Victim to Victimizer or a New Way?

The pattern often goes like this: one group is victimized by another, the oppressed do something to assert their humanity, the oppressed gain some level of equality or are at least invited by the oppressor to assimilate, the oppressed then take power for themselves, and finally the victim becomes the victimizer. This was the pattern for Israel who, having been freed from Egypt, took slaves for themselves. This is still the pattern for Israel who, having suffered in the Holocaust of the 1940's, displaces and victimizes the Palestinians. This was the pattern for the U.S. settlers who, having escaped the tyranny of the "old world," escaped into the "new world" only to massacre the Natives living there. And this may yet to be the pattern of those oppressed by segregation who, through the Civil Rights Movement, asserted their humanity and are still fighting for equality in this country. The reason I bring this up is because we have to see the possible future before we can choose a better future.

The election of Barack Obama can be seen as a sort of culminating point in the history of the Civil Rights movement--a milestone event if not a culminating end to the struggle of black people in America to gain equality. A black U.S. president is a symbol of hope in so many ways but is it equality or is it assimilation? Is the victim becoming the victimizer?

I think now is the time to call the United States to a new way, a way in which the victim does not become the victimzer. Barack Obama has inherited a policy of systemic oppression through economic oppression as well as through the violence of war. What can Barack Obama do to break the pattern and to never become the victimizer? What can we do? Can we go a different direction? Can the oppressed find the answer to the "crucial moral and political questions of our time"? Can we realize the "need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression"? (Martin Luther King Jr.) We are called to trust not in Presidents and politicians. We are called to something bigger than countries and world leaders.It's not about Barack Obama, it's not about the Civil Rights Movement, it's about the Kingdom of God.
"Jesus moved from the culture of sacrificing others for one's own gain to a new culture of sacrificing self for the sake of others. This new culture would become known as Christianity. It is important to see the sacrifice of the cross not as the one sacrifice of Jesus but as the final movement in the sacrificial process of an entire lifetime, a life that refused to victimize anyone. Jesus sacrificed himself in many ways to redeem and rehabilitate the victims of the world. He was the victim who did not become a victimizer. He always offered something new and surprising. He went from being a victim to being a liberator, a generator of new life. Like Jesus, out of our own suffering today we are called to usher in something new so that all of us together, in new partnership, may have a better life. Out of the wounds and pains of cultural poverty, new cultures will emerge, and that will be a gift not only to the poor but to all of humanity."
_Virgilio Elizondo
(Daniel G. Groody, The Option for the Poor in Christian Theology, pp. 167-168)
I received this e-mail from Jim Wallis yesterday:

It has been eight years since the United States military began operations in Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I know you join me in lamenting the suffering, violence, and death on both sides of the conflict. Our scriptures and history teach us that war is not the answer to building the peace and security we are striving for in this world.

I’ve joined with other faith leaders in sending an open letter to President Obama, urging him to build a new strategy in Afghanistan that leads with bold humanitarian aid and development instead of more military escalation. Will you join me?

Tell President Obama: We need a whole new approach in Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, the options being debated are far too narrow and are unlikely to bring the peace and stability we so desperately need to end this war.

The two strategies contending for prime time - counterinsurgency, requiring a substantial escalation of troops, and counterterrorism, relying on precision targeting technology to apply military pressure on the most dangerous operatives, often at the expense of civilian lives - don't address the deep moral and practical issues we face in Afghanistan.

There are many moral concerns at stake in President Obama’s decision: legitimately protecting Americans from further terrorism, protecting the lives of our men and women in uniform, protecting the Afghan people from the collateral damage of war, defending women from the Taliban, and genuinely supporting democracy - to name a few.

Focused and effective humanitarian assistance and development can no longer be an afterthought. They must be central to any strategy the U.S. government puts forward. The president must choose nonmilitary strategies to lead the way, rather than the other way around, which often just makes aid and development work another weapon of war.

Tell President Obama: More war will not bring peace.

We know what can rebuild a broken nation, inspire confidence, trust, and hope among its people, and most effectively undermine terrorism: massive humanitarian assistance and sustainable economic development.

And it costs less - far less - than continued war. The Congressional Research Service has said it currently costs about $1 million per U.S. soldier, per year in Afghanistan.

We all share in responsibility for a war that has been waged in our names and with our tax dollars. Join me and many faith leaders across our country in praying for the president as he considers a new strategy in Afghanistan.

After you pray, sign our letter to President Obama urging his serious consideration of a humanitarian and diplomatic surge, instead of more military options. We'll make sure it gets to the White House.

Blessings and peace,

Jim Wallis