A-1 draft files, and quickly ran out the building. In no time at all, the nine dumped the files out in a large pile outside the building, drenched the files in homemade napalm and set them ablaze(15). As David Arst said in regard to the homemade napalm, “we all had a hand in making the napalm used here today(16).” While the papers burned, the nine members held hands and prayed the Lord’s prayer. Phil Berrigan was caught on camera as saying, “we sincerely hope we didn’t injure anyone(17).” Daniel Berrigan, in explaining the motivations of the group on film said, “we have chosen to be powerless criminals in a time of criminal power. We have chosen to be branded as peace criminals by war criminals…to be found guilty under the rules you worship is an honor(18).” He would later go on to say, “our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children…And yet, and yet the times are inexhaustibly good…the truth rules, Christ is not forsaken(19).” Dan’s words were sharp like a sword, and bombastic like napalm – but he, nor the rest of the nine, ever resorted to violence or the use of bombs. Although, for a time, Philip Berrigan flirted with the idea of using bombs as forms of protest, but eventually concluded bombs too violent(20).

Within a few minutes, a small group of police officers showed up and arrested the nine, amidst firefighters hosing down the fire with water. The entire protest action took less than fifteen minutes(21).  The news of the napalm action spread around the United States like the fire induced by napalm in Vietnam. However, the press mostly focused on the two brothers: Philip and Daniel Berrigan, who became the poster children of the group. This is especially evidenced in Time magazine’s treatment of the event in its January 25th, 1971 issue, in which the Berrigan brothers overshadow the other seven members, despite the very late participation of Daniel Berrigan.

A major part of why Daniel Berrigan and his brother overshadowed the other members in the press coverage is that Daniel Berrigan was an extremely elusive man. While most of the Catonsville Nine, such as newlywed Melvilles, willingly turned themselves in after the trial, Dan refused to be imprisoned. Without telling his family or Cornell colleagues, he disappeared(22). Unlike most of the nine, Dan struggled with the notion of turning himself in because he wondered if that would tarnish and trivialize the statement the Nine made. Rather than showing the inferiority of the state, he feared such an action would only feed into the common belief the state was the end all be all(23). Within the first few hours of being an “underground” fugitive, Berrigan reflected on Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his nonviolent resistance to another political tyranny: the Nazi regime. Berrigan hoped and prayed he could maintain the same resilience that Bonhoeffer portrayed decades earlier.

Originally planning on turning himself in after ten days of hiding, Berrigan read his friend, Howard Zinn’s book Disobedience and Democracy, which influenced him to stay underground much longer than he anticipated(24). With such statements as “the slow workings of American reform, the limitations on protest and disobedience and innovation…are simply not adequate…the demands of our time will not be met by [a] narrow approach to civil disobedience,” one can see how Zinn’s book would have affected Berrigan’s thought at the time. Eventually, after almost a year of being on the run, Daniel went to Rhode Island to visit his friends William Stringfellow and Anthony Towne, whom he knew would willingly accept him, despite his fugitive status. With Stringfellow writing statements as, “it is unambiguous in each of the gospel accounts that Jesus Christ was a criminal….it is easy for us to gainsay the criminality of Jesus and to ignore entirely what his status as a criminal may mean for those who profess to affirm and to follow him…Jesus was….a criminal: not a mere nonconformist, not just a protester, more than a militant, not only a dissident, not simply a dissenter, but a criminal….from the point of view of the State and of the ecclesiastical authorities as well – from the view of the Establishment – Jesus was the most dangerous and reprehensible sort of criminal…a subversive,”(25) in articles with titles such as Jesus the Criminal which referenced contemporary civil disobedience protests such as the Catonsville Nine demonstration, Berrigan knew he could find a safe place. And find a safe place he did – upon his arrival at Stringfellow and Towne’s home, the two friends greeted him with a hospitable feast(26).

In conjunction with the hospitality, Anthony Towne offered sharp criticisms of Berrigan’s treatment of the whole situation. Towne said, “the movement badly [needs] depersonalization….from the time of the Catonsville action the movement [has] depended too much upon the personalities of [you and your brother], and during [this] fugitive era it depended almost entirely on [your] personality.” Towne thought that if the FBI were to capture Dan, the entire movement and momentum would be decapitated and stunted(27). Despite the strong desire of both Stringfellow and Towne to protect Dan, staying with his two friends would eventually be his ruin. On August 11, Stringfellow noticed a strange man on the property. After a brief conversation with the man, he stated he was there for Berrigan. Dan, who made no effort to flee, exited the house and said, “I suppose you’re wondering who I am. I am Daniel Berrigan(28).” He was immediately frisked, handcuffed, and arrested. As he entered the car to be taken away, he lifted his handcuffed hands in a gesture of endearment to his friends and said, “God bless.” He kept his peace and graciousness amidst the whole situation.

Despite his capture and the imprisonment of the Nine (minus Mary Molan who stayed underground for nine years and was never caught…rather, she turned herself in), the legacy of the Catonsville Nine lives on. With such protest acts as the DC 9, the Beaver 55, the Boston 8, and the Milwaukee 14, the Catonsville Nine influenced many people and organizations to not only think more intently and creatively about protest, but also about war, life, and death. The dramatic narrative of the Nine can also be experienced in the form of a play, The Trial of the Catonsville Nine, as a documentary in Hit & Stay, and in historical literature in The Catonsville Nine.

The theological, biographical, and philosophical elements continue on in the work of William Stringfellow and Anthony Towne who co-authored a book called Suspect Tenderness: The Ethics of the Berrigan Witness about the time Daniel Berrigan spent with them before his arrest. The Catonsville Nine also greatly influenced William Stringfellow’s seminal piece, An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land, which he was writing upon the eve of Berrigan’s arrest at Stringfellow’s home(29). This became the book that Daniel Berrigan later recommended to students at Union Theological Seminary, amidst plans to launch an underground seminary(30). Stringfellow’s An Ethic also played an integral role in the overall work of political theologian Walter Wink, meaning that many aspects of contemporary political theology can be traced back to the protest of nine Catholic priests(31). The Catonsville Nine and the Berrigan hospitality incident also indirectly influenced Stringfellow’s work, Conscience and Obedience: The Politics of Romans 13 and Revelation 13 in Light of the Second Coming, which he wrote specifically because of a conversation with an FBI agent who was interrogating him about Berrigan. The agent asked, “Doesn’t the Bible say you must obey the Emperor?” Conscience and Obedience is Stringfellow’s response to his question. Stringfellow wrote in the preface that he “could not concede the simplistic premise about the Bible that [the agent’s] question assumed, and rebuked him about [it], taking perhaps forty-five minutes to do so(32).” Traces of the occurrence can be seen throughout other works published under Stringfellow’s name, such as The Politics of Spirituality. 

Berrigan and the Catonsville Nine have also received acclaim from intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, the latter of which said, “in this modern world we have this fetish about property and about things much more than we have about people….people are more important than pieces of paper – people are being burned and killed(33).”  To Zinn, the Catonsville Nine offered a proper perspective and revaluation of human life. Even Bill Ayers of the Weather Underground said, “religion is boring and kind of a bummer, but these folks are different. One of the reasons is because they carry out their politics, their faith, and their moral principles in action. It’s the action that makes their principles comes to life(34).” While it remains up for debate, the evidence is strong that the Catonsville Nine did more than prevent a few hundred potential draftees from being forced into combat. They created a monumental shift in the realm of theology and Christian thought (whether the recipients of the legacy realize it or not). Not mere abstract academic theology – but pragmatic, down-to-earth, gritty, incarnational theology. In some respect, the Nine brought a little bit of the Kingdom to Earth(35).


1 http://ncronline.org/news/peace-justice/inattention-accuracy-about-catonsville-nine-distorts-history 

2 http://www.history.com/topics/vietnam-war/tet-offensive 

3 A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn p.477 

4 The Portable Sixties Reader; The Sixties: A Chronology, p. xxx 

5 http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/artifact.cfm?ID=CUCN016 

6 Hit & Stay documentary. 

7 A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn, p.488 

8 https://sojo.net/magazine/january-2013/fracture-good-order 

9 Dean Pappas in Hit or Stay documentary. 

10 Philip Berrigan as quoted in https://sojo.net/magazine/january-2013/fracture-good-order 

11 http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/page.cfm?ID=36 

12 http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/page.cfm?ID=1 

13 George Mische explained in the documentary Hit & Stay that each individual only had one draft file representing himself. If that file were destroyed, that man would not be able to be drafted. Thus, burning the draft files had a significant impact on many lives. 

14 http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/page.cfm?ID=4 

15 http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/page.cfm?ID=2 

16 David Arst, quoted in Hit & Stay documentary. 

17 Phil Berrigan as quoted on footage shown in Hit & Stay documentary. 

18 Daniel Berrigan as quoted on footage shown in Hit & Stay documentary. 

19 Daniel Berrigan quoted in https://sojo.net/magazine/january-2013/fracture-good-order 

20 https://sojo.net/magazine/january-2013/fracture-good-order 

21 http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/page.cfm?ID=2 

22 The Catonsville Nine p. 269 

23 Ibid. 269 

24 Ibid. 270 

25 Jesus the Criminal by William Stringfellow, Christian Century 

26  Suspect Tenderness: The Ethics of the Berrigan Witness by William Stringfellow and Anthony Towne, 1971.

27 The Catonsville Nine  p. 283 

28  Ibid. p. 284

29 From the Preface to Conscience and Obedience, William Stringfellow, 1977 p.15 

30 From the Preface to William Stringfellow: Essential Writings, Bill Wylie-Kellermann, p. xii-xiii 

31 Ibid, p. xiii 

32 From the Preface to Conscience and Obedience, William Stringfellow, 1977 p. 16 

33 As quoted in Hit & Stay documentary. 

34 Ibid. 

35 The Gospel According to Matthew, chapter 6 verses 9-13. 


Charters, Ann. “The Sixties: A Chronology.” In The Portable Sixties Reader. New York: Penguin Books, 2003.

Hit & Stay. Directed by Joe Tropea and Skizz Cyzyk. United States, 2013. Film.

“Inattention to Accuracy about ‘Catonsville Nine’ Distorts History.” Inattention to Accuracy about ‘Catonsville Nine’ Distorts History. Accessed December 14, 2015. http://ncronline.org/news/peace-justice/inattention-accuracy-about-catonsville-nine-distorts-history.

Peters, Shawn Francis. The Catonsville Nine: A Story of Faith and Resistance in the Vietnam Era.

Stringfellow, William. 1970. “Jesus the criminal.” Christianity And Crisis 30, no. 10: 119-122. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed December 13, 2015).

Stringfellow, William, and Anthony Towne. Suspect Tenderness: The Ethics of the Berrigan Witness. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971.

Stringfellow, William, and Bill Wylie Kellermann. William Stringfellow: Essential Writings. 2013.

Stringfellow, William. Conscience & Obedience: The Politics of Romans 13 and Revelation 13 in Light of the Second Coming. Waco, Tex.: Word Books, 1977.

“Tet Offensive.” History.com. Accessed December 14, 2015. http://www.history.com/topics/vietnam-war/tet-offensive.

“The Catonsville Nine File : Blood to Fire.” The Catonsville Nine File : Blood to Fire. Accessed December 14, 2015. http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/page.cfm?ID=4.

“The Catonsville Nine File : Collection.” The Catonsville Nine File : Collection. Accessed December 14, 2015. http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/artifact.cfm?ID=CUCN016.

“The Catonsville Nine File : Profiles of the Catonsville Nine.” The Catonsville Nine File : Profiles of the Catonsville Nine. Accessed December 14, 2015. http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/page.cfm?ID=36.

“The Catonsville Nine File : The Action.” The Catonsville Nine File : The Action. Accessed December 14, 2015. http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/page.cfm?ID=2.

“The Catonsville Nine File : The Beginning.” The Catonsville Nine File : The Beginning. Accessed December 14, 2015. http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/page.cfm?ID=1.

“The Fracture of Good Order.” Sojourners. November 27, 2012. Accessed December 14, 2015. https://sojo.net/magazine/january-2013/fracture-good-order.

Zinn, Howard. A People’s History of the United States: 1492-2001. New ed.

On War Film

This was an essay I wrote for a class I took called American Popular Culture. The assignment was to engage with War Film as a medium and discuss its purpose and role. I tried to take an Anabaptist-esque stance.


WAR [Film]: What Is It Good For?

“Every man who wages war believes God is on his side. I’ll warrant God should often wonder who is on his.”
Cromwell (1970) – Oliver Cromwell (Richard Harris)

“There’s no such thing as an anti-war film.”
Francois Truffaut

War film is a controversial topic in film studies. It is a genre that must continually be discussed, given that it will continued to be produced whether we appreciate it or not. For reasons that will be laid out in this essay, war film should, in fact, not be protested against, despite a depiction of the most anti-incarnational act a human being can do.

Critics’ opinions take a multiplicity of various shapes and forms, ranging from worshipful commendation to war-on-war-film. This makes sense, given that war film is, as should be blatantly obvious, a form of art. (Whether it is tasteful art is up for debate.) With that in mind, one must admit that to discuss various aspects of war film, such as whether or not war film should be produced, a look at both the nature of war and art is required. Once a consolidation between the two occurs, the responsibilities of the artist and the audience take the stage, and the question of “should” may be more appropriately responded to, while other concerns can be implicitly dealt with.

War is both a sacred and profane topic. Sacred because without the capacity for war, there would be no capacity for peace. Peace is defined in opposition to war, and therefore they are intimately related. Put another way, in order to truly have the capacity to choose love, one must be able to have the capacity to choose hate. The greater one’s capacity to love, the greater one’s capacity to hate. Therefore, war is sacred, in that it reveals the immense capacity within the human spirit to strive for, create, strategize, and maintain an agape-centered peace. At the same time, however, war is profane. War profanes peace comparable, in some regards, to how rape and extra-marital intercourse profane sex. War, a strategy of defeating an opponent, profanes the human capacity to create by rendering it a destructive force. Rape, a forced sexual act, profanes the human capacity for intimacy by rendering it a one-sided pursuit. War, a strategy of “protection,” while doing its best to remain on “God’s side”, reveals a lack of trust in the longsuffering and peace of Christ. Extra-marital sex, a pursuit of human intimacy, puts the cart before the horse, and reveals a lack of trust in another, replacing deep relational intimacy, with that of mere physicality, covering up an unhealthy psyche.  Therefore, it is evident war is pornographic, and must be dealt with carefully in a discerning manner by those who seek to represent it.

Art does not exist, nor is created in, a vacuum. In fact, generally speaking, it exists in two types of contexts: Narrow and Broad. The Narrow is the context the artist finds his immediate person in. The artist has a specific message for a specific group of people at a specific point of time in the greater human narrative. Whether the message is well-received is beside the question. It may be easier to think of the Narrow in terms of the Immediate (context), as well. The Broad consists of all other times, places, and audiences. While the artist has a bit of control in the Narrow, he loses much of it in the Broad.  Given the nature of war film, it is almost presumed by the medium to be viewed by large audiences that exist outside of the Narrow. Due to this presumption, it is possible the film will be viewed by more people in the Broad than in the Narrow. Given the fact that the Broad is generally removed from the Narrow, it is also inevitable that the Broad will misinterpret the film in some respects, even if misinterpretation does not occur in totality.

Art functions as a means of sparking discussion among its audience. Whether the conversation is within a single viewer’s mind or among a group of 30 critics, discussion and contemplation on the piece is inevitable. This discussion and contemplation can educate the viewer on historical occurrences and events in a way that prose and text cannot. Visual art mediums, such as film, provide a more, albeit not perfect, concrete manner in which to experience the past. The discussion of various art pieces also enables the observer to sympathize with experiences that he or she would otherwise have been unable to grasp. While the subjective human experience is vastly intricate, art functions as a bridge between different psyches permitting the cultivation of empathy, or on the opposite end, hatred.

With the consideration of both the nature of war and art in mind, one can address the issue of war film more appropriately. For example, war film is a restricted medium, as is all art. Generally a film is between 90 and 180 minutes. This does not leave a massive amount of space to include a multiplicity of historical facts, nuanced-events, and human complexity. Therefore, in discussing war film, it is important to remember that no war film is perfect nor will it meet all ideal guidelines. That does not mean, however, it should not be produced. War films’ benefits outweigh its cons when approached in a responsible and educated manner by artist and audience alike.

The artist is in a place of great responsibility. The artist(s) must seek to create a film that does not portray war in solely a glorified light, nor solely in a negative light, even though war is truly wretched and ungodly. The artist must also strive to make this nuance as clear as possible, in order to reach both the Narrow and the Broad contexts. To do otherwise is to not only profane war, but the medium itself, rendering it merely one-sided propaganda. However, due to the restricted nature of the medium, grace must be given to the artist by the audience, and responsibility must be placed on the audience by the artist (and the greater culture) to intelligibly interact with the piece. While the artist may try his or her best to create a clear, ironically nuanced, multi-faceted film, the audience, if approaching it from a simplistic mindset, may miss the bigger picture. In fact, Tom Brooks even questions if there is such a thing as an anti-war film when he writes, “cinema is an inadequate medium through which to convey the horrors of conflict..movies will inevitably glorify combat when they portray the adventure and thrill of conflict (bbc.com).” Viewing war film is not something to be done for sheer entertainment. Rather, it is a sacred act to be done in the right mindset and context.

That said, the artist must always keep in mind the majority of the artist’s audience is not going to be educated on how to critically view and analyze a film, let alone a war film. Due to this conundrum it may be a respectable notion to produce a text that explains various key themes and scenes within the film, which can be given to an individual viewer upon purchase of a ticket or DVD. The text does not necessarily have to be print so as to save money. Rather, with the aid of the digital age, a pdf document may easily be texted or e-mailed to the observer. Given the cultural phenomenon of discussing film and television broadcasts as a form of small talk, if even a few people were to read the accompanying guides, it may put pressure on others who interact with these well-read viewers to also read the pamphlets. This could be seen as a positive capitalization on the American phenomenon of keeping up with the Joneses.

With that in mind, both the artist and audience have a responsibility to engage the material created and presented in a financially wise manner. For example, the film Pearl Harbor obtained a budget of approximately $140 million (imdb.com). While this film offered various points of contemplation to the audience, one cannot help but question the wisdom used in regard to financial budgeting. It is possible the production of this film would have been better spent on research and pursuits of cultivating peace, rather than spew out another war film.   

Despite the financial burden, it is possible war film can function as a psychological medicine to a world stricken by wars’ horrors. When the war film is appropriately created and engaged, it can generate an important space for non-veteran (or even conscientious objector or nonviolent activist) to engage veteran. It may help families understand their PTSD-stricken loved one. It also pricks at the conscience, encouraging a better treatment of homeless, limbless veterans.

War film’s ability to jab at the conscience doesn’t end at the home and nationwide level, though. It maintains the capacity to create empathy toward the enemy: the “Other.” War film may be used as a powerful tool of reversal, revealing the common humanity between both, or all, sides in the war portrayed, and in all wars: past, present, future. This can be exemplified in the companion films Letters From Iwo Jim and Flags of Our Fathers. The first tells the story of the Battle for Iwo Jima from a Japanese perspective, the second from a U.S. perspective. Viewed together, the holistic piece helps add nuance (and arguably empathy) to the discussion. The horrors it portrays, then, can be redeemed with careful calculation, engagement, and wisdom. One may even consider grotesque war film a tool of ministry and social action, given that its fictional violence can penetrate the hearts and minds of its audience. Although, one must also keep in mind war film’s ability to desensitize.  Nonetheless, these facets may be some of the most important reasons war film should continued to be produced and wisely engaged by Christians – Anabaptist or not.

Brook, Tom. “Is There Any Such Thing as an ‘anti-war Film’?” BBC. N.p., 10 July 2014. Web. 17 Oct. 2015.

“Pearl Harbor.” IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2015.

10 Reasons to Read Jacques Ellul

  1. He was a polymath, able to think in a deep interdisciplinary manner.Working with a variety of disciplines such as theology, sociology, ethics, media ecology, politics, and urban thought, he wrote upwards of 50 books and thousands of academic articles. Rather than make his work shallow and stretched too thin, he made it all interconnected and impossible to understand without a thorough reading of a variety of his pieces to understand what lay at the groundwork of his thought and intentions. Much like creation itself, his work and thought is inextricably interdependent and interconnected.In fact, his works are highly dialectic, and interact with one another. Ellul himself said that you cannot read one without reading others. “I have not actually written a wide variety of books, but rather one long book in which each ‘individual book’ constitutes a chapter (Ellul on Religion, Technology, and Politics).”
  2. Influenced by some of the greats, he didn’t simply follow, he dissected and took what he thought was good, leaving the rest to rot.He was influenced greatly by Karl Marx, Karl Barth, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.He influenced the likes of Marshall McLuhan, Neil Postman, and William Stringfellow.
  3. He criticizes equally and in a balanced way.In other words, none of the main political/economic options are viable for him: democracy, capitalism, socialism, communism, fascism. They’re all equally absurd. (Although he tended to have a greater disdain for fascism.)Similarly, Ellul did not like to associate with a single Christian denomination (and ironically was generally more well-liked by non-Reformed Christians than the Reformed Christians whom who ministered with), thinking the institutionalization of the Church always ended terribly, but on the flip side realized no organization was not possible either. He continually sought a middle ground, a balanced walk on a tight rope, a narrow way, that neither secular nor religious people could really grasp or manage to walk without the hope of the Gospel.
  4. He realized urban migration is a phenomenon not going away any time soon (if ever), and while he criticized it, he encouraged Christians to move to urban environments.

    Many critics of Ellul have only read his socio-political works related to the city, while ignoring his theological works. This is self-harm, as the socio-political works are only half his thought. While they show major criticisms and negative thoughts toward the city, seemingly offering no hope, the theological works look to the New Jerusalem as being the end point, or telos, of history.
  5. He was an outsider.Class: unlike many intellectuals of the twentieth century, Ellul grew up in poverty. This gave him a different perspective than many wealthy scholars.Geographically:  Although a French citizen and national, he lived outside of Paris, which was the heart of French intellectual life and scholarship. An intellectual not living in Paris was unheard of and taboo.

    Linguistically: Although he was most well known in the United States via his translated works, he was only able to write in French and spoke broken English.

    Politically: He rejected all mainstream political options, considering them all to be intellectually shallow and petty.

    Religiously: He was raised in a non-Christian home, but became a diehard disciple of Christ. French intellectual circles in the twentieth century were primarily secular, and being an academic Christian was nearly unheard of – even somewhat looked down upon.
    France was primarily Roman Catholic in populace, but Ellul identified with the Protestant Reformed Church. Despite being a member of the Reformed tradition, he held great disdain for John Calvin and considered Calvinism to be intellectually shallow. Instead, he held the minority viewpoint of neo-orthodoxy found in the writings of Karl Barth.

    He wrote of himself, “it is obvious that I have always found myself alone and out of place (Ellul on Religion, Technology, and Politics).”

    Frequently misunderstood, Ellul didn’t enter the conversation from the same angle as his contemporaries. He rarely wrote about just one topic at a time in a linear manner. The authors of the book, Understanding Jacques Ellul, who appear to be dear fans of Ellul, refer to him as a “fool,” in the most endearing way possible. They refer to a passage out of Umberto Eco’s novel Foucalt’s Pendulum in which he defines the nature of foolishness:

    “‘Being a fool…is complicated. It’s a form of social behavior. A fool is one who always talks outside his glass.’
    ‘What do you mean?’
    ‘Like this.’ He pointed at the counter near his glass. ‘He wants to talk about what’s in the glass, but somehow or other he misses. He’s the guy who puts his foot in his mouth. For example, he says how’s your lovely wife to someone whose wife has just left him.’
    ‘Yes, I know a few of those.’
    ‘Fools are in great demand, especially on social occasions. They embarrass everyone, but provide material for conversation. In their positive form they become diplomats. Talking outside the glass when someone else blunders helps to change the subject. But fools don’t interest us, either. They’re never creative, their talent is all second-hand, so they don’t submit manuscripts to publishers. Fools don’t claim that cats bark, but they talk about cats when everyone else is talking about dogs. They offend all the rules of conversation…’ ”

    Ellul looked at issues of his time from a different angle than others..and while he wasn’t necessarily ‘wrong’, and in fact, possibly ‘right’, no one wanted to pay much attention because he seemed to be talking about something else entirely.

  6. He wrote many critiques of technology, or what he called “technique,” but instead of being “for” or “against” something, he argued Christians follow their consciences and do what they find to be profitable, all while maintaining their freedom and not being in bondage to the technology. This gets at the heart of another issue he felt and thought passionately about: Christian freedom and liberty. He refused to write systematic theology or ethics, telling Christians what to do or not to do. Rather, he encouraged Christians, and all people, to think for themselves.
  7. He stood by his convictions and lived out his beliefs.Even though France is well documented to have aided in giving Jews over to the Germans during WWII, Ellul was a part of the small resistance in France to seek to save the lives of Jews by hiding them. While he despised the Spanish Civil War and the war against fascism, he refused to take up arms, although he was tempted to many times. Although he strongly criticized politics, he thought the most powerful politic a person could become involved in is local politics, and while he vested little to no hope in even local politics, he was involved for much of his life. He was involved with the mindset that at best, his involvement would make things a little bit better for people, but only in a temporal sense. He held onto politics loosely, and was partially involved solely to get to know his community more intimately.
    He was deeply committed to his wife throughout their long marriage, and greatly influenced and encouraged by her. For being an extremely busy scholar, teacher, and politician, he remained loyal to his wife and still found her to be a major priority. This echoes the previous sentiment that he sticks by his convictions – relationships are the most important thing in the life of a Christian.
  8. He revived the theological method of exegesis long before anyone else (and arguably introduced Karl Barth to French intellectual circles).Not only that, but he consistently made sure it was Christocentric. While his commentaries are in a league of their own, not entirely systematic, but also more complex and scholarly than a sermon, they offer a sort of “empirical theology.” Just enough systematics that they are rational, but just enough situational and empirical application that they are down to earth and livable. He argued vehemently against wholly abstract theology, considering it to be of the devil, as it rarely, if ever, truly helped people to live according to the life of Christ as represented in the Gospels.
  9.  He sought to offer a holistic critique of modern society in a similar vein as Marx.Not of just capital, but a critique that covered everything a modern human would involve herself in. He critiqued technology/technique and secularism in the same way Marx critiqued capital and religion.
  10. He is fun (and edifying) to read.With over 50 books and thousands of articles, reading Ellul is an adventure that takes all sorts of twists and turns (sort of like reading Karl Barth). To even begin to grasp him, one must read a few of his books on a related topic, and generally a couple of introductions by reputable Ellul scholars. He was paradoxically simple and complex. If one can get through the strain of grasping his intent after reading a few topics, one may be able to traverse the rest of his works with a bit more ease.


Ellul on Religion, Technology, and Politics

Understanding Jacques Ellul

Introducing Jacques Ellul

Works by Ellul:
Money & Power, The Technological Society, The Technological Bluff, The Political Illusion, Anarchy & Christianity, Violence, Propaganda, The New Demons, Perspectives on Our Age, The Presence of the Kingdom, The Ethics of Freedom

Psalm 136 in Contemporary Realities: “God’s Work in Creation and History”

A small liturgy for our contemporary context set on Psalm 136. Expect to set aside around 1+ hour(s) to go through it. The challenge: how do we reconcile the call of a historically oriented psalm to worship God in an age full of suffering and evil, especially when the refrain beckons us each verse: “for his steadfast love endures forever?” Take from it what you will.

Sources for each verse will be listed after each section. If I have breached any copyrights, please forgive me. I do not mean to plagiarize in anyway, but rather, link to original sources whenever possible. If you want me to remove something, please inform me, and I ask for your forgiveness.

Psalm 136: “God’s Work in Creation and History”

(1) O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.

Rape Statistics



For more statistics, please view the links below, with many more visuals and detailed explanations of the numbers.



(2) O give thanks to the God of gods,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.

Drone Warfare

Credible, independent attempts to determine how many civilians the Obama administration has killed [via drones] arrived at numbers in the hundreds or low thousands.  And there is good reason to believe that they undercount the civilians killed.

Casualty estimates

Reported deaths and injuries

Pakistan 2004 onwards
US Drone Strikes
Our complete
Pakistan datasheet

Most recent strike:
May 21 2016

Total strikes: 424
Obama strikes: 373
Total killed: 2,499-4,001
Civilians killed: 424-966
Children killed: 172-207
Injured: 1,161-1,744

Yemen 2002 onwards
US Covert Action

Our complete
Yemen datasheet

Most recent strike:
October 18 2016

Confirmed drone strikes: 137-157
Total killed: 581-848
Civilians killed: 65-101
Children killed: 8-9
Injured: 100-235

Possible extra drone strikes: 90-107
Total killed: 354-508
Civilians killed: 26-61
Children killed: 6-9
Injured: 82-109

Other covert operations: 19-82
Total killed: 205-438
Civilians killed: 68-102
Children killed: 26-28
Injured: 43-132

Somalia 2007 onwards
US Covert Action

Our complete
Somalia datasheet

Most recent strike:
September 28 2016

Drone strikes: 32-36
Total killed: 241-418
Civilians killed: 3-10
Children killed: 0-2
Injured: 18-24

Other covert operations: 9-13
Total killed: 59-160
Civilians killed: 7-47
Children killed: 0-2
Injured: 11-21

Afghanistan 2015 onwards

Our complete
Afghanistan datasheet

Most recent strike:
October 22 2016

Bureau data
Total strikes: 626-631
Total killed: 2,199-2,851
Civilians killed: 90-145
Children killed: 4-21
Injured: 268-290

USAF data
Missions with at least one
weapon release: 800
Total weapons released: 1,760





(3) O give thanks to the Lord of lords,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Syrian Civil War

More than 250,000 Syrians have lost their lives in four-and-a-half years of armed conflict, which began with anti-government protests before escalating into a full-scale civil war. More than 11 million others have been forced from their homes as forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and those opposed to his rule battle each other – as well as jihadist militants from so-called Islamic State. This is the story of the civil war so far, in eight short chapters.






(4) who alone does great wonders,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Dehumanizing Syrian Refugees: “They’re all criminals!”

At the same time, the pervasive fear of refugee-related crime on display both in German public-opinion polls and Hoaxmap rumors is out of sync with the data so far on the actual relationship between refugees and crime rates in Germany. Recent numbers from Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Agency (BKA) suggest that the influx of refugees into the country this fall had a low impact on crime numbers relative to the natural uptick that would happen with any population increase: Although the number of refugees in the country increased by 440 percent between 2014 and 2015, the number of crimes committed by refugees only increased by 79 percent. (The number of crimes against refugees increasedas well.) Furthermore, according to Deutsche Welle’s analysis of the report, the number of offenses increased in the first half of 2015 but “stagnated” in the second half, precisely when most of the refugees were arriving and the rumor mill switched into overdrive. And although sexual offenses account for over 25 percent of the rumors on the Hoaxmap, the BKA data showed that only 1 percent of refugee-related crimes fell into the sexual offense category.

Finally, there’s another possible contributor to the prevalence of rumors about refugees and crime, especially sexual assault: the media’s own apparent reluctance to offer reliable reports of refugee crime. Although police reportedly received 170 complaints regarding women being groped and robbed near the train station in Cologne on New Year’s Eve, it took until January 5 for the story to make national and international headlines, and even longer for arrests to be made. The perceived foot-dragging and bias, according to Banulescu-Bogdan, “really exacerbated people’s fears. They thought ‘everybody’s trying to tell us that we have no reason to be fearful, that our anxieties are illegitimate in some way and look what happened. What else are they covering up?’



(5) who by understanding made the heavens,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;


(6) who spread out the earth on the waters,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Polluted Pacific Ocean – Fukushima and Nuclear Radiation

NOAA energy map shows the intensity of the tsunami caused by Japan's magnitude 8.9 earthquake

…if that weren’t bad enough, Fukushima continues to leak an astounding 300 tons of radioactive waste into the Pacific Ocean every day. It will continue do so indefinitely as the source of the leak cannot be sealed as it is inaccessible to both humans and robots due to extremely high temperatures.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Fukushima has contaminated the entire Pacific Ocean in just five years. This could easily be the worst environmental disaster in human history and it is almost never talked about by politicians, establishment scientists, or the news. It is interesting to note that TEPCO is a subsidiary partner with General Electric (also known as GE), one of the largest companies in the world, which has considerable control over numerous news corporations and politicians alike. Could this possibly explain the lack of news coverage Fukushima has received in the last five years? There is also evidence that GE knew about the poor condition of the Fukushima reactors for decades and did nothing. This led 1,400 Japanese citizens to sue GE for their role in the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Even if we can’t see the radiation itself, some parts of North America’s western coast have been feeling the effects for years. Not long after Fukushima, fish in Canada began bleeding from their gills, mouths, and eyeballs. This “disease” has been ignored by the government and has decimated native fish populations, including the North Pacific herring. Elsewhere in Western Canada, independent scientists have measured a 300% increase in the level of radiation. According to them, the amount of radiation in the Pacific Ocean is increasing every year.




(7) who made the great lights,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Nuclear Warheads



For more information on current rates of production and maintenance, see the link below.


(8) the sun to rule over the day,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Carbon Dioxide


Scientists at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii announced in 2013 that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide reached a daily average above 400 parts per million for the first time in history. CO2 concentrations “haven’t been this high in millions of years,” said scientist Erika Podest at the time. “This milestone is a wake-up call.”

But the situation has only gotten worse. Worldwide, 400 ppm, which indicates the ratio of carbon dioxide to other gases in the atmosphere, started to be read more consistently and in more locations. Last March, global CO2 levels topped the symbolic benchmark for an entire month — a first since record-keeping began. Antarctica, the last place on Earth without a 400 ppm reading, finally reached it in May.

Now scientists say we’ve arrived at yet another critical climate change juncture: CO2 levels surpassed 400 ppm this month— and it may not fall below that mark ever again.

“I think we’re essentially over for good,” said Ralph Keeling, director of the Scripps Institute for Oceanography’s carbon dioxide monitoring program in May.

Though one-off lower measurements could still be read in the coming weeks, Keeling said “it already seems safe to conclude that we won’t be seeing a monthly value below 400 ppm this year ― or ever again for the indefinite future.”



(9) the moon and stars to rule over the night,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Pentagon Supplied Propaganda: Fake Terrorist Videos

The Pentagon paid a UK PR firm half a billion dollars to create fake terrorist videos in Iraq in a secret propaganda campaign exposed by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

PR firm Bell Pottinger, known for its array of controversial clients including the Saudi government and Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s foundation, worked with the US military to create the propaganda in a secretive operation.

The firm reported to the CIA, the National Security Council and the Pentagon on the project with a mandate to portray Al-Qaeda in a negative light and track suspected sympathizers.

Both the White House and General David Petraeus, the former general who shared classified information with his mistress, signed off on the content produced by the agency.

The firm created television ads showing Al-Qaeda in a negative light as well as creating content to look as though it had come from “Arabic TV”. Crews were sent out to film bombings with low quality video. The firm would then edit it to make it look like news footage.



(10) who struck Egypt through their firstborn,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Police Violence



Police have killed at least 234 black people in the United States thus far in 2016.


(11) and brought Israel out from among them,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Mass Incarceration

The United States incarcerates more of its citizens than any other nation in the world. The increase in the jail and prison population from less than 200,000 in 1972 to 2.2 million today has led to unprecedented prison overcrowding and put tremendous strain on state budgets. The United States has 5 percent of the world’s population but nearly 25 percent of its prisoners.

In the 1990s, as lawmakers campaigned to “get tough on crime,” America built a new prison every two weeks and still could not meet the demand for prison beds. Violent crime has fallen by more than 51 percent since 1991, and property crime has decreased by more than 43 percent. Although the crime rate has dropped steadily to about half of what it was in 1991, spending on jails and prisons reached nearly $81 billion in FY 2010. Today, nearly seven millionpeople in this country are incarcerated, on probation, or on parole.

The politics of fear and anger fueled “tough on crime” policies—including mandatory minimum sentences, extraordinarily harsh and racially disparate penalties for even minor drug offenses, and the explosion in life sentences without parole—that led to the unprecedented and unparalleled incarceration rate in America today. Private prisons operated by for-profit corporations multiplied from five in 1998 to a hundred in 2008, and profits have increased more than 500 percent in the last 20 years, creating perverse incentives and hindering efforts to reform sentencing laws, emphasize rehabilitation goals, and reduce the prison population.

You’re exhausted. You just got done working for the day. You aren’t blessed with a desk job, your work is manual labor. The only thing that got you through today was this moment right now — waiting in line for the money you earned after a hard day. You smile as you walk up to the man, tell him your hours for the day, and watch as he drops a whopping 17 cents into the palm of your hand.

I didn’t just describe a third world country, or a western nation prior to labor laws. The exact scenario described above is an everyday reality for inmates at for-profit prisons. The United States prison system is inherently flawed, both with mass incarceration and inhumane living conditions.

With the United States representing only five percent of the world’s population, it is completely ridiculous that around
22 percent of the total prisoners in the world are stationed in prisons within the United States.

In fact, in some parts of the United States, there are more people in prison than in college. The United States isn’t within the top 30 countries with the highest crime index, so the mass incarceration speaks to a much larger problem with the American prison system.



(12) with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;


About 21,000 people die every day of hunger or hunger-related causes, according to the United Nations. This is one person every four seconds, as you can see on this display. Sadly, it is children who die most often.

Yet there is plenty of food in the world for everyone. The problem is that hungry people are trapped in severe poverty. They lack the money to buy enough food to nourish themselves. Being constantly malnourished, they become weaker and often sick. This makes them increasingly less able to work, which then makes them even poorer and hungrier. This downward spiral often continues until death for them and their families.

Some 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life. That’s about one in nine people on earth.

If women farmers had the same access to resources as men, the number of hungry in the world could be reduced by up to 150 million.

WFP calculates that US$3.2 billion is needed per year to reach all 66 million hungry school-age children. [The US spends far more than that every year on the military industrial complex.]



(13) who divided the Red Sea in two,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;





  • Based on available state-level data, an estimated 954,000 abortions took place in 2014—down from approximately 983,000 abortions in 2013 and 1.02 million abortions in 2012.

  • Twenty-one percent of all U.S. pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion. (AGI).



(14) and made Israel pass through the midst of it,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Orphans & Children

  • It is estimated that 140 million children worldwide are orphans. (UNICEF).

  • Worldwide, there are 168 million who are child laborers, accounting for almost 11 percent of children (ILO).

  • 124 million children and adolescents are out of school (UNESCO).

  • As of the start of 2014, 1 in 11 children of primary-school age is out of school, totaling 59 million children (UNICEF).

  • There are over 250 million children living in countries affected by conflict (UNICEF).

  • 1 out of every 8 babies born in the world is born into conflict (UNICEF).

  • There are 30 million children who have been forced from their homes (UNICEF).

  • There are roughly 400,000 children in the US foster care system. Of that number, approximately 100,000 are waiting to be adopted.

  • Of the children waiting in foster care, 30,000 age out every year, without families.

  • The top five sending countries in inter-country adoption in 2010 were China, Ethiopia, Russia, South Korea, and Ukraine.

  • Asia is home to the largest number of orphaned children in the world: 60 million, at last count.



(15) but overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Military-Industrial Complex

The table below compares average annual Pentagon budgets under every president since Truman, using “constant dollar” figures from the FY2016 Green Book. I’ll use these same inflation-adjusted figures throughout this article, to make sure I’m always comparing “apples to apples”. These figures do not include additional military-related spending by the VA, CIA, Homeland Security, Energy, Justice or State Departments, nor interest payments on past military spending, which combine to raise the true cost of U.S. militarism to about $1.3 trillion per year, or one thirteenth of the U.S. economy.

U.S. Military Budgets 1948-2015

Obama FY2010-15 $663.4 billion per year
Bush Jr FY2002-09* $634.9 “ “ “
Clinton FY1994-2001 $418.0 “ “ “
Bush Sr FY1990-93 $513.4 “ “ “
Reagan FY1982-89 $565.0 “ “ “
Carter FY1978-81 $428.1 “ “ “
Ford FY1976-77 $406.7 “ “ “
Nixon FY1970-75 $441.7 “ “ “
Johnson FY1965-69 $527.3 “ “ “
Kennedy FY1962-64 $457.2 “ “ “
Eisenhower FY1954-61 $416.3 “ “ “
Truman FY1948-53 $375.7 “ “ “

*Excludes $80 billion supplemental added to FY2009 under Obama.

The U.S. military receives more generous funding than the rest of the 10 largest militaries in the world combined (China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, U.K., France, Japan, India, Germany & South Korea). And yet, despite the chaos and violence of the past 15 years, the Republican candidates seem oblivious to the dangers of one country wielding such massive and disproportionate military power.



I highly encourage looking at the interactive websites below to examine individual contracts and costs per day, month, and year. It is astounding how much money goes to keeping this active, while, as said above, a comparatively measly $3.2 billion is needed to get foodstuffs to all 66 million starving children in the world.



(16) who led his people through the wilderness,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Domestic Violence

  • On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.1

  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of [some form of] physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.1

  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.1

  • 1 in 7 women and 1 in 18 men have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime to the point in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed.1

  • On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide.9

  • The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%.10

  • Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime.2

  • Women between the ages of 18-24 are most commonly abused by an intimate partner.2

  • 19% of domestic violence involves a weapon.2

  • Domestic victimization is correlated with a higher rate of depression and suicidal behavior.2

  • Only 34% of people who are injured by intimate partners receive medical care for their injuries.2



(17) who struck down great kings,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Varieties of Drug Abuse & Addiction



A table showing the prevalence of a large variety of drug use:



(18) and killed famous kings,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Depression, Anxiety, and Mental Illness



  • Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18% of the population. (Source: National Institute of Mental Health)

  • Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only about one-third of those suffering receive treatment.

  • Anxiety disorders cost the U.S. more than $42 billion a year, almost one-third of the country’s $148 billion total mental health bill, according to “The Economic Burden of Anxiety Disorders,” a study commissioned by ADAA (The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 60(7), July 1999).

    • More than $22.84 billion of those costs are associated with the repeated use of health care services; people with anxiety disorders seek relief for symptoms that mimic physical illnesses.

  • People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders.

  • Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.




(19) Sihon, king of the Amorites,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Autoimmune & Uncurable Lifelong Diseases


Autoimmune Disease…

…is a major health problem.

  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH estimates up to 23.5* million Americans suffer from autoimmune disease and that the prevalence is rising. We at AARDA say that 50 million* Americans suffer from autoimmune disease. Why the difference? The NIH numbers only include 24 diseases for which good epidemiology studies were available.

  • Researchers have identified 80-100 different autoimmune diseases and suspect at least 40 additional diseases of having an autoimmune basis. These diseases are chronic and can be life-threatening.

  • Autoimmune disease is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in female children and women in all age groups up to 64 years of age.

  • A close genetic relationship exists among autoimmune disease, explaining clustering in individuals and families as well as a common pathway of disease.

  • Commonly used immunosuppressant treatments lead to devastating long-term side effects.

  • The Institute of Medicine reports that the US is behind other countries in research into immune system self recognition, the process involved in autoimmune disease.

  • Understanding how to modulate immune system activity will benefit transplant recipients, cancer patients, AIDS patients and infectious disease patients.

…faces critical obstacles in diagnosis and treatment.

  • Symptoms cross many specialties and can affect all body organs.

  • Medical education provides minimal learning about autoimmune disease.

  • Specialists are generally unaware of interrelationships among the different autoimmune diseases or advances in treatment outside their own specialty area.

  • Initial symptoms are often intermittent and unspecific until the disease becomes acute.

  • Research is generally disease-specific and limited in scope. More information-sharing and crossover among research projects on different autoimmune diseases is needed.

…offers surprising statistical comparisons with other disease groups.

  • NIH estimates up to 23.5 million Americans* have an AD. In comparison, cancer affects up to 9 million and heart disease up to 22 million.

  • NIH estimates annual direct health care costs for AD to be in the range of $100 billion (source: NIH presentation by Dr. Fauci, NIAID). In comparison, cancers costs are $57 billion (source: NIH,ACS), and heart and stroke costs are $200 billion (source: NIH, AHA).

  • NIH research funding for AD in 2003 came to $591 million. In comparison, cancer funding came to $6.1 billion; and heart and stroke, to $2.4 billion (source: NIH).

  • The NIH Autoimmune Diseases Research Plan states; “Research discoveries of the last decade have made autoimmune research one of the most promising areas of new discovery.”

  • According to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Women’s Health, autoimmune disease and disorders ranked #1 in a top ten list of most popular health topics requested by callers to the National Women’s Health Information Center.



(20) and Og, king of Bashan,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Student Debt


General Student Loan Debt Stats

  • Total Amount of Student Loan Borrowers: 43.3 million +

  • Total Outstanding Student Loan Debt: $1.35 trillion +

  • Average Federal Student Loan Default Rate: 11.8%

  • Average Number of College Grads with Student loan Debt: 60%

  • Average Debt Per Borrower: $28,400

  • Average Debt Per Graduate: $16,033

Note: These stats are often misquoted. Many sites post the average debt per borrower statistic as the average debt per graduate.

  • Average Debt Per Graduate Student: $57,600

  • Average Debt Per Borrower at a Public School: $26,872

  • Average Debt Per Borrower at a Private School: $31,710

  • Department of Education’s Estimated Profit Over Next 10 Years: $127 billion

Federal Student Loan Debt Stats (Q2 2016)

Stats By Loan Status

  • In-School: 8 million borrowers holding $155.5 billion

  • In Grace Period: 1.5 million borrowers holding $27.5 billion

  • Repayment: 25.8 million borrowers holding $658.3 billion

  • Deferment: 4.9 million borrowers holding $129.8 billion

  • Forebearance: 4.2 million borrowers holding $139.4 billion

  • Default: 400 thousand borrowers holding $11.5 billion

Stats By Loan Type

  • Consolidation: 12 million borrowers holding $431.2 billion

  • Stafford Unsubsidized: 27.3 million borrowers holding $421.8 billion

  • Stafford Subsidized: 29.2 million borrowers holding $269 billion

  • Parent PLUS: 3.3 million borrowers holding $75.2 billion

  • Grad PLUS: 1 million borrowers holding $49.4 billion

  • Perkins: 2.8 million borrowers holding $8.2 billion

Direct Loan Stats By Repayment Plan (not FFEL)

  • Standard 10-year: 11.27 million borrowers holding $197.9 billion

  • Standard Over 10 years: 1.67 million borrowers holding $73.2 billion

  • Graduated Under 10 years: 2.63 million borrowers holding $67.9 billion

  • Graduated Over 10 years: 280 thousand borrowers holding $12.7 billion

  • Income-Contingent: 600 thousand borrowers holding $22.8 billion

  • Income-Based: 3.1 million borrowers holding $175.1 billion

  • Pay As You Earn: 960 thousand borrowers holding $41.2 billion

  • Revised PAYE: 190 thousand borrowers holding $8.1 billion

  • Alternative: 310 thousand borrowers holding $6.2 billion

  • Other: 450 thousand borrowers holding $45.5 billion

Private Student Loan (PSL) Debt Stats

  • Total Amount of Outstanding PSL Debt: $165 billion +

  • Average Amount of Students Using PSLs Each Year: 1.4 million

  • Average PSL Amount: ~$10,000

  • Percentage of PSLs Taken Out With a Cosigner: 90%

  • Number of PSL Lenders: Over 100

Graduate Student Loan Debt Stats

Combined Undergrad and Graduate Debt by Degree (as of 2012)

  • M.B.A. : $42,000 (11% of grad degrees)

  • Master of Science: $50,400 (18% of grad degrees)

  • Master of Education: $50,879 (16% of grad degrees)

  • Other Master’s Degrees: $55,489 (15% of grad degrees)

  • Master of Arts: $58,539 (8% of grad degrees)

  • Law: $140,616 (4% of grad degrees)

  • Medicine/Health Sciences: $161,772 (5% of grad degrees)

  • PhDs: Not Reported





(21) and gave their land as a heritage,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

The Locust Effect: The Problem of Everyday Violence

“Gary Haugen and Victor Boutros, authors of The Locust Effect, Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence, mine a rich field of data from international development experts who reveal that violence against the poor undermines the Millennium Goals relating to health, women’s empowerment, education, and economic development. For example, one out of three women around the world has been beaten, forced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime.i The rates of violence against women and girls are even higher among poor women.ii Studies suggest that 49% of Ethiopian women will be assaulted, 48% of Ugandan women, 62% of Peruvian women, 35% of Indian women, and 34% of Brazilian women.iii According to World Bank data, the epidemic of gender violence puts more women and girls between the age of 15 and 44 at risk of death or disability than cancer, traffic accidents, malaria, and war combined. iv Efforts to address women’s health needs are substantially undermined by failure to develop government capacity to protect them from violence and deter it through effective law enforcement. Another area of vulnerability for the poor, especially women, is lack of access to land title and inheritance. As IJM has seen in our programs in sub-Saharan Africa to restore property that has been violently expropriated from widows and orphans, the lack of functioning justice systems to assure access to land substantially undermines economic development for the poor. Global studies show that 90% of rural sub-Saharan Africans (of whom 370 million are considered poor) live and work on land that has no formal or secure title. The same is true for 40 million Indonesians, 40 million South Americans, 40 million Indians, and about 350 million impoverished indigenous people around the globe. Indeed, around 1.5 billion of the globe’s urban poor live in informal settlements and slums without any secure right to their property.v One of the most pernicious sources of violence against the poorest is the police themselves. The UN Study “Making the Law Work for Everyone” reports: Perhaps one of the most striking revelations of the study is the extent to which the police and official justice systems side with the rich, persecute poor people and make poor people more insecure, fearful and poorer. Particularly in urban areas, poor people perceive the police not as upholding justice, peace and fairness, but as threats and sources of insecurity.”vi Development institutions are recognizing the impact of this violence on their objectives. The World Bank affirms that “crime and violence have emerged in recent years as major obstacles to the realization of development objectives.”vii Further, the bank has stated , “In many developing countries, high levels of crime and violence not only undermine people’s safety on an everyday level they also undermine broader development efforts to improve governance and reduce poverty.”viii Multiple studies by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) have concluded that restraining violence is a precondition to poverty alleviation and economic development, plainly stating that “a foundational level of order must be established before development objectives can be realized.’”ix x Leaders of the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) have concluded that, “Poor people want to feel safe and secure just as much as they need food to eat, clean water to drink and a job to give them an income. Without security there cannot be development.”

Quote above from the “Issue Brief” PDF below. I suggest watching the Ted Talk below to get a better grasp of what is going on here, and then explore the website.



(22) a heritage to his servant Israel,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.

Environmental Racism


“The element of racism appears from the fact that poor areas are overwhelmingly nonwhite. In these areas, policies are also less regulated and there is an insufficient maintenance of environmental resources. Poor white areas, however, are more likely to have their environmental needs addressed quicker than poor racially marginalized ones.

People of color are unable to enjoy the full benefits of being heard or attract policy makers to change and enforce policies that accommodate the environmental needs of their community. Instead, they bear the burdens and cost of industrial and corporate policies that cause conditions that reproduce racial inequality by placing hazardous facilities in their areas with insufficient representation and resources. The distribution of pollution is, as a result, discriminatory to communities of color as the response level to their environmental needs is lower than white communities. This makes it harder for people of color to resist toxic exposure or to take part in advocating or speaking up against it.

Environmental racism is a major obstacle to achieving equitable distribution of health outcomes as well as protection against industrial pollution. From redlining to lack of political representation among people of color, the South Bronx has been the face of injustice as threats on environmental safety continue. This disproportionate burden of pollution dumped on racially marginalized areas like the South Bronx demonstrates how vulnerable poor people of color are to toxic waste sitting and lack of environmental and financial investment in their community. As Mychal Johnson exclaims, “poor people do not get enough representation. People of color do not get enough representation either. So how do you expect poor people of color to even be counted?”” [From the Huffington Post article linked below.]



(23) It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;





(24) and rescued us from our foes,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Human Trafficking





(25) who gives food to all flesh,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.

Documented Civilian Deaths In Iraq War


This data is based on 49,429 database entries from the beginning of the war to 31 Jul 2016, and on monthly preliminary data from that date onwards. Preliminary data is shown in grey when applicable, and is based on approximate daily totals in the Recent Events section prior to full analysis. The full analysis extracts details such as the names or demographic details of individuals killed, the weapons that killed them and location amongst other details. The current range contains 32,685–34,136 deaths (20%–18%, a portion which may rise or fall over time) based on single-sourced reports.

Graphs are based on the higher number in our totals. Gaps in recording and reporting suggest that even our highest totals to date may be missing many civilian deaths from violence.

From this website:


(26) O give thanks to the God of heaven,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.



(1 John 3:16) We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.


Psalm 136 and 1 John presented here are from the NRSV version from Biblegateway.com

Devil’s Food

In my previous article, I showed that monsters are sometimes Christ-figures. In this post, I want to show that one of the sweetest facets of Halloween, chocolate, is actually one of the most bitter.

First, I have to ask – do you know where your chocolate comes from? Probably not. Americans (and many nations) are so far removed from our food that some of us are taken aback (and disgusted) when we realize that meat used to breathe. Some people get unsettled when they think their hamburger once had life. Imagine what people must feel, or should feel, when they eat chocolate that isn’t fair trade. Not sure what I mean? Let’s take a look at some of the research.

With a bit of research, one finds that as of 2014, 48% of the world’s chocolate supply comes from the Ivory Coast in West Africa. We have this information thanks to journalists who were supposedly killed by the Ivorian government for reporting on the cacao farms in 2004. The information leaked also shows us that Ivorian chocolate businesses commonly use both child and slave labor as a means of producing their chocolate. In fact, as of 2014, the Ivory Coast is reported as having used at least 15,000 child slaves to produce their chocolate. That’s not counting the paid child workers.

So what’s the difference between a slave and a child worker? The slaves are frequently trafficked into the country, and are paid absolutely nothing for their work. They are fed the cheapest of food: corn paste and bananas. Slaves can be either child or adult, but are commonly children, as most slaves are not in the education system, and the children can be kept in the system for most, if not all, of their lives. Slaves are beaten frequently for not working quickly enough, and if they try to escape, are severely punished. Drissa, a slave who escaped a cacao farm, said, “when people eat chocolate, they are eating my flesh.”

Child workers, on the other hand, are generally not beaten. Rather, they get most of their scarring and physical damages from having to use machetes to pry open the cacao beans unskillfully. These children usually range from age 12-16, but there are reports of children as low as 5 being used as workers. Most of these child workers, who live on the business property, will not see their family again for years upon their arrival. Many will never see them again at all.

Most of these children are given a 6 month “breaking in” period in which they are stripped naked and severely beaten everyday so they can “learn their place.”

This is where a lot of our chocolate comes from. At least 48% of it. And that is without tracking the other 52%. I the point that the three major chocolate producers of the U.S. candy business do not willingly divulge where their supply comes from, and many sources trace them back to the Ivory Coast.

Many major chocolate producers in the United States made promises to remove child and slave labor by the year 2005.

Over ten years later, and this promise currently rings hollow.

Don’t get me wrong, many companies are using the “fair trade” logo on their products to show they are transparent with their sourcing and refuse to participate in any form of slave labor, child or no.

But don’t think that buying fair trade saves you from this moral dilemma, either. According to foodispower.org, the Rainforest Alliance (one of the organizations responsible for regulating fair trade certification) cannot guarantee that the fair trade chocolate is free from the disgusting blemish of slave and child labor. In 2009 many farms had to be dropped due to the realization they were intentionally and sneakily using unethical means to manage their farm. In 2011 a journalist filmed illegal child labor on a cacoa farm certified as fair trade by the Rainforest Alliance.

With all of this in mind, let’s look at how much Americans spend on chocolate per year. According to dailyfinance.com, in 2013, America spent roughly $4 billion on chocolate alone. Every $3 out of $4 spent on Halloween candy was spent on chocolate. The five most popular chocolate brands purchased? M&M’s, Snickers, Kit Kat, Reese’s, and Hershey bars, all of which are produced by one of the three major companies previously mentioned.

Is there a solution? Many governmental programs have been initiated to prevent this heinous institutional and systematic sin, but the success will depend on the commitment of both chocolate consumer and chocolate producer alike. What can the chocolate consumer do? Whether you enjoy 90% Lindt, or Hershey’s Cookies & Cream (yes, white chocolate, although not always considered “true” chocolate, still contains cacoa butter), I cannot help but urge discussion on this matter amongst my fellow chocolate lovers. There must be more, you may think. Well, for now, my conscience is urging me to avoid chocolate in all its forms, whether I pay for it or not. The task is much more difficult than it sounds. Chocolate is intrinsic to American culture. It takes a retraining of the mind.

But that’s not the end of the story. I cannot comprehend what consequences would occur if chocolate was boycotted. While I do not foresee a boycott large enough to get the attention of the chocolate industry, if it transpired, it could ruin the economies of various nations whose main export, and means of earning money, is the cacao bean. Other implications may follow suit, on the individual and corporate level. This is why I reiterate the need for discussion and research. For now, on the individual level, I think I’m going to avoid chocolate products. And in regard to Halloween? Spare the neighborhood kids some cavities.

For more information regarding chocolate and slave labor, follow the links in the below.