Wednesday 31 October 2007


"One of the most important - and controversial- aspects of being the church in the twenty first century is the relationship between the church and the military. I want to suggest that the time has come for the centuries-old marriage between the church and the military to end in divorce."

These words by Michael J. Gorman, Dean of Ecumenical Institute of Theology and Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore, voice what an increasing number of committed disciples of Jesus, are gaining courage to say.

In his fine article, "Irreconcilable Differences" printed in Christianity Today, Gorman also points out that the "powers, great and small, have subtly seduced the church into marriage with the military." It's time the church declares that the military's "false gospel" is totally incompatible with the church's calling and the true Gospel of Christ. We cannot reconcile Jesus and the military. We cannot seek and save while we search and destroy. We cannot obey Jesus' command to "love your enemies" and obey the nations' command to kill.

Since the creation of the "just war theory", following Emperor Constantine's claim to having become a Christian in the fourth century, the church, at large, has assumed the marriage of the church and the military. Prior to the fourth century, the Christan church was uniform that a Christian cannot be a soldier. As one looks at this theory, it is absolutely amazing that the church has, for centuries, claimed to use this as a guide rather than the Scripture.

Why is it so amazing? Because it is only a theory, without a Scriptural base, which has never limited or deterred any war. It has never been put into practice. Rather it has been used to justify every war that has come along. Even a casual look at this attempt to formulate a moral justification for war by Christians, reveals not only its own inadequacy to provide a Christian answer, but its inadequacy to stop blood shed.

What does this theory say? It says that under certain, very restricted conditions, a particular war may be an exception to the Gospel and a Christian might be able to participate. However, to participate certain things must be true.

For example, all other peace efforts must have failed. The intention of the war must be for good and not for economic or exploitative advantage. There dare not be the killing of innocent victims. That is, no civilian may be killed, or the Christian must get out. And, war dare not destroy more than what is gained. According to this theory, the Christian must bring these and other tests to bear on each war and, if any of these conditions are not met, the Christian must refuse to serve in the military.

First, we need to remember that this is the only theory ever devised, which says a Christian might be able to participate in certain, select wars.

Second, we need to realize that the theory has never been used. No body of Christian leaders, since the theory was developed in the fourth century, has ever declared one war unjustified or has forbidden members to fight.

Third, we must ask how it is possible that those, who claim to be followers of Christ, can at the same time follow that which is diametrically opposed to all Christ was, and taught, and demonstrated.

Recently a group of Catholic leaders declared the just war theory invalid, if indeed, it ever was defensible. Harvey Cox wrote, "A church that is not able to take a firm stand against war is not a church which deserves to be believed."

In 1895, the English preacher Robert Eyton wrote: "Nothing seems to show the absolute departure of the Spirit of the church from the Spirit of Christ in so glowing a light as the history of Christianity in reference to wars. "When one takes war to bits, thinks of what it involves-the fierce and brutal passions that it stimulates, the hatred which it inspires, the deadly ingenuity about the means of killing and maiming, what it produces, the helpless crowd of people it sweeps off in the prime of their lives, the odious ambition of which success so often casts over the general idea: when one strips off the fine phrases about dying for one's country, and honestly looks the facts in the face that so often people have been butchered like sheep - their homes made desolate for some tyrant's whim or some noble's envy, it is hard to see how the whole history of the church's attitude on the subject of war has been anything better than a great evasion."

It is the great betrayal of Christ, the Prince of Peace. Yes, there are many irreconcilable differences between the church and the military, between what Jesus teaches and what the military teaches. Few, if any, areas test our Biblicism, honesty and obedience more than the Christian's relationship to war.

"It is time" as Michael J. Gorman writes, "for the centuries-old marriage between the church and the military to end in divorce."

-Reprinted from Reunion newsletter, Vol.12, Issue 1- An article by John Drescher, author, writer, and preacher (and good friend of my now deceased parents) living in Quakertown, PA


A rebuttal/response to the Gorman article referred to by Drescher and entitled "The Just-Chaplain Theory" was published a few months later by Christianity Today (in July 2000) written by Douglas K. Stewart who served in the U.S. Marine Corps for seven years followed by 16 years as a Navy chaplain. Useful for discussion!

If you liked the Drescher article (or even if you didn't but want to better understand some current "practical theology" demonstrating the application of these ideas) I invite you to read the lead article in the Winter 2007 issue of the "Reunion" newsletter, written by my neighbor Keith Graber-Miller who teaches theology and bible courses at Goshen College:
"Faithfulness and Patriotism in a Time of War."


Saturday 27 October 2007

Tornado Devastation and Miracle in Nappanee, Indiana - October 18, 2007

The devastation we experienced in southern Elkhart County the night of October 18, 2007 was the worst we have experienced in this entire region in over 40 years when I was twelve years old (the F3 and F4 Palm Sunday Tornados of 1965.) And the very worst damage of this one happened this time in and around the community I grew up in, Nappanee, Indiana, with the tornado weaving in and around several homes of families I've known for years and went to church with as a kid. This tornado finally lifted just blocks away from the home my parents lived in prior to their deaths last year.

The incredible MIRACLE in all this, is that though a huge number (an estimated 250) dwellings and business were damaged, with many simply wiped away, in a 2-mile swath along the countryside and in the town, NOT ONE LIFE WAS LOST, with only 5 persons injured, though the tornado came by at 10:30 pm and many did not hear any warning! This is virtually unheard of -- with this kind of twister and the damage it created.

EMS, police and fire crews from several other communities showed up quickly, anticipating that a great number of casualties would be found in the rubble. More than 3,000 people from miles around came voluntarily on the third day to participate in an organized town "clean-up" on Sunday, Oct. 21 -- some churches in the area simply cancelled their services so people could go. What a fantastic response from a very caring community!

I spent last evening (Thursday) with the Nappanee's EMS crew conducting a Critical Incident Stress debriefing for them. Another trained colleague of mine worked with the local police crew and another worked with the fireman the same evening. I heard some incredible stories from these local heroes, but, of course, am not at liberty to share any of that here.

These photos were taken by an RN friend, Evie Tobias, who lives in Nappanee. Five or six pics at the end of this collection I obtained show evidence of the Amish already having organized to rebuild their neighbors' destroyed houses and barns within the week. No waiting around for an insurance adjuster for them! (When you go to this website where I posted them for public observation you can click on the "Slideshow" option at the top - they load and cycle fairly quickly there, while online.)

And this is another collection of stunning photos taken last Sunday, with some commentary interspersed throughout, by a local professional photographer.

Last, but certainly not least, this National Weather Service (actually NOAA's) website has a lot of information about the path of the 10-18-07 Nappanee tornado -- about 20 miles long altogether. It points out where damage was recorded, highlighted with a number of detail photos. If you click on any of them it will provide a close-up, complete with people surveying the damage to their homes, etc. It is a very compelling site if for nothing more than the detail of the destruction involved and reinforcing the miracle that no one was even seriously injured. Plus it provides insight into NOAA and weather data.


Tuesday 23 October 2007

Colbert interview of Naomi Wolf on her assessment of America

The piece above is the humorous "sarcastic" Colbert version of this lecture!

If you'd like to scan or get a copy of all ten points in print, go here.

Naomi Klein on "The Shock Doctrine"

Columnist Naomi Klein explores a very provocative argument from her new book, "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism." After 9/11 the Bush Administration launched a new economy, driven by the notion of an endless war against an undefined notion of evil. Your response?

Tuesday 16 October 2007

A Goodbye Letter To Blackwater...(from the point of view of an Iraqi civilian)

This Blackwater thing just gets sicker and sicker. Why are the leaders of this nation not appalled? Where is the outrage?????? War is not a laughing matter.

Well, most of the time...

Maybe it's time to try some different a bit of GRIM HUMOR to get the real point across. This piece is a bit like the title on a book I have: "Laugh! I Thought I'd Die (If I Didn't)"

And if you want to laugh some more, check this out:

(An Inside Look at the new TV Season!)


Saturday 13 October 2007

Is it time to forge creative and "unlikely" stop this hell-bent drive to destruction?


The ramp-up to an attack upon Iran by Bush, Cheney and their "enablers" in Congress and elsewhere continues unabated, so it seems. It appears that Cheney, even more than Bush, wants to attack Iran. That is becoming clear due to mounting evidence presented by a cadre of courageous investigative journalists and analysts willing to break away from "mainstream" media reporting -- such as Seymour Hersh, Chalmers Johnson, Jim Lobe, Gareth Porter, Scott Ritter, Daniel Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky, Scott Horton, Steven Zunes, Ray McGovern, Phyllis Bennis, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Paul Loeb, Marjorie Cohn, and a number of others.

It seems quite clear to many thoughtful analysts that an unprovoked U.S. attack on Iran would violate both U.S. and international law, and would lead to a series of events that would cascade into World War III. Most of us believe there simply is no justification for such an attack -- it would be immoral and unjust, and it would lead to unending and escalating violence and destruction that would spread to more and more countries. They did it all before -- in Iraq -- but attempting to do it again, in Iran, would certainly have catastrophic consequences. Bush/Cheney simply have no idea...

I'll admit that I've been involved heretofore, as I suspect you have too, in debates about the efficacy of impeaching Bush and Cheney, for the numerous impeachable crimes they have already committed, before they do any additional damage to our country and the world.
But now I think it's worth discussing an even more compelling and practical use of our energies at this critical juncture in history: The following is a short and compelling article by Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith about our current ominous situation, and about how the military might be enlisted to stop an attack upon Iran, which a friend of mine put me on to recently:

How the Military Can Stop an Iran Attack -- 10/9/07

Here are the last three paragraphs of the article which I have excerpted to whet your appetite to read the whole thing -- and I must say, it's quite the challenge for traditional "peaceniks" !

"Such an approach puts the problem of civilian control of the military in a different light. The purpose of civilian control, after all, is not to subject the military to the dictatorial control of one man who may, at the least, express the foolishness and frailty that all flesh is heir to. The purpose is to subject the military to the control of democratic governance, which is to say of an informed public and its representatives.

"What contribution can the peace movement make to this process? We can cover military officials' backs when they speak out--no one is better placed than the peace movement to defend them against Bushite charges of defying civilian control. We can help open a forum for military officers to speak out. Many retired officers have spoken out publicly on the folly of the war in Iraq. We can use our venues in universities and communities to invite them to speak out even more forcefully on the folly of an attack on Iran. We can place ads pointing out military resistance to an attack on Iran and featuring warnings of its possible consequences from past and present military officials. And we can encourage lawmakers to reach out to military officials and offer to give them cover and a forum to speak out. Says petition initiator Marcy Winograd, "I'd like to see peace activists and soldiers sit down, break bread, march together, testify together and forge a powerful union to end the next war before the bloodletting begins."

"The peace movement leaders who appealed to the military had to break through the conventional presumption that the brass were their enemies in all situations. Such an unlikely alliance could be a starting point for a nonviolent response to the Bush Administration's pursuit of a permanent state of war."

Am I up for that sort of challenge? Are you?

In addition, for the sake of discussion -- and perhaps an even more compelling question some readers here -- what/who have you found to be your best model(s) for authentic peacemaking within your sphere of relationships and local endeavors? In other words, who and how are we deploying "spiritual resources" for effective resistance -- standing in the way of this hell-bent drive toward unfettered warfare?

Is it not time to discuss what shape the modern "Confessing Church" movement -- which Dietrich Bonhoeffer initiated during the Third Reich's rise to power in Germany -- is (or ought to be) taking?


Refocusing the Immigration Reform Debate - Nationally & Locally

Below you will find an important and nuanced analysis often missing in the current immigration debate - as exemplified by a very well-attended forum I attended this past Monday at Notre Dame University.

I share the piece below with fellow Goshen Ministerial Association members (and others) today because it contributes to the ongoing public discussion and debate within our own community of Goshen -- calling forth the best wisdom and leadership skills that we can muster in a community increasingly polarized by this issue!

This has also become a key campaign issue in the race between our current mayor, Allan Kauffman, a Democrat, running for reelection, and his opponent, Mark Huser, a well-liked Republican candidate who is currently our city's D.A.R.E. program coordinator and an officer employed by our Police Department. (Most think its going to be a very close race.)

Mayor Kauffman is a friend and skillful politician, actually one of my neighbors now -- he and his wife Carol live only two blocks away from where I and my wife Carole Anne now live, in what our neighborhood association have somewhat tongue-in-cheek called "The Best Dam Neighborhood Association!" (The BDNA has gotten into the news a lot lately -- but that's a whole different story!)

His opponent, the DARE officer, I don't know as well -- but his wife is actually has also been a personal friend of mine for years -- as the Activities Director of a prominent local extended care facility now called "The Courtyards." She has called on me from time to time over the years with referrals for spiritual care needs there -- which I've tried to address personally or via other hospice volunteer chaplains on my care team, and the like.

Recently our GMA executive committee has decided to host a forum at our regular monthly meeting, next Thursday noon, when the main agenda will be to listen to and engage in this and other issues with both of these candidates for Mayor.

We plan to start out by asking the mayoral candidates to speak about how they view the churches' role in the community -- rather than just present their 'platform'. It connects with us directly. And while we are eating together at the beginning of our time together we'll be inviting small groupings of pastors (depending on our table configuration) to each decide on a question to ask the candidates. It will be an effort to get our politically diverse group of pastors to talk some together and also offer questions that come from a group rather than just one person.

By the way, there will also be a "Town Meeting" on "the immigration issue" next Thursday evening, (October 18) 6:30 p.m. -- the same day as the mayoral candidates' appearance at the GMA. The location is "Downtown @ 808" (the former Goshen Theater). Mayor Kauffman plans to talk about what he and other city leaders are doing locally, what we aren't doing, then field questions, answers, and discussion. The Police Chief will be there. Also, representatives from Congressman Lugar's, Bayh's, Donnelly's and Souder's offices, have been invited to attend (although confirmation has not been received from any of them by the time the message was sent to me by Mayor Kauffman yesterday.)

Well, I hope this opens a window on how I'm currently trying to engage my own faith and spiritual leadership within the local political "situation" on an issue of national importance, but with great local implications, as well. It involves engaging hearts and minds with key questions such as "What sort of community do we want to become in the future, and how do we best work at fulfilling that vision together?"

Comments are welcome, particularly your response to David Cahn's essay...

-Clair Hochstetler, President of the GMA

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Reynaldo Hernandez <>
Date: Oct 11, 2007 11:32 AM
Subject: Re: Refocusing the Immigration Reform Debate

To all this I can say "Amen!"

The economic forces driving economic migration (which is the primary motive) are a sadly-neglected part of the debate, for the most part. Even at the Forum held at Notre Dame earlier this week, not one word was said about how US economic and trade policy drive the flow of immigrants northward. And this was a forum including such luminaries as Ray Suarez (PBS), a US Senator, the governor of Arizona, the Mayor of Hazleton PA (who wants to lay all the crime problems in Hazleton at the feet of "illegal" immigrants -- let's stick to "undocumented," shall we) and a Catholic bishop.

As if all this was not bad enough, another ND event at the Hesburgh auditorium featured a filmmaker who documented how the maquiladores are part of a system which oppresses primarily women, are related (either directly or indirectly) to the murder of many women, and is implicitly linked to a black market in human organs for transplant.

If the trend is not stopped and reversed, it will simply accelerate the decline of American empire. We are crumbling from within, and oppressive measures offer false hope for shoring up the structure.

Pogo was right: "We have met the enemy, and they are us."

Reynaldo Hernandez
Clair Hochstetler wrote: Here is a thought provoking analysis for those of us who are trying to keep apace with developments on this issue. --Clair Hochstetler, Goshen, IN

September 2007
Refocusing Immigration Reform Debate
by David Cahn

David Cahn is a community organizer with Community to Community Development and a grandson of immigrants. He can be contacted at

Immigration reform died in Congress for a second time this past June and probably won't be approached again on a federal level until we have a new occupant in the Oval Office. Instead of quieting down though, the debate over immigration reform has only intensified and spilled over into cities, counties and states across the nation. The battle over immigration is now down to the local level as Minutemen-type groups are pushing for a variety of anti-immigrant ordinances.

While some elected officials and right-wing pundits have distracted people with talk of individual border crossers being the root of our ills, few people have publicly talked about the much larger and actual threat of corporate border crossers. There is a direct connection between companies and jobs moving out of our country and people doing whatever they can to come in.

When corporations can travel the world looking for the cheapest labor costs and lowest environmental protections, we all suffer. Those on the left and right, Mexican immigrants and Minutemen, teachers, baristas and truck drivers and everyone in-between all suffer. Some want to blame immigrants for problems in our healthcare system, public education or lack of decent paying jobs. It might be easy, but it will not solve anything.

As U.S. citizens we need to learn about the effects of policies like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) before we think we have any solutions to "immigration reform." It is these free trade policies that put the rights of corporations and profits above the rights of people and it is these free trade policies, supported by Republicans and Democrats alike, that need to be part of any debate on immigration today.

(Please click here to read the rest of this good article.)

Tuesday 2 October 2007

What Happened to You, Mr. President?

Today I passed the following letter on to our local Congressman, Rep. Mark Souder (R), via his local regional director, Cory Martin, at his office here in Goshen, fronted by my own message urging them to take it to heart. I'd be glad for any discussion about what you personally have been doing regarding this issue that directly affects the quality of life and the health of this nation's greatest resource -- our children. That's why I think, among many other reasons, it's worth getting so "involved." -Clair

Dear Cory:

Jim Wallis sent this to President Bush. Today a copy was forwarded to all the members of the Goshen Ministerial Association by email. I don't have to tell you, Cory, that there is going to be a BIG fight on this one, with the President's impending veto having excellent chances for an override!

Please tell Mr. Souder that he needs to think VERY carefully about this, and is being urged to reverse his position on this one. There is overwhelming support for this bill, especially in the religous community, among people of all political persuasions.

There will be a public demonstration focusing community support for this legislation, and urging Congressman Souder's reversal of his sentiment, in order to help override the President's veto. That will happen at 6 pm outside your/his office here in Goshen, the very next day after Bush's veto -- or at 12 noon if that falls on the weekend.Just wanting to give you a "heads up" and to let you know I'm part of that effort.

Some of us are very interesting in discussing this with Mr. Souder, if possible.

Clair Hochstetler
(along with my address and phone)


"You bet your sweet bippy I will."

- Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), when asked whether he would vote to override President Bush's threatened veto of a bill to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Sen. Hatch called the agreement "an honest compromise that improves a program that works for America's low-income children." (Source:The New York Times)

Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

What Happened to You, Mr. President?

Dear Mr. President,

When I first heard that you were vowing to veto a bipartisan bill to expand child health care, my immediate thought was more personal than political: What has happened to you?

I vividly remember a call at the office, only one day after your election had been secured. It was an invitation to come to Austin to meet you and to discuss with a small group of religious leaders your vision for "faith-based initiatives" and your passion for doing something on poverty. I had not voted for you (which was no secret or surprise to your staff or to you), but you were reaching out to many of us in the faith community across the political spectrum who cared about poverty. I was impressed by that, and by the topic of the Austin meeting.

We all filed into a little Sunday school classroom at First Baptist, Austin. I had actually preached there before, and the pastor told me how puzzled he was that his progressive" church was chosen for this meeting. You were reaching out. About 25 of us were sitting together chatting, not knowing what to expect, when you simply walked in without any great introduction. You sat down and told us you just wanted to listen to our concerns and ideas of how to really deal with poverty in America.

And you did listen, more than presidents often do. You asked us questions. One was, "How do I speak to the soul of America?" I remember answering that one by saying to focus on the children.

Their plight is our shame and their promise is our future. Reach them and you reach our soul. You nodded in agreement. The conversation was rich and deep for an hour and a half.

Then when we officially broke, you moved around the room and talked with us one-on-one or in small groups for another hour. I could see your staff was anxious to whisk you away (you were in the middle of making cabinet appointments that week and there were key departments yet to fill). Yet you lingered and kept asking questions. I remember you asking me, Jim, I don't understand poor people. I've never lived with poor people or been around poor people much. I don't understand what they think and feel about a lot of things. I'm just a white Republican guy who doesn't get it. How do I get it? I still recall the intense and sincere look on your face as you looked me right in the eyes and asked your heartfelt question. It was a moment of humility and candor that, frankly, we don't often see with presidents.

I responded by saying that you had to listen to poor people themselves and pay attention to those who do live and work with the poor. It was a simple answer, but again you were nodding your head. I told my wife, Joy, also a clergyperson, about our conversation. Weeks later, we listened to your first inaugural address. When you said, "America, at its best, is compassionate.

In the quiet of American conscience, we know that deep, persistent poverty is unworthy of our nation's promise. And whatever our views of its cause, we can agree that children at risk are not at fault ... many in our country do not know the pain of poverty, but we can listen to those who do," my wife poked me in the ribs and smiled. In fact, you talked more about poverty than any president had for a long time in his inaugural address -- and I said so in a newspaper column afterward (much to the chagrin of Democratic friends). They also didn't like the fact that I started going to other meetings at the White House with you or your staff about how to best do a "faith-based initiative," or that some of my personal friends were appointed to lead and staff your new Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives at the White House. We brought many delegations of religious leaders, again from across the political spectrum, to meet with representatives of that office. Some of us hoped that something new might be in the air.

But that was a long time ago. We don't hear much about that office or initiative anymore. Most of my friends have long left.

I don't hear about meetings now. And nobody speaks anymore about this new concept you named "compassionate conservatism." And now, you promise to veto a strongly bipartisan measure to expand health insurance for low-income children. Most of your expressed objections to the bill have been vigorously refuted by Republican senators who helped craft the bill and support it passionately. They vow to try and override your veto. During your first campaign, you chided conservative House Republicans for tax and spending cuts accomplished on the backs of the poor.

Now Congressional Republicans are chiding you.

What happened to you, Mr. President? The money needed for expanding health care to poor children in America is far less than the money that has been lost and wasted on corruption in Iraq. How have your priorities stayed so far from those children, whom you once agreed were so central to the soul of the nation? What do they need to do to get your attention again?

You will be literally barraged by the religious community across the political spectrum this week, imploring you not to veto children's health care. I would just ask you to take your mind back to a little meeting in a Baptist Sunday school classroom, not far away from where you grew up. Remember that day, what we all talked about, what was on your heart, and how much hope there was in the room. Mr. President, recall that day, take a breath, and say a prayer before you decide to turn away from the children who are so important to our nation's soul and to yours.

God bless you,
Jim Wallis
(Click here for the source of this letter online, and to read the resulting comments)

To read Jim Wallis' response today to those "spinning" President Bush's response over the weekend, go here.

As of today, there is still time to take action here to ask President Bush what happened to his "compassionate conservatism" - and urge that he sign this bill!