A Kosher Ham?

Next Time I’ll Order the Kosher Ham! By Steve Clemens 10/16/2008

I know. Pork is never kosher. But today I had an epiphany.

I attended a breakfast meeting sponsored by Workers Interfaith Network, a faith and labor organization in the Twin Cities of which I am a member. One of the speakers at the event was a local rabbi who has been active for many years in the kosher foods movement. Rabbi Morris Allen of Mendota Heights has been promoting kosher eating practices within his Conservative Jewish tradition for years but two years ago began to be concerned about rumors he heard about working conditions at a kosher meat packing plant in Iowa. So he and a fellow Jewish social activist went to the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, IA to check out this kosher meat-producing facility. What they discovered was very disturbing and they came to the realization that morally and ethically they needed to consider more than how the animals were slaughtered - they needed to also recognize how the workers were treated. Since this facility had hired many immigrant workers from Guatemala, it became quickly clear that they were being exploited in the process because they were vulnerable to ICE sweeps and harassment. The company used that vulnerability to keep the workers from organizing as a union to protect their rights and have some collective bargaining power.

I’m sure many of you are aware of the immigration raids that resulted in more than 300 arrested at the Postville plant this Spring. It is not clear (to me) if the company called in the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or whether they acted on their own –but the result of which was absolutely catastrophic for many of the families of the workers who were arrested and deported, leaving behind children who are now US citizens. No matter where you stand on our presently broken immigration policy, the way these raids have been carried out are designed for fear and intimidation rather than a seeking of justice and righteousness.

Immigration and union issues aside, it became clear to these principled Jewish leaders that their desire to honor their faith tradition by eating kosher-labeled foods was not sufficient if, in the process, there was no ethical treatment of those who produced it. The workers were not trained for their jobs in their primary language (Spanish – although for many even Spanish was a secondary language to their native Mayan dialect) so most were told to “just watch what the worker next to you is doing and follow them”. Bathroom breaks, time off for pre-natal visits for pregnant workers, and other job-site concerns besides danger and injury on the job were concerns voiced by the workers.

After several plant visits and attempts to speak with the management of the plant on behalf of the workers, this rabbi (and others) have been organizing a movement to go beyond normal kosher labeling to insist that God demands justice for the workers as well. Besides the moral question of one’s relationship with God in relation to how an animal is slaughtered, there is the ethical question of how the workers who produced the food are treated. Are they receiving just and fair wages, are working conditions humane, are vulnerable workers being exploited? The late Abraham Heschel, a noted Jewish scholar and activist (and one of my personal heroes) noted that the idea of kosher has to go beyond just the butcher shop but also include banks, real estate offices, … It wasn’t sufficient to forgo eating an egg that had a blood spot in it (forbidden under kosher rules) if the dollars or lira one carried also had “blood” on it.

My family of origin runs a meat packing plant in southeastern Pennsylvania but it doesn’t plan on marketing a kosher line anytime soon since it processes pork! But I found the concept of labeling food as being ethically produced in relationship to how workers are treated to be a fascinating one and I’m encouraging my relatives to look into finding ways to support the concept. I know these Jewish leaders would probably be skeptical about discussing this with PORK producers (!) and a non-union shop as well – but I think this is an important area for my family to explore. I know my family shares some of these concerns for the workers because it has had a profit-sharing plan in place for its employees for more than 50 years.

This movement is called by it’s Hebrew term – hekhsher tzedek (loosely translated as justice certified) and they encourage evaluation of Kosher Food producers in five areas:
1) wages and benefits
2) Health, safety, and training
3) Company transparency
4) Product development
5) Environmental impact

Maybe ham will never become “kosher” but the way pork, shellfish, or other “forbidden” foods are produced and processed have a multitude of ethical issues surrounding them as well. Maybe we non-Jews need to learn more about justice from our Hebrew brothers and sisters so when we do break bread with one another, we can work to make sure it was baked with justice in mind.

More info about this idea can be found at www.hekhshertzedek.org and www.hekhsher-tzedek.blogspot.com

Link to important speech by Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer

Living With Denial

Living with Denial by Steve Clemens. October 11, 2008

Why do we Americans lionize Oscar Schindler, The White Rose, the originators of the Kinder train, the villagers of Le Chambon? There were many honorable and courageous acts of conscience and compassion that surfaced in resistance to the attempts of the Third Reich to exterminate the Jews of Europe. We relish the story of Anne Frank and the family who risked much to shelter her from Nazis. Even though ultimately unsuccessful, their heroics give many of us a smug sense of relief that there still remain at least a remnant of ordinary folk who are able to rise to the occasion and be truly human(e). Even while we recognize that most people remained either silent or actively complicit with the unfolding holocaust, somehow the memory of a few resisters continue to give us hope for the rest of “humanity” – in the midst of growing inhumanity evidenced in our global community.

It is always easier to celebrate these triumphs of the human spirit against the brutal crushing machine of repression and oppression in hindsight. We have enough distance and separation from the Nazi movement in western Europe, the wholesale slaughter under communist systems in Stalinist Russia or Maoist China to celebrate those who resisted those injustices. Some Americans have even dared to look beyond political alliances to recognize the “excesses” of US –supported regimes in the Congo (Mobuto), Indonesia (Sukarno), the Philippine Islands (Marcos), Chile (Pinochet), … and the list could go on and on.

Harder still is the recognition and appreciation for creative resistance to bad policies and inhumane actions taken by essentially “good” or benign governments. For many Americans, we may be open to resistance taken by Israeli citizens on behalf of occupied Palestinians – but less receptive to Palestinians acting on their own behalf. Advocates on behalf of indigenous rights for Aboriginal people in Australia could be recognized – although Aborigines acting on their own would be less welcomed by most Americans because we see the “Aussies” as our allies and too much like us to be criticized. Some of that same scrutiny might be focused on our own policies.

It seems we need the distance of time (and the passing of some of the major protagonists) for widespread recognition of the righteousness of the cause when the resistance is closer to “home”. Enough time has gone by to celebrate the differences of William Penn’s and Roger Williams’ relationship to Native Americans when compared to that of other colonial imperialists. Enough time has gone by to recognize the principled witness of the abolitionist movement and (maybe) even the violent resistance of Nat Turner and John Brown. Even some U.S. history books have been willing to appreciate the courage and conviction embodied by Chief Joseph of the Nez Pierce and Sitting Bull –although fewer are willing to extend their salute to the violent resistance of Geronimo and Crazy Horse who also stood up to the violent oppression of their nations.

We feel free to celebrate Susan B. Anthony and the suffragette movement now that they aren’t disrupting our lives since enough time has passed. Some of us are more ambivalent about the passions and actions embodied by Carrie Nation and some of the more “radical” prohibitionists –but even if we might disagree with her cause or tactics, we can have a sense of pride in identifying with her convictions. Even enough time has passed for many to begin to join the chorus for elevating Catholic Worker movement co-founder, Dorothy Day, to sainthood for her work for the poor. Some even are willing to celebrate her refusal to comply with bomb shelter drills at the height of the Cold War scare.

How much time has to pass before we are willing to embrace principled resistance to present injustice? And why do I always want to qualify my admiration and appreciation to “principled” resistance? Isn’t any resistance better than acquiescence? Am I so defensive about my own commitment to nonviolence that I fail to celebrate any and all attempts to resist injustice? How many years of “distance” will we need as a nation and people before we are ready to identify the evils embodied in our present actions and policies? Torture justified at Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, Baghram, and other black sites. Wars of choice and aggression in clear violation of the UN Charter. Ignoring the cries of the growing numbers of poor and uninsured. Deliberate targeting of “economic immigrants” trying to feed their own families both here and in their economically devastated homelands. Once again, the list could go on and on.

I have much more in common with the black-clad, kerchiefed “Anarchist” who sees the injustice and hypocrisy embedded in our society and “acts out” in anger and rage than those who remain silent and “enjoy” the benefits and privilege that come with complicity. Yet even that description does not do justice to many of the “angry” people in the streets during the Republican National Convention last month in St. Paul. I witnessed not only the “taunting” of riot-geared police but also joy and celebration of resistance. When 3 or 4 girls danced chorus-line style chanting, “You’re hot, you’re cute, take off your riot suits!” to the cops, I laughed and deeply appreciated the humor in a tense situation. Dancing to songs by Rage Against the Machine and other resistance anthems played on portable boom-boxes in the middle of street intersections in front of rows and rows of up-armored cops with tear gas guns and Tasers pointed at them, these (mostly) young resisters weren’t only about anger and confrontation but also wanted to embody an alternative to an “uptight” society that seems to over-react in fear and possessiveness when feeling threatened.

While still clinging to my deep conviction and belief that only creative nonviolence can bring about the ultimate just society we long for, recognizing with Gandhi and King that the means used help determine the end results, I need to remember to embrace any acts of resistance to what Dorothy Day calls “our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system.” We don’t need to wait 50 years before historians make it safe to look back critically at America in the dying days of its empire. Let’s tap the energy of the young and combine it with the wisdom of our elders and, together, remake our society where we won’t have to look back in shame and wonder at the “silent majority”. Don’t criticize others unless you, too, are out in the streets or working “under the radar” to resist injustice and help build the new world for which we await.

Obama's "Problem" With William Ayers

Obama’s “Problem” with William Ayers. By Steve Clemens. October 11, 2008

Recently the Presidential campaign of 2008 has taken a nasty turn. As the McCain/Palin ticket continues to fall behind to the Democratic team of Obama/Biden, allegations are flying to discredit Obama. Some of this is not new. Even during a spirited Democratic primary campaign, pictures of Obama in traditional Kenyan dress were posted to imply this candidate was Muslim - as if that were automatically a dirty term. Rumors that Obama attended a madrassa for school in Indonesia were floated to further the “smear” that our first bi-racial major party candidate was in league with “terrorists”.

Now, Sarah Palin, on the defensive for her pathetic performance in an interview with CBS’ Katie Couric, has claimed a close relationship between Obama and former Weatherman radical, William Ayers. Even though Ayers is now a respected professor in Chicago, his past leadership in a violent, radical, anti-war group in the 60s has provided new ways to link Obama to “terrorists” because Ayers held a fundraiser for Obama more than 13 years ago!

I don’t wish to defend the political actions used by the Weathermen group that split off from the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) over a disagreement with tactics. As the Vietnam War continued on and on with the resulting deaths of thousands of Americans and millions of Vietnamese, the Weathermen movement sought to bring some of the costs of the war “home”. They planted bombs in buildings and caused several deaths and much fear in some circles. While Ayers is routinely castigated for actions taken 40 years ago, John McCain is lionized for his.

Do we need to take another, more critical look at this “national hero”? Why was John McCain held as a Prisoner of War for more than five years? What had he been doing before he was “captured”? As a US Navy pilot, McCain flew many bombing raids over the capitol city of North Vietnam, Hanoi. Dropping bombs from an airplane –even if the targets are considered “military” when located in a very populous city – will inevitably kill “civilians” or other “non-combatants”. Although this practice has continued since the end of World War I, aerial bombardment clearly violates International Law of War restrictions on the use of weapons that are “indiscriminate”.

We don’t know if McCain’s planes also dropped napalm or Agent Orange. We do know that he is responsible for much more destruction and death than William Ayers. But because he was wearing a uniform at the time, does that obviate the need for critical analysis? Was the Vietnam War a “just war”? It certainly wasn’t a declared war by the Congress even though most members continued to fund it with young men and money. Even in a so-called “just war”, there clearly are actions that are morally impermissible. Would dropping bombs on a city fail such a test?

Make no mistake; some of the actions John McCain took as a prisoner of war were heroic – even if the circumstances of capture were the result of criminal acts. While he must be held accountable for his own actions, certainly those political and military leaders directing the policy and execution of that war are more complicit. Now that John McCain is a US Senator and a loud proponent of the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, he is more culpable for the bombing of civilians that are happening every week in both those wars – even though the mainstream media refuses to cover it. But the McCain campaign ads slam Barack Obama for criticizing “our troops” when he condemned some of the killing of civilians in Afghanistan.

I don’t know if Ayers has “repented” for some of his anti-war tactics and actions back in the 60s. The neighborhood organizing and other political and community-building work he has done more recently demonstrate at least a change of tactics if not a change of heart. Can we say the same of McCain? Who is the present supporter of “terrorism”?

Anti-War Icon Visits the Twin Cities

Tom Hayden At Metro State. October 8, 2008 by Steve Clemens

Speaking without a microphone, clearly tired from five previous speaking engagements that day, an anti-war icon from the 60’s clearly engaged a predominately college-aged audience in St. Paul. A founder of Students For a Democratic Society (SDS), co-defendant in the classic trial against political dissent, The Chicago 8 (or 7 after the racist Judge, Julius Hoffman, bound and gagged Black Panther leader, Bobby Seale, and then removed him from the courtroom), former California state legislator, and author, Tom Hayden is travelling the country helping build a movement to hold our next President accountable.

Hayden clearly supports and expects Barack Obama to be elected as our new President a month from now. But the way he started his address Wednesday evening at Metro State startled me. Having cut his political activist teeth in the deeply segregated South in the late 50’s and early 60’s, Tom Hayden announced that 50-60 years ago we never could have imagined where we are today. Well into the struggle for Civil Rights, it was illegal to even conceive Barack Obama. It was against the law in several states for inter-racial marriage; now we are on the threshold of electing a mixed-race politician to the highest office in the land!

Even though Hayden has endorsed and is working diligently for Obama’s election, he was frank (if understanding) about his differences with the campaign and his candidate’s positions. He scoffed at Obama’s bluster about tracking down Bin Laden by increasing troop strength in Afghanistan and putting military and diplomatic pressure on Pakistan. Hayden believes there is no way the U.S. can win militarily in either country as the British learned so graphically over the past two centuries.

Make no mistake, Hayden thinks Al Qaeda is a threat to both the U.S. and Europe – but our present strategy of killing others to try to decapitate their leadership has only increased the number of recruits for that movement. Instead of “treating them [Afghanis, Pakis, Al Qaeda] as evil incarnate”, we need to explore what are their grievances? Yes, the occupation of Palestinian areas by Israel is a factor; so is having U.S. troops in the holy land of Saudi Arabia. But why do so many Afghanis and Pakis hate us? Hayden pointed out that U.S. foreign (non-military) aid is less than one-half the amount today than when JFK was President. In referring to the notorious Bin Laden, Hayden claimed, “You don’t have to be in a cave to plot attacks on the U.S.” and went on to say that such attacks can come from anywhere- even from someone in this auditorium!

Hayden described the Machiavellian tendency of politicians doing “whatever needs to be done” to maintain incumbency (be reelected). He used the analogy of a military commander in battle – if one sees their right flank as being exposed or vulnerable, you move more troops to that side. Obama ran as a clear anti-Iraq War candidate but in running against John McCain, he needs to “shore-up” any vulnerabilities he may have on his right flank. We should not expect Obama to take some of the positions those on the political left want him to with only one month to go until the voting. But what Obama will need after the election is a strong progressive movement to steer him and his policies toward a more progressive agenda.

President Franklin Roosevelt ran as a fiscal conservative but labor unions and other strong voices for change pushed him to make policy changes that became the New Deal. Lincoln did not run on a platform calling for the end of slavery but the abolitionist movement pressured him to change his position. It becomes our task to push, encourage, and demand that Obama reassess his announced strategy of more military troops in Afghanistan. Obama already knows the inherent unfairness and corporate bias of NAFTA and other “Free Trade” agreements – but the progressive forces need to urge President Obama to renegotiate trade agreements so that more than just investor profit is considered – like environmental protection, labor and civil rights, and the will of the people over rapacious global corporations.

Hayden described the collapse of “finance capitalism” that has been manifest in the past several weeks as a huge challenge facing us. We are like dinosaurs, he claimed, looking at the extinction of much of our society if we don’t find creative remedies. We need another New Deal and we will have to democratize these economic discussions. We can’t expect those “experts” who got us into this mess to decide our way out. We will need real oversight of whatever is put into place and find who is qualified to do it? We need to get money flowing again quickly –How can we do that? Hayden suggested an immediate cut by one-half of the Iraq War budget to free up $80 billion and closing of the Bush-created tax loopholes for the rich and corporations to get another $80 billion freed up. Then we use that money to relieve the foreclosure crisis by renegotiating the home mortgages which threaten so many families. Hayden reminded his college-age audience, “This is about the affordability of your future.”

We can’t wait until the third week in January to begin this process, Hayden concluded. “Obama must start planning how to address this crisis on November 5th and sit down with President Bush to have policies in place before the inauguration. And we in the peace and progressive movements will have our work cut out for us in holding that new and necessary vision in front of our new bi-racial President. When questioned about “stolen elections” in Ohio and Florida over the past eight years, Hayden predicted that the most significant problem we’ll face this election is having enough machines and polling places to accommodate the huge numbers of voters who will turn out to support Obama. Then, after the election, we can work to replace the anachronistic Electoral College and other election problems we face. Now is not the time to let up and, although tired, Hayden is ready to continue to contribute to making this a more just and peaceful society.

Parable of the Wicked Tenants

Parable of the Wicked Tenants - Matthew 21:33-46
CSM Shared Word- October 5, 2008

Matthew 21:33-46 (New International Version). The Parable of the Tenants
33"Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. 34When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.
35"The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. 37Last of all, he sent his son to them. 'They will respect my son,' he said.
38"But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, 'This is the heir. Come, let's kill him and take his inheritance.' 39So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
40"Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?"
41"He will bring those wretches to a wretched end," they replied, "and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time."
42Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: " 'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes'?
43"Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed."
45When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus' parables, they knew he was talking about them. 46They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.

How many of you heard a sermon today (or recently) preached on this text?

Some Bibles give this passage a heading of The Parable of the Wicked Tenants.

How many of you heard in the sermon that the landowner who planted the vineyard was God? And the wicked tenants were the Pharisees or other Jews who did not follow Jesus?

Now, how many of you heard that the vineyard owner was George W. Bush – or maybe Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher – and the wicked tenants were the black-clad anarchists “throwing feces” at the cops out in the streets at the RNC?

I suspect the second reading of this parable of Jesus is closer to Jesus’ original meaning than the first. I must admit that most of my speculation about this parable owes much to William Herzog’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Ched Myers – but don’t blame them if I over-step in my own analysis.

I’ve provided some copies of this text. Since many commentators and the lectionary for today pair this parable with the passage from Isaiah, I included that as well- on the other side. Do these two stories really go together?

The Isaiah passage talks about the vineyard producing wild grapes and then allowed to be destroyed by nature – a very different outcome than Jesus’ parable where the tenants rise up to kill the owner’s son. The story in Isaiah is told from the perspective of Yahweh – but is the New Testament story?

Why have so many Biblical teachers and pastors assumed that the “householder” or “lord of the vineyard” is God? The word in Greek for the owner is oikodespotes – or lord of the household. It is no accident that we get the English word despot from the Greek word for lord since that is the way power is often used. At the time of Jesus, to talk about building a vineyard in Galilee would jar the listener. The land was already largely accounted for and the only way one could use the land for an export crop was by taking it from someone else. Only the very wealthy could afford to make an investment that a vineyard required – typically, a vineyard would not produce for the first 4 years while the vines matured and even in the 5th year it would be an unsure harvest.

The “husbandmen” or tenants were likely former farmers who had lost their land through foreclosure on loans they were unable to repay. So, the wealthy landowner would have to pay the tenant farmers those first 4-5 years while the vineyard was being established – so the owner had to have significant wealth for that time. Often, the tenant farmers would plant their vegetables for their own subsistence living between the rows of vines during this start-up period. They needed these vegetables to support their own hungry families.

So one way to understand this story is to recognize what it might mean for the wealthy owner to send his “henchmen” to seize a portion of the vegetables these tenant farmers were growing for their own families while the grape vines were getting established. These peasant farmers had already lost their own land to the rich and had been forced into this sharecropper relationship. They probably thought that they could at least keep what they grew between the rows of vines for their own families but now this rich bastard was demanding his share of that as well.

This story would be readily understood by some of Jesus’ listeners as an example of the kind of injustice Isaiah was talking about. While the lectionary pairs this story with Isaiah 5:1-7, it misses the whole point by not including verse 8. Isaiah’s story about the vineyard was that it was destroyed because the people of Judea practiced oppression rather than justice. How did they do this? Verse 8 says they “added house to house and joined field to field until there was no more room in the land” – exactly how this wealthy landowner did in Jesus’ story.

Do we all need a reminder of the centrality of the Sabbath and Jubilee principles again? The people of God were to guard against falling into debt and the type of slavery typified by these tenant farmers - by cancelling debts and returning fields to their original family ownership rather than letting the wealthy dominate as in Jesus’ parable.

But because we have so lionized the rich, the wealthy, the powerful in our society, we don’t see the glaring discontinuity between justice and oppression in Jesus’ story because we’ve internalized the lens of capitalism when we hear the story and assume the rich landlord is God! Do we want our God to be seizing land from poor people?

But how realistic is this story anyway? Would these tenant farmers really think by killing the heir they could keep the vineyard for themselves? Would an absentee landlord really send his SON to the place where his servants had just been beaten and killed? It is doubtful the tenant farmers could have gotten away with doing it once –let alone several times before the landlord responds with brute force.

What Jesus is trying to do with this story is to expose the spiral of violence as the people of Galilee experienced it during his lifetime. As the famous Archbishop of Recife, Brazil (Dom Helder Camara) has taught us, the spiral of violence starts with the first phase: the everyday oppression and exploitation of the poor by ruling elites. Like the hostile takeover of peasant lands to grow export crops, this type of violence is covert and perfectly “legal”. Like predatory subprime mortgages – followed by foreclosure and loss of one’s homestead. Sound familiar?

But when the poor peasants’ very existence is threatened – after all, they are now on a subsistence level- they will revolt to save themselves and their families. And thus the second phase of this spiral of violence. The tenants beat up and kill the “retainers”, the “servants” sent by the wealthy owner. And how are these revolts or rebellions responded to by the powerful? By the use of overwhelming force which is again, an officially sanctioned use of violence – just like phase one. As Dom Helder remarks, this is done “under the pretext of safeguarding public order or national security”. This is the third phase.

Now can you see the connection between Sheriff Fletcher and the “anarchists” at the RNC? The first spiral is the on-going war –albeit in a distant land so it might not be in the forefront of people’s consciousness on a day-to-day basis. The “anarchists” “strike back” at the repression they feel from the National Security State by busting the Macy’s window or the windshields of some cop cars. What is the response? –an overwhelming display of force by police clad in ninja-turtle-style riot gear, armed with chemical weapons, ready to “bust some heads”.

I know, the analogy isn’t perfect. But isn’t Jesus in using this and other parables trying to expose this spiral of violence that he sees the people experiencing? Jesus asks the rhetorical question: When the lord of the vineyard shall come, what will he do to those husbandmen? Well, Duh! We all know they are gonna get their asses kicked! What is going to happen to those black-clad “anarchists” in the street? Well, Duh! We all know they are gonna get their asses kicked!

Jesus, in these Gospel stories, has just entered Jerusalem in what we now call the “Triumphal Entry”. There are crowds cheering him on – maybe, just maybe, he will be the one to challenge this oppression they all feel from both the Roman occupiers and their collaborators in oppression, the Temple elite. But Jesus realizes that to fight back with violence will only result in the crushing over-reaction by those in power. It is Jesus’ principled nonviolence – his way of subverting the oppressive power through love, sacrifice, story, and community that challenges everything this power is built on. Jesus’ way subverts all of the Domination System and he calls us to follow.

Yes, the chief priests and the Pharisees –these religious leaders heard the parables and “they perceived he spake it against them”. And so they wanted to kill him but “they feared the multitude” – and continued their plotting another day.

I think some of the cops (and their bosses) “feared the multitudes” and were somewhat restrained on the streets by the presence of media cameras and other “witnesses”. Make no mistake; they will continue to “go after” anyone who challenges their hegemony.

Jesus calls us to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” when we are sent out as “sheep among the wolves”. Whether the predators are militarists occupying Middle Eastern countries or hedge fund managers, subprime lenders, and Wall Street tycoons – those who in their rapacious greed continue to “add house to house and join field to field” to where there is “no more room in the land” – or no more room in the Federal Budget after a $700 billion bailout for any monies for education, health care, or the poor – we are called to resist them in the way of Jesus: with creative, loving, principled nonviolence.
The naivety of the tenants in vs. 38 sounds to me very closely to the same naivety I sense in some of the self-described “anarchists” who think we can “stand up to the power” and the masses will follow –rather than being crushed. Did some of Jesus’ followers have a false hope of a mass uprising after the Triumphal Entry or was Jesus’ lack of belief in a mass violent revolution what drove Judas to try to “ramp up” the confrontation?
This parable gives us much to chew on. As we eat the bread and drink from the cup, we are called to remember as well, the cost. The gospel story concludes, “They sought to lay hold of him.” Does this sound like a felony charge of “conspiracy to commit riot in furtherance if terrorism” or some other charge the authorities will concoct? Are we ready to put our own selves on the line in trying to break this spiral of violence? It can only be broken by principled nonviolence. That is our challenge today.