Honour and Politics

Why is it that I am so often challenged to walk the way of Christ from such unlikely sources.

  • A politician from Queensland,
  • a lawyer from the US military,
  • and a radical non-violent peace activist Catholic.

It was the great British author and scientist C.P. Snow who said, “When you look the long and gloomy history of man, you will find more hideous crimes have been committed in the name of obedience, than have ever been committed in the name of rebellion.”

Last Friday night I went along to hear someone who has broken the law as acts of rebellion and­ civil disobedience against what he sees as forces of death, oppression, violence and injustice ..But, for him, they are also acts of radical obedience ­ to his sense of discipleship as a Christian anarchist and pacifist.

Ciaron O’Reilly, an Australian now living in Ireland, and awaiting trial following an action at Shannon Airport at Dublin in February 2003, just prior to the invasion of Iraq. The trial is set for October 11; he faces a jail term of some years if convicted.

Ciaron is a member of the Catholic Worker Movement, a small but influential radical movement founded in the United States by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin in the early 1900s. Its main principles are active non-violent resistance to war,hospitality to the poor, and a grassroots communitarianism.

Ciaron is originally from Brisbane but now living in Ireland, and currently facing his third jail term, this one for an action at Shannon Airport in Ireland just prior to the invasion of Iraq last year.

I was struck by his sense of humour and his sense of passion. I often find ‘these sort of people’ to be so intense and lacking in joy and fun. I can understand that they are burdened by such a weight, that they expose themselves to some of the muck and injustice in our world that we prefer to just ‘change channels’ on, this for them is their life.
Ciaron shared stories of his actions against killing machines such as the B52 bomber in the USA, he told a storystiory of a hammer that the judicial system keep returning to the perpetrators of this ‘peace damage’. This hammer is passed on to some other group and then in some other country the same hammer is used to ‘take out’ a radar system on a plane or disable some other item used in the killing of innocents. This hammer is used as evidence, then returned after the sentence was completed. It was obvious to Ciaron that some people and systems seemed more concerned with not taking private property than with taking human life!

I was searching around for some other comments about Ciaron, and found some discussion from an online forum for an ACOM class. Ciaron was the subject of discussion, here is one response from a student who I will anonymousnomous, although used with permission –

I agree Ciaron has a very extreme way of living his life as a radical Christian and it’d be difficult for many to identify with or condone his actions. But, do you think that, without necessarily agreeing with the way he goes about it, other Christians can learn something from him and others like him? Maybe to pay more attention to what is going on in our world and to take a stand for people who can’t do so themselves?

I think Christians (and humans) have a responsibility to find out what’s going on around us and, if there is anything we can do, to help in certain situations (even if it is just raising awareness). Like Neil said, we have everyday pressures which make this hard – and it’s almost impossible in our Western, consumerist society not to be complicit in evil as others are exploited for profit, power and convenience.

John 2:14-16 says that Jesus overturned the tables of the money lenders and even made a whip to drive out the sheep and cattle. I have heard an interpretation of this saying that one of the reasons Jesus may have been so angry (apart from it happening within the temple courts) was because the sellers and money lenders took advantage of the Jews whtraveledvelled far to make a sacrifice. Whatever the case, Jesus took action to stand up for what he knew was right … or against what he knew was wrong. I’m not sure exactly what to take from this … maybe that we can take action when it is needed?

We might not respond by “disarming” in the way Ciaron does, but we might respond simply by writing a letter to our local MP or thinking more carefully about the purchases we make.

It is interesting to note that he has a high enough profile to be interviewed on Denton (Enough Rope), it will be shown later this month, and profile enough to be pulled aside by 2 ASIO agents at the airport and interviewed about his purpose for visiting Australia…who knows, this very post may be picked up by some scanner!

But what of it? Did not our own Prime Minister tell us just last week –

“We come to claim from [the Gallipoli combatants] a heritage of personal courage and initiative. Of daring and determination in the face of overwhelming odds. A heritage that requires of each of us a conscious decision to do what is right, regardless of the resistance we meet or the fears we hold.

How far do you want us to take this Mr Howard? The article the above ANZAC day speech is quoted in is “Honour Bound”, in this weeks Bulletin, it goes on to say,

Still, Howard’s dawn words about resistance were the most telling he made on that day. But they tell of an Australia that is no longer allowed to exist. All political parties vote in pre-agreed blocs. Dissent is not tolerated. Individuality is ridiculed. Political commentary is invariably based on, Has the politician made the right decision in order to ensure his political survival? rather than, Has the politician made the right decision?

Lone voices are the voices of clowns and losers. Is honour dead? (My Bold)

(Gosh I sure hope that there are no churches heading down this line of thinking!!)

Did Howard mean what he said about each of us being required to do what is right in the face of resistance? He probably did…

hes the leader. He is allowed to have a vision. And he has been courageous, if you consider gun control and East Timor. But what of recent decisions which have shown Australia quickly succumbing in the face of resistance?

In the case of Papua, Australia has allowed itself to be bullied by Indonesia.

we should tell Indonesia to get its act together on Papua. And if they want to tell us to get our act together on Aboriginal Australia, so be it.

In the case of Guantanamo Bay, the British refused to allow the Americans to judge their citizens in that dodgy tribunal and evacuated them; we did not do the same for David Hicks.

Hicks is misunderstood, to the extent that some like to think hes an innocent. He is, or was, clearly capable of high menace. He thought himself a hero and was not. But now, two centuries on from settlement, Australia allows its citizens to be transported to bizarre, far-flung penal colonies.

It has come to mean much more – bravery, courage, conviction. And it has taken, of all people, an American marine Major Michael Mori, Hicks US military-appointed lawyer to show us what it is. He did so when he said that “no one should be fooled” into believing Hicks would get justice at Guantanamo Bay.
I don’t really care about any pressure at this point. I have to do whats right to David. Thats the order I’ve been given and I will do so within my ethical responsibilities and thedefense of my role as a defence counsel. I cant worry about pressure or hurting peoples feelings. I want to seek justice for David Hicks and thats it.

We have no great speeches in politics, because there is little freedom to speak. It seems to be left – usually – to Queensland Nationals to talk without fear. They are mavericks, “renegades and “loose cannons. Their crime is they are not team players and they dont believe that urban-constituted focus groups necessarily reflect the people’s wishes.

Look at Kokoda,” says Katter. People want those stories because people are looking for honour. They can’t see it anywhere they look. They see corporations sacrificing maintenance and quality for a short-term buck, they see small businesses being crushed. Everywhere they look they are being greeted by cynicism. So they go to books about Kokoda, about Gallipoli. They don’t care what their leaders say. They know theyre going to be sold out by them.

When Queensland National Barnaby Joyce came to Canberra, he promised not to sell out the bush people on Telstra. What Joyce got from Liberal backbencher Wilson Tuckey was this:“This dopey so-and-so doesn’t understand. Ill forgive him his independence when he starts to use his brains.” Barnaby Joyce compromised, but not without getting a better deal for the bush.

Apparently, decisions aren’t made by individuals. The parties get absolutely furious whenever someone sticks their head up. I think it’s because of a sense of guilt.” The guilt, says Joyce, is over lack of courage.

For making a stand, says Joyce, “you get ridiculed by everybody…

“Youve got to be a team player. I suppose people in the SS were team players….

Honour is the ability to question, to reason, to state your position even though it may have career consequences.

only one Liberal politician Tony Smith, in October 1996, during a euthanasia debate has crossed the floor during the 10 years of John Howard. The PMs call that each of us “do what is right regardless of the resistance we meet or the fears we hold seems little more than a fine sentiment that cannot withstand the day-to-day forces of expediency.

“People have a great connection to the obvious statement of true honour, which is someone offering his life for their country. Its very easy to buy a book and read it. On the train or on the toilet. Its a bit harder to change your life around. What part of our life are we offering just the time it takes to read the book? Get any person half-pissed at a barbecue and start talking about war, theyll talk all night. Ring them up the next morning and ask them for a wider involvement in their nation, thats a lot harder.

(see any parralles with our passion to ‘do church’ right, to actually practice what we so often theorise about?)

Asked whether [Helen Polley] would have the courage to take a stand outside the realms of a conscience vote, Polley points out that Labor doesn’t allow it.

As Barnaby Joyce says of the current federal parliament: “Do we really need all these politicians representing their parties? Or do we just have one nominal person representing each party? Because you’d get the same result.

When I returned to a family gathering Friday night after Ciaron, I tried to explain what I had just listened to. The reception was far from warm. Strange looks between parents and siblings and many questions. I’m ok with this, well sort of, I guess I was a bit frustrated. Suggestions that he was just a naughty boy (my interpretation, I watched Life of Brian last night!) and not some peacemaker on a mission, not some man with honour standing up for what he believed to be right. It was suggested that he was just a vandal, and that maybe he should be locked up for digging up a runway and breaking and entering military property.

Where do I stand? Um I think there is something about what Ciaron does that makes me want to get on board, hammer in hand. He never wants to hurt any person, he simply wants to do something to make people see that there are weapons of mass destruction out there…there really are Mr Bush!! You didn’t find them because they were in your aircraft hangars, with your flags painted on the side! (With little English and Australian flags underneath!) I think he wants to shout loud, and this is his way of getting peopoccurringtion, he wants to shout out that there is a serious misjustice occuring, this is one man’s attempt at turning the tables in the temple and saying “NO MORE”!
As one person whispered to me as we walkedbeginningthe meeting Friday night, “I think we are only just seeing the begining of this”. Meaning – I think Christ followers all over the place are getting tired obeginningmplacency and politics conflicting with Kingdom values and are begining to slowly rise up.
You think so?

Extracts Only – Full Bulletin Article Here.
Other Articles on O’Reilly here here here and MP3 Here


3 thoughts on “Honour and Politics

  1. Love it!
    After all what did Jesus get crucified for? Being a naughty boy?
    Teaching everyone to be ‘nice’and obedient to the powers to be?
    Doesn’t the phrase Kingdom of God give us a picture of something different from the Kingdom of something other? How about the Kingdom of Convention wisdom that killed Jesus?

  2. Yes, well Jarvo, you may be right, but I am not sure everyone sees it that way, I had 2 security agents at my door today…JOKES.

  3. interesting thing i heard this week. A friend of mine is a scout leader and he was venting that the young scouts these days know nothing about what’s happening in the world.

    he said he asked a couple of questions and came to the idea that they are too busy playing playstations and different things to watch the news, or their parents think the world is to violent and the news to graphic so don’t have it on while the kids are around.

    so are our kids being de-sensortized from what’s happening in the world, and what’s this going to mean in 10 years time?

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