Readings for the 3rd Sunday of Easter: ACTS 2, 14, 22-33; PSALM 16:1-11; 1 PETER 1: 17-21; LUKE 24: 13-25
Our celebration of the resurrection myth, and of Life’s unlimited powers and possibilities continues for a third week. It invites thoughtful people to scan the list of contemporary events to identify where resurrection might be happening – where death is being defeated by Life’s overwhelming force.
With that in mind, today’s readings for this Third Sunday of the Resurrection suggest that we embrace resurrection as an unexpected new world order arising unperceived before our very eyes.
Could it be that it is surfacing at the hands of Russia, China., and other BRICS Plus nations?
That emerging order can remind attentive truth seekers that movement towards the entirely new and seemingly “impossible” arrangement that Yeshua referred to as the Kingdom of God is not only possible, but necessary. It’s required to draw our species back from the brink of annihilation habitually fostered by a necrophilic United States with its cult of bombing, sanctions, and threats of total annihilation.
Though it might be hard to endure, please let me show you what I mean.
U.S. As Enemy of Humankind
To begin with, resurrection calls us to face death. And in the context, I’m suggesting, we must face the fact that the entity most responsible for plunging the world towards omnicide is our own country.
The Sandinista hymn of the 1980s expressed that clearly when it denounced Yankee imperialism as the “enemy of humankind.”
With that shocking phrase, the Sandinistas were only echoing what in 1967 Martin Luther King had said about the U.S. when he identified it (not the Russians or the Chinese) as the world’s “greatest purveyor of violence.”
Even closer to our own time is Vijay Prashad’s description of NATO (of course headed by the United States) as the “machine that destroys humanity.”
Careful thought makes it difficult to deny the truth of such denunciations:
- “We” are the most belligerent country in the world maintaining about 750 military bases across the planet – about 3 times as many as all other countries combined.
- “Our” war budget is similarly unprecedented, outlandish, and grossly inflated to more than $2 billion per day.
- “We” are the ones responsible for wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Ukraine, and who know where else?
- Besides all of that and on an unprecedented scale, “we” have intervened militarily and wantonly changed regimes across the planet for more than a century, especially where the regimes in question have tried to improve the lives of ordinary people rather than the bottom lines of American corporations.
- “Our” country is the only one that has ever actually used nuclear weapons and has repeatedly and unilaterally opted out of arms control agreements.
- With just 4.6% of the world’s population, the United States aspires to control countries like Russia, China, India, and the whole continent of Africa whose populations (not counting the rest of the Global South) total more than half the world’s inhabitants.
- “America” is historically the world’s greatest polluter and is even responsible in large measure for environmental degradation in the Global South (including China), where U.S. corporations have largely relocated for the last forty years.
- In summary, the U.S. has worked hard to ensure that it possesses the same control of the world that Hitler coveted for capitalist Germany.
Accordingly, it is easy to see how victims of such policies might well see the U.S. as the greatest purveyor of violence, as the enemy of humankind, and as heading a belligerent organization well characterized as the machine that destroys humanity.
Such stark realizations no doubt weigh heavy on the minds of once-proud “Americans” – if they even let them in. We might be like the two disciples in today’s Gospel reading. Like Americans with the historical consciousness just rehearsed, the two were sad and discouraged. For them, all seemed lost. They could think and talk of nothing else but their disappointment about Yeshua’s crucifixion and their frustrated hopes and convictions that he was the messiah their people had hoped would liberate them from Rome’s oppression.
But then amid their sad commiserations, the risen Yeshua somehow joins them. Improbably, the two men don’t recognize him. So, they recount the tale of their dashed hopes for the stranger’s benefit.
But then by breaking bread with them, Yeshua gets his friends to see the truth of what I said earlier – that death must precede resurrection. The old must die, he says, before the ultimately new can arise. Death and resurrection manifested in bread sharing are part of Life’s process – part of the divine “prophetic script.”
For us, and according to that blueprint, death of “America’s” preeminence must precede the New Life our world absolutely requires.
Hope from Russia & China
Still, prophetic script or not, if you’re like me, you remain discouraged by the awful realization of what our country has become. But where’s the resurrection hope to be found?
Strange to say, I see it in two great movements taking place before our eyes – one that’s violent with Russia as its protagonist, the other that’s non-violent and headed by China.
“What?” you might object. How can Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have anything to do with resurrection? The same might be asked about China and its authoritarianism we’ve heard so much about.
Though we might not be able to see the Ukraine War as “resurrectional” (Let me coin that word!) – as changing the world for the better, our brothers and sisters in the Global South can. That’s especially true if they adopt liberation theology’s understanding of “violence.”
You see, according to Global South church leaders like archbishops Dom Helder Camara and El Salvador’s St. Oscar Romero, all violence is not the same. Much of it isn’t even recognized as such. And a great deal of what we do denounce as violence is justified self-defense. For instance, most don’t even recognize international sanctions as violent. But they are. They kill hundreds of thousands.
Neither do mainstream commentators see regime change policies and coups as violence. But they are, especially when regimes that would prevent starvation are replaced by business-friendly governments concerned only with corporate profits.
According to this kind of analysis, Russia’s action in Ukraine is justified self-defense. It’s defense against a U.S.-led NATO’s attempts (since 1990) to reduce Russia to the vassal-like status of the west’s traditional colonies.
It’s no stretch to say that Russia’s resounding “NO” to NATO represents what most Global South countries would choose to shout at NATO if they had Russia’s military might. Arguably, that’s why so many from what we used to call the Third World refuse to condemn Putin or Moscow.
As for China’s non-violent movement towards the “other world” required by our times. . .. It’s enough to point out that China hasn’t bombed anyone in more than 40 years. Instead of dropping bombs on the poor, in effect its Belt and Road Initiative drops schools, roads, ports, high speed railroads, and other infrastructure on them. Like the risen Christ, it “breaks bread” as a sign of God’s presence. It has eliminated extreme poverty for almost one billion of the world’s starving. No wonder Latin America, Africa, and South Asia embrace Beijing and reject DC.
Let me hasten to conclude that I’d be among the first to admit that any war, self-defensive or not, can only be justified as a last resort. And it should justifiably shock anyone to find an alleged follower of the risen Christ lending anything like approval to armed conflict.
But then, it’s also true that most would-be Christians (me included) are emphatically not pacifists. Are you? They (we) fight wars against fellow Christians all the time – as exemplified in Ukraine itself.
However, in attempting to justify violence, one must ask several crucial questions as explained in today’s Sunday reflection. We must ask what kind of violence are we talking about?
- Is it largely unperceived structural violence like that embodied in NATO, the machine that destroys humanity?
- Is it the violence of self-defense as seems the case in Russia’s refusal (on behalf of the world habitually bullied by the U.S.) to submit to humiliating and suicidal surrender to the 4% attempting to impose its will on everyone else?
- Is it the reactionary violence of that 4% to the second level of violence (expressed e.g., by the U.S. arming and advising Ukrainian proxies) to punish Russia’s “NO”?
- Or is it the violence of state terrorism represented by all those wars and policies of regime change implemented on weaker (mostly non-white) nations over decades upon decades by the United States?
Of these, only the second level of violence can (reluctantly) be justified in any way.
Ironically, however, the other three are routinely accepted (even by people of faith). Meanwhile, the second level is usually vilified as somehow violating imperialism’s sacrosanct “rules-based order.”
The suggestion here has been that recognizing and accepting the distinctions just explained have something basic to do with resurrection. So does “breaking bread” with the hungry as a sign of resurrection and God’s presence. It’s all about the experience of death to old necrophilic practices and beliefs while recognizing newness of life and new world orders as unlikely manifestations of the risen Christ.