New Clear Vision

constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted

Peace and the Spirit

July 08, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Ecology, Kent Shifferd, Politics

Truth, Power, and the Ultimate Ground of Being

by Kent Shifferd

Treaties, non-aggression pacts, techniques of conflict resolution (e.g., nonviolent communication, reflective listening, mutual gains bargaining), institutional structures for the control of interstate violence (e.g., UN, ICC), disarmament schemes, peace studies curricula — all are necessary to creating a lasting peace; but they are just the mechanics, the tools of peace. They can lie there on the bench or they can be picked up and put to use.

But they are useless without the Spirit, that difficult-to-describe-in-words something which, when you see or hear it, you instantly recognize its presence. It’s the difference between me droning on in a classroom about the second START Treaty and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s voice ringing out, “I have a dream today!” Close your eyes for a moment and recall the sound of that to your mind… (more…)

Beyond Belief

May 26, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Ecology, Guest Author

Finding Common Ground on Climate Change

by Rick Chamberlin

“They loved each other beyond belief; She was a strumpet, he was a thief.” — Henrich Heine, “New Poems,” 1797-1856

The vocabulary of religion is not serving us well when it comes to battling — or even discussing — climate change.

Recently a friend sent me a link to a video of Karen Armstrong accepting the TED prize in 2008. In her speech the former nun turned world-renowned scholar and author had this to say:

“Belief is only a very recent religious enthusiasm. It surfaced only in the West in about the 17th century. The word ‘belief’ itself originally meant to love, to prize, to hold dear. In the 17th century, it narrowed its focus … to include, to mean, an intellectual assent to a set of propositions. Credo, ‘I believe,’ … did not mean ‘I accept certain credal articles of faith’. It meant ‘I commit myself. I engage myself’…. So if religion is not about believing things, what is it about? What I’ve found across the board is that religion is about behaving differently. Instead of deciding whether or not you believe in God, first you do something, you behave in a committed way, and then you begin to understand the truths….” (more…)

We Can Do Better

May 13, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Current Events, David Swanson, Politics

This World and the World Without War

by David Swanson

The New York Times published an op-ed on May 7th by a professor here in Charlottesville, Va., arguing that celebrating the killing of Osama bin Laden is actually a good thing, because in so celebrating we are building solidarity with those we view as part of our exclusive group. Implicit in this argument is that we can do no better. Bonding over our common hatred of an outsider is better than no bonding at all, and therefore we should rebrand such hatred as altruism. Or so says psychology professor Jonathan Haidt.

And why? Why was putting the Nazis on trial rather than simply putting bullets in their heads not just an unusual occurrence but a physiological impossibility, something that did not occur because it could not have? Why? Because professor Haidt has read some research on ants, bees, and termites. (more…)

Performative Contradictions

May 12, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Current Events, Politics, Winslow Myers

Revenge Is Self-Defeating, and War Brings Terror

by Winslow Myers

Our euphoric national mood in the wake of the assassination of Osama bin Laden may make for a reluctance to look once again, or perhaps for the first time, at his demands. There has been almost nothing in the mainstream press that examines his motivations for terrorism.

We prefer a bogeyman of pure evil, because this does not require the kind of introspection suggested by the Society of Friends: what is it in my own inner condition, or that of my country, that might play a part in leading to a phenomenon like bin Laden?

In an extensive 2002 letter to the American people printed in the British publication the Observer, bin Laden laid out his specific justifications for horrific violence against innocents.

He began by citing passages from the Koran that give permission to Islamists to fight “disbelievers.” Immediately this sets up a pathological context, because it contains what philosophers call a performative contradiction: he proclaims Islam as a universal religion, but his vision is radically exclusivist. His illusion is that a universal God is on the side of pure Islam against impure or non-Islamists. (more…)

Read, Don’t Burn

April 08, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Ahmed Afzaal, Community, Culture, Current Events

Out of Darkness Comes Light

by Ahmed Afzaal

Last year, a small crisis was created by Mr. Terry Jones, pastor of a nondenominational church Gainesville, FL, when he announced his plans to burn a copy of the Qur’an on the anniversary of September 11, 2001. Public outcry, not to mention the disapproval of General David Petraeus, eventually persuaded Mr. Jones to abandon his plan.  Those of us who thought that the story had reached its conclusion have just been proven wrong, as Mr. Jones has once again found his way back into the news after he actually carried out what he had threatened to do last fall.  This time around, the pastor conducted a mock trial of the Qur’an in which the jury, consisting of twelve members of his church, found the Islamic scripture guilty of “crimes against humanity,” including the promotion of terrorism.  (more…)

In the Land of David

March 11, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Current Events, Lia Tarachansky, Politics

Israeli Schoolchildren to Tour Occupied Palestinian Territories

by Lia Tarachansky

Last week, Israeli Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar announced a new program: taking Israeli school children on tours to the occupied West Bank city of Hebron. It is scheduled to begin in September. This announcement follows closely on an investigation into the death of a 17-year-old Palestinian boy who was killed by Israeli hikers on a tour in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. In the past, such tours were permitted by the Israeli Civil Administration authorities but this announcement signals the first open government endorsement.

On 28 January 2011, the David and Ahikam Tours Company took a group of Jewish-Israeli hikers over the lands of the Palestinian village of Beit Ummar in the Hebron governorate. Youths from the village saw the group and threw stones. The hikers shot back, using live ammunition, wounding 23-year-old Bila Mohammad Abed Al-Qador and killing 17-year-old Yousef Fakhri Ikhlayl. (more…)

Healthy Boundaries

February 28, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Ahmed Afzaal, Community, Culture

Searching High and Low for Common Ground

by Ahmed Afzaal

Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor and 2012 presidential hopeful, is being taken to task in the blogosphere for some comments he recently made on Fox and Friends. The controversial remarks appeared in the context of his criticism of two Protestant churches that are allowing local Muslims to worship in their facilities. In defending his position, Mr. Huckabee provided more ammunition to his opponents when he suggested that Islam was “the antithesis of the Gospel of Christ.” The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is calling on Mr. Huckabee to apologize for his offensive remarks.

The word “antithesis” means the exact opposite of something; in the science of rhetoric, it denotes the counter-claim that directly contrasts the original proposition (called thesis). I cannot be fully certain of what Mr. Huckabee meant; however, when I read his statement that Islam was “the antithesis of the Gospel of Christ,” I understood it to mean that these two religious traditions stood in a starkly contrasting relationship of thesis and antithesis; that they were being seen as more or less incompatible and mutually exclusive, lacking in any common ground. (more…)